Countdown - 5 days to unemployment

So, I haven't written a ton about this because it's still kind of settling in, but after this Friday I will be unemployed for the first time since 1994. I haven't had the same job since '94, but I've been at my current place of employment since '98, so it sure feels like it.

When they announced back in January that they would be starting a new round of outsourcing, I was pretty sure my job as on the way out. My current position, after all, is one I landed after dodging two previous rounds of outsourcing, and it basically only exists because a) the department I'm in managed to convince the higher-ups they needed another head count, and b) the managers in the department were desperate to get rid of all the little jobs they had been doing (UAT, trouble ticket delegation, coordinating bug fixes and enhancements) that weren't actual management. So, my position was born!

Unfortunately, as it was the most recent position created, it's also one of the first on the chopping block. Actually, THE first, as far as I can tell - no-one else is apparently getting notice until at least the end of March.

If I stayed until the end of March, though, that would have put me officially past my 9.5-year mark (I spent two years as a contractor), which would have meant a) more vacation, and b) extra severance when they did let me go. Actually, that would have happened if they'd waited a mere five more days to let me go. Not saying they did it on purpose, but... seems awfully coincidental.

Anyway, now that there's only five days left, it's starting to feel real. I've got a resume ready, but as this recent job has been more management than IT, but less management than a manger's position, I'm not sure where that leaves me. What certifications I had (before the company decided to stop paying for them) have since lapsed, and while I've kept my fingers in, I'm not sure how many IT opportunities there are going to be available for me.

On the other hand, I'm graduating with my degree in Radio-TV-Film this fall... I've got an award-winning spec teleplay completed... a feature/made-for-TV-movie screenplay that's up for an award... and another feature-length screenplay in the works. I already plan to take the month of March and make writing my full-time job for that four weeks (severance is through the middle of June, so I'll have time to job-hunt still... I hope. Best-case scenario would involve me getting nibbles on my writing resume before my IT one.

So, yeah. Adventures await, I guess. Wish me luck.
  • Current Mood
    anxious anxious


We have two ferrets now. Interesting story as to how THAT happened will come later.

@agoutirex - I cannot convey how thrilled I was to see the return of Wilhem, Hesper, Tiffany, & co.!

Although I do blame you for the fact that I can no longer listen to NPR without thinking about Wilhelm EVERY SINGLE DAMN TIME someone mentions Mahler.

So there's that.

Baby's got a brand new bag!

Well, I WILL, once it ships. I just dropped $180 on a custom Timbuk2 laptop messenger bag, god help me. But I needed something new, bigger, and more weatherproof than what I've currently got. My plan this year is to use the bike to commute to and from school, rain or shine, until it's absolutely too damn cold to keep it up (which, at this rate, looks like it could be next week).

Spending that much was kind of a shock to me, but I am, for whatever reason, HELL on backpacks - even the $40-$50 ones never seem to last more than a year when I wear them. I did a lot of looking around, and T2 just seemed to have the best overall reviews, longevity, sizes.

Any of you guys ever have any experience with their stuff?

D9 question - SPOLERS!

Okay, I missed something. If you saw the movie and know the answer, please let me know, because it's bugging the crap out of me.

Collapse )

Because as much as I enjoyed the rest of the film, that one part is driving me absolutely batty.

So, my turn to blog about Rock Band

Here's my situation: I bought my Rock Band 2 set used off of Craigslist for $30. It came with the game, one wireless guitar controller, one wired guitar controller, one drum set, one XBox controller headset mike, and one four-port USB hub. I have no idea if I got screwed or not, but it seemed like a good deal at the time.

There are, of course, issues with some of the controllers:
Wireless guitar: The main yellow button has to be hit dead center to register. Makes it difficult to play anything really quickly. Tried to clean it; had no effect.
Wired guitar: The whammy bar didn't work - it just flopped around. I finally took it apart to loo kat it this weekend - spring had broken off. Found the remnants of the spring in the guitar body, did some creative work with needlenose pliers, viola, whammy bar works again.
Drums: Nothing, the drums are perfect.
Microphone: Well, like I said - there is no USB mike, just the headset mike. Luckily, none of us can sing.

So after cleaning the attic this weekend, I ended up with a handful of games to trade in, and I decided what the hell, let's trade in all the Guitar Hero stuff (had III and Aerosmith for the Wii) as well, and go get a nice wireless guitar to replace the wired one, maybe a microphone, and pick up a copy of the original Rock Band while I was at it.

Everything went fine, except I forgot part of the wired 360 guitar controller, so I couldn't trade it in. No matter. I had enough trade money to get RB and a used wired guitar. Cool. Plus, the guy at the store tells me that I can buy a $5 license from Live! and transfer all the RB songs into RB2, and then return the RB game for a refund. Um, okay. Cool.

