Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Art Contest

I've been practicing drawing about 1 - 2 hours about three times a week... not nearly as much as I need to be. Never the less, my skill have been improving. I'm going to enter a couple design contests I saw on craigslist. Who knows, maybe I'll get lucky.

this one
and this one

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Austin Apartment

Yesterday I made the long drive through the cow pastures and little oil towns strewn between Montgomery and Austin, where I was finally able to check out the apartment that I'll be renting for the next six months. The apartment was nice and my future roommate showed me around Austin a bit, which was really encouraging. From what I've seen of Austin so far, the city has the feel of Portland OR and San Angelo TX layered together, making for a lively and amusing culture of liberal swingyness set atop an enduring old-west tone.

Probably the most motivating part of the trip was finding that my roommate, a current UT architecture student, had switched majors from engineering to architecture after being at the school for a while. This is great news, because it not only solidifies the possibility of me being able to get into the arc department, but now I have someone in my immediate network of friends who's actually done it!

Friday, December 19, 2008


I sold the Civic yesterday to my uncle and it was a pretty sweet moment. The Civic cost me quite a bit of time and $ but the mechanical skills I acquired made it all worth it in the end. I feel a little freer and lighter now and look forward to being able to focus on other projects more directly related to architecture - which brings up an issue that I think I should address.

Someone reading this blog might reasonably ask, "If this is supposed to be a blog about becoming an architect, why did the author spend so much time working on his car?" Well, I'll tell you. I'm not going into architecture for the job title. I want to do it because I love designing, building, and fixing stuff. Also, I know that being able to handle tools, troubleshoot mechanical/electrical problems, source supplies and equipment, etc. will be skills I'll need in order to function as a decent architect. And that, my friends, is that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Civic Hood Latch 2

Unbelievably, I got in the car yesterday to drive it to my Uncle's, only to find that it wouldn't start AGAIN. The starter seemed to be spinning fine but once again there was no fire. When I tried to open the hood and take a look at the ignition fuse, the hood release cable became detached from the hood release mechanism and I was unable to open the hood. The last time this happened it was a huge pita and I ended up having to get a new $22 cable. Once again, the car received one of my thorough verbal assaults.

Luckily, my dad figured out that by wedging the hood open a bit you can access the two bolts that hold in the hood release mechanism. I really wish I had realized this the first time this problem occurred \_/. Anyways, once the hood was open I took the release mechanism out to fix it once and for all (here for pics). Also, the car just decided to start working again without me doing anything to it. Starts right up now! ...what??

Monday, December 15, 2008

Civic Starter 2

Yesterday I exchanged the starter for a good one, bolted it on, and the car started right up. I then decided that before I took it to my uncles' I would try troubleshooting the CD player, which had suddenly stopped working about a week ago. After about 30 mins of testing wires I decided that I would just figure it out when I arrived at my uncle's, since he seems to know more about cars than me. I went in, took a shower, put my stuff in the car... and found that it would no longer start. The starter seemed to be working fine but the car wouldn't fire up. At this point I was really pissed and called the car several choice words before calling it quits for the day.

Today when I resumed messing with the car I found that the CD player had mysteriously begun working again. I also found that a fuse to the ignition harness had blown, probably while I was testing the radio wires yesterday. After replacing the fuse the car started immediately, so thank goodness I can finally $ell it to my uncle for some ramen noodle money. For pics of this project go here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Civic Starter

About a month ago the Civic would 'click' when I tried to start it. I would try restarting it a few times with eventual success, but the problem seemed to worsen as time went on. This morning I was about to drive it to Houston and sell it to my uncle but, alas, it wouldn't start at all. Just 'click, click, click'. I cleaned the battery terminals/posts and used a multimeter to test the voltage on the positive wire going to the starter, and all appeared fine. So I replaced the starter ($80 at O'Reilly's) and the car started immediately. Unfortunately, now when I turn the key and start the car, there comes a scraping/screeching sound from the starter, as if I'm holding the key in the engine ignition position too long. If I let go of the key really fast the sound doesn't last as long, but I can't start the car without making the sound for at least half a second. What's up with this?

Also, the CD player was working one night when I parked the car, then the next morning had no power. I am still trying to figure this one out. Perhaps a ground wire has become detached somewhere?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Next Step

I originally planned to buy a house in Austin while attending the university, but after house hunting for a while I've decided to just rent for a while. It will be much less stressful, plus I've already found a cheap place close to the school, and - get this - my prospective roommate is an architecture student. It will be a smaller room than I've grown accustomed to though, so I've been using this free downloadable program to brainstorm furniture arrangements.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Right Tie Rod Replacement

Before I left from MD I tried to get the Civic aligned, but the Firestone mechanic said that the tie rod nut was frozen and the tie rods were perhaps frozen together. About a year earlier a Sears mechanic told me the same thing about the left tie rod when I went to have it aligned, however I just took it to the auto shop on base and used a big wrench to free the nut myself. Unfortunately, since there isn't a military base for a couple hundred miles from my dad's house I wasn't able to try that this time.

This was pretty much the first time I've had to jack my car up to work on it outside the on-base auto shop, and it was a bit of a pain. Replacing the tie rod didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped but not as slowly as I'd feared. The coolest part of the job was using my dad's angle grinder, an insanely dangerous tool that cut through the 1.5 inch steel tie rod like it was a piece of pine wood. For pics and details of the job, go here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Life in the Country

Life has been so wonderful since getting out of the military! My Dad's house is amazing (pics to come). I've been going to the gym regularly with my brother and spending time with family. I have also been working on finishing my pre-calculus class through UMUC. Actually there is a little story to this class -

In high school I was never great at math but I still managed to get decent grades as I remember it. When it came time for college math, I took the placement test through UMUC and was placed in remedial math, which cost money but did not count for any credits. Outraged, I arrogantly refused to waste my precious time in a 'worthless' class, so I studied at the public library for a few weeks and then retook the placement test. My new score allowed me to take algebra, trig, or pre-calculus. I took pre-calculus because it was worth more credit, and because I was sure I could hack it. Well, it turned out that the commute to the college was significantly more intense than GoogleMaps had led me to believe (over an hour each way in East Coast traffic), and when I got to the classes I was lost. What the hell was this guy talking about? I struggled through the class and by sheer force of will received a C.

But this was not the end of it. By this point I was looking at architecture, and determined that I probably needed to complete higher level math classes. So I enrolled in an online calculus class through UMUC, figuring that I could invest all the time saved by not commuting into more study time. Well, let's just say that this plan did not produce the desired result, lol! WTF WAS THIS GUY TALKING ABOUT NOW? Derivative? WHAT??? Once again, by sheer force of will I made it through this class with C.

At this point I knew it was time to be real with myself. An architect needs to KNOW math, not just have gone through the academic motions. I enrolled in an online college algebra class through San Jacinto College in Houston, a course which required a lot of devoted study and produced excellent results. I received an A in this class, and built a very solid algebraic base. I am now re-taking pre-calculus through a UMUC online course, and it is actually very easy for me now. All that remains is the final exam, and I am confident that I will receive an A in this class. More importantly, I am ready to re-take calculus, and I will rock it.