Watch out for little rubber thingies when you change your oil

So we attempted to change Drew’s oil yesterday. I couldn’t get the up-until-now-machine-screwed-in oil plug off, but he could, so that was alright. The oil filter was located in a godawful place behind a bunch of various car innards such that I really needed a few extra joints to reach it properly. Our new wrench is also a pale comparison to the wrench I used to use. Again, Drew managed to get back to it and wrench it off. He also put the new filter on, tightening it as much as he could with his hand. I screwed the oil plug back in, it didn’t go in as smoothly as mine usually does, but seemed to tighten ok.

Drew starts the car, and there’s a “bloop” noise and gushing…then dripping. A bunch of oil slowly oozed out of the car. As it was getting on towards dusk and we had no idea what was going on, we stopped for the night. The internet mentioned a few possibilities, with a few curses thrown in the direction of Jiffy Lube and their ilk. I was able to snake my hand in from the top and grab the oil filter, and it seemed tight enough. Today, I peered under the car and tried to make out where the oil plug was. I couldn’t see it, and, reaching around amongst the oily patches, I thought I felt a hole with oil around it (neglecting to realize that the entire freaking underside of the car had oil on it at this point).

So we headed over to Advance Auto, where, along with dumping the old oil, we pick up some new oil plus an oil plug. In this fabulous overcast 30some degree weather with the parking lot still partially covered in snow (and the remainder now covered in motor oil, unfortunately), we rolled the car back onto the ramps. I get underneath, and the plug’s still there. Looking up, I can also see that the oil definitely came from the filter. However, I can’t seem to tighten it any more with my hand. So Drew gets under the car, and can’t tighten it any further, either. So then we switch tactics, and he removes the oil filter altogether. Oil filter looks fine. Then I decide to stick my hand down where the oil filter used to be, and poke around to look for any funny business. After I’d grown a few new joints in my forearm, I manage to get my hand into where the filter goes…and pull out a twisted little rubber ring, left behind from the last filter. Hooray!

Drew screws the oil filter back in, saying that it screwed in both tighter and easier then the last time. And the car is fine, now. Which is good, as that would have put a serious damper in our upcoming trip otherwise. Now all we have to go is go get a bunch of kitty litter and some newspapers to take care of the mess we left in the parking lot!

Drupal, the holidays, etc

I feel like I’ve cracked a major milestone, or something, regarding Drupal. I finally figured out how to write a basic module, and it works. Still needs a lot of finessing, but it gives me confidence that I can finish this project I’m working on without that pesky guesswork of knowing what I needing to do, but having no clue how to do it and no clue how difficult it is to do it. I’m really hoping that I can clean up my module and make it more user-friendly, so I can publish it with other modules and future people could find it useful.

I think I might go ahead and convert the Salami Day website to Drupal. I was originally using it as my CakePHP learning experience, but since not getting the job that I originally tried to learn CakePHP to impress, I feel like Drupal is just a better direction to go in, for now at least. That was an unfortunate job experience, anyhow. It’s really crappy when you go to an interview, find out that there’s something they really want you to know that they never bothered to tell your recruiter about, or bothered to mention in the telephone interview you’ve already had with them. Then, when you mention you’ve been thinking about learning it and can pick it up in the next week, they give a dismissive comment, as if they don’t believe you. Pretty much my entire design/development career has consisted of “Hey, I need to learn this program to do this thing. Guess I better do it.” I mean, that’s how you learn, right? Mind you, I didn’t have any sort of fabulous grasp on CakePHP, but after a week I’d rebuilt Salami Day and had a decent enough understanding of it’s structure. The job looked pretty nice, too. Oh well. Considering how many applicants they might have had who actually *knew* CakePHP, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t get it. Nonetheless, I wish I could just jump up and down and flap my arms and scream that I’m a hard worker and love deadlines, and have them listen and fall in love with me and give me a bucket of dollars. If only!

In other news, I’m getting sick of ham + salad. We did Christmas with Drew’s aunt Pam, and as she was fortunate enough to get invited to a friend’s timeshare in Hawaii for the remainder of the holiday break, we got to take home all the food that Drew’s cousin Travis wasn’t going to eat. So, we have this gargantuan bag of salad, along with a nice pile of ham. Thus, ham salad! Goes great with Ken’s Steak House honey mustard dressing! Also, mmm, Christmas latkes. They went fast. We also have a metric ton of chocolate. Pacing issues with that, of course. Also, a post Christmas present – me finding a workout machine for free on Craigslist! It’s some sort of step resistance machine, nothing too fancy, but it’s free, and that’s the important part.