I get home and do the transfer, and it works like a charm. I get ready to start playing using the new controller...and the buttons are nice and responsive, everything the other controller isn't. power, or whatever it's called in RB. The gizmo that detects when I bring the guitar up and down doesn't work.

No biggie, I figure. I've got to take RB back anyway; when I do, I'll just take this guitar back and swap it for another, and hey, while I'm at it, I'll trade the wired one in, too.

So today I go in, and start this whole process.

Issue #1: They're pissed about me returning Rock Band. Even though it's only two days into their 'seven days no questions asked' return policy. Even though one of their employees told me to do it. No matter, they're still bound to do the return.

Issue #2: They don't have any more RB guitars. They have a ton of wireless GH controllers, but I don't want that - I've gotten used to the feel of the RB ones. So I ask if they have any new ones for the 360, since I see them for the Wii and the PS2 and 3.

Issue #3: Nope, no new ones, and they aren't expecting any new ones in until the Beatles instruments come out. Apparently there have been tech changes that make the Beatles guitars hands-down better than the current generation.

Oh, okay, I say. I'll just wait to trade in my wired controller until the Beatles guitars come out, then, and see who trades in nice wireless ones when they buy their new ones. Which brings us to:

Issue #4: Apparently as of end of business today, GameStop is no longer accepting trades on guitar controllers. No idea why, the employee didn't know either. So I decided to heck with it, and used the credit I had for RB and the broken controller to buy a rechargeable battery set for our wireless 360 controllers.

It really strikes me as odd that they're not trading in guitars anymore, though. I mean, damn - you can still take a Nintendo 64 into these places and get something for it.

So at the moment, looks like I'll be using my sticky wireless and repaired wired controllers for quite some time - there's no way I'm going to lay out $60 for a new replacement.

Pat Rothfuss

It is SO GODDAMNED WEIRD to keeps seeing his name and face pop up in webcomics I've read for years. I KNOW THIS GUY. I've known him since he was just writing little articles in the Pointer. And now he's famous.

HE IS LIVING MY DREAM! Except for the beard. That just looks itchy.

Part threeeee...

The bike has new sprockets, a new chain, new rear brake shoes, and the rear tire is mounted. Cost in parts (not including the tire, which I bought two/three years ago): around $220. Cost in labor: $35 to get the tire mounted on the wheel.

Everything else I did myself. O.o

Up through this weekend, everything was running great. On Saturday I went on a 180-mile ride with my brother-in-law, with no incidents. Yesterday, though, I noticed a kind of ticking noise, when the engine was running. Almost like a tap tap tapping at my chamber...well, my combustion chamber.

Problem is, while I can localize it as far as coming from the left-front of the engine, I can't narrow it down any more than that. Which means I can't really tell WHAT it is - valve, cam chain, whatever. I know the oil level is fine, and the oil is less than 1 month/1000 miles old (changed the filter at the same time, too) so that shouldn't be a problem.

I tried using a broom handle to isolate the noise...but the only broom we have has a hollow aluminum handle, and all I could hear was the regular engine thrum. Which means one of two things...

1. Hollow aluminum tubes don't do dick when trying to localize engine sounds, or...
2. The problem, despite how it sounds, isn't coming from the engine.

I'm hoping it's option 2. See, when I had to replace the chain and all that, I needed to take the exhaust off to get the axle out. Lo and behold, there are GASKETS between the cylinder head and the exhaust pipes.


Well, probably anyone who's ever worked on an engine before. But I had no idea. And, no gaskets. The local place told me they could order them for me, it would take 3-4 days, and would cost me $20 for the set. The guy I've been buying parts from on the internet told me I could order them from him, they would cost less, and he could also have them for me in about the same time span (seriously, this guy is amazing when it comes to shipping stuff...order on Tuesday, for example, and you'll usually have your part in-hand by Thursday). Since I also needed a replacement cotter pin, I ordered them online.

Still, though, this was late on a Friday, and I had everything else (brakes, tire, sprockets, chain) done. The bike had been sitting for a week already, and I was dying to test my work. So, I put the exhaust back on using the old gaskets, figuring I'd replace them the next time I had the exhaust off - sooner, if it turned out I needed to.

The bike ran beautifully. No problems with the new chain, the exhaust sounded better than ever (I don't think the PO had tightened the exhaust pipe bolts down properly), and she rode like a dream.

Flash to yesterday. So, anyway, I'm hoping that one of the old gaskets maybe just wore through or slipped out of place, and replacing them will fix the problem. Additionally, I'm going to tighten my cam chain - sometimes that can rattle, apparently, and it's something you're supposed to do every 8000 miles anyway. Well, I've put 13,000+ on the bike, and haven't done it, so it's about time.

