Anachostic

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Category Archives: About Me

Wasteland Highlights

Two trips to the hometown in one year!  Wow!  I mean, wow.  I actually mean, meh.  No really, blah.  So, to summarize the best/worst highs/lows of the trip, here we go.

Before I even left for the airport, six hours before my flight, my flight was delayed.  The flight was already a late one at 7:00pm, now it was 7:30.  When I got to the airport, they announced, “your plane will not be arriving until 8:00.”  A very odd way to announce a delay, but that’s what they did.

The TSA experience on the way out wasn’t too bad (oh, just you wait for this one…).  A couple new regulations (aren’t there always?) to deal with.  Everything electronic larger than a cell phone must be taken out and all liquids must be out as well.  Ok, no big deal, a couple of Kindles and shampoo.  I went on with my life.

nerdcat-t-shirt-tn-258x258[1]At my destination, I went to pick up my rental car at the ungodly hour of 11:30.  When I went up to the counter, the agent just stared at me with a big smile on his face.  I said, “Hi, I have a reservation” which seemed to break his trace and he said, “that… is awesome.”  And I understood.  It was my shirt – “Quattro Gato”.  Basically, this image here on the right, colorized and duplicated four times over. The agent asked me if I liked cats, had a cat, what type of cat, etc.  Naturally, cat people are awesome.  And awesome cat people get… Mustangs!  Or at least that’s what he believed.  Me paying for the cheapest rental car, and wearing a cat shirt, means I get upgraded to the sports car category.  I guess I’m ok with that.

WP_20171015_13_42_02_ProI got my car in the lot.  There are SO many goddamn buttons on the console and steering wheel.  What the fuck.  I don’t touch anything.  I try to get GPS directions out of the airport to a familiar highway (I always take the wrong route), but my phone has no signal.  Finally, I get a weak signal and a route.  I leave the airport and immediately get in the wrong lane and miss the proper exit.  GPS simply changes the route, without even scolding me with “ROUTE RECALCULATION!”.  Not sure exactly how much time I lost in that, but I made it to the motel and fell into bed at 1:30am.

I thought I had everything planned out well for this trip, which meant little to no personal time for me.  In the end, I had way too much personal time because my brother kept bailing on our plans.  So I saw and did everything I could think of.  That’s a very short list in a very small town.  And I ended up sitting in my upgraded rental, parked downtown for extended periods of time.

Everything’s closed in the wasteland.  The mall lost Sears and JCPenney anchor stores, leaving only The Bon Ton.  I asked a couple people I visited, “where do you buy clothing?”  The only options were KMart, WalMart, and the Bon Ton.  One said Amazon, the other said the outlets (a 45 min drive).  How can you live like that?

After only two days, I was ready to get back home.  My outbound flight was at 3:30, a time where you either get to the airport super-early, or risk being late.  I chose the former, since there was nothing else to do.  I got to the airport, returned the car, and chilled in the airport lobby for an extended time, reading.

When I got up to get some lunch, I found out all the food was behind security, so I guess I’m going through security now.  I was ready.  I remembered the changed regulations, even though none of the agents were making announcements about it.  Ha!  I was ahead of the game.  I put my laptop and kindle and shampoo in a tray and confirmed with the agent that was right.  He said the laptop had to go in a tray by itself.  Fine.  Anything else?  Shoes.  Oh crap.  How did I forget that?  Shoes on the conveyor.  Then over to the scanner.

I got chided last time about doing a body-building pose when they told me to lift my arms, so I kept it simple.  I got out and the guard stepped in front of me.  “Anything in your pockets?”  I patted my pockets.  Oh fuck.  My phone.  I usually put my watch and phone in my carryon while I’m in line.  I forgot.  I pulled out my phone and handed it to him.

