A Storied Past

Over the last few days, I’ve been finally taking care of some work I’ve been meaning to do on the TT.  In particular, doing the front brakes and testing the car’s coolant for exhaust gases (to see if the head gasket has failed).  I figured while I was doing the brakes I’d paint the calipers red to match the powder coated rear calipers that I put on a couple years ago.

It’s been a multi-day project, only because I’m lazy and did one side at a time – waiting a day for the paint to dry for each side.  But while I’ve been waiting, I had the urge to go back through and try to categorize and put all of the work I’ve done over the last three years into a single database of sorts.  A place for me to see the work, see the age of the work, and keep track of the cost and timing of everything.

It’s been a long road thus far, and I’ve done a lot of work.  From more serious work like servicing the timing belt and replacing the soft top, to smaller things like oil changes and car washes.  I dug out the spreadsheet I put together when I first bought the car, where I cross-referenced the CarFax with the actual garages that did the work, and contacted each garage in hopes they could forward me the service records they had for the car.

Some of it was boring same ole same ole:  5K scheduled maintenance.  25K scheduled maintenance.  35K scheduled maintenance.  Etc.  Some of it was intriguing though: Interior trim repaired after 1400 miles.  Clutch/flywheel replaced after 22,000 miles.  A storied past.

It got me really thinking.  The car has nearly 100,000 miles on it now.  That’s nearly four trips around the planet.  I’m the fifth owner of this little black roadster, and I sincerely hope to be its last.  It was first purchased in April of 2004, which makes it over 14 years old at this point.  In April of 2004 I was just finishing up my sophomore year in high school.  I wouldn’t have my driver’s license or my first car for another year and half.

It’s interesting to think about the car’s history before it came into my possession.  I have no idea who the previous owners were, what they did for a living, or how old they were.  Maintenance was clearly lacking from some of them.  It wasn’t modified, but it was driven hard.  Can’t help but think about who left the baton underneath the driver’s seat – why they had it, what they thought when they realized they left it there for me to find.

I wonder about the front-end collision the car was involved in years ago.  Insurance was never involved so I have no idea where the car was worked on, or what was replaced.  But the skid plate is completely gone and the battery box is broken in multiple places.  In fact, a lot of trim is missing from under the hood.  The covers for the battery and the power steering pump in particular.  Where did they go?

It’s fun to think about where the car’s been and what it’s seen.  The work that’s been done over the years, and who has had their hands on it.  The conversations that’ve been had in the cabin.  The abuse it’s endured, the care it’s received.

To some people a car is just a piece of property that gets us from Point A to Point B.  Something remarkably uninteresting and resigned to its job as a utility and nothing more.

But to others, it’s an unfinished book.  A book with pages missing from its earlier chapters, but a book that we’ve taken authorship of nonetheless.  And I just hope that I can make this little TT’s future chapters as interesting as it’s past.

2018, Year of the Best

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, which isn’t terribly surprising.  I’m not one of those peeps that make a point to write something at least once a day.  I’m like, once every 6 months at this point.  But yeah, I figured it’s update time since I’ve got a free minute and there’s nothing else pressing at this point.

Soooooo, life is pretty grand!  The jist of this whole post is that 2018 is literally going to be my year.  We’re mid-April but things have been pretty stellar since this year started.  Let’s break it down:

I quit smoking.  This has been a thorn in my side for at least the last couple years.  There’s been a solid two stretches that I’ve quit before – the first being in 2011 when I was dating my ex, and I quit for her.  Naturally when that ended, I picked it back up.  The second stretch was while I was my last job.  Naturally when that ended, I picked it back up.  So now we’re on the third real attempt at kicking the habit, and so far so good.  I’ve had some fall-off-the-wagon moments, but there’s a concerted effort going on so I’m feeling pretty good about it.  The real difference this time is that I’ve improved my coping mechanisms in dealing with stress.  People that have never smoked or never tried quitting don’t get just how addictive nicotine is, but believe it, it’s insane.  I had a lot of reasons to quit, but never truly had the motivation to until recently, so I’m pretty thankful for that.

