October 30, 2004
Lost Progress in Toilet Training
I came home today to find that Chie had peed on their little bed. The one made out of pine chips to get rid of fleas, and which all three of them always use for napping. This is bad, because cats should never be urinating where they sleep. So I have decided to go back and put the baking pan without any hole back into the toilet bowl. I've once again locked the three of them inside the bathroom with food and water to hope that Chie learns from watching Asuka and Niea.
Asuka and Niea were happy to see the litter come back though. As soon as I put it back into the toilet, both of them pooped into it. It is easy to see that Niea is farther along in the training because she placed three feet on the seat and then cleaned up by pawing at the seat instead of at the sand in the pan. Asuka only put two feet on the seat and then pawed the sand to cover her poop. Chie still seems completely uninterested in using the toilet.
October 27, 2004
Apple just announced their new iPod Photo. It's available in two capacities, one of which is the 60GB microdrive announced to the press by Hitachi a while ago. The existing iPod, however, is still maxed out at 40GB. The 60GB + a new higher-resolution color LCD (about 33% more pixels in the same 2") is very appealing. It also gives 15 hours of operation, rather than the 8 hours of a regular iPod. That's even more impressive considering how taxing color and thumbnail scrolling is. I've already maxed out my 20GB iPod capacity.
Some people may remember that Apple was upset at Hitachi for announcing the 60GB microdrive and confirming that Apple had already agreed to purchase a bunch of them. Of course, no one else is buying microdrives in bulk, so it is not like that is much of a surprise.
Plus, the photo capabilities is really a great feature that doesn't detract from the iPod's functionality or make it bloated. There are just two things I think could be better.
First, syncing photos through iTunes is yucky. It works good, but it is a yucky idea. iTunes is for music, not photos. But this is sort of necessary because iPhoto is not free and people don't want to download another application just for the purpose of synchronizing. Apple can't release a different organization application because that is what iPhoto is for.
Second, people have been able to use photo card readers to upload digital pictures directly onto the iPod using third-party readers (e.g. the Belkin Media Reader). It would be great if this worked with the new iPod Photo. Maybe those third-party readers will be redesigned to do so, but I think existing readers won't be able to do this because the photo feature is going to have a special filesystem layout and possibly databases as well. The readers will need new software do take advantage of it.
October 26, 2004
Pet Club No Tanks
I visited Pet Club today, hoping that they might sell a 100g tank kit for cheaper. Most of the stuff from there is cheaper, but I wouldn't buy my fish from there because I don't think they take care of their fish as well as dedicated aquarium stores. But I found out they won't order any aquariums larger than 55 gallons.
October 25, 2004
Really Bad Chie
I went home for lunch today and Chie peed on the denim duffel bag on the couch! At least I know Chie is not shy of going to the bathroom anymore. I grabbed Chie and locked him in the bathroom again, showing him again that the poop goes into the toilet. The duffel bag and the cushion covering are in the washer. Now I am trying something more drastic.
I locked Chie, Asuka, and Niea all together in the downstairs bathroom with food and water. I am hoping that Chie will see how Asuka and Niea use the toilet and will also start using the toilet. I think I may need to keep them in there for a long time for this to happen. I hope it will be all right; I don't like punishing Asuka and Niea for Chie's problems. (Although Asuka might also be pooping outside of the toilet still.)
Sonia and Emily
I picked up Shannon and Yvonne from their classes today, but was late because Szu-Huey's computer broke and we rushed to Fry's to buy replacement parts. Then I tried to get Yvonne to do her homework but she was very reluctant. Instead, she started to do it when Sonia called. And then Emily called. I suggested that Emily come over because it made more sense for them to work together in the same room instead of over the phone. Then Sonia called again, and then she came over also.
Emily tends to rant about things and then laugh. But Sonia is insane, with a personality very much like Yvonne's. Both their attentions jump randomly from things into anime or manga. Like when Sonia said something about Kenshin and then McDonald's. Or something like that. Sonia was also very upset about her lack of X when everyone else she knows has X and she is getting rejected.
