April 2005 Archives

kinetic sculpture race

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The weather was miserable, but we had a great time at the kinetic sculpture race. I was afraid of the rain damaging my camera so I used the camera phone instead. Which meant that all the photos were crappy and blurry. But it turned out to be a good thing, because I had forgotten to put the memory card in my camera. None of the photos would have been saved if I had been using it. Crappy photos are better than no photos at all!

Will post more when I get back tomorrow. Now it's jammy time.



I met Jennie today after work. Really liked her. After Georg got done work we went back with Thirteen and all met her. Then we put down the deposit and turned in our application.

I must admit I was surprised by the cursory application process. I thought Orange County would be really serious, overly so, about approving prospective pet owners. But the guy just gave my application form a quick glance and then asked me if I could pick Jennie up on Monday. No interview, no home inspection, nothing like that.

I ought to be ecstatic but instead I'm filled with anxiety. What if she and Thirteen don't get along? The whole point of this is to make Thirteen happy, not to add stress to her life. Jennie's temperament was perfect when I was alone with her this afternoon, but she was a bit stand-offish with Thirteen. Which is what I thought I wanted: a mellow dog that wouldn't hassle Thirteen or jump all over her. I guess what I really wanted, in my heart of hearts, was Lina back. Or a new dog which would act just like Lina and respond to Thirteen as if they'd been living together for twelve years. Totally unfair expectation, I know. I guess I'll just need to give them a little time to get to know each other.

left behind: god's own soap opera


Writing about Left Behind the other day, I realized that I kept making comparisons to soap operas. And the more I thought about it, the more similarities presented themselves:

Left Behind: nigh-endless adventure series obsessed with the Rapture.
Soap Operas: nigh-endless drama serial obsessed with romance.

Left Behind: you can skip a book and still know pretty much exactly what's going on.
Soap Operas: you can skip a month and still know pretty much exactly what's going on.

Porn Names
Left Behind: Rayford Steele, Buck Williams, Dirk Burton, Nicholae Carpathia, Hattie Durham, Chloe Steele.
Soap Operas: Ridge, Cord, Jax, Stone, Decker, Greenlee, Flash, Kendell, Starr.

Left Behind: God punishes those who have sex outside marriage.
Soap Operas: God punishes those who have sex without love. Unless they're really hot.

God is Listening
Left Behind: If you pray for a sign from God, the next person you see will get you out of whatever impossible jam you're facing at the moment.
Soap Operas: If you pray for a sign from God, the next person you see will be your new love interest.

First Impressions
Left Behind: If you take an instant dislike to someone, that's a pretty good indicator that s/he is a minion of the Antichrist.
Soap Operas: If you take an instant dislike to someone, that's a pretty good indicator that you will very soon have sex with him/her.

Family Planning
Left Behind: No one ever uses birth control, and anyone who even considers an abortion ends up a minion of the Antichrist.
Soap Operas: No one ever uses birth control, and anyone who has an abortion ends up in a mental hospital.

Pride Goeth
Left Behind: The good characters are insufferably self-righteous, and horrible things are always happening to them.
Soap Operas: The good characters are insufferably self-righteous, and horrible things are always happening to them.

Finally, a couple of major differences:

The Wages of Sin
Left Behind: The evil characters are pompous, too serious and not much fun.
Soap Operas: The evil characters are way more fun, and generally way more interesting, than the good characters.

The Road Less Travelled
Left Behind: The authors are obsessed with all aspects of travel. Pretty much every major event is told through the lens of people traveling from one place to another. The travel itineraries tend to replace more important and more interesting narrative.
Soap Operas: Distance is meaningless. Every building in town is next door to every other building. It takes a half hour to fly from upstate New York to Puerto Rico. Not a moment is wasted on getting from point A to point B. The only time you see someone traveling is if they're about to have a car accident or plane crash.

the dog hunt continues


Finally heard back about Lucky; she had already been adopted. I was a bit bummed out about this (okay, a lot) but today we went to the Durham County shelter and saw several dogs who looked like good prospects. One was named Orlando, a name which would have to change because I'm just not going to have people thinking I named my dog after Orlando Bloom. I know, they might think it was the Virginia Woolf novel, but since the dog is male I'm afraid the assumption would be the actor.

The trick with renaming a dog who already knows his name is to pick a new name so similar to the old name that the dog will still recognize it. The best replacement name I could think of for Orlando was "Martin Landau." Wouldn't that be a cool name for a dog? We could call him "Landau" for short and he'd never know the difference.

Unfortunately we got to the Durham shelter near closing time, too late to visit with any of the dogs. But we have a short list of names for when we go back. Tomorrow we're going to the Orange County shelter to see if Jennie is still there and if she lives up to her description. Of course any actual adoption will have to wait until we get back from MD, but with the bad luck we've had lately, I'd put a deposit on a dog that we really liked, just to make sure it was still there next week.

In other dog news I had long talks with both Drs. Lindeke and Broussard, and decided to put Thirteen on the selegiline after all. Dr. Broussard is apparently something of an expert in cognitive disfunction in animals, and she said that if Thirteen were her dog she would try it. They said that the side effects really aren't as extreme as they sound. Some GI distress is likely, but Thirteen probably won't be projectile vomiting all over the place. Indeed, I started her on it this morning and she was completely normal. (Well, completely the same. If she were normal, we wouldn't need the drug.) The only difference was [grossout alert] when she peed on the floor, as she does every day while I'm at work, it smelled horrible.

I'm taking Thirteen to the vet's this weekend to be boarded, instead of the kennel. So they can keep an eye on her meds and watch for side effects. In my extremely selfish way, I'm kind of hoping that she has whatever GI problems she's going to have then, and gets it out of her system. Heck, they prescribed it, let them deal with the mess.

left behind


Went to the library today. Among other things I got the next Left Behind book. Well actually, the third. The second was out. But I found that I didn't have any trouble at all skipping from book 1 to book 3, didn't feel like I had missed a thing. I guess in a multi-part series they have to write it so that readers who can't get one of the books can skip ahead to the next without feeling totally lost. Still, I felt a little like a soap viewer -- if you can watch 2 days out of 5 and still know exactly what's going on, why would you bother to tape the show every day? Only if you love the characters and want to experience as much of them as possible. Unfortunately the characters in Left Behind are too flat to inspire that kind of dedication.

