Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Hard Drive That Stole Christmas

Well, Happy New Year to you folks. I'm updating on the last day of this year to tell you the tale of the Hard Drive That Stole Christmas (Photos). Yesterday I used my laptop as a cookbook in the kitchen while making potato pancakes (which were wonderful. Thanks for asking). When I was done I moved my laptop back to my desk. The next time I touched it, it threw a Blue Screen of Death which I didn't get to read, because the computer crashed and would not boot up. Everytime I tried to start up, as soon as I got past the initial screen, it would tell me that my hal.dll file was corrupt or missing. Uh oh.

I tried a host of solutions from various sources, but all of them failed, perhaps because my computer didn't come with a normal OS CD, but rather with a factory ghost image of the machine. And instead of Windows XP Professional, it has Windows XP Tablet Edition, which is different in some significant ways. So when I tried to use the Recovery Console on my spare copy of Windows XP, nothing worked. Eventually, one solution (overwriting the hal.dll with a copy from the CD) caused the error to go away, only to be replaced by a completely blank screen. That was no good.

My hard drive had bad sectors. I knew this. I've had to reformat several times, with increasing frequency. I backed things up, but not regularly enough. So some project work, pictures (including those of Christmas and my recent snowshoeing trip) are trapped in this bad hard drive. I decided to just buy a new hard drive and let someone with expertise do data recovery. So I used my Best Buy gift card (thanks, David!) to get myself a new hard drive, which also happens to be more than twice the original size. Hopefully a data recovery pro can get those images and files back, but I don't have high hopes.

Now, I have worked on the innards of desktop computers, but never a laptop. Things are snug and intense inside a laptop. But I went ahead and did the deed, popping out the old hard drive and inserting the new. As you might notice on the picture above, there is actual frigging corrosion on the hard drive. Not a good sign. That probably explains some of the sizzling noises I've heard from this drive in the past.

I took out the drive, which was held in a small cage. I then tried to extract the drive from the cage, but the screws holding it in were of such poor quality, that with little force I was destroying the top of the screw. Finally I was able to get the drive out and gently screwed the new drive into the cage and maneuvered it into the laptop. Currently I am installing the factory image back onto the laptop, while I type this out on my work laptop. We shall see how this turns out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Pictures

Okay, here are some pictures from Christmas. Enjoy! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and will have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Topic for Discussion

Having spent this morning shoveling the deck, I offer this question to you: Should people shovel their deck after significant snow? Am I doing more damage to it scraping it with a shovel or letting snow and ice accumulate? Discuss.

Also: Avatar was awesome. You can discuss that too.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Nega-Eve

Okay, technically yesterday was Christmas Nega-Eve. Today would be, uh, Christmas Nega-Adam, I guess. Hmm, I guess we're at the start of Nega-Advent, the four weeks after Christmas before the long march to the Ides of Christmas, when we start moving out of the Nega-Christmas season back into the Christmas season.

Anyway, the actual Christmas season was great. Jen's sister and her fiance came into town, so we had some good dinners together and opened some presents early as Joe had to leave on Christmas Eve to get back to his family. I spent a lot of Christmas Eve baking Kristina Kringle and lemon-rice casserole. We went to Christmas Eve services with Jen's family and then came back and opened a present each. Jen and I stayed the night at her parents' so we were able to wake up and toddle over to the tree in our pajamas, enjoying the Kristina Kringle and Cinnabon.

We didn't even get through the wall of presents before it was time to get ready to join the extended family for Christmas dinner. We had a fabulous repast of the standard Christmas fare and many, many, many desserts. Our neighbors also have blessed us with a plethora of calories in tasty dessert form. We came back to Jen's folks house and polished off the rest of the presents before watching the new Star Trek movie while slowly digesting the mountain of food.

Jen and I came back that night and slept soundly well into the next day (Christmas Nega-Eve). We got up with the ambition to do as little as possible. Other than leaving the house to get the mail and bring in the recycling bins, we weren't productive at all. We ended up playing the Lego Batman game I got for Jen for an unseemly amount of time and went to bed very late.

Today, however, we have a schedule. We're going to go meet with some friends of mine from college that I haven't seen in almost a decade and then we'll have dinner with some new friends from church. Somewhere in there, I think we'll probably also do some laundry? I have the week ahead of me off from work, and I intend to be productive at some point in there. We'll see. Jen got me Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas-y Busynessy

First off, props to my folks for being married 49 years. Their anniversary was last week. I'm blessed to have parents who take their vows seriously and inspire us. Only 48.5 more years for Jen and I to catch up with them.

Friday we had dinner with Kevin and Diana before dashing off to Jen's folks' neighborhood Christmas party. The big draw was that the dessert was being held in this amazing house that has some funky, exterior design. The Christmas party meant that we got to see the amazing interior design, as well as have lots of good dessert. The house was stunning. All sorts of wild decor and customized spaces. There was a droolworthy collection of cars in the awesome garage and so much more. It was seriously impressive.

Saturday, I went up into the mountains with Jason and a friend of his to do some snowshoeing. It was a blast to get up in the mountains (finally!) and see the winter landscape. We went through a lot of aspen, so I need to remember this hike for the fall. Afterwards, I came home and started an epic culinary expedition. Well, epic is a bit of an exaggeration. My parents got me a subscription to Sunset magazine, which I read for the recipes. There was a good deal on roasts, so Jen picked one up and I decided to try this recipe for sort of an spicy orange peel roast. We did it with pork rather than beef, and it turned out quite well. I did grate off a small chunk of thumb (we'll add that to the blister I got making cashew brittle), but otherwise it went well. It's an involved recipe, but it was fun to do a 'big' recipe and have plenty of leftovers. The rub on the roast was particularly good, though Jen and I agree we'd maybe strain out the peels in the sauce.