Eventually, like three hours later, Yvonne finally finished her physics homework. Emily was basically already done when she came over. Even Sonia had more done than Yvonne. Now Yvonne is working on math. I think we need to arrange for some way to get her a padded room with restricted Internet access so she can do her homework uninterrupted and without any possible distractions. Except then she will not be able to work with distractions, which is a very useful skill.
At least Shannon did not call Joanna just to tease her that I am there.
Chie was very bad last night. He peed on my denim duffel bag and I woke up to hear him cleaning up. So I grabbed Chie and shoved his nose into the urine so he knew what I was going to punish him for. Then I locked him inside the downstairs bathroom and showed him that I put the poop in the toilet (I think he also pooped in the corner of the bathroom last night, because I found some and then I showed him that it goes in the toilet).
Chie remained locked inside the downstairs bathroom for four or five hours. He was scratching and trying to get out and sticking his paw and arm out under the door. But eventually he gave up. When I let Chie out, he was glad to get out but at least he was not scared or mad at me. I was able to pick Chie up and talk to him after letting him out of the bathroom.
Asuka and Niea are learning to use the toilet. Chie is the only problem. I am not sure how to get Chie to use the toilet and only the toilet. He is not learning.
Bay Aquarium Kit
I visited Bay Aquarium today, to ask about the 100g tank, stand, and canopy set. This store is run by Vietnamese people so I had some trouble communicating with them, but the person there said I could get the set for $750. The stand and canopy he showed me was not exactly what I am looking for, and I am not sure if he understood I was looking for an oak stand and canopy. If I go back, I will have to ask for pictures. He also said he would have everything in the store next Thursday.
October 23, 2004
Brian's Fish World
I called Brian's Fish World the other day, and got aquarium prices from them. The same tank would be cheaper at $250, but the stand and canopy would be approximately $450 and $250 respectively. The stand and canopy prices are actually slightly less but about the same range as from Bangkok Aquarium. I still have to go visit Bangkok, and I also want to call Bay Aquarium for prices. But right now, my best bet looks like it is a tank from Brian's Fish World and the stand and canopy from King Aquarium. Although I think the stand and canopy I saw at King Aquarium may not be as nice as the ones from Brian's Fish World and Bangkok Aquarium.
October 18, 2004
Finding a Reef Aquarium
I moved my bookshelves on Saturday because I want to setup a saltwater fish and reef aquarium. Unfortunately, King Aquarium is selling their starter package for approx. $800. This includes a 100g 60"x18"x20" glass tank, the tank covers, a stand, and canopy. I was hoping for something closer to a total price of $600.
There is a online company, That Pet Place, that sells a larger Perfecto 60"x18"x26" tank for $210. Adding a stand and canopy of the same price as the starter package above would put the total price at $700. But shipping that Perfecto tank all the way from Lancaster, Pennsylvania would be way expensive. Which could explain why the 100g tank at King Aquarium is so expensive. It doesn't seem right though, as the 75g tank I bought in North Carolina was only $150.
I'm going to look around at more local aquarium stores to see if I can find a better deal. It shouldn't cost so much more for just 25g more of tank space. And I'm going to need to save all the money I can, as I a saltwater reef aquarium is expensive. The fish are more expensive, the live rock is expensive, lighting is more expensive, everything is more expensive.
Toilet Training Progress
The cats have made some progress towards toilet training. Unfortunately, not as much as I would like at this point. I saw Niea sit entirely on the toilet seat to poop. But someone (maybe also Niea) is still pooping outside the toilet on the floor. Seems that maybe the kitties are really picky about how clean the litter is inside the baking pan. I think I need to keep the pan cleaner to ensure they always use it.
Cats are very picky when it comes to doing their business. They always smell the place first, and then paw stuff around to cover up anything yucky. They will clean things up before they go, and then again afterwards. And they don't like going if the place is already yucky. Here is some more info on cat bathroom behavior.
Sally Ride Festival
Yesterday I volunteered with IBM to help run a Lego Robots workshop for the Sally Ride Festival at Stanford University. Sally Ride was there and she gave a keynote speech. Girls (and at least one boy) grades 5-8 showed up to do workshops designed to get them interested in science and technology. It was fun, but the room was really cramped and the workshop was only 45 minutes long. So not as interesting or fun as it could have been.
Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival
Szu-Huey and I went to the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival on Saturday. There were tons and tons of people there. Unfortunately, it took 1.5 hours to get there, and another 1.5 hours to get back out. Normally it would only take 30 minutes.
I was expecting more pumpkin stuff. But really the festival is a place for hundreds of vendors to show off their stuff. Stuff that is really expensive. I don't think there was anything worth buying there at those prices. The only vendor that really interested me was by Red Wolf. However, his paintings, while beautiful, cost thousands and thousands of dollars.
The food was really expensive too. A tiny baked potato with some butter and bacon on it cost $4. Same for a turkey leg or a tiny basket of nachos. A bread bowl of clam chowder was $5. Szu-Huey bought a small loaf of pumpkin bread for $3.
October 14, 2004
Asuka and Niea have accomplished the next step on their toilet training: peeing directly into the toilet bowl. I have seen both of them sit in the baking pan and pee aiming at the hole in the center, urinating directly into the water instead of onto the litter. Also, they are putting their front paws on the toilet seat. You can hear the little tinkle when they are peeing. I have not, unfortunately, seen Chie go to the bathroom because Chie is very shy about it.
October 11, 2004
Fixing Canon PowerShot A70 E18 Error
I was taking photos of my Blue Circle MR1200, and ran into the E18 error. Apparently, one of the problems with the Canon PowerShot A70 is that sometimes, the lens will get stuck while trying to extend. The camera will beep a few times and the LCD will display a little E18 in the lower-left corner. People who posted about this before indicate having to send it in for repair and that Canon has horrible support and turnaround time. So, I decided to just help pull out the lens when I turned it on; giving it a little extra nudge to get unstuck. Turns out this worked. The camera is once again fully operational.
More New Fish
Szu-Huey and I went to Bangkok Aquarium and King Aquarium today. She bought another male blue guppy (the one she bought yesterday disappeared), a background, strip thermometer, apple snail, chinese shrimp, and fish net. I bought four more tiger barbs, a black african cichlid, fish net, and a new plastic plant.
October 10, 2004
Szu-Huey and I went to King Aquarium today. It's the nicest aquarium store I've seen in San Jose so far. I bought an Electric Yellow Cichlid, an Electric Blue Cichlid, two Tiger Barbs, and twenty-four Ghost Shrimp. I've added these to my turtle aquarium, and everyone seems really happy. I bought twenty-four shrimp because I expect some to get eaten, and a very few to breed.
Szu-Huey bought a 2.5 gallon starter aquarium plus carbon filter, a cheap heater, three Neon Tetras, and three Guppies. The three guppies are male and each is a different color: red, blue, and yellow. So now she has a nice little aquarium next to her bed.
Tomorrow, we're going to go back to the aquarium store and get some more fish. Assuming, of course, that the ones we bought today have acclimated okay. Szu-Huey wants to get a shrimp and a snail. I think she should get a more colorful shrimp because her tank is decorated differently and a ghost shrimp would not be as nice. I think I will get some more tiger barbs because they swim in schools, and adding a few more will make it really nice to see that. Maybe another cichlid to make it more exciting. The Kribensis Cichlid looks nice.
Unfortunately, King Aquarium doesn't carry apple snails or more colorful shrimp. At least, we didn't see any other shrimp there and the employee told us they don't have any snails. So instead we'll go to Bangkok Aquarium, which is also a nice place. I know they have apple snails because I bought mine there, as well as a colorful red shrimp (might be a saltwater shrimp though). I don't know if they have tiger barbs though.
October 9, 2004
IE Dislikes Transparent PNG
Ellen was looking at my blog at work today, using Internet Explorer for Windows, and the transparency in my PNG files didn't come through correctly. Instead of displaying the web page background, it displayed the color identified as transparent in the image. I remember reading of a similar problem at Real Life that Greg was able to fix, but I couldn't find a solution in Adobe Photoshop. I must be missing something. In the meantime, I've moved the navigation buttons back to GIF.