So anyway, I've gotten sucked into the Left Behind series. The writing is abysmally bad but it is entertaining, I'll grant it that. In fact I read the entire third book last night. It's interesting to compare this series to other, more successful books. There's the "near future post-apocalyptic fantasy/horror": The Stand by Stephen King. The "sweeping, multi-part epic with religious themes": Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. The "fish out of water, ordinary American guy dropped into Christian mythos": Inferno by Larry Niven. All more enjoyable to read than Left Behind.

None of these comparisons are really fair, I guess, because [snarky aside] those other writers all know how to write. Okay, actually I was going to say that none of the other authors are bound by strict faithfulness (slavish devotion you might say) to source material, which has been the downfall of many adaptations. Inferno is the only one that even references Christian source material (not the Bible, though as I understand it Left Behind isn't based on the Bible either, rather on a particular interpretation thereof) and Niven has a certain irreverence that I don't expect to see from Jenkins and LaHaye. For instance I doubt they will have anyone, much less their protagonist, call God "the Big Juju."

Also I think the obvious dual goals of converting unbelievers and inspiring believers interfere with Left Behind's ability to entertain. The lengthy conversion scenes drag the story down, all the True Christians come off like total drips, and when bad girl Hattie complains about how preachy and annoying they are, I'm right there with her. (I kind of sympathize with Hattie just for being forced to say that the rapture of all the fetuses was a bad thing because it put her sister who works for an abortion clinic out of work! Just like with soaps, when the writers make a character do and say outrageous things to show how e.v.i.l. they are, I often end up sympathizing with that character and resenting the alleged heroes.)

On the other hand, as an avowed atheist I'm surely not the target audience for the book. My guess is the proselytizing is aimed at casual Christians or those of the "wrong" denomination, which according to the book seems to be everyone except extreme conservative Baptists. (Even the pope isn't part of the rapture! He ends up leading the Antichrist's one world religion.)

On the third hand, I don't think The Book of the New Sun has any intent to proselytize, but I found Severian's epiphany (when he realizes that every thorn on every bush is like the Claw of the Conciliator, and throws his shoes in the water so as to walk barefoot on holy ground) deeply affecting. So I know I'm not immune to spiritual themes in fiction. It just has to be, you know, well written.

who stole spring?

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Just when I was thinking about putting away the sweaters and cracking out the sandals, another cold snap. Here's hoping this is the last!

I didn't get nearly as much done in the yard as I had hoped, due to the weather. All I managed was to plant some wave petunias on the slope down by the road, where Georg had weeded a week ago. I don't know if these wave petunias really perform as advertised, but if they do they'll cover the whole slope with flowers all summer.

At the farmer's market, besides the wave petunias we bought some more verbascum, and a couple of peach-colored coral bells. I think they'll look really nice with the purple ones we already have. Unfortunately the guy said we need to put them in partial sun to keep that bright peach color, and the place we want to put them is full shade. So we're not exactly sure what to do with them.

Georg also started digging up these volunteer shrubs from behind the butterfly bush that have been a pain in our butts for years. They grow straight up, no branching at all, and they look like hell all year long. They're big and right up against the foundation of the house, so a real challenge to get them out. He dug out about half of the biggest one. I'm hoping we can work on them together over the next couple of days. The butterfly bush is growing so fast now that it will soon impede working back there.

Yesterday I wanted to do more digging in our future cutting garden, but every time I went outside it was cold and windy. So instead I did some housework, and we went out for a drive with Thirteen. The cold weather was an advantage because there was no worry about her overheating in the car. We went to lunch, a shopping trip to Target (where we did not find any outdoor chairs we liked, but we did very much like the hammocks, but we need to get the mosquitos under control before we could even consider buying a hammock), and a trip to the library.

vrt in taiwan


We got the most amazing letter from Llewellyn today. They sold foreign rights to Taiwan! The deck is going to be reprinted in Chinese!

The letter says that we'll receive copies when it's printed, which should be within 12 months. I wonder if the card titles will also be translated into Chinese, or just the book? This is so damned exciting. I ought to brush up on my Chinese so I can read the translation. It's been so long I'm not even sure I could write my Chinese name anymore.

the great dog hunt

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The good news is, the person with the dog we really wanted called! The bad news is, they already found a home for it. She said that it's a family who have some concern that their daughter might be allergic. They're keeping the dog for a 10 day trial period. The woman said she would keep my number in case the daughter is allergic and they can't keep the dog.

So I'm kind of bummed that the dog isn't available, but mainly I feel much better now that 2/3 of the people I called have called me back. Also I found petfinder.com which has tons of listings. I spent some time searching last night and found a few who look promising:

Jennie is a bit larger than what I wanted (I was hoping for a dog that I could easily pick up this time, so I don't have to lift weights just to get the dog into the bathtub). But the description of her temperament is perfect. And she's at the Orange County shelter which is closer than the others. We're going to save her listing in case the others don't work out.

This one is so cute. Or do I just think she's super adorable because she kind of looks like Thirteen? The part about her not pulling the leash is a good sign of a mellow dog, although she's a bit far away (I looked it up, Staley is outside Greensboro). And that name would have to go. Still, it's not too far of a drive for the right dog.

Lucky 1.
Lucky 2.
Georg and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if these two were the same dog. Same name, same mix of breeds, same age ... what are the chances? We visited the Wake County shelter (home of Lucky #1) today and sure enough, they are the same dog. Lucky was transferred to a foster mom in Franklin County in March. Lucky's Wake county listing didn't get removed because the person who used to update the Wake shelter listings went back to school and the site hasn't been updated in a while.

