Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thank You - It Was A Great Effort

Thank you everyone who voted and sent their thoughts and well wishes to Angie in the Wheelchair Van contest.  We appreciate all your efforts and every single vote meant a great deal to us.

Unfortunately, we came up a little short.  Angie ended the contest with 9,458…which was around the top 6.5% of voting results.  She needed to be in the top 5% to make it to the semi-final round.

It is a little sad, but I am sure that the vans will be awarded to some great and deserving people.  We are lucky that we have a van to be able to chauffer Angie around in for the time.  We will continue to work saving for the hand-controls that she needs to be able to drive and hope that we can find a decent van to have them installed in once that time comes (the hand control equipment is very expensive and can’t be moved from one vehicle to another, so you don’t want to have it installed on a vehicle that will not last).  We are trying to work out some future fundraisers to help with the cost.

I wanted to let everyone know how the contest turned out, but mostly I want to sincerely thank all of you who had voted and shown your support.  Thank you so much!  Even though we didn’t make it we feel very blessed by you all.

With sincere and heartfelt gratitude – THANK YOU!

Michael & Angie

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Angie Update and a Favor

Hi everyone,

I've had a lot of people asking how Angie is doing.  She is doing well…although we there is still no resolution with the insurance company in sight (it has been 10 months…and could be up to another 4 years).  Angie was just given an award last week at the state capitol for “Advocate of the Year” for the help and awareness that she has provided for people with disabilities.

Can you please do me a favor?  As part of Mobility Awareness Month (May) a group of national dealers of adapted vehicles will be giving away three ramp vans to disabled individuals in need who are “local heroes.”  To be considered as a semi-finalist, she needs to receive the top 5% of votes.  It is a national contest and right now there are

Please vote at the following website:

You will need to fill out your first & last name, email address, and complete a simple math problem (as a human check).  You can vote once a day from each IP address (computer location), so please vote from work, home, and your mobile devices.  It will be a lot of work but, I think if we can get her in the top 5%, she has a good chance at winning.

You can also get an extra vote by answering a question.  Each computer location can vote once a day through May 10th…please vote and please share with others (email, facebook, etc..).

There is a short list of some of Angie accomplishments and the picture is from her award ceremony last week.

If you want more information on anything.  Please let me know.

Thank you so much for all your thoughts and help.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Comedians - Don't Do This

We have a new comedy club in Des Moines called Jorker’s. I had a couple weekends without definite plans, so I thought I might check it out…but then I checked their schedule. You want to know the fastest way to make me not want to watch you as a comedian? Make this face:

 All I can think is that there is going to be a lot of angry yelling. I don’t know, maybe that is not what you do but that is the first impression that I get from your photo…and I had more than enough of yelling comedians in the late 80s/early 90s with the likes of Sam Kinison, Gilbert Gottfried, and Bobcat Goldthwait.

 You might be really funny…but I can guarantee that my desire not to listen to someone yelling all night trumps your humor. The funny thing is that I know that at these guys are not really screamers…but I initial response to these photos was so repellent that I can’t overcome my desire to not go to these shows.  My reaction probably would not have been nearly as visceral if there had only been one over-weight, bald, bearded man making this face but two was too many.

I know, I know - don't judge a book by its cover...but I read a lot and I am really good at judging books by their covers.  I am even better at judging albums by there covers.  If you don't take the time to pay attention to the cover details, chances are that the innards are going to be equally mediocre.  That doesn't mean that it has to be an amazing cover; but a well thought out, well executed, and consistent design offers a pretty darn good insight into what lies inside.  Comedians - please do not make this face in your publicity shot, it will make me not want to see you...even though I know that it doesn't match your style.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tips for Disassembling Your iPhone 4s

Sad Broken Screen
A couple weeks ago, I (with the help of my dog) broke the screen for my iPhone 4s.  Unfortunately, it is still about 4 months until I can upgrade at the cheaper price ($99 vs $600ish).  The LCD still worked, the touch screen function, everything on the phone was just ugly and sometimes hard to read.  More annoying than an actual problem.  Maybe I am cheap (sometimes) or maybe I am lazy and hate switching phones (definitely) so I decided to check into fixing my phone.

