April 2004 Archives

2 days to departure

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Today I wrapped up some work, and also worked on decorations. I glued up a bunch more mah jongg tiles on the sides, added a few aquarium plants, repaired a few toys that had fallen off, and put some little fish that Georg had given me under the license plate.

Also I put Godzilla up in hostility corner. He's kind of sneaking up on the bird god. Or maybe he's on the bird god's side, fighting against the iguana. I'm a little concerned about Godzilla's stability. That leading edge of the roof gets the most wind pressure of anyplace on the car.

And I pulled off all the toys that had gotten sticky from melting in the sun, and replaced them with fresh new toys. Because I would hate for the kids at the Main Street Drag, especially the blind kids, to touch those melty toys and get sticky goo all over their hands. Alas, that means I had to get rid of the goldfish I had used as a sort of UMJ mascot on the T-shirt design and on the background image of this page. I love those goldfish but they just weren't made to bake in the sun every day. They turn clear and then get really gross.

And we started packing today. Georg wrote up a list, and I started putting the car art supplies (beads, glue etc) in the trunk and laying things out on the dining table. I think I've got all the equipment and paperwork (i.e. parade passes) accounted for. Didn't start packing clothes yet.

Rob got here this evening. Georg picked him up at the airport after work. The dogs remembered Rob and looked happy to see him. Well, Lina was all excited, but Thirteen looked happy from afar. I'm sure she'll be more comfortable with Rob by the time we get back.

We went to Pizza Palace for dinner, where we saw Lisa, Charlotte and Tom. The pizza was every bit as good as I remembered, but I have to say the service totally sucked. We waited for ever and ever, and then finally they brought Georg and Rob's pizza but my calzone didn't arrive until they were each starting on their third slices. And they were eating slowly since I didn't have my dinner yet. I ended up eating way too much because I was so hungry. It seemed like the staff were totally overwhelmed. Probably because of that newspaper article about them maybe being forced out of their lease. That's why we went -- I hadn't been there in years.

On the way to Pizza Palace we were stopped at a light, and someone in the car in front of us had a chicken puppet! He had the puppet out the window & it was waving at people in other cars. He saw us and got all excited, put the chicken puppet out the sunroof to wave at us. I tried to get a photo of the chicken puppet but the light changed too quickly.

A car problem came up tonight: one of the rear car windows suddenly won't close. It goes down, but not up. And the button at my seat doesn't do anything to it at all. The other windows are fine, and this one was normal two days ago. Lisa said a lot of new Beetles have this problem, there's a part called the "regulator" that controls the windows. We're going to take it to Merchant's first thing in the morning. I'm crossing my fingers that they can fix it! Driving to Texas with one window down would be No. Fun. At. All.

[Edited to add: The Merchant's website is the worst ever! There's no way to find out the hours of a specific store, or anything about the store except phone number and address. Yeesh!]

This time a week from now, I'll be in Houston! To be specific, exactly one week from now I'll probably be trying to fall asleep and failing miserably, as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve.

testing ecto

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This is a test of using Ecto to post to my journal. If it works, it will allow me to post without going through the Movable Type web interface. Which can be a pain to load using dialup and a cell modem.

Ecto seems pretty nifty at first glance. I'm on the free two-week trial period but if it does what I think it will, I'll gladly pay $18 to register it.

[It posted just fine! A few problems: when I edited the post it generated an error message, something about XML. One time the edit went through anyway, the other time it didn't.

There's an alert message when I post without a category. That will be helpful on the trip, when every post goes in the "art car" category, but most of the time I don't use categories. Wonder if I can turn that off?

Also, one of my pings isn't getting through. Ecto doesn't seem to time out and I can't figure out how to make it stop trying. Eventually it crashed, but it saved everything I had typed! That's pretty cool. I just deleted that ping and downloaded an upgrade, maybe that will help.]

3 days till departure

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Yesterday was a day for running errands & taking care of obligations. Got my hair done (and have I ever mentioned how much I love my hairdresser?), dropped off a deposit slip at HKB so they can mail my check to my bank, went to Costco and stocked up on dog food and supplies for Rob, got a little work done in the afternoon, and then went to Stoneline. Their quarterly payroll taxes are due in just a couple of days. I hate leaving them till the last minute, but due to a series of mix-ups the disk with the payroll data on it hadn't been there the past couple of times I was there. Anyway while I was thinking of it I made extra big tax deposits since I won't be there next week.

After Stoneline I headed over to Christa and Ray's to drop off a couple of DVDs that I had borrowed so long ago I hadn't even remember them until Ray reminded me. Ray was outside using his telescope when I got there, and he showed me the moon, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. Wow! It was really amazing. I had never looked through a telescope before. We could even see color variations on Jupiter.

Christa was busy tiling her bathroom, but I went inside just to say hi for a minute. After that I stopped over at Lisa's to pick up her firewire hub. I got there at almost 9, saw that Lisa was working on her website, and realized that she's right, the three of us really do get a lot done.

I got home around 9:30 and Georg kindly cooked my dinner (I hadn't realized how late I was going to be, so I stupidly bought groceries at Whole Foods rather than premade food) while I worked on the new mah jongg set for the hood. They took the varnish really well but I had kind of glopped it on, so I had to scrape some off the sides of the tiles.

I set up on the coffee table and played out a real game. I used modern Japanese rules, which are slightly different from the classical Japanese rules I play, because I thought the game would be recognizable to more people using modern rules. Not like there are crowds of people proficient in modern Japanese mah jongg checking out my car all the time, but still! I'd like for people who know mah jongg to be able to look at that game and see what's going on.

I confess, it wasn't a purely honest game: I monkeyed around with the results, trading tiles back and forth, to get the outcome I wanted. Just like everyone always gets a straight flush or four aces when they play poker in the movies, I gave my fish spectacular mah jongg hands. Well actually, 2 spectacular hands: one of them is about to pick up the winning discard for Nine Gates, which I've heard called the ultimate hand. It's a pon (three of a kind) of nines, a pon of ones, one each of 2-8, and one extra one, all in the same suit. (The extra tile can be either a one or a nine.) I think what I've got isn't "pure" Nine Gates because the winning tile is being taken from a discard, not drawn. But I think it makes the game look more interesting this way.

Also I gave that player the dora, which is a rule in modern Japanese mah jongg that I don't normally play with. One tile near the end of the wall is turned over, and if you have either that tile or the one sequentially above it (depending on your rule variation) in your hand you get another double.

Oh! it just occurred to me that instead of taking the win from a discard, it should have been robbing the kong. Damn, that would have been awesome! Wish I'd thought of that before gluing all the tiles down.

The lobster, who is discarding the winning tile, is himself one tile away from Big Three Dragons, another great hand. It's pons of all three dragons, and to sweeten the deal a bit I made his other sets South and nines. So he would have gotten all ones, nines and honor tiles as well as the dragons.

The other two hands are much more prosaic (and more like the hands you would see in a typical game). One of them is one tile away from a basic mah jongg with no ones, nines or honor tiles. The other one is two tiles away from the same type of basic hand. Maybe I should have made them all spectacular hands, but I thought it would be better to have a little bit of normalcy in the game.

Did I overthink this? Maybe, but I had fun doing it.

Today I worked until about 2 -- everyone is finally realizing that I'm going to be gone for ten days and scrambling to get their work to me -- then glued the new mah jongg game in place. The old game was really hard to remove! I had to use a screwdriver to pry most of them loose. I'm glad to know that they hold the glue so well.

Speaking of glue there was a nasty glue residue left behind from the old set. In most places I was able to glue the new tiles right over it, but where the tiles stand up I couldn't. Also the new game didn't have exactly the same configuration as the old one, so there were a few places that just weren't covered. So I used those little beads to cover up the old glue. The little beads are a pain to work with -- it goes more slowly than with the big ones, and you tend to get more glue on your hands -- but I think it turned out nice!

Some of the birds are so brave they came to the feeder while I was out there, not fifteen feet away from the feeder. Georg said he's seen goldfinches at our feeder, but I didn't see them. Just a very hungry cardinal, a few teeny tiny birds, and one that likes to scratch at the ground. I may need to borrow Ray's extremely fragile and expensive bird call computer thing to identify them.

In other news, Georg finished the mounting rack for the bubble machine. Yay for Georg! It looks great and I think it will keep the machine much more stable. It adjusts so we can level the machine, even if it's on a slopey part of the roof. And Rob is definitely coming down to house sit. Yay for Rob! What a relief. Also, Lina sat outside for hours while I worked, and never looked for baby bunnies to kill. Yay for Lina!

4 days till departure


Got the bubble machine done. I remember the first one taking 10 hours to bead, and this one was close to it. I started just after 2 and finished around midnight. Of course that wasn't 10 solid hours of work. I took breaks to eat dinner, varnish the new mah jongg tiles, check email, etc etc. But still, it was a long day's work. My back was a bit stiff by the time I finished!

This time I was careful not to bead over the opening. So that in future, we'll be able to open the machine and properly dispose of unused bubble juice. Rather than tipping it over and dumping out the bubble juice as we used to do. I'm hoping that this and the new mounting frame will prevent bubble juice from getting into the machinery and ruining it like the last one.