We leave for Nashville in two days. Drew’s family reunion and all that stuff. I get my sewing machine back, which shall be glorious. My butt will also get numb and fall off from the driving. Less glorious.

Also! On the 6th, I go in to take an application to become a Census worker. Could be fun! I have been spending waay too much time playing Oasis, which is this fabulous “Civilization meets Minesweeper” type game, which came out a few years back and I’m playing on my computer and is really cheap through the Amazon game downloads section. Andrew has been similarly productive, in that he just finished reading all of Dragonball. Which is a godawful quantity of manga.

Hmm, about time for another infamous ham salad. Hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

On jobs and programs and that holiday thing going on right now

First off, Drew has a job. Yay! He was supposed to be just part-time, but they want him to go full time. He’ll be doing recruiting for an online college. Another phone job, which is admittedly what he was doing before he got his degree, and doesn’t have much to do with political science. Apparently one of the people who interviewed him has a masters in international relations, so it’s not like he’s the only one being hired outside of his degree area. Being that it’s for a college, they had strong preference for people who had degrees anyhow, so it works out.

I’m still poking along, and am dealing with the slowness of people who need websites as a side thing to their real work. I’m gonna try to get a temporary job with the census, most likely as an enumerator. I can go door to door with a clipboard! I’ll need to take a test of some sort which will likely be ridiculously easy, and then see if I’m needed in my area (along with the gazillion other people who probably applied to do this as well). It would be evening and weekends mostly, so if my web work picks up, it would not interfere with potential meetings and such. Waiting to get a call back to take the application test currently.

As of right now, I’m back to learning Flash. I have high hopes for this time around, as I have an actual project I’m working on. Avocado animation ahoy! Making a video to enter to win $2,000. Going slow but steady at the moment, I’ll be sure to post it here when I’m done.

I am nauseous from mint bark. It is ridiculously easy to make, mostly involving smashing oreos and melting heaps of chocolate in the microwave. It is also ridiculously easy to eat too much of it.

Oh, and we’re apparently going to Nashville for New Years. Nice long drive, there. Drew’s got a family reunion dealio going on, and it will give me an opportunity to retrieve my sewing machine and paintbrushes, both of which I managed to leave behind in Richmond and both of which are quite necessary for my general well being. We’re taking Drew’s car, as the back seat folds down and has enough room for whoever’s not driving to nap. First, we’ve gotta get Drew’s oil changed. Looks like we’re getting about 6 inches of snow by tomorrow, so that’ll need to go away (or we’ll need to find a nice clear lot) before we can deal with the oil. I just really hope his oil filter and other bits aren’t in completely ridiculous locations. He’s always changed his oil in a shop, and I really hope they didn’t use a machine to screw and unscrew the plug (Jiffy Lube is particularly bad with that), cause that makes it a real big pain for those of us with weak arms to loosen said plug!

Anyhow, Happy/Merry/Kwazy Christmas/Yule/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus/etc.!!!

Impending Christmas and such

So Christmas shopping is almost over! I got (mostly) everything boxed up and shipped stuff back to Richmond yesterday, we’ll see if parcel post comes through and allows things to get there by Xmas. If not, no biggie, it’s kinda exciting when you’ve got bonus presents to open after the 25th anyhow. Shipping was painful, however. It helps that the majority of the presents I’m doing this year are handmade (or pseudo-handmade, at least). Still need to do stuff for Drew, but that’s complicated as he’s here all the time as the Job Fairy has not blessed him yet.

Oh, Job stuff. I was employed for a day. I neglected to realize how freaking long it takes to drive to Boulder (and North Boulder at that) during rush hour (1.5 hours, to be precise). It didn’t pay enough to make it worth the drive. At this point, I’m keeping my eye out for something part-time, as I’ve got a web job coming up for a research center which should fill out the rest of my time OK for awhile.

Every two-three months, I get really dissatisfied with my personal site and decide to poke at it, which I’m currently doing now. I’d say that maybe someday it will be perfect, but I’d be lying. I’m also not sure if I design websites right. Seems the hip thing to do these days is build it entirely in Photoshop first and then begin hacking away at it in html/css. Thing is, as someone who fears clunky code, giant images, and the giant load time that goes along with it, I’m more inclined to build where all the content’s gonna sit, and then figure out how to make it look good from there. In other news, I really need to join one of these local designer/developer groups, as I lack friends to talk to who design/develop.

And on a final note, I have eaten a metric ton of sugar cookies in the past few days. This is both delicious and bloating.

