Tomorrow is the first day of the last week of my employment at EnterAct. I’m sad to leave so many good folks and a good job, but I’m still excited to be having one last go at school, in a different environment this time, and finishing it off with a degree. I’m also excited thinking about what could happen after school. There’s a good chance I’ll prolly just work at EnterAct again, but it’s so wonderful to see that so many choices will be available to me. Maybe I’ll want to relocate and work somewhere else for a while, just for the experience, or possibly I could pursue some sort of post-graduate education. Not likely!
It will also be interesting to see how I hold out financially. I’m in a decent position, with some savings, but there’s no way I could make it through the semester without some income. Tomorrow I’ll be calling the house in Urbana and making sure it’s still available, and if it is, I’ll be accepting their room. Later in the week I’ll need to tool up my resume, and at the end of the week, when I drive down, moving stuff in and preparing for the semester, I’ll be looking around for a job. I think though, that unless I find something particularly interesting, I would be satisfied to work for the Computer Science department again as a labsitter, where I could take on consulting jobs over the ‘net in my spare hours.
It’s been a hell of a weekend. On Thursday there was a grand party at Bob’s house. Bob works in Tech Support, and he’s a cool guy. Anyway, it was the most stunning display of excess I’ve ever been involved in on New Years. Roundabout midnite we were drinking this great cheapo champaign, and Bob’s ferret was scampering about my shoulder and upper arm. Several of us spent the night, sleeping on the floor, the couch, or any other available surface. I was deep asleep on a futon which Josh shared with me after coaxing me into getting it out and unfolding it.
Awesome party. The next morning I walked home through the cold, hoping the fresh air would help clear my head, and appreciating the snow that had been falling gradually since the night before. The next day I slept heartily, waking up from time to time to watch the blizzard blowing outside. Most anyone who could help it did a fair job of staying indoors yesterday, which was a Saturday. Last night after the worst of it had passed, and after eating dinner, a hearty pasta dinner, Uncle and I went out shoveling snow. I tell you, a foot and a half of snow and a belly full of pasta is not a combination to make you cheerful. But we got the sidewalks cleared.
Today, everybody was out in the streets digging their cars out. It was nice to see so many folks in the neighborhood out in the alleys and streets working together on the same projects. It had me thinking that a good blizzard, and maybe the whole Winter Solstice thing were Mother Nature’s way of giving us a good kick in the pants from time to time to see that we might get out there and take care of each other. Something about piles of snow, even with the shoveling, seemed to bring out the good humor in people.
To be sure, things would have been a lot different if the storm had not had such great timing. Saturday is not a bad day to spend indoors, letting it snow, and Sunday is probably the best day of the week to have to dig out your car. A lady on the bus pointed out to me though too that it was good timing to wait until after New Years, so that there wouldn’t be people driving out there drunk in bad weather. And Mayor Daley looks good because the roads are mostly nice and plowed.
However, Lake Shore Drive was closed most of the weekend – white out conditions. And if it had been during the week that this storm had hit, there would be many people angry that they couldn’t get to work and such. Instead, the city had time to clear things up before tomorrow morning’s rush, which should go pretty darned smooth.
I had managed to crash sasquatch on Saturday, but waited until today to fix it. I was thinking I might try and dig out the Beetle and get it started and drive it down to the NOC, just to prove it could be done, but after eating brunch with mom, it was getting on towards 1400h and I figured to just as soon take the El. That was exciting too.
First of all, there were more people on the CTA than usual – people who just didn’t see it worthwhile to or otherwise couldn’t get their cars going. Folks were doing shopping errands, carrying bags and bags of groceries or other wares. Riding the el down, I noticed the outer tracks were still covered with snow, and got to watch the city drift by in front of me – mile after mile of people taking on monumental shoveling challenges. Some mini-malls weren’t plowed at all, especially in the Asian neighborhoods around Argyle. Maybe those places are closed on Sundays anyway.
And then I had hoped to get off at Harrison, only to learn that it is closed on weekends. Another mile’s walk through cold and slush for me. People were walking on streets a lot because not all the sidewalks are shoveled. When I got into 600 S. Federal I was hootin’ somewhat in victory. The new coat that mom got me worked well, combined with my hat and neck-warmer.
I started home around 1700h, figuring that even on Sunday there might be some sort of rush hour service. Well, I was either right, or the CTA had underestimated the amount of extra ridership it would have, as the ride home was standing room only most of the way.
