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User Journal

Journal Journal: My first meme 3

1. What is your occupation?
Technical Services Manager at Honest John Computer Services.
Basically I'm top tech at a computer repair/services shop.

2. What color are your socks right now?

3. What are you listening to right now?
The exhaust fan above my head in the restroom (aka my office). ;-)
Later in the composition of this meme, I listen to my coworkers, customers, computers and traffic outside the front door.

4. What was the last thing that you ate?
A Vietnamese sandwich.

5. Can you drive a stick shift?
I removed the automatic transmission in my car and installed a stick when I was upgrading the engine. It's way more fun.
I originally installed a 5-speed from a 1995 donor car with unknown miles, but it was obviously mistreated. I just acquired a newer 5-speed from a 2006 car with about 10,000 miles on it and I'll be putting it in soon.

6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Midnight Blue.

7. Last person you spoke to on the phone?
My employer (yes, before I entered my office).

8. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
Well, I read their journal... I like them at least that much.

9. How old are you today?

10. Favorite drinks?
Thai Iced Tea from my favorite Vietnamese restaurants and these brands of Root Beer:
- Thomas Kemper
- Henry Weinhardt's
- Mug

11. What is your favorite sport to watch?
I'm not really much into sports, but if I had to pick something it would be automobile racing (but not NASCAR).

12. Have you ever dyed your hair?
No need, my hair has already changed colors enough on its own.
I was blond until 12, then it turned light brown and now it's dark brown. My facial hair is red, chest hair black. The rest is brown.

13. Pets?
A cat who I'd like to disown, but my wife won't allow it.

14. Favorite food?
I don't have a single favorite, but I enjoy the following (in no particular order):
- Sushi & other Japanese foods
- Vietnamese (not so much Pho, but rather the less common, more complex stuff)
- Greek
- Mexican
- Italian

15. What was the last movie you watched?
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

16. Favorite holiday?

17. What do you do to vent anger?
Play video games (mostly War and Racing games).

18. What were your favorite toys as a kid?
Legos, Transformers.

19. What is your favorite: fall or spring?

20. Hugs or kisses?
Passionate kisses with my wife. Handshakes and hugs for everybody else.

21. Cherry or blueberry?
Hmm... we have blueberry body soap presently in the shower and a blueberry bush in the back yard.

22. Do you want your friends to send this back?
Sure if I'm not already too late to the party...

23. Who is the most likely to respond?
My wife.

24. Who is least likely to respond?
I don't know, but naming someone would probably make them more likely to respond.

25. Living arrangements?
3 story house built in 1900 that my wife and I purchased 2 years ago. It has a detached 2-car garage.

26. When was the last time you cried?
The last time I really sobbed was in 1998 when I watched "Sliding Doors" after I had met my future wife on ICQ, but before she came out to Seattle to live with me and later marry me. I think I cried because I put myself and her into the movie and the roles of the characters (where the woman died).

27. What is on the floor of your closet?
My nice shoes and next to them are some dirty clothes that I wore when working on my car.

28. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you're sending this to?
I really consider people I know on /. more of acquaintances than friends.

29. What did you do last night?
From about 6:30-9pm I replaced my car's front motor mount and spark plugs, then soldered a speaker wire that had been disconnected since I bought the car a few years ago. Then I went to buy some ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery for my wife and I and then I had some of it and went drifting in Live for Speed until 5am. :-)


Journal Journal: You may receive a Gmail Chat invite from me...

I figured it would be nice to have some of my slashdot amigos in my gmail quick list since I look at gmail more often than slashdot.

So, if you have a gmail address listed in your slashdot profile and you see an invite from my gmail address and care to occasionally IM, please accept.

If you do not get an invite from me, either I haven't got to you yet or somehow missed that you have a gmail. You are more than welcome to add me first!


Journal Journal: moving on... 1

I no longer work at Microsoft.

An individual I had met briefly (as he was attempting to steal my client when I was still doing independent tech support) extended an offer of employment to me.

I accepted the offer primarily because the job is closer to my home and because it seems more interesting than what I was doing at MS (which turned out to be different than I was told going into it).

So anyway, my 1 month employment at MS (through Volt) is the 2nd shortest job I've ever had... The first shortest was 3 days at McDonald's; I didn't need a job at that time and didn't want to flip burgers anyway.


Journal Journal: Spammer attempts to thwart effective anti-spam site

I received an email yesterday and another today from a spammer trying to deceive me.

That in itself is not unusual, but what is unusual is that the spammer is trying to make the recipients doubt that a valid protection mechanism is secure and safe.

The only article I found about the issue is titled: "Spammer Desparately Tries to Undermine Blue Security" by David Johnston, Contributing Writer, RealTechNews.


Journal Journal: Recent developments.... 2

I was unable to make my computer support business provide full-time income, so I reluctantly sought a job.

