Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Christmas and such

Mom came out to visit me in my new house for this Christmas (I have the week off between Christmas and New Year's), but it didn't get off to a really great start.

She arrived at about 12:30pm, gave me a call from the airplane, and I was able to pick her up after making her wait outside for only about 10 minutes (5 of which I was trapped in the line for picking up people). We went back to work, where my Lightning was parked, so that I could do a last minute check of work issues, and the two of us would take my Lightning and Focus back to the house. That went off without a hitch.

I decided that since I had saved so much money on the Lightning, that I should treat myself to a new speaker set for my home theater setup (I'm currently using three tiny speakers from my computer speaker setup). I grabbed a couple of DVDs (Gladiator and Titanic) and we went to Taco Bell for a late lunch and then Ultimate Electronics to listen to speakers. I listened to many combinations of speakers and decided on the Infinity Beta 50 speakers. They had a nice mellow sound (a lot of the other speakers were way too "bright" -- to much emphasis on high notes which can make listening harsh and grating), and the sound from the center channel speaker was the least easy to localize (meaning that the sound appears to comes from the area of the TV, rather than the speaker right under/over it).

What all of this meant, however, was that we spent a good hour or so at Ultimate Electronics and when we left it was about 4:30. I figured that since the fancy supermarket, Kowalskis, right next to my townhouse is open 24 hours, that it would still be open at 5pm and we could pick up the Christmas eve and dinner fixings. Wrong! They closed at 4pm. A quick trip to Cub Foods to see if they were open proved fruitless. A longer trip to Rainbow Foods, another 24 hour grocery store was also rewarded with darkness. It was looking like a "A very Hostess Christmas", meaning that we were going to be eating the junk food we could buy at the local gas station for Christmas eve and Christmas day dinner, but then I remembered that the local Target store has a mini grocery store in it.

A quick trip to Target was rewarded by them being open until 6pm. We scooped up some normal food, bread, peanut butter, TGIF Loaded Potato Skins, a Stouffer's Lasagna, Cheerios, Captain Crunch (Peanut butter), some cookies, and of course some Hostess cupcakes. Disaster averted.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


I got the Lightning back this afternoon. Turns out that it only cost me $695 to have the head replaced. I guess Christmas came early for me!

Most of the work was covered under the warranty extension I negotiated with the service writer (and his subsequent call to Ford). The bill didn't break out what my part of the bill was covering, just listing my portion of the bill under "other work". But, hey, I'm not complaining when the bill comes in $1200 less than estimated and $2200 less than originally quoted. I would have liked to have seen the head though, if for nothing else than to see the extent of the damage.

Hopefully the #5-8 head won't ever go bad and pop its top, meaning that this will be the biggest expense of Lightning ownership that I ever experience. I'm not holding my breath, but you never know, I could get lucky.


Wednesday I took Lucy to the vet to get her checked out and spayed. I felt really bad about having to get her spayed since I figure a full hysterectomy has got to hurt, and after only a week, I've grown very attached to her and don't want to see her hurt. Plus, I was a little worried that it might change her personality for the worse. Or worse yet, something terrible might happen.

I took her in at about 8am and had to wait a little while two other people and their dogs were seen first.

Lucy was very calm in the waiting room. I don't think she meowed a single time. She just sat quietly in her carry cage. When we got to the exam room she was still sitting calmly in her cage, but I decided to open the door so I could pet her and comfort her. She was happy about that and began to purr. Though she stuck her head out a few times, she decided that the carry cage was a fine place to be.

She didn't mind sitting on the scale (7lbs 15oz, call it 8lbs) and didn't really even make a fuss when we took her temperature. However, when the thermometer beeped she took exception to that and kinda freaked out a little. Once removed, all she wanted to do was snuggle up with me, and wrapped her tail tightly to her side.

I signed all the paper work, told them that she had been sneezing more than normal, and left for work. They said that they would call if they determined her head cold was too severe to operate.

