Saturday, July 30, 2005

Slab Leak, Part III - Continued...

So last night Cathy & I were in apartment one looking at the kitchen and considering how to remodel the cabinet layout. We settled on this...

While we were kicking around the idea of an archway made of cabinets, John from apartment three comes to find us ans says his carpet is wet. At first he thought his cat did something bad, but there was just too much moisture.

"Oh, Lord", I thought to myself, "this is going to be expensive, huh? We shut off the water main, talked about it and prayed. I shut off the water main to prevent further damage. Then, Cathy remembered the home warranty our Realtor had negotiated, so we gave them a cal. Our home warranty is with Old Republic, and they indicated that it was Friday and weekend contractors are hard to reach. Without water service, it was considered a same-day service emergency, so we were authorized to call an outside contractor. We talked it over with John and decided the morning would be O.K.

So here it is, Saturday 07/30/2005, and I called Rapid Plumbing. The tech indicated it was a possible slab leak, and he told Old Republic as well. It turns out we have a $1000 cap on slab leaks, so anything over that comes out of our pocket. Rapid Plumbing wanted $375 for a leak detection and $19.95 for truck operating expenses. But, Rapid does give free estimates and would count the leak detection fees towards the cost of the repair. I sent them home and gave Old Republic a chance to find a contractor. Old Republic would call me as soon as they found someone.

I called back several times on throughout the day and each time I was promised someone would call me with some news. Nobody ever called, so I just kept calling Old Republic every couple hours. Finally, about 4 p.m. I spoke with someone and explained that life without water is very difficult, to which she replied, "you don't have water at all?"

Yes, that's right; it turns out nobody we had talked to previously had noted in their system that our water was completely off. Old Republic updated our call status to emergency service (sound familiar?) and told me they would call me in the morning.

I still had a kitchen to remodel, and not having water wouldn't stop that. I took down the top cabinets from the kitchen, then Cathy and I showered at 24-Hour Fitness, grabbed some dinner and called it a night.

Slab Leak, Part II - More

The continuing saga of the slab leak...

this is an audio post - click to play

Update: To make matter worse, I just called at 4:30 P.M. to get an update, and they did not notate in their system that our water main is off. They updated their system, so maybe we'll have some work done on it tomorrow, we'll see!

Fun Motorcycle Debate

Cathy won't let me have a motorcycle. She says that bikes are just too dangerous. Today, as we were heading home from some errands, we saw a woman biker on a Halrey Davidson. I whinned, as I usually do, and this time Cathy actually said, "Go ahead, get a bike! You don't need my permission, anyway. You want one, just get one. I won't be happy about it, but it'll be OK."

this is an audio post - click to play

Yeah, that's right... she'll deny the whole thing if you ask her about it.

this is an audio post - click to play

Cathy is my lovely wife, but she can be such a bad girl!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Slab Leak!

We have a slab leak in Aptment 3. That means that a supply line has sprung a leak, in the concrete (the slab) that serves as the subfloor for the triplex.

this is an audio post - click to play

Yeah, I really thought that sucked. I was just praying to God, "Now, Lord? I'm pretty sure we can't afford this! Please give me the grace to handle this...", and then Cathy remembered the home owner's insurance that our agent arranged for us.

Well... I'll update as we go. So far, the main is off so we're going to have to figure out something for bathing and eating...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Star Fort in Japan

The Goryokaku Fort on the Japanese island of Hokkaido was originally built as a fort defensible by canons. Goryokaku Fort is shaped like a five-pointed star, surrounded by a hundred feet wide outer moat populated with Japanese Carp; it is now a museum favored for viewing cherry blossums.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Digital Cameras Explained

Want to buy a digital camera but not sure what to look for? Bought a 4-megapixel camera and wishing you had a 7? I'll explain why you are probably better off with a quality 4-megapixel camera than one with higher numbers.

