Monthly Archives: September 2003

One Step Up, 200 Steps Back

I got my car back tuesday. My brakes work. I’m poor now.

Backstory:
Over the weekend, my brake line popped rendering my car useless, got it towed to the brake shop, and had repairs started on saturday. They had originally quoted my repair at $106, which I was ok with. Now, fast forward to tuesday morning. I walked to work and, after clocking in, I called the brake shop.

“Hi, I’m calling for an update on my car.”
“Oh, did you get our message yesterday?”
“Sorry, I don’t check my voicemail often. It’s done then?”
“Yes. Pick it up when you want.”
“Great, I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

So, I scratch off my clock in, grab my backpack, and head out the door. No sooner did I turn the corner to walk 40 yards to the bus stop, my bus just sails right past. Fuck. So I cinch up my backpack and start sprinting down the block to the next stop, and I mean running faster than I’ve run since high school. My reserve energy drained off by mid-block, and I had to speed-walk the rest of the way. Damn. Getting too old for this shit. Luckily for me the bus was stopped at the red light. I reached the door, tapped on it, and got on.

So, after getting off at the right stop, I walk to the shop and, still out of breath, walk into the office. They present the bill: one-hundred and ninety-eight dollars! Much more than the original quote. “Well, we apparently gave you the book quote, and when the hoses came in they were more, and we had to flush and bleed the system,” etc., etc. I was sunk. So I pony up the debit card and hope for the best. Luckily it went through. I took my receipt, asked for the spare key back, and walk out the door muttering as dryly and as sternly as possible, “well, let’s go see these $200 hoses.” Mostly satisfied with the repair, I leave with my car, remove my sweaty shirt, and drive gingerly back to work.

So far, there’s been no problems with my brakes, but I’m not taking chances. The action is a bit different than it was before friday, so I’m getting accustomed to it. Almost a little more spongy on the top side of the pedal action, but when I clamp down it grabs good.

I had to cancel a layaway I had at a music shop and get my money back to help maintain a comfort zone in my bank account. The chargeback hasn’t posted to my account yet, but I have faith that it will post some time within the next month or so. Feh. Faith.

Well, roomate’s gone for the week. He has a family wedding to attend in Wisconsin, where he’s from, so he’s taking 10 days off of work, and about 3 days on the bus, to see his family and friends. The house is oddly quiet and still. Almost sane — everything is exactly as I leave it. I miss the bugger already.

Neverminding the monster migraine I had yesterday (and the spots in my vision in the hour leading up to it), I’ve been doing ok healthwise. Chest gets wonky on occasion, but other than that (and the maniacal sprint I did tuesday), I’m feeling fine. Usually hungry but feeling fine.

I’m getting a lot of programming done. Apparently I’m in a zone where I can get stuff hammered out fast enough to keep it all straight in my head. For me, that’s the key to programming. The section I’m working on is a group of classes and modules that allow me to, in an object-oriented way, access rows and tables in the database. There’s one parent class, and all the child classes inherit major chunks of generic code from the parent, thereby reducing (by a lot) the amount of work I have to do and code I have to write. When I create a new table in the database, I just duplicate a child class and slightly modify it to fit the table and voila I have a new object to handle data from that table.

Larry Wall, the original author of the programming language Perl (my language of choice), had this to say about programming: “There are three principle virtues of a good programmer, and those virtues are ‘laziness’,’impatience’, and ‘hubris’.” What he means is this:

  • laziness – doing more with the least amount of code or work
  • impatience – never wanting to wait on code to execute or do its job; never settling for slow programs
  • hubris – don’t just document everything, but document well. Make sure your code is straightforward enough to document itself, and illuminate what it does and, in special cases, why.

In programming, and in some parts of my life, I try my best to hold true to these principles. Doing more with less. Sounds like an excellent idea.

Ok, bedtime. G’nite y’all.

Car Puts Brakes on Weekend

It seems to me that I can’t catapult forward into a higher state of well-being. The moment I garner faith, confidence, and the heady determination to make things happen, :slap: something knocks me back.

Friday evening started out well. I just got paid, went home to unwind, shower, and head out for some kind of excitement to kick off the weekend. Since the new A Perfect Circle album is out, I made for Waterloo Records to pick it up. After browsing, I found the album, and also found that David Bowie has released a new album. So, pumped up and with two new purchases, I head back to my car. As I step on the brakes to shift into reverse and pull out of the parking slot, my brake pedal bottoms out and reaches the floor. Unusual. So I pump again — hits the floor. Again, hits the floor, and hits the floor, and hits the floor.

The first thought in my head was, “fuuuuuck.”

