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8:11 pm EST        54°F (12°C) in Marietta, GA

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I have been so insanely busy in the last 11 days that I haven’t had time to even think about making an update to this section. Now that my truck is in the shop here getting both of its drive belts replaced, I finally have something approaching an opportunity to make one.

We might as well start with the very same day I made my last update, December 19. After driving about seven hours from Breezewood, PA to Howell, MI and delivering, I headed for Ann Arbor late that night and did dinner and poker with Marc. It was during that meeting that I first encountered Marc’s newest toy: a radar unit of the type that police use to monitor vehicles’ speeds on the road. While we can debate his sanity in spending a whopping $1,500 on this unit, what can’t be denied is that one can have endless fun with such a device.

We drove aimlessly around Ann Arbor for quite a while, mostly monitoring speeds of oncoming traffic using the opposite-lane mode of the unit. At one point, going about 76 mph (122 km/h) himself, Marc spotted a vehicle about to blow our doors off in his mirrors and quickly switched the unit to same-lane mode; we clocked that blue-green Dodge Shadow at 92 mph (148 km/h)! At another point along the U.S. Route 23 freeway, we watched an oncoming motorist’s speed rapidly drop from 86 mph (138 km/h) after his radar detector picked us up. (Note that the posted speed limit in both of these places is Michigan’s statutory maximum of 70 mph (112 km/h).) Just before getting back to Marc’s apartment, we got right on the tail of a white Chevrolet Camaro with Florida plates, which must have been outfitted with a radar detector; I say that because its driver stayed right at the 35-mph (56 km/h) speed limit on that city street and would not budge a fraction higher. Amazingly, though, the vast majority of vehicles on the freeway weren’t even doing the speed limit, even at 1:00 am EST with a wide-open road.

Not a whole lot happened on Wednesday the 20th, so we’ll skip to the 21st. That was the day I got busy with a shitload of errands, including the renewal of my driver’s license until my 31st birthday in 2011. That was also the day I pulled my old Dell laptop, the one I bought in January 2004, out of storage and looked into what I could do to revive it. As this entry mentions, it stopped working in late September 2005; specifically, I could no longer insert a PCMCIA card into it without causing the system to immediately shut down. I found bent pins in the slot, including one that was bent so far it touched the motherboard; in order to repair this, I had to completely tear the system apart.

I first used a precision screwdriver to bend the bent pins back to as nearly straight as possible. To keep the pins straight, I put the female end of my T-Mobile cellular card on the pins and left it there, semi-permanently connected to the motherboard. This presented a problem when I went to put the system back together; namely, that the slot in the chassis through which PCMCIA cards are supposed to be inserted was also connected to the hard drive tray, and I couldn’t get the hard drive back into the machine. I solved this by removing the hard drive from its tray and simply putting it into its slot. The computer works, but with nothing more than inertia holding the T-Mobile PCMCIA card and hard drive in place, I have to be very careful in handling this machine.

I did all of this, of course, because my Gateway laptop — my “normal” full-time machine — had to be sent in for repairs. I didn’t actually get this done until the very last minute at home, this past Thursday, and I actually had my parents run it to the DHL depot for shipping. I should have that machine back by mid-January, and I’ll either ask to swing through home to pick it up or just wait for my next six-day home time.

Last Saturday, the 23rd, I went shopping with my sister. In part, I did this in order to buy gift cards for my parents for Christmas, but mostly, we were there so that my sister could pick out an outfit for a New Year’s Eve party she will be attending tomorrow night. As I alluded to previously, Christmas turned out to be mostly a gift-card affair in our household; I ended up with gift cards to Sunoco (gas for my car), Bed Bath & Beyond, Borders (usable on, Wal-Mart, and Target. The Wal-Mart one went to cover most of my usual purchases of supplies for the upcoming three weeks on the road; the Target one went to buy the DVD version of The Da Vinci Code. With the Bed Bath & Beyond one, I had the first $50 of well over $300 worth of new towels and bed sheets covered. Finally, on, I ordered a total of five items, including the yet-to-be-released DVD of Jesus Camp and Thom Hartmann’s new book Screwed.

On Tuesday, the 26th, we drove out to Stockbridge, MI, near Lansing, to visit with my father’s side of the family, including my grandmother and both of my aunts. Some more gift exchanging and pleasantries took place there before my sister and I, in a separate car, took off for Ann Arbor again; she had to work out, while I worked on some of my shopping. I had just about all of my shopping completed by the end of the 26th, including having used all of my gift cards — I must have set a speed record for that. wink

I spent a fair bit of Wednesday up in Macomb County meeting with Brian, an old childhood friend who I had not seen since his family moved to New York state almost 15 years ago. Obviously, that gave us a lot to catch up on; we spent a little bit over four hours either in a coffee shop or driving around west-central Macomb County, talking about whatever came up. He is living in Seattle, WA now, and just received an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington this past spring.

That brings us to my return to the truck on Thursday, which was quite a harried one. I did manage to get back out to Quincy, MI, in time to get my load that evening, and I delivered it a bit south of here in Atlanta last night. As I write now, I am having a new glad hand installed on one of my air lines, and I am getting a problem with the accessory drive belts fixed. I can’t tell which one it is — the fan one or the A/C-alternator one — for certain, but I am definitely hearing that familiar, annoying chirping sound that belts make when they are getting ready to go. I may be sitting around here to start the new year for lack of freight; I’ll have to see what I get offered freight-wise tomorrow.

See you in 2007.