Ever since digital cameras entered my life, hardly a day has passed without my snapping a photo or two. I did a lot of reading on digital cameras before making my purchase, and I made allowances on price and performance for my final decision. How did I purchase a digital camera? For me, with digicams what matters is image quality, image size, and camera speed. Secondary factors are camera size, power, storage, and zoom. I'm only interested in consumer cameras at this point, so I won't cover digital SLR cameras, but the fundaments apply to all digicams.

Image quality is affected by the lense, the image sensor, and the compression used on the image. Almost all consumer cameras use JPEG compression, and I recommend you set your camera to the highest "quality" level possible; this means less image compression. Prosumer cameras will save in TIFF or RAW formats, but that's out of my price range (more than $500).

The lense gathers the light for the sensor, so the better the lense on the camera, the better your image starts out. It is like wearing glasses; if you prescription is correct and the lense is high quality, you get to see the world for what it is, rather than blurred or distorted. Once past the lense, the image sensor takes what it sees and translates that into a JPEG file on your digicam's storage. The better the sensor, the more accurately it will translate what it sees.

Digicam that emphasis the lenses they use are probably using better lenses, so look up the lense manfactuer; it may influence your decision. That said, plenty of film cameras manufacturers have been good about using good lenses and sensors in their digicams. This explains why there are no-name, 5-megapixel cameras advertised for $119... Low-cost sensors and plastic lenses will shave a lot off the cost of a camera. Like most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Megapixels Explained
What's with megapixels, anyway? A megapixel is a function of your maximum image size. Megapixels are not units of measurements in the way celcius is a measurement of temperature. You should know that your camera has a "maximum resolution" rating; mine is 2560 by 1920 pixels. To get the number of megapixels, just multiply those two numbers and divide by 1,000,000... my camera is 4.9 megapixels. When printed, about every 300 pixels translate to one printed inch, or 300 PPI (pixels per inch).

Do the math... at 300 PPI, how many pixels verically and horizontally do you need to get a 4x6 photo?
4 x 300 = 1200
6 x 300 = 1800
The minimum image size for 4x6 photo is 1800 x 1200 pixels. See?

Now, you might think that you would just need a 2.2-megapixel cameral to capture 4x6 photos (1800 x 1200 / 1,000,000 = 2.16). This would be true if cameras captured pictures at a 3:2 ratio, but digicams tend to captures photos at a 4:3 ratio, which is the same ratio as most computer monitors. At 4:3 a digital camera have to capture 1800 x 1350 pixels to have enough data to print a 4x6 photo at 300 PPI.

For cameras capturing pictures at 3:2 ratios, assuming you are printing them at 300 PPI, you would need at least a 2.5-megapixel camera to print a 4x6 photo, a 3.3-megapixel camera to print 5x7 photos, and a 7.8-megapixel camera to print 8x10 photos.

Another thing that the aspect ratio of your digicam affects is the crop of you pictures. If a 4x6 is 1800x1200 pixels and a digicam captures a photo at 1800x1350 pixels, that means 1/2 inch of the picture you give your developer to print is cropped from the top or bottom of the photo. For truly picky people, it may be advisable to pre-crop your photos before having them printed.

300 PPI vs. 320 PPI
Many people print their own photos at home. Most affordable consumer photo printers print at 300 PPI. I did not want to spend the money on the paper or printer; the price per print is still higher than what I pay at Costco. I read in a recent Costco Connections magazine that Costco uses Noritsu 3111 printers for processing film; the Noritsu produces photos at 320 PPI.

Redoing the math, at 320 PPI, I would need 2.8-megapixels for 4x6 prints, 3.8-megapixels for 5x7 prints and 8.8-megapixels for a 8x10. My camera will give me a maximum of 6x8 prints, so I should stick with 5x7 prints.

I would suggest purchasing a high-quality 4-megapixel camera with good lenses and performance over a 7-megapixel camera. After 4-megapixels, the next meaningful leap is almost 9-megapixels! Everything else inbetween isn't really adding anything for you, except giving you more lee-way to take a shot and crop off large areas. If you want the room to trim your photos, 5-megapixels should be plenty.

