Saturday, September 29, 2007

2 weeks

Two weeks into Ramadan, it's really just become almost habitual. I don't think about it much - I just don't eat until sundown. I no longer have to remind myself to do it, it just happens.

As to the "Adventures in Hi-Fi" storyline, I haven't abandoned it, I've just been busy. I also have a tale about getting BioShock to work on my PC. Due to a hardware issue, it wouldn't run on my hardware setup. More details later.

So it goes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Day 7

I had to be at work for at 8:45 in the morning. This made fasting quite difficult, as I woke up shortly after the sun rose and thus had to be awake a full 12 hours before I was able to eat or drink anything. This does take it's toll more than waking up at 10 or 11; even though it's only a few hours, those few hours make the day seem much longer.

As I've previously said, I've found that abstaining from food/drink has provided me with a lot more free time. This free time has been largely spent in the Adventures in Hi-Fi; which I'll go into detail about tomorrow. For now, I need to sleep. I have to be at work at 7am tomorrow, which means that I'm planning to get up at about 5:45 so that I can eat and drink before sunrise (7:11am - bless the Old Farmer's Almanac). So far, the source I've been using for sunup/sundown times isn't set for daylight savings time, so while I've been correcting for that in the evening (adding an hour to the time is says), I've been forgetting to add an hour in the morning. Because of this, even when I've been awake that early, I haven't eaten past 6am because that's when I thought sunup was. It was an oversight on my part; and one I don't intend to make again.

What a delightful discovery; the sun rises and hour later than I thought. I get to eat breakfast more often! Now: sleep.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Adventures in Hi-Fi, Part I

I've always wanted to be the kind of guy who works on his own car. The kind of guy who wears jeans and a white t-shirt who has grease on his hands and can walk into his house wiping off said grease with a rag saying, "Well, that should do it." I think being that guy would make me more handy.

It would also mean that I know how my car works.

When I first started looking at colleges, I intended to do a computer science major. I figured computers are what I knew and enjoyed messing with so that's what I'd go into. As time went on, I started to think that maybe I'd rather keep computers as a hobby, as something I do for fun, and go into something else. I remembered years ago - I was in 6th grade - and my brother and I were walking into Best Buy one day when he said, "Y'know, everything is elastic."

"Really? Even metal?" I replied, thinking to myself "Ha! He didn't expect me to bring up metal. Metal is hard; it's not at all like a rubber band. I win."

"Actually, metal is very elastic," he calmly replied as he walked over to one of the metal posts (put in place to prevent cars from driving through the entrance of the store) and knocked on it with his fist. It let out a pleasant ring. "That ring is the metal vibrating. It's caused by the elasticity of the metal," he explained. At that moment, I realized how little I knew of the world. From then on, I've always interested in why and how things work.

After years of schooling, I've got a pretty good understanding of how all the fundamental forces work (though I'm a little weak on the Electromagnetic side of things - no pun intended) and have successfully modeled Earth's orbit around the Sun in a computer program I wrote. I even understand the basics of programming. These things I understand and, I feel, given enough time I can work out how more complex systems of these types function. My car, however, has always remained a black box. It's something that works when I turn the key and when it doesn't work, I have to call a man with a beerbelly and a ZZ Top beard who takes my car into his hut and the next day it works again. As pleasant as ignorance is, it's also expensive. Hence my desire to know how my car works and be able to work on it myself.

I also have this sneaking suspicion girls dig guys who work on their own cars. It's a working hypothesis; I'll let you know how it pans out.


What this amounts to is that I've started working on my car. Not mechanically yet; more audibly. By this I mean I'm been tinkering with the sound system in my car. Slightly juvenile? Yes. But frankly, I have a sound system from The Blue Skinned Beast that I purchased when I worked at Best Buy (a very nice system, mind you) and I really don't want to just sell it on ebay. Similar to my engine, however, the process of installing such a system involves a skinny kid in a blue shirt, a patch sewn onto his shirtsleeve, a garage, an unknown magic spell and about $300.

I don't feel like paying $300 to have someone do this. I don't have $300 to pay someone to do this.

I decide that if I'm going to work on my car, I might as well start with something familiar - speakers. Replacing factory speakers with a good set of aftermarket ones is probably the easiest way to improve the sound quality in your car. On Sunday morning, I wake up and decide I'm replace the speakers in the back of my car. I have to be at church at 1:30, and it's about 11, so that gives me an hour to pull off the grates, dismount/disconnect the factory speakers, and then mount/connect the speakers I wish to put in. Estimated time: 20 minutes max - it's a simple disconnect/reconnect job. Due to my lack of knowledge about how to disassemble my car, I end up having to take off (or at least unhinge) both side panels of the car in order to get at the speakers. After several minutes of prying, praying, and pulling, I get the panels off to a level where I can wedge my arms past several sharp plastic edges and pokey pieces that I'm able to replace the speakers.