Turns out it wasn't, but they gave her a shot of antibiotics and a prescription for more (that I got for free from the Humane Society) just to be safe. They also sent me home with 4 tiny pain killer pills that I was suppose to cut in half and give to her as needed. The bill for the complete work up, and spaying was about $350. Ouch! But, much cheaper than the $900 it costs to fix a Rottweiler's blown out knee. This should be the last time I have to spend that much on her for quite some time, so it's not too bad, but still more expensive than I was expecting.

I got her back all drugged up, and a drunk cat is just too funny. At least she's a happy drunk. When she tried to rub up against my leg, she just fell over. When she tried to jump up onto my ottoman, she didn't jump high enough, but was able to put her back legs down on the floor. However, she wasn't able to hold herself up and slowly fell backwards. She turned her head and looked at me as she fell backwards -- as if I could do something -- in slow motion and landed flat on her back. It was hilarious to watch, in perverse sort of way.

She was remarkably social for an injured cat. She sat on my lap all evening long, and when I went to bed she slept on my second pillow all night long (I imagine -- can't be sure). In the morning I didn't want to pet her though, because when she purred it sounded more like a fork caught in a garbage disposal. She's in definite need of antibiotics.

I tried to stuff half of a pain pill in one of her treats, but I broke the treat, and as she was eating it, the pill fell out. I tried again, hoping that I wouldn't have to the shove it down her throat thing, and on the second attempt I was successful in getting the pain pill into her. I left for work, and I imagine she took a nap.

When I got home she was her normal energetic self. That's nice since it means that I don't have to give her another pain pill, but I did have to give her the antibiotics. The antibiotics were in the form of fluid that I have to shoot into her mouth with an eye dropper. I was hoping to get lucky and have her actually like it and drink it down, but no such luck.

I tried the standard hold her down, kinda sit on her, and attempt to shove the dropper in her mouth. That worked about as well as you would expect. To make things even worse, the fluid goes up into the bulb since I couldn't hold it upright the entire time I'm fighting with her, which means by the time I get it in her mouth it won't squirt. Time for plan B.

I get up, and she runs away, but not far. Clearly this little event hasn't really phased her, which is pretty incredible if you ask me. Plan B involved wrapping her in a towel. Once again, not that easy, but not too bad. Once I had her all swaddled up, it was easy to shove the dropper into her mouth and make her drink it down. I let her out of the towel and immediately gave her a couple of her treats. I've got to do this 19 more times, and I'm hoping that after a few more iterations of antibiotics and treats that she'll get the hint and make it easy for me to give her future doses.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Cottage Grove Cops

Yesterday I had a phone introduction to the local police. They called me from inside my house to let me know that my neighbors called to say that my garage door had been open for quite some time.

After the initial shock (I had thought that they were calling to ask me for money or something), I asked if the big screen TV was still there, and then if the cat was still there. Both were, and both were OK. They said that it didn't look like anything was taken, nor did they see any tracks in the snow around the house. Is it wrong that I asked about the cat second?

I wondered how the police got my cell phone number, but then I remembered that the work order for my cable install was sitting on the counter and it had my cell phone number on it.

The door to the house from the garage is always unlocked, which is how they got into the house and how they worried that someone else might have gotten into the house. We were thinking that the garage door "bounced" when it closed, maybe hitting a buildup of ice at the bottom of its travel (we were getting freezing rain that morning). I don't believe that happened, however, because I watched the garage door close, worried about just such an event. I also drove down to my mailbox (about two houses down on the opposite side of the street) to put in a post office survey, and I looked back at the house as I got back in my car.

My guess is that some radio transmission set off the garage door opener. It's not a super expensive garage door opener, so I doubt it's one of those with 4 billion rotating codes. There are numerous reports that military radios can set off garage door openers or prevent car alarm transmitters from functioning. So, that's my guess.

But, to be on the safe side, I'm thinking of getting a new lock for the door into the house that's a combination lock so the door will always be locked, but I won't have to carry a key. I'm also going to reset the code on the keyless garage door opener. If the garage door keeps opening, I guess I'll have to switch to a newer model.