Cleaning Turtles & Training Cats
Today, I cycled out some of the turtle aquarium water and also put new filtration stuff in. I bought some Ammo-Carb to replace the old carbon in my Fluval 404 canister filter, and also decided to add an undergravel filtration system.
I needed new carbon because the aquarium had gotten extremely cloudy in the past few days, and smelled really bad. This meant there was a build-up of ammonia because my filter was no longer operating correctly. Hopefully the undergravel filtration system will help keep things from getting yucky in the gravel. The two turtles and four snails are now living in a cleaner, but noisier aquarium. The air pump I bought to power the undergravel system is as noisy as the Fluval 404. But it is nice watching the bubbles go up the tubes.
I also saw for the first time Asuka place her two front paws on the seat of the toilet when using it today. This is the major step towards successful toilet training because that means she will begin to use the seat instead of the baking pan for support. I have not seen Niea do it yet. And unfortunately Chie still prefers to poop on the floor in the corner of the bathroom instead of inside the pan. Despite showing him that's where the poop belongs.
Asuka has also decided to join me when I shower by jumping on top of the shower door and crossing over to the windowsill. Niea is more cautious or frightened at jumping onto the 1" wide door top. But she will do it sometimes.
October 4, 2004
Greedy Kodak Kills Sun
Today, a federal jury awarded Eastman Kodak $1 billion against Sun Microsystems because Sun's Java product was found to infringe upon patents owned by Kodak. The $1 billion in damages and lost licensing revenue accounts for half of Sun's server and storage profits over the period of 1998 to mid-2001. Of course, Java is free and really has nothing to do with Sun's server and storage sales.
This is a great example of why I hate selfish greedy people and companies and the entire patent system. Basically, Kodak gets $1 billion dollars and effectively kills another company (along with all the opportunities for growth and technological advancement that could come from that company) because they want a monopoly on their idea and a bunch of money. An idea they don't even do anything productive with. They are sucking the blood out of our civiliztion to fatten themselves up.
For those who are willing to read up on the patents, here they are: 5,206,951; 5,421,012; and 5,226,161. Apparently communication and associated protocols between components is a new and invented idea. Never applied to people before, so obviously applying it to objects in a software architecture required amazing insight. Eiffel existed several years before Kodak's patents were filed and was based on ideas that have been around even longer.
The reason this is so important is because for the first time a small group of individuals has launched a person into space. Being able to send the same craft up twice within a week means this isn't a fluke. Sending a person into space is one of those benchmarks nations use to declare themselves. Like the nuclear testing. This accomplishment opens the door to commercial and individual excursions and possibly exploration of space.
Don't forget to check out the video of the flight at the X-Prize web site.
Pots & Pans
Yvonne almost burned down her house yesterday morning. She put some soup to cook on the stove, with the ladle in it. Then she left for something. When she came back, the pot and ladle had been melted and burned. The house was filled with smoke. Yvonne went a little crazy, and got help from a neighbor to open all the windows and then Shannon drowned the pot and ladle in the backyard with the hose.
This is why Mei-Ling wanted me to baby-sit. Apparently this is the second time in something like four months that Yvonne has destroyed something on the stove. She refuses to cook anything on the stove anymore. Yvonne should have remained starving until I got there at 3:30pm. It's just safer for everyone involved.
Yvonne, Shannon, and I went to Target after I got there. We were going to find a pot and ladle that would be just like the one that got killed, as a peace offering. But we couldn't find one there at Target that was the same type. Shannon bought some Yu-Gi-Oh cards with a gift certificate she got for her birthday. She also remembered that her mom originally got the pot and ladle from Bed, Bath & Beyond. So we walked behind Target to Bed, Bath & Beyond and found a pot and pan set for $60 that kind of matched.
Mei-Ling, of course, wanted to return it. But I told Yvonne ahead of time that this was to be expected, and figured that the correct solution would be for Mei-Ling to take the pot and ladle matching the ones Yvonne killed, and I would take the rest of them. I can use more pots and pans, but don't need that many. Now I have a good smaller skillet and nice stewing pot. I told Szu-Huey I had a surprise in my trunk because kitchen things are like toys to her.