In addition to quitting smoking, I’ve really focused on improving my health in general.  I started buying groceries, which for me was unheard of.  Cooking at home, and paying attention to the nutrition and healthiness of my choices.  It hasn’t been easy, by any stretch.  When your body has been running on processed foods, fast food, high fat, high calorie options for years, it doesn’t just go willingly into this new era.  It hits home when I think about this article I read years ago about what’s called an Extinction Burst.  Basically, it is what happens when your body forms a habit and you attempt to break that habit – when the habit is threatened with extinction.  Your body deals with being cut off to a point where it throws a tantrum in one last attempt to get you to go back to the habit.  The link explains it a lot more in depth, but it’s a truly fascinating read.

So I’ve been eating better.  I haven’t had a soda in over a month, I drink water on the regular, been cooking at home a majority of the week, and I’ve even been a lot active physically.  Hiking a couple times a week, and a couple days ago got back on a bike for the first time in years.  You might remember back in the day I was riding my bike like a mofo, you know, 30 mile tides and all of that?  Well my most recent ride was barely 5 miles and it absolutely wrecked me.  I hurt all over.  Granted it was a mountain bike that is far too small for me, but that just made it clear how out of shape I’ve gotten.

I’ll be honest, midway through that last paragraph I tried to find the posts about my weight loss and all that jazz.  In particular, these two posts:

Fuck Your Title (04/09/2013)
Fuck Your Title – Redux (04/09/2015)

Ironic that they were both the same day, two years apart.  And here I am getting back on the health kick three years after the last.

But anyway, I was trying to find those two posts and ended up copying a bunch from The Wayback Machine, since my database got deleted when my hosting lapsed a while back.  It was fun reading my thoughts from years ago, so I guess it isn’t such a bad idea to keep blogging.  Just gotta make sure I don’t lose months or years worth of entries.  We’re self-hosted now, so I can’t foresee these latest posts disappearing, but I’m definitely going to be keeping better backups.

So I got sidetracked finding those posts and now I can’t remember what I was on about.  Guess it’s a good point to wrap this up then, deuces!

Last.fm, wot is dis?

Holy shit a new post.  Yeah I dunno, the feeling hit me tonight to write some shit so here we are.  And it’s gonna be a pretty awesome post, just a heads up.

Music is great, I think we can all agree.  When we’re feeling like shit, we put on some tunes.  When we’re feeling awesome, we put on some tunes.  Travelling, driving, working, relaxing – it’s always there.  I won’t try to psychoanalyze why our brains like the repetition of beats and sounds, but there’s something to say that we’ve been making music for most of our existence.  From banging on drums and tapping your hand on your desk, to playing a real physical instrument or an electronic software instrument, it’s as old as we are.

Now more than likely, you have a music library of some sort.  It could be a library of CDs, or a meticulously organized folder of tunes on your computer, or a group of playlists hosted by some music streaming service (Spotify I love you).  But one thing most people don’t think about, is how cool it is to analyze your listening habits.  Enter, Last.fm.

I’m a massive sucker for stats and shit like that.  I check in to movies and TV shows I’m watching (see that Twitter feed on the right?  All automatic), but I also record what music I’m listening to as I listen to it.  This is called scrobbling, and it stems back to the mid-2000s when I first got started.  Last.fm is what the service is called now, back in the day I think it used to be Audioscrobbler?  It’s free, and it integrates with most music players out there.

It’s neat because at the end of the year you can see what your listening habits were that year:

Yeah, so I listened to over 10,000 songs in 2017, an average of 28 per day, and a total of 25 days, 5 hours of listening time.  Pretty crazy, and you can go back year by year and get the same info.

It’s interesting because if you’re curious what you listened to on this day sayyyyyy, 3 years ago, you can:

There was a lot of the same shit I listen to today.  But there’s a few gems in there I haven’t listened to since.  It’s pretty cool.  It can also show you some embarrassing shit, like the obscene amount of the Battlefield 4 soundtrack I listened to on this day, January 26, 2015.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for information like this.  It’s fun to look back and see where I was, what I was listening to.  Sometimes it’s depressing, like a song that brings back bad memories or a song that reminds you of better times.  Meanwhile it could be invigorating, like rediscovering a song or an album that you totally forgot exists.