So far Lucky is my favorite of the bunch. Her temperament sounds like just what we want, and at 35 pounds I could give her a bath without giving myself a hernia. Beagle cuteness without beagle manic energy, yes! I'm not crazy about the photos of her sitting on the couch. Lina slept on the couch for a long time and it was a bad habit. Dog hair all over the place and if I tried to nap on the couch myself, she would take up half the space and I would wake up with cramped legs. I was very happy when I finally convinced her to stay on her own bed. But I could easily live with it again if Lucky made Thirteen happy.

Franklin County is a bit far away, and this one sounds like they would want to inspect my house, which is a pain in the butt. But still, I think Lucky sounds really promising. (Her name would probably have to be changed though. I don't think we can have two dogs named "Lucky" and "Thirteen.") I called her foster mom this afternoon and left a message. Brief this time so I can't agonize over whether I sounded too weird or needy on the phone. Here's hoping she calls back soon!

was it something I said?


The people from the Independent Animal Rescue website didn't call back. I sent them an email on Wednesday and a phone call yesterday. I think if they were going to respond, they would have by now. I've also been blown off in the past week by Second Chance Pet Adoptions (one phone message from them which I returned multiple times, and then nothing), and by a friend of a friend (just one call that time). Actually the friend of a friend sounded like it wasn't going to be a good fit, the dog was too young and sounded too energetic, but I still would have taken Thirteen to meet her if the woman would have at least called me back.

Still, the only one that really bums me out is the Independent Animal Rescue one. That dog really sounded perfect for us. Old and lazy enough to fit in with Thirteen's reduced lifestyle, but young enough that she'd probably have many good years ahead of her. Well there's no point obsessing about it. Still, I can't help but wonder why no one wants to place a dog with us. Am I sounding too weird on the phone? Am I giving off "bad owner" vibes? Or is everyone just mysteriously out of town? I guess this is how people feel when they do online personals.

It's frustrating to have finally accepted that I can find a new dog and love it without it replacing Lina, and now I'm totally ready to bring a dog home, and I think Thirteen really needs the companionship, but no one will even return my damned phone calls.

On the bright side, Thirteen seems to be calming down. She's still acting all wacky and pacey while I'm at work, but she settles down quickly when I get home and acts pretty much normal in the evenings. I'm having second thoughts about starting her on that drug tomorrow. The only really bad thing she's still doing, alas, is peeing on the kitchen floor every day while I'm at work, and every night while we're asleep. And that might be a purely physical problem which the drug wouldn't help.

I think that unless she gets worse again over the weekend I'm going to hold off on the drug until our appointment on Tuesday. No point in medicating her so severely unless she really needs it.

this one is mine


Seen written in the grime on a white van on I-85 south of Durham this morning:

"This is my dirty van.

There are many others like it

but this one is mine."

new meds for thirteen


I don't think I've mentioned this recently but Thirteen's pacing has gotten worse again. For the past week she's been pacing until she drops -- for 10, 12, even 20 hours once -- then collapsing, sleeping for a day, then getting up and pacing again. I've been walking her more to try and tire her out, but heck, if she can pace for 12 hours straight then a 45 minute walk isn't going to slow her down.

Dr. Broussard has been suggesting senile dementia for a while, but I never gave it much consideration before. But this time there seems to be a clear correlation with emotional factors. Specifically, my taking that job. Suddenly Thirteen is alone for 5-8 hours every day, and suddenly she's super-agitated all the time. So I broke down and got a prescription for anti-old-age-craziness medication. It's called Selegiline and they didn't give me a booklet, but I looked it up online and it's mainly used to treat Parkinson's disease.

The bad news is that it takes 3 to 6 weeks to see any effect. The other, more serious bad news is there are some pretty nasty side effects. Like vomiting, diarrhea, extreme lethargy or extreme agitation (I thought she already had that last one). I'm supposed to start Thirteen on a half dose and slowly bring her up to the full dose if she doesn't have these side effects. We decided to wait until Saturday to start the drug, so that if she has a reaction she won't be all alone throwing up or worse in the house until I get back from work. And the vet also told me not to give Thirteen any of the other painkillers from before (tramadol and buprenorphine) in combination with selegiline. I wouldn't have anyway because the former didn't help and we used up the latter. But I appreciate the warning. The web page also had a big long list of foods that you can't eat while on this drug; luckily I'm pretty sure none of them are in Thirteen's food.

I don't feel great about giving Thirteen this drug, but something has to be done. We'll try it and see if it helps or just turns her into a zombie.

On the bright side, I've finally adjusted emotionally to the idea of bringing a new dog into the house, and just saw a dog on the Independent Animal Rescue website that looks like she might be a perfect fit. They describe her as "Extremely lazy, sleeps all day but loves to go on walks. Laid back and sweet. Timid at first." That sounds like Thirteen's twin! I wrote them an email this evening. Cross your fingers for us!

landscaping madness


Last weekend was "Herb Days" at the farmer's market. They had several additional vendors selling herbs, though I still ended up mostly shopping with the same nurseries I go to every time. I try to be careful never to buy more plants than I can get into the ground that same weekend, and I managed to limit myself to only a few things. Now I wish I had bought more! Let's see, we got a purple sage, dill -- which I hardly ever use, but I hate having to spend $2 on a little packet of fresh dill on the few occasions that I do need it -- two unusual black-eyed susans, a couple of hollyhocks that promise to be really really tall, cardinal flower, something just called "Hummingbird Flower," and a scabiosa. This is going to sound silly, but the word scabiosa reminds me of the Harry Potter spell leviosar that they learn in the first book. Whenever I think of the plant I see Hermione Granger in my mind's eye, waving her wand in her cute snippy way and saying "Not scabiosA, scabiOSa!" Maybe scabiosa is a spell that gives you scabs.

Anyway, the scabiosa, hummingbird flower and cardinal flower are all for the flower bed by the oak tree, where we want to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The hollyhocks are for the sunny side of the house. Which I have finally measured and planned out and started work on this week. The first task is to dig a path. Not only because it's a big bed, but also because we need to provide access to the crawl space and utility meters. Digging the path is actually easier than I expected. The soil in this bed isn't quite as wretched as down by the road. It's still heavy, stony clay, but I can actually get a shovel into it. I was really afraid I was going to have to dig the entire path with the mattock, but yippee, I can use a shovel.

