Bluetooth On The Go With The Kinivo BTC450

Posted by TechyDad on October 22, 2014 under Review, Technology

BTC450If I want to talk on the phone while driving, I’ve got to carry a Bluetooth headset along with me and remember to keep it charged.  If I want to listen to music from my phone in the car, I need to plug the phone into the speaker with a wire and control the music with the phone itself.  Neither situation is optimal.  Enter the Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit.

The BTC450 consists of three components.  The first is a power plug that goes in your car’s cigarette lighter.  This provides power to the entire unit as well as giving you a USB port to charge your device.  The second part is a plug that goes into your stereo’s auxiliary input.  The third, and perhaps most important, component is a small button.

Button

This button might be small, but it is quite powerful.  It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and routes audio from your phone to your car’s speaker system (via the aforementioned auxiliary input plug).  It also acts as a microphone so the people you are talking to on the phone can hear you.  Pressing the button can both begin or end a phone call.  Finally, two small buttons on top allow you to skip ahead or go back while listening to music.  No longer do you have to pick up your cell phone while driving (a very unsafe thing to do), just press the button.

Of course, all of this wouldn’t be worth anything if the audio quality wasn’t good.  In my testing, the audio coming from the speakers (routed from the BTC450) was very good.  The people I called initially reported that I sounded muffled, but I repositioned the button/microphone and they said that I was coming in much clearer.  The button comes with adhesive to affix it on your dashboard for easy access.  I positioned it on a spot on my dashboard without the adhesive, but if you do stick it on, I’d recommend trying it out before using the adhesive.

Overall, this was a very nice way of enabling Bluetooth access in my car.  Considering that the BTC450 only costs $39.99 (affiliate link), it is quite an inexpensive method of adding Bluetooth to your car as well.  This is definitely a device that will get plenty of use every time I go for a drive.

DISCLAIMER: I was sent a Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit to review.  The opinions expressed above are my own.  No compensation (other than the product) was provided.

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Car Trouble Lessons

Posted by TechyDad on October 20, 2014 under Life

file54446e3d2935dFor awhile now, my car has been making noises.  When I drove, I’d hear a rumbling noise coming from the back of the car.  We figured that something was wrong with the muffler and I meant to get it looked at, but – life being what it is – other things kept coming up and delaying this getting fixed.  That all changed on Friday.

After picking NHL up from school, we started driving to get JSL.  Right away, we knew something was wrong.  The low rumbling noise – that usually was almost completely blocked by rolling the windows up – was replaced by a much louder noise.  It sounded like we were driving a motorboat down the street.  In addition to this, our car sounded like it was dragging something and there were occasional popping sounds.  Furthermore, the back of the car began to vibrate.  All of this noise was too much for sound-sensitive NHL and he began to have a panic attack.  (It didn’t help that B and I were freaking out over what was wrong.)

When we parked by JSL’s school, I had B keep the car on while I knelt down to take a look under the car.  I immediately saw what was wrong.  I saw the exhaust pipe vibrating freely, completely in time with the sounds we were hearing.

Noticing this was smart – what came next wasn’t.

For some reason, I got the idea to try to hold the pipe still to see if this stopped the noise.  Without thinking, I reached my hand under the car and touched the pipe.

Now, you might be thinking that the workings under a car can get hot.  If so, you’d be right.  Boy, are you right.  My fingers barely touched the pipe when I felt the burn and withdrew them quickly.  Still, three of my fingers hurt like crazy and I saw a big blister forming on one of them.  We picked the boys up and then, after dropping the kids and B at home, I took the car into a local service station to get it repaired.  I conveniently forgot to mention the part about me burning my hands under the hot, running car.

Sure enough, my diagnosis was correct.  The exhaust pipe had separated from the muffler.  Both needed to be replaced.  A few hours (and quite a few hundred dollars) later, and my car was all fixed.  Now we keep hearing weird noises, but I think we’re just a) used to weird sounds coming from my car and b) expecting something else to go wrong.  As for my fingers, they’ve healed pretty quickly.

In all my years of supporting computer systems, I’ve learned one valuable lesson: Never treat people like idiots for not knowing something or for doing something stupid.  After all, everyone starts out not knowing what you take to be basic knowledge and all it takes is one moment when your brain overlooks the obvious (car undercarriages are hot when they are running) for you to do something stupid.

NOTE: The "KwikFit" image above is by Jusben and is available via morgueFile.