All in all though, I was very impressed with the fact that the cops came out to check out my house (they had been told that I was in the process of moving in, so I guess they thought I was at risk or something), that they called me to let me know they were there, and that they said that they would have a patrol car swing by a little later to make sure that nothing happened after they left. All in all, a very pleasant experience with the local constabulary.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Being Handy

Yesterday was a good day.

After being in the house for a week, I realized why there are no towel racks in the master bathroom. The shower door opens the wrong way. The installer of the shower door made the obvious choice of making the shower door open against the wall, opposite the shower head. This is the recommended direction, and the obvious choice since doors usually open against the wall. However, it means that the closest you can get a towel rack is three feet from the shower. You'd have to have a reach like Charles Barkley to get a towel at that distance, but I don't think he would fit in the tiny coffin of a shower I have.

At first glance, it looks like the shower door is reversible, as most new pivoting shower doors are. However, after getting the door and side plates off, I noticed that the bottom plate isn't reversible. I could have put it back and sealed everything with caulk, but I decided that I really wanted the door opening the other direction, so I would buy a new shower door.

The local Home Depot had one model in the right size in stock, so that's what I got. The install was straight forward, and the band saw really came in handy for cutting the aluminum rails. The only glitch in the whole install was when one of the plastic wall anchors self destructed when I screwed into it. Thankfully, I have a decent collection of plastic wall anchors and was able to swap in a new one and finish the install. It won't be until later today that I can take a shower, as the caulk needs time to cure, but we'll find out if installing the shower door opposite of the recommendation is a problem. (The instructions said that with the size of door I'm using, I can do it, but it's not recommended -- if I had the next size larger door, I couldn't have installed it this way, so time will tell.)

After taking a nap, I decided that I should install the whole house humidifier that I bought earlier in the week. I got it because people complain that it's really dry out here in the winter (when the air drops below 0, like it often does, it just can't hold much moisture), and I was feeling really bad for Lucy. Practically every time I would pet her, I would end up zapping her with static. One morning I was rubbing her under her chin, and was watching a constant blue glow from the static.

I figured that the install would only take a few hours, and it's only going to get colder, so you want the heater out of commission while it's as warm as it's going to be. I ended up mounting the unit on the back of the heater ducting because that's the only place that wasn't obstructed by gas lines, exhaust vents, or AC plumbing. Hopefully when I build a wall to close in the utility area it won't totally obstruct getting to the humidifier, but it will be tight.

In a move that I'm as likely to live down as I am to repeat, I mounted the template for the humidifier sideways and cut out a rather large hole in the ducting that was the wrong orientation. Oops. I put the template on in the correct orientation, cut out the right bits, and realized that the incorrect bits weren't so large that I couldn't cover them with duct tape. Let's hear it for duct tape.

The RotoZip was incredibly handy for cutting out the duct work. It's metal cutting blade made short work of the ducting and left a nice clean cut. I had been using tin-snips as instructed, but after struggling with them I realized that I had the Rotozip. I wish I had remembered that earlier, but it was also a matter of following the directions too literally. I just wish the template had a "this way up" marking on it.

The rest of the install went reasonably smoothly. I had to install a "sail" switch, which works much like it sounds. It has a large plastic sail that you stick in the return duct so that it can tell when the blower fan is moving air. I mounted a tapping spike over the cold water line that punches through the copper pipe to tap into the water supply for the humidifier. Then I had to mount a humidistat in the return air duct to measure the humidity of the air. Wire all of these things together and plug them into a giant wall wart. When the humidity is low, and the blower is on, it opens a solenoid that pumps a large quantity of water over the paper element that I mounted on the back of the heater and connected to the return air duct with a 6" on/off damper valve. I was surprised that so much water drains out of the humidifier, but apparently that's how it's supposed to work. I'm thinking of installing a little fish tank valve in the water supply line to reduce the flow so that I don't waste so much water, but I'm not sure that's a good idea since Honeywell might actually know what they're doing.