“Anything else?”  I patted again.  I had my handkerchief, which I didn’t think was any big deal, my passport, which I sometimes have in my hand when I get scanned, and oh crap, coin change.  I pull the change out sheepishly and hand it to him.  “Anything else?”  Ok, I’m stressing now.  My passport?  He takes that too.  “Anything else.”  Uh, a handkerchief?  He has everything now.  He calls for a bowl from the other agents and sends everything off to get scanned.

“So, you want me to go through again?” I ask.  The agent replies in a very annoyed tone, “No.  Since you had so many things in your pockets, you’re going to have to be patted down.”  Ohhhh FUCK.  The agent then goes into a very long and detailed description of all the different ways he’s going to feel me up.  I’m somewhat in shock, so I don’t hear much of it.  He asks if I want a private room or just do it here.  I said here is fine, as if I give any sort of a shit right now.

I have to take off my belt (which should have come off earlier, I guess), and hold it.  Not much to say.  I got groped plenty around my balls and swiped and rubbed.  That might be bad, but hey, they gotta do their job.  But here’s the stupid thing.  They wiped my hands with some sort of device that probably was checking for explosive residue or similar.  Now, if I was a “t-word”, would I have been so stupid to leave my pockets full going through the scanner?  Bad guys are smarter than that.  I’m just an idiot, and you’re checking me for residue?

I pass with flying colors, gather my shit and get the fuck out of there.  The experience ruined my day completely.  I tried to eat lunch but ate very little.  I wasn’t upset or scarred or anything.  Just mad at myself that I was so focused on the details I totally forgot the basics.

The flight back was much less fun than the flight up.  Much more turbulence and many more passengers.  Two very large women in my row.  Idiot children in front of me, and a baby across the aisle.

But I did make it home safe and my cat was thrilled to see me.  That’s enough travel for a while, I think.

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Not Getting Sick

I don’t get sick.  The last time I mentioned getting sick was four and a half years ago.  I described it as a “nasty cold”.  In fact, that old post is talking about deviation, and my time for a major deviation was due.

I’ve been to the Sick AF Theme Park and I always manage to get out without going on any rides.  Well, sometimes I end up on some of the kiddie rides like Shit Yo’self or The Dehydrator, and I’ll get on with my life.  The bigger rides always kind of spooked me.  This time, I must’ve gotten lost trying to get out because I ended up in line for the #2 ride in the whole park – IN-FLUUUUU-ENZA EXTREME.  And let me tell you, it’s a long fucking ride. (Since I’m writing this now, I can say that I’m lucky to have not gotten on the #1 ride, Nu-Moan YAAAAAAAA.)

Day 0 – Wed

Getting ready to go to bed and out of nowhere a large sneezing fit hits me.  A little later in bed, a second fit strikes.  This starts my sinuses draining like mad.  They drip into my throat all night.  Ticket for one?  Thank you, climb aboard.

Day 1 – Thurs

At work, the entire place is full of coughing and sneezing.  I guess I got on board just in time.  By the end of the day, my plan for when I get home is: sleep, eat soup, sleep more.  When I do get home, I feel terrible.  A different terrible, a foreboding feeling that something is not right this time.  I check my temperature and it’s 99.6.  Half an hour later it’s 99.9.  I call my boss and take the next day off work.

And here’s the other huge issue with this.  The next day, I am going on a trip to see my mom in her new nursing home digs.  At this point, I’m optimistic I can bounce back enough to make a safe trip.

Throughout the night, my fever continues to climb, broaching 101.  This is all new to me.  I don’t get sick.  Oh, first time rider?  Have fun and enjoy.  You’re going to remember this one.

Day 2 – Fri

Fever is hovering in the 101 range.  Every joint and muscle in my body hurts.  Even sometimes my skin hurts to the touch.  I put on a brave face and go out to infect the world.  I get some Dimetapp and Halls from Walgreens, a small pizza from Hungry Howies, and some Gatorade from Dollar General.  I’m good.  But I’m not.  The smell of the pizza is turning my stomach and one tiny bite was spit right back out.  Big ol waste of money.