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The Anxiety Loop

Posted by TechyDad on October 15, 2014 under Stress

file0002062790027When I was younger, I would often berate myself for what I perceived as social failings.  If I said the wrong thing or did something slightly wrong, I’d mentally exaggerate how bad it was and berate myself for days. Given this and the bullying I endured on a daily basis, my anxiety over social situations was quite high.  Over the years, the bullying went away and I learned to stop dwelling on mistakes and instead to learn from and move on.  This doesn’t mean that I’m anxiety-free, however.

A few months ago, while recovering from surgery, I suffered an anxiety attack.  I woke up at 2am and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Every time I felt myself nearing sleep, my anxiety levels would rise and I’d be wide awake.  I couldn’t even stay in bed.  My entire body felt on edge.  I was uncomfortable in my own skin and I felt like I needed to run around the house.  Obviously not an option at two in the morning.

The next night, I was ready for a good night’s sleep, but as I got ready for bed, my anxiety levels started to rise.  I kept remembering the feeling of the anxiety attack the previous night and the mere memory of it threatened to cause a repeat performance.  Luckily, I was able to get to sleep and show myself that this wasn’t going to become a nightly occurrence.

A couple of nights ago, JSL wasn’t sleeping well.  Every time we got him to sleep, he would wake up an hour or so later.  When he finally went to sleep for the final time that night, we thought we could finally get to sleep.  Then, out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, my anxiety levels skyrocketed.  The blankets on me felt like they were suffocating me.  The sweatshirt I was wearing felt like it was compressing my chest.  I sat up, walked into the living room and tried to calm down, but I couldn’t.  I tried watching TV, but it didn’t help.  Neither did playing games on my phone.  Eventually, the feeling passed enough for me to get some sleep.

The next day, I felt a constant level of anxiety.  I felt on edge like the anxiety attack would reoccur at any moment.  Talking about it or tweeting about it only seemed to fuel the anxiety.  I dreaded going to bed that night wondering if a full blown attack would make a return appearance.  I even went out of my way to not read my usual RSS feeds in case I needed something to do at 2am.  Thankfully, I went to sleep, slept the entire night, and the anxiety attack didn’t come back.  The next day my anxiety levels seemed much lower.

Still, though, it feels like the threat of another attack is close by.  I don’t know what triggered this one and so don’t know what to watch out for.  Was it something I ate?  Stress that I was feeling but didn’t quite consciously realize?  Or was something else entirely to blame.  Perhaps worst of all, maybe there was no direct cause.  Nothing that could have been avoided.  Maybe these things will just happen at random and there isn’t anything I can do to stop them.

Have you ever had an anxiety attack?  How did you deal with it or with the threat of it reoccurring?

NOTE: The "hide face" image above is by hotblack and is freely available from morgueFile.

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The Perler Bead Addiction Continues

Posted by TechyDad on October 13, 2014 under Crafting, Geeky Pursuits, Harry Potter, Superheroes

Three weeks ago, I wrote about our Perler Bead addiction.  Since that time (except for a quick Perler Bead-related Rosh Hashana greeting), I haven’t posted about Perler Beads at all.  So clearly my addiction is over, right?

Wrong.

I’ll admit it.  I’ve been holding back.  We’ve been busy working on so many Perler Bead projects and while I’ve posted photos of most of them on Instagram, I didn’t want TechyDad.com to become TechyDadsPerlerBeadProjects.com.  I wanted to space out these posts a bit.  Now that I’ve waited a bit, here’s what we’ve been doing (in no particular order).

You remember Robin from the first post?

Well, JSL and I worked on the rest of the Teen Titans: Raven, Starfire, Beast Boy, and Cyborg.

Teen_Titans

Titans, GO!

I’ve also been working on some tiny Harry Potter figures.  See if you can guess who each one is.

Potter_And_Friends

Accio Perler Bead Tray!

I made a few Star Wars figures as well.

Star_Wars

When 900 years old you reach, be made of plastic beads you will not. (Next up: Chewbacca and Boba Fett.)

I also made myself a baby Groot.

Groot_Brownie

Groot, did you eat my brownie?  I AM GROOT!

B made Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. and both Perry the Platypus and Agent P.

Perry_And_Mike

Oh there you are, Perry!

I made these parrots to turn into earrings for B.

Parrot_Earrings

Just don’t ask them if Polly wants a cracker.

NHL made a pair of fishes.

Fishes

I think the smaller one’s about to be eaten by the larger fish.

