August 2006 Archives

sharpe's justice, sharpe's waterloo

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August 28 movies: Sharpe's Justice and Sharpe's Waterloo. Mrs. Sharpe goes from bad to worse in these movies. In Sharpe's Revenge she just seemed scared and weak, but by the end of Sharpe's Waterloo she's a scheming, murderous bitch. Also they make her wear horrible clown makeup, I guess so she'll seem undesireable. She's still got Alexis Denisof, though his character is no great prize either. Still, Wesley was one of my favorite Buffy characters so it was great to see him again.

There's quite a lot of salty language in the Sharpe movies. Since I've been reading the Aubrey-Maturin series this type of language isn't totally unfamiliar. Still I'm impressed by the imaginative nature of the insults. In one of the movies Sharpe serves under the Duke of Orange, who he calls "dirty little Dutch buffel-brained bastard," "blue-blooded twat," and "a silk stocking full of shit." Yes, you can say both "shit" and "shite" on BBC America.

I have a feeling that this may be the end of the series. Sharpe's Waterloo had a sense of finality about it, and this weekend they're showing a new one! New Sean Bean, woo! I see from the ads that one of the recurring villains is back too.

[edited to add:] Another thing I want to say about the Sharpe series is that the style of warfare is appalling. The two sides form lines on opposite sides of a field, then start walking towards each other and shooting. Jesus, it's a wonder anyone ever survived a battle. I've read that the first practitioners of guerilla warfare were considered dishonorable. For crying out loud, what lunatic came up with that lining up thing? It's insane.

the dawn patrol

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August 21 movie: The Dawn Patrol. You might think from this and Charge of the Light Brigade that it was Errol Flynn day on TCM. But actually it was David Niven day. This one was a war movie featuring Niven and Flynn as WWI biplane flyers who treat it all as a game -- at least at first -- while their commander, Basil Rathbone, is consumed by the stress of sending men to their deaths. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Basil Rathbone? Donald Crisp is also excellent.

charge of the light brigade

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August 21 movie: Charge of the Light Brigade. After driving all night I spent most of the day on the 21st lying on my ass, napping and watching TV. This movie was a stirring, tragic tale of an ill-fated attempt by plucky Indian freedon fighters to reclaim their land from their British overlords. Well, not really. But as much as I try to set aside modern political sensibilities while watching old movies, I really can't get into a story that celebrates colonialism and demonizes its victims. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been so tired. Or maybe it would have pissed me off more. The charge was impressive in any case.

bend of the river

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August 19 movie: Bend of the River. I watched this on the Saturday of the Mount Dora art car event. I'm not crazy about westerns, but it had Jimmy Stewart in it. Also Harry Morgan, one of the great character actors. The movie was a nice break after the afternoon, spent standing by the car chatting up Mt. Dora shoppers. It was a hot day, but despite my sunburn I enjoyed it. One of the space shuttle car guys (my apology to the space shuttle guys, but I'm really bad with names and much as I enjoyed talking with them, I never retained theirs. This was the shorter space shuttle guy with light brown hair, not the really tall one with black hair and mutton chops.) came by near the end of the day and expressed incredulity that I had stayed by my car all afternoon. He even offered to go get a beer for me! That was really kind of him, but as I told him, I don't drink beer. Besides, I was totally full from the mint milkshake I had gotten at the ice cream place across the street. Mint chocolate chip ice cream, milk and 2 mini peppermint patties in a blender. A bit too rich to eat the whole thing, but man it hit the spot.

we're not dressing

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August 17 movie: We're Not Dressing. Carole Lombard and Bing Crosby star in a wacky comedy about a shipwreck. Also features Ethel Merman, George Burns and Gracie Allen. The plot was ridiculous (and Lombard unusually unsympathetic) but it had some good songs. And I love Ethel Merman.

hurry up and wait

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It's been a weekend of doing a lot, but not feeling like much got done. First we got the truck running again. All we needed to do was replace the battery. (Note: when they say you should disconnect the battery before leaving a car unattended for any period of time, they aren't kidding!) Of course it ended up taking a lot more time than expected. Why do these things always take so much longer than expected? Well a few hours and a new socket wrench set later, the new battery was in and the truck was running. Just not quite in time to get to the city dump before they closed.

We're trying to tear down this ramshackle old shed behind the house, so we can have an arborist look at a sick-looking tree behind the shed. The tree overhangs our house and the neighbor's, and with hurricane season on the way it seems like the time to do something about it. Since we didn't have time to take it to the dump, we decided to just pull it down and pile it up out of the way. We didn't get the whole thing down but at least we got enough done that I can call the arborist.

Then I started working on the solar panels. The first step is to make sure they work. I don't know jack about electrical systems, so it's a bit slow going. The panels came with a voltage regulator and wires to connect them together. Some time on the solar company website and I figured out that I need the deep cycle batteries, wires to connect the voltage regulator to the battery, and wires to connect the battery to the appliance. After 2 Radio Shacks, Costco and a Wal-mart, I think I have all the parts I need. I also bought an electrical meter for good measure.

