Category Archives: Personal

I got a new hearing aid!

We went to the audiologist the other day to get me fitted for an hearing aid (an Oticon Chili SP9), and I was blown away by how far hearing aids have come since the last time I had one in…1997 or 1998, I think it was.

My previous hearing aid was an analog aid, and it pretty much just amplified everything that was going on around me, including all the irrelevant noises that people normally tune out, and the sound quality wasn’t particularly great. I couldn’t tell music from speech, I had no speech discrimination whatsoever, and everything sounded kind of the same. It just wasn’t a great experience.

These new digital aids are something else. They’ve got bells and whistles out the wazoo and do a nice job of filtering out the background “static” and just focusing on important sounds, and instead of using 3 tiny dials adjusted with a screwdriver on the hearing aid, the audiologist programs the hearing aid on a computer. It’s pretty neat.

I don’t really know how to adequately describe the magnitude of the difference between my old hearing aid and this one. The closest I can come is equating the old one to a 13″ CRT television with rabbit ear antennas and bad reception, while the new one is more like a 30″ HDTV, but all of the shows are in a foreign language. It’s still going to take a while for me to get fully acclimatized to sounds again, but I can already tell it’s better this time around.

I’m wearing a loaner unit right now. My actual hearing aid and custom earmold arrives in 2 weeks, and I pick them up a week after that.

The other thing I really like? Every single analog aid I’ve had over the years was a hideous fleshtone color that’s more at home in Dick’s Bargain Dildo Emporium (D.B.A. Poke & Save) than behind someone’s ear. My new one’s a tasteful metallic graphite grey instead!

I am not a smart man.

On Saturday, Mrs E and I went shopping for a new bed after putting it off for months. The old one was killing us–it looked like a topographical scale model of a canyon range, felt like sleeping on a bag stuffed with river rocks, and we almost always woke up feeling twice our physical age.

So, we went to a local mattress store, tried out a bunch of beds, and decided on this hybrid memory foam/wrapped coil setup that we didn’t want to get off of once we laid down on it for a test drive. It felt like being lovingly cuddled by the patron deity of all things snuggly and fluffy and soft, except without subsequently swallowing us whole like quicksand and closing up over our trapped, suffocating bodies like a carnivorous foam blob monster, leaving behind only vaguely stick-figure-shaped fissures to mark where we once laid.

It was on sale as a set (mattress and foundation both), and because our cats had ripped a hole in our old box spring and started using it as the Catcave, I wanted a frame to get the foundation off the floor and away from kitty claws. So, we got this cute little upholstered frame thing that I thought was just a basic headboard-rails-and-footboard dealie.

Three hours and a Home Depot run later, I had it assembled. It looked weirdly overengineered to me compared to the frames we’ve had in the past, but I didn’t really dwell on that too much. We put the foundation and the mattress on top of the frame, and…the thing was 4 feet tall.

A quick Google search later, I’m facepalming and Mrs E is giggling like crazy. It wasn’t a frame, it was an Euro slat bed that’s replaces foundations/box springs, and I’d basically put a bed on top of a bed without realizing it. Now I have a superfluous queen-sized foundation leaning against one wall of my office. 😛

On the bright side, the first night of sleep on this thing was heavenly. I figure when we move, we’ll just put the foundation in a guest bedroom and put a new mattress on it.


It’s spring. I can tell because the bees are out.

The other day, I was sitting out back and all of a sudden…

::bzzzzzzzzz:: “Hi! I’m a bee!”

“That’s nice, could you move along a bit? You’re kinda all up in my personal space.”

“Oh! Sure, sure. Oh, hey, I like flowers! Flowers are awesome!”

“So I’ve heard. Um…about that personal space?”

“Right, right! Hey, did I mention I like flowers? Seen any around here, big fella?”

“I…think I saw some in…the next county over?”

“Oh, you! Say, you got any pollen on you?”

“What? No, I’m not a flower, I don’t have any pollen!”

“Oh, I love this game! You sure, big fella? How about in that pocket? Or that one? No, wait, it’s in your ear!”

“No! What are you…no, get away from me, I don’t have any pollen on me!”


::skips around backyard like a little girl with arms flailing around comically:: “No, not in my pants! I DON’T HAVE ANY POLLEN!”