Speaking of larger, I’ve also just got this for large projects:

Super_Pegboard

I’ve seen some "turn a photo into a Perler Bead pattern" programs and I might just try a couple.  Those don’t work well with tiny projects.  Also, while you can connect the smaller boards together, our ironing area is upstairs from where we make the Perler Beads.  As it is, walking up the stairs carrying a tray of beads is tricky.  (One bump and not only is your design broken, but tiny, plastic beads could be scattered everywhere.)  The way the boards connect, though, wouldn’t let me keep them connected as I move them.  Now, though, I can make one big design or a bunch of smaller ones, and just carry one board up to my iron to melt the beads together.

It looks like my Perler Bead addiction might be turning into a full on obsession and that’s just fine by me.

(Lest anyone think that all of these projects are a waste of money – that I iron them, toss them aside, and then work on a new project, JSL now has a pile of Perler Bead figures that he loves playing with.  The other day, he had the Teen Titans being visited by the Doctor and Harry Potter.  He’s only seven and is already a master of the crossover.  *sniff* They grow up so fast. *sniff*)

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Asperger’s and The Humor Struggle

Posted by TechyDad on October 8, 2014 under Aspergers, Autism, Humor

comedytestWhen you have Asperger’s Syndrome, social situations can be tricky.  While neurotypical individuals understand social rules and norms instinctively, those of us with Asperger’s struggle to understand the complex situations.  Perhaps nowhere is this trickier than in the area of humor.  A sense of humor can be a great social tool.  Telling jokes can bring people together and understanding jokes can help people get along.  Unfortunately, humor is a thin line.  Too far one way and the joke isn’t funny at all.  Too far the other way and the joke can come off as just rude or even offensive.  If social situations in general are a confusing maze for Aspies, humor can often feel like a minefield.  Everyone else seems to stride across it without any problem but the instant we try to venture within, BOOM!

I’ve seen NHL in many situations attempt to tell jokes.  To be perfectly honest, it isn’t his strong suit.  He thinks what he is saying is funny, but at best he is referencing something other people don’t know about and at worst he is coming across as being mean.  He can also not know when to stop.  He might say or do something funny, but then he tries to get further laughs by either repeating the action or ramping it up.  This quickly turns from funny to disruptive, but he doesn’t see that.  On the flip side, NHL’s literal nature can mean that he takes a joke told to him seriously.  All too often, I’ll kid with him and he’ll think I’m being serious.  My joke backfires and he begins worrying that I’m going to be doing something really bad.

Of course, being an Aspie myself, humor isn’t my strong suit either.  Perhaps you’ve seen me online telling jokes.  Hopefully, you’ve found them funny.  Here’s my secret, though.  Most of the time, I write those jokes, erase them, re-write them, and slowly hone them from a barely humorous idea to something that might make people laugh.  When it comes to face-to-face conversation, humor is trickier.  If I’m with people I feel comfortable with, I might tell a joke or two if they pop in my head.  Otherwise, though, my joking is very limited.  I often feel like everyone else’s mind is moving quickly when it comes to humor while mine just plods along.  When it comes to getting jokes, I will get many of them.  I’ve spent years learning about the intricacies of humor.  Still, I sometimes find myself taking someone too literally when they were only joking around.

Social media has helped me in real life humorous situations, though.  Social media can often be like a training ground.  Since the jokes don’t need to come in real-time, I can try out various things to see what works and what doesn’t.  If a joke bombs, I’m presented with the usual assortment of screen names, not with faces showing disgust, rolling eyes, or anger.  On the flip side, verbal cues are lost when a joke is typed out.  This means that everyone get saddled with the same lack of ability to tell joke from seriousness that Aspies live with every day.  Many people might add a some non-verbal cues to their jokes – such as a emoticon – to help people understand that they aren’t being serious.  These cues can also help Aspies to spot the joke.  Even if these cues are absent, though, we can read and re-read the statement until we discern whether the intent was serious or not.  Again, lack of real-time helps us and this practice can be carried over to face-to-face situations.

I know that NHL will get better at humor.  He really wants to be funny, but given how often he wildly misses the mark, I find myself telling him not to attempt jokes.  I’m torn, though.  I don’t want him to grow up humorless, but I also don’t want him offending someone or getting in trouble because he told a joke badly.  In the end, he’ll need to walk the thin line of humor until he figures it out.  I’ll do everyone I can to help him across the humor minefield.

NOTE: The "Funny Glasses 2" image is by ghosthand and is available from OpenClipArt.org.

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