October 3, 2004
Toilet Training Cats
Today I am again trying to get the cats toilet trained. I don't mean to use the litter box, but to actually poop and pee in the toilet without any litter box or litter. I tried this a while ago, but moved too fast, and ended up with poop and pee in other parts of the house instead of the toilet and litter box. This time, I have gradually been moving the litter box to inside the toilet bowl over the past two or three months. Finally, I have cut a tiny 1" diameter hole in the bottom of the litter box, and put some flush-able litter in the box. Hopefully they will all start aiming directly for the hole and soon I will not have to use any litter at all.
The general idea is to first get your cats used to climbing onto the top of the toilet and to use the litter box. Because you have to eventually put the litter box inside the toilet bowl, I started by switching from their very large plastic litter box to three foil baking pans, reinforcing each other. The kind you would put a turkey into. Then I started putting the pans higher and higher on top of telephone books, until it was toilet seat-height. I used another telephone book as a step up to the litter box. Then I moved the litter box on top of the toilet seat, with the lid opened. Once the cats are used to that, the baking pan litter box is placed inside of the toilet bowl, with the seat closed down on top of it but the lid open. I stayed at this stage for two weeks, to ensure all three of my cats were using the litter box inside the toilet bowl, no matter what. And finally today I cut a 1" diameter hole in the center of the baking pans and surrounded the hole with a thin layer of flush-able litter.
Once I am certain the cats are used to this arrangement, I will begin enlarging the hole until the very end when I completely remove the pans. The idea is that as there is less and less area for the cats to sit on while going to the bathroom, they will move over to sitting on the seat while sticking their butt over the hole. This might take another month or so. And then, the cats will be toilet trained and my house will be litter-free!
October 2, 2004
Yesterday, I got a postcard from Alla (in Germany at the time). I was supposed to get the card about a week ago, but both Alla and Ellen could not remember my address. Instead of looking it up, they decided to guess. They transposed my street number and used the zip code of IBM's Cottle Road site. So, obviously, the mail was delayed. In fact, Alla had to spend some time talking to the Postmaster at my post office and explain to them how bad she is at mailing something from Germany, and then ask if they would be so kind as to look for the postcard and make sure it gets to my house.
I'm not too sure about how the mailing stuff works in the EU, but the postcard is of Vienna in Austria, and comes from this company: Verband der Österreichischen Ansichtskartenverleger und -Hersteller. That's a really long name. Alla put a German stamp on it (well, it is in Euros but the picture is German) and there is a German postmark on it. But there's also a Luftpost sticker on it for air mail. All my Google searches for Luftpost send me to zeppelins.
Anyway, apparently at the time, Alla was close to in need of medical attention. She was sick, her knee was shot, and her hip was broken. Ellen requested the money transfer for Alla's medical bills (and shopping) be sent to Ellen's account, as Alla was also on the verge of passing out. Probably due to the pain. It is kind of hard to read, because Alla tried to squish something like two hundred words onto half the postcard.
Love Parade SF
Today, Love Parade comes from Germany to the US. Perhaps the most famous of all electronic music parades, Love Parade is an annual event in Berlin. This year San Francisco will host Love Parade and dozens of DJs and floats and maybe a million people. Love Parade San Francisco begins a Mission & Beale, and goes 1.5 miles to Terry Francois. You're not supposed to stand and watch; you are supposed to mix in with the entire parade and dance.
However, I won't be attending this year's Love Parade. Maybe next year. Mei-Ling, my cousin (I did not know this until recently), is going to be away for work so I will be baby-sitting Shannon and Yvonne. It isn't much of a big deal for me, since I'm not into live venues so much anyway. I prefer to listen to music at home where it sounds good.
We'll probably end up watching some Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and playing Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Yvonne also has to finish her homework, so I'll be helping her with science. And Shannon wants to play Stratego and build something using the Radio Shack Sensorlab I got her for her birthday.
October 1, 2004
Komen Race for the Cure
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is one of the many groups that organize fund raisers to help find a cure for breast cancer. One of my friends, Jessica Giordano, is going to participate in a race in Florida tomorrow to help raise money for the Florida Suncoast affiliate of the Komen foundation. She's looking for donations to help her reach her goal of $1000. Please consider helping out with a donation.