Winter 2008

Monday, March 31st

The weekend was mostly good. We went to Steve's LAN party, which is always a fun time. We played BF2, SupCom, and I got repeatedly kicked out of UT2004 for "validation" reasons. Ahem. The LAN party always throws off sleep schedules, but between Saturday morning and Sunday evening I replaced my rear brake pads.

As usual this process resulted in a lot of frustration, a couple trips out for tools, some minor cuts and scrapes, and at the conclusion, installed brake pads. Unfortunately, part way through the process I learned that the rear pads don't have the wear indicators that generate the alert on the dash. That means that my front brakes are the cause, even though I checked those pads and they seem ok. The rear pads were low and did need replacing regardless, but it's still irritating to spend time and money only to find you haven't solved your original problem. My hope at this point is that when NTB was fixing my alignment, they neglected to reconnect one of the sensor wires and I can just plug it in. We'll see if that bears out.

This week I'll be in VMWare training downtown starting tomorrow, which should be good. I'm also hoping to take the bike in to get the charging fixed and the tires changed. With a little luck I'll be riding in the next several days, since the weather is supposed to warm up.

Monday, March 24th

It's been pretty much life per usual. Last weekend was poker night at Matt B's. I got second place the first round and knocked out early in the second, but it's all good. We got some lottery tickets because the PowerBall was up to some huge amount, but didn't win of course.

At work I'm still plodding through a never-ending list of tasks, though I have been making progress on several of them, which is good. The days are getting longer and the weather has being above freezing, which makes for a fairly good feeling about things, though we did get a dumping of snow on Friday. We've also been good about working out, and that always makes me feel better.

This past weekend we mostly took it easy. Friday we saw Othello at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater downtown, which was a really good performance. Sarah's friend Michelle started working there as a technical assistant but we didn't see. The rest of the weekend we got caught up on cleaning, mostly laundry, and I spent a lot of time working on Spark.

Monday, March 10th

I'm back from the cruise, and had a great time. We went to Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands; Ochorios, Jamaica; and Grand Turk in the British West Indies onboard the Costa Fortuna. If you look at a map, we basically sailed around Cuba.

The cruise was with Sarah's whole family, including her parents, two brothers, sister, and her sister's husband and four kids. On the island of Cozumel we visited the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio. In Grand Cayman we went out in a sail boat, swam with Stingrays, snorkeled along the reef, and did some shopping. In Jamaica we climbed up Dunn's River Falls and fended off street vendors before relaxing on the beach. Grand Turk was just some shops and a beach, though a gorgeous beach, but we managed to find the only jet ski outfit on the island and had some fun before going swimming in some amazingly clear water.

The rest of the time we spent on the ship, watching comedians, eating multi-course meals, and sunning and reading on the deck. It was a really relaxing time. The ship got back on Sunday and we spent the day in Fort Lauderdale before flying back to Chicago this morning. As beautiful as it was and as much fun as we had, I'm glad to be home. I honestly missed the Internet, my cats, and home. I didn't really miss work, but tomorrow it'll be good to see my coworkers.

Wednesday, February 27th

Not a whole lot to report. We're getting ready for the cruise next week. Tonight I finally went to the eye doctor, but they couldn't get me a trial pair, so hopefully they'll get them in before we leave. We're going snorkeling, and I've been using glasses for a few weeks because my contacts wore out and I hadn't gotten in. Sometimes, usually, the last minute isn't the best plan.

At work I'm still trying to get through my back log of tasks while keeping things running post-project. Overall things are coming along, but there's still a lot to do. I'm at least handing off some of the work that had carried over from the previous project, so that takes a big load off my shoulders, along with a fair degree of anxiety over how to get it done right.

On the car front, I got the car title transferred and paid the taxes on it (ugh). I'd like to say that I haven't had any problems since the flat tire, but it did manage to have a brake light bulb go out. I replaced it in the AutoZone parking lot just to have the tail light bulb go out as I started to drive away. I replaced that too, and so now I'm hoping that no new problems will emerge. Unfortunately it doesn't feel quite right since I got the tire fixed. I'm wondering if the alignment is scrwed up from the pot hole. I'm looking forward to a week not just of warmth, but of being away from the stupid car. I don't even want to drive it anymore. I can't wait for Spring, when I can go back to riding the bike.

Thursday, February 14th

I guess it's been a while since I updated. This past weekend Sarah and I went down to my Mom's for her birthday. My two sisters were there as well, and we had dinner on Sunday with my aunt and grandma. Sarah came back Sunday and I took the train home on Monday. The previous weekend we didn't do a whole lot. The weather has been snowy and cold, so we've mostly stayed in.

Friday I hit a pothole on the way to work and got a flat tire. This meant putting the spare tire with the bent rim on. I've made several efforts now to find someone with the same kind of tire but no one seems to carry it. Of course it has a side bulge and can't be patched. I've come to expect that. I also lost my road hazard protection when I got them replaced last year, so I'm out of luck on that front too.

Work has been busy and frustrating, with an unending litany of random issues that just seem to get worse and leave me no time to work on actually improving things. On the rare occasion I actually do find time to improve things they usually wind up breaking something else. It really makes me wonder why I bother trying.

Sunday, January 27th

After my previous Journal entry, which was on Thursday, I was driving Sarah's car due to the problems I was having with mine. Saturday we took it up to Sheboygan to get my new mountain bike, and then drove down to Sarah's parents. On the way, her check engine light came on. Her dad has a diagnostic code reader which said the problem was the blow off valve. He reset the code and we came home, since the car was still working fine.

