Cleaning stinky, pre-owned eBay headphones

I never knew headphones could be as stinky as this pair that I bought on eBay.

I never knew headphones could be as stinky as this pair that I bought on eBay.

I got a great bargain on eBay, gambling on a “for parts or not working” auction. I bought a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 headphones. When I got them I disinfected them first with some Lysol and 99% isopropyl alcohol. I eagerly put them on and listened to a few songs I knew well to test them out. At first I thought, “Wow, these work just fine”. The next day, however, I noticed that the balance seemed very slightly off. The right speaker seemed just a bit weaker than the left. After checking that it wasn’t a problem with my sound card drivers I recalled that I had read somewhere that people occasionally assume they have a faulty pair of headphones when they notice a balance problem, failing to realize that it could just be that the driver has slipped out of place. I removed the pads and unscrewed the two screws underneath the right one and, sure enough, the driver had slipped out of the clip that holds it in place.
Sennheiser HD280 02Sennheiser HD280 03

It was only a few centimeters out of place so that’s why the difference was so very subtle that I didn’t notice it at first. I clipped it back in place so it was nice and snug, closed up the headphones, and then tested them, comparing them with my Sony MDR-7506. One of the most useful websites to test that your headphones are working properly is the ultimate headphones test.

After listening to these headphones for a few weeks I’m very happy to say that the only thing wrong with them was that the driver was physically out of place. The balance is now perfect.

Once I was sure that they were 100% functional my next task was eliminating the smell. The previous owner must have worn one hell of a lot of cologne, because these headphones reek of the stuff. The initial disinfection routine of Lysol and alcohol that I performed when I first took them out of the box was nowhere near enough. I tried using a bit more alcohol and cleaned the pads with a cotton ball but it didn’t help too much either. These things were soaked through and through with a powerful cologne stench.

The pads are actually very easy to remove. I had trouble figuring it out at first, but all you have to do is pull them out from the groove surrounding the earpiece into which they’re tucked. They’re quite sturdy so they won’t break even if you stretch them a bit. Once I removed them I decided I would simply put them in the laundry. I wrapped them up individually in some clean socks so that they wouldn’t get damaged in the washer or scorched in the dryer.

Sennheiser HD 280 padsDSCF4268

I put them in the washer with the rest of my clothes. I considered washing them separately to avoid the risk of them getting snagged on a zipper or something and getting misshapen, but I figured the socks would protect them well enough. I used the “bright colors” setting on a Maytag commercial washer. It uses cold water. I used ordinary detergent and nothing else. When they were done I put them in the dryer along with the rest of my clothes on the normal setting. Again, I felt there was no need to use the “delicate” setting since they were protected by the socks. When I took them out of the dryer they were undamaged, but they still stunk pretty badly. They were also still a bit wet. I knew I had to take more drastic measures.

It was then that I remembered when I had bought a liquid-damaged DS Lite console that also stunk to high heaven of whatever liquid the console had come into contact with. I had also tried alcohol, Fantastik, Lysol, and even Febreze to clean the stench from the housing of that console but all to no avail. The housing had been in very nice condition so I wanted to salvage it. I then had the bright idea of submerging the housing completely in dishwashing soap. This was an old trick of mine that I’ve used for years to clean keyboards. You remove all the keys and put them in a Ziploc bag. You then squeeze in a generous dollop of dishwashing soap and fill it about halfway to the top with warm water. You don’t want to use water that’s too hot because you could warp the plastic of the keys. You then zip up the bag and shake it vigorously until your arms get too tired to continue and you let it sit for a half hour or longer before rinsing and drying the keys.

washing headphone padsDSCF4287

So I gave it a shot. I used a massive amount of green Palmolive dishwashing soap and placed the pads inside. I shook it up, let it sit, and then after about 30 minutes removed the pads and rinsed them a bit. I then figured I’d put them back in the washing machine for a second spin to get the dishwashing soap out. Since the pads hadn’t dried very well the last time when they had been wrapped up in socks I put them inside pillowcases this time, on the theory that, since the pillowcases were much thinner than the socks they wouldn’t hinder the drying process as much but they’d still protect the pads from scorching.

After leaving them in the dryer for an hour I took them out and they were still dripping wet. Fed up, I removed them from the pillowcases and put them in for a second hour-long cycle completely unprotected. When I took them out they were almost completely dry. They weren’t scorched or damaged at all. I let them sit overnight to dry out completely and now the stink is nearly imperceptible. If I really get my nose in there I can still faintly smell the cologne, but I feel that this is good enough.

Now nearly stink-free!

Now nearly stink-free!