If none of that fixes the problem...then I have to start looking into the engine itself. And I'm not sure I'm quite ready for that.

Bike maintenance, part deux

Well, it's been a little over a month since my last post, and it's funny how much things can change!

When last we joined out intrepid hero (shush, let me live out my little Mary Sue here), I had a motorcycle that needed new air filters to ride, and needed a lot of other little TLC that I wasn't sure I was qualified to perform. I went ahead and did the oil change I was talking about (which I had done several times before, no big deal) and found and ordered some K&N air filters. Then, I stumbled across

Turns out there's a whole freakin' forum devoted to the Yamaha XJ series of bikes (mine's an XJ550RJ, by the way - something that the site helped me translate into a 1982 (the 'J') XJ550 Seca (the 'R') - the sport model)! And these guys are hard-core - they restore bikes, they do chopper conversions, they do cafe conversions, the WORKS. If it CAN be done with an XJ, these guys have done it.

So I spend some time hanging out there while I'm waiting for my filters to show up, and I start to learn all kinds of things about the motorcycle I've ridden for the past four seasons:

1 - the Secas were badass in the early '80s - they were kind of the sportbike of their time, at least from '81-83. Six-speed gearing, a redline at 9500RPM, they were FAST bikes.

2 - The PO (previous owner) made SEVERAL aftermarket changes to my bike that I never realized, simply because I just assumed how I bought the bike was how it had always been.
2A: The bike USED to have an airbox that fed into all four carbs, instead of individual pod filters on each. This is the reason people gave me funny looks when I kept asking for the "pod filters for an XJ550."
2B: There was originally a wicked little bikini fairing that came stock with the bikes. Apparently, though, Yamaha made a point of emphasizing that it was most owners removed it. They are now incredibly difficult to find in any reasonable condition, and are REALLY expensive when you can find them.
2C: Stock exhaust for the 550s was a pair of chrome 2-to-1 pipes, one on either side of the bike, mounting under the passenger footpegs. Mine has a 4-to-1 that ends in a big-belled muffler on the right side. The aftermarket exhaust has created a whole set of issues: the PO took the centerstand off the bike to mount the pipes and collector, and never put it back on, so I have no centerstand; the single muffler angles up right next to the rear axle, so if/when I need to remove the rear tire, I'm going to have to remove the muffler first; finally (so far as I know), the header pipes for this system are just close enough together on the #2 and #3 cylinders that I can't physically remove my oil filter cover. I can unscrew it just fine, but it takes a lot of phylangial gymnastics to actually get the filter changed out, and it's preventing me from putting on a spin-on filter adapter, like the newer bikes have. Upside is, I always thought that problem was because of a crash (i.e. the pipes had gotten pushed together), but turns out, that's just a 'feature' of this particular exhaust.
2D: There used to be a fuse box attached to the airbox. Instead, I've got a bunch of separate inline fuses. That's gonna get changed REAL quick.

So like I said, I learned a lot of nifty stuff about my bike, including the fact that it's really NOT that hard to do a lot of the maintenance stuff yourself. I mean, I've had the Clymer guide for the bike since I bought it, but looking through a manual written for mechanics is a LOT different than having someone who's done the job you want to do say "Nonono, just stick the whoozit in the whatzit and then crank that sucker!"

That said, I've already done the following to the bike since my last post:

1. Put the new K&N filters on. Whereas previously each carb had its own filter, the K&Ns now put one filter on each pair of carbs - 1 & 2 are ganged, and 3 & 4. Net result - instead of four crappy-looking black sponge cylinders hanging off my engine, I now have two very sharp-looking chrome-and-red-fabric filters in their place, and the bike runs a LOT better - although that may have something to do with item #2...

2. Ran a can of Seafoam through the tank, as well as putting some in the oil, and no, I didn't use the entire can at once. In case you don't know (I didn't), Seafoam is this kind of "wonder engine cleaner" that's supposed to do all kinds of good things for everything from lawnmower to big rig engines. You're supposed to put some in the crankcase, some in the gas tank, and then some right into the air intakes...but I just did the first two, as my filters are a little harder to remove than most car air filters. It smoked, it stank (like Fresno in 100-degree heat, wheee petroleum!), but eventually it cleared...and oh my GOD, does the bike just SCREAM now. I can start at a dead stop at the top of an on ramp and be at 80 before I hit highway. Honestly, though, I think that's a combination of both Seafoam and the new filters.

3. Replaced the vacuum line and the fuel line running to the engine; also installed a little in-line fuel filter. I've never had any real problems with rust or gunk coming from the fuel tank (apparently the petcock has its own filter, which I've never looked at), but better safe than sorry, right? Plus, this combined with installing the air filters taught me exactly how my gas tank comes off of the bike and what needs to be disconnected and then reconnected. That puts me one step closer to actually maybe repainting the thing one of these days!