After we got the car back I retrieved the polyurethane from my trunk and sealed the new mah jongg tiles. They're painted, not carved, so they need some protection. Considering the wear they're going to get , I did not go to great lengths (or any lengths for that matter) to create a dust-free environment.

I'm going to use these (a gift from my friend Kevin) to replace the game being played on the hood. I guess tonight after Stoneline I'll play out a game in the dining room. Then glue it on tomorrow. It's a bit more work this way bu I think it's more fun if there's an actual game displayed on the trunk, rather than me just laying out the tiles in a simulation of a game.

So my car is all checked out. Replacing the engine seals turned out to be expensive. But still, I'm glad to get that taken care of before the trip. They also replaced the timing belt since they had to remove it anyway. I asked them to check the clutch and they must have adjusted it, because it's shifting more smoothly.

I must say, my car is much nicer to drive when the interior is all cleaned up. I got under the seats this time, cleaning out some stuff that looked like it had been there for a long time (for instance, I found a piece of hard candy that must have fallen under there at the 2002 Clayton Christmas parade). I pretty much only clean it before events. I guess I should go to more events so I'll have more reason to keep the car clean!

I got email confirmation from the Main Street Drag; I have been assigned to the route with the blind school. I think that will be really fun. She said we should get there early and I remember from last time that 9:30, the time they say to be there, is actually the time that groups start leaving. We got there right at 9:30 and almost missed our group. We'll try to get there more like 9:15 so I have time to set up the cams.

Georg made us hotel reservations in New Orleans for Sunday night after the parade. Yay! I've never been to New Orleans and have always wanted to go. We'll only have one afternoon and evening there, but still it will be a nice little mini-vacation after the whirlwind parade weekend.

In less happy news, we found out last night that Georg's father isn't feeling well and his brother Rob, who's planning to housesit for us, may have to stay home. I called the kennel to make sure they would have space for Lina and Thirteen, but I hope it doesn't come to that. We're crossing our fingers that Georg's dad recovers quickly.


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Since the car is in the shop today, I planned to spend the day beading the bubble machine, and also varnish the mah jongg tiles that are going to go on the hood. Went to get started just now, and realized that because it rained yesterday, we put away all the decorating supplies. In the trunk of my car. Which is at the shop. Argh!

It's not a total disaster. I still have plenty of beads because the box from Oriental Trading was too big to pack in the trunk. And I found the caulk gun on the porch, with a half-full tube of caulk in it. I can use that to bead the bubble machine. I don't normally like to use caulk with the beading because it turns grey and nasty as it ages, shows dirt more than the glue. But the bubble machine gets very little wear, it's only on the car during events. So I think it will be OK. My work scissors are in the trunk, but I can sacrifice another pair. (They get all gluey so I like to use the same pair, rather than ruining every pair of scissors in the house.)

So the day won't be totally wasted. I'll have to wait on the tiles until tonight, but at least I can work on the bubble machine today. I'm just annoyed at myself for planning so poorly.

auto shop

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Undersea Mah Jongg is at the shop today, getting checked out before the trip. I think we have a slow oil leak & asked them to check for that. Also I asked them to make sure the clutch is okay.

I've been going to this mechanic -- Hawkins Auto Care -- since I got my first car in 1992. They're in a little area by the I-85 exit ramp at Hillsborough Rd, and the construction has affected them a lot. One of the other businesses in their compound is gone (the building was torn down to make room for widening the interstate) and the security fence is gone too. Today when I got there, half the parking lot had been replaced by a mountain of earth and a drainage ditch made of large stones. They told me that they're going to make the parking lot loop around the back of the building so they have room for customer cars.

I hope their business isn't suffering due to the construction. When I go there now, there are only a small fraction of the cars in the parking lot that there used to be. That might be because the nearby business that left was a body shop. I would really hate for Hawkins to close. It's nice to have a mechanic I trust.

[Jeff from Hawkins just called. The oil leak is due to a blown engine seal. He said that we caught it before it caused any damage. Good thing it's being fixed before the trip!]

6 days till departure


We had a good productive weekend. I didn't get as much done as I had hoped, but I also didn't end up thoroughly exhausted. Which is a good thing!

We got in some good driving practice for Georg. He's doing really well with the stick shift, especially highway driving. I think he'll be fine on the trip. I only have 2 concerns: off-ramps that are up a hill, and traffic jams. We're going to try to avoid the first by switching at rest stops, which tend to be level with the highway. And if we run into a traffic jam, Georg can just pull over to the shoulder and let me drive through the traffic.

Back home, Georg made good progress on the mounting frame for the bubble machine, and added some really nice beadwork to the hood. I think we should do the entire hood in those little beads; it looks wonderful. He also cleaned out the trunk, which gets flooded and had developed an ant colony because of all the moisture. He zapped all the ants, threw away everything gross and soggy, and made a new cover for the spare tire out of leftover fake wood paneling he found in the shed. We're hoping that we can repack the trunk on top of the paneling and things will now stay dry. (Have I mentioned that Georg is the most amazing boyfriend ever?)

Meanwhile I thoroughly cleaned the interior of the car, and made my parade day outfit. I think I also did something website related but I can't remember what. And I wrote out a detailed itinerary and sent it to Peggy so we could coordinate & make sure everyone knows about everything we need to do.

Oh, and Nutty stayed with us while Sean and Pam were at the state libertarian convention. Lina and Thirteen love having Nutso boy here and I love it too.

Had a fun radio show today. A couple of good requests and another call from the guy in Charlotte. Who I feel much more comfortable chatting with now that I know he's not a stalker fan. Well, he's an obsessive fan of the entire station, not just me. I won't be back on the air again until after we get back. I was too busy this morning to set up the computer to record, alas. But I was tickled to see in this cam shot that my hair is finally looking the way I want. I've been working on a retro style, looking at old pictures, and that height in the back is just what I've been going for. It's hard for me to see the back of my own head, so I didn't know.

I was doing my daily update to the to do list this morning, and I realized that I'm pretty much ready for the trip. The web cams are tested and running. The web site could use a few cosmetic fixes, but it will be fine if I don't get to them. My sewing is all done. Georg is driving the stick shift. The last thing is decorating, and because everything else is done I can focus on that for the next few days before we go.

This time next week we will have arrived in Austin. Maybe we'll be having dinner at Guerro's on South Congress.



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Just for fun I thought I'd post an entry that isn't about the Houston trip. We've been hearing our owls a lot lately. They live in the woods behind our house. Sometimes they sound distant, sometimes really close. One afternoon a couple of years ago we even saw one, sitting way up in a tree right by the house.

I found a nice webpage about owls where I was able to determine that these are barred owls. They live a long time and tend to nest in the same place year after year. Which makes me think that it's the same pair of owls we've been hearing all this time.

Their regular call is very "woo-hoo" owl-like, but their mating call is bizarre! It sounds like monkeys fighting in the trees over the house. Or maybe space aliens. I had an early morning radio show the first spring the owls were living here, and one time they started on that crazy hooting while I was walking to my car at 4:30 am. I didn't know what it was & it scared me so bad I nearly peed my pants.

I read that the main cause of death in barred owls is road kill. I worry about them sometimes because we live on such a busy road. But with lots of tasty voles and chipmunks and baby rabbits in the yard, maybe they don't need to hunt in the road.

Speaking of rabbits, Lina hasn't managed another kill. Mainly because we keep an eye on her every time she goes outside, and don't let her up into the woodsy part where the rabbits are living. We're hoping that by the time we get back from Houston, the rabbits will have all grown up and either gone somewhere else, or at least be too fast for Lina. Actually most of them probably will have become owl food, but I would be okay with that. As long as the owls don't bring the bodies to me like Lina does.

[There is another great web page called The Owl Cam where a guy rigged up a nest for a family of barred owls with a web cam inside the nest! With the owl cam and his telephoto lens, he can photograph their progress without disturbing them. Unfortunately it looks like the pair haven't come back this year, but you can still look at photos from previous years.]

good news and bad news

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I called Verizon yesterday. The good news is I was not charged for roaming yesterday. He said that if the "Extended Network" message is blinking, that means the signal from the phone is bouncing off something so it's having trouble getting through. It's only really roaming if "Extended Network" is solid on the display, not blinking.

The bad news is that off-peak starts at 9 pm. I thought it was 8. We get 400 peak minutes a month and I've been trying to conserve them for webcasting during the trip, but I don't think we're going to have enough minutes for everything. For one thing, there are night-time events on Thursday and Friday, which will now each take an hour more peak minutes than I had expected, plus a long daytime event on Friday. For another, we've already used more peak minutes than I had intended because the cam test I did last Thursday started at 8.

I think I might drop webcasting the Main Squeeze (Friday night event). Our cars are just going to be parked downtown, it's not going to be that interesting. It's more important to me that we're able to webcast the Main Street Drag (the tour of schools) on Friday afternoon. The Art Car Ball (Thursday night) starts late so most of it will be in off-peak hours. And of course, the events on Saturday (the parade and the illuminated cruise) will be free and clear as far as minutes go.

While I had the guy on the phone, I also asked about a couple of unexpected items on our bill. Turns out that there's a $10 charge for the "in-network" thing which lets us make calls to anyone on Verizon without costing any minutes. I'm a bit pissed off because the guy in the store told me that was free. Well actually, it is free -- for one phone. There's a $10 charge per additional phone on the account. What a rip-off!