Not deterred by missing pieces of finger, I got up Sunday morning and started another recipe from Sunset. This one was the base for chocolate peanut-butter thumbprint cookies and chocolate peppermint patty cookies. We made a few of both. The resulting cookies were good, but intense in that one-a-day-max way. The dough was pretty hard to work with, somehow managing to be hard and sticky-gooey at the same time, since it is 12 oz. chocolate to 3/4 cup flour. I'm still weighing in my mind if it is worth it. The peppermint cookies look pretty awesome. We took the cookies down to Isaac and Elsa's for some games, but we called it an early night so we could do all the chores that had been preempted by fancy cookin'. On the way home, we fed my jonesing for carols by singing the whole way home. I have an awesome wife. And that pretty much brings you up to date to the minute.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's the Most Recapping Time of the Year

Ok, you can start breathing again. I know you were all breathlessly anticipating the 2009 installment of the amazing, the wonderful, the written, the 2009 Thingvall Family Christmas letter! Well, wait no more my good sir and/or madam! The letter is ready for your perusal and adulation.

Oh, and completely unrelated: I finished Gyromancer last night. I can't say I was too impressed, although the last boss was a challenge. The game has its merits, but fails to capitalize on its potential. Too few interesting beasts, and a fairly non-existent challenge. I still want to play through some of the extra content, such as the challenges and go earn me some more awards to unlock some more creatures, but otherwise, I'm about done with it. Worth a spin.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Guilty Conscience

I'm writing the Christmas letter for Jen and myself. I've been using my blog for reference, and I see how few posts I've done recently. GUILT. So, anyway, there's a Christmas letter coming soon. In the mean time, I think you should be entertained by people playing music on a Jeep. Not playing instruments while on a Jeep, but using the Jeep as an instrument. High culture, people. This is what we are building society for.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Because I Love You

For four nights in a row this week, Jen and I are either entertaining or being entertained. But I'm gonna post some pictures for you. Why? Because I love you. I would do this thing for you. So here are pictures, exclusively brought to you by the G1 Android mobile electronic brain phone thing dealio. That's how much I love you.
So here's some stained glass from First Presbyterian Church in Boulder. We were there when Jen was doing a series of talks for a group there.
And, if you haven't noticed or heard. It has been fricking cold here in Colorado. (Thankfully it is back up into the 40s.) Our house is not the easiest to heat, especially the back rooms, as Jen so wonderfully demonstrates in this picture.
One of our engagements this week was hosting a potluck for some of Jen's ex-coworkers. I was commissioned to bake a cherry pie. As I was doing so, I was talking on the phone and unthinkingly used baking powder instead of corn starch. Then I was wondering why my pie filling was producing this ghastly grey foam. Corn starch. Baking powder. Not the same thing.
Fortunately, I was able to wash the cherries off, recreate the mixture, and craft a beautiful pie. Look! A lattice!
Jen and I are all but done with our Christmas shopping, but we decided that rather than walk in the balmy 40s and melting snow, we would go to the mall and people watch. I saw these cool little birds in one of the department stores' window displays. We also saw a little girl going around and putting her hand up the underpants of mannequins. Unfortunately my camera was not at the ready for this. I have a long way to go before I can work for National Geographic. You can click on the picture to get a bigger version of the picture.
Last night, Jen tried her own modeling of clothes. I think she took the idea of a model just being a hanger for the clothes a little too literally. Goodness, I love that woman.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Radio on the Internet and XBox

I'm going to ignore the fact that snow is piling on top of old snow out there, with promise of more on Tuesday. I'm going to have a glacial deck soon. No ... no ... I'm ignoring that, because I want to talk about radio; specifically personalized Internet radio.

Sure there are live streams of radio from existing radio stations out there, but there are these sites out there that just stream music you like, and music that they think you'll like. The two sites I've been using are Pandora and last.fm.

I'll be up front and say that my favorite is Pandora. The interface is slick, the service is reliable, and it provides lots of good results that I like. You can readily see the past few songs that have played and give them the thumbs up or thumbs down. You can bookmark songs or artists. The downside is that you only get 40 hours a month free of listening time. Since that's just a solid work week, that's not a whole lot of listening. You can pay for more, which, hmmm, now that I think of it, would be a great Christmas present for me. Hint, hint.

Last.fm is nice as well. They have a cool slideshow for each artist that can prove to be unfortunately hypnotic. The service is also quite good at giving me artists that I have never run into before (Owl City and Eisley are two I've liked). I like the songs I hear less in general, but they are still good. One huge plus for last.fm is that it can play on my XBox 360. Unfortunately, you can't do anything else while you're using the last.fm app. So no playing games while listening to my last.fm stations. Lame. One thing that puzzles me, is that you can't pause last.fm. So if you're really digging a song and someone calls, (be it your boss, your mother, or Nature) you'll miss out on the song. I'm also disappointed that you can't readily see what you just listened to. I'm sure there is a way to do it, but it is not as upfront as Pandora. However, so far I haven't run
into a free listening limit. Considering that last.fm has very few advertisements, there must be one, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now ... yeah, tried to find it, but couldn't in 3 clicks, so I'm done.

But I do dig that Internet radio!