I grab a rag, get my flashlight from the trunk, and I kneal down to see under my car. Underneath my left-front wheel there was a fresh puddle of brake fluid. The first word out of my mouth, “Fuck!”

I got back in, started my car again, tried some more pumping, and still it was bottoming out. The puddle had grown in size. I turned the wheel a hard left and looked behind the tire. There was brake fluid squirted in the wheel well. I found the brake line and followed it down to where I found a brand-new hole in the line. It was toast.

When I realized that I would not be able to leave, I started freaking out. I ran back inside to use the phone, and attempted a few rapid attempts to reach my roomate at home, not knowing if he was still here or not, and not knowing if he’d answer or not. After 5 attempts, I finally reached him. Told him where I was and what happened. Asked him if he could come down and help me, and he agreed.

During the half-hour that I waited on him to arrive, I returned the CD’s and got a chargeback, just in the off-chance that the brake repair would take an astronomical cost. I went back outside and sat on my trunk to wait. In that time, I considered several scenarios for getting my car out of the parking lot, or leaving it there, or having it towed, or asking for police escort or whatever. The traffic at 6th Street and Lamar Blvd was absolute hell, and the topography of the parking lot and the neighborhood required that I’d have to either go up and down a steep hill to leave or take the equal hazard of crossing lanes of traffic to loop a block. None of the options was favorable — they either involved much hazard (and possible misdemeanors for driving a not-safe-to-drive vehicle) or much monetary loss (like getting towed). I was at a short-circuit about what to do.

When my roomate arrived, we discussed some plans and found that getting towed was the best option; his cell phone plan has road-side assistance, so he called to arrange for a wrecker. After an hour, the wrecker arrived; he loaded my car up on the platform and followed us to the brake shop. Luckily the shop was less than 3 miles away, so there was no charge. I tipped the guy, wrote a note to the brake shop and slid it under the door, and after taking my bag and laptop and other valuables from the car and locking it up tight, I kicked the tire, got into my roomate’s truck, and we headed out. He dropped me off at Mojo’s where I spent the evening in a muddy funk. Got home around 5am thanks to a friend of mine.

I woke up today just before noon, put myself together, looked up the bus schedule, and headed out towards the brake shop. After waiting for 30 minutes, the bus finally shows up and within 10 minutes I was 15 blocks away. Really, folks, I should’ve just walked. Would’ve gotten there sooner.

I walk into the shop, the manager greets me and finds that I’m the one who left the car overnight — he said they had been trying to contact me all day. He promptly got my paperwork started and moved my car into the garage bay. Looked to me like the whole team had been waiting on my car even though there were others already on risers and in the parking lot. In no time my car was raised, my tires removed, and my back drum brakes opened up. They got inside the front wheel wells and found the hole in the line. After some deliberation among themselves they agree that, at the least, I need a new pair of hoses; they suggested, after looking at the cylinder pistons on my back brakes, that I let them repack the pistons, but I decided to hold off on it.

So, the estimate? $106us plus tax. Fuck. All that for a blown line. Happenstance. Ruined my plans. How badly? How’s this: they don’t have the pair of lines. NOBODY in town has those lines. No single parts shop in this great city of Austin, the capital of fucking TEXAS, has those lines. Not a one. They told me there’s a place in San Antonio that has one line, and some place out of state has a line. I was incredulous, but too defeated to get angry. They’ll have to order the parts, so I’ll be without a car for, at the least, monday afternoon. Tuesday at the latest.

So. I was going to possibly maybe go see a movie. Fuck it. I was possibly going to take a drive. Fuck it. I was possibly going to hang out at Mojo’s for a good long evening to do some programming and whatnot. Fuck it. Can’t do anything without walking with heavy bags, waiting on the bus, and relying on rides and the kindness of others to shuttle me from point A to point B.

And the real shitter is this: it’s raining. Pitter-patter long-term raining. Grey cloudy gloomy breezy chilly raining. After a summer’s worth of praying for rain, it finally comes when I have to walk in it, when I have no other choice, when I’m a pedestrian. :sighs: A previously-pampered pedestrian. This problem’s effects go deep with me: when my car has a problem, I get ill; a known fact, I get ill. My car is, admittedly, an extension of me. It’s only a tool, yes, but it’s one of my most important tools. It allows me to be a dependable person. It allows me to seek out new places, to take care of responsibilities, to be in different places in a respectable timeframe. If I can’t drive, I totally feel like I’m back to living the hidden, stunted life of a kid growing up in the projects. That hurts. You can call me a typical American, I don’t fucking care. When I hit walls, it hurts.