Georg and I don't talk to each other (or anyone else on Verizon wireless) on our cell phones often enough to warrant a $10 charge. Except for these parades once or twice a year, we typically only use a small fraction of our minutes. So we're going to cancel the "in-network" charge on his phone. After which I'll be able to call him for free, but if he calls me it will come out of the minutes. I think. It's kind of confusing.

cam test success

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The cam test was a success. We ran the cam while Georg was practicing driving stick shift at the Sheraton Imperial Center, then as I drove back to Durham for lunch. After lunch I was going to keep broadcasting while Georg drove some more in Oval Park, but the phone suddenly started to say "Extended Network." Which I believe means "We are charging your ass about a thousand dollars per minute for roaming." It's totally ridiculous, we were about a block from the restaurant where I had a steady signal (three bars out of five). But still, I turned off the phone as fast as I could.

I'm going to check my account online tomorrow and if I got charged for roaming, call them to complain. I've found that they credit you for the charge if you make a stink about it. Which inclines me to believe that roaming charges are capricious, not always based on actual loss of coverage, and they know it. I mean, if you only got charged for roaming when you really were roaming, why would they be so willing to credit the charges?

Anyway, enough bitching about Verizon. The charger was great. After an hour and fifteen minutes of powering the computer it was still going fine. The only problem I noticed was that the plug didn't seat very well. It tended to pop out if the charger was moved or jarred, as tends to happen in a moving car. I'll have to see if I can tape it down or something.

So with power from the car while the car is running, power from the charger, and the laptop's own battery, we'll be able to keep running for a good long time.

Hey, Georg just called and they have rope lights at Home Depot. Unfortunately they're not cheap, but then again they're not on post-holiday clearance like the ones I bought last year. He's going to get two 18' strands of clear lights. That will be plenty for the roof and hood. Yay!


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In all the excitement yesterday, I forgot to post that my parade packet from the Orange Show arrived! Undersea Mah Jongg is entry #51. Yay!!

Let's see, what else is in the packet. A lot of maps, flyers for various parties & events that weekend, the entry signs to put in my car windows, a profit and loss statement from the Orange Show (?? why?), participant instruction manual, ads from a few sponsors, and meal/drink coupons for the events.

The coupons are a bit skimpy compared to what I remember from two years ago. I remember getting 2 free lunches after the Main Street Drag and 2 free sandwiches at the parade. This year it's only 1 of each. Lunch after the Main Street Drag wasn't all that good anyway. Just some mediocre red beans & rice. I'll eat rice if it's in something I love (like good Indian food or sushi), but not just because it's there. Especially if it's not even free anymore. I think that unless we really like the people in our group and want to hang out with them, we'll blow off the red beans & rice lunch and go get our own lunch somewhere else.

Last night I also got an email from someone organizing the Main Street Drag. That's the event where small groups of art cars go to schools & hospitals so that kids can see the cars who might not get to attend the parade. They want us to request the route we want. I'm sure that's great for local people who know the schools and have lots of art car friends, they can request the same route and ride together. But the different routes meant nothing to me. I requested the one with a school for the blind because with the beads, toys and carpet, Undersea Mah Jongg might have some interesting textures for the blind kids to touch.

Also, Lisa posted a very cool photo she took on Thurs. night with her camera phone. I think her phone takes better photos than mine does. Then again, mine only cost $10 so I guess I can't complain. (Actually I haven't yet received the rebate, until I do the cost was $60.)

cam test today

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We will be running a cam test today, probably starting around 11 am. The cam can be viewed here. The webcast will continue as long as the charger provides power to the computer.

iron chef america


We watched the first episode of Iron Chef America, the Food Network's new version of Iron Chef, tonight. We were a bit apprehensive because Iron Chef USA, the previous UPN attempt at Iron Chef, was so awful. But our concerns were unfounded; this one was great! They got the tone just right: a bit over the top but totally serious about the cooking, never winking at the camera or treating the competition as a joke.

The new Iron Chefs are Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck. I'm not crazy about any of them, but considering that we could have ended up with Emeril I'm not going to complain. Especially since the commentator is Alton Brown! I love his show and I've always thought that he would be the perfect American version of Doc Hattori. Turns out he is!

I also appreciated the choice of judges: a chef (Kerry Simon), an editor from Bon Appetit, and only one BDJ (bimbo du jour -- actor Brian Unger). They weren't Asako "Crone Goddess of Food" Kishi, but it was nice to have judges who actually know something about food.

In almost every way it was a vast improvement over Iron Chef USA, the two part UPN special from a couple of years ago. They didn't understand at all what makes Iron Chef worthwhile. There was no respect for the competition, with jokey elements like sports commentators who knew nothing about food, an instant replay of a judge (a Playboy Playmate) eating, and one of the chefs taking a cell phone call during the battle. The only thing I preferred about Iron Chef USA was William Shatner as the Chairman. Shatner really is the perfect choice for the role. But the new guy playing the Chairman on the Food Network isn't bad. He's not The Shat, but he's not bad.

They started the new series by having the new Iron Chefs battle original Iron Chefs Sakai and Morimoto. (We think that from something Sakai said, Iron Chef Chen was also supposed to be there but couldn't make it for some reason.) Tonight was Flay vs. Sakai. [Spoiler Alert:] I wasn't surprised that Flay won. Sakai's dishes looked like classic Iron Chef, but the judges weren't Japanese and maybe Flay's heartier Southwestern style was better suited to their taste. I was, however, appalled to see that Flay scored higher than Sakai in presentation. Sakai is "the Delacroix of French cuisine" for god's sake! [End Spoilers]

Tomorrow night they're going to rerun the Flay-Sakai battle and then show Morimoto-Batali.

nine days till departure

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Nine days! Aah! I didn't get as much done on trip preparations today as I had hoped, because of work -- oh, that. First I had a meeting on the east side of Raleigh at 1, then Stoneline in Chapel Hill. So I spent a lot of time driving around today. Between the two I stopped at Wal-mart and picked up plenty of bubble juice and a car battery charger. It has a DC jack right in it, and I got a nice big one that should provide power for a decent length of time. Also stopped by the dollar store and got a bunch of glow sticks. My plan is to tape the glow sticks to the wheels for the Saturday night illuminated cruise.

Speaking of the illuminated cruise, after dinner this evening I tried out the rope lights. It got dark while I was working so I only got one side done. I used electrical tape to hold up the lights, just to get them in place. Tomorrow I'll go back and attach the little clips that came with the lights, so that at the event we can just clip them in place.

Rather than neatly going around the edges of the car I did a swirly loopy design. I think it looks good, but we need something on the roof. Dang! I only have four boxes of the lights, two boxes for each side. We could really use two more boxes for the roof, but it's difficult to buy those lights at this time of year. Well, we'll think of something else.

web cam test


This evening Lisa and I geeked out at Ooh La Latte, the new coffeeshop attached to Untidy Museum. It is the perfect place! Nice space, good people, lots of comfy chairs and free wireless net access. If they served snacks besides baked goods I'd never leave. (I'm not nearly so strict about carbs anymore, but I still don't eat white flour or sugar on a regular basis.)

We both brought our Powerbook laptops, they were so cute together! We were like an ad for Apple. In fact one of the guys who worked there came over and asked us about our computers. He was excited to find out that Lisa's (17", woo hoo) is a refurb and how much less expensive they are.

Lisa brought me her cams and I did a trial run. It was a full-on trial: computer running off battery, net access through the cell phone, uploading cam images once a minute to my website. In terms of equipment it was exactly like parade webcasting. The only difference is that while driving in parades, I'll have power for my computer from the car battery. (Can't power the phone because the data cable and power cable go into the same jack. No problem though, since I have the extra phone battery.)

The cam images were nice and sharp. I posted a typical shot to the photolog. In a nice bit of recursion, you can see the cam image on the screen of my laptop. You can also see what a nifty space Ooh La Latte is. In case anyone is curious, all the cam images from tonight are here.

Lisa also made the excellent suggestion that I get a second battery (we think they're called "chargers") to provide electrical power when the car isn't running. That would be great, because I hate not being able to run the bubble machine (and having a limited time to run the computer) while parked. But I also hate idling the car for long stretches of time just to provide power. I'm going to check Wal-mart and the auto parts store and see if I can find one of those.

Also I forgot to mention that I finally finished my party dress. I posted a couple of pictures in the photolog. The satin belt isn't lying flat, it's got this weird ripple in it. I'll do the belt over if I have time. Or more likely, after I get back.

bunny mystery

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The dead bunny disappeared. Georg just got home and went to dispose of the body, but it was gone. This is gross, but we even let Lina out in hopes that she'd lead us to it. She ran right to the spot where I saw her drop it, snuffled the ground in a few circles, then came back inside.

Is it possible the bunny survived and ran away after the coast was clear? I'm having a hard time believing it. I didn't look that closely, but it looked pretty limp in Lina's mouth. Dogs aren't like cats; they don't hold their prey gingerly in order to play with it. Still, I couldn't bear to look at it after I got Lina inside, so I have no idea whether it was truly dead or not. I just assumed it was because whenever she's caught a rodent before, it's been dead instantly.

