Friday, October 29, 2004

Replaced my PowerBook G4 LCD

I had some dead columns of pixels in the LCD on my PowerBook G4 Titanium (Onyx). It went from a single dead column about 3/4 of the way to the right edge to about 9 dead there and another 3 about 2/3 of the way across from left to right over about a 9 month span. That went from annoying to unusable.

So, I went hunting for screen replacements. Apple wants about $1,050.00 to swap the top half hinges and all. I found some third party services that will replace the LCD panel in your hardware for between $550 and $425. Considering the thing is 2.5 years old and probably not worth more than $700 none of these options seemed viable to me.

I thought, "How hard would it be to replace it myself?". So, I started reading up and found that taking it apart and taking the top half off was fairly simple. It was extracting the LCD panel from the casing, hinges and front bezel that was difficult. The problem is that besides the 4 screws holding it together, there is a bunch of strong epoxy as well. Most tools someone like me would have would damage the casing and plastic frame in the process of cracking the epoxy. This put me off the repair for a while.

Then, I started looking for used top halves on Ebay. My limit was $200 including the price of shipping and I began bidding. Unfortunately they were ending between $240 and $325 and I lost auction after auction when holding fast to my price.

In doing more research I found some instructions for taking the bezel, plastics and housing off the LCD panel. They still warned of damage but it now seemed a bit less risky. Thus began my bidding wars on just LCD panels. I stuck with auctions for new or refurbs from high feedback number sellers to avoid buying an LCD with dead pixels or in generally bad condition. I stuck to panels in the Computers->Apple section of Ebay to be sure of compatibility. And... I still kept losing auctions with my max bid of $185.

Then, I found a guy selling them for $149 starting bid and $164.50 "Buy It Now" prices. He had positive feedback in the 500+ range. There was a single panel I put my bid in at $165. It had 1 day and 9 hours left and I was the only bidder. Then, with 2 hours to go someone bid it up over me and over the "Buy It Now" price which wasn't available because of the bid(s). Damnit! But, I checked the seller other auctions and he had LCD panels with the same part numbers for sale in the PC laptop section with no bids and the same "Buy It Now" prices set. I wasn't risking losing again and paid the $164.50 + $10 shipping and snagged it.

I had to tell the guy the exact part number I needed as he had multiples so I got to cracking the epoxy. I bend the crud out of some of the pieces and cracked the plastics in a few places, but nothing horrid. Oh well, my case now looked like it had barely won a bar fight.

The LCD arrived 4 days after I paid and I immediately hooked the cables up to see how it looked. I was expecting the worst for the cheap price, but it looked fabulous. No dead pixels or scratches on the face. It was a Panasonic instead of the Samsung I had and the connectors seemed better arranged and less prone to damage.

Now I had to get it back together. I had the wife buy me some metal/plastic to metal epoxy (Superglue brand) at the hobby store and a set of 20 small plastic clamps. I fitted all the pieces together to make sure I was comfortable with the process and could do it quickly as the epoxy works up in 30 seconds and only has a 4-6 minute working time before harding depending on room temperature. So, I had to work fast. I did the plastics, hinges and back cover first and clamped everything together as tight as I could. Then, to avoid fidgeting with it, I walked away for an hour. When I came back it was time to test and hope for the best. The top turned on its hinges nicely without any cracking noises or bowing/moving parts that shouldn't. SUCCESS! I then smeared a layer of epoxy from a new mixing onto the front and clamped the bezel on. It had a few more bows and kinks than the back but I managed to get it to stick and held the bottom where I couldn't clamp with my hands for 6 minutes while the epoxy set up. I then walked away for another hour. The final open and close was a sucess as well, though it takes a good slow push to get the latch to drop and catch, but it works.