I'm going to try the system with just one panel and one battery first. Here's hoping!

mt dora

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I haven't posted all week, because I am lame. But I have finally posted my photos from the Mount Dora art car event.

it seemed like a good idea at the time

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Hitting the road immediately after the art car event wound up, at 4 pm today, seemed like a good idea at the time. The plan was to drive until I felt tired, then stop at a motel for the night, and finish the trip in the morning.

I followed the plan until about 8 pm, when I stopped outside Savannah to grab a bite of dinner and find a motel. While they were bringing up my food at Wendy's, I turned around to get some ketchup and saw a cockroach. Crawling around in the sugar packets. Ugh ... ew... bleh.

I hope the people at Wendy's realized what a favor I did them: I did not scream oh Christ there's a cockroach in the sugar packets and scare away the other customers. Instead I calmly told the girl behind the counter about the cockroach. Looked around and discovered the health rating was not visible. Grabbed my iced tea, left the food, got in my car and back onto I-95. I was in no mood to eat after that and I wanted to put as much distance between myself and that sordid scene as possible.

So I guess it was inevitable that I would end up driving the whole way home tonight. I was just tired of hotels and wanted to wake up in my own bed tomorrow. Probably not my smartest road trip decision ever, but I made it home in one piece. Stopped for a snack out of the cooler and an hour-long nap around midnight, and then I was good to go. Got home about 10 minutes ago.

I think Georg might have had some inkling that I was going to drive straight through, because the kitchen light had been left on. He's asleep but the dogs greeted me with great enthusiasm, as dogs do. They're both quiet dogs so I didn't have to worry about them waking Georg up. I turned off my headlights as I pulled into the driveway, but my car must have woken Jane up because I could see her watching me out the window. She came bounding out the door, hopping around with excitement. (Then of course she ran past me to check for squirrels in the front yard. But at least I got her undivided attention for the first minute or two.) Thirteen was still asleep when I came in, but I woke her up by petting her head. It was kind of comical to see her thought process go from "wha-huh-what?" for the first few seconds, to intently sniffing my arm like "hey, I know this person! something important is happening!" to tail-thumping "it's the girl! the girl is back! my girl is back!"

Now they're both sleeping. And I should be too.

tiny bubbles

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Today was the main day of the art car weekend. We had to be outside and ready to go at 9:30, and if I recall correctly we actually left fairly close to that time. We caravaned over to a neighboring town, which was fun, although it being fairly early on Saturday morning, we hardly saw anyone. Still, it was fun to drive along beautiful lakeside roads with all the art cars. I was near the front of the line and several people told me that the bubbles were particularly long-lasting. People at the end of the line, 15 cars behind me, were seeing the bubbles! I don't know if it was the brand of bubble juice or what. I got it at Walgreens. I'll have to go back and stock up.

We caravaned back to Mount Dora for the parade. Which was great, they had a nice big crowd. The downtown is very small, but they have us circle around twice so the parade lasts longer. They had us park downtown in assigned spots for the afternoon. Each car has a donation box with a sign asking people to "vote" for the car by donating a dollar. All the money goes to the local hospice, and the cars which bring in the most money win prizes. They haven't announced the winner yet, but since Sashimi Tabernacle Choir is here I think I know!

Besides Sashimi Tabernacle Choir, there's another showstopper here that I had never seen before, called Finn Jet. It's from West Palm Beach, which apparently has the largest Finn community in the US, and was made by Antti Rahko, who's sort of a Finnish cowboy. Finn Jet is a long silver car made from 2 Mercedes station wagons welded together, with decorative elements from 40 other makes and models added. It's amazing. I took lots of photos which I will post as soon as I get home.

This year I was parked on the busiest street in Mount Dora, so I was pretty busy talking with people. Except one time when I ran into the store to get a bottle of water, I never left the car all afternoon! I'm a little bummed that I didn't get to walk around and visit with the other drivers, but I had some really nice conversations at UMJ. An older couple who have a boat gave me great advice on a durable marine glue, and where to buy it. And I heard a new description of UMJ that I'd never heard before: "Lawrence Welk car"! I guess because of the bubbles. I have to admit I've never even seen the Lawrence Welk show.

I tried a new thing this year: music. No Lawrence Welk! Christa let me borrow her Divaville CDs to make a playlist of fun, upbeat standards and pop. I ended up with a lot of Louis Jordan, a lot of Perez Prado, a lot of Eartha Kitt, plus selections from a bunch of other people. Well anyway, the music was a moderate success. I was using Georg's iPod player, which worked fine, but in order to make it audible outside the car it had to be ear-splittingly loud inside the car. I need to get outdoor speakers. The ones that look like rocks aren't too expensive, and I could paint them blue so they wouldn't look weird on UMJ.