I bought this (almost) brand new 40 inch LCD TV for $78

I've had this Coby TFTV4028 TV for a few months now.

I’ve had this Coby TFTV4028 TV for a few months now.

Sometimes gambling on those “parts or not working” eBay auctions pays off. The damnedest thing is that, from what I gather, this was a store return. It’s still under warranty though, which means that even if it were broken, the original owner should have been able to get it repaired or replaced for free. He or she would have had no reason to sell it.

There’s not a single scratch on the screen at all. The only cosmetic imperfection is a scuff on the lower left corner of the bezel.

The TV does have an iffy power supply. It sometimes won’t come out of standby mode. If I take the back off the TV, unplug the motherboard from the power supply for a few seconds, and then plug it back in it usually starts working again and will last for weeks or longer as long as I leave the TV plugged in and don’t have any electrical outages. If it loses electricity for even a second, it’s likely to get stuck in standby mode again and I either have to leave it unplugged from the wall for anywhere from several hours to several days or unplug the motherboard from the power supply again to get it work. It’s not much of a problem though since I don’t plan on moving/unplugging it any time soon.

I have a lovely new desk and I am way more proud of it than I ought to be

This is a story of a teensy-weensy victory that has really put me in a good mood. I am way more proud of this than I ought to be because it’s really a very minor accomplishment that anybody with a small drill and the ability to read instructions can do, but these days even tiny little moments like these in which things all come together in a fulfilling way are very rare for me.

I always thought I had rather modest requirements for a computer desk, but it looks as though I was wrong. Ordinarily I’ve got the left side of my computer desk up against a wall with one computer partially underneath the left side of the desk, more or less up against the wall. Because of this setup, I always sit at the right side of the desk. That’s why I like to have the keyboard tray on the right side of my desk. Either that, or a keyboard tray that extends from one side of the desk all the way to the other side.

I had to replace my desk since it was ruined during Sandy. I thought it would be easy to find a desk with a keyboard tray on the right but it was surprisingly difficult. I found a few but none of them had any shelves or drawers or any other sort of storage space. I prefer a desk with either a couple of shelves or drawers to store cables and adapters and miscellaneous things like that.

I finally had the bright idea of buying a desk with storage features that I liked and then adding a keyboard tray myself. This was bold on my part, because I’m not someone you could ever call “handy”. I decided on the $99 IKEA Vallvik. It has shelves that you can choose to put either on the left or the right. It’s also just about the perfect width for a keyboard tray and it’s made of solid pine instead of that honeycomb stuff some IKEA products are made of, so I was pretty certain that the screws would hold in place well enough. Here’s the desk before I began my little project:

I had a look online at some ready-made keyboard trays but I didn’t like the idea that they wouldn’t run the full length between the shelves at the left and the right side of the desk. I wanted my keyboard tray to span that entire space. So I bought a set of 18-inch side-mount drawer slides (Fulterer 5000) and mounted them under the desk. I thought it was neat that these drawer slides come in different colors. I bought the black ones to match the desk.

If you're smart, you'll get a friend to help you install these.

If you’re smart, you’ll get a friend to help you install these.

I was super lazy and didn’t even remove the stuff from my desk while installing these. That didn’t turn out to be a problem, though it sure was difficult installing them alone. I ended up stacking a bunch of books on the floor to hold the slides up while I drilled some holes to screw the slides in. If I had somebody to hold the slides for me I would have finished in much less time and I wouldn’t have bumped my head on the underside of the desk nearly as many times as I did. The best way to do this would have actually been to disassemble the desk and lay the two side pieces in which the drawer slides get installed flat on a table.

The next step was to measure the distance my keyboard tray would need to be. According to the instructions for the drawer slides:

Check that the side clearance between drawer and cabinet side
is at least 12.7mm (1/2in.) on each side. Maximum allowable
clearance is 13.5mm (17/32 in.)

The distance from one side of the desk to the opposite was 28 inches. 28 inches minus two halves of an inch is 27 inches. So I got a board 27 inches long. The other two dimensions don’t matter too much as long as the board is not so wide that it doesn’t fit under the desk and not so thick that it looks silly.

So I got a board 27x18x1 inches. It was unfinished pine so it was a very light color, similar to the color of the table in the far left side of the first picture on this page. It would have looked lousy if I installed it as-is. So I got “Minwax Dark Walnut 2716” wood stain and a polyurethane finish. I followed the directions on the can and did 2 coats of the stain, allowing 4 hours drying time between each, followed by 2 coats of the finish, letting it dry 24 hours between each coat of finish. Now my board is a work of art.