So I think the procedure is to dig out a layer of soil where the path will go, smooth it out, then add whatever path material we are going to use. I would love to have beautiful stone pavers, but looking at the budget we may end up with black plastic and mulch instead. I've worked a couple of afternoons now on the digging phase. If I had pushed it I could have probably gotten the whole first part of the path (from the driveway to the crawl space) done today. But my plan is to work only an hour or two each day, working steadily but never overtiring myself.

Besides, this evening after work and yardwork, we took Thirteen out for a walk with Lisa, Chris and Lizzie. Which was great fun. Lizzie was curious at first but then mostly disinterested in Thirteen, which was perfect. Thirteen is fairly shy and likes other dogs, but doesn't like it when they get in her face and jump all over her. I think she really enjoyed walking around in the same general vicinity as Lizzie. And everyone was really nice about walking slowly with us. It wasn't great exercise for everyone else, but it was a whole lot for Thirteen. She's sacked out now.

work fun


So last week I joined the ranks of the gainfully employed. I've been doing bookkeeping for Stoneline for years now, just a couple of hours one evening a week. They asked me to come in half-days for the next couple of months, to help them get the office and computers organized at the factory. It's not exactly a career-track job for me, but it's good steady money which is nice to have. If I complained about having to drive to work every morning, you all would (justifiably) get out teeny tiny violins and start playing "Cry Me a River" to express your teeny tiny sympathy. So I will spare you, and just say that it's an adjustment. I am glad that I've been in the habit of getting up at 7 and getting to work by 8 every morning. So at least I'm not having to get up earlier than normal. The adjustment has been a little tougher since my freelance work has heated up lately too. Last week I ended up working late almost every night, and much of the weekend, which is why I didn't post at all. By the time I'm done working I just want to get away from the computer (and into the garden! more on that later). But this week I feel much more on top of things which is good.

One of the things we're doing at Stoneline is upgrading their Filemaker Pro database. Which they use to run the entire company, so the stakes are a bit high. The current database isn't relational, which is limiting what they can do with it. Also we need to switch from only one person (my boss) using it to being multi-user from multiple locations. I know a little bit about databases, but not nearly enough to tackle something like that on my own. Plus I've never used Filemaker Pro before. Fortunately my boss knows that his database needs to be entirely rewritten, and that he needs to hire an expert. Isn't it nice to work with people who recognize when a job is complex, and are willing to pay for it to be done right? We met with the database person this morning. She seems to really know her stuff, and only betrayed her just-out-of-college status by chewing gum during the meeting. I'm looking forward to learning from her (and I'm willing to overlook the gum if she lends me the book on database design which she offered).

gardening lightness

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Not quite Gardening Madness around here, but Georg and I have gotten a little done since we got back from Charlotte. Yesterday we pulled up a bunch of vines that were encroaching into the vegetable garden. I think that I'm going to lay down black plastic along the side of the vegetable garden and just leave it there all summer. There isn't even any grass there, just weeds and vines.

I also tried to mow the lawn. Actually mow the weeds is more like it. Unfortunately the charger had fallen out of the mower over the winter, and the charge had mostly run down. Still I was able to get about half the lawn mowed. I just moved very slowly through the thick weeds.

I had a nice chat with my neighbor on the other side. He's a good old boy, always cheerful. He asked me to call the cable company and have a low wire raised up, because he needs to bring some yard equipment through to take a tree out. He said something nice about how he's just trying to keep up with us and our nice yard. That was really generous of him, considering what crap our yard was for so long.

That neighbor only has one habit that annoys me: he mows his yard every week and his mower blows the grass clippings all over our driveway. I wish he would go the other way once in a while, and get the grass clippings on his own lawn instead, but I'm not going to get worked up about it. After all if that's the worst thing he ever does then he's a pretty darn good neighbor.

This morning I had a meeting with a prospective client for a big job. Which went great! The site looks like it's going to be about double the size of my preliminary estimate. And they gave me a deposit check on the spot, without even waiting for a formal proposal. Yay!

In the afternoon I took advantage of the lack of rain to finish mowing the lawn. I even weed-wacked around the fence. In the department of "duh," I have to report that weed wacking is hard work. My arms are a little sore! It still wasn't raining, so I planted a few seeds. More beets, and some swiss chard. Everything else needs to wait until it warms up a bit. I put straw over the seeds so the rain doesn't wash them away. Did you know that straw has seeds of its own in it? Everywhere I've put straw down, I now have a bumper crop of wheat. Which kinds of defeats the purpose of mulch. At least it pulls up easy.

In bad news Thirteen has been acting a little kooky since I got her back from the kennel. Really pacey last night. Also she got into the hydrangea bed. Argh! I want my money back on the "guaranteed to keep out decrepit dogs" flimsy fence. She tore up one hydrangea, but I think (hope) it will survive. At least she's sleeping now. Guess she wore herself out last night. The vet thinks it's agitation that's making Thirteen pace, not pain. We started this insanely expensive "brain diet" food, and the vet also recommended dog acupuncture. I haven't called the acupuncturist yet but another night like last night and I will. I did get Thirteen a nice new bed. It's made of that memory foam stuff, and you fill it with water. It's supposed to keep the dog cool in hot weather, but I put a fleece blanket over it at night. Of course, right now she's sleeping on the bare floor instead. Here's hoping she gets more into the new bed when it gets hot.

thoughts on the auto fair

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Sunday at the auto fair was a lot slower. When we got there in late morning, I'd say there were maybe 2/3 as many cars and dealers as on Saturday. And people left all day. By the time we were allowed to leave, at 4 pm, the track was nearly deserted.

