Sunday, January 28, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

"My bags are packed, I'm ready to go...."
Tomorrow morning I head out to Tennessee. Another business trip and not one that I'm looking forward to. 8-10 (or maybe 11 or so) days of round the clock testing. No time off for weekends. I'm sharing the test support with Jeff (my soon to be ex-boss) and then Valerie (another co-worker) after Jeff comes home. So, I'll be working somewhere around 12-14 hour days. I tried hard to get out of this one, mostly because I'm not fond of working more than six days straight. But that just didn't work. Seems it's a bad time for a lot of people to travel and, other than missing the Super Bowl party with the kids and possibly the Heart-to-Heart Valentine's dinner at church, I don't have any conflicts that keep me in town. So, I'm going. My attitude about the trip has improved at least some since it became apparent that I was going to have to go on this trip. But I'm still not looking forward to it. Oh, and the bags being packed thing, not exactly true. I've got my last load of laundry in the washer (mostly because I needed to wash the jeans I'm wearing tomorrow) and I won't put my Bible into my pack until after breakfast....but otherwise, I'm good.

What I've learned recently:
- I've got enough socks, underware and t-shirts to go up to 14 days without doing laundry. Underware is the limiting factor.
- Airport carry-on baggage x-ray machines can't see through Power Bars very well.
- Wearing a hat helps you keep warm as you bed down for the night.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Spinning, spinning, spinning

Wow, my head is spinning. Lots of thoughts, ideas, emotions, memories, visuals and other stuff going through my mind right now. I just got back from Greg Abbott's memorial service (artistic director at DramaTech, my college theater). It was a good service. Very fitting of Greg and of the theater. Lots of people there. Lots of DT alumni from all generations. Lots of faces I recognized. Some old friends I got to reconnect with. Lots of stories and hugs, tears and memories. There was a bit of singing, some poetry read, lots of people shared what Greg meant to them and some funny stories. Greg meant a lot of things to a lot of people. And this was an opportunity to talk about that, to grieve together as a group, to say good-bye, to let his family know how much he meant to us. I'm so glad I was able to be there. There's some things that I've come to understand that you don't miss. Funerals and weddings are high up on the list. In the culture I live in, we don't have a lot of rites of passage or times when people all come together as a community to celebrate things. I've found it to be important to not miss those few opportunities that we do have, even if it requires extraordinary time and monetary outlay. I've always found that the cost is well worth it. And tonight was no exception.

At one point, a guy named Aaron came up to me to say hi. He said that he didn't have a lot to say to me, but I was the person who got him into DramaTech. He didn't say thank you in so many words, but I'm pretty sure that's what he meant. To be honest, I had forgotten about Aaron until I saw him. And I remember him only as one of the kids on one of my set crews. He was a good guy. Hard worker and friendly. I guess at some point, I gave him a chance, or maybe some encouragement or quite possibly both. Somewhere along the line, I made a difference in his life. He didn't say thank you out loud, but I heard it just the same.

Michael, Greg's son spoke. I didn't recognize him at first. He had a hard time speaking, which was completely understandable. One of the things that he said was that he didn't realize what an impact his dad had on so many people. I don't know if Greg knew how much he had impacted so many. I'm pretty sure he had some idea. He was a part of our lives, and we were a part of at least part of his. But I'm not certain anyone knows the extent to which they affect people's lives.

There's so much more to think about and possibly write about, but I'm getting tired. It's been an emotionally expensive afternoon and evening and I think I'm ready to go do some reading and go to bed. Tomorrow will be a long day. Travel days always are.

Some things that I learned:
- Even if the cost is great, it's still important to be at weddings and especially funerals.
- "Chances are important." That is, giving people a chance to do something, even if they may not be ready for it, is an important thing to do.
- That tennis ball you picked up in the park really should leave it in your pocket, cause it might come in handy when you're out to dinner with friends and one of the little kids spies a decorative bowl of glass balls and wants to play.
- I need to say thank you more often and to more people, especially those who have made an impact in my life. I shouldn't wait until they're dead or until there's a major life change on the horizon.
- Egon's still tall.
- It's weird to see some people not only married but with multiple kids. Watching your friends also be parents is sometimes just a little odd.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yeah. I fixed it!