4. I took the entire instrument cluster apart, cleaned the hell out of it, replaced all the bulbs with new ones, and switched to LED bulbs for the speedo and the tach. My speedometer has ALWAYS read 5MPH under my actual speed (which almost resulted in a ticket the first year I had it), and I'm pretty sure it's more accurate now, although I have yet to have someone help me authenticate that. Sure is brighter at night now, though!

And that was all the work I had really PLANNED on doing, at least for the near future. Eventually, I knew I was going to need a new chain and sprockets, I was going to need to get that rear tire mounted, and I was going to need to replace my rear brake shoes - probably all at the same time, since all of those involve taking the rear wheel of the bike, and if I was having someone else do it, it just made sense to combine it all into one visit. The bike also needs to have the front brake fluid changed, a new front brake line, and it might need to have the MC rebuilt. Then there's the issue of the oil seep I talked about, which I'm pretty sure now is from a bad/old valve cover gasket. And someday the valve clearances need to be checked...and the carburetors should really be cleaned and synched...because I bet this bike could really strut, then. But this was all stuff for the far future, maybe even the winter off-season.

Then, while riding on Saturday, my chain snapped...and I find myself having to do at least the first batch of repairs NOW. I've got a chain and sprockets on the way, and I have a new set of rear brake shoes. My PLAN is to remove the rear wheel from the bike myself; replace the sprockets myself; replace the rear shoes myself; take the wheel into the shop and have them put the new tire on it; put the wheel back on the bike myself; and install the new chain myself. Hopefully that'll both save me a buttload of labor costs, AND let me learn how to handle these specific aspects of caring for the bike. For the first time, I think I really might be able to do all this stuff by myself. Wish me luck!

Bike maintenance

Well, it's about that time - time for me to look at the bike, shake my head at the fact that I can't afford anything better yet, and then hunker down and make sure I don't let her kill me via my own neglect.

I already had to replace the headlight this year, which was interesting - the bike uses the old 6014 sealed-beam lamps, and I couldn't find anyone who had one. Luckily one of the shop guys told me that the 6024 is almost exactly the same lamp (it's the car version of the 6014, he said), and sure enough, it fits the housing perfectly, aims correctly, and the regular and hi-beams work fine. So that's one issue taken care of.

I also need to change the oil and the filter; I should have done it before I even started riding this year, but I just haven't had the time. Still, the oil in the indicator window is looking decidedly grimy. Now if only I could figure out where my damn leak was and shut THAT down. It doesn't leak a lot of oil (when I mentioned it to my dad, he laughed and said 'Oil leak? That's called owning a motorcycle, son!'), but there's a definite spot left behind every time I park it, almost like she's marking her territory.

Air filters need to get done today too. When I bought the bike it had those generic foam air filters on it; I guess they work fine, but when I'm riding the bike the sides of my calves are pretty much right up against them, and the foam has worn away from that. I guess I'm looking for something with a little more longevity; something cleanable would be even better.

Other things to do when I have the money:

> I still have a brand-new rear tire for the bike in the trunk of my car. However, since replacing the rear tire involves taking off the chain and everything, I've been told I should also have the following done at the same time, to save labor costs:
> Rear brake shoes need replacing, as (probably) do the springs holding them in. Don't know about the drum itself; depending on the cost, I might just get a reconditioned one, just in case.
> Both sprockets look like they haven't been changed out in years; and if I'm replacing them, I might as well also replace the chain, which is starting to show its age as well.

Part of me really wants to clean the bike up and try and make it look nice, while the rest of me knows that's pretty much hopeless/useless. The previous owner did a really crappy job hand-painting the fenders, tank, sidecovers, and seat trim; in order to correct it, I'd really need to take the whole thing apart, have them all stripped down, and then have them repainted. This, of course, could only be done after I fixed the oil leak in the engine; otherwise the newly-painted front fender would just end up all oily again.

Same with the engine; the leak isn't bad, but it's deposited enough oil on the hot engine that the fins are pretty crusty. If I was actually handy, instead of pseudo-handy, I'd take it apart over the winter and clean it up - again, assuming I could find the leak. Unfortunately I'm a) pretty sure that would quickly result in a totally destroyed engine at my hands, and b) I'm kind of worried that the old crusty oil might be the only thing that's actually allowing the cylinders to hold pressure.

Ah well. I'll do what I can to keep it running; unlike a lot of the folks around Oshkosh/FdL, I actually ride the damn thing as transportation, not eye-candy. So long as I can trust her on the highway, I'm not all that concerned with how she looks.

Still, though. I wouldn't turn away from a new Ducati Monster 696, that's for sure.