Delicious items, my social life, and other ramblings

First off, I’m mostly all about taking a ride on disco sticks. Also, the huge squids! I feel that baboons and raccoon must be the most fantabulous things around, as they feel much the same way I do about hedgehogs. Once in a while, when the sausage gods have smiled upon me, I will partake of copious amounts of octopi.

Andrew just hijacked this post, but I’m leaving it there for posterity.

Anyhow, I made sushi the other night. It was awesome. If you are interested in such things, go read about it and see pictures here! I also made mesir wat, which is essentially a giant vat of lentils. It’s really good and really cheap and lasts forever (and makes you regular to boot!) No pictures up for that, yet.

So I’m back to square one for social time. We’ve been moved in here a total of two months now. The first bit of that was occupied with the basics of unpacking and locating furniture. Then came the need of “need to be social!”, so I signed up for approximately one gazillion Meetup groups. Went to two different hiking meetups, and while the hiking was fun and the people were nice, the groups seemed a.) mostly of people a bit older then us, b.) mostly of people who were far more interested in expensive equipment and less so in “I just wanna walk up this mountain for awhile”, and c.) caused my car to get rear-ended. In an ideal world, none of these should be an issue. But, in any case, I think we might need to seek out people with more parallel interests then just the shared one of enjoying wandering up large hills. Especially since winter encroaches, meaning my car is much more likely to go sliding off a hill into a ditch whereupon I freeze to death.

November was convenient for social time, because of Nanowrimo. There were writeins everywhere, and did one every Thurs. at the library near us as well as every Sat, at random locations around Denver. Number of common interests was definitely much higher then the hiking meetups, but now Nano is over, along with the writeins. Mind you, I could still certainly use them, as the book I’m working on is far from done. Anyhow, I suppose it’s back to Meetups. Debating going to a Drupal users group. Or maybe a Harry Potter fan meetup, could be exciting. Gainful employment would also help things along as well, but then again my OWP experience, where there were lots of neat people, is not exactly representative of all of my employment experiences. In any case, I suspect this is a common experience for anyone that moves to a new location, and I’m confidant that time + getting settled in with help expand social opportunities.

As for job stuff? Still in the air. Have spent last week rooting around in Drupal. I need to learn how to make patches, as Ubercart is littered with inline CSS, which is simply not appropriate for anyone that wishes to design the checkout process without hacking up code they really shouldn’t have to hack up. I’d heard that Drupal was better for developers then for designers, this might be why. Of course, first I need to learn how to use CVS, in order to check out files to make changes to be able to make a patch. Which is good, in that I shall learn things and can put things on a resume, but still, it can be a bit aggravating when I have a simple little change in mind and I have to plow through 23489389423 processes to make that change happen. However, it would be super cool to be a Drupal contributor, so plow I must.

Oh yeah, Job stuff. Meeting tomorrow with a cousin (the relation is more complicated, but cousin works for now) to build a few University health websites. We’ll see how that goes. I may or may not be hired by someone in North Boulder, but the communication hasn’t been steady so we’ll see. That would involve some commuting and some working from home. Pay is a bit less then I could hope for, but definitely more then I was afraid I’d have to settle for. Anyhow, I’ll just see how things go. The router site is coming along, still some bugs but it all seems manageable enough at this point.

Oh yeah, $3.50 theatre nearby. Gonna go see Zombieland (finally) sometime this week. Yay!

Reason #83727423 Why Society Depresses Me

Here’s an article about a 13 year old girl who committed suicide after having texted a picture of her breasts to some kid, then having it spread all over her school and getting harassed.

And here’s some interesting perspective on it.

This is depressing on numerous levels to me. First, I have to wonder if a similar case of a boy taking a picture of his nuts and forwarding it to someone, and subsequently having it forwarded all over the school, would have been treated nearly as harshly. There’s this strange idea that male nudity is funny and female nudity never is.

Secondly, children learn things by modeling after adults. A huge source of adults to model behavior after is within the media. And, in the media, if you have naked images of yourself forwarded to 892379823 people, you might get your own TV show.

Incidentally, I have a fabulous idea for completely revamping the public education system. I think it’s kinda detrimental for kids to spend a majority of their time around kids of the same age. A variety of ages would provide more opportunities for modeling, as well as help with behavior. Considering that you can take all sorts of college level classes in high school, as well as high school level classes in college, I would love to see a more age-integrated educational system where high school and community college were housed in the same building. Students who were able to advance could do so more easily, and students who needed more help could stay behind, without the pressure of having to stay with your grade. Both adults and students would be in the same classes, which would (in theory, at least) cut down on misbehavior problems. If you’re a rowdy kid taking Math, and your friend’s dad decided to go back for his degree and is sitting two seats away from you, it might make you less likely to act up.