It appears that this chapter of the ongoing saga or Rue and her washer is drawing to a close. The part I needed was at my doorstep when I arrived today (dutifully guarded by Tyson, my cat made out of tractor parts that stands watch over my front door). After my women's board meeting up at church tonight, I came home, dealt with the trash (Friday is trash day in my neighborhood) and proceeded to install the new lid switch assembly. I had a bit of an issue getting the cabinet seated correctly onto the rest of the washer and had to check on the web to ensure that I was installing the clips that keep the cabinet attached to the body of the machine. But after about 45 minutes and not too much frustration, I managed to get everything back together again. I ensured that I had all the hoses connected up correctly and then decided to run a small load of towels through, just to make sure everything is working correctly. So far, so good. The cycle is past the point where it stopped with the faulty lid switch assembly and I haven't had any traces of flooding. So, at this point, I'm going to declare this a win. Whoo-hoo!!

Earlier this evening, Paula, one of the women on the women's board at church, helped me move some chairs from church over to my place so that we'll have enough seats for everyone tomorrow evening (there's a women's fellowship group thing). As we were wheeling the chairs into my place (and they weren't light), she mentioned that Proverbs 31 does talk about a woman being physically strong. I don't think that chapter talks specifically about appliance repair (especially since they didn't, ya know, have appliances in Biblical times, or at least not what we would call appliance). But it does talk about looking after her household and all of that. At least for me, looking after my household means doing things like appliance repair (plus, it was kinda fun. I'm still convinced that all machines with moving parts should be made out of clear plastic, if only so that I can see how they work.).

What have I learned:
- The internet is an invaluable resource. I wouldn't have been able to complete this repair without it. And high speed internet makes a world of difference.
- Eight chairs on the heavy chair dolly is right about the limit of my strength, at least right now.
- Doc (my littler cat) doesn't understand mechanical things. He was very confused when the washer was back in place and started making washery noises again.
- I really am allergic to dust. I cleaned and packed up my model airplane collection at work, in preparation for moving to the other side of the cube on Monday. And have had itchy eyes and a bit of a scratchy throat since then. Fortunately it's going away.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bits and Pieces

So, I ordered the part for my washer. Should be here either tomorrow or Friday. Hopefully tomorrow so that I can get it installed during the day on Friday and have my washer all back in one piece by the time people come over Friday night.

I survived my first Tuesday morning workout and subsequent full day of work. It was a bit of an odd experience. It just seemed strange that I still had the whole day ahead of me after I got done working out. I'm used to beginning to wind the day down after I finish at the gym. I did have the standard "I workouted in the morning so I end up with a bit of a cough and a mild headache" that I have noticed I'm prone to getting after early workouts. Not sure what that's all about. The headache could be mild dehydration, I guess. But I drank a lot of water (and some milk) afterwards. Maybe it wasn't enough. I didn't really miss my quiet time before everyone else gets to work. I think part of that was that I still got in a little after 7, so I had some time before everyone was there. Although my cubemate was only a few minutes after me. I think the other part was that I was more awake than I normally am. The gym was odd though. Just a very different feel to it. Quieter and everyone seemed more serious, especially when I first got there (about 5:30am). But I guess that makes sense. The people who are there that early are there to workout, not socialize. I saw a lot of women who came in without bags, so I'm guessing they were going to go home afterwards. Maybe they're Mom's who leave find that that's the best time for them to work out. Hard to say. In the coming weeks I'll have to try to recognize people and maybe start some conversatins. I did miss biking with Ed (my bike partner on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Talking and joking with him makes the 45 minutes go by so much faster. But I had a story from Escape Pod, a science fiction/fantasy short story podcast to listen to and that helped me get through.

