This morning I got out of bed around 8:45 or so, a fairly respectable time since I had really planned to sleep in much later than that. Sometime during the night I tore off my wrist braces again, which means I either had them too tight or something spooked me unconciously to the point I felt restrained by them. This is a trend that needs to stop pretty soon if I want to keep typing, because my wrists are really starting to bother me a great deal again. Surgery remains an option but only as a last-ditch effort.
I got up, grabbed a breakfast bar from the cupboard and offered one to Roho to try out, since I really thought they were enjoyable. Once I'd had a bite to eat and a chance to get my brain to start running again I returned to my bedroom and spent some time working on getting a new module loaded into the Linux kernel on Jaguar, my workstation. With the addition of the PCWX module I now could alter the size of the images my webcam was taking, bringing them up from some piddling size like 105x117 to a much healthier 320x480. I also was supposed to be able to do things like correct the white balance and impact shutter speed once this module was installed. After I confirmed it was actually working the way I expected it to I threw together a quick seven-line HTML page to display the image and automatically trigger a browser reload every 30 seconds. I also figured out how to get the webcam software to take a picture based on a time interval and then upload the resulting snapshot to Panther, my server out on the 'net. I figured with this out of the way I could at least say I had accomplished something in Linux greater than getting Xchat to run. I still haven't figured out what the problem is with my IDE chain, and I'm getting tired of paying a penalty in performance every time I have to access the hard drive.
Around noon I grabbed a small bite to eat (pepperoni sticks and a few slices of cheddar cheese) before I got dressed and ready for the day's "work." First I recruited Roho and his jack so that we could change the tires on his Saab. We're at the end of May and it really does look like winter has passed us by at lastm so it made sense that we'd take advantage of the warm weather and a few hours of "spare time" on the weekend to take the snow tires off and put the nicer summer tires back on. We made pretty quick work of it, with Roho jacking the car up and my swapping tires off and on. It's amazing just how filthy the inside of the rims were, especially on the summer tires. They were disgusting! To give you an idea of how bad it was... when I was done putting them on and got all the lug bolts tightened down (yes, lug bolts; it seems that Saab uses bolts to attach the tire to the hub, instead of using nuts to hold the tire to carriage bolts that come from the hub) I took a look at my hands and... they weren't white, they weren't even gray... they were glossy, grease-black. It was a thick, glistening sludge that simply clung to my hands like a second skin. Absolutely revolting! I had to wash my hands three or four times under scalding hot water with a combination of hand soap and the peppermint soap that Roho had gotten before I could see regular skin again. I was amazed at how well that peppermint soap could cut through the grease. Yet another use for the stuff!
After we got the tires taken care of I went to work on my pickup, following some advice from a friend who thought that perhaps my situation wasn't as dire as I thought. He mentioned that a faulty ground could be causing the instrument cluster to give faulty readings. I didn't think this was terribly likely but I needed to check it out anyway. With some time, some generic WD-40 and a lot of swearing on my part I was able to work the main chassis ground free from the inside of my pickup's fender, and went to work cleaning the bolt and contact loops with a piece of sandpaper. Once I was satisfied that I had resolved the possibility of that being the root cause of my problems I swiped Roho and took the truck for a drive down to the Valvoline Express Care. On the drive down I was watching the temperature guage, and things seemed stable, but I wasn't entirely convinced that the problem had been resolved -- the reading still was higher than I felt should be normal for the work the engine was doing and the ambient temperature it was doing the work in. So while the Valvoline techs were changing the oil I also had them flush and replace the pickup's cooling system. Lucky for me they were having a special discount, so I got a $10 mark down on the price I paid for the cooling system maintenance. When it was all said and done the oil change was $37, and the coolant work was $49. Throw in taxes and I paid over $89 to have the oil changed, the oil filter replaced and the radiator flushed. I couldn't believe the price they charged to do the work on the radiator, but I really haven't seen anybody else come close to beating it. That just seems to be the standard charge these days, so I took it for the team and paid the bill. We left the shop sometime around 3:25 PM, and drove around for a while so that I could "stress-test" the new cooling system and see if the problem had in fact been solved. So far so good, the instrumentation was actually reporting a far cooler water temp than I've seen in some time. This could be a combination of things, as Roho pointed out. One, I had cleaned the terminals up on the ground, which probably did help things to some extent. Two, the truck had just been filled with fresh coolant and an appropriate mixture of cold, clear water. This probably was helping to keep the engine running cooler. But after plenty of stop-and-go traffic, idling in parking lots and driving on freeways the temperature didn't go too far above where it started when we left the Valvoline shop, so I think the problem may indeed be resolved. We'll see on Tuesday when I drive in to work, and in another couple of weeks when things really start to heat up around here I'll know for absolute certain if the problem has been resolved.
Of course, the trade-off for this lucky fix is that my exhaust system has come completely undone. Accelerating in the pickup, even on an open highway, is now reminscent to being inside a tank at full throttle as it charges up a sandy hill. The din is absolutely nightmarish even with the windows rolled all the way up. I suspect, although I haven't yet confirmed, that the catalytic converter has come totally uncoupled from the flange at the end of my collector. This means in essence that my pickup is running straight headers, with no muffler and not even a catalytic converter to help baffle the noise down to a more acceptable number of decibels. What I have to ask myself now is how badly do I want to fix this problem? I could take it down to the Merlin shop tomorrow and have them do the work. I know that'll carry a hefty price tag, probably somewhere on the order of $890 or more once the new catback system is put in place and all the hoses for the pollution control system are replaced (I've seen them, they need to get torn out and fresh ones installed).