Which gave us the opportunity of a lifetime: to line up and do a lap around the track. What an experience! A real Nascar track. Georg waited for us just after turn 2, and used his camera to take that little movie I posted yesterday. Then we all took some photos, and then finished our lap. We went really slow because both Stink Bug and Miss Vicki have serious mechanical problems. In fact Miss Vicki broke down on turn 1 and missed being in Georg's movie. But Dean got it started up again and caught up in time for the photos. A security guard stopped us at one point, but luckily Dave was in pole position and sweet-talked the guard into letting us finish our lap. Whee! It's a shame Danny and Chris missed it. Danny said that the bucket truck's clutch has gone bad and he couldn't drive it slow like that, and Chris hadn't finished packing up all his stuff. If it were me, I would have come back and finished packing later, but I guess he didn't want to leave his things unattended.

The auto fair was an extremely male experience, which didn't really surprise me. Out on the track, where the cars were for sale, the ratio was about 30 men to every woman. Though I did see a girl, about 10 years old, walking around with her parents and taking pictures. I thought it was cool that a guy would take his daughter to the car show with him. On the other hand, in the pavilion where we were, the male-female ratio was more like 5-1. I even saw two women who seemed to be there together, without a man in tow. It's kind of sad that out of the thousands of people I saw, there were only 2 women unaccompanied by a man, But still, score one for the girl gearheads! On the downside, at one point I saw a dealer selling signs with people's names on them. You know, "Mike's Garage" and so forth. I asked him if he had one in my name and he totally smirked at me when he said no. Jeez! I can understand why it wouldn't be profitable to bring signs with women's names, but he didn't have to be a jerk about it.

My main impression of the auto fair was how happy everyone was. Thousands of people, all so happy to be there. People told me stories about their cars, even showed me photos. I don't know a damned thing about cars but I smiled and showed appropriate enthusiasm. It made me wish I were a gearhead too, so I could have shared the experience with them.

I felt honored to be invited to participate in such a big event. And being in the company of such amazing art cars made it even more of an honor. Meeting the Button King was actually a little intimidating. He's kind of an art car legend. I take it back about him being like your crochety scary grandfather. Georg and I talked with him on Sunday and he was much more friendly. He remembered that I had said Georg wanted to meet him. It turns out he has two button-covered coffins: the one he brought to the show, which is for his museum, and another one which is decorated with pearl buttons and is for his own burial. He told us that we could see them both at his museum, that is until he "goes." I asked him about the Pearl Kings and he was familiar with them, though he called them Pearly Kings. He said that they use pearl buttons which are more expensive. His buttons are all donated. A Japanese button manufacturer had brought him to Japan to perform, and had given him 50,000 buttons. And a French button company gave him two barrels full. Besides that lots of people send him buttons from all over the world. He said that he has never bought a button!

Miss Vicki was another car that I really wanted to see. I didn't know this before, but the car was designed for Tiny Tim to ride in during a parade. That's why it's decorated with tulips, and it's named after Tim's first wife. Miss Vicki is a Dodge Dart that was sawed in half and shortened by about 3 feet, thus removing the back seat. I was glad to find that out because I could never figure out what it was about the proportions that made it look so funny. Like a clown car or something.

Stink Bug, Heaven and Hell Car and Buckit Truck are all cars that I had seen at previous events, but I had never met their owners before. That was really nice, to meet Carolyn and Mike, Chris, and Danny. And it was great as always to talk with Tim (Plaidmobile) and Dave (Aerocar) . One thing I really appreciated about this event was that being rather lengthy, and with only a few art cars there, we all got the chance to hang out and talk. Most of the events I go to only last one day, and I'm so busy setting up equipment for the parade that I don't really have time to talk to the other drivers. Houston also lasts for several days, but there are so many things going on and so many cars there, that it's just a crazy scene. Although this was a huge event, the art car part of it was small. So I didn't feel so much pressure to cram as much experience as possible into every day.

back from the auto fair

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The auto fair was amazing. We had the best time. I have tons to write and many photos to upload. In the meantime, for your enjoyment here's a sneak preview of the Lowe's Motor Speedway Art Car Cup. (warning, large Quicktime file.)

charlotte auto fair, day 3

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Today was great. The weather was beautiful, there was a huge crowd, I took lots of photos, people loved the art cars. I didn't run the bubble machine at all because it was windy, which might have blown the bubbles back in onto those super expensive concept cars. Also the lot next to us was full of street rods, so it would have been bad if they blew outside too. I just couldn't deal with all that anxiety over some fricking soap bubbles so I left the machine off all day.

It was a bit of a bummer not to have my bubbles going, but instead I worked on beading. Which people seemed to really get a kick out of. It's kind of weird to be working on the car with a crowd of people watching over my shoulder (literally -- I was sitting just inside the chain so the spectators were right up behind me). But as Tim McNally said, once you get used to people staring at you while you drive, it's a short step to not noticing people staring at you while you work. Sometimes the spectators talked to me but more often they talked to each other as though I couldn't hear them.

On the way in Georg and I stopped at a supermarket ("Bloom," an upscale Food Lion) and got sandwich stuff for lunch. It was really nice to eat real food instead of horrible fair food. I could probably come up with lots more to say, but instead I'm going to chill and watch Carefree and then go to sleep. We have to check out of the hotel room before heading to the speedway tomorrow. Carly said that tomorrow morning will probably be a bit slow so we'll aim for getting there around 10:30. I wonder if they'll let me leave early? It's kind of a bummer that Georg and I have to drive home separately. Also a bummer is the realization that all the legendary barbecue joints in Lexington, which we have to drive right past, are closed on Sundays.

charlotte auto fair, day 2

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Today was a good day at the auto fair. It rained on and off but there was still a decent crowd, lots of people came to see the art cars. Overall the response was really positive, though I guess people who wouldn't dig art cars wouldn't have come over, so I was only talking to the people who were inclined to like it. We opened up the garage door and I was able to run the bubble machine for most of the day. The wind did blow a fair number of bubbles back in but Chris, the guy next to me, hung up a curtain between our two cars to keep the bubbles off his art. That seemed to work pretty well.

