Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fine. You Asked.

Well, no you didn't ask, but it's about that time again - time for a GameCube Portable update. Actually, quite a bit has happened since the last installment, all to get us back to where we used to be.

When last we last looked in on our plucky GameCube modders...

All indications were that the latest problem with The Goddamn Right Trigger (TGRT) was that we had repaired it using an electronic gizmo - a potentiometer or 'pots' - from a third-party, non-Nintendo controller. With nothing to lose but a few more dollars, I started making the rounds on eBay and Kijiji looking for a genuine Nintendo GameCube controller that we could harvest (rip apart) for parts.

eBay had tons of controllers, still new in their packaging, but nothing under $50. Kijiji, however, is the flea market of the Internet and we found a few complete GameCube systems for $40 or less. It was a no-brainer when we encountered one young lady selling a GameCube with 4(!!!) controllers for $40. Just to add a bit of icing, the GameCube just happened to be the same DOL-101 engineering version that we used for our project - a handy bonus in the unlikely(?) situation where we needed a new motherboard or somesuch.

Kijiji Lady and I exchanged about a dozen emails before JediBoy and I made the trek to her place on the other side of town - our $40 in hand. When we got to her front door, she greeted us with a smile and an apology. Apparently she had sent one last email that we had not seen. It turned out that her GameCube - after sitting in a box for almost a year - would not play games.

She had tested it for us and it refused to read a game disk. She also found that one of the controllers was not functional. Although annoyed that she didn't think to test it before she placed a Kijij ad, it didn't matter that much to us. We had money and she had product. We told her everything was alright and drove off into the rainy night with our parts.

As if this story has not gone on long enough, the new part - the genuine Nintendo part - did the trick. TGRT was made functional once more as we silently prayed. I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't surprised. Logically, it was supposed to work. Emotionally, well, I'm surprised when anything works.

Gently, we re-installed the TGRT back into the case, this time using epoxy putty for a cleaner, safer job versus using hot glue or liquid epoxy. At every stage of the process we tested and tested again. The results are below:

Now we are ready (again and again) to finish the rest of the assembly. JediBoy was hoping to have it wrapped up by Boxing Day, but I'm pretty sure we're going to find some way to screw this up by then.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lights for Baby Jesus - Part 2

The pause between Part 1 and Part 2 was solely for dramatic effect and in no way symptomatic of falling back into old too-lazy-to-post behaviours. Got that?

So! Wreath, ladder, painful injuries - that's where we left off. Before we continue our Christmas tale, here are some fun statistics:
  • 35 Canadians die each year from falling off a ladder
  • 1 Costa Rican dies each year from falling off a ladder
  • 62 Canadians die each year from falling out of bed
  • 1 Costa Rican dies each year from falling out of bed
  • Canadians often decorate their homes with Christmas lights hung from their roof
  • Costa Ricans often decorate their homes with flowers in pots and animal statues in the yard
Clearly, Christmas in Costa Rica is a safer, more fragrant experience. I also understand there's no snow there and the coffee grows on trees. We have a lot to learn from our friends in Central America.

I considered that a Costa Rican person would be a useful resource to help decorate my home for Christmas, given their emphasis on simplicity and safety (statistics don't lie!). But there aren't any such neighbours on our big happy cul-de-sac, and I'm pretty sure an ad on Kijiji would have taken too long to pay-off. I decided I had to tough it out myself using just my wits and my residential-grade extension ladder (aka The Widowmaker).

Unfortunately, there's not much to the story. I got my ladder out of the garage and extended it to the exact length where it will usually not flex like a bow against by body, the arrow. I was able to hang the wreath I almost made by myself. I hung a few smaller wreaths on either side of the garage door. And I finished off by replacing the outside lights with festive green bulbs (I would have used red bulbs, but I hear they attract the wrong sorts of new friends).