We were supposed to stay parked until 4 pm, but I ducked out at 3:30. I could tell that I had gotten a sunburn and I was having that feeling, that I was OK but if I had to stand outside in the sun for another half hour I was going to be miserable for the rest of the day. So I left a half hour early, had a quick shower and a nap before dinner, and now I feel fine. Except the sunburn, which looks kind of ugly around my neck and shoulders.

Holy crap! I'm watching a show on the Travel Channel called Wacky RVs or something. RV Crazy. They're doing a segment on Antti Rahko, the creator of Finn Jet! They're showing an elongated RV he made by welding 4 Chevy vans together. It has a sauna inside, natch. Hey, there's Jorma! Jorma is here this weekend interpreting for Antti. On the TV show he was inside the sauna beating himself with a branch. Those wacky Finns.

Now they're showing Finn Jet! Well maybe. It's called "Silver Turbo" on the show and doesn't have nearly as much ornamentation. It's possible that he made 2 different art cars by welding two Mercedes station wagons together. But I think it's the same car. The body shape is very similar, and some of the decorations (like the 6 side mirrors on each side) are there, as is the "Thank You Lord For Humor" sticker on the rear window. I can't wait to tell Jorma and Antti tomorrow that I saw them on TV.

art car wedding

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I'm just back from the art car wedding! The bride and groom were Regina and Tom, drivers of Mom's Clutter Heap and Sun n Sand Van, respectively. They met at last year's Mt. Dora parade and got married at this year's. Isn't that sweet?

The ceremony started almost an hour late, but the reception was first so no one minded. We all just sat around the pool and snacked and chatted. The bar graciously gave me free refills on my iced tea so I gave my extra drink tickets to other art car drivers. The ceremony itself was perfect: short and heartfelt. And here I am, chilling for the evening.

The TV thing this morning was kind of comical. The TV woman seemed like a transplanted urbanite: she was wearing all black (including a sweater), extremely pointy shoes, a kicky hairstyle, and a very ... voluble way of speaking. She would have looked right at home in Soho, but in this tiny, charming Florida town it was a bit incongruous. She spent all her time with the Sashimi Tabernacle choir and didn't film UMJ at all. I don't blame her -- if I were doing a TV segment on art cars, I'd focus on Sashimi Tabernacle Choir too. It's such an awesome car, & the movement and sound make it so much more effective on TV. But still, I wish we hadn't had to stand outside sweating for hours.

After the TV thing a bunch of us had a great lunch at a cute little cafe a couple of blocks from the hotel. Becky (Wheels of Imagination) spent a couple of months here last winter, so she knows where all the good spots are. Funny story about Becky: This morning I walked over to the little bakery to get a bagel and pilfer a fork and spoon. A woman outside the bakery asked me if I was with the art car event, and when I said yes, she told me "I'm Becky's girlfriend." I didn't know Becky was gay but I like her a lot, so I told the woman (whose name I forget) I was very happy to meet her. I asked her when she had arrived in Mount Dora and she said that she lives here. I almost said something about the difficulty of a long distance relationship, but then decided that I didn't know her well enough for such a personal remark.

A little while later I saw Becky. She asked after Georg, and so naturally I mentioned that I had met her girlfriend. She had absolutely no idea what I was talking about! Turns out she's not gay and not even in a relationship. She wasn't offended or anything, just amused. Her main reaction was to ask, "So what does my girlfriend look like?" I was happy to assure her that her girlfriend is pretty and seemed really nice. We finally figured out who the mystery girlfriend is, and that she had meant the term in the old-fashioned sense of "good friend who is a girl." Since Becky's nickname is Queen Becky, I almost asked her "girlfriend" if she was a queen too. I'm so glad I didn't! I know Becky well enough to joke around like that, but it would have been really awkward with this other woman.

pragmatics

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It turns out that I will eat peach cobbler with no fork, but I will not eat yogurt with no spoon.

hands across the table

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August 17 movie: Hands Across the Table. Speaking of unwinding after a long drive by watching a movie, that's just what I'm doing tonight. It's Carole Lombarde day on TCM. I had never seen this one before. Lombarde plays a manicurist who is loved by her customer Ralph Bellamy, a rich former pilot in a wheelchair, but she falls for Fred MacMurray, a poor gigolo who's dodging his rich fiance. This movie kind of depressed me. MacMurray's character is supposed to be an unconventional free spirit, but I found him childish and annoying. And yet, it was obvious from the start that she would end up with him and not Bellamy. He laughs it off though, as people in the movies strangely do. Why is Ralph Bellamy always the loser in romantic comedies? I need to see a movie where Bellamy gets the girl.

sky captain and the world of tomorrow

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August 5 movie: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Georg and I watched this while we were in Louisville. It was the perfect thing to watch while we unwound after a long day of driving. Georg noticed some bad writing -- for instance why does Gwyneth take the one thing the bad guy can't ever have, carry it all the way to the Himalayas and deliver it to his henchmen? (Although I wonder if that in particular was deliberate bad writing, as a reference to the plot contrivances of classic adventure movies.) But there were also moments of great dialogue, like "Just for once can't we die without all this bickering?"