I gave it a test run, and water started flowing, air was moving, and in general it looks like it's working. I guess time will tell if the humidity rises. I'm partially worried that the humidifier is mounted in the wrong place since when I cut into the heater duct I noticed that there was another duct inside of the duct. I'm guessing that's for the AC unit. I was worried that the inner duct might be carrying all of the hot air. After I cut the hole, I turned the heater on and noticed that air was blowing out of the hole I made, so I'm hoping it's all good. I'm also worried that not enough air is moving through the humidifier, but when I take the cover off, I definitely feel humid air coming out, so I'm hoping that it's working as intended. I guess time will tell.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Ejecting spark plugs

I did a little searching on the web for similar issues regarding my Lightning's #3 spark plug ejection issue, and I found a very interesting link on a consumer affairs web site, and this thread on a ford trucks web site. It seems that many people have experienced this problem, and many have had the problem with the #3 spark plug. I looks like this is some sort of design or manufacturing defect, but of course Ford is denying that there is any sort of issue.

I don't know how many Triton 5.4l engines Ford has made since 1996, but it is well into the millions; for the past 8 years, Ford has averaged sales of close to a million F-150s every year, and this engine goes into nearly every full sized truck, van, and SUV they make, as well as some Mustangs. A few hundred, heck a few thousand, people complaining about a spark plug flying out of the head could just represent a bad day on the production line (the production requirements for a million units a year are about 2 a minute, every minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year -- and remember, that's just for F-150s). A thousand bad units represents basically one 8 hour shift's production run.

As much as I'd like to yell foul and get a class action lawsuit going, the above numbers are accurate. What these numbers mean is that it could be one guy dialed the wrong value into his milling machine and made a thousand bad units and then went home. The next guy at the machine punched in the right numbers and didn't think twice about the previous units.

This kinda throws cold water on the idea of there being a massive issue that warrants a recall or a class action lawsuit. But having to spend $2k plus to get it fixed isn't instilling me with a lot of happiness either. Do I keep the truck (I really like the truck) and just take it like a man if this happens again? Do I take the heads off and get all the spark plug threads replaced with Time-Serts (and while I'm at it port and polish the heads) for a couple of thousand dollars? Do I buy a Toyota?

On the plus side, it turns out that the extended warranty that I didn't buy wouldn't have covered this because the spark plugs are not a lubricated part. Woo-hoo for me! It's kind of an odd thing to be happy about, but hey, at this point, I'll take it as good news. Certainly the people that bought the $2k+ extended warranty only to find out that it didn't cover this failure are far more upset about this whole thing than I am. I guess I'm a half full kind of guy today.

Truck problems

Yesterday I took my F-150 Lightning in to work because I wanted to get a Christmas tree and a cat climber (hopefully the two would be two separate and distinct items) as well as get the ladder that I left at the townhouse.

I drove to the local pet store in Hudson as I left for home, but they didn't have any cat climbers. I picked up a couple of cat toys, but didn't find the nail clippers that I really needed.

I had been driving for less than five minutes, and wasn't even all the way across the St. Croix bridge when I heard a giant BANG! followed by many more smaller BANGs that slowed as the RPMs fell. I noticed a lack of power, the smell of gas, and slowed the truck and pulled to the side of the road. Unfortunately I missed the exit that is right at the end of the bridge and had to park about 100 yards past it on the side of the road. It was 24 degrees outside according to the truck's thermometer, and the truck hadn't been running long enough for the heater to be working.

I popped the hood and checked for foreign bodies in the fan -- nothing. I checked for leaks under the truck -- nothing. I turned the truck on (thankfully it started again) and tried to identify the source of the noise. I could see something fluttering along with the BANGs around the back passenger side head and thought that I had blown an exhaust gasket. I looked at the radiator overflow and didn't see any bubbles, so I was thinking that I didn't blow a head gasket, which is a good thing.