On the train, I got to notice and admire a very beautiful young lady who looked very clearly to be half Asian and half Caucasian. She was way too young for me, but I still was impressed with how well everything had come together to give her such nice features. In the back of my mind I wished her well in life, coz she looked like the sort of woman you’d put in a princess fairy-tale, at least after she’d aged a few years. She seemed all the more innocent because she was riding with her Aunt or Grandmother or some other relative. Every beautiful innocent-looking princess has to have the older lady to be a confidant and protector. At least that’s how it works out in literature. I had no desire to be a Romeo in this story, I was content to muse on the idea of seeing a girl that struck me as being so lovely.
/* Right dannyman, anyway, keep talking about the blizzard! */
Perhaps it is that a blizzard of relatively Epic proportions inspires the rambling romantic muse?
/* Okay then, uhmm, you’re forgiven, but knock it off heh? */
Ayup. So on the news tonight the report was that this was the biggest blizzard in thirty years, and that 2 January, 1999, was the biggest single day for snowfall for Chicago since they started keeping records. The schools are closed tomorrow and everything sucks at O’Hare, where a quarter of a million holiday travelers had planned to fly through. Flights are running 50% today and passengers may well be stranded or otherwise delayed until Tuesday or Wednesday. There are three EnterAct employees I’ve heard of so far that are stranded on their travel holidays and who wont be at work tomorrow.
My Beetle is still covered in over a foot of snow, and is resting quietly behind a 5′ mound left my a snow plow. After this ice age, I should have the gaskets and washers necessary to do a proper oil change. At the end of the week, I’ll then be driving down to Urbana.
Life is not so much fun in Chicago these days, and a lot of the fun is credited to the CTA, for managing to suffer incredible equipment failure, forcing them to close the Purple line south of Howard, and running the Red line at maybe half capacity.
Yesterday, people came to work hours late after having waited in vain on train platforms for forty minutes or more, with each passing train packed full. And of course when a train is packed full, it runs a lot slower too, as at every stop you have people squeezing in and out in slow motion. They’re desperate for equipment, coz after the blizzard the temperatures dropped, and all the El equipment breaks below zero. Yesterday I rode home on a fully packed train in a dusty train car riding next to a door that wouldn’t open more than two inches even if you pulled the emergency handle and had five guys pushing as hard as they could.
/* To be sure, it’s that the snow does a job of shorting out the motors on the 2600 series cars that are used extensively on the Red and Purple lines, and the doors get fucked because ice and snow freezes in their tracks and has to be removed at the shop. */
It was great to ride free on New Years Eve, but when people can’t get their cars out, the CTA suffers a major disaster. The Blue line got closed down on its final leg into O’Hare Airport, requiring shuttle buses. Strong winds and drifting snow caused the tracks to shift. You can’t blame them for something like that, but given the half week’s advance notice we had regarding the coming blizzard, and how well the rest of the city has been doing, you’d think they could have done something proactive against predictable equipment failures.
Or at least have managed things better. Slowly, oh so slowly, have they addressed the troubles. Today I rode on trains down the Red line that normally run on the Brown line. Yes, shifting their motive power around to meet demand – there’s an idea! Tomorrow they’ll have trains that are packed skip stops – express service! There’s an idea. It’s a little different from shutting down their Purple line express service in a crisis.
Meanwhile … well, you can see the sides of my Volksy, it’s still there. but no way in hell it’s going to be moving anywhere in the next few days. It’s snowing a little bit still and will be all week, as another Canadian cold front moves in. I called the house I decided to live in in Urbana and had told them I’d intended to come down on the weekend. Well, assuming I can dig it it, will the car want to start? Then, if it runs, would I want to drive it? We’ll see. Luckily classes aren’t for two weeks.
Well, today is my birthday, and at the last minute, all my Allen Hall friends managed to pop over to the house for a big ol’ Taco party. I think Scott, one of my roommates, was a bit perturbed by the sudden onslaught of people, but after proving themselves to be a mostly harmless bunch of geeks who then proceeded to watch a movie titled something like Cane Frogs: an Unnatural History, I think he was put far more at ease.
I bought a bunch of food, invited a bunch of people, and the rest kinda took care of itself. I tried to be helpful and unobtrusive to the numerous womenfolk who busied themselves in the kitchen preparing our feast, and made sure the place was clean afterwards, and tried to graciously accept greetings of Happy Birthday, which I still don’t know how to respond to too well. My usual inclination is to wish them a Happy Birthday right back, but you wouldn’t be surprised at the confusion this tends to inspire.