I'm thinking that I might start, one day a week or whenever I feel like it, putting up a quote that makes me think about things and then commenting on it. There's a couple of Joss Whedon quotes that I've been thinking about a lot (mostly from Angel, which is a bit odd, since I still haven't watched that series yet) that have been going around in my head for a while. Maybe I'll start with one of those.

Things that I've learned recently:
- A coconut is neither a fruit nor a nut but rather a seed.
- Cracking pecans is kinda like peeling a hardboiled egg. You have to be careful as the inside is more squishy than the outside and is prone to breaking into pieces. But getting the shell off without marring the inside isn't that hard. It's a fun little challenge (two for three today. I'm getting better.)
- Even though I have no real desire to have a cell phone, I find myself coveting an iPhone. Sometimes I think the 10th commandment should be updated to something about not coveting thy friend's electronics.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Epoxy won't solve all my problems

So, no luck with the epoxy holding the housing for the lid switch assembly on my washing machine together. When I tried to put the screws in tonight, the parts separated and I'm back to the same problem I had before. Ebay to the rescue. Hopefully by Friday, a whole new lid switch assembly will have arrived in my mailbox and I'll be able to put my washer back together. I did check to make sure that I won't have any problems taking the old part off and installing the new one. Not an issue.

One thing I did run into was realizing it was probably a good idea to finish packing my lunch before trying to do anything on the washer tonight. Ya see, I've started eating carrots as an afternoon snack at work. Something to calm my rumbling tummy and keep me going long enough to get to the gym. But carrots alone weren't working. Thirty minutes after eating them I was hungry again (and possibly more hungry than before I ate them). Robin, one of the friendly ladies who works at the gym, said this was probably due to the high glycemic index of carrots. Basically, they're all veggie carbs with not a lot of protein or fat. So, eaten alone, they make your blood sugar spike and then, a bit later you have a bit of a crash. Apparently most people don't notice it (Robin was surprised that I was hungry again so quickly). Robin liked the idea of me eating carrots as a snack (instead of a granola bar, which had been my normal afternoon snack for a while) and suggested that I have something with protein and maybe a bit of fat with the carrots. She suggested cheese, peanut butter or nuts as possible options. I tried carrots and cheese and found that while convenient (I've always got cheese sticks, since they're a staple of my lunch) they combination is not great. Peanut butter is a bit more difficult to do (requiring another container in my already crowded lunch box) and while it's better than cheese, it's still not great. I think peanut butter goes better with celery. But since I don't like celery (not fond of the taste and the stringiness bothers me), that wasn't a great option. So, I bought some walnuts and pecans at Kroger over the weekend. They're still in the shell and were on clearance. But the issue is, I have to shell them. Since I don't own a nut cracker, I use plyers, which normall works quite well. Except when I'm doing home repair and improvement and need my plyers for that task. (Yes, I at least rinse them off before cracking nuts.) So, I had to finish cracking my nuts before attempting the washer fix. I did manage to get one pecan out completely whole (didn't even separate the halves) this time. It's quite challenging. Perhaps it would be easier if I used smaller, more delicate plyers. Needle nose might help. I'll have to dig those out of my toolbox for tomorrow.

In other news, due to my Tuesday evening group meeting at work being moved from 3-4ish to 4-5ish, I'm moving my Tuesday afternoon workout to Tuesday morning. That's going to be interesting. Except when on travel, I always work out in the evenings. That's my transition/decompression from work to life outside of work time. While in the morning, I enjoy at least a solid hour of cubeville being basically empty, so that I can start my day calmly and at my own pace and then, just when I'm starting to get tired and unproductive, it's time to head out to the gym. It will be interesting to see how the new Tuesday schedule works.