The nice part is Last.fm is free to sign up, and you can immediately link it to your Spotify account here, under settings:

But there’s an even better way, which links Last.fm with Spotify, and works completely agnostically from what client you’re using.  Xbox, Android, iOS, computer, web, even your Amazon Echo.  They will all scrobble if you use the Spotify Scrobbling (Beta) plugin:

https://www.last.fm/settings/applications

Pretty slick shit.  I tried it this evening and it scrobbles everything, you just need to remember to turn off the above mentioned client-based scrobbling.

Check it out audiophiles, you won’t be disappointed.

Shut your damn Pi-hole

At some point in your life, you might have heard about a device called a Raspberry Pi.  It’s a relatively small SoC (System on a Chip) that’s an entire computer.  Processor, memory, network interface, the whole shebang.  Well there’s a project out there called Pi-hole, which is a piece of software that you run on said Raspberry Pi.  What it does is something pretty awesome – it turns your Pi into a hardware-based, network-wide ad blocker.

Yep.  This shit is bonkers.  Now, on Raspberry Pis, the OS they run is called Raspbian, which is just a specialized distro of Debian Linux.  And ya know what that means – Pi-hole can be ran in a VM running a Debian-based distro.  After I did some research, I took the plunge, fired up a CentOS VM, and installed it with a single command:

curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash

That’s it.

Configuration-wise it’s pretty simple.  Usually when your computer queries a websites DNS information, it does so to your router.  With a Pi-hole in place, you modify your DHCP information to provide the Pi-hole’s IP as your network’s DNS server.  The Pi-hole then, in turn, forwards requests to your router as expected.

All your clients ask the Pi-hole for website IPs, and if it doesn’t have them, it asks your router.

Now from here, the Pi-hole has a list of blacklisted IPs.  If you load a website and any of those sites have an embedded ad that matches one of those blacklisted IPs?  It returns nothing to your browser and doesn’t even load the ad itself.  It’s really quite beautiful.

The absolutely awesome part of this solution running network-wide is that it blankets every single one of your devices.  Your phone, your PC, your Xbox, TV, Roku, anything.  No need for plugins or any of that jazz anymore, and because it doesn’t even load the ad, your network’s bandwidth use is potentially less.

Another plus is it actually blocks YouTube ads from playing.  I was watching some shit on YouTube through my Roku yesterday, and it would spin for a second like it was trying to load an ad, then just cut straight to the video I wanted.  It’s pretty slick.

And if you’re the type that likes to see logs and statistics – there’s a GUI that shows what the Pi-hole has been doing.  Logs for blocked and allowed connections.  Graphs showing forwarded and cached DNS requests.  It’s fantastic, and the ability to run on a relatively slim VM (1 vCPU, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB HDD), how can you beat that kind of functionality?

Link to the good stuff.

RIP Orangie

So, it was kind of a rough evening tonight/yesterday.  I usually head to work at 11:30, and as I’m walking to my car I notice a State Trooper pulled over by my neighbor’s house.  Right before I get into my car, I can see what he’s doing in the light from his headlights – moving Orangie from the road to my neighbor’s lawn…

I never did know what his/her actual name was, but Orangie seems to fit and I’ll just assume she was a she.  She was really the friendliest cat you can imagine, but she had a weary, cautious nature – something she learned from being an outdoor cat, I can assume.  If you moved too fast, she’d run a few feet and then come back for more rubs.  She was a little tubby, and her tail was broken in the middle so when she ran, the end half of her tail would just flop around.  It was pretty comical.

Sometimes I’d get home from wherever, and she’d just sit in the grass waiting for me to get out of my car.  Then she’d walk over and start rubbing your legs like cats do with people they like.  It was endearing.  One time I was bullshitting with Mike and Branden in the parking lot and she just came over and started rubbing all three of us.  The picture above I took literally the day before she died, focused on hunting something or other in the brush.

It sucks, and she wasn’t even my cat.  You’ll be missed, Orangie.