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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   street-legal cars for less than that
Tuesday, January 8 2013
I set the alarm for 8:30 this morning so I'd be up in time to get the Honda Civic to the official Honda repair shop by 10am. After scraping the frost off the windows, I drove it out to the Honda dealership on 9W, but then it turned out that wasn't the right place. The shop was actually on Broadway near Albany Avenue between a laundromat and some other cruddy Broadway business (that is, in the low-rent part of our local rust belt city). The Honda people expected me to drop off the car and pick it up at the end of the day, but what I did instead was leave it and walk to Uptown. This was the first time I'd ever walked from any point on Broadway to Uptown, though the distance I walked was less than a half mile. This morning the air was still cold enough to make my ungloved hands uncomfortable, even with the cup of hot coffee I'd taken from Honda's waiting area (which, unlike the waiting area of Mavis, has free WiFi).
When one is having a car worked on so close to Uptown Kingston, there is a huge upgrade in the places to spend time waiting. I ended up at Hudson Coffee Traders, where I ordered a hummus bagel with tomato and a cup of whatever coffee they brew there. Then I settled into what I thought would be a long day of web development on my laptop. But I wasn't even at the coffee shop for an hour before Honda called me back and told me what I already knew, that the problem with the car was a bad oxygen sensor and that the repair would be $400. Not only that, but the oxygen sensor wasn't in stock and the recommended thing for me to do was to leave the car overnight. On hearing all this, the main thing I felt was anger. It had been a simple matter for me to read the car's error code. And I'd even tried to replace the oxygen sensor, though I suspect (based on fora I'd read on the interwebs) that the replacement I'd bought had been the wrong kind. Now that I'd figured out the proper (though difficult) procedure for reaching into and extracting that sensor, I felt $400 was nothing but unabashed shysterism. So I told the guy on the phone that no I wouldn't be having my oxygen sensor replaced at this time. And so then he told me that I would still be assessed a $90-some dollar diagnostics fee. You heard that right; to hook up a gizmo to the data port and read a message, a procedure I can do in 20 seconds, I had to pay a $97 fee. But what choice did I have? By this point I was a little angry with Gretchen as well, because she was the one who had come up with idea of taking the car to an official Honda shop. It turns out official Honda shops don't have any extra magical mojo beyond what I have in the combination of my acquired talents and the tools scattered around the household garage. I suppose that information was worth something, though not $90-some dollars.
Back at the house, I feeling aggravated about the whole experience, and so it didn't take much before the discussion with Gretchen to explode into a short-lived fight. She thought I was retroactively blaming her for the fiasco without having never expressed reservations at her idea for talking the car to the Honda shop. She was right, at least to some extent, but I probably wouldn't have projected such a blaming vibe had she been more supportive of me after such an experience. The Honda shop was the villain in this story, not me. I mean, $400 to replace an oxygen sensor? I've bought street-legal cars for less than that!

The day improved for me dramatically later today when my local web development client, who'd been a bit of a sour puss, finally started liking the thing I've been building for him for the past three or four days. Part of the problem was that I was porting an application he'd spent years developing to a new platform (from Filemaker to the LAMP stack), and it was hard for him to see any of the changes I made to his UI design with anything but curmudgeonly resentment. But today he started coming around to the changes I'd made, changes that were now possible outside the confines of Filemaker's templating paradigm. By now, my web version (which had been extremely crude only yesterday) was beginning to look rather slick. It featured a series of AJAX-produced menus that drove everything in a way that required no explicit saving. You pull menus down, things happen, and then you go off to work on some other item and come back and your first item is in whatever state it was in when you last left it. Ultimately, though, all the actual logic derives from the relationships of data in the database, and all of that data was in the same form it had been in in the original Filemaker application. So while it was an unexpected joy for my client when he tried a tricky input and it produce the correct output, it didn't surprise me at all.
For this particular client, it was very important that I make it so all the menus could be driven entirely from the keyboard, which is how I ended up spending much of today learning how to override default keyboard behavior in a web browser using Javascript. I've done a lot of Javascript work over the past fifteen years, but this was the first time I'd ever found myself having to alter the behavior of the keyboard. The code to do that stuff ended up looking like this:

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