I decided to drive it to the local Ford dealer, rather than wait to be towed. That meant that I had to drive down the freeway about five miles to the first exit that lets you get on going East (the nearest Ford dealership was behind me, about a mile, in Hudson). I drove slowly, about 55MPH, with my hazards flashing, and hoped that if it was an exhaust leak, that it wasn't going to burn through anything (like it did on my Miata).

As I was getting close to Hudson I wondered why the "check engine" light hadn't come on. It came on a few minutes later, when I tried to drive up the steep hill into Hudson. Along with the light came a sudden and startling lack of power. I begged the truck to make it up the hill as the Ford dealer was just a minute's drive away. When the road leveled out, the "Service Engine Soon" light went out, and power came back to its previous low, but usable, level.

I wasn't taking any chances though and ran the just-turned-red right-turn light. I zoomed around the next corner without slowing, and down the street to the Ford dealer. I pulled into the parking lot and turned off the truck as it began to make I-don't-want-to-run-anymore noises and started shaking.

I was able to get a ride back to work from a coworker's wife, redirected on her way home to meet me at the Ford dealer. From work, I was able to get another coworker to drive me home to Cottage Grove (about 15 miles). I got home safe and sound, though a fair bit later than I wanted to, and without any of my shopping done.

This morning the Ford dealer called to say that the #3 spark plug had decided to leave the head, taking a fair amount of the head with it. The only solution, total replacement of the head to the tune of $2900. Ouch! The truck is about 5 months out of warrenty on the 3/36k plan, though it only has about 34k miles on it.

I asked the Ford dealer to ask Ford if they would help me out with the bill, seeing as how it was so close to still being under warranty. After an hour of waiting, I heard that they would cover $1000 of the bill. That's better than a sharp poke in the eye, which was about all I was getting before. What was going to say, "no"?

They expect that the Lightning will be back and operational some time late next week. Just in time to pick up a Christmas tree. Not too bad all things considered.

If the bill comes to less than $2500 then I'll have saved over the cost of the extended warrenty. All told, I'm still winning that extended warranty bet, but if anything else major breaks, I'll be on the loosing end of the extended warrenty equation. That will be a first for me.

Makes me wonder about getting one for the Focus though. But I'm feeling lucky...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Kitten Picture

A bunch of people have been asking for pictures of my new kitten, as well as what her name is.

Well, I don't really know if the name is going to stick, but I've been calling her "Lucy". It's kinda a play on words because she likes to run around a lot and is constantly skidding on the vinyl flooring. You hear scratch-scratch-scratch-whoosh-boom! Scratch-scratch-scratch-whoosh-boom! Scratch-scratch-scratch-whoosh-boom! as she runs down the halls. So "loosy" is kinda how I think of her. Plus, it amuses me to come in the door and bellow "Lucy, I'm home!" in my best Puerto Rican accent.

As for pictures, well, the good camera is still hiding in a box somewhere, so all I have is my camera phone. Taking a picture of a kitten with a camera phone is no easy feat, so I really only have one good picture of her at the moment. I had to play with her for 10 minutes until she finally got tired and laid down on the floor, whereupon she was still long enough for the camera phone to actually focus on her.

I'll try to get more later.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Last night I went to the local animal shelter looking for kittens. I was thinking of getting a kitten, or two, to keep me company in my way too big house.

There were several cats in the less than one year old range, as well as a couple of dozen older cats. I wasn't specifically looking for a kitten, I would have gotten a older cat if it had been appropriately friendly. None of the older cats were super friendly, though some might have been better under different circumstances. There was a calico female kitten, maybe six months old, that was a recent stray pickup. She was very friendly as well as a bit of a talker. There was also a six month old female tuxedo kitten that had been surrendered a couple of months ago because of a move. She was reasonably friendly and a little bit more mellow than the calico.

I was able to take them, one at a time, out of their cage and to a private room to interact with them. The calico was friendly, though really interested in checking out the room more than me. The tuxedo was rather shy when taken to the room and reasonably content to be held or sit on my lap. After a few minutes of that she decided that she wanted to check out the room.