Dammit. My problem with bees is…they’re like the psychotic Zooey Deschanel character of the insect world. One minute, they’re all cute and fuzzy and “docile” and they’re always enthusiastically saying “Hi! I’m a bee! I like flowers! Pollen is totally the bomb!” and fly around in silly and cheerful trajectories like lovable goofs. Yet, at any minute, they could suddenly flip out and go full-on “I’M GONNA KILL YOU MOTHERFUCKER AND ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GONNA KILL YOU TOO AND I DON’T GIVE A FUCK THAT I’LL DIE IN THE PROCESS BECAUSE FUCK YOU AND YOUR FACE” ::STAB STAB STAB::

It’s kind of a complicated relationship.

Then there was today. I’m hanging out with Viceroy Puddles out back. Puddles loves to be held, so he’s in my arms getting his morning dose of Vitamin S (scritchies).

Suddenly, ::OMINOUS BZZZZZZ:: Two bees.

“Hello. We represent the Divine Hive of the Latter Day Honey.”

“What is it with you bees and personal space anyway, could you two just kind of back off a little?”

“Have you found Beesus?”


“Beesus. Have you found Beesus and opened your heart to the glory of the Hive?”

“You lost Beesus? I think I saw him in the next county over.”

“We cannot lose Beesus because Beesus is forever in our hearts, and you too may find Beesus. I see that you have brought an offering for the Divine Hive and Beesus. This is a fine start.”

“Offering? What? Whatchootalkingabout, Beelis?”

::both bees proceed to examine Puddles minutely::

“That’s not an offering! That’s my cat. Stop freaking out my cat. Come on.”

“Once an offering is made, it cannot be taken back. That is not the way of the Divine Hive of the Latter Day Honey. Fear not, Beesus will look upon you with kindness for this fine and well-considered offering.”

“Uh…look, guys, I think I see Beesus over there!” ::runs inside with now-confused cat::

Dammit. Yep. Spring’s here.

Dell Venue 8 Pro 5000 Review

I started shopping around for a small and inexpensive travel tablet a couple months ago, since the fourth quarter of the year tends to be when we do most of our traveling. I wanted something small and light with a physical keyboard and long battery life, and I didn’t want to spend more than $200-300 on it. I went for the 64GB version of the Dell Venue 8 Pro 5000, an 8″ Windows 8.1 tablet.

To take it for a spin, I decided to use it to compose and post a review of it and its accessories here.

Initial Impressions

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It has a 1280×800 screen, which initially sounds a bit coarse compared other tablets that have 2K or Retina screens, but it’s actually a rather nice screen. Text is pleasingly sharp, images look really good, and the color is vibrant.

When running desktop programs, I find that I sometimes hunch over and squint a little bit more than I should when trying to make out small text, but the Metro-style apps work very well on smaller screens.

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The tablet’s size is almost perfect. It’s not too big and not too small for me. It’s about 5 inches tall and about 8.5 inches wide, and a bit less than half an inch thick.

The tablet’s processor is an Intel Atom 3740. Before the current Bay Trail architecture, Atom chipsets were pretty underpowered, and I wouldn’t have gone near an Atom powered Windows RT device with a 10 foot pole. The Venue 8 Pro 5000 runs Windows 8.1.

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I’m surprised by how zippy and responsive the tablet is. I was expecting it to struggle a bit, but it’s pretty fluid and responsive. This is even more true after it’s been updated with the latest drivers and software updates from Dell.

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Fit and finish is pretty good. It doesn’t feel cheap or cheesy. The back is a textured, rubbery surface that feels satisfyingly grippy, and it doesn’t look chintzy.


To get the most out of it, I also got the keyboard folio case and Dell Active Stylus. The keyboard folio is interesting–it’s a rigid plastic case with a semi-rigid cover that the keyboard attaches to magnetically.

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The tablet clicks into the case, the cover folds over the screen, and the keyboard sticks to the cover. There’s a loop on the back that serves two purposes–it holds a stylus and serves as a tuck point for the cover when you fold it up into a stand.

