“This baby’s got a few surprises left in her, sweetheart.” – the return of the MFALCON, new foglights and winter front grill covers

Leaving the Jeep better than I received it

So to be sure, it has been a massive blessing to have borrowed my friend Andrea’s Jeep – but I am ready to be back to my car and the stick shift’s far finer control.  As I send the Jeep back, the hood struts have been replaced (so the hood can remain open by itself) and the tailgate lock actuator (so now the gate can be opened from the outside AND locked).  I also ran Lucas fuel additive through several tanks of fuel, and both improved the fuel efficiency as well as brought the idling RPM from 1100 down to approximately 575 or so.  Definitely a fun vehicle to drive (and to think, I didn’t even get the chance to off-road with it), but too expensive per mile for me to drive any longer!

Thusly, given that this week saw me move to pushups on a 45 degree incline at physical therapy, and then on Thursday I received the permission of the surgeon, I have returned to my beloved MFALCON.

But I was not idle during my convalescence.  I planned out, and as of very recently, did the work involved in a couple of modifications and additions to the vehicle.

Clean and shiny as all hell (call it 90% wax, 10% sheen off the frozen rinse water)

Clean and shiny as all hell (call it 90% wax, 10% sheen off the frozen rinse water)

Fog lights, replacing the turn signals

Initially back in August, I recognized I would eventually want to install fog lights on my car – the extra light is a good thing for safety, but I also happen to think that fogs which are tinted look damned sexy whether on or off! :3

the new turn signal and fog light arrays

the new turn signal and fog light arrays

The assembly comes as a set (the stock assembly is a turn signal, a reflector, and then a fake fog light lens reflector), and thus I had to purchase replacement assemblies with the real fogs, as the sizing on the middle reflector is different.

the finished product, turn signals orange and fog lights yellow

the finished product, turn signals orange and fog lights yellow

And let me tell you, it was REALLY enjoyable to do a project even as simple as this, ordering and then cutting to size amber (turn signals) and yellow (fog lights) vinyl tint.  Having been incapable of doing much of anything for months as my arm healed, this was a really viable project for my still-healing arm while also being very practical and not too expensive.

New turn signals and fog lights installed, looking *awesome*

New turn signals and fog lights installed, looking *awesome*

Fabricating winter fronts for the upper and lower grills

A few weekends later, being optimistic that the surgeon would indeed clear me to drive my car again, and bearing in mind my home town of Chesterland Ohio is functionally the central Antarctic frozen wastes, I realize that my poor diesel engine will have a tough time warming up and staying warm while driving at home for a month (not as a flaw from my personal vehicle – diesels in general produce far less waste heat).  So taking a cue from school buses and semi trucks, I wanted to figure out some sort of winter front for my car.  There is a recently-released professional winter front available from ID Parts – but I do not want to spend $100 for this addition to my car’s winter time capabilities.

The initial pile of materials is confusing.

The initial pile of materials is confusing.

The solution was obvious, then: TO THE INTERNET!! I looked up various materials, even things like Lexan and Optix (various strength grades of acrylics) as backing materials; while using my friend Tom’s suggestion that the visible portion ought to be leather, for cool looks.  I ended up deciding on a lauan back board, with material taken from a $5 faux leather lady’s coat (thanks Good Will!!!) as the cover; the covers would attach to their respective grills using Velcro.

The finished bottom grill cover

The finished bottom grill cover

Without the CEID at Yale, I would have had to buy a bunch more tools (particularly on the fabric cutting and working side of things) – even still, I did pick up a titanium circular cutting tool and am VERY glad I did.  The overall cost was slightly over $50, so that is half the cost of buying a premade one.

The mockup emblem with the now-finished top grill covers for either side of it

The mockup emblem with the now-finished top grill covers for either side of it

Though the brown coat material doesn’t look half bad, I decided I wanted an accent color to really pop against the Storm Grey of my car; Burnt Orange it was!!

Yours truly, test-fitting the winter fronts

Yours truly, test-fitting the winter fronts

Additionally, even though this is faux leather (and thus a petroleum product), I want to try and protect the paint as best I can from the elements.  I looked into the options for leather conditioner + water sealer, and I found Aquaseal.

Fogs and turn signals still look good; winter fronts installed and making a HUGE difference on time to warm up

Fogs and turn signals still look good; winter fronts installed and making a HUGE difference on time to warm up

Traveling home to Ohio for Christmas and the 2013/2014 transition

So, these mods done, I got some help from a friend (for the sake of my poor shoulder) to get the Thule roof box atop my car, and then loaded – since last spring, I decided that each trip I take home will see my car loaded with things I do not want to get rid of, but do not need here with me in New Haven… so that eventually, when I depart this place in May 2014, the moving experience then will be easy (and almost solely furniture).

Thule box on the roof, the car is getting packed and ready to be driven into (apparently) some serious Lake Effect snow in NY

Thule box on the roof, the car is getting packed and ready to be driven into (apparently) some serious Lake Effect snow in NY

Also for the sake of my shoulder, I decided to split the trip into two days of travel – I will drive first to my friend John’s house in Rochester NY, to visit and board game with him.  Then, on Sunday, I will drive the approximately 4 remaining hours home.  Apparently big winter storms all across New England and New York starting tomorrow, so this should be interesting!

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Giving Thanks, 2013: a very lengthy list of causes for gratitude

A couple weeks after Thanksgiving, I am now in the clear from school and work alike, and wanted to sit down and do a prolonged examination of the sizeable pile of blessings I have really gained deepened appreciation for, particularly over the course of surgery and healing from it.

