Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wii

Say it with me: Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!
You feel better don't you?

Saying I am not a video game person is a hyperbolic understatement. I have never played Pacman, Frogger, Tetris, Mario Brothers, or any number of other arcade favorites. I don't mean that I played these games rarely -- I literally mean I have NEVER played any of them. Apparently, I was deeply scarred by an early game of Pong or Space Invaders and never went back for more.

About a year ago I caught an episode of South Park where Cartman is obsessed with getting a Nintendo Wii. At that point, I had never heard of the Wii, but Cartman's hilariously affected delivery of the word "Wii" was enough to pique my curiosity. I went online and poked around. This thing looked great!

Fast forward a year; I had decided to track one down. No easy feat -- just ask anyone who has tried. With a friend's help, I was able to find one and quickly snatched it up.

What a fun toy! I love that it gets one up off the couch and moving around. (The tetherball, bowling and tennis are fabulous!) I also appreciate that I don't find it fun by myself -- only with other people playing with me. What a great excuse to have people over for some simple, silly (and inexpensive) fun!

In addition to the Wii Sports that comes with the game, I picked up Wii Play and Playground. I highly recommend each of those. I also got Cooking Mama, which is a bit grating. (grating. get it!?)

And yes, I insist on pronouncing it Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! every time.

iPhone, uPhone, We all Phone

"My name is Paige, and I am a gadget-aholic."
I'm not sure when I became a gadget freak -- it kind of sneaked up on me. An early PDA or two, and before you know it I fell in love with pocket-sized technology.

I'd been needing to replace my aging smartphone, but I was so in love with it that I didn't want to give it up. The phone I had for the past four years was one of the first smartphones running Windows Mobile. This phone allowed me to play movies and MP3s on my phone, get email, run windows apps, access a calendar and to-do lists, surf the web, etc. -- all four years ago, long before the current crop of iPhones and blackberries.

But, the phone has been discontinued, and as its battery began to die, I knew it was time to let it go. After looking at several options, I decided to splurge and get an iPhone.

My first reaction, strangely enough, was that this phone doesn't offer much my old phone didn't have. For some reason I expected to be more "wowed" by the technology -- but the capabilities are similar.

That said, there are some remarkable features. It is gorgeous. The interface is beautiful and easy to use, the display is stunning, and I love the large screen. I wanted something that would allow me to carry a gallery of images with me, and this is perfect.

I'm also in love with the maps function that allows you to see traffic congestion. I'm about to start a new job with a long commute, and this tool will allow me to quickly check routes and road congestion before starting my drive.

The battery life is remarkable - I read somewhere that it can play video for 7- 9 hours on one charge. The chat (SMS) interface is appealing - showing conversations in alternating columns of speech balloons.

The iPOD functionality is a "nice-to-have", but I can't see myself leaving behind my regular iPOD . I am very attached to my 60 GB ipod with 4000+ songs, books, tv shows and movies that would far exceed the 8 GB capacity of the phone.

Now for the less than ideal features. The email functionality leaves A LOT to be desired. I won't go into all the things I dislike about it - you can easily find any review that will touch on this. But, I'm banking on these deficits being software issues that can be upgraded along the way. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why does FedEx suck so much?

I have a friend and neighbor who has conceded that if something has been shipped to him via FedEx he knows he's just not going to receive it. He can just write it off before it ever leaves the original warehouse. He's not alone in those thoughts.

I recently placed an order and the only shipping option was FedEx. "Here we go again", I thought. Because of problems with previous FedEx deliveries, I was following my package progress closely online.

I saw it scheduled for delivery on Monday, and checked the status throughout the day. I was home, waiting for it, eagerly awaiting its arrival. Then I saw its status change online to "Delivery Exception." I picked up the phone and called FedEx immediately. They asked of there was an apartment number or suite number. Ah, I thought, that has happened before, the shipper must have just left off my apartment number. I gave the woman the number, and she told me the delivery would be delayed until the next day.