All in all, it took 4 days of on-and-off staining, finishing, and drying before the board was ready for installation. I probably would have been just fine without waiting the full 24 hours for each coat of finish, but I wasn’t in any hurry so I was happy to wait.

Again, it would have been much easier to have somebody hold either the board or the slide while attaching the “drawer profile” pieces, but I managed to get it done myself with only a few minor splinters. Thank goodness I sanded that thing so well beforehand or else I might have bled to death.

The final result.

The final result.

You can see when I use the flash on the camera that the color doesn't match quite perfectly, but it's not noticeable under normal light conditions.

You can see when I use the flash on the camera that the color doesn’t match quite perfectly, but it’s barely noticeable under normal light conditions.

People should really erase their tablets before selling them (p.s. I have a Kindle Fire now and you don’t so ha-ha)

What a waste of an e-reader.

What a waste of an e-reader.

Note that I actually wrote this thing in late October 2012 and forgot to post it after, you know, getting my ass handed to me by Sandy. I checked my records and it looks like October 22nd was the day I got the Kindle Fire. That means I had a grand total of 7 glorious days to play with it.

I’m perpetually a generation behind. As is my wont, I went ahead and purchased a Kindle Fire the other day, shortly after reading about it’s successor, the new Kindle Fire HD. I have a Nook Color on which I run Cyanogenmod 7 and love it, but I found a good deal on a Kindle Fire listed as “bad battery” on eBay. Well, it turns out the USB port is the problem, not the battery. The USB port must be coming loose from the mainboard because it won’t charge unless it’s held in a certain position. Presumably this is why the seller took it to be a bad battery.

In any case, though I deny all accusations of being a stalker, I do enjoy the sort of voyeurism purchasers of used tablets are given opportunity to enjoy. The previous owner of the last tablet I bought seemed to use the device for nothing other than logging into his profiles at multiple online dating sites. Other than a few shirtless pictures of what I presumed to be him taken in front of a mirror using the built-in camera, there were hardly any multimedia files on the device at all. I checked the man’s email (which he had neglected to log out of) and found that he used it for nothing other than dating sites. He had even received via email nude pictures from a few ladies. He left himself logged into Facebook, too. I had a look at some of his friends’ profiles but got bored quickly. There weren’t any naughty or incriminating pics. Nonetheless, there was enough information available to me so that I could have found out where his house was and gone to kill or burglarize him had I had the mind to.

So it’s a fun thing to do, snooping through the stuff left on pre-owned devices, that is, not killing people. Of course, I always restore to factory settings after getting bored perusing the previous owner’s emails and other personal information and it should go without saying that I’d never actually reveal information that could be used to personally identify the previous owner or take advantage of it, since I’m an ethical sort of person. But I certainly could, if the mood struck me.

It’s both funny and a bit frightening that people don’t take the precaution of removing personal information from devices before selling them or giving them away. Sometimes it’s understandable, such as in the case of tablets with cracked screens. But other times, such as with this Kindle Fire or the shirtless man whose email I was able to read, there’s no explanation other than carelessness. On the other hand, most people, I would hope, even if given the opportunity to log into the previous owner’s online accounts, would take the high road and refrain from doing anything naughty, instead simply chuckling privately at the previous owner’s quirks and vices and then promptly wiping the device.

Pages and pages of novelty apps.

Pages and pages of novelty apps.

When you buy something like a Kindle Fire, you expect there to be some books on it. My generation 3 Kindle keyboard had lots of books on it when I got it, including Fifty Shades of Grey. Incidentally, an e-book reader is the best way to read a book you’re too embarrassed to be seen with. This Kindle Fire is well-used yet there’s not a single book on it. The reason I know it’s well-used is because of all the non-book shit left on it. There’s several hundred megabytes of useless apps on here. There’s a baby adoption app, ice cream shop simulator, daily joke, truth or dare, child lie detector, and something called “Fake iPad” which, when opened, simply throws up an image of an iOS screen to make your tablet look like an iPad. There are pages and pages of apps like this. Almost none of them do anything useful.

Out of the countless apps on the device, there are only a few that I would ever consider choosing to reinstall after I restore this device to factory settings and register it to myself. Pandora radio is one of them. Christmas is coming and I refuse to buy an entire album just to annoy my family with Wham’s “Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart)”. The previous owner and I differ in our taste in music though. I opened up the Pandora app (which logged me into her account automatically) and the sounds of ‘Lil Wayne immediately spread through the entire apartment because the previous owner had left the volume set to maximum. This, by the way, was my first opportunity to listen to the speakers of the Kindle Fire which, I was pleased to learn, are incredibly loud and clear. I’m not an audiophile by any means and don’t know the first thing about speakers so I’m not speaking from a technical perspective, but from a practical one there’s no question that they’re much better and significantly louder than the speakers in my Velocity Cruz PS47, T301, or Nook Color. Heck, they’re actually a lot louder than the speakers in my Acer laptop, although part of that problem is a less-than-ideal driver implementation in my OS. After being blown away by the volume of the speakers I tapped the back arrow in the Pandora app to see if there were any other stations that the previous owner had created. There were seven or eight others featuring artists I’d never heard of. There was one with a name that I did recognize though and that was the Justin Bieber station.