It wasn't clear if the two of them would get along with each other, and holding the calico up to the tuxedo's cage had the tuxedo taking a swipe at the calico and the calico hissing back. However, that exchange took maybe 10 seconds to happen, so there was hope that the two could become friends.

I decided that I should start with just one kitten though. Part of my thinking was that with two, they keep each other company, but I wanted one to keep me company, and two will be more work than just one. Since I've not owned a pet while on my own, I thought I should keep it simple to begin with. I had to make a snap decision as to which one to choose, and I went with the tuxedo. I picked her because she seemed a little more mellow, and had been there for a couple of months. I guess I was feeling a little bit sorry for her, but not too sorry. I think her personality will fit well with mine.

I bought all the stuff I'd need, hopefully, and headed on home with her. She was completely silent in the car carrier, which while nice, was unexpected. When I got her home, I opened the top of the cardboard carrier and expected her to jump right out, but instead she was laying calming at the bottom. She poked her head up and looked around and I went back to the garage to get the stuff. I made two trips to the garage, and each time I came back, she was still in the carrier, ducking back down each time I came into the room.

I pulled her out of the carrier, and in a not so unexpected move, she made a beeline to the couch and hid there for a few minutes. As I unpacked the various items and set up the litter box and food she would make slow slinky dashes from one piece of furniture to the next. I dropped her in the litter box and she scratched for a few seconds then hopped out. I dropped her in front of the food bowl and she sniffed the water and food.

I then started to go about my business of getting my cable modem working again, and she wanted to be there with me as I played with the cables behind the TV. That's a good sign. Right up until she jumps on the PowerBook, and then it's annoying. While I was on the phone with Comcast going through the on-line registration process, which was the source of why I had no internet, she started to climb the window screen in the living room. I couldn't yell at her while on the phone, and I thought I would cut her a little slack anyway. Towards the end of the phone conversation it got difficult to complete the registration process though because she wanted to sit on the keyboard. I guess that makes her a perfectly normal cat.

When I went upstairs to go to bed, she was hesitant to follow, but eventually worked her way upstairs and realized that there was a whole bunch more to explore (though I had closed off the other three bedrooms and bathroom). I could hear her jumping into and out of the big soaking tub in the master bathroom. She eventually settled down, joined me on the bed and we both got comfortable.

So far, she's the best cat I've ever slept with. She slept by my side, by my hip, most of the night. She didn't try to sleep on my face, or on my back or feet, so I was actually able to get a good night's sleep. I think some time in the middle of the night she decided to sleep under the bed. She came up to snuggle when I woke up in the morning.

We played with her favorite toy, a thin metal wire with some small round cardboard tubes on the end, for a few minutes in the morning, and then I had to leave for work. She seems rather energetic and was running around as I headed downstairs. She might be a little bit skittish, or she might just be playing and running away.

I hope that she'll be happy and won't get into too much trouble today while I'm at work. I also hope she uses the litter box. She came over to investigate why I was combing through the litter box, so she knows where it is, and I'm pretty sure at six months old she knows what to do with it. I guess I'll know when I get home.

I have to schedule her spaying soon, and take her in for an initial check-up too. The responsibilities begin...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Moving Day

This weekend I moved into the new house in Cottage Grove. Everything went swimmingly, though everything didn't actually get moved. A combination of being sick, and being a procrastinator, meant that not everything was packed by the time Saturday morning rolled around. However, the new place is about 5 miles from the old townhouse, and I don't have to be out of the townhouse until Dec 31, so I have time to finish moving the little things over the next few days.

I rented a 15' Penske truck from a local rental True Value Hardware store in Hudson. It seemed like a brand new truck, though it did have almost 18000 miles. Though I imagine that is brand new for a rental truck. I got back to the townhouse by 8:30am and waited for four friends to show up, which they did only a few minutes later. I supplied them with bananas, bagels, and orange juice, and gave them a quick overview of my stuff. We decided to move the bed, and then the TV, then the futon, so that the TV would be maximally protected, and after that, it was pretty much just throw stuff into the truck. We were done packing by 10:30am and everyone got into their cars for a little caravan to the new place.