I did a quick search and found that you can order just the glass for $10 - including a micro tool kit and the cost of shipping.  I also knew that my brother had replaced his screen on his iPhone 3g several times.  My brother and I are pretty handy with electronics and small items (feel free to insert a penis joke here) from our pinball experience.  Google revealed that there were also plenty of articles and youtube videos of people taking apart their iPhones (please note, I didn't actually read or watch them yet...I was just checking the possibility).

I thought myself, "How hard can it be?"  I ordered a screen and wrapped my broken screen in a layer of clear packing tape to hold it together for a few days until my new glass arrived.  A few days later, I head over to my brother's place to disassemble and fix my phone.

Tip #1 - Don't

Do not take your iPhone 4s apart.  It is a much more complicated process than on older models.  It can be done...but the whole process is tedious and frustrating.  It starts off easy enough - you remove two pentalobe  screws from the bottom of your iphone (and your screen kit even came with the pentalobe screwdriver for this).  These screws are small but if you've ever had to wear glasses you are probably intimately familiar with this size of screw - not the easiest to handle, but no big deal.  Then you slide off the back...and Fuck!

Tip #2 - A Clean Environment

Not even the smallest screw that you will have to remove
The inside of the 4s is much, much, much more complicated than the 3g.  Seriously, my accolades to the people that produce are amazing.  And I can't say that it is not well made and designed to stay together.  Those 2 screws you previously took out of the case?  They were largest of 4 or 5 sizes of screws that are contained a large factor.  Here is a picture of one of the screws sitting on a penny.  It is barely bigger than Lincoln's nose...and that is not even the smallest screw.  It would help to be in a place where there are not kids, pets,  or distractions.  If you drop one and you have to search for it on a hardwood floor, it is nearly impossible to find straight on...but hold a flashlight parallel to the floor and you might be able to spot the elongated shadow.  If you drop it on carpet, I have to think you are out of luck.

Tip #3 - You Need More Tools

Some of the screws you will need to remove
Your kit came with a screwdriver for these tiny phillips-head screws. It isn't too bad taking these screws out,   but a miniature screwdriver that was magnetic would help a lot putting them back in (the one in the kit isn't). There are also a couple flat head screws that need to be removed and your kit doesn't come with a flat head and the screws are so small that almost any screw driver you have at home will be too big...we ended up having to use the edge of a razor blade to get these out (couldn't find any of the old eyeglasses repair kits that might have worked...might, they might still be too large for these screws. There are a lot of screws...more than I would have guessed by a  factor of 3.  There are even screws that screw into screws.  It is literally a ridiculous amount of screws They are hard to see and hard to handle (especially to re-install), I would recommend having an offset tweezers to help you hold the tiny screws and a table mounted magnifying glass to be able to see what you are doing would be a nice touch.

How my hands felt
Tip #4 - You Need Smaller Hands

Even with all these helpful tools, your hands are still too big and disassembly/reassembly process is awkward for your human sized hands.  Even after you get all the screws out, you still need to remove all the shields over the electronics and unhook all the ribbon cables between the various components...and once again these things are tiny.  I normally think of my hands as slightly smaller than the average person and maybe not nimble but at least functional...but working on this phone made it feel like my hand was an over-inflated balloon with polish sausage fingers.  These was some serious Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum feelings on my part.

Tip #5 - Don't Buy Just the Glass

So remember at the beginning where I said that I did a quick search and there were tons of articles and videos on disassembling your iPhone...but that I didn't actually read or watch them?  Well it turns out that you can't replace just the glass screen.  The glass & LCD screen are permanently epoxied together...if you try to remove them, you end up destroying your LCD.  You can buy the glass & LCD as a unit for about $40...but I only bought the glass.

This is useless without the LCD attached
Sadly and a little angrily, I stared with disbelief at the pile of parts that used to be my phone.  I could order and screen/lcd combo but it would take about a week to get I had no choice but to put my phone back together as it was.  This is trickier than it sounds because all the electronics fit in the case very snugly.  When I was about halfway through reassembly, I realized that one of the ribbon cables was slightly snagged on the underside of the screen.  This caused the ribbon cable to be about two millimeters short from connecting to the circuit board...with frustration, I had to take everything back apart and start the assembly process over.