Anyhow, my plan for last week was kinda disrupted by the Beetle’s final decision not to put up with it’s Engine Oil leak problem, which as far as I can tell, had been bringing slush into the oil system. Setting out for Urbana in freezing weather, it decided that it’d sooner just stay at the Amoco station. Uncle John has since ferried me down twice in mom’s minivan, which is a lot of fun to come to Urbana in because of its fuel efficiency and its ability to travel at a pretty high speed safely. Still, I miss the Beetle, which if he has not done so already, Uncle will be taking to a place that Bill the Mover recommended in Evanston called Rolf’s.
My Secret EnterSanta gave me a black-light sensitive, trippy-looking Beetle candle for Christmas. I set it alight at the party and it’s on my desk right now, burning in vigil for my comrade, I like to think.
I’ve also to replace my Palm Pilot, which is still broken from the Spring. It is all the more useful during the semester though, with numerous contacts and a shifting schedule to track.
Today I also did balance the old checkbook. I’m using this rather overgrown Perl script called cbb, and it generates nicely-formatted reports. Here’s what it sums up for me, for last year:
Total Monthly Average Income = 2652.46
Total Monthly Average Expenses = 2231.86
Total Credits = 23872.14
Total Debits = -20086.72
Balance = 3785.42
Not bad eh? Three and a half thousand dollars is about what I have available in savings to make it through the semester, never mind extra income from working. It’s a good thing, I believe.
I just burned by thumb lighting a candle. Damn but it does hurt!
Funny thing happened to me today. I was heading for English 248, looking for room 111 in the English Building. I got to class, and the professor passes out the syllabus. Hrmm … funny … the books sound a little different … hrmmm, you know, I thought I was in English 248, not English 252 … hrmmm.
I sat through roll, and when my name was not called, I returned the syllabus and took off, looking for 111 wearing my glasses.
I passed in the hall a pretty gal named Lon, who I know from the time when I was sitting in the Allen Hall computer lab and Ravee dragged me upstairs to the Allen Hall Main Lounge to make an appearance as the only non-Asian at the Vietnamese Student Association semi-formal dance. Lon was in charge of taking money, and looked stunning in her green dress, and we got to talk some, so of course the face rang a bell.
Well, I found 111, and it had bars on the window and was locked, so I was very confused. Lon caught up with me and we got to chit-chat a little while. Very friendly. Friendly conversation with a pretty gal generally marks the high point of any day for me. I then headed down to the computer lab to double-check my schedule – English 249 is held in 115 – I had written down the wrong number!
The morning was fine too. I was late again to class – this time Geology 118 – Earth and the Environment. I didn’t feel too bad, as given that it was the introductory lecture, I managed to keep about five minutes ahead of the professor anyway – pedestrian stuff like the carrying capacity of the Earth in the face of human population growth, and the ways in which population will be contained, one way or another.
I ran into Morris heading up to DCL. He was working on a bottle of Pina Colada to help him through his days class schedule. I worry about the boy sometimes. I don’t think many bother to worry about him too much as he’s extremely smart anyway, but you know, maybe somebody should.
Work just sucked. I still don’t have a CS account, which got nuked while I was gone, and given the current state of affairs it is apparently non-trivial for Don to create one. I popped an X session off of one of our Sparc workstations anyway though, off of my old workstation back at EnterAct. Running X over a remote T1 connected through the commodity Internet is one of the more frustrating things one can do. I damn well better have a CS account this Friday.
In other good news, my advisor is consulting with the Dean to see if one of my old Linguistics courses can count as one of the English courses I need to graduate. If things work out, I can drop this class I’m taking on Racism, which requires much reading, grab a one hour somewhere, and cruise through the remainder of the semester on 13 credit hours.
Sweet. 15 hours labsittin’ currently. Figure $5x15x4 = $300 per month. I may get some regular work from EnterAct, for more money, as well as other jobs. When all is said and done, it sounds increasingly likely that I could float through the semester without any major financial trouble. Life is good. In fact, I think if I got some money saved when I graduate, I’m treating myself to a righteous vacation. :)
Well, for now … should probably get to sleep.
I fixed the car today. All by myself. But that comes at the end of the story.
This weekend, I caught a ride up to Chicago with Goth Dan and Brijeet, with the object of picking up the car. Well, we came around to this garage in Evanston, and there, waiting quietly in the alley, was my pretty blue Beetle. I exchanged keys and a bill for a check for some five hundred and fifty dollars.