So, I now have a replaced LCD in my PowerBook. There are some wavy bubbles in the titanium covering around it and a bit of epoxy coming out of the gaps where the front sandwiches to the back. But, it's all cosmetic and I can live with that since my LCD works properly again. If you're cheap like me and daring enough to do what I did you can fix your broken PowerBook 15.2" LCD for about $195* plus your time, wrakced nerves and adding a bit of "ugly" to the look of the top casing.

* Price breakdown:
$165 for the LCD
$10 for shipping
$8 for epoxy and clamps
$12 for #8 and #6 Torx screwdrivers

New Chinese place

I was home from work yesterday because the wife needed to do stuff she couldn't tkae the kids with her to do. It got late into lunch time and instead of making something we decided to get Chinese food at the new place 2 blocks down the main drag by our house. (I don't remeber the name, I'll edit it in here when I see the menu at home.)

The wife wanted her favorite sides, shrimp eggrolls, wonton soup and fried rice. She gave me a couple ideas for main dishes. I wanted something spicy as I usually do. Not having a menu I ordered when I got there. The place was so new you could still smell that it had recently been painted.

They had lunch specials on the back of the menu for $5.15 each. They came with chicken fried rice and an eggroll so that part was covered. None of the items had descriptions of which veges were in the main dishes. I'm not picky, but the wife hates bell peppers and onions (unless they're carmelized). So, I hoped for the best and got her the cashew chicken. I got the kung pao beef. Then I ordered her wonton soup and my hot and sour soup. The soups were $2.25 a piece which I think is a bit steep but I got them anyhow.

I took the food home and dove in as the kids were already eating their lunch. Mine had green and red bell peppers, water chestnuts, peanuts and a spicy brown sauce. The wife's had snow peapods, celery big cashews, a brown sauce and... big chunks of green bell pepper. She was a trooper and picked them out. So, what did we think?

The eggrolls had pork and shrimp in them and were very good. We like hot mustard on ours and theirs was in small plastic cups, not packets, and was VERY hot. The chicken fried rice actually had chicken and egg in it and not just broth. Thumbs up for that. The wife found the dumplings and pork strips you expect in good wonton soup, but the broth had almost no flavor. She salted it up with both table salt and soy sauce. The hot and sour was well balanced and all the expected ingredients were in it, though I like to see more of those and less broth.

Overall I give them a good rating as a lunch take-out place. I don't think we'll be eating dinner there though. We'll probably stick to our favorite Chinese buffet for that.

Everything came out in about 5 or 6 minutes nicely packaged

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Not eating out for a while

Well, it finally hit us. Our debt is just too damn high. So, we did a consolidation loan and had our credit card companies lower our limits by 70% on the 2 big cards. What does this mean for the Blog-O-Food? Mostly that we won't be eating out nearly as often and when we do it'll be cheap places like the Chinese Buffet or maybe MacDonalds. Those, of course, aren't worth talking about much.

I will thrill at the times when we get food bought for us at work and talk about those incessantly. I may even throw in some non-food related stuff too. But, until we don't owe more to unsecured credit than we owe on our car, we'll be cutting back quite a bit.

And, with my son having about $750 in upcoming dental work, it's only going to get worse before it gets better. Boy, I sure hope our bonuses at work are nice and big next February. I'm counting down. 4 months and 1 week until we find out what bonuses are going to be.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Late night at work and food

Tongiht I'll be working until 22:00 or 23:00 depending on when a certain file gets updated. I planned for the late night and didn't get into work until 11:45. But, you know what I am most concerned about?

That's right, FOOD!

Usually those stuck here late get together and a mangler pays for us to order from a food delivery service or a place that delivers. Tonight I think there won't be anyone here for dinner time coverage. I'll have to fend for myself. Now, I can expense dinner so cost isn't an issue. But, I have no idea where to order from.