Two separate interviews later, I'm working as an SDET (Software Development Engineer in Test [Automation]) at Microsoft in Redmond, WA.
I'm part of the team that just launched IE only for now, but Firefox support is coming.
It's actually kind of interesting and fun working on a project with other smart people again. And the steady income will make my creditors happy, too. :-/

My car broke again, but it was fixed within 1 week.
The front motor mount was torn and the bracket attaching it to the engine and transmission was snapped in half due to being improperly mounted; it was only attached with 1 of 3 needed bolts.
Also damaged was the 1 mounting point from the transmission case. Now the bracket is attached to the remaining 2 of 3 mounting points on the transmission and definitely feels a lot stiffer. This should suffice until I destroy the engine again or get a motorcycle for my daily 90 mile round-trip commute (argh).

To Degress (and anyone else cuirous):
I'm sorry for not responding to you; I hadn't checked back in on my journal until today and that thread is now locked.

Yes, I did see it coming, but not as soon as it happened... I was hoping to have my car fixed and my business ramping up so I could quit instead of allowing them the satisfaction of firing me. Fortunately (I guess), I was the very last person to be let go and the company was sold 1 week later. They did give me a decent severance package which supported us for about 1.5 months.

A co-worker friend left the company shortly after the sale as he had become sick of their crap.


Journal Journal: Car trouble follow-up 1

I've had my car working again for a couple of months... Just in time for me to use it in my consulting business after being laid off from my employer in January.

I am very thankful to those who had a hand in it, including:
- Rob Wood
- Matthew Laverty and his friend Jason
- Erik Roedinger for the cheap transmission
- Bill Suldovsky (even though I didn't use the engine I bought from him)
- The NWNeon Mailing List subscribers
- Kimberly, my mostly patient wife
- Everybody else that prayed for us and the situation and those who directly helped

The car runs quite well and is crazy fun to drive; it has tons more torque (I love spinning the tires in 2nd gear, couldn't even do that in first gear before).
I'd love to know how fast I'm going (usually too fast) and how far I've gone... Hopefully we'll get that fixed soon.


Journal Journal: Car trouble 2

My car needs a new engine and I owe too much on it to just get a newer car. :(

I have a 1998 Dodge Neon Sport Coupe.
The base Neon engine is a 2.0L SOHC that outputs 132 HP.
The engine in my car is a 2.0L DOHC that outputs 150 HP.
It's a really fun car and it looks pretty nice (IMHO), too.

It's pretty much my fault because I drive it hard.
I like my car, but I dislike the automatic 3-speed transmission, so I drive it like the 5-speed manual that I would prefer.
It only has 117K miles, but then again, it did have two previous owners... Who knows how they treated it?

I also had some transmission issues about a month ago, but that turned out to be the fluid being long overdue for a change.
I changed the fluid and filter out myself and did the seal wrong when putting the pan back on. It probably didn't help that half of the holes had failed helicoils! So, virtually all of the fluid I put in leaked out over night.
I re-did the pan seal and used a tap & die to fix 5 of the 7 holes in my transmission that were stripped. It seems to be mostly OK now... Might be a minor leak, but I've kept an eye on the fluid level and I'm not worried about it.

So, a few weeks ago my engine was making an occasional light tapping sound... I figured it was getting low on oil and the lifters were tapping. I let it go for maybe a week and it got slightly worse, so I bought a case of oil and put a couple quarts in (it was pretty low). It had done this in the past, so I didn't think much of it. I have a leak in the rear of the engine on the drivers side. No oil leaks into the water and vice-versa, so it's not likely to be the head gasket, but was probably the valve cover seal. I figured the noise would subside and everything would be fine.

The car did fine for a couple days, but the sound didn't really go away. Last Wednesday (2005.08.10) while I was about half way to work, the sound suddenly became louder and I felt a dip in compression. I decided that my car would not make it up the mile+ long hill to work which is still to come and that I needed to park it while I'm in the flat lands where it will be easier to tow to my mechanic. I turned at the next light and parked on a side street and called the tow-truck to get my car to the mechanic, and then my wife to get a ride the rest of the way to work. Fortunately she was still home.

I get to work and the car goes to my mechanic.

The mechanic calls me several hours later and informs me that either a cylinder or a rod is coming apart inside and that the engine needs to be replaced. It could be taken apart and fixed, but that would take a lot longer and therefore cost a lot more. They wanted $2,600 to put in a rebuilt engine or $4,300 for a new one. $1,200 if I come up with an engine on my own.

I got on Al Gore's Interweb and looked around for replacement engines. has a good forum with persons buying and selling parts and even entire cars. I observed that used Neon 2.0L engines were going for about $400. But then I came across a post where a guy was selling, among other things, a 2.4L shortblock that he had disassembled and reconditioned to be put into his own Neon that he had already sold to get a truck instead. He only wanted $250 for it!

The 2.4L engine swap is a well known and well documented process.
There's even a HOWTO!

The guy with the shortblock suggested I join the NWNeons Yahoo Group. I did so and posted my plight and several Neon afficionatos in my local area volunteered to help out. One has already come to my house (unfortunately before I had the car back) to talk about the process. I wouldn't be able to do this without their help, so I'm glad they are willing and able.