Around 5pm, I capitulated and went to the Urgent Care.  The receptionist took my information and commented, “Boy, you haven’t been here in a long time!”  I said, “I know, I don’t get sick, but when I do, I do it with style.”  My time there was short and I wasn’t admitted or anything.  I got an Rx for a flu med, 10 doses over 5 days.  Five days!  I go back home and over the next 36 hours or so, I got to experience all the wonderful twists and turns in this insane devil ride.

For me, being under a constant fever gave my brain license to do whatever it wanted.  And this is what I got.  When I was unconscious, I was in some sort of disaster zone, providing help.  All the rubble was black blocks (there’s more to it, but it’s too weird to describe).  I had a special power that whenever I coughed, I could demolish a partially collapsed building.  When I was more awake, it was kind of the same, except everything was white, not black.  As time went on and my condition improved, so did the disaster.  Then I had to start dealing with situations like “There are reports of water at this other camp, but we can’t tell anyone because they will overwhelm that camp.”

And everyone should be happy that I did not get on the plane.  Everyone except my wallet.  $600, everything nonrefundable.  But I would literally be the grim reaper walking into a nursing home in my condition.  Do something good for once, you dickhead. Don’t kill people.

Day 3 – Sat

My second full day of absolutely nothing.  Probably 22 hours in bed.  Can’t get up.  Can’t eat.  Only sleeping in 1-2 blocks, which involves the inescapable scenario of fixing a disaster scene.  But at some point in the afternoon, I woke up and my fever broke (high score: 103.3).  I recognized this because I was sopping wet.  My clothes were soaked the whole way through and sweat running down my arms.  That’s something that hasn’t happened to me even in my most careless hiking jaunts in the summer heat.  My joint and muscle pain is gone, but something was traded for that relief.  Now I have a pain that feels exactly like someone folding your ear cartilage.  It doesn’t fade in and out, it’s a sharp, piercing pain that makes me convulse.  And it comes along about every 15 seconds.  Minute after minute, hour after hour.  Sometimes it will pause long enough for me to get a small window of sleep, but it is relentless.

With the clearing of my fever, my continuing struggle in the disaster zone literally turned into an empty field.  I think that’s a good thing?  Anyway, good ride so far.  Lots of unexpected surprises.  What else ya got?

Day 4 – Sun

My fever is gone, but I’m still sweaty and temperature sensitive.  My joints and muscles are not sore, but I’m weak.  I haven’t really eaten anything in days.  Looks like I lost about 7 pounds.  I’m still laying around in bed, because I can’t do anything else.  I can’t really sleep because of the constant ear stabbing.  So I decide to listen to some recent CD purchases I hadn’t played yet.  That was a pleasant reprieve.  Then I picked out another song from a different album to play.  It’s a favorite of mine – happy, joyful, and executed exceedingly well.  When the song started playing, for absolutely no good reason, I started crying uncontrollably.  I took a while to compose myself and clear out my sinuses (SO much!), but when I would think of the song again, I would start sobbing again.  And again.  And later on yet, again.  What the fuck is wrong with me?

I reprise my earlier soup extravaganza, which is probably the most I’ve eaten since this started.  I tried a burger for lunch so I could get some protein for some energy.  Just a couple bites.  Pathetic.

Now my sleep patterns are all messed up.  Didn’t get tired until 2 in the morning.  Even then, I only slept in 1-2 hour blocks, like I had been.  I’d either wake up soaked in sweat, or with pain in my chest from sinus drain.  It’s ridiculous.

Day 5 – Mon

Thanks for riding.  I hope you enjoyed it.  No, thank you for letting me get the fuck off the ride without dying.

Now, an attempt to return to normalcy, although I know in reality it will probably be a couple of weeks to get back to the way things were.  Cleaning the sick bedding, cleaning the sick house, realizing I don’t have a lot of energy available to do any of this for extended periods.  I break out in sweats easily.  I tried a small meal at Panera and had to actually take my time and eat.  Like every bite took a few minutes to settle.  And people thought I ate slowly before… oh boy.