The previous owner's Pandora radio stations.

The previous owner’s Pandora radio stations.

It’s not exactly my intention to ridicule (although that is always fun), but I can’t help but find it peculiar that someone would buy a Kindle Fire just to listen to Justin Bieber and play the ice cream shop simulator app. The previous owner was still logged into so I decided to check her recommendations. Interestingly, as far as I could tell she had never purchased physical goods from Amazon. She had purchased dozens and dozens of apps and had lots of recommended apps, but no matter which category of physical goods I clicked on — even music — Amazon reported that they had no recommendations, which is most likely because the previous owner never actually bought anything other than digital goods.

Of course, on the one hand I am very much a believer that every person ought to spend his or her money and time as he or she likes, particularly if it doesn’t harm anybody else. So it’s fine with me if someone wants to buy a Kindle Fire and never read a single book or periodical on it. It just seems to me though that if the chief reason you’re buying the tablet is to kill time with apps and listen to music, then why buy one marketed as an e-reader that lacks access to the ordinary Google Play store and costs $199?

Meh, probably the same reason I need four tablets and an e-ink Kindle.

I hate how expensive R2J DVDs are

I like Shoukoushi Cedie very much, which was surprising to me since I usually don't go for family-oriented shows unless a cute orphan girl is the protagonist, which, as it turns out, is the case often enough that I actually end up watching such shows frequently. Cedie proves though that it's not just traps and ludicrously optimistic orphan girls bereft of their parents by whom I can be moesaserareta.

Because I’m not an encoder I rarely need full DVDs. The only time I do is when good raws are not available. Sometimes I get DVDs that I never watch. Sometimes I’ll get the first disc in a multi-disc series, intending to decide if it’s worth it to get the rest only after watching the beginning. The trouble is that these DVDs sometimes sit around for months or even more than a year before I watch them, by which time the rest of the discs are often unavailable. Sometimes the rest of the discs are never available in the first place, such as with はいからさんが通る and キャンディ・キャンディ, neither of which ever had official Japanese DVD releases as far as I know.

I’ve got the first four discs of Shoukoushi Cedie. A nice bonus about the DVDs are that it’s one of the few series to have Japanese subtitles, which, other than subtitles in your native language, are about the most helpful thing in the world when, like me, you don’t speak the language in which the dialogue is spoken. All DVDs and Blu-ray discs should have subtitles in my opinion. I usually turn the subtitles on when I watch movies or TV shows in English, too. I just prefer being able to confirm what I think I’m hearing by reading it simultaneously. Either that or my English is even worse than I realise it is.

The problem is that I just can’t get the rest of the DVDs. I have similar problems with other shows that I’d like to watch, too. I want to watch 巴里のイザベル but I can’t find any DVDs. I can find it on Amazon, but the only two sellers who ship internationally on there, one with a new copy and one with a used copy, are charging JPY 30000 and 50000, respectively. The series is only 13 episodes. It should be about JPY 2000. Sometimes I see 13 episode series of relatively unpopular shows like this for JPY 500 on Yahoo! Auctions.

I wanted to watch さすらいの少女ネル very badly at one time. I looked at Amazon and saw that the only seller who ships internationally was selling a used copy of the DVD box for JPY 60000. That’s nearly USD 800. This is almost as ridiculous as the price for the Card Captor Sakura special Blu ray box set that came out recently. Yahoo! Auctions is a bit better, but I’ve only seen copies of the show on there a couple of times for JPY 10000 to 20000 and none of the sellers would ship internationally. With a proxy service I’d still be looking at USD 300+ for a lousy DVD of a feel good kids story based on a book I could buy for USD 2. Thankfully ARR released rips. I love ARR.

I was looking for at least two years for a copy of the 野ばらのジュリー DVDs. There’s only four of them. It’s a short series. Someone finally made them available, by the way, but this was another series I had considered buying because it was so rare in digital form. If I had, I’d be out JPY 49000.

These aren’t even World Masterpiece Theatre shows. Those are more expensive. They don’t release DVD boxes that contain the entire series for those shows; they release a “complete version” which condenses the entire series into only a few episodes. These are actually relatively inexpensive, but why would I want them?