So, now, I’ll stop bitching. I’m not sure if I want to sleep or make the attempt to show up at Mojo’s for an all-nighter until the busses run again in the morning. I can thank my lucky stars that my brake lines didn’t burst while I was driving, sure, but that doesn’t change my feelings or my mood. And my mood is like a wet cat. So other than the verbosity of this journal, don’t expect to hear me speaking much.

All I know is after years of driving other people around from place to place out of my kindness and generosity, I better get some fucking karmic payback. God-damned right. Fuck. I’m out of here.

Type O-Negative is My Blood Type


Type O Negative Ticket
See this?

Thursday night, last night, almost didn’t happen. But it did. And it was gooooood.

I had known that [Type O Negative] was coming to town, and I had all but forgotten about it since I first saw the ad in the [Austin Chronicle] a month ago. It wasn’t until a friend of mine reminded me about it two days before the show that I remembered, and I spent some time searching around for tickets. Luckily it wasn’t sold out. I ran over to [Waterloo Records] and got a ticket on Wednesday, the day before the show.

During that evening’s round of hanging out, I showed the ticket to various friends of mine, and surprisingly got mixed responses. Apparently Type O Negative illicits a lot of love/hate extremes in people. Me, personally, I love the band. I’ve been listening to them since ’96 and continue to listen to them through all their changes in sound and drive. Which is good, because I wouldn’t have spent $25 to see them, eh? So, I had a ticket, and for once, instead of waiting to drum up some kind of loose group to go with me, instead of sending out feelers to see who’d want to go, finding that no one wanted to do it, and languishing in my own gravity to do nothing on the night of the show, I decided to go for it and get the ticket. The world be damned.

And the night of the show almost didn’t happen.

Thursday morning I woke up as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. Woke up, turned on the radio, had breakfast, had a vitamin, slurped some coca cola while I listened to the radio to wake up. As I started to get ready for work, I went to the restroom to take care of business, but something was odd about that day’s business. Running late, I hurriedly finished getting dressed, went to work, and proceeded with my tasks. About an hour into work, something inside me went wrong. I had to go to the restroom again. It was disturbing; I had to go again only an hour later. I decided that I was sick; this worried me to no end, because I had spent a chunk of change for the show, and I’ll be damned if I was going to be too sick to go.

After work, I stopped by the pharmacy for some relief. Thankfully it worked. I got showered, shaved, dressed up and slicked back, and drove across town to Riverside to see the show.

Shawn't right hand with 'Geezer' stampTo get into the bar, I had to present my ID, then got my right hand stamped with the word “GEEZER”. Ah, those things are ephemeral badges of honor. The line to get into the band hall side wrapped around the interior of the bar side. A ton of people, and doors were already open for people to filter in. After 15 minutes of standing and trudging, I presented my ticket, got my left hand stamped with the word “freak”, got into the band side and scouted a spot. By that time the first band was already playing. Good band. Can’t remember the name. Ran over to get a coke and sipped on that through the second band.

The second band — oh my god, I’m a new fan. Ever hear of [Lacuna Coil]? They’re from Italy. While listening to their six-piece band totally rock, I started drawing parallels between them and [Evanescence]. Very similar in operatic style and hard edge stuff. Wonderful. I was impressed. Got to talk to the male lead singer after the show and complimented his band. He was busy but thankful.

But the Type O Negative show — holy shit. Fucking rocked my ass off, they did. Rrroarr! The band opened their set with the entirety of “I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else”, complete with asides, meandering, and thundering gut rocking. Second song was “Wolf Moon”, to which Peter Steel, lead singer and bassist, commented, “When I say that engaging in oral sex with a menstruating woman turns you into a werewolf,” as he looks over to the guitarist, “I do not know this by personal experience.” The crowd went nuts.

After about five songs, the band decided to take a breather, which seemed slightly too soon for a set break, but we went with it. The techs had some issues to deal with, and the band was sweating through their medical scrubs (green, of course). Roughly ten minutes later, they dropped the lights, came back on stage, and commenced to kicking more ass than ever.

Overall, they played for about an hour and a half, although it felt oddly short. I attribute that to the fact that their songs are typically seven minutes long, so they didn’t play as many as we’d like. I knew all but about three of their songs; I assume those unknown songs are from their first album, “Slow Deep and Hard” and from their latest album “Life is Killing Me.” So we all just went along and enjoyed it. The rest of the time, we were all jumping around, singing out, throwing RAWK signs, flipping the band off (old running gag) and shouting out “You suck!”

