Milton, Holmes, and iPods…Oh my

I’ve been reading a couple of books on memory while also listening to a Great Course (The Teaching Company) on the subject and I plan to share some of my thoughts in more detail in a later post or two, but I’ll tease a bit here after a couple of other things.

First, I have to deliberately, if for deceptive reasons, drop two names: Robert Anton Wilson and Stephen Hawking. It seems right after I wrote a piece about Wilson generating a bit of traffic on my blog (Robert Anton Wilson redux), “Stephen Hawking” suddenly became the search term most used to stumble upon my page. I figure that by mentioning and tagging both, maybe I can get new folks to find me and then stay a while. So, apologies to those led here by that infernal engine only to find nothing of what they seek. I also apologize to Stephen Hawking for pairing him with Wilson. Brilliant scientist juxtaposed with nutcase writer who seemed to not be fond of advocates of true science – oh well, sorry, Steve. Um, Stephen. Um, Mr. Hawking.

Apple woes again!

My son’s two year old iPod Touch battery was failing to the point that he only had less than an hour at best play time on a “full” charge. Given my success at replacing the battery in my 5th gen iPod Classic and the battery in my wife’s iPhone 4S, and armed with (complicated) instructions for the replacement here from ifixit.com, iPod Touch 4th Generation Battery Replacement, I thought I might be able to take care of his.

Unlike my previous two forays, this set of instructions was led by the difficulty rating of very difficult. What that meant was 50 steps involving a heat gun, special screw drivers, prying, careful manipulation, desoldering the existing battery AND soldering the connections for the new one.

The price we pay (not inconsiderate, monetarily) for the modern convenience of having hours of music at our finger tips in such a compact form is few moving parts and unfortunately virtually no simple maintenance. Lithium batteries have a finite life, but two years is quite a bit below my expectations. I’ve had alkalines last longer. And should a battery go bad, it’s a crime that an owner can’t easily replace it. In the case of the iPhone 4S, brilliant Apple anchored the case with two pentalobe screws which were an obstacle, though not insurmountable.

Boxer security bit set tp62Now, I’ve got an awesome set from Boxer Tools that has quite a few bits to handle tamper proof and security screws – Amazon carries them in case you can’t get them from the manufacturer. This is a must have for any Makers out there. If you can’t take it apart, you shouldn’t be buying the thing! Still, despite having 58 bits of varying sizes and configurations (plus an oddly shaped hex socket), this wonderful toolkit didn’t have a micro-miniature five-point bit.

Fortunately, ifixit.com does AND they give you two standard – very tiny – Philips screws to replace the pentalobes in case you have to get in there again.

iPod Touch apart

The Touch had no such “ease” of access. Prying the screen up after softening the glue was hard and after the display connector detached – very short ribbon cable – I popped it back on and powered the Touch back up to see if it still worked. It did, but after that difficult first step, things only got harder and it was in for a dollar mode at that point.

Multiple tiny, tiny screws, more prying, gently coaxing things apart and I got to the point of the blurry picture to the left.

A note worth sharing for those adventurous enough to try something like this: I printed out the diagram of the screw locations from the instructions, cut out a box in another sheet of paper and laid two strips of packing tape over that. Flipped over, the tape adhesive served to hold the screws from me, because for one step, there were eight screws of five different sizes! Even with magnifiers, they looked the same. You can see my idea at the top of the white sheets in the picture.

The monster problem turned out to be the three solder connections attaching the battery cable to the (again) tiny circuit board. Not so easy to remove, as the coating they used over the terminals did not conduct heat. I was very worried that I might have overheated that board when I finally got it apart. I had no way of knowing until I backed my way through the steps in reverse order.

Three and a half hours after starting, I got everything back together and was crushed when the screen lit up bright white and no icons. Rubbing salt, it the “touch” part of the Touch didn’t respond either. The unit still worked when I plugged it in to iTunes, but no display. So, I had to extract all of Dylan’s music to put on the new Touch we got to replace the paperweight. Curses to the consumer unfriendly … okay, tinkerer unfriendly…  Steve Jobs.

Paradise Lost?

I wanted to get an expert overview before I eventually tackled Paradise Lost, so this week I started a new Great Courses lecture: Life and Writings of John Milton.  Professor Seth Lehrer is certainly jazzed about Milton. He loves the iambic pentameter with a passion, often getting out of breath as he quotes passages he’s citing to illustrate his points.