What a long-ass post.  Six days wrapped up in a stupid story.  I should have live-blogged the whole event, or maybe death-blogging would be more apropos.  Next time I think I’m dying, I’ll try that.

After Irma

This guy.

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Way back in 2004, after the rash of hurricanes that I went through, someone gave me this thing as a holiday gift.  I’m completely stumped as to what it is.  A talisman?  Totum?  Spirit ward?  Golum?  Gargoyle?  Whatever it is, it was packaged with an explanation that the object was intended to ward away hurricanes.  After being through 4, it was a thoughtful gift.  It’s been hanging in the kitchen since the day I moved in.

Well, I’m not sure if the object has a shelf life or an expiration date, but 12 years later, along comes a hurricane.  My initial thought was, the hurricane is going to miss us and go to South Carolina.  Then the track changed and it was going to go just east of us.  Well, ok.  The west side of the hurricane is the less intense part. Then the track changed again and Irma was going to the west of us.  That’s not so good.  The track changed one last time and resulted in a direct hit on my neighborhood.

Good going, thing.  Way to do your job.

The power went out at about 8:30 that night, with the eye wall expected to hit at around 12:30am, in the dead of night.  We took in about 3 hours of sleep, which was becoming normal – 2 or 3 hour blocks of sleep here and there to keep alert.  Woke up around midnight with the weather getting steadily worse.  Since the bedroom windows were facing the storm, the rain was hammering the glass and being generally distracting.  We then moved to the living room.

I planted myself in front of the front window, on which I had finished putting shatterproof film before the storm.  Our neighborhood’s power was out, there was still light coming from somewhere in the distance, so you could see shadows of trees blowing around.  Sometimes you would see flashes of lightning or maybe power transformers, or car lights or whatever.

The eye wall came and it was impressive, although not exactly scary.  The only shocking moment for me was during one massive gust where the rain being carried dropped the visibility to near zero.  It was like being in an automatic car wash.  And within about 10 minutes, it was generally over.  We went back to bed.

I woke up the next morning to see what was left.

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My jerk neighbor, whose trees I’ve complained about for a very long time, finally got his comeuppance.  One full tree down and many limbs broken off.  One limb fell on my/his/our fence, but that section was already damaged from a previous fall, so it was not really new damage.

I knew those trees were going to be trouble, so we purposely parked the cars in another location so they wouldn’t take any damage.  They got pelted with leaves, but that’s about it.

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I immediately started clearing debris, and most of my neighbors had started doing so as well.  The winds were still gusting pretty good, but the skies were mostly clear.  The power came back on at 12:30 – an outage of only 16 hours.  Much better than I expected.

And after all that, My house and vehicle took zero damage.  No shingles were lost, no screens were torn, no windows were broken.

This guy.  He’s still on the job.

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Irmageddon Approaches

Storm arrives tomorrow.  All prep is done.  Everything is stowed away and vehicles are strategically placed to avoid the inevitable fallout from my neighbor’s shitty trees.  People have been contacting me non-stop.  There’s nothing to report yet.

I went out to get mail for the last time and my neighbors were out and wanted to chat.  They all consider themselves prepared as well.  One has his windows boarded up.  Another has what looks like painters tape x-ing his windows.  I finished installing shatter-resistant film on my front window.

Gas in my area isn’t as difficult to find as I thought it would be.  My car and motorcycle are topped off and the GF’s car is also topped off.  We also have 10 gallons of gas in cans.  I don’t know how much good it will do us now, since I was unable to get the generator started.  The old gas has apparently killed the carb.

Last night we went out to Lowe’s to get paint, since we’ll be stuck inside for a couple days.  It was rather what you expect.  The line for plywood went from the front to the back of the store.  The three people in front of me each had a window AC unit.