One show that I’ve mentioned I really like before is 風の中の少女 金髪のジェニー which is loosely based on Stephen Collins Foster’s childhood and did not, I repeat not, make me drag my morose, inconsolable Sunggie-clad self out of my desk chair, and drape myself in a comforter as I groped about in the dimly lit room for my weeping companion teddy bear Sniffles because he knows the telephone number for the Tennessee Valley Authority. That most certainly did not happen.

I did cry when I saw the price the same Marketplace seller at Amazon who had the above items for sale was charging for the Jeanie DVD boxes: JPY 64000 and 59000 for volumes one and two. That’s 1579 dollars! Of course, nobody will purchase these items. It would be much cheaper to buy from sellers who do not ship internationally and use a shipping proxy in a case like this, but even if I did, I could expect to pay more than 200 dollars. Maybe that’s reasonable for some people, but it’s still too high for to make it practical for me.

There are other shows I want, too. They all cost too much money though. Proxy shipping services are impractical for low value items like DVDs, but I must either use such a service or pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for these DVDs from the few sellers who do ship internationally.

This is one of the ways copyright infringement by duplication via Internet can be rationalized. You may think it’s immoral to duplicate some DVDs without permission and then proceed to enjoy them for free. But then, when you see that it would actually cost around USD 500 for many of these series, some of which are unpopular and short, you may no longer think it so immoral. Shoukoushi Cedie is a Sekai Meisaku Gekijou series and has 10 volumes, each of which are about JPY 3000 for domestic buyers. That’d be JPY 30000 for a domestic buyer. If I used Shopping Mall Japan service I’d pay an additional USD 35 plus various other fees for an order like that, not to mention domestic shipping and international shipping, which is always expensive with Japan Post. On the one hand I understand that international mail needs to be expensive because the transportation, inspection, and other costs are very high for any type of postal system, but I’m used to USPS prices. I can send a book from New York to Guam for USD 3.50 and probably have it arrive in less than a week. 30000 Yen is about 400 dollars, plus 35 dollars, plus a few dollars for domestic shipping, plus about 30 dollars for international shipping, plus a few more dollars for other fees, and you’ve got a pricetag of nearly 500 dollars for used DVDs of a show from the 1980s. When I think of it this way, I can’t really think of duplication of such DVDs as immoral.

Argh! Fucking eBay glitch fucked me over again

I never would have considered myself a “sniper” prior to a few weeks ago. Now, I’m no Lee Harvey Oswald, but I’m now forced to acknowledge that I am, indeed, a “sniper” since I heard the word used some weeks ago to contrast Yahoo! Auctions and eBay. I never knew there was a term for the practice of waiting until the last few seconds to make a bid on an auction. I always figured it was just common sense to wait until as close as possible to the last second to place a bid. At least that’s how I’ve always done it. Apparently this isn’t how it’s done on Yahoo! Auctions though. I, of course, not being a user of Yahoo! Auctions, don’t know for certain if that’s true since, even if more sellers did ship internationally, I don’t have a Japanese credit card and most sellers don’t accept PayPal. I suppose if an eBay auction ended in the middle of the night or during a time when I’m without Internet access I would bid whenever I could, but usually I’m able to bid when there are only a few seconds left.

That’s why it so frustrating when eBay kicks you off because of this glitch I’ve noticed. Granted, it’s possible it’s something to do with my browser settings about cookies, but I prefer to think that it’s eBay’s fault and I’m blameless because I prefer deluding myself to acknowledging my shortcomings. There were about ten seconds left in an auction for a 160GB laptop hard drive and the price was only USD 16. I had finally tasted success and had zombied together some parts I’d had lying about for months into a functional PS3 so I needed a hard drive for it. The nice part was that, rather than requiring a costly power supply replacement as I had initially supposed (~ USD 30), the system just needed a power switch replacement (the thing to which you connect the AC adapter which cost me only USD 1). This was perfect. The glitch, however, occurs when you open an auction page after your login has partially expired. That is, your username still appears at the top of the page and, if the item is in your watchlist, it will still appear in blue, but it’s been long enough since you logged in that, when you try to place a bid, eBay will ask you to enter your password. At least, this is how it’s supposed to work. However, if, while you have the auction page open, you open another browser tab and visit a different page within eBay and do something that requires you to enter your password in the new tab (such as visit “My eBay”) then, when you go back to the first tab to bid, instead of letting the bid go through or prompting you for your password, you get logged out of eBay immediately, without explanation.

This is what the expression “kick in the teeth” was invented for.