When we got home I logged on and was lucky enough to share some more time with somebody special, even if it was only for about forty-five minutes. I think I amused her with the web cam, since she kept looking at it until her web browser decided not to reload the page anymore despite her best efforts to convince it to work. We talked for a while, then she slipped off to bed (blasted time zones) for the evening. Once she'd logged out I rounded up Roho and Kestral, and we went up to BD's for our traditional Saturday outing. Sara was serving but her section was full, so we took Matt Summers and had a pretty decent time. Matt chats with us a bit and doesn't even ask for our drink orders anymore, he just brings out three diet cokes with lemon as soon as he knows we're at one of his tables! With us being the regulars we are we checked in and got some of the most recent gossip about the store. It sounds like a management change is upcoming, and while I'm sorry its happening it may be for the best if what I'm hearing is true. Either way I need to set aside the time to write in to the corporate office of BD's and tell them just how often I'm in their restaurant and how much I enjoy the staff that's been assembled there. I don't want to see it get undone.
After we ate we drove home again and went our respective ways. I of course settled back into my bedroom, closed the door to make sure Ra was secured and chatted for a while longer on IRC and on FurryMUCK. I was again blessed this evening in that I was able to get some of Koz's time set aside for me. We sat together and just talked, something we haven't done for quite some time. We each have things that we're trying to sort out, things that we want to change, and it was good to get them out and just have a simple conversation. Koz was worried about me because he'd noted I've been sort of down in the mouth lately, but most of the times he's been around online he's been so tired from work he couldn't ask me what was going on. I talked to him about the news from my side or the week, then got an update from him. My guess is that as time continues over the next few weeks we're ging to end up leaning upon one another for moral support and reassurance, and I'm glad to be trusted that much by my friend. I'm also glad that I'll have somebody else to turn to for advice and support, which means I can spread what's probably going to be a rather annoying load out across several people instead of heaping it all on one person.
I've said it before, I'll say it now, and undoubtedly I'll say it again: Thank the powers that be for my friends. I don't know what I've done to attract such wonderful people, but I really am lucky to have them.
Around 2235 I told Koz I was dropping idle so I could practice on the bass a bit. I did a quick run-through of everything I've covered thus far from he scales to the arpeggios, and then I moved ahead in the book to the chapter that puts it all together. I spent maybe 20 minutes plucking away at the strings, trying to read the music to get an understanding of the timing, but making sure that I could in fact play the notes. I wasn't great by any means -- I'm having a real problem going from an open "E" string to any note in the first few frets. That heavy string really carries a lot of power with it, and once you strike the E note anything else tends to buzz when I try to press down on it. I've got to find out if the guitar is perhaps not set up right. I suspect it's just inexperience on my part coupled with fingers that are still learning to stretch and how to press down forcefully on the fretboard. More practice must be had before I worry too much about this!
As I was putting the guitar away I noticed I had new mail. I said goodnight to Koz, saw him offline and then opened my mailbox. What I saw was the last thing in the world I was expecting at this point, although why I was so shocked I'm still not certain. As I said above... when it rains, it pours, and this certainly has been a rainy week (but I will say it has been interspersed with sunshine in a few places thanks to Liin and many others). What I received was an e-mail from my dad. The good news is that last weekend my cousin Priscilla graduated from Bemidji college, a school associated with the University of Minnesota. The bad news quickly cancels this out as it seems Priss has been having problems all week with not feeling good. It ultimately terminated with a trip to the Emergency Ward in Bemidji, and they discovered that she had twisted intestines. They'd been twisted for so long that the blood flow to the tissue was interrupted and thus in effect was killed. An operation was scheduled shortly after and she went under the knife. It sounds like a large portion of her small intestines and possibly her bowels were resected. Nobody is exactly sure how much, but what is known is that after the operation the doctors didn't like what they saw. They put her on a MedEvac helicopter and flew her down to the University of Minnesota hospital the next afternoon. Around Friday at 1400 Central Daylight she arrived at the UMH and was admitted. Doctors are currently trying to see what, if anything, they can salvage. If they can do some sort of repair or replacement they might be able to give her a normal life. If they can't... she will have a life severely altered from what she once knew because she'll have to take all her nutition via oral or I.V. fluids. My father has promised further updates as soon as they find out what's going on.
The biggest concern Priss has to face right now is one that's also the most dangerous but routine for somebody in her situation. Becase her bowels ruptured from the twisting and lack of bloodflow her body cavity was contaminated with digested and semi-digested food, along with other bodily secretions. This creates a breeding ground like no other for bacteria and infection. She's doing better than she was on Thursday, but she's still in critical condition and the doctors are apparently having a bitch of a time fighting back the peritonitis she's experiencing because of the contamination.
My father, in case I haven't mentioned before, is a firefighter and well-trained EMT. When he says things aren't going as well as they could, well, I tend to believe him... he's been around a very long time and knows a lot more about medicine than I ever will from his training on the job at the firehouse as well as his time in the field during the Vietnam War. I guess what worries me the most is that he closed the letter in a way that's completely out of the ordinary for him... he asked me to mention Priss in my prayers tonight, and then closed the letter with "Love Dad." I don't think I've ever seen him write the word "Love" in an e-mail to me since he first got on the Internet, and I know he's never asked me to pray for anyone or anything. My branch of the family is relatively non-religious, although I'm aware of our faith and do practice it to some small extent, He must be very shaken and worried for his brother's child to say such things.
I'm going to go to bed, and hopefully when I wake up tomorrow there will be some update with good, cheering news in it. And in case you're wondering... yes, I will say a prayer tonight, and I will mention Priscilla in it.
A silent prayer for faith departed