Today was a stop at Target for a few supplies, and a last meal at Olive Garden.  The hostess said they had a lot of employees bail on their shifts.  No rush crowd by noon, just a few tables.  We sat at the bar and let the Weather Channel explain how death was coming, but during commercial breaks, “Trust the Weather Channel”.  Kinda creepy when you think about it.

The cat was been acting super weird on Friday, very clingy and agitated, but today has been more calm and reserved.  So now it’s just a waiting game.  Oddly, Friday delivered the first rain band – a far, far outlier, but it still behaved like a tropical downpour.  Today, nothing.  it was nice and sunny, sometimes overcast, but no rain.

I’ve Got… Aunt Irma Visiting

Prep day 1 for the natural disaster, Hurricane Irma.  Recently upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane, which is supposed to be death from the sky, probably will be Cat 4 or even 3 when it gets here.  But hey, 3 or 4 cats can make a significant mess of things.

I was here in 2004 when we had four hurricanes cross over us.  I remember at the time it became a joke – another weekend, another hurricane.  At the time, I was living in an apartment in a newer apartment complex on the middle floor.  So I had no potential for roof damage and no potential for flooding.  The events were all pretty easy going.  The balcony was always to the back of the storm, so I just sat out there and watched things go by.  I saw part of a metal roof get ripped off and I saw a displaced alligator walking around.

When I got my house in 2005, I was fully prepared.  I got a generator, a chain saw, a chest freezer and a dorm fridge.  That should keep me going for as long as I needed.  And when did the next hurricane come along?  It never did.  Until now, 12 years later.

Today, I dug the generator out of the shed where it hadn’t been used once except for a test of the electrical output.  It was surprisingly clean, but its functionality is still unknown.  I need to change the oil and get some gas in it.

Speaking of gas, there’s a general hysteria going around now.  Of course, when I’m out of gas in my car right now.  So I stop at one station.  I tried a pump and it didn’t work.  Odd.  I went to another pump and waited for a guy to fill 6 five-gallon gas containers.  That pump didn’t work either.  But it was just working!  It dawned on me that the station was out of premium gas.  So I went to another station.  As fate would have it, they were out of regular gas and only had premium.  So I got my car filled up.  But in both places, there were cars everywhere.  Luckily, everyone was civil (so far).

I also noticed that people were eating out a lot.  Everything was crowded.  I guess people didn’t want to deplete their stock at home.  After eating, I went to a small store and found pretty much what I expected:  no water, no bread.  I bought other things, like pop-tarts and canned tuna fish and chips.  My idea of survival is different than others.

And you know what, there will be more shipments.  I’ll get some bread eventually.  I have cases upon cases of Coke and drinks.  One paranoid thing I did get tonight?  Cash.  Can’t use credit cards when there’s no power.

New Frontiers

As an old customer of Verizon FIOS, I was transferred with many others to Frontier.  I never had any significant issue with the transition.  Yeah, their web portal sucked for a while, but my service was uninterrupted and my rates didn’t change.  I had renewed my contract just a couple of months before the changeover.

A lesson I’ve learned, but will probably never be able to apply again is, don’t make any changes to your grandfathered account.  Recently, I decided to change my home phone number.  I never used it, but my ex-wife used it everywhere and all the phone line did was fill up the voicemail with her collection agency calls.  So I wanted a fresh start.  I called Frontier and over a couple of calls, I had a new number.

The next month, I got a bill in the mail from Frontier.  That was odd, because I didn’t think I had any real service done.  The bill was my monthly statement.  That is odd, because I had paperless billing activated.  Further the bill was not for my usual amount of $106, but for $165.  That’s no good.  As I was scanning the papers, I noticed my new phone number was now my account number.  I was suddenly a new customer to them, one with no promo pricing.  That’s no good at all.