It might also be good modeling for students, seeing adults that are interested in learning and doing work. I realize I grew up with the privilege of seeing my parents read all the time, and seeing my Dad do homework to get his Masters, so I internalized that this was normal and had no problem doing my own homework. I bet a lot of kids don’t get exposed to that. So, by being in a classroom with adults and seeing adults learning the same sorts of things they are and wanting to do it, these kids might have less of a “this crap is being forced down our throats because we’re young” sort of attitude.

Not sure how this would apply to middle-schoolers (which, from my experience at least, is where kids of the same age can be cruelest to each other). Possibly by having adults moving down the hall to their classes while kids went to their own classes would cut down on poor behavior happening in the hallway, if nothing else.

The day would probably need to be structured a bit differently, though. Mostly, those 3-minute breaks in middle school aren’t gonna cut it. There’s probably other problems I haven’t thought of as well.

Laptop Quandries

So, for various reasons, I am currently debating getting a laptop, primarily for web development purposes. I’ve got a vague idea of what I need: a decent screen size (at least 15 inches, I’m thinking), don’t care if it’s light or heavy, decent amount of RAM (at least 3 gigs, I’m thinking), enough processor speed to handle Photoshop plus gobs of browser tabs plus gobs of Vim windows. Beyond this, though I find myself overwhelmed by choice.

Plus, add to this my quandries on that whole Windows 7 thing. I know it supposed to be significantly better then Vista, but when doing some brief research into laptops, they all came with 64-bit Windows 7. Now, I don’t know a significant amount about 64-bit, but according to my brief research, it will not run some older programs. I haven’t found anything saying *how* old of programs it won’t run. Like, will I be able to run Civ 3 still? Or, what about MS Gif Animator and Hex Code Helper (two rather antiquated programs which haven’t been updated since probably the late 90’s, but are quite good at what they do, so I still use them). Anyhow, I’m hesitant to jump on the 64-bit bandwagon right now.

I could make the jump and get something with Linux (Ubuntu, perchance). It’s going good on my netbook, and I feel like if I’m going to be in any way a decent programmer, working in a Linux environment would simplify my life. Just too used to Windows at this point. I could figure out some sort of virtualization program to use (VMWare?) and install XP? Or, for that matter, I could figure out how to dual boot and have both Linux and XP? Or, maybe I can get a laptop with Windows 7, and install Linux to dual boot with it. It’s also really hard to even find laptops sold with Linux on them (well, that’s not a netbook, at least).

So anyhow, this is what my brain has been mashing around lately.

Quest for the Fountain of Life is now available in paperback!

So, about a year ago, I did Nanowrimo (aka National Novel Writing Month). I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure style book, primarily as a means to test out the Storypath system I’d recently built on Writaur.com. Anyhow, I liked what I wrote, and have spent chunks of the last year editing it and finessing it and all that good stuff. Well, it’s finally done, and is available for the low low price of $10 at multiple fine internet establishments, namely Createspace and Amazon.

Quest for the Fountain of Life can also be read online for free! This way, people can preview the book first, and hopefully share the link with their friends.

I’m still trying to figure out how to market this thing, so I appreciate any suggestions on that, as well as any feedback on the book itself. Thanks!

Lubricants and pliers and meats and other fun things

So my car needed an oil change. We picked up the oil and filter, and, as the wrench I’ve been using was Carolyn’s, I looked for a new wrench. All they seemed to have at Advance Auto were these weird belt wrenches, which I’d never used before. As Drew needed help figuring out stuff for his car, there was some guy helping us (who couldn’t have been a day over 20). I asked him about the wrenches, and he said he didn’t recommend the belt wrenches, and that you can remove your oil filter easily by whacking a screwdriver into it and twisting it off that way. I was wary of this method, as it sounded both messy and potentially difficult to achieve given the angle I had to position myself into in order to reach my oil filter, but I thought I’d give it a whirl as he seemed to adamant that this was the way to go.

Well, it was both messy and awkward. I’d hoped I could just twist the filter off with my hands, as I had a Fram filter on and they have a really good gripping surface. No go. Tried it with one of those kitchen rubber lid twisty things, still no go. Tried whacking a screwdriver into the filter using a hammer. Got it in, and found it impossible to turn, so I had to whack said screwdriver in further. By this point, residual oil is dripping down the screwdriver, onto my hand, down my arm, and onto the hammer. I kept having to rest my arms, as there were all of these car parts in the way and I needed to hold both arms at angles not comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Got the screwdriver in enough, and twisted. It turned, just a little bit, until the lever that the screwdriver made ran into other car parts. Still couldn’t get the filter off with my hands, even with the loosening. So, made another hole. Everything is doused with oil at this point. Hole took entirely too long to make, as I was sore and pooped. It worked, eventually, and I got the filter off. Had to throw my poor blue hoodie away, though, it was unsalvageable.