Finally, once it was all back together (well mostly...a couple of the shields were not replaced due to being a huge pain in the ass)...we go to slide the rear cover back on but it will not fit snug down all the way.  Some component is sticking up just a little to high.  I am pretty sure it is the loud speaker/mic unit but I am too tired to care.  We try to force the cover back on but it applies too much pressure on the electronics and causing the phone not to work at all.  Removed cover and adjusted the pressure on components but didn't want to start taking things apart again to fix the slight bulge.  I am totally sick of the project by now and decide the cover will be slightly crooked.  And of course after removal a couple of times the super fine screws pretty much just strip out.  Fine!  The cover will held on by packing match packing tape on the front!  If I am going to have a ghetto phone, might as well go all out.

Tip #6 - See Tip #1

I figured this project would take 20-30, it took over 2 hours and was just a totally frustrating experience.  I was amazed that my phone still worked once it was back together.  Can it be done?  Yes.  Should it be done?  Probably not.  It would have helped and been much less frustrating if we actually accomplished something...but it would still have been a huge pain.  I wouldn't recommend it.  I don't want to take it all apart again, I am just going to keep using my ghetto phone for a few months until I can upgrade for cheap.  Actually, junk phone is kind of growing on I know when I do get a new phone, I will appreciate it that much more (and maybe have enough incentive to actually use a protective case).

PS - if you are going to make portable gadgets with glass screens, you really need to make them easily and cheaply replaceable.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Short Update on Angie

Heading to the Civic Center in November
It's been a while and I've had a few inquiries, so here is an update.  Angie is doing really well, although healing is still sluggish and tedious.  After an appointment last fall with her bone daddy (Orthopedic Surgeon), she was told her femurs are healing slowly but well enough that she doesn't need to come back for monthly checkups...she will return this summer (around the one year mark) to hopefully finalize everything for the healing process, and resume all normal activity.

Unfortunately, she has been experiencing a little bit of depression lately due to the loss of personal freedom, independence, and mobility (again).   This is mostly due to not having a van she can drive.  Family, friends, and I have been trying to get her out of the house several times a week to help diminish this feeling; but she misses being able to just do it herself and doesn't like burdening others.  It's not a deep depression but if you spend time with her you might notice at times that she is not quite as vibrant or as patient as she was previously.  It is all temporary though, she is working through it.

Hunting in the fall thanks to Whitetail Challenge
(I am pretty sure you are turning into
Bonebreaker from the Reavers)
Angie is back to as normal a life as she can be, working part-time from home, continuing her advocacy for people with disabilities, etc...  Angie tires more quickly than before the accident, although her stamina is increasing as she heals.  Her body has trouble regulating temperature...she is normally cold as it is, but it seems much worse than it has in the past and it takes her much longer to feel warmed up.  The bruise on her hip also seems to reappear when she is stressed or tired.  Angie doesn't seem to have any other physical after affects from the accident, but we still need to be careful with her legs and moving her around as any jarring can still cause jolts of pain. We try to do all the activities and stuff that we normally would do..she even went deer hunting again this fall (no luck though).  There was some things Angie had hoped to do this year that she just cannot attempt because of the fragility of her legs - like skiing.  Hopefully next winter.

Still no decision on an insurance settlement.  Nine totaled cars + Nine insurance companies = One Huge Mess.  Originally, we were told that it could take up to two years before it is settled...we have since been informed that the insurance companies have five years.  Ugh.  Unfortunately, we need a decision (one way or the other) before she can obtain a new wheelchair, and she needs the new wheelchair before she can get hand controls installed in her van.  We are still not sure how everything will be paid for, but we are trying to save money in case the insurance does not come through (donations are still welcome and much appreciated).