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The magnetic attachment for the keyboard is one of those things that sounds great on paper, but falls a little bit short in practice. The magnets hold fine for the most part, but I can see the keyboard coming off fairly easily if the tablet is carried in a bag without a built in sleeve or tablet pocket of some sort.2014-11-16 14.07.30

The semi-rigid cover is jointed so that it can be bent into a triangular stand, and tucks into the stylus loop. There are two viewing angles to choose from: upright like a laptop screen, or on its back and slightly inclined. There isn’t a mechanism to keep the cover closed, however–no strap, latch, or magnetic closure.

The keyboard feels pretty nice and doesn’t look or feel cheap. It does, however, have a number of weirdly placed keys. Several punctuation marks like single and double quotes, underscore, pipe, plus and equal signs, backslash, and hyphen are function keys in the QWERTY row. The function keys are literally function keys themselves rather than separate, standalone keys.

The sizing and placement of a few keys are also a little bit off compared to a normal keyboard. If you’re a touch typist, you might find it frustrating to get used to. I find that my typing speed is about 60% to 75% of my normal speed when using this keyboard.

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I’m also using a Dell WM524 wireless travel mouse, which works beautifully with the Venue 8 Pro 5000 and the keyboard folio. In this configuration, it feels like a tiny version of my XPS 18 all-in-one.

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The Dell Active Stylus got off to a rocky start before the A02 hardware revision and tablet driver updates. The one I received was an A02 and I’d updated all of the drivers and firmware practically first thing after unboxing it, so I had a better first experience with it than the early adopters did. It won’t put Wacom out of business tomorrow, but it’s plenty good enough for my own needs. It’s also markedly better than the stylus that came with the Gateway CX2720 convertible notebook that I carried around in the mid-2000s.

The stylus loop on the keyboard folio holds it snugly. I think I would have preferred the loop to be on the top edge of the folio rather than on the back, however.

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I can’t get over how cool it is to run something like Photoshop CC 2014 on such a tiny computer and actually be able to do useful work on it. I don’t think I would want to open any massive texture atlases or have too many print resolution documents open at the same time, but it’s totally usable otherwise.

Most of my papercraft software installed and worked fine. Metasequoia, Silo, and Pepakura Designer work just fine. Ultimate Papercraft 3D has some issues with the Intel graphics on both the Venue 8 Pro and my XPS 18 all-in-one, so it doesn’t see much use these days.

2 Months Later…

I’ve had the tablet for roughly 2 months now. I took it on a 4 day Thanksgiving road trip, and upon our return, I decided to use it as my sole computer for a week to see how it held up. I really like the little booger. It’s more than enough computer for my travel needs and is nowhere nearly as large and heavy as my old XPS 15 laptop.

I also recently replaced the original Dell keyboard folio with a Microsoft Wedge keyboard and a Poetic faux leather folio case. The Wedge has a much better keyboard layout and has a rigid protective cover that lets me toss it in the bag without worrying about it, and the Poetic folio case is a significant improvement over the Dell folio case in a number of areas. It has an elastic strap that keeps it closed, like the one on a Moleskine notebook, and is more comfortable to hold when using the tablet as a touch device.

Some random stuff

After I had some teeth pulled last month, I had a nagging fear that I’d be condemned to a diet of  mashed potatoes and pudding for the foreseeable future, but I’m pleased to report that that particular fear turned out to be baseless. My mouth is healing up nicely, I no longer have tooth pain, and it’s really nice being able to eat solid food again.

I’ve also apparently been adopted by a cat again. I have no idea how this happened, but now I have a little buddy hanging out in my office with me all day. 😆

The last 2 weeks at work have been a rather interesting study of contrasts. Last week was one of those incredible table-flipping shitshows where it felt like absolutely nothing was going right at all. Flaky hardware, balky tools, script conflicts, gremlins, and a bunch of other issues just boiled over, and it was horrible.

I ended up gutting the offending subsystem, completely redesigning it from scratch, and then things started to finally fall into place nicely. The week after that was the polar opposite–I had success after success and things were just behaving wonderfully again. Weird.

I also found out that one of my favorite modeling tools, Silo, had been updated recently and managed to get in some 3D modeling time. I’ve been slowly building up and detailing a spaceship model, adding a little bit here and there whenever I have a few minutes to spend in Silo.

lancer_bow lancer_stern

Man, I really missed being able to push some polygons around for fun. I wish I had a 3D printer so I could print out my stuff in plastic and push it around on the table while making wacky spaceship noises.