The next morning I got a call from some sort of FedEx service center in Pennsylvania. This (very nice) guy told me that another person would be calling me from the service center here, and sure enough she called an hour later. She again confirmed the apartment number -- which I had already given them the day before. I asked if the package would be delivered that day. She said, "oh, no. It appears the package is here in our warehouse. You can come get it if you'd like it today, otherwise it will go out tomorrow." I had already had two friends make disastrous trips to the local FedEx facility to pick up packages. They both left empty-handed after they were denied their packages, after driving all the way there. I was in no mood for that, plus I had paid for delivery.

The next day there is a knock at the door. My package finally arrived!! The driver kept telling me something about our security gate being an issue and how he couldn't get in to find my apartment. Now mind you, there is a call box (clearly marked) by this gate, and my name can be looked up easily. Calls from that box go right to my cellphone, where I can open the gate. No one had ever tried to reach me. After the driver left, I thought to look at the address label.
Sure enough, the apartment number had been on the original shipping label -- there was no reason for my four phone calls with FedEx, or any reason my delivery was delayed for three days.
UPS, DHL, and the US Mail all seem to have no problem getting deliveries to me, but FedEx is consistently a disaster.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My own ikea hack

I'm a huge fan of the ikea hacker blog. I love what seeing what handy people are able to create when using ikea products as their building blocks. Check it out -- you'll be impressed!

On that site, I had seen several treatments of the fira mini storage chests. Mine were beginning to get a little grubby with jewelry polish smudged on the drawer fronts, so I was inspired to spruce them up a bit as well.

I had some beautiful Chiyogami paper that I had picked up in Santa Fe. I used it as the basis for my color combination -- covering most of the drawers and the skimra lampshade. I got two sheets of coordinating paper to cover the remainder of the drawers, and trimmed everything to size.

These little drawers are just perfect to organize all the little tools and findings for jewelry making. The larger drawers are roomy enough to contain patterned brass sheets, wire and sheet metal supplies. I print small labels with a label maker and affix them to the top ledge of each drawer front. When fully-loaded the drawers get quite heavy, so I opted to move mine to my sturdy maple desk for support instead of the particleboard bookcases that had been their home.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Recent Projects - Rings, Rings, Rings

I've been taking classes each quarter at a local arts center for several years. So many years, in fact, that I no longer know when I started! Each quarter we tend to focus on a single type of piece, and this quarter it has been rings. Rings are my favorite jewelry project. Despite being tough to size for sales to a wide audience (obviously, not every person can wear every ring), I enjoy working on rings because they are compact and fairly fast projects. They are also the piece of jewelry I enjoy wearing the most.

I completed four rings this quarter. First there is the simple spinning band ring. This may have been the quickest project I ever completed. It is simply a narrow band that goes around a taller band. The edges of the taller band are then flared to keep the narrow band in place. Because that narrow band doesn't fit snuggly, it spins on the taller band. I patterned the silver on the wide band and kept the narrow band at high polish. What a fun little project!

The second ring has a pierced shoulder on a cigar band-type shank. It has a flat top that sits on a small platform. The ring top is decorated with fine silver and copper balls. It like its industrial, ball bearing-like look. I'm making earrings and a pendant in the same design.

The third ring is a hollow ring with a freeform shape. Flat wire was bent into shape to form the sides, and then soldered to patterned silver sheet. The ring is set with four chrysoprase stones -- three that are on the edge parallel to the hand, and one larger stone that sits perpendicular to the hand (and facing toward other people). The ring was designed to extend over the neighboring finger. It is an interesting, one-of-a-kind piece, finished in a dark patina.

The fourth ring, you ask? Where is it? It was a simple set of intertwined Russian wedding bands that found a home on one of my friend's fingers.

Recent Projects - Reliquary Locket

First off, if my sister happens upon this, stop reading. Now. Really. You'll spoil the surprise.

For the rest of you, this entry is a about a project I've been referring to as my reliquary locket. A misnomer since it doesn't hold any sacred items, but it does hold a photo of my dad - and that's close enough for me.

My dad passed away last year and I wanted to memorialize him with a special memento for my mom, sister and me. Over the past 6 -8 months, I created a series of lockets that feature similar design features, but each differs slightly.

These photos capture the front, back and inside of mine. For the surface decoration, I created original etched brass plates that were then used to pattern the silver. The front of the locket features a sequoia (the last word my father spoke before passing away) and a simple dotted border. The Chinese characters pierced into the lid of the locket are meant to say "rest in peace". (let's hope the source I used was correct!)