Angie Plager Recovery Fund
32541 585th Ave
Cambridge, IA 50046-8568

Friday, January 11, 2013

Poppin' Tags

Since I have been able to drive, I've been shopping at thrift shops.  Not that I particularly needed to save money, I just found it fun to see what over people would throw-out/donate.  I've never found some of those incredible know, like the stories where someone will walk in an find a 1950's Stratocaster guitar for $25, or long lost painting by one of the masters for $10.  However,  I've got some pretty good deals throughout the years (at least to me).  Dr Marten boots?  Don't mind if I do for $6.  Laserdiscs in the vinyl record section for $1...that happened several times back in the days when Laserdiscs still cost $50-$75.  Probably the closest thing I ever saw to something amazing (and I just missed it by about 20 minutes...the guy was checking out) was someone's entire wood shop equipment set up for $10 each: table saw - $10, router with table - $10, drum sander - $10, squirrel fan dust collectors - $10, lathe - $10, etc...this guy literally got an entire woodshop for a couple hundred dollars.  Some of the equipment was older, but it was all top tier and very well maintained.  I would have loved it but I didn't really have the room at the time either.

Shopping at thrift stores is not all about great deals.  There is also the "WTF" factor.  Where you see something and you have no idea why anyone would ever own or buy.  Ugly Christmas sweaters abound, but I enjoy the trinket section for a good laugh, there is always something perverted there.

Thrifting does take work - clothes are only loosely sorted according to style (t-shirt, jeans, long-sleeves), you are going to have to look at sizes on anything you think you will like.  Records, CDs, books...all just thrown on their own shelf with no sorting, rhyme, or reason.  To go through and entire store properly could take hours the first time...but I am rarely that committed, I don't like shopping that much.  Subsequent visits every couple weeks will drastically reduce that time for future visits.  My favorite thrift stores (that I usually visit around once a month) I can usually go through in about 30 minutes or hit the highlights in about 10 minutes.  There is a lot of turnover, but enough is the same that I just need a quick glance to spot the newly arrived items that I might be interested in.  I usually only buy something about 30% of the time.  I wish I would stumble across all the old Megadeth t-shirts that I used to have...but so far it is not to be.

A couple months ago, I stopped in at Goodwill since I had some time to kill.  There happened to be a Crosley CR66 5-in-One entertainment center (record player, AM/FM radio, CD player, cassette player, with audio inputs to connect an MP3 player).  It looked like it was in good shape and the record needle looked brand new but the unit was marked "AS-IS." It was only $26 (they sell at Target for around $120).  They are not the best stereos in the world but I had been thinking about getting something like this to hold me over until I decided to build a new component stereo system...this is a cheap system, but for $26 it is a decent deal...I am not expecting miracles.  I wanted to check out a few other things before I left, so I didn't grab it (yep, broke the number one rule in thrift shopping...grab anything you are slightly interested in).  It was a little too awkward  to carry it around and I hate shopping with a cart.  

Ten minutes later, I go to grab it and check out but it is gone.  Oh well.  I go to the checkout to buy a couple CDs and their is a lady in front of me with record player.  She isn't happy, she seems like one of those people that has to argue about everything.  She's already argued that a shirt has a small tear so she needs a discount and now she wants to argue about the price of the record player.  The clerk gets the manager and the customer starts saying that $26 is too much for something that is "AS-IS" and she can't test it.  The manager didn't look like he wanted to deal with her so he dropped it down to $15.  She still wasn't happy. "This thing is only worth $10 and you'll be lucky that I pay one else is going to buy it, it's probably broke.  I'm probably just throwing my money away as it is."  The manager looks very conflicted...hiss face tells you that he doesn't want to go lower, but that he also doesn't want to deal with this woman who is just being a bitch.  

I decide to help out.  I poke my head around the lady and say "I'll buy that for $15."  Relief and joy floods over the manager's face and he says "Please step this way and I will check you out."  The look on the lady's face was awesome...just a stunned look of 'But....but...but...'  20 minutes later, I am at home.  The radio works, the CD player works, but the turntable doesn't.  Sadness.  I pop a C-clip off the spindle and lift the platter...within a minute I have the belt re-seated and everything put back into place.  It all works greatly.  not too bad for $15.  (OK, I haven't tested the cassette player because I gave/donated all my cassettes away about 10 years ago).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Player 1 Has Joined The Game

As I mentioned earlier, pinball is going through somewhat of a resurgence.  One of these signs is that there in now a pinball league in Ames, IA.  It has existed for a couple years now but I only joined for the latest season.  I'd been looking/hoping for a league in the area for a several years, but there was nothing...and then when I did see the league in Ames...I had excuses.  The league is run by KD Amusement, the big arcade, pinball, billiards, darts, jukebox operator and supplier in Ames.