Monday I went to work in her car, then went to Schaumburg to buy the ignition coil for my car at lunch. I left work at four, filled up with gas, and then the car died as I came up to an intersection. I managed to push the car into the Burger King parking lot, but the car wouldn't start. I could get the car to start but had to keep the engine revved or it would die, then I couldn't start it again for about ten minutes. It began snowing. I called Sarah who did some Googling and came up with the symptoms pointing to a bad blow off valve, even mentioning the diagnostic code that her dad had gotten. Since my car wasn't working, Sarah was stranded, so her parents went to the dealership and drove down to meet me. We installed the part and started the car. The car started and idled while I warmed up in their van.

As they were about to leave, and I was getting in the car to drive home, the car died again and wouldn't start. Argh! By this time it's after eight. We call Sarah's sister and ask her to go to one of her parents' friends' houses to get a dolly and come down to tow the car to the dealer. While we waited we got some dinner, but there were problems with the lights on the dolly so she didn't get down until ten. By now the snow has accumulated on the parking lot to the point that we have no traction to push the car onto the dolly, nor to back the dolly up under the car. The car will only run briefly every ten minutes, and if we try too soon we have to wait ten more minutes. Trying to get the car up the dolly usually prompts it to die. Her dad finally gets a ratchet strap from his work which is fairly close and with that and some more time, we manage to finally get the car secured about 1am. From there we tow the car to the dealer, which is near home, and they drop me off.

The next morning I install the ignition coil in my car, but while it sounds a little better, the car is still idling rough. The dealer has Sarah's car fixed later that morning (a crank case valve and a fuel injector) and she takes the bus to pick it up and go to a doctor's appointment. Then we get spark plugs and a diagnostic reader. The spark plugs also don't fix the problem, but the reader tells me which cylinder has the problem, and when I move the ignition coil, I move the problem. The next day I buy another ignition coil, this time from up in Highland Park since Schaumburg is out. After I put that in, my car is running fine. I drive it around the block and when I give it a little gas, it starts doing it again. The diagnostic tells me it's yet another ignition coil.

Thursday morning I get up and Sarah's car isn't running right, almost stalling when I hit the gas. Apparently the cold has caused the air hose into the throttle body to pop out of the seal since the ring wasn't tight enough from our previous work. Fortunately it runs fine after I tighten it back down. I buy two more ignition coils from Schaumburg and that night I put them into my car. It is now, finally, fixed. Sorry this post is so long, but I figured I might as well relate the whole thing.

Thursday, January 17th

Life has its ups and downs I guess. My lease on my car is up (it's hard to believe it's been four years) and being right-side-up on it I decided to buy it out, despite my troubles with it. I had been meaning to put the rather sizeable check in the mail for several days, and finally got around to doing it Monday evening. Tuesday morning I started off to work and made it down to Devon when the car started idling very roughly while I waited at the light. I pulled over a couple blocks up because the check engine light started blinking (blink = pull over now, dammit) it was clearly not right and took a look under the hood.

If you're not a mechanic (I am not a mechanic), looking under the hood is one of those things you do without any real expectation that it will be productive, just that it seems the thing to do. Invariably the engine looks like it always does, barring the overheating scenario where steam comes out of the radiator. Since it was about twenty degrees I expected to see very little, so I was surprised to see the exhaust manifold glowing bright orange. This being about four minutes after I turned the car on, combined with the aforementioned cold, was unexpected.

After letting the car cool down I managed to limp it back home rather than leave it on the side of the road. The Intarweb tells me the most likely cause is something that wound up being a recall on 2002 models but is supposedly fixed on later models like mine, namely an ignition coil. Apparently VW/Audi uses a separate coil for each spark plug on the 1.8T, meaning that when it fails the whole car doesn't stop, just the one cylinder. Because the spark isn't firing the fuel burns in the manifold. While this isn't supposed to be a problem on my year, the symptoms match. I'm inclined to at least try it because the part is fairly inexpensive and easy to replace before taking it to someone.

On a more positive note I stayed home today so I could meet with the RCN cable guy, and he fixed my extremely slow Internet problem! I am now back up to 20Mb download instead of about 0.2Mb. Unfortunately the router I bought back in March is still dead so I'm using the old one that doesn't let me use work VPN. Unless it is resurrected in the very near future I'll probably swear off Netgear.

Wednesday, January 9th

It's already more than a week into the New Year if you can believe it. A couple weekends ago we went to the All Academy Ball on Saturday and had Christmas with Sarah's family on Sunday. Then her brothers came over and we played some video games. For New Year's Eve we tried to meet up with Jeff and Shannon and hit downtown Chicago, but that didn't work out. Instead I went to Duane and Jessie's house for their party. I hadn't seen their new place since they moved like a year ago and it was nice to catch up.

After my nice long break it was time to come back to work, and so I'm starting the year off feeling a little less buried, now that the project is done, but there are still a lot of things to get done. I may be a hopeless optimist, but I think it may be possible to actually feel caught up if things go smoothly for the next couple months.

Last weekend I hung out with Mike and Eriq for the first time in a while, and while we didn't really do much it was still a good time. We went out for Mongolian Barbeque and got some work done transferring websites over to the new host. Sunday Sen came over and we played Wii games then went to coffee at Metropolis. Sarah and I have been spending quite a bit of time on Super Mario Galaxy, especially since the Internet hasn't been working particularly well which makes it difficult to download stuff. Also, the office is a mess with half the closet on the floor, and it's much easier to just go into the living room than to tackle that. Mostly, it's life as usual. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that.