On Feb. 7, 1996, I caught this ad in the events section of The Daily Cougar, the school newspaper at the University of Houston.
Wheel – KHOU-TV (Channel 11) is looking for 120 college students to try out for a chance to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. Students must be between 18 and 24 years old and able to test in Houston Saturday at 11 a.m. or 3 p.m.
At this point in my life, things were starting to turn around from the academic implosion I was going through at the time. I had met a girl, and I had finally gotten around to asking her out on a first date. That date? Yep, the same Saturday as the “Wheel of Fortune” audition. That’s more of an aside, though.
I called the number, and before the end of the day, I got a call back from KHOU. She said I had been one of the 120 students selected to audition for the show, and I needed to show up to a local hotel Saturday morning for the 11 a.m. audition.
I remember being super nervous about the audition. I had watched a couple episodes of the show between getting the call and heading to the audition, and thankfully, the rules had not changed much in the two decades the show had been on the air. I familiarized myself with some of the new puzzle types such as “Fill in the Blank,” and felt pretty confident. Still nervous, yet confident.
When I got to the hotel, I checked in at a table and was led to a room where the audition would take place. I’m not lying to you when I say I nearly passed out. There were about 200 people in the room. I was part of a cattle call. Moooo.
My first year of college was probably one of the most difficult times in my life. As desperate as I was to leave my parents and find my own way in the world, I had some trouble adjusting to living away from home. I met a few really cool folks that first year, and they are still friendships I value today. However, I’ll be the first to admit that I was really lost academically.
Studying and I never really got along, and even though I always grasped concepts during lectures and understood them, my recall was terrible at test time. Over the course of those first two semesters I dropped an english composition class (twice) before I had a chance to fail it. I missed my health final, and despite convincing the instructor to let me take it anyway, I failed the course. The rest of my grades were unremarkable.
I knew very well that I would need to take summer classes to make up for my shortcomings in the first year. There was no way I would ask my parents to foot the bill for that since it was my mistake that caused me to be three classes behind. I was going to need a job.
Yesterday, during the SOPA Wikipedia blackout, I posted a funny tweet following the #FactsWithoutWikipedia hashtag that trended across Twitter. Apparently, someone in Toronto thought it was funny because later in the day, I got a tweet from someone saying my contribution to #FactsWithoutWikipedia had been published in a Toronto Star article.
I won’t repost the whole thing here, but below is an excerpt.
From The Toronto Star website:
Top 15 fake facts without Wikipedia
What to do when Wikipedia blacks out for 24 hours? Make up your own facts, of course.
Twitter has been furiously updating with users’ sarcastic, silly, and sometimes seemingly real fake facts — using hashtags like #factswithoutwikipedia and #daywithoutwikipedia — while the English-language website is down in protest against anti-piracy law.
Here is a look at our Top 15 favourites:
- Rock band Rush predicted the end of civilization when their Canadian calendar only went up to 2112. (From @BradKimberly)
Believe it or not, I had to explain this joke to my wife. I guess she’s not a Rush fan.
When I was in high school, I got a job at the local movie theater during my junior year. It was a pretty sweet deal. They would pay me $4.25 an hour, and I would come home smelling like popcorn… ALL THE TIME!
It was a Cinemark theater, and I had to wear green fluorescent suspenders over a white dress shirt, matching green bow tie (a fake, of course), and black pants. When I worked concession, which everybody does at first, I had to wear a heavy plastic apron that felt like linoleum. Covering the apron was a bunch of Cinemark artwork featuring Front Row Joe. Follow the link… you’ll be sad you did.
I had my first girlfriend in my junior year. Our first date was to go see “Wayne’s World” (Excellent). That petered out somewhere around “the day after prom.” I was pretty down about it, but at least I was making massive bank at the Cinemark. You know, $4.25 in 1992 is about $35 in 2012 currency.
Summer is the busy season at the movies, and 1992 was no different. College folks were coming back home, and some of them would come to work at the theater. That’s when I met Julie Byars. We both worked in the concession, and, like me, she was lured to the Cinemark with the prospect of $4.25 an hour and free movie passes.