By show’s end, I was blasted. The ventilation in the bar was good until Type O Negative took the stage; that’s when everyone started packing in, making the “whole-body ventilation” worthless. So, needless to say, I was trashed from sweating and dehydrating, standing for 4 hours, and jumping and yelling. I bought a bottle of water, drank what I could, and left. By the time I got home, my ears were numb, my throat scratchy, and my head throbbing from the dehydration. Compound that with the morning’s health concerns, and you can see that I was in no shape for anything. Picked up a hibiscus tea to go, sipped it on the way home, and hurriedly undressed to cool down and unwind before bed.

All things being said, I was totally blessed and rejuvenated to be able to see Type O Negative last night. Regardless of what anyone else thinks of the band, I went, and I had a good time. So fuck you all. :grins:

Ketchup.

Hey friends. A new entry.

friend: /frend’/ n. 1. a close acquaintance 2. one who has been befriended 3. one who reads Shawn’s journal even though there’s been no journal updates in over two weeks. “Hey friends. A new entry.”

As many of you know, I have fallen off of the wagon and back into the tobacco fields. This doesn’t surprise me, just depresses me. I realize now that I can’t hate the devil and still dance with him. Just doesn’t work like that. :sighs: The next time I quit, I intend to not have a cigarette, period. The crazy, intense dreams are gone. The hacking is back. The urge to be productive, waned. From this three-day-weekend’s round of smoking my throat is now puffy and tender. Perfect. I set myself up for an upper-respiratory thing; feelin’ it, too.

My health concerns aside, I called my family yesterday and got some disturbing news. My mother twisted her upper back pretty severe while at work about a month ago. If not for the cooler in front of her, she would’ve hit the floor. Some preliminary x-rays didn’t reveal any broken backbones, which is a relief. But there still exists the chance that a disc is blown. From what she said, it sounded like a loud pop; even some of her customers heard it. Geez. She’s been scheduled for an MRI later this month. I hope it reveals something repairable.

I also found out she lost her job. Some political b.s. involving a crooked coworker saying something to the owner. I dunno, but that whole bar was crooked. So much for that.

Called my sister, too. She and her family are doing well. Found out she’s been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. It’s inherited from her father’s side. So she has to count sugar and sodium grams in her diet, measure her blood sugar twice a day, and take an insulin pill once a day. She has also quit smoking, and is sticking with it. I’m proud of her. She says her feet are no longer swollen; the fact that her doctors went overlooking this for so long astounds me — it’s one of the early, major signs of diabetes. Damned fools. But now that she’s watching her diet and taking better care of herself she’s losing weight and, as she says, she’s feeling better than she has in years.

As far as I’m doing, since I started smoking again (now almost back to a pack a day), I’ve been feeling rather cruddy. Especially now. Tsk tsk. (You can save your browbeating comments — I’ve enough of my own.) Stomach’s not as upsettable as it was, though. Thinking watching my own diet (sort of) is contributing to that. Dunno. It still tweaks every now and again, like it did about an hour ago at Mojo’s. Something about sitting for hours at my laptop while sucking on iced tea, peppermints, smoking, and generally not moving can kinda contribute to built-up internal pressure or something. Once I packed up, got up, and moved around by driving home I felt better.

This weekend, though, has allowed me to render several new chunks of code towards my website engine. I’m playing with a thing wherein disparate subobjects in my engine can communicate with one another and run each other’s methods transparently. What this means is that the master object in the engine, called “Kernel”, creates each subobject; when each subobject is created, it “registers” its methods and accessible data with the Kernel, and registers any messages it’ll “listen” to. Later on, during execution, objects can simply ask the Kernel to do something for them, and the Kernel looks up the task, calls the proper subobject to perform it, and then sends the results back to the original subobject that made the request.

Something like this is a huge improvement in the way I’ve been doing things in the engine thus far. By allowing this “proxy” subsystem to exist and by rewriting the current modules so that they use it, I can almost completely unlink the modules from each other; they’re no longer bound to each other, and they don’t have to know every single bit of information necessary about each other to make those calls. In the programming world, this is called “loose coupling.” If they want something, they call someone who knows where it is. Now, if I make a drastic change in how one module interacts with something from the rest of the system, everyone else is shielded from those changes; editing one part should not mean you have to edit everything else.

Pardon the geekout, but this is very exciting to me, and the fact that I was able to hammer out the guts of this in a few nights’ free time makes me feel excellently successful about it.

I think I’ll head over to some bookstore or something and pick up a ton of crossword books for my mother. She needs something to do while she’s laid-up on her back. I’m planning on sending her a care package with some books, a card, and some money to help her out. She’s in financial straits now, and if I was in her shoes, she’d do the same. She has for years, and now it’s my turn to help.