The bottom line is: for a consumer camera, go for brand name digicams with quality lenses that feel fast to you. Do not purchase anything less than 3-megapixels but don't bother buying anything more than 5-megapixels.

For an alternative viewpoint and some good tips on purchasing in general, check out this PC Magazine article on Digital Cameras.
For another explanation of megapixels and lenses, see this PC Magazine article.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Google Maps Hybrid, More Google Moon

Check out the new & improved Google Maps Hybrid Mode (here's the California Speedway), combining the regular map view and the satellite view. What won't they think of next?

Also... you may recall my post about Google Moon and the Google Copernicus Hosting Environment and Experiment in Search Engineering (G.C.H.E.E.S.E.). Be sure to visit Google Moon again, and zoom all the way in. :-)

It appears that Google Maps now defaults to an "Earth" view. That is, you used to be able to search the U.S., the U.K. or Japan, you can now search all three from the same interface. Google's purchase of Keyhole has been a boone for the rest of us!

Free Spyware Protection

I'm very interested in free software, and security is an issue these days. You not only need antivirus protection, but also antispyware protection and a firewall. The antispyware front has not changed much, especially in the free software department. Here is my current recommendation of free spyware protection for Windows computers.

Antivirus protection and spyware protection both should have two components: removal and prevention. With virus prevention, you can only select to use one software at a time, but with antispyware it's "the more the merrier." In terms of free spyware protection, I can only recommend three options at this time, and only one has adequate prevention measures.

For Every Day Protection
To prevent spyware infection on Windows XP computers, try Microsoft AntiSpyware.
Currently in beta, the software is being released as version 1.0 in September with few changes, and will remain free for Windows XP users. It does a passingly good job at preventing spyware; you'll still need to apply common sense, but your brains and MSAS should be sufficient to keep you spyware-free.

For Removal of Spyware
MSAS includes spyware removal, of course, so run it as well. However, I have found that Spybot S&D and Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE PE do very well at removal. Be sure to install all three, run MS Antispyware, then Ad-Aware PE, then Spybot S&D. I would do that once a week. For instructions on running the various programs, see the Instructions Links below. I would still use only one antispyware and antivirus running constantly (MSAS), and run the other anitspyware programs once a week to remove anything that got through.

Download Links
Each of the three antispyware programs I've mentioned are free. MSAS require Windows XP.
Spybot Search & Destroy (donation supported)
Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition (free version of commercial software)
Microsoft AntiSpyware (free for Windows XP users)

Instructions Links
Here are instructions for spyware scans with Spybot S&D.
Here are instructions for Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition.
Microsoft has a list of articles for scanning and setting up MSAB.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Archiving Old Photos

Well, I dug out our wedding negatives to take to Costco for prints. Being the nerd that I am, I began wondering if I could have the negatives scanned and digitized before I printed them. That way, I could just print the ones I truly want, or fix some photos before printing. So, before getting the prints, I decided to scan the negatives first... but I would need a scanner.

Flatbed Scanning of Negatives
That began the fiasco of my multiple attempts to purchase a functioning scanner at Circuit City. In short, I found that consumer flatbed scanners are simply not going to scan film or slides at really high quality. If I'm going to scan negatives into digital photos, the quality has to be good enough to print a 4x6 at 300 DPI, so the minimum image size has to be 1800x1200. While this is technically within the capacities of the flatbed scanners I tried, these scans just did not turn out good enough.

Don't misunderstand... if you already have prints in good condition, you can use a scanner to digitize them. All the scanners on the market scan a minimum of 1200x1200 DPI, and 300 DPI is sufficient for prints... But the scanning of negatives requires a minimum of 1355 DPI since the negative is only 1.4 inches wide. So, if you're scanning prints, feel free to purchase a flat bed scanner; here's a review of several current scanners.

Professional Scanning of Negatives
I figured that an actual photo lab would be able to scan negatives, so one day I took a set of negatives to Ritz Camera to ask if they knew of such a service. Ritz will scan negatives at 70¢ each plus the cost of the CD. Pleasantly surprised, I solicited reassurance of the scan resolution and final output size. The technician could not tell me the scan size, but assured me they could produce 5x7 without loss of quality. They seem professional enough, handling negatives while wearing gloves, so $20 dollars and one hour later, I had a CD of wedding photos.