It seemed like unpacking the truck took absolutely no time, maybe less than 20 minutes. I suppose this is the way it goes since a lot of the stuff just had to go into the new garage, and didn't require packing in the new garage. We unpacked my new washer and dryer and moved them into position and then sat back and had a Coke and smile. We were done so quickly that I had time to drive back to Hudson and return the truck and get back to the house before 1pm, when the cable guy was scheduled to come.

The cable guy, of course, didn't arrive until almost 3pm, and then just thought that he was going to install a cable modem (which I already have, so I have no idea why they would have thought that). I informed him that he needed to install everything. It looks like there used to be an access box on the side of the house, but they removed it when they turned off the cable, replacing it with a cable lock (an interesting little thing that clamps onto the cable preventing you from being able to steal the cable signal). He replaced the box and things started working, cable modem, HDTV, everything. Yea!

So, now I'm mostly moved in, have cable and internet access, and I'm settling into the long process of unpacking and figuring out where things go. All in all, things are looking good, though it's quite obvious that I don't have nearly furniture. And now I have to figure out a style for the house too. Argh.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Blind Date

So, as promised, details about the blind date I had on Saturday... I don't remember a whole lot about the night, not because I was drinking, but because I was running a high fever. I probably should have canceled the date, but that's always a heart breaker for the characters on TV, so I decided that I would just have to suck it up. Plus, I wanted to go.

First off, I've never had a blind date before, so this was an interesting experience, and I approached it like most other new things. I researched it on the internet. No, I didn't research her. I researched general do's and don'ts for blind dates and conversation ideas. Nothing amazing there, pretty basic stuff, like avoid religion, politics, saying stupid things; you know the general "don't be an idiot" kind of instructions.

She had picked the restaurant, Chang O'Hara's, which is an interesting kind of fusion restaurant name, but in reality, they just have bar food. Fine by me, but I guess that's a different menu than the last time she was there.

I got there a little early, after having driven past the place twice because their sign isn't lit and their building number is just normal house number size. Clearly they could have done been better. I ordered a Coke and waited at the bar. Jamie, my "date" (or really, I suppose, "the lady I was meeting") arrived promptly at 6pm. I didn't notice her come in because I was staring in the other direction. I hadn't seen her before, but she fit the description, 5'4", neck length blond hair, glasses. Startled, I stood up, shakily, feet crossed up with the bar stool, had to reach down to grab the stool to keep my balance, and hoped that she didn't notice (and think that I'd been sitting there getting drunk all night).

We moved over to a booth and started chatting. I don't remember very well what we talked about, but for the most part it was nothing interesting. We then transitioned into talking about religion and politics and probably other things that we shouldn't have, but that was OK. Turns out that we both think a lot alike, and that's a pretty cool thing.

After more than two and a half hours of talking, we were both getting tired and decided we should call it a night. That's when it got awkward. I wanted to ask her if she had a good time and wanted to do it again. While I was fairly certain that she had had a good time, when I started to ask the question, she curled into an interesting position, sorta hunched over and made herself small, and she suddenly got very quiet. Usually the women help the guys out at this point and finish the sentence if you start it, but she didn't. She just left me hanging. I stammered like a school boy, and slowly finished the sentence. I was relieved to have her immediately answer in the affirmative. We didn't set a second date right then, instead deciding to e-mail on Monday to make arrangements, which was fine by me.

I was able to find my way back to the freeway without issue, and went directly home to become very ill for the next three days.

I'm glad I didn't call off the date/meeting. She is very nice, very intelligent, and has reasonable opinions about many issues. I will enjoy getting to know her better, and I think that the feeling is mutual. Yea for me.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Getting better

I have to apologize for not having written anything in a while, but I've been under the weather since Friday. I've had a head cold, on and off, but never fully off, for the past month. This Friday it turned into a bad cough and I'm pretty sure a fever, though I don't have a thermometer, and things got progressively worse.