The back features handwriting from a birthday card that my dad had sent to me. His notes always were so special to me, and I still react so strongly to his handwriting when I come across scattered notes and cards. Because of that emotional connection, I wanted to make certain I included some of his hand in the pieces.

Inside is a sepia-toned photo set into resin. Surrounding the photo are scattered fine silver balls that have been patinated to a similar sepia. They remind me of river pebbles and I liked their organic look.

The lockets open by the use of a simple hinge on the left, and a small tooth on the inside of the lid keeps the lockets closed. The chains are handmade, fused loop-in-loop made from fine silver. The chains have end caps made from sterling tubing, and the clasps are simple hand wrought hooks that connect into rings.

Recent Projects - Spiral Earrings for Multiple Piercings

Like many of us, I have multiple piercings in my ears but had tired of the look of the standard captured bead earrings. I wanted to create some earrings that would allow me use all those extra holes in my ears. I made two pairs: one has three straight posts on each earring, the other is the spiral pair shown here. They feed in just like a corkscrew, and look great on. My ears happen to be pierced with 16 gauge wire, so that allowed me to use silver with a bit more heft than standard ear posts. The thicker wire holds its shape, and has not distorted at all, even with regular use. The blue topaz stones are set in a simple bezel.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Recent Projects - 45 Insert Cuff Links

As I complete new pieces, it's my goal to post a snapshot and quick description of the projects. I often don't take the time to photograph each piece, so perhaps this process will lead me to capture & share a bit more of more work.

The first entry is this pair of cuff links that feature those little inserts that fit in your 45 RPM records (or a smaller version of them, anyway).

The design is individually cut out from a sheet of sterling, soldered to a solid silver sheet and then roughly trimmed. Next, the cuff link backs are soldered on, and then the finishing is done. I've been selling rings like this for several years, but I had never made a version as cuff links before. Several other folks have expressed interest in a pair of these -- I look forward to making more!

High Illumination Light Fixture

I finally broke down and bought more appropriate lighting for my work area. My previous solution consisted of 4 or 5 Ikea desk lamps that took up valuable bench space, and still didn't provide enough light. I live in a rather cavernous space, and lighting it has always been tricky -- there isn't much for the light to bounce off of, so the light seems to disappear.

Years ago I had purchased an OTT-LITE® TrueColor Floor Lamp, and while I love the type of light it provides, the 18 watt bulb didn't provide enough brightness for my bench. (It is a perfect light for knitting or reading, however.)

In search of a better solution, I picked up this High Illumination Light Fixture from Contenti. It has made a world of difference. It is equipped with one 55 Watt twin-tube Philips daylight fluorescent lamp that supplies almost 2 times the illumination of the most popular desk lamps. The 24-1/2” shade has an integral light-diffusing shield that spreads light evenly to reduce eyestrain. The adjustable arm has a 33” reach. I used the included C-clamp to attach it to the bench, but it can also be attached with screws.

Unfortunately, good lighting is expensive (both of the above fixtures are in the $100 range), and buying a lamp isn't the most exciting way to spend one's money. That said, however, I'm pretty darn enthusiastic about my new lamp! But, of course, now all the pesky fire scale that had been hidden in the darkness will now be readily apparent . . .

Friday, November 2, 2007

Sudden Loss of Wireless Radio

About two weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk working away on my laptop when my wireless card appeared to suddenly stop working. One moment all is fine, the next, no access to the network. My computer no longer recognized ANY wireless networks, not just mine, so I knew the problem was not with my wireless router.

All diagnostics on the wireless card showed that it was working correctly, however, so I was stumped where the failure was occurring.

Lo and behold after hunting around online I discovered that on some Dell laptops, pressing Fn and F2 (simultaneously) will either enable or disable the wireless radio. Even though the dialog boxes showed that the wireless radio was enabled, it was in fact actually turned off by these key commands.

It seems my cat who enjoys draping over (and occasionally trampling) my keyboard as I attempt to type had inadvertently disabled my wireless access. A simple press of Fn and F2 resolved the issue.