It was therefore truly disappointing that my photos, while viewable, were not large enough for 4x6 prints at 300 DPI. You should know that the photo was scanned at the proper ratio, but I would have to enlarge it 17% to get my 4x6 print. It just wasn't good enough, and the tech's inability to tell me the scan resolution and final output size should have been a red flag. Oh well.

Online Services for Digitizing Negatives
I began researching film digitizing scanners online. The very best film scanning comes from "drum scanners"... which I cannot afford (~$20 each slide) and would not need. More affordable solutions are available from the Nikon Super Coolscan series; the units range from $900 to $1900 and can scan a slide or negative under 40 seconds while applying digital repairs to damaged negatives. I could not see myself shelling out nine hundred bucks for a scanner. Pacific Imaging has sub-$400 dollar scanners, and Costco carries them. Still, that's more than I really want to pay.

With the purchase of a film scanner being more expensive than I can afford, I started looking for digital photo services that scan negatives with high-quality results. There are quite a few out there, so I thinned the herd out by price, then by how professional they appeared (by reading their FAQs and judging their web site content), and then by email contact. Three survived the initial culling, and only two remained for cost reasons: Image Preserves and ARS Grafica.

All the services I looked up scanned at 2000 DPI or higher, except Image Preserves which scans between 1500 DPI to 4000 DPI. Every one of them charges 45¢ or more per slide, sometimes with quantity discounts. I would have to mail my negatives to the service, too. Image Preserves uses the Nikon Coolscan 5000 and charges 45¢ for 1500 DPI, but they give you thumbnails and full-resolution scans. ARS Grafica user the Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED and charges 45¢ for 2000 DPI, but you only get the full-resolution scan. That's OK... I can make my own thumbnails.

Scanning Resolutions
Not wanting to pay more than necessary, I needed to know if 1500 DPI was enough.

Here's the math... Costco prints at 320 dots per inch; each "dot" is known as a pixel on a digital photo. For six inches, you need six times 320, or 1920 DPI scans. A 4x6 photo would have to be at least 1280x1920 pixels (6 times 320 = 1920). Since 35mm negatives are actually 24x36mm, they are 0.945 by 1.417 inches. Now we know how big the scan area is, and how many pixels you must have to get a certain print size... 1920 divided by 1.417 rounded to the nearest digit is 1355. So, at minimal, you have to scan the negatives at 1355 DPI to get true 4x6 digital prints.

I wrote up a spread sheet to calculate what the minimum scans are at 300 and 320 DPI. Here's the results for the minimum DPI; and here's a link to an online print-to-scan-DPI calculator.

Print size, Image Size at 300 DPI, Image Sieze at 320 DPI
  • 4x6, 1270, 1355
  • 5x7, 1482, 1580
  • 8x10, 2117, 2258
Based on my calculations, 1500 DPI scans of 35mm negatives will yield 4x6 prints and could produce usable 5x7 prints. The same spreadsheet contains price calculations by DPI and number of scans, and 230 photos would cost me $110.50 shipped home. I have traded emails with both Image Preserves and ARS Grafica, but given that they both cost 45¢... I'd probably go with ARS Grafica and get 2000 DPI scans.

My Costco Experience
Before I shipped my wedding photos across the country, I wanted prints just in case something happened during shipment. So I took all seven rolls to Costco for prints. I called several local Costco stores and asked if they could give me a photo CD from the cut negatives. To my amazement, the photo techs all said yes (that was expected), and only $2.49 per CD (that was amazing)! Nobody could tell me what resolution the film was scanned at or the final image size, but every tech I talked to reassured me I would get full-resolution 4x6 prints. Satisfied, Cathy & I happily filled out seven envelopes.