This was a major bummer because a coworker had set me up on a blind date for me for Saturday evening. I was determined not to have to cancel that meeting. I've never been on a blind date before, but I've seen lots on TV and in the movies, and being canceled on at the last minute just isn't cool. More on that later.

Fast forward to Sunday morning and I'm sliding downhill rapidly. Coughing, high fever, body aches, night sweats, chills, stuffed up head and running nose (how is that possible?), the works. Oh yeah, and my favorite, coughing up a phlegm-balls until they make you gag and vomit. That's a new experience that I definitely could have done without.

By Monday morning I was no better, and probably a little bit worse. The coughing had taken its toll on my body, and coupled with the fact I basically didn't eat on Sunday, I was one sad little puppy. By about 4pm I had worked up the energy to drive a hundred yards to the clinic that's directly next to the townhouse complex I live in (how convenient is that?). I saw a scary looking doctor dude (and one very hot nurse) and after poking and prodding and listening to my chest he wrote me a prescription for antibiotics and left the room. In my confused state I wasn't sure what to do next, but since I didn't have a copay, I just wandered out. I double checked with the receptionist on the way out if I was done, and she confirmed I was and pointed me to their in-house pharmacy. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse, I got a five hour bout of diarrhea that left me seriously dehydrated and wishing for Fluffy Bunny brand toilet paper.

I thought I would be better by Tuesday morning, but I was wrong. Not eating, combined with coughing all day and other issues half the night, meant that I basically couldn't move come Tuesday morning. But thankfully, by about 9pm Tuesday night I was merely feeling bad and no longer wondering if my time was up.

Being alone in a strange city while massively sick is no fun.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

More Snow!

Today was the first day, in as long as I can remember, that I got to see snow falling from the sky. It was a great day.

I'm not talking itty-bitty-little-I-think-that-might-be-frozen stuff. I'm talking big, white, frosted-flakes sized snow coming down in a thick blanket covering everything. It was SNOW! It started coming down while I was in a meeting, so I didn't know it was snowing until it had been coming down for at least 20 minutes. By the time I got out of the meeting, there was a nice blanket of thick wet snow on the ground, maybe 1/8" thick.

I immediately went outside, twirled around, threw my head back and stuck out my tongue, and was generally as giddy as a school girl. A coworker came out observe the spectacle and I immediately scooped up some snow, made a snowball, and landed a decent, yet glancing, blow across his back. It was great.

By the time I left for home, the snow had long since stopped falling, but the temperature had dropped into the high 20s. The snow and slush had frozen making it crunchy underfoot and thankfully a little less slippery than it had been at lunch time.

There was a minor fender bender a few blocks from work, but I'm not sure it was weather related as there didn't appear to be much, if any, snow or ice on the roads.

My drive home was uneventful, though my windshield wipers were trapped beneath a layer of snow and ice, rendering them impotent and useless. About 5 minutes with the front defroster on melted the snow enough for them to move, but they were unable to clear the ice from the lower windshield. Now I know.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Yesterday during lunch, I was able to get a couple of coworkers to help me move my motorcycle and truck to the new house. We quickly threw a bunch of stuff into the back of the truck (bandsaw, two air compressors, six wheels and tires, a trashcan full of who knows what, my two remaining jacks, and my appliance dolly) and I suited up for the 10 minute ride to the new house. We did the caravan thing to the new place and parked the motorcycle and truck in their new garage.

I gave them a not-so-quick tour of the new house and we left for a quick lunch but still ended up taking our second two hour lunch of the week. Oops! Luckily for us, however, our boss goes to lunch late, so we were back before he was, and he never mentioned a thing. It's not like we don't get our work done though, so it shouldn't be an issue.

The best part of all of this was when I got home last night, I was able to park the Focus in the townhouse's garage for the first time! This meant that this morning, I didn't have to scrape any ice from the windshield, and the interior of the car wasn't 25 degrees. Yay! It's the little things that make me happy.