I'll probably get either Indian or barbeque since I had Chinese last night. Oooh, or maybe a burrito? Can you tell I didn't eat a big enough lunch? The worst part is I'll probably shirk the effort required to actually order something and walk to the MacDonald's for a salad and chicken nuggets. Geeze, I'm the worst combination of lame and lazy. At least I've still got my will power to avoid stuff not on my diet. (Though I sure could eat a half pound of fudge right about now.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The CheeseCake Factory

On Saturday night the wife and I ate at The CheeseCake Factory. The older 2 children were off watching a movie and spending the night with their maternal grandparents. That left the wife, the baby and I to spend the evening together. The wife has wanted to go there since we stopped by and had a peek inside and at the menu a few months ago.

So, we got there at 17:30 on a Saturday evening thinking we might have a chance at a table or just a short wait. No such luck. This place is very popular. So we get a pager and plan how to wait out our 35 to 45 minutes. The wife is curious and wants to walk around in the Needless Markup (Nieman Marcus {sp.?}) across the street. I ask her to be back in 25 to 30 minutes and to take the baby. She agrees and departs, I head for the bar....

Where I wait and wait and wait while all 3 bartenders pay attention to the wait staff but ignore the patrons sitting there. I finally get some face time only to find out the only low-carb drink they have is Michelob Ultra. Since M.U. tastes like Rolling Rock mixed with water and horchata I walked away drinkless. I spent a bit of time gawking at the desert case and then outside to listen in on the conversations of random people waiting for their tables.

The wife came back after about 30 minutes and we found a spot inside to stand around so the baby wouldn't get cold. She got fussy so I took her from her stroller and we played the "Daddy bounces me around and I giggle game". She is such a good baby. The pager went off and we were shown to a comfy booth by the windows.

Before even taking our drink order the waiter came to the table with a plate containing a couple slices of bread and banana. The baby was totally happy to have stuff she could feed to herself. We ordered drinks and some Thai lettuce wraps and then began discussing what to order for dinner. The wife and I like to discuss what we're going to get. This helps us to not order the same thing so we can taste more menu items and to help dissuade eachother from choosing poorly. The wife got a chicken cutlet, breaded in parmesean, with greenbeans and garlic mashed potatos. I ordered a Thai steak salad.

The lettuce wraps were fabulous. Giant clean whole leaves of bib lettuce, lots of chicken, pleanty of veges and noodles for filling and 3 different sauces. The wife enjoyed the traditional spicy peanut sauce, I liked the other 2, one was a red pepper and sesame oil and the other the Thai version of pesto. The baby had her fill of bread and bananas and was on to playing with a small toy boat and an empty 35mm film canister.

Dinner came. Mine was this giant tower of salad with thin strips of steak rolling off the peak. It had shredded fresh Asian vegetables tossed with crispy rice noodles and cashews. The sauce was what the steak was marinated in, a sesame and ginger vinegarette. There was a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh mint over it which altered the flavor of occassional bites pleasantly. The wife's was a typical meat vegetable and potatos. The chicken breast had been pounded very flat and breaked in parmesean then broiled. The flavor was decent, but the edges were cooked so much that the chicken was like crisped jerky. She ate the center of the cutlet and shared my huge salad.

Finally, we ordered desert. It is THE reason to come to this restaurant, right? We both had the 6-carb cheesecake. They sweeten it with Splenda instead of sugar. The crust was made with crumbled walnuts instead of graham. It was fluffy, not quite as solid as sugared cheesecake. But, the flavor was perfect. I was very pleased, and had my desert craving satisfied. The wife had splenda sweetened strawberries and whipped cream on hers and said it was the perfect treat. I still want a piece of turtle cheesecake, but won't do anything stupid for it now. I only had to hold the baby during desert and while paying the bill. She did great in the highchair and was the best third wheel I've ever had on a date. :-)

Our total bill, including tax and tip was $60. That's better than some of our trips to a Lonestar. So, I was quite happy for the rest of the evening as I didn't feel ripped off. I must have been in a good mood as I agreed to the wife buying a bunch of clothes that night after dinner.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

I want to try making these burgers

I was reading FARK when I came across an article about a hamburger recipie contest winner. It sounds like a LOT of work to make those things. But, I love food and burgers with all kinda of delicious toppings are a favorite of mine. Since I enjoy every topping in the ingredients list I've decided I want to make these burgers.