Maybe the neighborhood owls made off with the body. In a strange way that would make me feel better. If one of the owls fed the bunny to its own babies, at least that would be part of the natural order of things. Better than a mortally wounded baby bunny staggering around my yard, trying to find a safe place where it can die.

more carnage


Lina killed another baby bunny about 15 minutes ago. This one was totally my fault. She wanted out & I thought about putting my shoes on but I didn't bother. Put her out and she ran straight up into the brush and I could tell she had something trapped. I called to her to come in and get a treat (that usually works) but she didn't listen. I ran inside to get my shoes on but by the time I got back out there she was, carrying a dead bunny in her mouth.

If I had only put my shoes on first, or gone after Lina in my bare feet, that baby bunny would probably still be alive. I feel like I killed it myself. Last time I kept my composure pretty well but this time I'm crying so hard I nearly made myself sick.

The worst part is, last night when we got home from Stereolab we saw the adult bunny in the yard. That was the first sighting since Lina killed the other baby last week, and I was so happy to see that the adult at least was okay. I want to call those humane critter people and have them trap the bunnies and move them some place away from my dogs. I can't take any more of this.


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Stereolab rocked my world! I don't typically go to shows because I'm not crazy about dancing, crowds, noise, smoke, or staying up late. (although the Cradle is now smoke-free, as I was thrilled to discover last night.) But I'll make an exception for a band I really love, like Stereolab. The show was great! They played all the songs I love from their new album Margerine Eclipse, plus some good ones from earlier albums.

I had been wondering how they were going to handle the vocals, since they haven't replaced Mary Hansen; Laetitia Sadier did both lead and backup vocals on the new album. Well they handled it by just dropping the backup vocals. Some of the songs sounded kind of weird without harmonies, kind of "ok, here's the place where Mary would be singing 'la li loo,'" but there was just nothing. But I guess it was less weird than a new singer would have been.

Turned out yesterday was their drummer's birthday, because near the end of the show they brought out a cake and Laetitia sang "Happy Birthday" to him. It was really sweet.

I wasn't going to buy a shirt because I don't wear men's Ts anymore, but they had girl shirts! I got one in the new Margerine Eclipse logo, and Georg got the Sound Dust skull logo. There seemed to be a consesus that the skull design is cooler, but I actually prefer the new design.

low stress day


When I got up yesterday morning, this was what my day looked like:

8-11 am: work.
11 am: drive to Chapel Hill for lunch meeting with RC (big client).
2:30-3 pm: finish meeting. No time to go home before Stoneline, so run some errands in Chapel Hill.
5 pm: Stoneline. Work on their quarterly payroll taxes; also have to stay late to meet with Monte about their website.
8-8:30 pm: probably finished meeting with Monte. No time to go home, so grab dinner somewhere.
9:30 Stereolab show.

Now, that's how my day was supposed to go. Until Stoneline called to cancel because they're so busy right now they forgot to prepare stuff for me. They were extremely apologetic, but it worked out great for me. Then RC called to cancel too! They had a crisis with the printer on a big report they're publishing, which needed to be dealt with immediately.

So it suddenly went from a "just get through this day" day, to a "what am I going to do with my day?" day. I got some more work done, then went and did the errands I was going to do between the meeting and Stoneline.

I bought an extended battery for my cell phone. With the two batteries I'll be able to webcast for a good long time; the only limitation will be the computer battery. (I wonder if I should get a second battery for my computer? how much do they cost?)

Also finally got the backless bra for my party outfit. I totally lucked out too. I had resigned myself to not being able to find what I wanted; Victoria's Secret had one that was almost right but cost $50, and the department stores all have the "convertible bra" with straps around your waist that feel like a tourniquet, and one that's held up with stickers (ugh!). But I happened to park by JC Penney's, and happened to walk past their lingerie department on my way in, and they had exactly what I wanted, on sale for $15! It fits, it's not uncomfortable, and no damn stickers. While I was trying it on, the piped in music in the fitting room started playing Morcheeba. Yes, Morcheeba. In JC Penney. I ask you, does it get any better than that?

The only blot on the afternoon was that I exchanged my camera bag, then got home and discovered that the new one was missing the Velcro divider inserts. So I have to go back and exchange it again. No big deal though.

The best part of the day was definitely the Stereolab show. More on that in a separate post.

car update


Had a good productive day today. We had gone to the hardware store for supplies over the weekend & I had bought a variety of glues, including another tube of Liquid Nails. Which is my preferred glue for the mah jongg tiles. So I glued on a bunch more tiles, to fill in a few areas on the side doors that were looking bare. I didn't get a photo today, but I'll take one tomorrow when I pull off the masking tape.

After the mah jongg tiles I worked on beading the front bumper. I'm really, really happy with how it's turning out. That's the first place on the car where I did 2 strands together of the same color. Also the first time I used loose beads (not on a strand). The loose beads look pretty but they were a royal pain to glue in place. With the strands I just smear the glue over a few square inches of the car, then press the beads into the glue. But with the loose beads I had to get a dab of glue on each individual bead. Then since they were bigger, they kept sliding down a bit, so I had to go back and press them back into place several times. Still I think it was worth it, they do look good.

The timing of the outdoor work was really bad: I worked on my computer until about 2, then went outside in the heat and worked on the car until 5. I keep trying to plan better so I'm working outside in the morning, and inside during the hottest part of the day. But it always seems to work out this way. I get up in the morning and have work I have to deal with, and by the time I'm done it's afternoon already.

I wore a tank top while I was working, to try and get rid of my white shouldered "driver's tan" (as my friend Patricia helpfully said, my natural skin color is so pale it's almost blue). I slathered sunscreen on my tattoo but didn't on my shoulders. Because the whole point was to get some color on my shoulders. Well, I got color all right: a nice bright red sunburn. It's not that painful but it's really red. And splotchy too, because while reaching around to put sunscreen on the tattoo, I got a little bit of sunscreen here and there on my shoulders. Oh well, at least I can wear sleeveless tops without the dreaded white shoulders!

After the outdoor work I was too fried (literally and figuratively) for more heavy work, so I watched TV and did hand-sewing. The party dress is just about finished, yay! I still need to attach a little belt, but if I don't get around to that it won't be a big deal. Also I cut the fabric for my parade day outfit. It's a cute cotton with an octopus print. The pattern looks simple so it should come together quickly when I have time to sew it. Maybe Friday.

Yesterday I bought a new camera bag, but it ended up being too small. I need one I can use for my camera and as a purse, but I underestimated the amount of stuff that goes in my purse. No big deal, I've got the receipt so I'll return it tomorrow for a larger bag.

Also yesterday I ordered a trip-tik from AAA. They're going to mail it to us & it should arrive sometime next week.

kill bill vol. 2


April 19 movie: Kill Bill vol. 2. Whee! What fun this movie was. We all (Georg, Lisa and I) enjoyed it immensely. It wasn't as violent as the last one in terms of sheer volume, but it was equally intense, and there were a couple of "eww gross" moments that had me covering my eyes.

I want to see it again just to catch more of the little details and references to other movies (example: at one point Uma Thurman's character says "I would have driven a motorcycle onto a speeding train for you," which is surely a reference to Michelle Yeoh's big stunt in Supercop). I tried to rent Shogun Assassin, which is mentioned by name in Kill Bill vol. 2, but Netflix didn't have it.

why I hate the phone


Today was the day for annoying phone calls at the station. Actually there were only 2 annoying calls, but they were doozies. First:

Did you say Stereolab are playing the Cradle this Wednesday?


Are you going to be giving away tickets?

no, I'm pretty sure we won't.

Do you know how much tickets are?

no, I don't.

Do you know what time the show will start?


I'm in Charlotte so I really need to know when the show starts.

why don't you try the cradle's website?

What's their web address?

I don't know. try typing "cat's cradle chapel hill" into google.

He then requested a song that I had played a couple of weeks ago, which he had called to ask me about at the time. Which was funny, but also a relief. Because this guy calls a lot, I was starting to get concerned that he was becoming a stalker fan. But he didn't remember that it was me he had talked to about that track ("Last Night" by Lush, the remix from the City of Industry soundtrack if you're interested). So it must not be me, he must just be into the station. Unfortunately I didn't have the album with me so I couldn't play it for him. We did have another version of the song on one of Lush's albums so I played that instead.

The second call was some guy who wanted to know if either the programming director or general manager were there (no), what was a good time to call them (I don't know), when are they generally in (they don't keep regular hours). I told him the best way to get in touch with them is email, to which he replied that he had tried but it didn't work, he "couldn't connect." Then he described some totally nonsensical email problem, at which point I lost my patience. Jeebus, I spend enough time troubleshooting people's idiotic email problems over the phone at work. I'm not doing it at the station too! I was rather pleased with myself for waiting until after hanging up to swear like a sailor at the guy.

Other than that it was a fun show. No requests (other than non-stalker guy from Charlotte) but I enjoyed myself anyway. I think I'm going to ask for Monday 2-4 again over the summer. I was going to try and change to a different day. But the new schedule starts on May 10, when we'll be in Texas. (actually, that day we'll be on our way back, driving across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia if you want to get technical about it.) I have a sub lined up for the 10th, but if I switch to a different day I probably won't know what day until the 8th or 9th, which will be parade weekend so I won't have time to worry about finding a sub.