rich, young and pretty

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August 9 movie: Rich, Young and Pretty. Jane Powell is the daughter of a rich Texas rancher. They go to Paris where she falls in love with Vic Damone and meets her long lost mother, who abandoned her and Dad lo these many years ago. This movie structurally kind of reminded me of Holiday in Mexico.

sharpe's revenge

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August 12 movie: Sharpe's Revenge. The latest in the Sharpe series has Sharpe falsely accused of stealing some Napoleonic treasure and murdering its guards. While Sharpe is off clearing his name, Sharpe's wife leaves him, steals and squanders all his money, and allows herself to be seduced by the first dandy fop who comes her way -- played by Alexis Denisof, aka Wesley on Buffy and Angel! He looked so young I wasn't even sure it was him.

Anyway, Mrs. Sharpe doesn't come off so well in this movie. Neither does Sharpe, actually: when he finds out about his wife's infidelity, he immediately jumps into bed with the woman his old friend (who just saved his life) is in love with. Way to go, Sharpe! That's showing her what true loyalty looks like. The friend gets over it, as friends strangely do in movies, and Sharpe ends up with his name cleared and his rebound girl waiting for him. I guess living well is Sharpe's revenge.

mount dora

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I'm in Mount Dora! The drive was easy -- almost exactly 10 hours. (I was thinking on the way down how much my definition of an "easy" road trip has changed. I used to think 6 hours was a terribly long drive.) Google Maps said to take major highways the whole way -- I-95 to Daytona and then I-4 west -- but AAA had me on state roads for the last hundred miles.

I took the AAA route and I'm really glad I did. At first it was like the busiest part of 15-501, lots of stoplights and traffic, incredibly frustrating after going 70 mph on the interstate. But eventually the road opened up and the traffic went away and it was a beautiful drive through a national forest. It was lovely and eerie, and kept changing: first pine trees covered with bright green moss, and mist swirling around them; then live oaks and Spanish moss; then the aftermath of a forest fire: acres of blackened, bare pines, still smoldering in places. At the welcome center for the forest was a Smokey the Bear sign that said "Moderate Fire Danger Today."

About 15 miles north of Mount Dora I passed a barbecue joint called "Old Crow Pit Smoked Bar-B-Q." It looked like it had been there forever -- always a good sign for barbecue -- and at 6 pm it was already crowded -- another good sign. I would have stopped right then but I ate my sandwich really late, when this photo was taken in fact. Funny story about that photo: I pulled into the rest stop, snapped that photo and then sat down to eat my sandwich. A car pulled up next to mine, sat there for a few minutes, and then a guy got out and asked me if he could take a picture of the car. His wife got out too and chatted with me, and it turned out they had seen my car several states away, and had followed me into the rest stop to get the photo! Just think, we were driving along together for hundreds of miles. The wife really loved UMJ because she collects Barbies.

So anyway, I had lunch really late so I wasn't hungry when I drove past the Old Crow barbecue place at 6. And then when I got to Mount Dora, there was a street fair going on with streets blocked off and art cars parked in the middle. I had thought to track down the event organizer and take my car to the street fair. But by the time I had checked into the hotel and gotten my bags up to my room, I suddenly realized that I was way too tired to do anything. So I took a shower, got comfy and had dinner from the cooler. Now I'm watching TV (Carole Lombard night on TCM! Yay!). And I have a terrible dilemma: I have a container of peach cobbler Georg made for me, but no fork! I forgot to pack a fork. And I'm in my pajamas! I think the cobbler may have to wait until tomorrow.

one last thought

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I never did a thorough write-up of the Louisville event, but I have to mention one thing that happened. We were on the illuminated cruise -- well actually, we were in a small group that accidently got sent out before the main cruise, sort of the advance guard. And by the way, a huge thank you to the architectural salvage car for stopping and waiting for us when they got through a light and we didn't.

Anyway, we were on the illuminated cruise. Which is not really like an official parade; it's more like the cars just get all lit up and drive around town. We're in a group but mixed in with the regular traffic, and there's no police escort. I was thinking to myself about the first illuminated cruise I ever did in Houston. There was this one moment where I looked to my left and realized I was being passed by a fully lit sailboat that was blaring Timo Maas. It was an incredible feeling of "I can't believe this is happening. This is the weirdest and coolest thing ever." And I was thinking to myself that this was my fourth illuminated cruise, and it was a little sad that I'll probably never get that rush of excitement again, because as much as I enjoy the cruise, it's not a new experience for me anymore.

I was musing on this, and I glanced over to my left and saw a car pulled up next to us at a stoplight. UMJ had its lights on and the bubble machine running, and it looked pretty good if I do say. There was a teenage boy in the back seat, gaping with his mouth literally open. The look on his face said, as clearly as if he were speaking out loud: "I can't believe this is happening. This is the weirdest and coolest thing ever."