I, however, do not love iambic pentameter. That’s part of the reason I looked to the lecture series to help me understand. I tried reading Lycidas and found it not appealing. I expect the same from Paradise Lost, even with the help of the lectures and other resources I plan to check, but I still want to make the attempt. I just think it will be a slow read as I interweave it with other readings.

Elementary!

This week I also finished a Great Courses lecture. Fastest through one of those, as I was even more totally into the subject than usual. Professor Steve Joordens talked about “Memory and Human Lifespan” in a wonderful survey of types of memory, brain functions, memory disorders, aging and more. Highly recommended and one I’ll be listening to again.

I’ve also been reading Maria Konnikova’s Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be an excellent companion to Joordens’s lectures. I had to look up Joordens and Konnikova to see if they had collaborated (they hadn’t as far as I could tell…Konnikova is still working on her PhD) on anything as their respective recountings of particular research findings were so close. I liked her contrasts of Holmes and his observational prowess with Watson’s “normal” approach as segues into explanations of cognitive concepts. I found the book to be entertaining and reinforcement informative. What’s more, Konnikova deftly carves illustrative elements from the various tales without revealing the endings, so as to not spoil them for readers. Which is good, as I’ve convinced our youngest to read the complete Holmes and talk out the stories with me – I’ve only read some of the stories myself.

As I noted above, I plan to explore my impressions of these two as well as a couple of other cognitive studies I have in the queue in a future post – probably more than one – but I just wanted to share my early recommendations now.

The Bookshelf

Continuing my quest through Arthur C. Clarke’s works this year, I read A Fall of Moondust, The Songs of Distant Earth and Rendezvous with Rama. All three were good reads, and Moondust and Rama are more science than Songs. A near future tragedy on the moon, Moondust worked with scientific guesses at the time of writing that were discarded after the Apollo missions (with a little pre-Irwin Allen disaster epicness thrown in to boot.) Songs was just okay, as it was less science and more about people, but I don’t think Clarke did that perspective well.

Rendezvous with Rama, a tight story about an enormous alien ship/ark coming into the solar system, is great speculative, but possible science fiction. I never read all of the sequels (confession: I remember not liking the two I did read), but I will read them all this year. Unlike Heinlein, who was a boor undeserving of accolades – unsolicited editorial there – even Clarke’s lesser works are still good. Or at least, so far.

I also read Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman’s The Dude and the Zen Master. I guess I wasn’t sure what to expect, but a wandering pointless dialogue with neither insights into the Lebowski character or zen was probably not it. Someone else might get something out of it, but I’m not recommending it.

And, capping off the books read since my last post, Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven generated some curious bipolar reviews from folks…many interestingly focused on it as a description of “the afterlife”. I read it as a simple story, and that is what it is…nothing fancy, even predictable. I might try more of Albom in the future. Or I might not.

Sophie’s World is sitting aside idly awaiting my return but Dylan and Drew have to read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea for their Young Adult Book Club this month, so I will read it with them (Andrea is not a fan, but she does all the heavy reading the rest of the time…)

On deck, I’ve still got

  • Right by Scott Trent (I owe him feedback but I never finished it, so….),
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (while the cognitive iron is hot),
  • This Will Make You Smarter from Edge founder John Brockman, this is a collection of the answers to his 2011 question “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”; looking forward to it…eventually

Whew. Oh yeah…Holmes, too.

Beer notes for the week

Brandon turned 26 Tuesday and we went out to a place called The Flying Saucer Monday night. Despite the daunting collection of very good drafts, I only had one (good, but not memorable enough for me to recall what it was!). I was impressed to see The Temptress (that locally brewed Imperial Milk Stout) on the menu among so many others.

And Sam Adams came out with another seasonal pack: Spring Thaw. Not bad. I liked the Maple Pecan Porter, and their white ale was pretty good. Interesting spin on the India Pale…seems so natural to complete that phrase with “Ale”, but they made a lager in the form of an IPA. Acceptable, though still not on par with an IPA.

I’ve started saving my bottles as I’m closer to taking the homebrew plunge. Still researching. More on that later.

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One response to “Milton, Holmes, and iPods…Oh my

  1. Pingback: Over the Verizon…and down rabbit holes… | Random (and not) Musings

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