A few days later, we got picture CDs of our wedding photos. It turns out the tech neglected to tell me the cost is $2.49 per CD (one for each roll) PLUS 29¢ per image! I paid it anyway, figuring this is less than the 45¢ I've seen online. To my dismay, the images are 1536 by 1024, or 256 DPI instead of 300 DPI. Costco's photo lab apologized and gave me my money back.

Hey, if I ever develop my 35mm film, I'll still gladly pay the $2.49... but I'll want higher quality scans for archival purposes.

So, What Now?
While looking at Costco's magazine, I noted that they are having a sale on the Pacific Imaging PrimeFilm 3650U 35mm Film & Slide Scanner; at only $170 shipped, I'm seriously tempted! I've read positive and negative reviews, but I'm undecided.

I am also considering using the online services, but purchasing a 3000 DPI scanner for $170 sounds pretty good. The benefit of the online service is not doing the work myself; wait a few weeks and I get several DVDs with photos on them. The benefit of having my own scanner is that it saves money if I'll be scanning more than 18 rolls of film, but I'll have to do the work. I haven't decided yet, and the sale is this month only.

Still, if it doesn't work out, Costco's incredible return policy makes me want to give it a chance. With a return policy like that, Costco does not sell junk, so I'm willing to give it a shot.

Some Links
For an explanation of 35mm scans and how to select DPIs, try Imagery Lab's explanation. For a calculator of scan resolution, print size, or image size, try ScanTips' calculator.
And finally, the manufacturer's page for the PrimFilm 3650u I'm looking at.

Biopsy Results & Ramifications

Cathy & I snuck a peek at her biopsy results at Kaiser while I got my blood test the other day, and then she got a call from the physcian yesterday confirming what we saw.

Cathy's Condition
Basically, Cathy has the Hepatitis C virus but it has caused very little scarring of the liver. There is some swelling on her liver, but it is mild. The concerns over a possibly fatty liver are minimal; Cathy will remain on a no-fat diet with limited protein (meat, cheese), but she is quite happy as a vegetarian so it is no burden..

In medical terms, Cathy has stage 1 fibrosis (range is stage 0 to 4), grade 1~2.

Some Ramifications
  • First, even if treatment completely fails to cure her, Cathy should still be able to live little out her regularly scheduled lifespan.
  • Second, Cathy had previously decided to pursue treatment if the Hep C was in the earlier stages, so she'll be getting shots of Pegasys and Copegas every week.
Begin Too Much Information
  • Third, in order to take interferon, Kaiser Permamente requires women to have two forms of birth control. So that means Cathy is going to have to go back on the pill, and I'll be getting my vasectomy done. I recall Derrick's experience, so I'm planning a long weekend for that. I will begin by askign KP to check if I'm already sterile; odd, but at this point I would consider that a blessing!
End Too Much Information
So that should catch everybody up. Cathy is still getting tired easily, and the interferon is supposed to counteract that, so she is looking forward to starting treatment. You continued prayers in that regard are eagerly sought. Thank you!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Apollo 11, the Moon, and Google

"That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."
Words uttered this day, July 20, 1969, by Neil Armstrong, as he became the first man to walk on the moon. He and Colonel Aldrin landed their lunar module, the "Eagle," and spent a total of 21 hours and 37 minutes on the moon's surface before redocking with "Columbia." Before a joint session of Congress, September of 1969, Commander Neil Armstrong stated: "To those of you who have advocated looking high we owe our sincere gratitude, for you have granted us the opportunity to see some of the grandest views of the Creator."

Source:, Wikipedia

NASA's Image of the Day for this day is of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin as he walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module.

Google is celebrating the historical event by "lauching" Google Maps: Moon. Since Google does have plans to establish an engineering facility on the Moon, I do not doubt that the entire visible side of the Moon will indeed be mapped, complete with directions and points of interest, before 2069. You can apply now for engineering positions at Google's lunar hosting and research center, the Google Copernicus Hosting Environment and Experiment in Search Engineering (G.C.H.E.E.S.E.), a brave new frontier in search science.
Yes, that is a joke.