This particular Thanksigiving, a good number of my friends have reached their parents’ homes, or their relative’s homes, or the hearth and hearts with whom they will be spending this holiday instituted by the good General Washington, to give thanks unto Almighty God.  Atypically for me, I was here in New Haven and not with my immediate family in Ohio, due to the continuing healing process from my shoulder surgery in September (combination of being disallowed to drive my efficient car yet; not be willing or able to afford the huge costs of driving my borrowed Jeep all the way to Cleveland; and not having the money or the capacity to sit on AMTRAK seats for 17+ hours, given that my arm is still finicky).  My good friend Andrea, from krav maga, has not only let me park my VW at her house since Sept 16 – she has also allowed me to borrow her Jeep.  But as if that weren’t enough, she ALSO invited me to be with her family on Thanksgiving. I was welcomed into her dad’s home on Thanksgiving itself; and into her mom’s home on the day after (and given that her mom remarried and converted to Judaism, and it was shabbat + Thanksgiving + Chanukah dinner, I ate a *lot*).  I have also become very good friends with my classmate Kelli, and have fully addicted her to both Battlestar Galactica and board- and card-gaming of all sorts, which has been a lot of fun over the course of this fall.  So for one, I am deeply thankful for the good friends, friends to last a lifetime, I have made while here in CT.

The lack of posts over the months since surgery has been in large part due to the unenviable difficulties of typing with only one hand… at least up until recently, when the surgeon cleared me for “active daily living.”  This sounds a lot further along than it really is – I am allowed to brush my teeth or comb my hair with my right arm, but am not to open doors, drive my stick shift, or really do ANY pushing or pulling involving any sort of weight with my right arm.  Even still, given that the surgeon completely lacerated and then reattached the ligaments between my right arm and torso on September 17… I am pretty damned pleased with this high level of progress (and lack of any complications, thus far).  The physical therapy moved from 3 times per week down to 2, as I was able to regain nearly the full range of motion far, far more quickly than they were able to predict or realistically expect.  So these days, they have me working with ever-growing weights (read: 3 or 4 pounds, still VERY light), in order to get the muscles and ligaments working in sync again.  So for healing and in fact the prolonged forced period of heavy resting I was required to do (and would never ever do voluntarily otherwise, due to thriving on being productive), I am deeply thankful.

One part of why I am finishing the composition of this post several days after Thanksgiving itself is because I wanted to fully finish my academic requirements and not allow any distractions to prolong that experience.  The fact that I only took three courses this semester (because my planned internship with the Yale Chaplain’s Office was not viable with the surgery, so I didn’t do the internship course as my 4th) was instrumental in my healing properly and being able to rest as much as my body needed.  Even still, as those close to me have heard time and again (and perhaps too often, as complaining ain’t do nobody no good anyhow), I am quite, quite, quite ready to be done with school.  That is, to be frank, too polite and concise a way of explaining how I feel – I am deeply struggling with the sensation of being stuck in a holding pattern, forced to accrue debt and listen to some classmates (most, if not all, of whom have great intentions) prattle on and on about things they have no idea about, having come to YDS without much in the way of practical life experience.  It would be one thing to discuss practical concerns if all parties were versed in the way the world actually works; it is another, and quite frankly corrosive, thing to be subjected to pontification by the unexperienced.  So, I am thankful for the things I have learned and experienced while at Yale, but I am very thankful that I am nearly done with school for a long time to come (this disclaimer allows me to go get a PhD in 20 years, to be clear).

Another outcome from shoulder surgery was that I had to quit work at the Law School – not being able to use my right arm for 3 months (but immediately after surgery, having no idea whatsoever of the actual timing of when I would be able to use it), I realized the honorable and indeed wise choice was to tender my resignation – it was neither fair to them to be put on indefinite hold, nor to me to pressure myself at all to return to work, as my dominant right arm needs 110% of my focus to heal.  That said, the whole three months without pay was a problem for my fall finances, as it turns out.  So a few weeks ago, I was panicked and looking for work online that would be viable with mostly one arm (this was prior to being cleared for two handed typing by the doc).  Figuring I would not have success, I decided to check the Yale student jobs postings, and was amazed to find a perfect fit – a research project on the French Resistance, which is at a stage where some 170,000 cards, each detailing an event during the resistance against the Germans during WWII, needs to be categorized and potentially entered into a spreadsheet.  Being fluent in French and pretty good with computers in general, I have not only secured that job; I have been promoted to managing researcher, supervising 10 research assistants while doing some coding of cards myself.  This has been a wonderful development; for the obvious financial reasons, but also because I was going more than a little stir crazy after three months of enforced nothing.  So, I am thankful for the great job I had at the Law School in the past, and the great job I have with the international program now.

Finally, I am thankful for the fact that I have done a great deal of soul-searching and careful thinking on what I would like to do as the next stage in my life.  Again, as per the last several posts here where I have discussed options, this is only an option (and many of the other ones are still live) – but more and more over time, I have begun to lean towards the possibility of moving back to northeast Ohio, probably even to my parents’ house, in order to save on rent and food; at the same time, snag a job at Cleveland Clinic or University Health or Metro Health, possibly even doing IT – I am disinterested in pursuing a career in helping people if I am unable to afford my cost of living plus loan payments, and would rather work a handful of years in a good job like that to fully pay down debt, and THEN work to get a job in the career I want; and if I play my cards right, I will squirrel away enough money so that I can buy the piece of land I want so badly, to start turning into an agrarian paradise, at the same time as pursuing that career job.  We shall, as they say, see… but nevertheless, I am thankful to be able to consider options before jumping into anything.

What blog post would be complete without Ike?  Especially Christmas tree Ike.

What blog post would be complete without Ike? Especially Christmas tree Ike.