Sometimes I love my life.

no rest for the weird

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I'm just starting to feel settled in and already it's time to start thinking about the next art car event. This one is in Mount Dora, Florida, from August 18-20. Mount Dora is the highest elevation in Florida. Which, if you know anything about Florida, will tell you that it's not really a mountain. I think in fact it's 200 feet above sea level. This is my second year at the event, and it's kind of brutal to be out in the sun all weekend in Florida in August. But other than that, it's a great event. Nice people and a nice location. It's a chichi little town full of shops, like Blowing Rock, NC or New Hope, PA.

They put us up in a really nice historic hotel, which best of all is (just like Louisville) within walking distance of the car display area. One thing I really don't like about art car events is when they stick you in a parking lot for hours, with no shade, no bathroom, no water, no nothing, and sometimes no way to leave until they say you can go. At Mt. Dora and Louisville, you can go back to the hotel room and cool off anytime you want. It makes such a huge difference. Even better, at both events there's an indoor space right there where you can get cold water and use the bathroom. It's the Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville; in Mount Dora each car has an assigned parking space, and the store we're parked in front of has water and facilities for us. The point of the event is to draw people into the town during the off-season. Which means that, even though we have to be there during such bad weather, the town is really nice to us.

The only bummer about this event is that I'll be on my own. Georg can't go since he used up too much vacation earlier in the year. I have some friends who live about an hour from Mt. Dora, and I was hoping to get together with them, but they have to travel a lot for work and it turns out they'll be away that weekend. Dang! Oh well, I kind of enjoyed my solo drive to Houston and I'm sure this will be fun too. I'm looking forward to seeing friends like Dean (Miss Vicky) and Hamburger Harry and Felicia (Catgoyle Cavy). I don't even know who else is going to be there, except that two of the drivers who met last year are getting married on Friday night! That should be a blast.

Last year we did the drive in two days and stopped in Savannah on the way. This year I'm going to try to do it in one. It's going to be a long day, but unless Mapquest and Yahoo maps are way wrong, it won't be too bad. (On the other hand, Google map thinks the drive will take 13 hours. If Google is right, I'm screwed). I'm going to drive down on Thursday and spend Friday relaxing before the event gets going. There's a TV thing Friday morning but it's right at the hotel, and then I'll be free the rest of the day. Saturday and Sunday are the event days. Then Sunday night I'll drive a few hours, just to get a jump on the trip (added benefit: I'm sure I can find a cheaper hotel on the road than the swank place the event is putting us in Mount Dora). Then I'll finish the drive on Monday.

The cooler full of food worked pretty well in Louisville -- helped us feel more in control of the situation, to know we always had good food on hand -- so I'll do that again. Unfortunately I didn't find much on Roadfood.com for stopping on the drive. So I guess it will be packed food on the way down and fast food on the way up. Maybe I can time it to stop for lunch in Savannah. Last year we had dinner at this amazing restaurant called Toucan Cafe. I wonder if they serve lunch?

The other bummer is that I had all these great ideas for improving Undersea Mah Jongg last weekend, but there's no time to implement any of them, even if it weren't too hot to work on the car. Oh well, next year for sure!

look at me, i'm notorious

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On pretty much every road trip I see people taking Undersea Mah Jongg's picture. Sometimes they're nice enough to send me links to the photos. And sometimes, if I'm really lucky, they catch me scratching (just scratching, I promise!) my nose.

louisville photos

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My photos from Louisville are online. Like I said, I didn't get as many photos as I would have liked due to equipment problems. On Friday my best lens mysteriously stopped autofocusing. By fiddling with it I got it to focus in, but never to focus out. That worked ok: I would just focus all the way in by turning the ring, and then let the camera focus out to the correct focus. But it took me awhile to figure that out.

I'm rather bummed out about the lens. To be honest, I would have rather the camera body had broken. The body only cost slightly more than the lens, and it would have been a good excuse to upgrade. I'm using the original Digital Rebel which I gather lacks some of the features of the XT. But the lens is exactly what I want. If I have to replace it, I'm going to get the exact same thing, except a model that will last more than a year.

So I'm going to call around and see if I can get the lens repaired. In the meantime, I spent so much time trying to figure out what was wrong with my camera that I forgot to charge the spare battery, and the camera died pretty early on Saturday. So I didn't get nearly as many photos as I would have wanted. At least I got a few decent ones, which are now posted.

home again

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We are back! Just like last year, the drive home took about an hour less than the drive up. I think it's because on the way up, we're driving into Louisville during rush hour.

Many thanks to Karen and Scott for putting together such a fantastic event. Everything went off without a hitch. There was so much going on, but it didn't feel overwhelming (as it kind of did last year). I guess that's because of taking more time away from the event to chill by myself. I felt a little guilty about not being out there the whole time, but I think that being well rested let me enjoy things better.

