A few days ago I shared Pia’s prezi about Germany. This morning she presented in front of her class. To make it as authentic as possible, she even wore her Bavarian Dress (“Dirndl” is what it is called in Bavaria). Her voice is a bit on the soft side, so you may have to crank up the volume:
There are tons of educational titles on the Apple iTunes store and Google’s Play Store for Android. A long time ago I read a review of “Dragon Box” and bookmarked it. While we were in Germany I actually purchased the app and installed it on Pia’s iPad. Dragon Box is a Math Game. Kids are gently introduced to Algebra and get to solve equations. In the beginning you solve equations using pictures and as you hit the more advanced levels the pictures are replaced by numbers and variables:
In the above, you have to try to have “x” alone on one side of the equation.
Pia mastered this in no time. She finished the standard package already and is almost done with the bonus package. She did not know that she was solving equations, but something will be stuck in her head and will help her to find easy access to Algebra.
Dragon Box gets my “highly recommended” if you’re looking for that kind of app.
For school Pia had to prepare a presentation about a country where her ancestors came from. She got the assignment when we were still in Germany, so it made sense to do the presentation about Germany as well. My brother reminded me about prezi.com and we created a short presentation there, because I was tired of using PowerPoint all the time. Here’s the result (you may want to go full-screen using the rectangle button on the bottom right):
As you can tell from my previous post, I’m not currently in Santa Fe. I’m not at my house. And it is very cold. Here’s a view of my living room from Sunday afternoon:
And a view of the entrance area from Sunday evening (hint: the blue things and the holes in the walls are not part of my normal decoration):
The freezing temperatures caused a water pipe going to an outside spigot to burst. Instead of just wasting water to the outside (and potentially creating a beautiful ice sculpture), the water longed for warmer temperatures a decided to flood the house instead. Oakley noticed it (thank god!) when she returned to check on my house. She called in the water damage troops and they did not waste time and attempted to dry out the house as quickly as possible. Yesterday the plumber was here and he fixed the root problem and tomorrow (my today) they start patching things up again.
I mentioned over email that I feel like watching a bad horror movie where your own home gets dismantled and you can’t do anything about it. Not a good way to start the new year, but I’m grateful that I had somebody check on the house and act fast to try and minimize damage. Thanks Oakley!
On a positive note, it seems to have paid off to invest some time and thought into my document filing process. While in Europe I wanted to give my Homeowners insurance a heads-up about the damage. Normally an insurance policy is something that’s buried deeply in a filing cabinet in your home. As I scan, convert-to-PDF, full-text index and store on Google Docs all incoming paper/electronic documents, I found the latest revision of the policy within a few minutes and was able to contact them with my policy information (the blue thumbnail below is for the latest version of the policy from 05/2012). I have not heard back from them, but that’s a different story.
Pia and I are currently in Germany for my mom’s 70th birthday in a few days. As school started already I did not want her to miss too much of class and asked her teacher to send us homework assignments via email. That seems to work pretty well. On top of that I offered that Pia (and I) would write a blog entry for every day of our trip. If you’re interested, you can see the entries at http://piaingermany.wordpress.com/.
Our kitchen PC died a few weeks ago. It was a Sony All-In-One Vaio, which we purchased (refurbished) almost 7 years ago. It had a good run and worked just fine in the old home in Tesuque as well as my current home. One day Pia fired it up and it shut down immediately. Any attempt to resurrect it was fruitless and we considered it a complete loss. I still have to rip out the old harddisk to get some stuff of it, but otherwise it’s going to see the PC recycle center soon.
We started to shop for a replacement, because the PC was an essential tool in the kitchen. Netflix for Pia’s entertainment and web browsing in general for the rest of the family. I honed in on a Dell Inspiron 2330, because Sam’s Club offered it for $300 under Dell’s list price.
On 12/23 the new member joined the family and everything was fine initially. That was until I ran Windows Update. Something was installed that made the unit forget about the graphics driver. At times it would boot up and show a screen resolution 1024 * 768 (1920 * 1080 is the preferred resolution). Going to Win8′s Device Manager would either show a missing graphics driver or a “Unknown Device”. The graphics driver was partially (broken) installed and only reinstalling the driver would fix things (until the next reboot). This appeared in the System Event Viewer (“Installation Failure: Windows failed to install the following update with error 0x800F0217: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. – Graphics Adapter WDDM1.2 – Intel(R) HD Graphics.” to make Google index the words):
Some update was trying to install, but it did not succeed and left the system in a state where no graphics driver was loaded and were stuff was displayed “black letters on a black background” – in other words, a hard reboot was required to show something on the screen.
I just spent quite some time with Dell Support and was quite surprised how knowledgeable the other party was. We looked over a ton of things and attempted to diagnose the problem. While on the call, I realized that MS had labelled a graphics driver update as important. It’s this one:
This update was downloaded soon after I got the PC. Every time Windows Udpate ran, the OS tried to reinstall this driver and it failed (see Event entry above). I right-clicked on the update and selected “Hide Update” (and did the same with another AMD display driver update in the Optional section). Since then we are good: no longer does the PC lose its display driver information and it survives reboots just fine.
My brother left a message in German/Bavarian on the phone. Google Voice transcribed it. We laughed – a lot!
If you are in Santa Fe this evening at 6:12pm, you get a chance to see the International Space Station to cross the sky at a maximum height of 78 degrees appearing in the South-West and disappearing in the North-East for about 2 mins.
You can sign up for these email alerts at: http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/
True story – I swear! Pia and I are in the dairy section at Albertsons. I ask her if there’s anything else we need while we are out shopping. I get a “no” initially followed by a sudden “yes, but I don’t remember what it was called.” I do know immediately that she’s talking about eggnog, because she likes it a lot and we got it often around x-mas. I give her some time to remember when she suddenly shouts: “Now I remember – Christmas juice!”
And that is all
PS: I should mention that he wears a t-shirt saying “dyslectics untie”
Even if only half of the stuff is true, it’s scary …
It’s day two of the Amazon “AWS re:Invent” conference and Ryan from Pinterest just presented. Glad to see that the coat from 1993 still fits … (sorry, could not resist).
Pia is bilingual: she speaks English and Dog …
Pia went to see her (Chinese) grandparents over Thanksgiving. As often they went down to the time-share in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – right about here (Google Maps). Last year she was allowed to take some Scuba lessons in the pool and the instructor told her she would be allowed to do it again this year. It sounds like he was happy with her progress and she was even allowed on a short dive into the Ocean:
She can get certified as early as 10 years and then I think we need to go on some scuba excursions together. A short video is below (including Candice and step dad Jovan):
I’ve seen it more than once before that your guest OS’s user interface (Gnome, KDE, etc.) has issues, because of limited memory or display driver issues. I made it a habit to install my guests as limited as possible. Most often the guest is some server VM and UI cruft has no business on it. If I do need to run X11 applications in the guest, then I use an X11 server installed on the host.
There are free servers for both Windows (Xming) and MacOSX (XQuartz) hosts. Install those, disable access control (“xhost +”) and then redirect the guest’s DISPLAY environment variable to the host (“export DISPLAY=<host-ip>:0″) as seen here:
And you can reuse the same X11 server from multiple different guests – even at the same time.