There was something about this college girl, who had just finished her first year, that struck me as awesome. To this day, I can’t tell you what it was, but I was clearly smitten. I had never blown off curfew for any reason whatsoever. That’s mostly due to how hum-drum things were back then for me. For her, though, I willingly blew off curfew three times. Sorry, mom. Read more…
So, it’s been nearly a year and a half since I last posted a blog entry. I should feel a little guilty about this, but I really don’t.
To catch you up, I did end up moving to Washington, D.C. to accept a prestigious job with the government. It was a pretty decent job with a good amount of stress involved. When you work at that high a level in the government, things that should be easy to do become monumentally difficult to accomplish. I’m not sure why this is, but something as simple as adding content to a website shouldn’t require fifteen planning meetings and concurrence from everyone from the janitor to the President of the United States.
Still, it was a great job, and I made lots of friends in the DC area. Unfortunately, I had to leave the job. My wife has a job that was looking at some business in the Atlanta area. She volunteered to move to Atlanta to pursue those goals for the company. We have family here, and the cost of living is much much lower than DC. So, I gave up my job in order for her to transfer down here.
She works out of the house now, and I am focused full-time on my cruise travel agency. It’s called The Cruise Hunters, and we have the best cruise deals. I’m still looking for public relations work in the Atlanta area, and I’m regularly applying to things. Money is okay, but I would feel a lot more comfy with a regular source of income. The travel business is good to me, but commissions can be sporadic depending on the supplier.
So, I’m living in Marietta now, and spending lots of time on Twitter. I hope to continue updating this site.
While my dad was in town, I brought him down to the basement so we could do some work on the machine. Sadly, the only thing we accomplished was updating the game software from revision LX-4 (an export version) to L-6 (the most current domestic version).
Changing this chip out is pretty easy. Use a flathead screwdriver to gently pry the old chip out. Pop in new chip. That’s it.
When I turned on the machine to check that the chip software was working properly, I was slightly terrified.
It turns out that the connector on the bottom of the display providing the power was slightly loose. In reseating the display portion of the backglass, the connector slipped resulting in the problem.
Once I firmly reconnected that wiring harness back to the board, it began working again.
We spent the rest of the day troubleshooting that “Start City” lamp that seems to come on when other lamps lamps are powered. Still haven’t figured that one out, but I’m close.
The bad news is that the machine has more cosmetic damage than mechanical/electrical damage. It was an export version, which was clearly exposed to the sun in a humid environment. The cabinet decals are all color-faded, and some of the metal parts in the game have a bit of rust on them.
Of the problems I have initially identified, some of them were easily fixed.
- Two of the General Illumination strings would not light. I fixed this by replacing two fuses on the WPC Power Driver Board, which manages the electrical system in the game.
- One of the Bridge Out lights was constantly on. It turns out that a prior owner of the machine had hooked that particular lamp up to the GI circuit. Coincidentally, the GI lamp that provided light to Red’s face was blinking when the Bridge Out light was supposed to be on. I swapped the connectors to the lamps, and it started working properly.
- I replaced a few of the burnt lamps in the game while I tested the electrical system.
Other items that need attention…
- Replace the LX-4 export ROM with the current L-6 programming for the US.
- The coin door is rusted out, and the service buttons are broken. No coin mechs, either. Needs replacement.
- The lockdown bar has some random holes in it. It will need to be replaced.
- The Start City light comes on when certain other lights are activated. This might be a Power Driver Board issue.
- Ramp flaps… rusted
- Old pinballs installed. Need four new ones.
- Ted’s face isn’t secured… broken plastic around screw hole.
- Playfield wear around start city hole and where the ball ejects from the hole.
- Dirty playfield and dirty plastics
- Diverter solenoid spring broken
- Cracked and dirty rubbers
- Dirty translite
- No power cord plate
- Missing nylon feet for cabinet back.
- Rusted legs and leg levelers
- Rusted leg bolts
- “Kansas City” on the 28-lamp PCB won’t light, and it isn’t a socket problem.
- The knocker is missing.
- Both ball shooter assemblies are in various states of rust.
- Helmet decals are dirty and peeling.
- Cashbox is missing.
So, this is clearly going to be a project that will keep me busy for a while. I have lots of parts coming to my house before Thanksgiving, so I think I’ll have lots of stuff to work on while my family strangles one another.
More to come…