So I think it will just be easier to try and stay on Mondays. Also it occurs to me that if I write on my grid "I have a sub for Monday May 10 from 2-4, but if you move me to another show I won't have a sub and I won't be able to get one because I'll be out of town without reliable net access when the schedule is announced," that will go a long way towards getting me Monday 2-4 again.

serial dog

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The killing continues. When we got up yesterday, Lina was trying desparately to get out into the yard, so she could go play with some dead thing she had out there. Can we safely call it a spree? A rampage?

Georg disposed of it -- I couldn't bear to look, from a distance it looked pretty thoroughly mauled -- and he said he thought it was a vole, not another rabbit. Whether that's true or not, it was kind of him to say so. I have a great affection for the rabbits but I really couldn't care less about the voles. I'm not crazy about my dogs catching them -- messy you know -- but the owls are welcome to them.

I'm hoping that whatever it was, Lina merely found it. I don't know when she would have been able to kill it: we'd been monitoring her time outside to prevent another rabbit incident.

hedwig and the angry inch


April 17 movie; Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I think that for me, this movie suffered from excessive hype. if I had seen it when it first came out, not knowing anything about it, I probably would have loved it. Unfortunately I spent years hearing how fantastic it was, practically the greatest movie ever. And it just couldn't live up to that. It was good and all, fun, kooky, great music, lots of funny jabs at pop music. (Not to mention John Cameron Mitchell's uncanny resemblance to Juliette Lewis.) It just, I don't know. After all that build-up I was expecting it to change my world. And it really didn't.

beau brummel

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April 16 movie: Beau Brummel. From the info screen I was expecting this to be about a 19th century fashion designer who was friends with the future Edward VII, which is why I DVRed it. But actually it was about an annoying dandy (Stewart Granger) and social climber who falls in love with Elizabeth Taylor, who sensibly marries someone else, and befriends the Prince of Wales (the future George IV, not the future Edward VII, played by Peter Ustinov) to advance his social position. He fails to convince the Prince to give him an earldom, then has a big fight with him because he's an idiot. Then he has to flee his debts in Britain, and dies a pauper in France. What a waste of two hours!

two weeks until departure

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We're leaving in two weeks. Can I panic now?

Actually today was a good, productive day. We did some driving practice for Georg, and he did great! Much better than I did on my first day driving a stick shift. We went out to the Sheraton Imperial Center in RTP, where I had temped (at Embrex) years ago. It was the perfect place: a series of empty parking lots, many turns to navigate but not hilly at all. A security truck stopped us at one point, but when we told them what we were doing they were very nice and told us we could drive around out there as long as we liked.

They were having some kind of charity dog walk at the Sheraton Imperial today; while we were driving around we saw hundreds of people wearing matching T-shirts and walking hundreds of dogs. Luckily they were out on the main road through the complex, nowhere near us.

When we got home we worked on decorating the car. I finished up that spiral, did some toy repair, fixed up the Barbie whose bathing suit had gotten scandalously torn, and put a dozen little plastic loach on the front bumper. I want to do something really nice with the bumper, with beading around the loach. Georg worked on carpet repair, did some more planning for the bubble machine's mounting frame, and also cleaned out the trunk. Which has a leak, so it's always nasty and wet in the bottom, and also had a big ant nest down by the spare tire. Ewww!

This evening I did hand-sewing on my party dress while we watched Brini Maxwell interview Helen Gurley Brown, and then watched Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I'm almost done the dress, yay!

a night to remember

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April 16 movie: A Night to Remember. This 1958 British movie about the sinking of the Titanic was the one I was trying to remember the day Patricia and I saw the Titanic exhibit. It's just as good as I remember. It takes a restrained, almost documentary style (almost no soundtrack music!) that makes the tragedy more compelling than all the overblown melodrama ten James Camerons could muster. I was sobbing by the end of the movie.

I read that except for one major factual error (they show the ship sinking in one piece, not splitting in half) A Night to Remember is as accurate as they could make it: nearly every scene and line of dialogue came from survivor accounts. They included a lot of historical characters, never focusing on any one person's story. I like that approach better than using the sinking as the backdrop for one fictional romance. I think it helps to convey the enormity of it. (They did actually show someone rearranging the deck chairs! He was trying to build a raft.)


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April 15 movie: Kill! Because of Kill Bill's imminent release, Independant Film Channel showed three samurai movies selected by Quentin Tarantino. We watched the first one, Kill! It was a little difficult to follow, at least at first, but all good fun with lots of references to other samurai movies. The fighting was extra gory, which was probably why Tarantino liked it so much. The star looked familiar, we thought he had played the man with the gun in Yojimbo. I looked it up in imdb.com and that was him, so two points for us! Not only that but he's been in tons of movies, including Ran (he played Lord Hidetora) and Kwaidan, that ghost story movie I saw a couple of months ago.

young bess

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April 15 movie: Young Bess. Jean Simmons plays Princess Elizabeth, who loves Admiral Tom Seymour (Stewart Granger) from afar, except that he's married to her step-mother Katherine Parr (Deborah Kerr). Not a movie for the ages, but as historical melodramas go it was pretty good. And Charles Laughton was excellent as Henry VIII.

My memory of Elizabethan history was never that deep, and is fuzzy at best now. But from what I remember, Tom Seymour actually pursued marriage with Elizabeth as a play for the throne, and took Katherine Parr because he couldn't get the princess, but kept on trying to seduce Elizabeth as a sort of back-up. In the movie it's much more benign (no surprise there): Seymour really loves Katherine, but he and Elizabeth gradually fall in love anyway, then he's falsely accused of having aspirations to the throne. I'd like to know more about the actual story so I added Elizabeth R to my Netflix queue, I heard it was the most historically accurate movie (actually a miniseries) about Elizabeth I.

car progress

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I feel kind of weird about writing up a normal post after the bunny incident, but I did make some progress on my car this afternoon. I wasn't feeling very creative, so I did some obvious stuff like white beads around the wheel wells and windshield. Also some toy repair, including the little bird god who's at war with the iguana. He fell off a long time ago, I'm glad to finally have him back where he belongs in hostility corner. (The rest of the car is so cute, all butterflies and Barbies and smiling fishes. So I call that one little place with the battle between the iguana and the bird god "hostility corner.")

Then I got to work on beading the spiral on the driver door. It was kind of difficult holding up all the strands of beads while the glue set on each bit. I used to use a cup holder to drape the beads over. I'll have to see what I did with that cup holder. So I can work on a larger area. Anyway I took a photo after two hours, worked about another hour, and then didn't feel like taking any photos after the whole bunny thing. I'll get some more done in the morning when the car's surface hasn't been warmed by the sun. It's easier to work when the glue sets a little more slowly.

r.i.p. bunny


Lina killed a bunny this afternoon. A sweet little baby bunny. I was outside working on my car, and the dogs were hanging out with me, just sitting in the sun. They started wandering around the woodsy part of the back yard, then suddenly they got all excited and there was a lot of rustling, and then Lina came trotting down with the bunny in her mouth.

It was pretty upsetting, although I couldn't be mad at Lina. After all, life is rough for wild rodents. And it's Lina's nature. To kill baby bunnies. She did it once before, years ago. I was hoping that at her advanced age she wouldn't move fast enough to catch a bunny anymore. She probably wouldn't have caught this one if it had been full grown.

We've seen an adult bunny in the yard many times before. It likes to hang out on the grassy hill near the bird feeders. I guess it must have had a bunny family. I'm torn between hoping Lina didn't scare them all off, and hoping she did. Because I sure don't want her to catch another one.

living in oblivion

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April 14 movie: Living in Oblivion. I had seen this before a couple of years ago, which is a good thing because I had it on while I was doing my taxes (why yes, I do my taxes at the last minute. Every year. In fact I'm rather bummed that my taxes are now so complicated that I can no longer do them on the evening of the 15th like I used to). Because this movie is so funny that if I had been watching it for the first time I would never have been able to pay attention to my schedules A, C and E.

I used to be friends with a woman who worked in film in NY and she said that Living in Oblivion's unglamorous view of independant film-making is spot-on, from the exploding fog machine to the spoiled milk to the beat up old station wagon to pick up the actors. Also I heard that the "Chad Palomino" character is a parody of Brad Pitt, with whom the director, Tom DiCillo, worked on Johnny Suede. Watching with that in mind, it makes a lot of sense. The guy playing Chad, James leGros, did have a Pitt-ish manner about him. I wonder if Chad's halitosis problem is shared by Pitt as well.

modesty blaise


April 13 movie: Modesty Blaise. I was looking for cheesy good fun and boy, did I find it. The story was ridiculous and confusing, but the clothes were great. As were the ultra-modern set designs, including a cell with a purple and black op-art pattern on the walls, floor and ceiling, designed to drive Modesty (Monica Vitti) insane!

