Saturday, May 17, 2014

Front Range Sunrise

Speaking of music ... on a snow day last winter, I recorded this version of an original song I wrote last year.

So it's been a while

For various reasons, this blog has been severely neglected the last few years. I'd like to rectify that to some degree.

So first thing's first ... let's catch up a bit.

I'm a grandad again.  Andrew Zane Marema was born July 13, 2013.  We were there.  Vicki and Kevin and Marken's Mother were actually in the delivery room for the whole thing.  Ken and I hung out in the hallway.  There were computers in the hallway ... we figured out which graph was Marken, so we watched the progression of labor "scientifically" from outside.  It was kind of neat.  Of course, we weren't the ones with the contractions and a wall separated us from the grueling work going on inside.

He did not look like a wrinkly newborn.  He looked perfect as soon as they cleaned him up.

He's 10 months old now, and he's quite possibly the cutest kid in the world (see picture near the end of this post).

Vicki's mom fell sometime I think right before Thanksgiving.  Low blood pressure and dizziness.  Partially due to dehydration, partially due to blood and heart medications needing some adjustment. She actually cracked a vertibrae in her back.

She had to stay in the hospital for several days, and we took her to our house where she spent more time in bed.  We did get her up from time to time.  But after a week or so she fell again, for the same reasons -- this time in Vicki's arms so Vicki broke the fall.  At which point she had to go to rehab for most of December and half of January.  Took her a while to get back to where she was before, but I believe she is there.  She has a walker now and actually (due to the confidence it gives her) walks significantly faster than she used to.

She just turned 95 last week.

Brian came with Ryan, Scotty and me on our winter walkabout this year for the first time.  Be cool if he can make it a habit.  I think he had a good time.  Just an overnight camp in the woods middle of winter because we can.  Yes, we're nuts.

After our trip west a couple of years ago we realized we wanted a compact SUV to pull the camper -- mostly for the convenience of not having to use a trunk to hold the extra camping equipment.  One in our price range practically fell in our laps late February this year, so we now have a red 2007 Ford Escape. Only had 40,500 miles on it.  Gets a couple miles to the gallon less than I'd hoped ... about 4 less than the Taurus did.  But ... it'll do the job.  And I guess I'll be driving the Escort for at least another 5 years.

Trenton continues to grow and change.  He's still my little buddy.  We have him overnight tonight while Mommy and Daddy have some fun with some friends.  He's in Tee Ball again.  Last year he played on the Cardinals team (much to Papa's happiness ... but not so much to Daddy's and Nana's  since they're Cubs' fans).  This year he's on the Red Sox.

Parents or grandparents can have lunch with their kids occasionally, and I've gone to the school a couple of times and had lunch with him and usually a friend of his he is allowed to invite to sit at the Parents' table.  It's kinda fun.  The teachers all say he's extremely well behaved and a very sweet kid.

Well we knew he was a very sweet kid ... he does need to transfer some of that extremely good behavior (always doing what he's told and listening) to home and Nana and Papa's houses.  And probably Grandpa John and Grammy Pammy's house, too. :-)

I missed my mountains last year.  We were going to go to RMNP last September, but the weekend before we were going to go is when they got that massive rain and all the roads washed out.  So we do have plans to go this year (and reservations to boot!).

I have not been out and about with my camera much at all.  This is bad.

And since Vicki retired, I haven't been playing my guitar as much at home, especially not singing.  I need to do something about that.  Still going to Lee Ruth, and I'm getting better at some things but sloppier at some of the things I used to be better at.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Mark, Lois, and I ("The January Club") celebrated our 50th birthdays this January.  We were all born within a week of each other, and have been celebrating off and on since ... oh, man ... what is it, 30 years ago?

As far as the water heater goes ... we ended up replacing it with an EcoSmart 27.  It has M-E-T-A-L chambers that won't crack.  It works great. But it does make our breaker box buzz when it's running.  Still trying to trouble-shoot that.  Might be I need twisted wiring between the panel and subpanel.  This one varies the energy transfer by modulation... not as sophisticated as the Seisco ... but it won't crack and leak like the Seisco did for 10 years.