I see I haven’t typed of this previously, so let’s rewind a few weeks, as the blizzard was clearing up and my hopes were for commuting back and forth between Urbana and Chicago a few times before classes started. Well, the first time I tried this, the car stalled out at an Amoco on the north side. Would not start, and I nearly killed the battery with my wishful thinking.
So Uncle picked me up, and we left the keys with the station attendant for the mechanic to take care of. The mechanic found that, as I had believed, there was an oil leak problem. Well, this mechanic is wiser, I think, than my young, naive recklessness, and wrote on his bill that the car should not be driven until the oil leak was fixed.
Well, I was down at school by this part, and it was left to Uncle and his friend Bill the Mover to retrieve the car from the Amoco. Bill the Mover had some insight, and recommended a place in Evanston, called Rolf’s. Well, turns out Rolf’s was not interested, but recommended this other guy, who apparently works quietly out of his house, and whom we’ve never seen, which lends an attractive mystique to the whole affair.
Well, this guy Dave had to pull the engine and the transmission to clean a whole bunch of stuff out that had become fouled by the whole thing. Parts and labor added up to $550, but it was well worth it. When we came to pick it up, I turned the key, and realized I was in a different car.
As with the brakes earlier, and the steering, previously, I had no idea that an old Beetle was supposed to ride so well. Well, it helps when all the cylinders are firing, and I’ve learned a good lesson – if you buy a Bug, find a Bug guy, and have him go over it completely. And Dave is a bug guy, because when we got the bill, it was printed in the corner the words Dave’s Old Bugs.
So, anyway, it sounded different, louder, there’s a lot more power now, so much so that I’m re-learning how to drive it. Well, me and mom and Uncle were so impressed we each took a few turns test driving it around the neighborhood Friday night. This was after I’d astounded them by folding down the back seat, which I figured out how to do after spotting another Beetle with the seat folded down. They both swore they didn’t know it was possible, and it took some experimenting to guess out the mechanics of it. My hunch is that this is a late model / Super feature.
So, Saturday morning, I reconnected the fresh air box, packed the car, and off I headed. Only I lost my ability to idle while still in Chicago. It’s a bitch to stall out when you wanna stop, so when I did have to stop, I was pumping the gas and the brake alternately. I also several times managed to restart the engine by engaging the clutch, which has made me more confident in my ability to drive stick. I was worried that things had gone so bad, but was determined to push on to Urbana. Again, this was a reckless thing to do, but dammit …
Idle aint so important on the highway anyway, except for a traffic jam on 94. That was almost fun to deal with … slowing down as much as possible without stopping, and restarting the engine. Ahhh … hell, it was kind of fun, except for the worry of ending up in a stranded car. See, another problem is that it dont start so well when it’s warmed up.
Anyways, so I got to Champaign, and got off at Market Street, not wanting to stall out at the busier, yet closer, Lincoln Street exit. I was also plotting the best route in terms of avoiding getting stuck in the middle of a busy street. This was wise, because I was stuck on many a side-street, pushing her down a hill a little ways and reassuring every other person who stopped by that I didn’t need help. That’s the nice thing about the country – people like to help out. At one point I was getting kind of frustrated, when a bunch of people popped out of nowhere and cheerfully pushed me down the street ’til the engine started.
Part of it too, I think, is that it is a Beetle, and so people tend to have even more positive reactions. Something about a bunch of older college students giving my VW a push arose in me some ancient sense of nostalgia that this had been done before, but more likely in the seventies or early eighties. I may be funny, but I swear we all might have felt something like that.
Anyway, a phone call (message) to Dave, and two rather helpful emails from a post I made to the air-cooled VW newsgroup later, and this morning I wandered out in the rain, inspected the ignition coil, and noted that the wire to the idle solenoid had slipped off. A little prestidigitation and the car was new again.
So I drove over to Allen Hall, found some kids who wanted to go to Meier, and after letting Dave Hayashida buy me a butter dish and some raisins, we managed to pack four people, six or more cases of soda, and a lot more stuff into the Beetle for the ride home. One of the guys, who I can’t say I know or even remember too well any more, was even good enough to give a little wisdom for my shifting – I’m pretty nasty going into first and second still – I’m used to driving a crappier car.
I’m also thinking of a name for the car. I’ve selected one to review, but I’m going to sit on it for awhile and decide if it really is something I’d want to Christen her with.
You know, I’ve other things I wanted to talk about, I’m sure, but I just couldn’t recall them any more.
. . .