Terence Stamp was wonderful as Modesty's oversexed mod-boy sidekick. But then, when is Terence Stamp not wonderful? I don't know that I'd go out of my way to see this again, but it was worth one viewing at least for Modesty's constant costume and hairstyle changes, and for Stamp in his narrow trousers, driving an Austin Healey and singing dopey love songs

sick yarn car

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Just had bad news from Tim Klein: prospects are looking bad for his amazing art car, The Elements, making it to Houston this year. Apparently it needs some serious repairs. But the main problem is finding the parts for a somewhat unusual car (it's a 1967 Imperial Crown).

I'm really bummed about this, not just because The Elements is such an amazing car, but because we were planning to webcast together, with cams mounted on both cars, rolling together in the parade line-up. Tim's my web cam buddy, he has to be there!

Well he will be there, just maybe not with his car. I wish I could invite him to ride with us. But with four people and the computer, I think Undersea Mah Jongg will be full to capacity as it is.

illuminated cruise

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Checked the Houston Art Car Klub web site today. There are more events this year than 2002: besides the Art Car Ball on Thursday night, Main Street Drag (tour of area schools) on Friday morning and parade proper on Saturday, there's also a downtown party called "Main Squeeze" Friday night, and Illuminated Cruise on Saturday night! I'm so excited!

Good thing I bought those rope lights on sale last year. I already added lighting stuff to the to do list. Too bad I already ordered from Oriental Trading Company! I seem to recall they had good prices on glow sticks in lots of shapes. There's probably time to order again. After all, the GITD stuff won't be put on the car in advance; I just need to figure out where it goes.

looking up

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Well I fixed the broken moblog and photolog scripts. I won't bore y'all with the details but it turned out that the original script I was working from was set up up in an inefficient way. It was fine when my photolog only had a few entries, but last night I imported 450 entries. Which made it way too big for the inefficient script to work with.

I have it fixed in a clunky way & am hoping to get some help tomorrow with fixing it in a better way (I know what to do, I just don't know how to write it out). I can't believe I not only wrote a perl script, but debugged it. Lisa was right: I rock.

Other nice things to offset my last, grumpy post:

-My cellphone coverage is suddenly way better here at the house. I normally get one bar, maybe two, and sometimes lose coverage completely. But tonight I'm consistently getting 3-5 bars. Hope it lasts!

-My show today recorded. So, if I had to work all evening, at least I got to listen to all the fun music I played. I got an OK screen cap too, except my head got cut off.

-The CafePress shirts arrived today and they look great! I'll post a photo in a bit.

-Ben & Jerry's makes sugar free ice cream. Oh lordie!

gloomy day

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I spent all weekend working on my website, staying at my desk almost constantly -- the only time I left the house all weekend was Rick's party Friday night, and on Saturday afternoon when I took a break to do a little beadwork on the car -- and as a result I'm pretty much exhausted.

It was worth it though; I went to bed last night really happy with the photolog. I didn't have the thumbnail creation working yet, but it did everything else I wanted and is merged with the moblog in a really nifty way. Except that today:

-the moblog isn't working anymore. I was showing off to some friends and posted a photo, and it never uploaded. I haven't changed the script since Saturday when it did work, so I can't figure out what's going on.
-And the photolog also isn't currently working, because I had left the thumbnail thingie unfinished last night.
-And a client wrote to me in a panic this afternoon because their admin site, which they have been using for a long time, is suddenly not working.
-And I asked Pete to move funnystrange.com over here, thinking that it would take him a while to get to it, but he did it first thing this morning. Which means that whole site was broken all day, and all the ASP pages have to be converted to PHP right away.

Argh! I was hoping to relax this evening, maybe watch a movie, but it looks like I'll be sitting at this god-damned desk working on my god-damned website all night again.

stewart granger, where are you?

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TCM has totally let me down. Every Easter Sunday they show cheesy biblical movies all day. David and Bathsheba starring Gregory Peck, Samson and Delilah starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr, and my personal favorite, Sodom and Gomorrah starring Stewart Granger and his hair. What would Easter be without Granger's pompadour doing battle with the forces of depravity?

But this year TCM blew it. They're only showing two biblical movies: King of Kings and The Greatest Story Ever Told. Boring! They could have at least given us Ben Hur. I could go for a good chariot race. Plus that scene at the very beginning where Ben Hur and Masala are clearly ex-lovers, except Heston didn't know it, cracks me up every time.

Oh well, guess I'll get some work done on my car instead.

happy dance


The moblog works! La la la! It works! I just posted 4 photos from my phone and it worked perfectly.

I'm not crazy about the term "moblog" (for mobile blog) but I needed a way to distinguish it from the photolog I already have. "Posted from my phone" is easier to understand, but doesn't fit in the space very well. So "moblog" it is. For now at least.

The templates are all yucky right now because I'm still working on formatting them. But pretty soon (probably late tonight or sometime tomorrow morning) it will be set up so each day's journal entry will have a sidebar with all the day's photos. It's already set up on the home page.




A very productive day which ended in a fun party. What could be better?

Georg had the day off because he has to work on Sunday. I worked in the morning, and we had lunch at Green Tango, the chopped salad place near the former South Square. Yum! On the way we stopped at the mail center and my box of beads from Oriental Trading Company had arrived. Yay! I had paid extra for fast shipping to get it by this weekend, but they emailed me that they hadn't shipped it until yesterday. So I was really annoyed with them. But it turns out it had actually arrived yesterday; they just sent the notification late. Yay for Oriental Trading!

Then in the afternoon I finished cleaning the exterior of my car. It's not spotless, I'll have to go over it again before we leave, but it's clean enough to get to work on decorating. Perfect timing that the beads arrived yesterday. It was sunny, breezy, a beautiful day to be outside working on the car.

Georg agreed to take over the job of figuring out how to mount the new bubble machine on top of the car. The way we used to mount the old one was really unstable, and the machine used to bounce up and down while we were driving. The bubble juice sloshed all over inside, eventually gunking up the works so it didn't work anymore and I had to buy a new one. They're kind of expensive and I don't want that to happen again. So Georg is working on some ideas for a mounting bracket that will have a little more stability.

Also did a little more on the website photolog, and got a little more done on my dress. Then it was time for the loteria bingo party at Rick's! Tons of fun was had by all. Georg won a bottle of tequila, and Jason won the prize I had donated, a Day of the Dead mask I had bought in Austin. The group I was with decided that we hated the flowerpot and the deer, because they got called all the time and they weren't on any of our cards. Freaking deer. My favorite thing was Rick calling all the cards and yelling out "El Parajo! That means the red bird on a stick! El Soldado! That means the peacekeeper! El Catrin! That means the dandy!" Also for the first time I met someone who recognized me from my Livejournal icon. Not only that but she pronounced my name correctly. Wow!

Lisa and I tried to talk each other into staying at the party and having fun, but only succeeded in convincing each other that we really needed to go home immediately and get back to work on our websites. And here I am.

parade update

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Now I know I've really begun parade preparations: I've had my first stupid and fruitless conversation with Verizon. All I need is to find out about the options and prices for data connectivity, but it's nearly impossible to get them to understand what I want. "No, I don't need to buy your mobile office kit. I already have the cable and software. All I need is access. No, I don't need your software. No really, I have a Mac, which you don't support, so your software wouldn't work for me anyway. Believe it or not, it's possible to use your phone as a modem without buying your cable and software. I've done it before. Please, just tell me what number to dial. Really!" I swear, I think the woman was reading her information off their website. She knew less about how their data connectivity works than I do. Next time I'll go straight to tech support instead of wasting my time with customer service.

At least the trial run worked. I don't have the cams yet so all I did was dial in using the cell phone as a modem. Seemed to work just fine! The Maccellphone group hasn't failed me yet.

Also got the web site revision well under way. And made hotel reservations for us and Peggy and Chris. We got a group rate as part of the art car parade, the hotel is really close to the parade staging area, and best of all, free high speed internet in the rooms! Yay!

Now to tackle the moblog again. I am going to get that thing working, by god!



If you're looking at my actual web journal rather than the LJ feed, you've probably noticed that things look a little different. I had to restructure the site -- having two separate journals for my car and for the rest of my life made no sense -- and while I was at it I freshened up the look a bit too.

I'm interested in opinions, especially about the background graphic. I'm concerned about it affecting readability. My original plan was to use the face graphic from the front page of my site. It looked nice, but I was a little weirded out by having a huge illustration of my own face on every page. I mean, I'm vain and all, just not that vain.

monster road

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Just a note for anyone in the Triangle area who missed out on Monster Road: first, if you have digital cable they have it (along with a few other movies from Full Frame) available on Channel 550 for free. Also, it will be shown at the Hi Mom Film Festival, on April 22. No word on Hot Dog Man unfortunately.

welcome home powerbook

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My Powerbook is back! My glorious, glorious Powerbook. I missed you so much!

They did replace the logic board. Tested it all day today and the display problem never came back. Hooray! No more electric fan pointing at the back of the machine all the time!

While at the Apple store I bought car power adapters for the iPod and for the computer. One of the guys there helped me pick out an adapter for the computer that could be used at the same time as a DC inverter. Which I need for the bubble machine. He made some comment about how my car was going to be all wired up so I told him about the parade. He was suitably impressed!

Spent most of the day running around to various appointments. Which was boring so I won't go into it any further. What little time I was home, I spent trying to get mt-moblog working. It's supposed to do exactly what I want: receive an email message that contains a photo, creat a thumbnail of the photo, then create a Movable Type entry with the subject of the email as the title, the body of the email as the text, then the thumbnail which links to the full sized photo. That is exactly what I want.