Got in touch with my college friend Sarah again ... actually she got in touch with me this time.  We bat vacation stories back and forth every year. We are both Rocky Mountain nuts, and she and her family have spent a lot of time on the Front Range ... and are responsible for my meeting and friending Brad Fitch.  She has also probably been the person who has most encouraged me to keep pressing on with my limited musical abilities.  Anyway, they're headed out to RMNP in a week or so.   We get Christmas cards from them every year.  Always pictures of their kids and never of them.  But thanks to daughter Jessie (whom she put me in touch with when asking questions about camping in RMNP), I saw some photos through facebook.  Gotta say, Sarah still has one of the most photogenic faces I've ever known :-)  Really need to drop by and see them in KC sometime soon.

Vicki's cousin Andi and her husband Todd dropped by on their way to their daughter's K-State graduation this past week.  We had Ev over that night.  Always good to catch up with family.

I hear Vicki's cousin Ben (first cousin, once removed) is touring again with Barry Gibb this year.  He did several tours with the Bee Gees a decade or so ago playing keyboard with them. You'll see him on their "One Night Only" concert DVD. They call him. Now there's only one Gibb Brother left.  I have one Jazz EP of Christmas music he recorded for Christmas 2003.  Good stuff.  It gets played every year.  We usually get to see his dad Jim and wife Carol once a year as well.  They're the ones we visited in Vegas and Murphy NC (search the blog for 'em).

Float trip coming up.  That's always fun.  Hit the mountains later this summer.  Can't wait.

What Would McGyver Do?

So, I got a new phone a bit ago.  A better smart phone -- a Galaxy S3.  I know, I'm two models behind. But our plan is a "buy your own phone" plan, and I have a set budget.  And the S3 is a great phone.

I wanted it mainly for the superior camera.  The screen size doesn't hurt given my 50 year old eyes are suffering from 50-year-old disease.

At any rate, the original battery just wasn't cutting it.  It'd typically drop 10% in the first hour, and that's with no GPS and no Bluetooth.  I like a phone with a good 24 hours time on it before I think it needs recharging (this one would give me about 12 or 14 before it was getting down close to half empty ... sometimes emptier.)

I want to be able to use it -- use the features -- and not really worry about being a battery miser and calculate when and where I could get my next charge.  So I started hunting around for a better battery.  They make them... but not MUCH better... unless you want to go bigger.

And you can.  There are double capacity batteries.  And there are triple+ capacity batteries.

Turns out the way ZeroLemon does the triple capacity battery means the phone won't be thicker than with a double-capacity, and so I went with that one.  It's thick.  The phone was originally about 1/4" thick.  With this battery it's just about 5/8" thick.  So it's a bit of a brick.  Almost 3 times as thick and probably about three times as heavy -- I even changed the startup sound to the intro-flute riff to Jethro Tull's "Thick As A Brick".

BUT ... I had also installed a Qi wireless charging card in the phone and bought a base for home and one for work ... because of the battery life issues I had with the original.  Don't want that investment wasted.  But the new battery is basically a big battery that covers most of the inside of the phone piggy backed on a battery the size of the original  (it has to to fit in the well and hit the contacts ... but this means not only will the contact tab on the wireless charging receiver card not reach the contacts on the phone, I actually have battery in the way.

So What Would McGyver Do????  (WWMD?)

I went to Westlake's Hardware and bought a packet of brass shim stock.  There were varying thicknesses.  One was almost foil  ... so I picked the next thicker. I marked the side of the battery to show the position of the two contacts it covered, and  I cut two strips of that shim stock and used double-sided tape to tape it to the battery.  Two parallel strips.

Before I taped them and cut them to size, I rolled up one end of each so that they would stick down into the holes where the contacts were for Qi charging.  Ended up cutting about a 1/8" strip of foam to attach to the bottom of the battery to push them down into the contact wells.

I then filed down the contacts on the Qi receiver card to about 1/32 of an inch to keep it from bulging the silicon back too much, taped it down with some packing tape, and put the back on.

Wireless charging works like a charm.

I used the phone rather more than I typically do after a full charge ... as a test, and after 64 hours it was down to 50%.  I don't like getting lower than say about 25% ... and with a lesser capacity battery, probably more like 40%.

I charged it fully last night, and this morning I turned both bluetooth and GPS on and I've used it to play music in the car and otherwise used the phone as I normally would.

12 hours later it's at 89%.

This is what I want.

I want to be able to use the darned phone however I feel like using it and not have the battery so low I worry about conserving it so I can make or receive a phone call if I need to.

So I'll charge it up every night, and just use it.  That's the ticket.