The best part for me was the time I spent talking with people. People I knew from other events, like Tim McNally (Plaidmobile) , Carl Knickerbocker (Suburban Primitive) Chris Hubbard (Heaven and Hell Car) Robert Seven (Emerge-N-See) , and Dean Pauley (Miss Vicky) , and people I hadn't had the chance to get to know before, like Paul McRae (whose art car I don't know the name of!), Gary Coover (Yellow Submarine) , Lewis Meyer (the pirate truck), and Nod (does his car have a name?). I was really impressed with Nod's positive energy. Happiness shines out in every word he says. It's a great feeling to be around.

Well I could write all night, but I was driving all day and I think a good night's sleep is in order. I didn't get a lot of photos on this trip due to camera problems (first, my best lens won't auto-focus, and second, I forgot to recharge the spare battery). But I did get a few decent shots, which I'll try to post tomorrow.

so nice, we ate there twice

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One of the great discoveries of Louisville is Lynn's Paradise Cafe. It's basically a diner with crazy cool decorations, including a giant teapot and teacups out front. We had read about it in Roadfood.com. Last year the art car folks took us all to dinner there after the illuminated cruise. Unfortunately, the cruise ran really late last year, and we ate so late that despite the wonderful food and company, Lisa and I didn't really enjoy our meal.

This year I was prepared for the late night, and so Georg and I ate dinner at 6. I had meant to eat a light dinner, but once I start eating it's hard to stop while I'm still hungry. So I ended up eating a pretty full meal. And then, they tricked us and did everything on time! We got to Lynn's around 9:30, and had food on the table by 10! I wasn't hungry at all, ordered just an appetizer, and couldn't finish it. At least we still had great company. We sat with Tim McNally and Paul McRae and I really enjoyed the conversation. Tim had brought his new art car, which is painted, but in a freeform style that's very different from the Plaidmobile. Paul didn't bring his art car but he was full of enthusiasm for the event. I can't wait to see his photos.

Today our art car obligations ended around 4:30. We went back to the hotel room and rested for a little while, and then decided to go back to Lynn's. What the heck: we know it's good, the atmosphere is really fun, and I wanted the chance to appreciate my dinner the way I hadn't last night.

We loved examining the kooky decorations all over Lynn's. Like tall tree trunks in the dining room covered with garlands, paper butterflies and Christmas tree decorations. Or the manniquins on the walls wearing op art pajama pants. Their annual "ugly lamp contest" is happening in a few days so we got to view the entries. I must say, those were some ugly lamps. The grand prize is one free breakfast every week for a year! That would be worth searching for the perfect ugly lamp.

Georg had the "hot brown," which we hear is a Louisville specialty. I had it last year; it's basically a bowl of turkey, tomato and bacon covered with cheese and cream sauce. I think there's some bread in there too. It's really good, but really rich. I had meatloaf with macaroni and cheese and green beans. Yum. The mac and cheese was particularly good.

After dinner we swung by another Roadfood.com recommendation: the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen. As you might guess from the name, they sell pie and ice cream. And also cake. We were full from dinner so we got desserts to take back to the hotel room. Georg got a slice of devil's food cake and I got strawberry rhubarb pie. They both got a little melty in the car because we stopped by Nod's camper-van on the way back to conduct our business transaction. (In other words, to buy the solar panels.) But still, both pie and cake were excellent. The crust on my pie tasted like it was mostly shortening rather than butter. Really tender. And the filling was very nice, not too sweet. Rhubarb pie should not have too much sugar. If you want a super-sweet fruit pie, get cherry. Or forget the fruit and get shoofly pie for the total sugar bomb. (In point of fact, the place in Louisville doesn't sell shoofly pie. In fact I don't know if I've seen shoofly pie outside of PA. But seeing as shoofly filling is almost pure sugar, it's hard to imagine a sweeter dessert.)

umj goes green

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Well, not really. I can't convert UMJ to biodeisel, much as I would like to, because it has a gas engine. Our (UMJ's and mine) dependency on the oil industry won't be ending anytime soon. But we took a step today towards green power: I bought solar panels to run the event-related accessories!

During events I run a bubble machine, lights and a computer. I've been running them off the cigarette lighter when the car is running, and off a battery charger (the kind the AAA guy uses to jump start your car) when it isn't. This has more or less worked up until now. But even with two inverters I'm pushing the limits of available power -- I've blown a fuse in UMJ more than once -- and I've been wanting to add more accessories that draw electricity. Clearly I need another power source.

Well today I met Nod, an art car guy of whom I've been aware for several years, but have never had the chance to really talk with him before. He's a really interesting guy, and by the end of our great conversation I had bought two solar panels and a controller from him. He has the exact same setup in his van, and had bought the additional panels so he could double his power, but eventually decided he didn't need it. He showed me how he built a frame to house the solar panels on the roof of his car and connected them to two deep cycle batteries. He sends the electricity through a big inverter (bigger than I'd ever seen before) and with those two panels he can power his computer, lights, a cooling system for the van to keep his cat cool (yes, his cat travels with him to art car events. That's how cool this guy is) and even a fridge!