Unfortunately it's a Perl script. And since I know absolutely nothing about Perl, when it didn't work I was completely at a loss. Luckily Lisa and Jason came to my rescue. Jason fixed all the problems (and diplomatically avoided telling me that they were all my fault, but I think that's how it was) except that the script can't get into my designated email account.

I'm sure that the email address and password are correct. The only thing I'm not sure of is the script asked for my "localhost." I didn't know what that meant so I wrote down the POP server. What else could it be? Well, maybe something else, because it ain't working like this.

Pair.com has a function to save email to a folder. Might be that I could get around this POP problem by moving the email messages and then having the script just read the files. Except, I still don't know anything about Perl.

the girl from 10th avenue

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April 5 movie: The Girl from 10th Avenue. This was a silly bit of fluff, as mid 30s movies about Manhattan society tend to be. But I'll watch almost anything with Bette Davis in it, and it didn't require much attention so was perfect for watching while I cut the fabric for my party dress.

Davis is an honest factory girl who rescues a high society guy (Ian Hunter) from being arrested for drunk and disorderly outside the wedding of the woman who jilted him. Davis and Hunter get drunk together and end up married. She rescues him from drinking himself to death (not all that plausible since they're both shown drinking all the time, but whatever) and eventually he realizes that he really loves her, not the other woman who by now wants him back.

A street-smart working class girl isn't the best role for Davis; she played headstrong heiresses much more convincingly. Honestly, the best thing about the movie was this rumor I had heard that studio costumers hated Davis because she was busty and refused to wear a bra. So they had to dress her to conceal and support her rather impressive bosom. I totally believe it from watching this movie. All her outfits have big, gathered & loose-fitting bodices. They make her look like she just had a baby. She must have given in on the bra thing, because by the late 30s her movie clothes tend to fit a little better in the bust.

the major and the minor


April 4 movie: The Major and the Minor. Ginger Rogers wants to get out of NYC, but can't afford train fare home. What does she do? Why, dress up as a little girl to get the half-fare, of course. On the way she meets and falls for Ray Milland, an Army major who can't tell the difference between an actual 12 year old and a grown woman in pigtails. Hilarity ensues!

I wanted to like this, or at least watch it, because it's Billy Wilder's US directorial debut. But, yuck. I mean, yuck! Rogers might have made a convincing 12 year old in 1932, but by 1942 she was already 31. I guess they were trying to make "adult Ginger" more beautiful by comparison, but they did a terrible job of making her up as "child Ginger." She looks all blotchy and way older than she really was. The result was a prematurely aged Rogers in a little dress and pigtails, staring longingly at dumb-ass Milland and calling him "Uncle Phillip" while he calls her "dear child." Seriously cringe-inducing, though I suppose people with a infantilism fetish might enjoy it.

The creep factor got to me and I gave up halfway through. But I can tell you with near certainty that Milland and Rogers end up together, they get rid of his fiancee in such a way that the fiancee is humiliated and the blame is on her, and he gets his career back in active military service. The only thing I'm not sure of is whether Rogers eventually comes clean with Milland or poses as her own older sister.

behold the power of steam

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It was a productive weekend. My steam jet cleaner which I had bought from Ebay arrived. It's shaped like a canister vacuum cleaner with a little brush on the end of the hose. You fill it with water and instead of sucking air it produces a blast of steam.

I had originally wanted a smaller hand-held one, but after reading some customer reviews online I decided the canister would be better. Because for one thing, even though the hand-held is smaller and lighter, you have to carry the whole thing. So it ends up being heavier than the canister model while you're working. Also I read the hand-held ones run out of steam really fast because the water resevoir is comparatively small.

So like I said, I got one of the big ones. My main reason for getting it was to clean the stove top. I want our new stove to stay nice, but it's really difficult to remove stains from under the burners without scratching the enamel. To be honest I was disappointed in the steam cleaner's work on the stove. I guess I was too much expecting "as seen on TV" performance. You know, aim the steam jet in the general direction of the stain and it magically vanishes. Well it wasn't like that! It was slightly better than the scrubby pad at getting the cooked-on grease off under the burners, but they're still not really clean.

It was a lot better in the bathroom, especially on the grout. But still I needed just as much elbow grease as I would have with a scrub brush. I think the real advantage of the steam cleaner is not that it's so much easier, but that you don't need to use chemical cleaners. Which is really nice. I had been putting off cleaning the bathroom because I hate spraying that Tilex stuff in such a small space. It's hard to scrub tile when your eyes are watering and you can't breathe.

For household cleaning, so far I'm pretty "meh" about the steam cleaner. However, it turns out to be a godsend for cleaning my car. Those little plastic toys have all kinds of crevices and shapes where grime collects. I was pretty much resigned to them never being shiny clean again, but the steam cleaner does a pretty good job of it! It's time consuming work, attacking the grime on each one of those little toys. Yesterday I quit after using up the 48 oz. water tank twice. I still have the roof and the trunk to do, and by the time I was done my hands were cramped and numb. I think I might wrap some padding around the nozzle to make it easier to grip.

The steam cleaner worked so well on the toys, I think I'm going to use it to clean the chrome on my car right before we leave for Houston. I wish I could take it with us, to get rid of the travel grime after we get there. But I don't think there will be room in the car for it.

Besides making a serious dent in cleaning the car exterior, this past weekend I also took my laptop in for service (which I already wrote about), made the muslin for my party dress for the Art Car Ball, bought a "Stress Relief Yoga" DVD for relaxing after driving days during the trip, and got to work on posting from my phone. Text posts work great, but the photos are being rejected for some reason. I'm going to try Mfop2's support (I can't believe he offers support on a free service. I'm going to make a donation if it works). And if it doesn't work, I'm going to try another solution called pop2blog that would run off my own server. That might be better because then I could manipulate the photos however I wanted before posting them.

What else? Well I also had a highly successful thrift shopping trip with Lisa, went to a gallery opening Saturday night with Georg, and he set up the compost bin on Sunday while I was cleaning my car. Yay! We're eco-friendly!

monster road


April 2 movie: Monster Road. What a great movie! And I'm not just saying that because producer Jim Haverkamp is a former WXDU DJ and also used to live in the apartment above Georg's.

A bunch of us went to see Monster Road, a documentary about animator Bruce Bickford, at the Full Frame (formerly Doubletake) Documentary Film Festival. It had already won a couple of awards, including Best Documentary at Slamdance. Go Jim! It's well-deserved, and I hope they win something at Full Frame too.

The movie spends a lot of time on the relationship between Bickford and his father George Bickford, a retired space engineer who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer's and is at least as interesting as his son. It has a great level of energy and really keeps the momentum going, with help from a score by local band Shark Quest (which, I read, will be released by Merge sometime this year). Unfortunately, the screening began at 11 pm. Which is about my bedtime, even on a weekend. I made a valiant attempt to stay with it, but still dozed off and missed about the last 20 minutes. At least I didn't drool on the people sitting next to me.

I hope they release it on video someday so I can see the end. I missed the part where Bickford discussed his childhood fantasy of drowning the Speedy Alka-Seltzer Man in a well. (Or maybe Georg was having me on about that bit.)

Over the weekend I had interesting conversations with both Lisa and Georg about the fantastical, compelling, and somehow immature nature of Bickford's work. Georg pointed out that this is a characteristic of a lot of "outsider" art. Because a lot of outsider artists are like Bickford: a solitary guy, driven to create, with no training, no compensation, no feedback, no audience. Without outside input the work is totally internal, totally personal, and largely unchanging. The work doesn't grow or evolve; it simply expresses (and feeds) the artist's obsessions.

I think this is why a lot of artists don't like the term "outsider art." Because it conjures up that image of a crazy man in a basement airing his personal demons by taking pictures of clay, or building whirly-gigs, or painting icons, or whatever. Some people in the art car community use the term, and we're certainly well outside the bounds of mainstream art. There are a few art car drivers who have that air of mania about them. But most art car people I've met are just, I don't know, people with decorated cars. Seems like a big difference to me.


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Vanity license plate seen a few days ago on 15-501 Bypass: "CLRGYWMN." On a BMW convertible. I guess the church has been very good to her. What the heck, if God bought me a BMW I'd brag about it on my license plate too.

i miss my powerbook

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Took the Powerbook in to the Apple store for repair today. It has this problem where it gets hot and horizontal lines appear all over the screen, about 1/4 inch apart, and move back and forth rapidly. Makes the computer unusable as you might imagine.

I've been dealing with it by keeping the computer up on a stand and leaving an electric fan blowing on the back of it whenever it's in use. That works for the most part, but obviously having a computer that doesn't overheat would be a better solution.

So I called Applecare a few days ago. The guy was really nice. At one point he asked me to restart the computer and I mentioned that restarts are really slow on my machine, and would he like me to call back? He said no, he had nothing else to do but help me. I laughed and said "So this is what paid tech support is like!" He followed this up with some speil about how great Apple's customer support is, to which I had to restrain myself from replying "buddy, I already bought the support plan! You don't have to sell me on it!"