I was interviewed by a TV show. It's an NC-based car show called "Rev Me Up." They said that in Raleigh they're on digital cable channel 140. I gave the woman my email address, she said she'd let me know when the show is going to air. They interviewed me and Dave Major (Aerocar), and they also got lots of footage of the button car because he's from South Carolina. But unfortunately the Button King wasn't there at all today so they couldn't interview him.

When it stopped raining I walked around the track and checked out the cars for sale. It was a dizzying array of classic cars. I entertained myself by trying to figure out what makes one 1930's Ford worth $12,000, another worth $30,000, and another worth $80,000. To me each car looked perfect on the outside, all shiny chrome and new paint. But the prices varied wildly. Clearly the value is under the hood. Many of the cars had signs explaining the details, but that didn't help me at all. Because I know so little about cars that I generally couldn't understand the abbreviations on the signs.

Later on Dave told me that the really expensive cars are the ones that have been souped up with all the modern conveniences: a new, high-powered engine, power windows, power brakes, etc etc. To me it seems like that would ruin the value of the car as an antique. It would be like finding a gorgeous 300 year old cabinet, then stripping it down and putting some weird faux finish on it. Dave said that some collectors do view cars like that. They try to restore the car to its original condition, using only replacement parts from the correct year and so forth. But a lot of people turn their classic cars into "street rods," an antique body but a new car inside. I had no idea.

I was surprised to find that almost 100% of the cars for sale were American. Out of hundreds of cars I saw a couple of Beetles, one Porsche, and one Datsun. Everything else was American. I would think there would be a market for souped up and/or restored classic foreign cars too. Maybe this show skews towards US made cars. I wonder where people go to buy classic Minis or Mercedes or whatever?

I didn't really look at the dealer booths because I have no interest whatsoever in used car parts. But I understand that anything you could possibly hope to buy for an American car, you could find here. That is, if you can find it. It's like a gigantic swap meet, with people dragging around little wagons loaded with car parts. I guess if you were really into restoring your car, trying to find the booth that had the part you needed could be fun. Like an Easter egg hunt.

I also wanted to go outside the track and look at the car clubs, but I decided to save that for tomorrow so Georg and I could check them out together. Dave gave me a ride back to the hotel, but we got stuck in terrible traffic. Which actually wasn't so bad because it gave me a chance to talk with him. He's a great guy. Really nice and easy to talk to. He's the person everyone wishes was their grandfather. The Button King, on the other hand, is like your crochety kind of scary grandfather. He's the guy that would be threatening to take everybody out behind the woodshed, and you'd never know if he meant it or not.

But anyway I was talking about Dave. He's a big airplane enthusiast, his career was an electrician for small aircraft. Which sounds like a really high pressure job to me, like being a doctor except that a single mistake could kill a dozen people in one go. But he said it appealed to the perfectionist in him. He had been to Kitty Hawk for the recreation of the Wright Brothers' flight, which was apparently a really big deal. Bush was there and a bunch of astronauts and all kinds of important people. Dave mentioned how much he wanted an NC "First in Flight" license plate. Apparently NC plates are really hard to get. As it turns out, I still have my MOJOJOJO plate. I never turned it in after I got my MAHJONGG plate, because I thought Georg might want it for his car. He kept politely demurring, which I failed to understand because I just couldn't imagine how anyone could not want a MOJOJO license plate on their car. So I never turned in the tag, and it's been years. I think that if the DMV was going to get on my case about it, they would have by now. So I promised to send the plate to Dave. And I'm writing this down here so I will remember to do it.

Georg got here around 7, totally wiped out from a tough drive down. We walked to an Indian restaurant near the hotel that turned out to be really good. Better than anything I've had in the Triangle, and I think our Indian food is pretty darn good. Tomorrow we're going to head in to the show a little late as I hear there's a mad rush to get in when they first open. I know I had tons more to write about, but it's all gone from my head at the moment. Now time to upload my photos and go to bed. I haven't been sleeping well since I got here. I think it's from drinking tea with dinner, which I don't normally do. Tonight I had water and here's hoping I sleep better.

antm watchers help!

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Is there anyone reading this who watches ANTM and hasn't yet deleted this week's episode from the Tivo? Due to a miscommunication the show didn't get a recorded at my house this week. Bummer! I saw the end but would love to see the rest if anyone can give me a tape.

rained out

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It rained pretty hard and there weren't that many people there today. although I heard that low attendance was expected today because people are still setting up. The biggest crowds are expected tomorrow and Saturday. It might rain again tomorrow but Saturday is supposed to be clear.

It turned out that I couldn't run the bubble machine. Because first of all, the cars are indoors with a painted concrete floor. Which would have turned into a slippery hazard if it were covered with liquid soap. Also, my car is about 15 feet away from the two most expensive cars on display: two retro Buick concept cars, both convertibles. I would have felt uneasy about getting soap bubbles all over the exterior of a car like that, but the upholstery? No way. Carly and Harriet (the folks from the speedway) said they would find the owners and ask them what they thought. But I felt like the answer was clearly no, we can't be spewing bubbles all over those cars.

We came to the decision that when it stops raining, we'll open the garage door next to my car, pull my car partway out, and have the bubble machine outside. In the meantime, today I read my book and chatted with the other drivers and the few spectators. I talked to two very nice gentlemen from coastal NC who were excited that I was from Durham. One of them was from Franklinton and knew the Triangle pretty well. We talked about Pittsboro and they knew the store Beggars and Choosers, which was cool.

(I just have to add an aside here that watching TV without a DVR is so frustrating! I keep reaching for the remote to fast-forward over the commercials.)

I did some patching of raggedy carpet in the morning, and the spectators really seemed to dig that. People came to look and ask me questions while I was working. I asked Georg to bring me some beads so I can do more work over the weekend. I think that will be more engaging for people than me just sitting there reading a book. Although my book (about Elizabeth I's early life) is very good. It's a pop history, which I think is good for the circumstance. A more thorough, drier history might be hard to focus on. Though Elizabeth's life was so amazing and full of drama that it would be hard to write a boring book about her.