Didn’t do Drew’s car yet, no way in Hell are we undertaking that method for his car. Don’t even know where the parts are gonna be on his, as he’s never changed his own oil before. So we went to Lowes and Home Depot, neither of them carried oil filter pliers, the bastards! I’ve located a pair, though, at Checkers Auto, so I’ll have to stop by there tomorrow or whenever next is convenient. Incidentally, there is an infinite amount of schlock carried at Lowes and Home Despot now, what with their tupperware bins and home accents and stuff. It’s like everyone wants to compete with Walmart. Soon you’ll be able to buy underwear and bananas at Lowes/Home Depot, too.

In other news, I just got a lb. of ceviche from the grocery store for a little over a buck a pound. It’s got a kick to it, too.

Put Xmas lights up, along with our wee little purple tree. Once Xmas is over this year, I look forward to scarfing up reject lights and decorations off of Craigslist so next year will be fabulous.

Ads and Jobs and Books and Such

So I’m distracted on the internet, reading some news article on the ABC website, when I notice an ad for some ponzu lime sauce in a side banner. Now, I got to go to the Pacific Mercantile Market in downtown Denver yesterday (which has the best selection of Japanese products I’ve ever seen, incidentally). And, in order to get there, I had to research where the place was online. And, while there, I saw ponzu sauce and contemplated if it might be good. So now part of my brain is wondering if cookies have logged my interest in Asian groceries, and the paranoid part is wondering if too much time on said internet has lodged cookies in my brain that captured the fact that I was contemplating ponzu sauce the other day. Incidentally, the sauce does look pretty good.

It’s also an ad I don’t mind. Like, in an ideal world, more ads would be like this. They would say ‘hey, this product is pretty good and you might like it’, rather than preying on fears and paranoias. While I’m glad that a lot of the “hey, look at this closeup of stomachs” ads have disappeared, I am rather weirded out by their being replaced with “Hey, look at all these closeups of teeth” ads. And those really weird “Obama wants moms to go to schools ads” (though, at least they’re not repulsive like the teeth ads, for whatever it’s worth). So, I could clear out my cookie cache and be whacked with all these lowest common denominator ads. Or I could leave it in the hopes of more ads for Kikkoman sauces and other things I might actually have an interest in trying. Though, then I’d have to worry about that whole “people who like food probably also like weight loss, lets use this ad to make them feel fat!” Or, you know, I could just use Firefox, and block all the ads. Unfortunately, Chrome is far far faster then Firefox on my computer, the speed is addictive. I still use Firefox as Firebug is indispensable for design, but at some point I became a Chrome convert. In any case, this is also a reason that, on my websites, I only use text ads. I fear the teeth and the bellies and those weird 3d dancing women that Obama desperately wants to get degrees.

In other news, I had an interview two days ago. Spontaneously, I might add. I called, and got to come in the next day. It ranks up there as one of the more bizarre interviews I’ve ever had. I barely talked to the company’s owner, and in fact spent most of the time being interviewed by a guy who’d only worked there one day – who had replied to the same job posting on Craigslist that I had replied to. Definitely a start-up feel to the place, and I’m thinking the owner only recently decided to bring in some in-house web people. It’s in Boulder, so a bit of a drive, and the pay is less then I’d hope for but more then I’d fear. However, one of the advantages of a more chaotic startup environment would be that I’d have more control over my projects and could more directly influence the direction of a company. However, all of this is pretty moot as I have not heard back from them. C’est la guerre.

Now, I’ve got this book where, to get it published, all I need to go is hop over to Createspace and hit a series of buttons. But I’m not letting myself do that until I’ve fixed the storypath system I originally built it on. Everything lives in one database table in disgusting piles of arrays. It’s getting cleaner, though, I’ve got three tables full of neat, clean data, plus three classes where before there were none. I wish I’d been able to wrap my brain about object oriented PHP sooner, really. But there’s a lot of bugs, which I’m slowly hashing out. Stupid bugs. Rewriting gobblydegook is about as bad as scratching the whole thing and starting over, unfortunately. Yup.

And, on a final note, I didn’t touch Nanowrimo yesterday, and haven’t touched it today yet. Mind you, this post already contains over 700 words, so some of it is me being a slacker on the things I should be focusing on. However, there is a write-in at the library tonight, so hopefully that will help. Unfortunately, teeny netbooks are not really designed for speedy typing, but it works.