John G Roberts Jr Petition

If you are interested, the ACLJ has a peition to the Senate Judiciary Committee to confirm the nomination of John G Roberts, Jr. to the Supreme Court.

There's an online form where you can add your name, or there are printable versions (for one signature and for multiple signatures).

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Lowest-Cost DSL

If you are thinking about getting DSL, here is the absolutely best deal I found, if you are starting from scratch. You must be in a SBC service area, though, so call 800-310-2355 to make sure. The current deal is $14.95 a month for a year, good through July 2005.

If you do not have SBC already ($35):
Switch to SBC or sign up for residential phone service online. For a short time, if you qualify, you'll get a $35 credit!

If you have a Best Buy near by ($75):
Before 07/31/2005, go to Best Buy, walk to their computer department and ask an employee to help you sign up for SBC DSL. You'll get a $75 gift card by mail after your first DSL bill. You'll get the DSL modem for free with an instant rebate on your first DSL bill from SBC. To save a few more ($7) dollars, pay for the modem in Best Buy and mail in the rebates yourself. I didn't want to deal with the rebates, though. This deal is better than signing up at SBC or Yahoo!

What We Ordered:
Cathy and I use our wirelss phones as our primary means of voice communication. We wanted DSL at home, and a fax line. So I order SBC's Basic Local Service for $5.70 a month, with JustCall Standard for Long Distance service (no monthly charge). We'll be able to receive calls, but we won't place calls on it often, and we'll never call long distance. We'll have our fax line and DSL for $20 plus taxes. :-)

If you are going to sign up for SBC services, do me a favor and use my referral code: CP0741001 and go to this web site:

If SBC is not available, sign up for some DSL service through Best Buy because you'll still get the $75 credit. If Best Buy is not available, and SBC DSL is available, don't forget our referral code, OK?

As for DSL Extreme...
Yes, DSL Extreme offers $14.95 deals for SBC areas, but their deal does not last any longer than SBC, and they have a $60 activation fee. They do offer 5 dynamic IP addresses, but if you don't know what that is, you wouldn't care anyway. In short, I would stick with SBC DSL, with or without Best Buy.

Referral for SBC Services (CP0741001)
SBC Residential Phone Service
SBC Residential DSL Services

Lee Getting Blood Tests

That's right, I'm getting tested for Hep C as well at the urging of my lovely wife.

Apparently, the fear of needles is technically Belonephobia (Greek "needle" + Greek "fear"). People who really do hear sharp, pointy objects may actually have Belonephobia.

Actually, I felt little or no discomfort except for sitting in the exam room watching the doctor fumble with the new computer system. Well, I did have to rip the tape off my arm, and that hurt! I won't have results for a week though, so I'll update then.

Seattle Bus Monster & Google Maps

Check out Seattle Bus Monster, where Chris Smoak has merged bus data and Google Maps into a very neat and very usable site for those looking to take the bus in the Seattle area.
Source: Google Code

Monday, July 18, 2005

God has been good!

Cathy and I wanted to see our wedding photos. We've been married, what, almost 8.5 years now and we just got prints of our wedding. We were comparatively poor back when we were married. After the ceremony, we simply didn't have the money to get prints, so I had the film developed so they would not expire. Man, we've come a long way...

Let's see... Cathy's dress and hat cost $720 (back then that sounds like a lot to me), the flowers were $180, the tuxedos were $70 each at the erstwhile "Gary's Tux Shop", and we spent about $400 at Trader Joe's & Fedco on food and drinks, $200 for the reception hall we didn't use, $50 to the pastor, $200 for the musicians, $400 on invitations, $30 for the license, $200 on decorations, $400 on the cake... we handed out disdosable cameras in lieu of a photographer. By the time we added up all the costs, including the rehearsal dinner, we had our wedding for $3000.