Carly ferried me back to the hotel around 3, there was no reason for me to hang around since the bubble machine wasn't running. Due to a mixup about when I was going to be brought back here, I didn't end up eating lunch at all except for a granola bar. Then by the time I did get back, it was so late that I decided to wait for dinner to go get food, and just have another granola bar as a snack to tide me over. And let me just say that three granola bars for breakfast, lunch and snack may sound like a good idea, but it really isn't. I fear that I may have put myself off my granola bars. Which would suck because I really love them, they are the perfect thing when I don't have time to eat real food.

Anyway I took a nap for a couple of hours, had dinner, and now I'm chilling and watching Survivor. Tomorrow I have to be ready to go at 8 & will be spending all day at the show. Then Georg will meet me after the show. Yay!

happiness is a full tummy


We weren't delivered to the hotel until about 7:45 pm, but there was a Chili's (I know, it's a chain, but that's all there is around here and it's the best of the bunch in my opinion) close enough to walk over there, eat a mountain of fajitas, and still get back in time to watch the elimination on America's Next Top Model. Alas, poor Lluvy. I loved your unusual, Shelly Duvallish beauty and I hoped you would do a lot better. Alas, your photos uniformly sucked and they were probably right to cut you.

Okay, so, the car show. It's hu-u-uge! I thought it would fill the speedway, which would be big enough, but it takes up a big parking area outside too. The art cars are right in the middle of things. It's UMJ, the Aerocar, Miss Vicki, the Buckit Truck, Heaven and Hell car, Plaidmobile, the Button King, and the Stink Bug. I only got to talk to Dave (Aerocar), Chris (Heaven and Hell car), Danny (Buckit Truck) and Dean (Miss Vicki). The others had already set up and gone by the time I got there. We're set up inside a building with a few really choice classic cars, and each car is roped off. Because we're special! Our "handler" I guess you would call her, a student intern named Carly, says we're here because Mr. Wheeler, the president of the Speedway, likes art cars. Three cheers for Mr. Wheeler! Clearly he has good taste.

Setting up UMJ took about ten minutes: just a quick once-over with Windex, set up the bubble machine, and done! My only mishap was overfilling the bubble machine so much that the bubble juice leaked out of the machine, ran down the edge of the windshield, and dripped onto the ground under the hood. Where I thought it was an oil leak and freaked out. Chris reassured me that oil wouldn't be clear like that, and while we were cleaning it up we realized that it was soap and figured out what had happened. Whew!

The electrical outlets are in the ceiling so I can't start it up until tomorrow, when someone with a ladder will reportedly come by and plug me in. I hope the night security guard gets to see the bubble machine in action. I had a nice chat with her this evening while I was waiting for someone to ferry me back here. I had set up my camp chair next to the car and was reading a book (Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey) when she came by and started chatting with me. She seemed to really dig the car and asked me a lot of questions about it. She told me that she works from 6 pm to 6 am! What a schedule! She said her husband works as a guard in the local prison, so the night shift actually works out well for her.

Most of the cars weren't there yet when we left today, and Carly says that tomorrow is when most vendors and clubs come and set up. She said that Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the big days. Which is good because the weather is supposed to suck tomorrow. Heavy rain all day. Carly is going to pick me up here at 10 am, and I may ask her to bring me back to the hotel early tomorrow too. If I have to spend all day there tending the bubble machine, I'd rather it be on days when lots of people are there to enjoy it.

On my way out the door to dinner I ran into Chris, who suggested we all go out to eat together. I confess, I made up an excuse to beg off. I just wanted to be quiet and read my book while I ate. I'm not an anti-social person (well actually, I kind of am) but we're all going to be hanging around the speedway together for days. So I wanted some alone time tonight. While walking I saw a bird's nest in a tree outside the hotel! It was really nice to find a little encroachment of nature in the middle of this vast display of bland institutional landscaping.

Now I'm chilling in the hotel room. Which is nice, a bit small but it has a couch, a desk, decent cable and free wireless. What more do I need? I think I'll post my photos now, and then maybe get some work done. Or maybe just read my book.


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I'm at the hotel in Charlotte. It was an easy drive, I didn't push it but the speed limits have gone up again -- 70 for part of the way! --and it took about 2 hours. Now I'm chilling for a few minutes before heading to the speedway. I got directions online, but they seem to conflict with the signage on the highway. I think I'm going to abandon Mapquest and follow the signs. After all, how lost can I get? (that's a joke, as you know if you've ever been in a car that I was driving.)

Once I get to the speedway I guess I'll park my car, set up the bubble machine, then cool my heels until the shuttle is ready to bring me back here. There are a bunch of hotels right by the speedway but they put me up in a Holiday Inn about 5 miles away. I wonder if it's hard to get a room right there during an event like this. Or maybe the room rates go up & it's more economical to have us a few miles away. Whatever! As long as I can walk to restaurants I don't care. There are two right beside the hotel but they look pretty blah -- a chain Japanese steak house and a chain New Orleans theme restaurant. I saw a big-ass strip mall as I was driving in, I bet there are lots of places there.

almost ready


Cleaning an art car is an involved business. I guess everyone has their own method, but this is what I do:

  1. hose off the car.
  2. wash all the flat surfaces, beads and carpet with a sponge and bucket of soapy water.
  3. rinse off with the hose.
  4. fire up the steam jet cleaner. do yard work while steam cleaner is heating up.
  5. spray all the toys with Tilex.
  6. clean each toy and mah jongg tile with steam cleaner.
  7. rinse again with hose.

I should have probably washed it again with the sponge to get rid of the residue left by the steam cleaner, but as it was the process took all afternoon. I'll take some Windex and paper towels for a quick clean-up when I get to the show. After all that I was pretty much wiped out. Georg took care of dinner, and he even surprised me by going to another Target and getting more bubble juice! Four more bottles; now I definitely have enough.

I still had to do laundry and pack, but that wasn't hard. This is the easiest time I've ever had of packing for an art car trip: I don't have to pack food or plan clothes for any special events, if I forget anything I can ask Georg to bring it, and I'm not messing around with web cams. Normally I have to take my computer bag and a separate equipment bag, but this time the equipment (battery chargers and the like) fit in the computer bag.