The only touch-and-go moments:
  • My neighbour shuffled up my driveway to have a chat just as I was leaning my ladder against the house, so I was obliged to use my valuable Christmas-decorating time to shoot the breeze with him.
  • Because I lost my valuable time chatting with my neighbour, it was darker and colder outside by the time my work got underway. I laugh at the Elements and I don't mind dermabrasion from cold ladder aluminum, however.
  • There was a moment of uncertainty when the brick clips I was using first took the weight of the wreath I almost made by myself. Fortunately, everything held (until the first windstorm, anyways).
True grit won the day, of course, and my house is now a Wonderland. The downside of this is that I think I did too good a job. No neighbour has come by to congratulate me, so I can only assume they are over-awed and cowered behind their curtains. Looking at the picture of my handiwork below, I think you'll understand:

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Lights for Baby Jesus - Part 1

I live in what passes for the suburbs in my town. Better yet, I live on a cul-de-sac in a great, big happy circle of neighbourly friendliness and holiday pride. The Christmas season here always starts in November with one of my neighbours dragging out a ladder and 5 miles of lights to hang on the house. This, and the fear of weather turning cold, has a domino effect on my other neighbours and, before you can sing the Hallelujah Chorus, our happy circle is awash in a Christmas glow that would put Las Vegas to shame.

I refuse to play nice, mostly because I'm lazy and not very creative about Christmas lighting. I eschew using the last warm days of November thinking about Christmas, telling all who'll listen that no tinsel shall set foot on my property until December 1. It also helps that, unlike many of my neighbours, I no longer have small kids in my house to cajole and whine about the lack of red-green-gaudiness in the front yard.

So December 1 has come and gone and, still, no Christmas lights illuminate my driveway. Having given up risking my health by hanging lights off the roof, I now put my lack of creativity to work on what I call 'the ground display' - various lighted and air-filled doodads that make the front yard look like a squatter's camp on the Island of Misfit Toys.

In my heart, I want to be good at this stuff. But what I would love to be able to do...

...is very much beyond what I'm capable of doing.

This year, however, I thought I'd try an upgrade.

I've always been underwhelmed by our lighted wire-frame wreath that hangs over the garage door. This year, I decided we should replace it with a very large artificial wreath. It would look good during the day and, once the Sun set, it would be lit with many white pin-lights woven into the wreath material. This was my simple dream.

It took a few days to find my wreath - a 4-footer that was the last one in the store. When I took it home I found out why it was an orphan. The wreath material had pulled away from the backing frame in spots. No problem, I could fix it with a handful of small zip-ties. But then I decided it looked pretty boring. It needed pizzazz. So I spent some time affixing plastic Christmas ornaments - a selection of gold-coloured balls - all around the wreath. After an of hour or so of effort, I was pretty impressed with myself, being all creative and stuff.

The plan was to hang my new wreath yesterday (and put out some other ground display doodads) to let my neighbours know that I'm no Scrooge. I imagined them making a point to knock on my door and complement my new wreath. I'd smile awkwardly and casually mention how I had just about made that wreath myself. And they'd be all impressed and basically consider me Christmas King of the Cul-de-sac.

Of course, it didn't work out.

True to form, my garage door broke a few evenings ago. With the door stuck in the 'closed' position, there was no way to get my ladder out to hang my wreath. Sure, I could have borrowed a ladder from a neighbour, but that would sort of jeopardize my plan to become Christmas King.

As of last night door is fixed - at least in a temporary fashion until new springs can be ordered and installed. So tonight it happens. Tonight the brand new wreath I almost made by myself will be hung over the garage door. I haven't quite worked out the details for how it will hang, but I'm pretty sure it'll get figured out. Right?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Vomit On The Finish Line

Leave to this guy to point out a sad truth:
So now you just stop? Now that you have me jonesing for a fix of daily blogging fun, you just turn off the faucet.

Harsh, dude. Harsh.
As this lone, brave Reader suggests, I fell a little short of 30 Days of Awesome. I took 'er right up to the finish line and, just 2 days away from the end-zone, I fell down on all fours and heaved up way too much Gatorade.

Seriously, could this end any other way? Constantly a few days behind in posting, I think we all knew the 30-day experiment was headed for the ditch on Day 1. It's not like the well ran (too) dry on ideas, however. I just procrastinated until there was no reasonable chance of saving face by finishing the job.

Something else will show up in this spot. That's a promise.

There have been some developments on the GameCube project. We're (surprise!) about 3 weeks away from sailing the ocean with these guys, provided we can get past some drama involving our cat. I continue to be delighted at the wide variety of ass-kickings that are mine for the asking in Skyrim. And my Christmas readiness is pretty much focused on the viability of finding and securing a very large wreath onto the front of my house - 'cause that's what the baby Jesus would expect, right?

So, yes, there's stuff to talk about here.