Looking back, it seemed like so much money to spend! And to think we honestly did not have the cash to get prints of our wedding! Now we own a triplex and live very comfortably with adequate health insurance. I will likely graduate from seminary in two or three years and can think about full-time ministry in five to six years. God has been very good to us!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Mapping Taiwan

I grew up in Taiwan, and I wanted to show Cathy but had a hard time locating my old stomping grounds on Google Earth. I finally found a Taiwan map site and can show Cathy my old neighborhoods.

It is no surprise that the satellite photos available for Taiwan via Google Earth are not as detailed as North America, given the political tension across the Taiwan Strait. But there's always a way, though, and here's how you can map addresses on Taiwan.

Mapping Taiwan is not nearly as convenient as the way Google Maps works. None of the major portals I've used (Yahoo!, Google, MSN) have mapping programs for Taiwan, although Mapquest has coarse international maps including Taiwan. I say coarse because you have city-level detail, but not street-level detail. But, there are two related web sites that allow you to map Taiwan addresses.

The main site is in Traditional Chinese and allows you to find the address by county, city, township, village and street address. This is the most precise search, although the limitations are obvious for English-speakers, and a free (though tedius) registration is required for street-level detail.

The secondary site is in (broken) English and simply allows you to search by number, street address and city/county. Surprisingly, no registration is required for the English site and street-level detail is available. The biggest problem is figuring out how to properly spell a location name; is it Kwaisan or Gueishan? I found the Taiwan Postal Service's Enlgish web site very helpful in this regard, as you can just search for post office locations by postal code to arrive at the proper village, township and city/county.

In order to locate my high school, Morrison Academy, I looked up the English address and got this result (#136-1, Shui-Nan Rd., Taichung, 406, Taiwan). By zooming out on the map, I was able to locate the general region in Google Earth, and locate the school here.

For more rural regions, spelling becomes a real issue. I looked up my parent's postal code in order to correctly spell their address (my letters have always gotten there, but I think my next letter will arrive sooner). In the end, my Google Earth pictures are as follows:

Taiwan, with the relative position of my high school and where my parents live, as well as the region around my high school and the city that formed me as a young man.

My parents live close to the major internation airport of Taiwan. I used to practice Nun Chucks in the field southwest of my parent's house, and my dad & I spent a lot of time walking the park behind our house.

Obviously, I've got more to show Cathy, but this post will give my old alma mater's new students something to ponder.

Google Maps, Japan!

Google Local and Google Maps now supports the U.S., the U.K., and Japan!

Here's Central Park in downtown Tokyo. I can only hope they add maps in Google Taiwan, too.

Source: Google Blog

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Cathy Much Better Now

I went home last night to a nearly-recovered wife! Cathy is feeling much better now. Although she still got winded after running some errands, she is no longer in pain and much closer to being 100%. Thank God, and thanks for your prayers!

Google Earth and Honduras

My friends, Bryan & Lisa (siblings), went down to Honduras to help build a church. As Bryan (affectionately known as B-Dog) emailed updates, I got curious where on Earth, exactly, that he was. He had mentioned La Ceiba and a nearby airport, so that gave me a general idea.

I could just go to Wikipedia and read about it, but I wanted a global perspective so I could get a "feel for it". So I started up Google Earth, typed in "La Ceiba, Honduras" and watched the camera pan over to the northern coast of Honduras. (Click for larger images.)

That's pretty convenient, I'd say. I love technology... :-) You can read a decent review of Google Earth here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

New Countertops!

Ah... a real counter in the hallway!

It is sooo good to be able to wash dishes in our kitchen, standing up!

Plumbing Adventures

One of our apartments opened up, and I learned more about indoor plumbing. My plumbing adventures over the last two weekends involved a solid brass waste & overflow drain for my bathtub in our third apartment. We had a plumber visit that apartment, and one of the screws on the overflow assembly snapped from rust and old age.

The weekend before the Fourth of July I decided to replace the overflow. Having found that it was a solid piece of metal, I considered sawing off the overflow and replacing it with PVC.

That's when I noticed that I could see light around the rim of the waste pipe.