I've wanted to join since the beginning but came up with excuses on why I couldn't join...

  • I'm too busy
  • The season has already started
  • I'm not good enough
  • I'll have to miss some nights, so it's not worth it
  • I don't like bars
  • It's a long way to drive to just play pinball
  • A league run by an operator seems sketchy
  • I tend not to like people that take any subject too seriously
  • etc...
Some of those excuses have various degrees of validity but mostly it was just an excuse for me to not try something new and to just be lazy.  I can play pinball at home, but I forced myself out of my comfort zone and joined the league.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I first joined but league night has become one of my favorite nights of the week.  I don't know my fellow league members that well yet, but I am enjoying hanging out with others and playing pinball...unfortunately pinball had become a more and more solitary hobby for me, so it is nice to get out more often with others.

How pinball league works - we meet on Main Street in Ames, every Tuesday at 7pm.  You are randomly assigned to a team competitors of 3-4 players and then randomly assigned a location and machine.  The league plays at four different bars on Main Street all within about a block of each other...the machines can vary throughout the season as the location setup is changed for variety. So far this season I have played on five different machines (Medieval Madness, Revenge From Mars, Iron Man, Twilight Zone, and Pirates of the Caribbean).

Your team will play 4 rounds, and you are scored on how well you did versus the other members on your team.  1st place machine score gets 3 points, 2nd place machine score gets 2 points, and 3rd place gets 1 point. If the 1st place player's score is more than the 2nd & 3rd places score combined, the first place player will get a bonus point...if not, the bonus point goes to the 4th place player.

So here is the responses to my previous excuses:
  • Luckily, I have an understanding girlfriend who encourages my hobbies and understands why I am not spending time with her.  I am busy and sometimes it is a little bit of a hassle getting home from work, taking care of my dogs, and then making it up to pinball league...but it isn't too bad if I keep focused.
  • In the past, I had always remembered/found out about the league after the season had started.  I was worried that I would just be thrown in and not part of the group...but the group is very welcoming and it is easy to make up past games (stay late and play more rounds with others).  You can join any time and be welcomed and if you stay to make up some games, you can easily be competitive.
  • I was worried that I wouldn't be good enough...but there are all levels of play and each round can very significantly.  I haven't had a team where one player completely dominated.  To show the variance one week, I finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th throughout the night's match.  I must admit that I am in the lower rankings of the twelve league members, but that is more due to just having off nights when others are doing good and random team assignment.  I don't feel like I am being embarrassed by the other players.  Just bad luck...but I am still having a lot of fun.
  • I have and will miss some nights this season, but it is fairly easy to make up the games the following week (or later), you can even pre-play some games if you know you are going to be gone.  The league is fairly flexible with that.
  • I still don't like bars, but being with like minded people and keeping busy playing pinball makes it tolerable.
  • It is a long drive to play (about 35 minutes) but I am usually looking forward enough to it that I don't really even there can be added benefits (like last night were I found a perfectly good two wheeled cart that someone was throwing out - you know the kind that is nice for moving pinball machines).
  • I was a little worried about the league being run by the operator (corruption), but it all seems good.  it seems to be run pretty well and KD only takes a small percentage of league dues for overhead.  It is actually kind of nice that someone from the company is usually there to help fix the pins if anything goes wrong.  It is also kind of cool  to get some "inside" type info on the industry and the games.
  • Most members of the league are pretty easy going and don't take the game too seriously.  There is much less cursing and hitting things than I thought there would be (although there is a little of that from certain members).  Mostly it's just a good time even if you are doing badly.
If you'd like to join the Ames Pinball League send an email to And there is still plenty of time left in the join now!

I am really enjoying pinball league.  If there is one near you, you should join.  It is a fun time, just hanging out and playing pinball and usually drinking.  In fact, I am thinking about starting a league for Des Moines this spring or summer.  If you are interesting in that, drop me a line and I'll keep in touch (and probably bounce some things off you too).