The 2.4L engine is rated at the same 150 HP my 2.0L is, but it produces far more torque. Install a turbo (which I plan to do) and you'll get a really nice pickup. In fact, this is the same configuration in my wife's 2004 PT Cruiser Turbo GT we got last month (perfect timing) and it really moves! It'll literally put you back in your seat; it even makes my cheeks feel like they are being pulled back by the G-force!!

So, I had my car towed back home (AAA is a good thing)... I wanted it in the garage, which is at the end of the alley behind our house. The tow truck had to pull into the end of the alley and let the car down, then I started it up and backed it into the garage. Yes, the car still runs, but not well. It's also got a prett loud knock at this point. The guy driving the tow truck said he had a shop for many years and that he felt that the engine problem might actually be in the valve area, like perhaps a worn cam lobe or the cam out of alignment/off track or a broken valve spring because the sound was tinny. I took his advice under consideration and a friend from church and I opened up the valve cover and inspected for damage. Everything looked good, so we reconnected the wires to the distributor and spark plugs and started it for less than a minute to inspect the mechanisms. Oil was spitting everywhere, but we were able to rule out that diagnosis and confirm the original...

So, onward with the new engine!
Really I was going to do it anyway, but I had hoped that a valve job would buy me time.

The guy with the shortblock lives in Northern Idaho, but he's currently on vacation in Salem, Oregon, which is a few hours drive from to Tacoma, WA.
We had talked on that Wednesday I found out from my mechanic about the engine and fortunately it was shortly before he planned to leave for his vacation and he offered to bring it with him.

So, we're planning to meet in the middle some time later this week.

I'm pretty excited because this is all new to me and I'll be gaining a lot of good experience. I'm not a great mechanic, but I'm learning and improving. Before I did the work on my transmission, the most I'd done was disc brakes a couple times and a tune-up on my Neon (plug & wire change) once.

p.s. One major bummer is that the Wednesday this havoc took place was my wife's birthday and I didn't even wish her happy birthday until about 6:22 PM by text message! Kind of lame of me, but I'll make it up to her soon. :)

Linux Business

Journal Journal: Linux Fest Northwest 2005 1

This year's Linux Fest was another great event. I'm very glad I went!

I wasn't so sure I wanted to go at first because I perceived the organization of this year's fest to be rather poor, but my wife convinced me that we should go. She is the President of FwayLUG, which is a new LUG still too small to have much impact at LFNW, but she wanted to be there anyway.

Not only did I attend some cool presentations and score some groovy swag, I also had the pleasure of dining with Chris DiBona of Slashdot, VA and most recently Google fame.

It was interesting how this came about...

LFNW was coming to an end and my wife and I decided to take off during the raffle and get some food.

I decided to task some friends from TacLUG if they wanted to join us for some pizza or something, to which they agreed, but they wanted to see if they won the raffle first. So, fine, we went to go wait out in the car.

Then our other friend from TacLUG, Francois, and his wife Tonya, were heading out to their car so they also could get some food.

We invited them to come with us and they said they were more in the mood to go to a nice Greek restaurant by their hotel. I like Greek food a lot, so I decided to go with them and tried to call our other friends, but they didn't answer, so I left a voicemail telling them we were going with Francois and to call if they wanted to join. They later called and declined.

On the way out to the restaurant, Francois stops next to some guy in a red shirt getting into his car and apparently asked if he wanted to join us because he did join us and we convoyed to the restaurant.

When we were entering the restaurant, Chris introduced himself as just "Chris" and I did the same by introduced my self and my wife by our first names.

We went in got settled and looked over the menu while having a bit of small-talk. This is when he mentioned his full name "Chris DiBona" and I knew instantly who he was and that this would be an interesting dinner.

He asked what we do and when we mentioned our fields, he insisted on paying for dinner since we'd be talking shop (and he'd be telling us several times we really should be working for Google).

Chris is a very interesting person and a good conversationalist well versed on many topics. He's had many different experiences and holds strong opinions and convictions. I'd love the chance to work with him.

He's also an ardent Google fan and says it's the best place he's ever worked.

He requested my resume, so maybe I'll be moving back to California.

Classic Games (Games)

Journal Journal: Slashdot Recipe Book 5

This is something I've been wanting to do for a while... Seeing tuxette's latest recipe posted to her Journal prompted me to finally do it.

I'm always wanting to try new things, I like to eat, I have webspace and a recipe site template ready to go, so I just took 10 minutes and set it up.

Please do join and add to the collection.

Oh, and the site's design is kind of fugly, so if any talented designers want to hack at a concept, do so and I'll review it and if I like it, I'll put it up... Just about anything will be better than that hideous orange polka-dot design up there now.
I do have to warn you though, the site template will probably be a PITA to work around. If you're really tallented, I'd love it to be "smarty-ified". Let me know if you want access to the PHP code.

Wireless Networking

Journal Journal: Free WiFi coming to Federal Way, WA

Someone told me (can't recall whom) that the city of Federal Way will be rolling out free WiFi.

I found a PDF confirming the information.

I work in Federal Way, across the street from City Hall, and used to live here with my wife for more than 5 years before we bought a house and moved to Tacoma about 6 months ago. It's a nice city of over 80,000 residents and is getting nicer with many improvement projects under way and planned (such as free WiFi).

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