Now, all I need to do is to refill my gas tank on my grill. Oh, and buy all the ingredients and take the time to do the work. It should be worth the effort though.

I also have a fresh eggplant from our orchard/farm visit last weekend. I need to get some cheese and make that eggplant parmesian I bought the purple beast for.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Hangovers suck

Monday night I went to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Ravens/Chiefs game with a friend. He's having various personal problems and really needed a night out to just relax, have a few and forget about his troubles for a while.

We grabbed a table about 19:35, had our NTN terminals logged in within 5 minutes and had 23oz beers in front of us shortly after. He won some points on the trivia round. We decided to wait on ordering food for a little while as I had just finished dinner, a double cheeseburger with grilled onions and a side of greenbeans, with the family before I left.

The game started at 20:00 as scheduled and NTN got set up for QB1. In QB1 you guess at what the next play is going t0 be and get points for correct guesses. My friend is a pretty big football fan and guessed right about 60% of the time all night long. He finished in 5th place out of about 20 people playing QB1 that night. I finished a miserable 13th. The two guys at the top were right over 85% of the time. We suspect they had a portable radio and were getting a play call feed ahead of what came across on the TV over satellite, which NTN uses for its timing.

By half time we had our basket of 24 wings (mild, he's a wimp) and I had polished off 2 23oz beers and a long island iced tea. I was at that stage where you're drunk enough that your bottom lip feels tingly and kinda numb. I nursed one more 23oz'er through the secondhalf of the game. I also won the raffle on both of my tickets. I got my own 23oz beer glass with the Buffalo Wild Wings logo on it and a Bears helmet keychain. Woohoo! By the end of the game I was feeling pretty good.

(We will not discuss how I got home. Nothing happened, but I won't do that again.)

I went to bed and didn't get bed spins or anything, so I figured I would be fine the next day. Boy, was I wrong! I woke up with a full bladder and a mild headache. By the time I had finished showering I was nauseous and feeling dehydrated, my head was pounding. I drank a big glass of water and washed down a couple of tylenol. I got dressed and skipped packing a lunch as the thought of food made me gag. As I was walking to my car to drive to the train station I coughed. The cough caused a gag reaction. Before I could get across the front lawn to the car I was hurling. It was all tylenol flavored water and not irritating, but tasted sorta gross.

At this point I had to decide if I was going to go back into the house and call in sick to work or trudge on with my day. The hurling had stopped and I hopped into the car and headed for the train. I made it through the train ride by folding up my jacket and using it as a pillow against the window. With my eyes closed and head resting on it the rumbling and jostling of the train was tolerable.

I walked into work and one of the guys who sits by me said "You look like shit." I explained that I was hung over and he just nodded knowingly. He goes out drinking on weeknights at least a couple nights a week and comes into work hungover regularly.

By noon or so I was able to sip down a cup of coffee without feeling the urge to barf. By mid afternoon I had managed a few BBQ pork rinds and a can of diet soda. Finally, when I came home and the wife had bratwurst, sauerkraut and grilled vadalia onions cooking I was starved. I had recovered just in time to be pleasant to my family and do my homework without being a grouchy troll.

Next time I want to watch Monday night football and play a littel QB1 I think I'll be having a diet coke from the soda fountain and some HOT wings. The game might not be as fun without a good buzz, but I won't regret getting home or the next moring at all.

Monday, October 04, 2004

I'll have the Bacon Churner with Fauxtatoes

The wife and I have started dieting again. We're both losing weight and it's going pretty well. One of our favorite places to eat out is TGIFriday's. They have an Atkins friendly sub-menu.

I found a link to a fun little prank site where the author had replaced part of the Friday's menu page with an "Atkinz" menu page with some fake items.

Enjoy! It sure made me laugh...