The thought of unlimited power for all my accessories was more than I could pass up. No more lugging that charger up to hotel rooms to recharge it overnight; no more worrying about overloading the charger blowing a fuse; no more running out of power in the middle of an event. Just thinking about it has me all excited. With solar power I could run accessories all the time, not just at events. I want to make a housing for them out of fiberglass, that looks like waves so it fits in with the car, and has a space below the panels for the bubble machine. That description probably makes no sense but I can see it in my head. I've been thinking for a long time about getting into fiberglass, to make a better mount for the bubble machine and add some height to the roof at the same time.

Anyway, this is all a bit (or rather, a lot) over my current skill level. I hope I can make it work and I'm really looking forward to learning how. Nod said he would mail me instructions & also the solar panel manufacturer has a website with a lot of help.

the tacky tower

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So our hotel, the Galt House, has two towers. Last year Lisa and I called them the swanky tower and the tacky tower, due to their renovated and unrenovated states, respectively. This year I asked for high speed net access in the room, thinking that this would get us into a suite in the swanky tower like last time. It turns out that the renovations have continued over the last year. Now there are renovated rooms in the tacky tower with net access, which is what we got. It's probably for the best financially that we didn't get one of those huge suites. The room is fine, with a spectacular view. The only real problem is that we were expecting a fridge so we brought a lot of perishable food. No big deal though; we're keeping the cooler full of ice and nothing has spoiled.

Well, also the wireless access is spotty at best. We found one sweet spot in the middle of the room where we only get intermitted outages, and set up the laptop on a luggage rack. Anyplace else in the room (on the bed, at the desk, whatever) and the connection dropped constantly. The downtime to uptime ratio was about 4:1. It's kind of pathetic and I would have asked to change rooms because of it, if I weren't too busy with the art car event. Besides, the hotel is pretty full, with several conventions (including a huge street rod show), and it might be hard for them to find us another room.

Speaking of which, I must say I'm disappointed with the service at the hotel this time. The first problem was when they assigned us a room that was already occupied. We opened the door and someone else's stuff was all over the place. All I can say is, the hotel is lucky we're honest. We had to go all the way back down, with our luggage of course, go back to the front desk and get a different room. What mainly put me off was how blase the desk clerk was about the whole thing. She acted like it was nothing out of the ordinary for a guest to be given keys to someone else's room. It kind of spooked me and I've been careful to hide everything valuable (like this computer) every time we leave the room.

Then there was the wireless problem, which is basically resolved as long as I stay in the sweet spot in the middle of the room, and as long as I'm patient about the downtimes. And then today we got no housekeeping service. So in general, not too happy with the service. Still, the room is nice, and it's great that it's so close to the event.

the joy of sleep

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So we're in Louisville for an art car event. This is a fun event but a busy one. Actually those two statements are related: it's fun because there's so much going on. Having learned my lesson last time, we are taking pains to get enough water to drink, rest during the day and sleep at night. We're probably missing out on some fun time with the other drivers, but I find that not being dehydrated, tired and stressed out means I'm enjoying the overall event more.

Based on the first day I thought I was going to be a lot more tired and stressed by this point. I couldn't sleep Wed. night, only got about 4 hours of sleep, and then of course we had a whole day of driving. The drive took about 10 hours, which was only slightly less than last year (we got lucky with the construction traffic) but since we were expecting it this year, it seemed much less onerous. Like last year, they kicked off the weekend with a drive-in movie last night. This time they projected the movie onto the side of a white delivery truck, which made for excellent picture quality. The movie was held at a water tower museum right on the river, which made the air a bit cooler too. And we could see distant lightning on the other side of the river. It was a lovely evening.

First they showed short segments that looked to be from a cable TV show, about 3 art car drivers we know: Chris of the Heaven and Hell car, Danny of the Buckit Truck, and Carl of The Elements. Then they showed Driving the Dream, Harrod Blank's second movie. I had never seen it, and one of the profiles was Hambuger Harry! That was cool. Harry had really long hair when his interview was filmed. I think he looks better now.

The third movie was Dumb and Dumberer. I've heard it's pretty funny, but we were both really tired and neither one of us much cares for Jim Carrey. So we left early, and managed to get back to the hotel room by 10:45. We lay down to watch The Daily Show and I was asleep by 11:10. Slept until 7:30. It is amazing how much better I feel when I've had adequate rest. And best of all, the hotel is about 4 blocks from the event, so we can leave our car and come back here to rest anytime we want. A rare luxury at art car events.

i want my...

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All day today VH1 Classic is showing MTV's first day of programming. Minus the VJ segments unfortunately, but they are showing all the videos. We've watched a couple of hours, time shifted on the DVR so we can skip the bad videos. Of which there are many. It's quite a mixed bag. Along with the commonplace videos there were some really good, unusual things like the Specials and Split Enz. (Which reminds me, I remember reading that Michael Jackson was the first black artist played on MTV, but there are black members of the Specials. I guess they meant bands where the lead singer was black.) And also some really bad unusual videos. Lots of repetition too. I guess due to the relative newness of videos, they had to work with what they had. (It begs the question, why did videos exist before MTV?) It comes off like the "Rod Stewart and REO Speedwagon Channel" at times. Thank god for the DVR and fast forward.