I go to put the side panels back in place and think, "Well, they came out with some prying and pulling, so to go in I should just push. That's logic." As I push, I hear sounds of pieces clicking into place and I'm happy with myself. Then I hear a very loud
snap and my heart sinks. "What did I just do?" I think to myself, "I just broke my new car!" I look around frantically for the source of the snapping, expecting to find a massive crack down the side panel, finding only that a small, hard piece of plastic about an inch wide from the back has snapped off. I'm saddened, but in reality it could have been far worse. Minor cosmetic damage is a casualty of learning.

I finish, collect my tools and put everything away, test the system with "Vicarious" by Tool - it sounds pretty good; not great, but noticeably better. It took about an hour and 15 minutes and thanks to those sharp edges my forearms look like that of an teenager who just got dumped. I shower and head to church, arriving only a few minutes late.

I'm proud of myself; my first task was completed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Day Two

I think I already see a purpose to fasting. I don't have the deep, transcendent, inner peace, but I do find that I get more done throughout the day.

I go to work and find myself thinking that it will be easy to fast here, because I'm always busy.
Just like yesterday when I was at class - I was occupied, and thus didn't think about food. My thoughts are quickly interrupted by the smell of the freshly baked cookies from the cafe. Fasting is going to be harder to do at work than I thought. When my break starts, I have to keep my mind busy or else I'll go crazy with the smell from the cafe. I go to the newsstand an pick up the new copy of Men's Health, take a seat at one of the tables as far away from the cafe as possible and start flipping through it. I find an article about why your wristwatch should be iconic - that it should show sophistication and style; I've heard all this before. I always figured a watch was an important piece of the outfit, sort of an icing on the cake thing, but it doesn't need to be too high end - my Relic always suited most scenarios. However, two weeks ago my wristwatch broke. More specifically, the little gear that sets the time broke off. This hasn't been a problem yet, but with daylight savings time coming up, I'm going to be in trouble. I took it to a watch mechanic and he said it'd cost a minimum of $25 to fix; the watch is barely worth that. While reading this article, I decide that yes, I do need a new watch. Men's Health lists their "top choices" (or something) of wristwatches, the first being a Zenith with a price tag of $29,700. I really wonder what the demographic for Men's Health is, because it seems that if you're not making $100,000 a year by the age of 25, you're outside of it.

I need a new watch, but not one that costs twice what my car does.


I get through the rest of the day alright: no
accidental trips to the drinking fountain, no cookies or frappucinos from the cafe, not even a sip of the pure, pressed apple juice that I've become highly addicted to (I've had a bottle every day I've worked since I started at Barnes & Noble). When I walk out the door, I'm proud of myself - it's nearly sunset and I've made it through day two of Ramadan. I just need to keep my mind busy during those tempting hours I'm at work. Thankfully, the array of magazines can do that and more. So far today, I've decided I need a new watch, a new pair of shoes, and a new pinstripe suit coat. By the end of Ramadan, I imagine I'll believe I need a whole new wardrobe thanks to and Men's Health and Esquire.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Day One

Thus ends day one of Ramadan.

It wasn't as bad I was expecting. At around noon I was pretty hungry, and when my class ended at 3 this afternoon I couldn't get my mind off of a chicken sandwich. Around 4, I think my body finally accepted the fast and just stopped trying to get me to eat. It wasn't that bad.

It was cloudy at the end of the day, so I didn't know exactly when sunset was. I was pretty much counting down the time because I wanted to eat. I wasn't so much hungry as just wanting to taste of food. I figured something like 6:30 would be a good time to consider sunset, but Doug decided to check when the sun officially set here. Turns out it didn't go down till 7:44pm. Being true to my word of sticking to this fast, I waited until 7:44, at which point I made myself two burritos, had some of the chicken and dumplings that Doug had made (he offered), and a handful of Wheat Thins (I found out the Garden Vegetable Wheat Thins are far better than the Sundried Tomato and Basil).

Today wasn't perfect, though. While waiting for my class to begin outside the room, I nonchalantly wandered to the drinking fountain and had a sip. Immediately afterward I realized what I had done and was mad at myself - then I remembered that unintentionally eating or drinking doesn't count as breaking the fast "for it is only Allah who has fed him and given him drink." I felt bad that I had failed after only 4 hours, but it wasn't technically failing as it was unintentional, so I can still say I'm holding to it.

8 minutes

I've been awake for 8 minutes and I'm already thirsty.

I found out a couple of years ago that I sleep with my mouth open. Because of this, I wake up with a really dry mouth and throat in the morning, and occasionally throughout the night. Around this same time, I discovered that I should keep a bottle of water/Powerade next to my bed, so when I wake up I can drink it down and rehydrate myself. I forgot to remove that bottle last night.

It's taunting me.


The good news is that because I was so anxious about fasting, I actually dreamed I was fasting, so when I woke up it was on my mind and didn't start off Ramadan by breaking it. That made me feel good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It begins.

Ramadan begins tomorrow morning. I'm actually finding myself rather anxious about this.

I imagine this is going to be hard.