I logged in to the web portal and saw that all my past bills were inaccessible (since they were under an old account number) and my autopay was deactivated.  So I got on the phone with billing support.  The guy was pretty confused about the whole situation and eventually gave up, saying the department that needed to handle problems like that was gone for the night.  They would call me the next day.  Unsurprisingly, they didn’t.

I called back during normal business hours and got someone more experienced.  She understood that all that was needed was to restore the discounts on my account.  So after a bit of work she said she couldn’t get it back the way it was.  The reason is that my cable package was migrated from Verizon and there was no Frontier equal.  My bill would go up by about $10/mo.  I kept my mouth shut and the rep said she would transfer me to “retentions”, who would have more power to change the billing.  Ok, then.

The retentions rep also understood the problem and worked to put the discounts back in.  Unfortunately, she still didn’t have any access to restore my cable package.  However, she explained that my cable package was going to change from about 20 channels to 75 channels.  And that’s not so bad.  I rarely watch TV, but the one time I checked it all out, the online channel guide was useless because I couldn’t filter it to only my subscribed channels.  So I always got “this channel is unavailable”.

So, for the privilege of changing my phone number, I had to upgrade to their lowest cable package, which was more than my existing package.  To be fair, that change was inevitable.  I would have to bite that bullet when my renewal came about.  In the end, I got a $25 credit, 75 channels, and the ability to stream cable through my Roku devices.  All for an extra $120/yr.  Oh, and a new phone number, which is really all I wanted.

Inmates Running The Asylum

Ha, you think I’m talking about the current political environment.  Nope, I’m talking about my workplace.  I’ll be honest.  I’m a bit old-fashioned.  I’m in a different generation than most of my co-workers and some of the things that are important to them are absolutely ridiculous to me.  For example, the company dress code.

Years ago, one of my co-workers lamented to me about how he couldn’t wear “a hoodie and flip-flops” every day at work.  This is important to him.  The fact he has to wear business casual clothes (which does include jeans) is a problem.  And strangely, employers now have to cater to their employees despite an overwhelming labor force eager to take those positions.

Recently, my employer conducted an experiment.  You could wear anything you wanted to work as long as it wasn’t revealing or offensive.  Personally, I didn’t change a thing, but many others broke out sandals, flip-flops, shorts, tee shirts, hats, and more casual dresses and skirts.  The workplace went from business casual to resort casual, and in my opinion, became more slobby.

The experiment went for 2 weeks and when it was announced that it was going to end, “hoodie and flip-flops” wrote to the HR director asking why it was ending if there were no complaints about how people abided by the rules.  The answer was “we’ll see.”

On the first day after the experiment’s conclusion, “hoodie” came in and announced loudly, “Fuck this place!”  He didn’t get fired or even written up for that, but did get counseled on his behavior.  He had to write an apology letter to the HR director saying he wouldn’t do anything like that again.  His letter also mentioned it was the loss of the relaxed dress code that caused the outburst.  It was a great way to make the case for keeping it, for sure.

But here we are, a couple of weeks later and great news!  For a limited time, SlobFest has returned to our workplace!  For the rest of the summer (excluding days where clients will be visiting), dress down, be comfortable (since that’s so important to you), act like you’re on vacation.  But please, if there’s anything else we can do for you, don’t hesitate to just shout out, “fuck this place!” and we’ll see how we can accommodate you.

Me, I’m outta here.  Fuck this place.

It’s Good To Be A Coder

While driving over the weekend, I had a humorous thought that I think I can stretch out into an extended joke.  The base premise of the joke is simple, just recaptioning an old comic strip to change the context of the comic and the dynamic between the characters.

So, to begin this, I need the original comic strips so I can deface them and make them funny in a different way.  I found the website that was hosting the comics and looked into what effort it would take to get these comics.

Here’s a small lesson in image thievery on the internet.  The most pedestrian way to get an image off the internet is to do a screen capture with something like Snipping Tool.  That route will burn you out in a matter of minutes.