Right now we're watching "Message of Love" by the Pretenders. For the second time today. I'm surprised by how much I like this song. Also, Chrissy Hynde was working quite the mod look. The shape of her hair is more of an early 80's shag, but the long thick bangs, heavy eyes and pale lips are totally mod. I had been thinking that I couldn't do a heavy mod eye because my eyes are too small. But her eyes are fairly small and she made it work. Maybe I should dig out those false eyelashes.

an adventurer is me

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Tonight we went to Jibarra for Georg's birthday. I had huitlacoche! And it was good!

Huitlacoche is called "Mexican truffle," but actually it's a fungus that grows on corn. (I've also heard it called the accurate but unappetizing "corn smut"). I've been wanting to try huitlacoche for years, but the last time we went to Jibarra I chickened out. The waiter told me it tasted "musty," and sounded like he was trying to think of something nice to say about it, and I was afraid he meant it tasted like a nasty old closet smells. So I got something safe instead.

I've been regretting being such a wuss ever since, so this time I ordered it. And it was great! Milder than I was expecting. Not musty at all. Actually it was kind of hard to describe. "Earthy" I guess. Sort of like wild mushrooms. Which makes sense; huitlacoche and mushrooms are both fungi. It came stuffed in chicken, with excellent mashed potatoes and strips of poblano pepper. Yum.

Besides the huitlacoche, everything else was wonderful too. For dessert I had a buñuelo, which was kind of like a Napoleon, with layers of fresh fruit and crispy pastry. A nice light finish to the meal.

why i hate jiffy lube, part 2

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Jiffy Lube and I have a history. A history which means I will never let them do anything to my car again. But, I still go to them for inspections for the convenience. An inspection at my mechanic means having to arrange for Georg to help me drop off the car, and then pick it up again by 5. With Georg working in Morrisville that can be a logistical problem.

Jiffy Lube, on the other hand, has an office right on Franklin Street. I can drop off the car, walk over to my weekly meeting at HKB, and pick up the car after the meeting is over. Simple, right?

Not this time. I took the car to them two weeks ago for my inspection. (Which inspection was already a month overdue, my fault.) After the meeting I went to pick it up, and they told me they hadn't been able to inspect it because the registration card I had left on the dash was from last year. Last time they did the inspection with an old registration card, but whatever, I'm not going to argue the point. The new registration card was in the glove box, I had just pulled out the wrong one. They guy said he didn't feel comfortable rummaging in my glove box and I couldn't fault him for that.

They told me it would take 45 minutes, so I walked over to a nearby coffee shop. Which had good iced tea, but no free refills, the cheap bastards. I got back to Jiffy Lube just short of an hour later and, no surprise, my car was not ready.

15 minutes later I was told that my car failed inspection. Why? Because of a damaged headlight. Not the bulb, which was fine; the glass covering the headlight was broken. They wouldn't fix it, but they only charged me $8.50 and they said if I came back within 30 days I could get it reinspected without having to pay the $8.50 again.

We tried to fix the headlights ourselves, and found out that the auto parts store doesn't sell the glass, just the bulbs. Then we lived through the 2 weeks from hell, so I only just now found the time to deal with the car. Took it to my mechanic yesterday and asked them to replace the headlight and inspect it. Might as well get it all done in one go, after all I was only into Jiffy Lube for $8.50. And I asked the mechanic to do some other things while they were at: new brakes and an oil change.

Picked up the car this morning, looked at the receipt, and didn't see the headlight. I asked my mechanic if they had been able to do the inspection and he said yes. Well then what about that headlight? According to him, intact headlight glass is not a requirement for passing inspection. As long as the lamp works, the glass can be cracked or broken. I told him that Jiffy Lube had failed the car because of the headlight. "Oh yeah," he said, "they try to get you on every little thing."

This seems fairly unambiguous. A car with broken headlight glass can either pass inspection, or it can't. Therefore someone is lying to me: either my mechanic is giving me a pass when he shouldn't, or Jiffy Lube failed my car when they shouldn't. I'm inclined to believe the mechanic since we have a long history and there's a financial benefit to me if he's right. But what was the benefit to Jiffy Lube in over-enforcement? It would make more sense if they had invented a violation and then offered to do the repair themselves. But no, they just took my $8.50 and sent me on my way. It seems like a lot of hassle to rook me out of $8.50.

Come to think of it, last year my car failed inspection, with the exact same result: paid $8.50 to Jiffy Lube, then took it to the mechanic for the repair and the inspection. I think next year I'll drop my car off with my mechanic, mail Jiffy Lube $8.50, and save myself a lot of trouble. Oh, and next year I'll do it on time. Really.

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