Now, understand that the waste pipe is a single piece, a welded pipe and the waste elbow. Being able to see light through it means I don't have any single part to tighten or replace. I gave the overflow a good shake and the entire waste pipe dislodged from the waste elbow. It was now all or nothing.

I looked at the space available to me and decided to call a plumber. After calling a client of mine and getting a quote of $1350 (!!!) I felt a new motivation to tackle the project myself.

I needed more room, but I did not want to patch any walls or reconnect any copper pipes. So, I took my reciprocating saw and removed excess wood from the tub access. After working on the locknut holding the tail piece to the drain pipe in the foundation I was able to remove the entire unit.

The waste elbow was stll attached. I used a dumbell wrench to attempt my removal of the waste elbow. The elbow was frozen solid, and the teeth on the dumbell wrench actually snapped! After involking my lifetime warranty, I replaced the dumbell wrench and took a hacksaw to the waste elbow.

After forty minutes of sawing, I was able to pry the waste elbow off.

I assemebled a PVC kit and cut the pieces to match. To connect the tailpiece to the drain pipe, I used a convertor piece to connect the PVC sanitary tee on one side and femail threaded pipe connector on the other side. I was able to thread the connector onto the drain pipe, then position the rest of the drain kit.

By the grace of God, it was a perfect fit.

It doesn't sound too involved when I explain it in so many words, but this was three trips to the home improvement store and about three hours of work. It cost me roughly $40 in parts. I would have likely agreed to $400 if the plumber had been more reasonable... So I suppose I saved $900 doing it myself. Yipee!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Cathy Still In Pain

Cathy is still feeling a great deal of discomfort and regular pain... We may revisit the hospital today. Your continued prayers would be appreciated.

Free 7.11 oz Slurpee at 7-11 on July 11th

7-Eleven and Coca-Cola are giving away 7.11 oz Slurpees at participating stores today only.
I believe this is an annual event...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Cathy Biopsy Today

Cathy's biospy is today, in one hour. She'll be kept for observation for the afternoon and will be resting for the next day. Please keep her in your prayers, thank you!

Update: posted by Lee Jones at 7/08/2005 05:31:56 PM
this is an audio post - click to play

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Yes, We're Alive!

A lot has been going on with the Joneses, but I have not had time to report them to you. Cathy went to Arizona to visit her mom and brought back photos of the cute new kitty that my mother-in-law, Rhonda, recently acquired.

I stayed home and watched Disney-imported Japanese animations from Studio Ghibili (Kiki's Delivery Service, Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind) and worked on our triplex.

Just last night I managed to dislodge a stubborn tub waste elbow with a hack saw, and this morning we got our countertops installed! I'll keyboard all this and upload some photos for tomorrow, but I wanted to drop a quick note to let everyone know we're still alive!

Free Google Earth

While Google Earth is not new news any longer, I was holding off talking about it until I was reasonably certain people could actually download it and use it.

Google Earth is Google's free 3D model of the globe, which resulted from their acquisition of Keyhole, a satellite imaging service which now redirects to Google Earth.
Google Earth streams the world over wired and wireless networks enabling users to virtually go anywhere on the planet and see places in photographic detail. This is not like any map you have ever seen. This is a 3D model of the real world, based on real satellite images combined with maps, guides to restaurants, hotels, entertainment, businesses and more. You can zoom from space to street level instantly and then pan or jump from place to place, city to city, even country to country.
They are not kidding, either! I found Disneyland,

then mapped directions from Disneyland, and this is way cool... the directions can be "played" and the camera flies over your travel route.

I also "flew" over to Niagra Falls...

There's also a 3D Buildings feature... First, there is a top-down view, then the view overlaid with roads, and a view of the buildings in 3D relief.

Amazingly, Google is allowing basic usage of this service for free. Try Google Earth Home for the download if you are interested in this. You can download the client from Google Earth, from ZDNet, or from Google Downloads (direct link). I'll try to upload a movie clip to Google Video for those of you who are curious but don't want to install it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Music & Bible Studies

I like promoting good products, especially when they are free. I espeically like it when the free product furthers the Gospel of Jesus Christ.