The better way is to right-click the image and choose Save As.  This preserves the original image dimensions without any possible variance from lassoing.  However, web developers have gotten smarter about this technique and will do protective coding to prevent the unwanted downloading of their files.  One way to do this is to capture the mouse’s right-button click.  Other way is to overlay a transparent image over the other so when you right-click and Save As, you save the transparent image instead of the one you really want.  The most effective way is to show the image as a CSS background.  However, the truth is, if it’s in your browser, your browser requested the file and you can do it too.

To get around these tricks, you can use the developer tools built into most browsers.  They will allow you to look at the source code and find the URL of the actual image you want.  That is the path I originally took, finding the image tag, copying the URL into a new tab, then downloading/saving the image.  That lasted for about 7 images before it was too much effort.  Coders are lazy, and they write programs to do the work for them.

Looking at the URL for the image, it was a dynamic URL, not a static one.  It was similar to:

http://thewebsite.com/content.php?file=QXJlbid0IHlvdSBjbGV2ZXI/

At first, I was discouraged, because the file parameter just seemed to be a string of random characters.  There wouldn’t be any way to turn that into a reliable sequence to cycle through.  But the more I looked at the URL, the more familiar the text seemed.  I took a guess that the string was Base64-encoded, and my guess was correct.  Decoding the string resulted in another URL, although that URL was not accessible from the internet.  It was a page that “content.php” had access to, though. (Just as an aside, this programming design screams “security issues!”)

The decoded URL had a very understandable structure that would allow cycling through comics based on date.  It’s just that I would need to construct that URL, encode it in Base64, then pass the encoded URL as a parameter to the content.php address.

I fired up Visual Studio, added a datebox and a button.  I wrote 4 lines of code to construct the URL based on the date in the datebox, then download and save the image. Then I set up the button to decrement the datebox by a day and process the image.  Now, All I had to do was click a button over and over and the images would dump into a folder.  If I wanted to, I could set up a loop to cycle through images and I wouldn’t even need to click the button at all.  This was less than 15 minutes of effort.

And that is yet another example of the power that comes from being a programmer.

Long Dead Spirits In My Car… With Machine Guns

I’ve got guns in my car and they won’t go; spirits in my car and they won’t go.

I’ve had my car for about 7 years.  That’s a pretty good run.  Very soon after I bought it, I swapped out the stereo and speakers with aftermarket ones.  Then I upgraded to a dedicated amplifier for the front speakers.  This setup has given me a lot of enjoyment over the years.

Recently though, when the temperature gets high, as it does often around here, I get this small issue.  What happens is a rapid popping comes through my speakers at full volume.  It typically scares the shit out of me, but I’ve never been so scared as to be unsafe on the road.  Still, having a machine gun open fire in your car is not the most pleasant experience.

When this happens, I have to turn the stereo off completely.  Muting the speakers doesn’t help.  Moving the fader doesn’t help.  So my diagnostic conclusion is that the problem is with the amplifier I have in my trunk.  The heat must finally be killing it.

Yesterday, I finally had enough of this nonsense, so I went to the trunk and unfastened the amp from the wall.  I waited for the machine gun to start, then I started banging the amp around.  I figured if it was a loose connection, something would change.  Nothing changed.  I then removed and retightened the power lines, in case they were loose.  No change.  Some more banging.  I assume parents can understand this method of troubleshooting.  If something’s not acting right, knock it around a bit and see if it gets better.

I finally give up and disconnect the amp fully.  I go inside and immediately order a replacement.  Not bad, $60 on sale – that’s probably more than half off what I paid originally.  Then I go out to buy groceries for dinner.