Now I'm almost ready. Just have to go to Stoneline this morning since I can't go this evening, go to the bank, write out Thirteen's medication instructions for the kennel, and decide whether to give her a bath or have them do it. On the one hand, it would be nice not to worry about it. But on the other I don't know if they have the sensitive skin shampoo that Thirteen needs.

preparation day

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Tomorrow I drive out to Charlotte for the auto fair. So today is preparation day: have to drive around, take care of errands, clean the car, pack, and try to get some work done. Work isn't so pressing this time because I'll have net access at the hotel, so I can work in the evenings while I'm there. But still there are some things I want to get out of the way before I go.

The one thing concerning me is bubble juice. I've been to Target and Walmart and I could only find four bottles. I need to keep the bubble machine running all day for four days, and I don't think that will be enough. Trouble is, I'm not sure exactly how much I need. At a normal event I'd want two bottles for just one afternoon. But normally I'd lose a lot from spilling out of the machine while I was driving, which won't happen at the auto fair. Still, I'm sure four bottles isn't enough for four days. Maybe I'll have time to try more stores tomorrow morning.

Speaking of Walmart, curse them! I've been trying not to shop there, because of that whole "destroying local economies" thing and the "sending jobs overseas" thing, and then there's the "workplace discrimination" thing. So I haven't been there in a long time, but I really need bubble juice so I went there today. And they had summer bulbs, things I really wanted, and they were so cheap! I couldn't help but buy some. Okay, a lot. I usually buy my plants from small nurseries at the farmer's market or through the mail. I'm uncomfortable with giving money to Walmart unless absolutely necessary.

free plants yay

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Had meetings most of the day, but this afternoon I got several good hours in the garden. First I drove over to David's house to get some plants he had set aside for me. I took Thirteen with me, with mixed success. She seemed to enjoy being in a new place, but did not enjoy David's dog Kate barking at her non-stop. Finally David put Kate in the house, where she barked at Thirteen through the window.

But aside from the barking it was a successful plant-gathering trip. David gave me purple phlox, obedience plant, echinacea, black-eyed susans and lots of little irises. He also offered me some periwinkle, but since he was complaining about it taking over his garden I passed.

When we got home I had to check email and catch up on some work stuff, then finally I got out into the garden. I did some weeding around the oak tree in front of the house and pulled up a bunch of vines. Then planted some pretty daffodils from my mom, because I already have the daffodils from Whole Foods there. The plan is to make a raised bed around that tree, so I didn't need dig the daffodils that deep. Because there will be several inches of dirt added over them.

Then I planted the little irises from David. In the iris bed down by the road, where else? I think later this year I'm going to start moving the irises around, instead of planting all of them in the same place. Because that area is going to look spectacular for a week or two, and then really bland the rest of the year. I think the irises will look better mixed in with other flowers around the yard. But for now I'll keep putting them in the same place so I don't have to worry about it.

While I was down there I saw that the Home Depot daffodils are in bloom! I had given up on them, didn't think they were going to sprout at all. But they were just late. I hope people aren't getting sick of the "I planted these" photos. It's just such a thrill to see beautiful flowers springing up, and know that they're there because of me!

Next I planted a couple of verbascum that we got at the farmer's market last weekend. I was a little uncomfortable about buying something that had been forced into bloom so early, that doesn't seem good for the plant. But I've been looking for this plant, and it's supposed to do well in this area, so I figured it would be worth a try. We did pass over dahlias that are supposed to bloom in late summer but were in full bloom now! I wonder what those plants are going to look like in September when all the other dahlias are blooming.

I planted them on the sunny side of the house, which we're planning to make into a cutting garden. Also Georg helped me measure that area so we can plan the bed. We need to put in a path so that the crawl space and gas and power meters are accessible. The newspaper and mulch have kept things under control since last fall, but as I recall there are a lot of stumps from volunteer shrubs under there. And the soil is awful hard clay. We're going to approach it just like we did the bank along the driveway: start at one end and work our way to the other, slow but sure. That bed is so big that if we tried to do the whole thing in one weekend, we'd only discourage ourselves. Working a couple of hours at a time it will take weeks, but it will get done eventually.

So I think that was a good day of planting! Especially since almost all the plants were free. Now I'm tired. Thirteen and I are both sacked out from our exertions. Georg made a wonderful dinner and now we're watching Iron Chef. Allez cuisine!

stocking up


Went to the library this morning and stocked up on library books for the trip next week. If I'm going to be trapped at a car show for days, I might as well have something to read. I borrowed way more books than I'll need, so that whatever my mood I'll have something to suit it:

  • highbrow nonfiction: The Longest Tunnel and two books about Tudor history
  • lowbrow nonfiction: a biography of Sammy Davis Jr.
  • highbrow fiction: a book of short stories by Gene Wolfe
  • lowbrow fiction: Left Behind. Which is a gamble, because they didn't have the second book in the series at the library. If I really enjoy this one I'll be stuck. But I think the odds are on my side here.

Any suggestions of other books I might want to check out? It should be entertaining enough that I can read it amidst the distractions of a car show. If I can get it from the library, that would be ideal.

on air


I was on the air this evening until about an hour ago. As usual, I forgot to post about it in advance. It was perhaps not my best show ever, but a fun evening nonetheless. The new online playlist thingie was tested and worked very well. Wine was consumed though not by me. An important consensus was reached that the bathroom at the station is really, really gross and that it should only be used in dire emergencies. My only major goof wasn't on air, but snapping at Rick! for talking while I was doing a station ID. Which I feel really bad about because I was rude and it was barely audible anyway. Sorry, Rick!

ETA: Thanks to Lisa and her magic script, the thumbnail above now links to a slideshow of all web cam shots during my show last night. It's like you're right there in the station with us! Thrill as it gets cool and I put on a sweater! Marvel as we decide the light is too bright and the cam goes into night-vision! Wonder at the way my chin seems to disappear every time I face the cam and look down!

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