Some things that I've learned in the past day or so:
- Guitars have octaves. I guess I never thought about that before. It makes sense really, when you think about it.
- Walnuts are a great sourch of Omega-3 fatty acids which are benficial in lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.
- Eating cupcakes with little plastic "Baby Jesus"s on them is a little weird for people.
- Epiphany is not a common term to many people. Wikipedia provides a good description: Ephipany on Wikipedia
- How to embed a link into this blog.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

I love being an engineer

So yesterday, my washing machine quit. First load went through fine. Second load, got done with the washing part and then it stopped. I fiddled with it some, trying different settings, rebooting (turning it off and on, unplugging, waiting a few seconds, minutes, hours...I figure if it works for computers, maybe it will work for other things too) but no luck. I can't get the washer to drain and continue on with the cycle. I had a couple of different places to be yesterday, so I left it all afternoon. Came back and still no luck in the evening. So I pulled the clothes out and took those up to church to finish washing (living 0.3 miles from church and having a key rocks). When I got home from the Epiphany party (that's another post), I tried opening the top of the washing (prying off the big piece that's on top that the lid is a part of), but no luck. Peering through the little slot with the help of a flashlight showed that the top was held on with screws. But how do you get at them? I wasn't up for any midnight home repair and improvement, especially since I had to help with the mission trip kick off presentation at church during Sunday school hour in the morning, so I went to bed.
Today, after getting home from church I gave it another shot. I bailed out the washer (clothes washers use a lot of water), pulled it away from the wall and started unscrewing things. Turns out, the drain was not clogged (as some people I talked to about my appliance issues had proposed). The water gushing out when I took off the drain pipe told me that (fortunately I had a bucket and some towels that were going to be in the next load nearby). So I gave it another shot at getting into the guts of the washer. But with very few screws on the back, I had no idea how to get inside. A bit more fiddling and I gave up trying to do it on my own and resorted to searching the internet. After a few trips back to the washer to figure out the model number, I had a complete diagram and step-by-step instructions on getting the thing apart. (This internet thing is going to be big one day. I just know it. :) ).
After getting inside, I found the likely culprit. The lid switch assembly was no longer assemblying. This is a little box with a switch that is engaged when the lid is closed. It stops the washer at any point after the washing agitation is complete any time the lid is open. The plastic which holds the screws in place which holds the switch in place had broken. So the lid switch depressor was no longer able to depress the switch, so the washer would not progress pass the wash agitation stage of the cycle (which depressed me). This was kinda what I was thinking was the issue.
After a bit more searching, I found the part name and number and a couple of places that sell the part. Total would be around $35 shipped. While not a lot, I thought maybe I could fix this myself. So I found the epoxy I bought when the gear shift knob kept slipping off the gear shifter post in my truck, mixed a bit up and it's that's drying now (hopefully the smell will keep the cats away from it, since it's propped up in the middle of the kitchen floor). Meanwhile, back on the computer, a Froogle search turned up a variety of Ebay sellers from whom I could obtain the part for around $15 shipped. $15 seems like a good deal. So, if the epoxy doesn't hold, I'll be ebaying later this week with the hope of getting the part and installing it before I need to do laundry again next weekend.

I learned a few things from this experience, so far.
- The internet truly is amazing and has greatly changed many aspects of my life. If I didn't have the internet, I probably would have had to call a repair person, or buy a new washer. I wouldn't have even been able to get into the guts of my washer.
- People don't repair appliances much anymore. Talking with families at church who are likely to repair things rather than just outright replace them, no one knew of a good appliance repair company. A couple of people knew of places that used to be good or that had since gone out of business. But no one had any recommendations.
- I love being an engineer. While I'm still intimidated by electrical things, I have no problem digging around and working with hardware. If I can see what's wrong, I can usually fix it or figure out a work around. Between my engineer Dad, tinkering grandfather and engineering training, I'm almost always willing to take something apart and see if I can fix it. The fact that I have the tools on-hand to help out, is another result of those things.