POP-POP-POP-POP-POP-POP-POP-POP-POP-POP-POP – WHAT THE FUCK!!!  Why are my speakers machine gunning again?  There is nothing connected to them anymore.  You can imagine my complete confusion in this scenario.  It’s like a corpse screaming after you’ve done the autopsy. (That imagery is courtesy of a death metal CD over the weekend.)  So, I’m driving and the speakers are blasting at me.  I want to find out how this is happening while I’m still driving, but I can’t take too long because it’s destroying my ears.  My brain runs through any impossible situation.  Could the speaker wires be frayed out and touching a power source anywhere along their path?  Why would that stop when the stereo was off?  No, the speaker wires are dead-ended.

Covering each speaker in turn with my hand, I found the source.  The noise is coming from my center channel speaker and the tweeters in my doors.  But how?  I didn’t connect those speakers.  Ohhhh!  Those speakers are still connected to the original factory amplifier.  That amp doesn’t get an input signal anymore, but apparently, that is the amp that is failing.  After 7 years of (non-)use.

So now, I have an order for an amp that will be arriving Wednesday that I don’t need and I have an amp that deserves profuse apologies.  Today, I’ll be able to disassemble the car and unplug that factory amp and reinstall the aftermarket amp.  While I’m at it, I might as well remove all the Zune integration.  Its time has come as well.

It Only Took Eight Years

Eight years ago, I got a motorcycle.  I’ve documented my ups and downs with it here and in the last few years, it’s been a sad story of neglect and non-involvement.

My recent attempt to revive my bike ended up being well outside my ability level.  I turned the bike over to my neighbor, who is an experienced mechanic.  He disassembled it and did a thorough cleaning of the carburetor, which worked well until his testing revealed the engine was running too lean and stalling out.  That leanness was caused by a crack in the fuel inlet, which is a non-replaceable part.  So, a replacement carburetor was purchased for about $300. 

That new part made the engine run better, but now the bike would die if you suddenly hit the throttle.  There wasn’t enough gas being delivered to the carb.  This was determined to be the fault of the aftermarket petcock I installed, which had a smaller diameter fuel line than the original.  So, another purchase of an OEM petcock for $60 was done.

A few days ago, my neighbor’s kid rang my doorbell and asked if I was ready to go for a ride.  Across the street my bike was idling next to my neighbors bike.  Great.  I haven’t been riding in years and here I am being put on the spot to test out the repair.

I gear up and we went out for a brief ride together.  I was rusty, but I remembered how everything worked and managed just fine.  I had a motorcycle again.

Last night, to help regain my skills and comfort on the bike, I went out for dinner.  Nothing uneventful happened until I got home.  I pulled into the driveway, shut off the engine, put down the kickstand and climbed off.  Suddenly, what the hell is going on?  The bike is moving?  The bike fell away from me and although I initially tried to hold it, you can’t stop a 500lb weight from falling while you’re standing upright. 

The motorcycle came down on its right side with a crash and a crunch – the first time I’ve ever let the bike fall.  I’ve “laid it down” softly in the grass maybe twice in the first year I owned it, but it’s never had an uncontrolled fall. Until now.

My driveway is sloped (maybe designed that way for runoff, maybe it’s just settling) and I have always been a little weirded out that the bike sat near upright when it was on its kickstand.  This time I guess it was just a tiny bit over center.  I made the decision then that I would start parking the other direction so the bike would lean with the slope of the driveway, although at a more severe angle.

New resolutions aside, I had to get the bike back up and see what the damage was.  My first evaluation was that the mirror broke off and the taillight was crushed.  I used the standard technique for raising a dropped bike, the one that you may have been taught but never have to use, like changing a car tire.  I put my back to the bike, got a firm grip on the handlebar and wheel well then walked it back upright.

Additional inspection showed that the damage was limited to the two things I had first noticed.  No paint damage, no significant chrome damage, no dents.  Considering how violently it came down, I am amazed at the limit of the damage.

To avoid any opportunity to dwell on the incident, I purchased replacement parts right away.  I decided to replace the mirrors completely even though only one mirror mount was snapped off.  It’s something I’d been kicking around for a while since they were gathering some slight surface rust.  Hopefully, I can get back on the road within a week.