Anyway, he said the powerbook was overheating and I should bring it in to the apple store, or they could send me a mailer for it. I opted to take it in the store, but didn't get around to it until today because I had to back up everything on the laptop, and arrange to borrow my old G4 from my old office. (Which by the way, was extremely nice of them.)

The guy at the Apple store said they could do the service in the store. Which surprised me because I had heard they won't touch a laptop; anything laptop-related is sent off. But he said they could do it, and they even had the part in stock. He's going to replace the logic board, and maybe the fans as well. I had assumed that the problem was the power supply. But he said the logic board controls the power supply and the fans, so their first guess is the logic board. f it were me, I'd start with the cheaper parts and see if that fixes it. But what the heck, I'm not paying for the part so it's fine with me if they want to start with the $735 logic board.

So anyway, the upshot is that I may have the computer back in a couple of days. Which would be wonderful. I miss my powerbook already!

i'm not shallow...

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...I'm just obsessed with clothes.

I was reviewing the to do list and thinking maybe I should drop the plan to make two outfits, one for the art car ball and one for parade day. Because time is getting short. I've already started on the party dress, but my light green dress that I already have would work great for the parade. It's styling, and also lightweight which is a necessity for a day in the summer sun in Houston.

With horror, I realized that I was wearing that dress in the photo that appeared in USA Today. Good lord, I can't ever wear that outfit to an art car event again! People will think I only have one dress!

This may be the most shallow thought I've ever had.

the to do list


The Art Car Weekend To Do List:
(continually updated)


Car Art:
-decorate, decorate, decorate
-repair elastic on jellyfish
-repair carpet on side mirror

Web site:
-clean up funnystrange.com
-recode moblog script to handle bad emails
-recode photoblog script to handle vertical images

-final cleaning

-music for trip

-cruise control repaired
-CafePress swag
-order beads
-order cable for cell modem
-get loaner computer running
-take laptop in for repair
-get laptop back
-DC adapter for computer
-DC adapter for iPod
-merge UMJ and VRT web journals into one
-pink shirt on CafePress
-hotel reservations for us and Peggy/Chris
-revise page templates
-get category pages set up
-clean car outside
-include photoblog on main page
-include photoblog on entry pages
-set up moblog
-include moblog on main page
-buy aquarium plants
-move funnystrange.com domain name to pair.com
-redo UMJ pages with new layout
-link UMJ to new category pages
-delete UMJ journal
-set up photolog to auto-post
-merge photolog and moblog
-clean up photoblog script
-new camera bag
-lint-free cloth to clean lens
-trip-tick from AAA
-extra phone battery
-get cell modem set up
-get cams & misc equipment
-find modem phone number
-test cams
-exchange camera bag
-make party dress for art car ball
-backless bra for party dress
-bubble juice
-order glow sticks
-battery charger
-get rope lighting set up
-make sure Verizon isn't charging for data connection
-clean car inside
-new email address for website comments
-Georg stick shift
-octopus dress for parade day
-get camp chairs & picnic supplies
-matching headband
-get hub for cams
-decorate bubble machine
-tune up car
-refill Thirteen's cosequin and fish oil
-print out dog to do list
-ask David and Sean for emergency driving availability
-arrange for paycheck to be mailed to bank
-bottled water
-new mah jongg game on hood
-add carp to hood
-design business cards
-buy cardstock
-find something to store cards in
-repair cam mounting frame
-get backup phone number in case there's a problem with Verizon
-add aquarium plants
-snacks for trip
-stock up on groceries for Rob
-RC layouts!!!
-print and trim business cards
-find mechanic in Austin

Last night I took a critical step in the process of preparing for the art car parade: I wrote out my to do list. This step was followed by the equally critical step of reading the list, saying "four weeks!" and then screaming in incoherent panic. For your reading enjoyment, I am including the list here. Also because I've found that it's easier to keep up with the list if it's online. It will be continually updated as I work on parade preparations.

The list is still a bit short because a) I still haven't thought of probably half the things I need to do; b) some items are going to get a lot more detailed when I get to work on them. For instance "fix UMJ web site" covers a lot of ground.

lords of the rings: the two towers

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April 2 movie: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Good golly this backing up is taking a long time. I can't much use my computer while I'm doing it either. Nothing to do but watch movies while I watch the status bar. We're supposed to go to a party in a couple of hours and here I sit, burning backup CDs!

This is my least favorite of the three Lord of the Rings movies. When I saw in the theater, I remember being really annoyed at some changes that didn't really make sense to me (unlike the changes in the first movie, which mainly seemed sensible & flowed well with the original story).

I'm up to the big battle scene now -- I think this is the first time I'd done a write-up of a movie while still watching it -- and I'm enjoying it more this time. I think it's because I already knew about the changes, so instead of sitting there thinking "where the heck did that come from?" and being annoyed at the divergance from the book, I can enjoy it more on its own terms. Don't know if that makes sense.

Seeing the additional scenes on the DVD helped too. Although one thing confused me: They show Merry and Pippin drinking the Ent draught and getting taller, but I distinctly remember the four hobbits standing together at the end of the third movie and all being the same height. I guess by then they knew that scene with the Ent draughts wasn't going to end up in the theatrical version, so they didn't want to confuse people with the height difference. I wonder, in the DVD of the third movie, will they redo that scene with Merry and Pippin taller? Or just gloss over that bit.

holiday in mexico

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April 2 movie: Holiday in Mexico. I watched this silly bit of fluff while backing up the entire contents of my computer in preparation for sending it off to the nice folks at Applecare. More on that later. First, the movie!

Jane Powell, teenage daughter of the US ambassador to Mexico, is clearly destined to be with Roddy McDowell, son of the British ambassador. Unfortunately she has a major father complex and ends up falling for Jose Iturbi. Meanwhile the teenage daughter of the French (?) ambassador falls for Powell's father. Hilarity ensues!

The description sounds rather creepy, but to my relief the would-be January-December romances are treated as wildly inappropriate by all the adults involved. Well, almost all -- the French ambassador is totally fine with US ambassador marrying his young daughter. The US ambassador has to pretend to be a gold-digging boor to get rid of them. Which is presented as an example of his diplomatic skills, protecting the girl from looking foolish. But it seems to me that destroying a relationship with a colleague isn't such a hot move, diplomatically speaking.

On the bright side, there's a lot of singing and music from Powell, Iturbi, and Xavier Cugat (who has a small part which mainly involves carrying around a chihuahua and avoiding a jealous girlfriend). Roddy McDowell is bizarrely sweet as the nerdy British ambassador's kid.

I just realized something really weird about this movie: It's called Holiday in Mexico but nobody in it is on holiday. They all live in Mexico. Huh!



Those evil geniuses at Costco moved around a bunch of aisles around. Which meant that I had to walk all around the store to find the things I wanted. Which meant that, even though I took a list -- mind you, a short list -- I still walked out of there $200 poorer than when I went in. Damn you, Costco!

I didn't go crazy or anything; it was all stuff that we needed. My only indulgence was a compost thing. We tried to do compost a couple of years ago just by making a small pen out of chicken wire. It wasn't a great success; it attracted wasps and the dogs got under the wire and treated it like their personal snack bar. But I hate sending mountains of vegetable scrap to the landfill. So I picked up the compost container at Costco. It's just a bin, doesn't turn the compost or anything. But still I'm excited about setting it up. Does anyone know if shredded office paper can be composted? I bet not; I bet the bleach from the paper is toxic.


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Finally getting to work on preparations for the big Houston parade. We're leaving in a month and I have so much to do! Ack!

Of course I have to do something fun first: setting up my Cafe Press shop to sell Undersea Mah Jongg shirts! I wanted to make T-shirts for everyone who's going to be riding in the car during the parade as sort of "Team UMJ" souvenirs. (And thank goodness my friends Peggy and Chris don't read my web journal, so I can write about it without spoiling the surprise.) I got a woman's T for Peggy, a baby doll T for myself, Georg wanted a yellow T, and he persuaded me that white T-shirts are lame so I got the grey one for Chris.

I did a bigger design on the men's shirts than the womens and the baby doll, and then the yellow shirt required different colors. Also I had to set up a whole different shop for the yellow shirt because that's a "premium" product. Georg offered to pay the premium fee so he could have the yellow shirt, but they have a free 15 day trial period, so that worked out fine.

I was going to do this just for us, but Lisa convinced me to post the link so that Under Mah Jongg's legions of fans (ahem) can get their own swag. So if you're interested, most of the shirts are here and the yellow shirt is here. The yellow shirt will go away in two weeks when the free trial expires, unless there's a public outcry to keep it around. But I'll probably post a permanent link to the other shirts on my artcar page.

The prices are all base price, no markup. I don't actually believe anyone but myself is going to want to buy these things. But if anyone does want a shirt with my car's logo on it, I'm certainly not going to make money off them. And if by chance you want some other Cafe Press product with a UMJ imprint, just let me know. It's way easier to set up than I had expected.

blame it on the boob

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The FCC has just made a new decision that seems to be a much stricter standard of indecency, and promises to enforce the new standard effective immediately. Except, they won't say what the standard actually is. Dickumbrage has a good discussion from the college radio point of view. Which, in my solipsistic little world, is the only point of view that matters. I blame Janet Jackson's breast!

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