Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I love my car.

(This post is partially for JV, fellow Miata owner.)
I love my car.
I bought Nomi two years ago last May, and since then, we have had a lovely time together.
Driving the countryside together. Going out to lunch. Traipsing about with neices and nephews, one at a time. Usually going to lunch.
But the time has come.
He needs a new roof.
Now, brace yourselves for what is about to come. It might come as sometyhing of a shock to you, as it has to all those who have heard the tale told so far.
Last week the zipper that holds in the rear window ripped out of the inside of the roof. Which sounds like a small matter, right? Well, no. Without the zipper the car is open to the elements, which any ragtop owner can tell you is not a good thing. I tried sewing the zipper back in, just as a temporary fix, but there just wasn't enough material to sew to. I thought about buying a top and installing it myself, and I also got an estimate on having it replaced. As of last week, my options seemed to be buy a new roof & self-install (250-300 bucks), install vinyl roof with plastic window (650), install new roof with glass window (850). I know, 200 bucks for a glass window, dosen't seem right. Right? Read on.
So later in the week I started calling around for more estimates. They were coming in at 800 and 900 bucks for the vinyl roof, plastic window. So the first estimate was looking better and better (for the vinyl roof installed). Right? Read on.
This morning I started looking at replacement roofs on the web, and the first thing that struck me was that the roofs I was finding were pricing out at a hundred bucks higher than the roofs I looked at last week. Oh well; maybe I was just hitting expensive sites? I had one more shop to call for an estimate, one I failed to reach last week, so I called over there. How much to replace the Miata's roof?
"About a thousand dollars."
Okay. Alright. Don't panic. I called the first shop, which is one I have dealt with severla times in the past (with my last convertible, a Chrysler LeBaron that people kept trying to steal), and we talked about the options. The guy I talked to there said that the $650 for the plastic window top still stood, but after talking it over I decided I did want the glass window. Partly because I like the glass window. Partly because something told me the $650 estimate was not going to stand.
So we made an appointment for the day after tomorrow, and a few minutes later the guy called back to revise the price: Rather than going for $950 (the price he gave me for the replacement roof with glass window, installed) it would be $1050. I said I had expected that. He said well, they were giving me a break, actually. If he hadn't given me the lower estimates already, it would have cost me 1300 bucks.
The moral of the story is that if you are a Miata owner, the days of replacing your roof for three or four hundred dollars are long gone. If you want your roof replaced, with warantee and with all work guaranteed by a licensed professional, it's going to cost you a thousand bucks. And if you plan on being a Miata owner, you will need to replace the roof every six to eight years.
And them's the facts.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Array

I STOOD staring at the array for who knows how long, God knows why. I still couldn't make anything out of it.

"Coffee?" Bobby was at my elbow. Thirty years my junior, a PhD candidate who never seemed to sleep, Bobby always had coffee at the ready. "You OK?"

"Sure, I said, "just a little pie-eyed from staring at this thing."

The probe-- Syrius 7-- had meant to find a dark spot behind Pluto that might have been an undiscovered moon. Instead it found the array. At first we though how grand, how huge, but it turned out to be about the size of four standard billboards. Still, the thing was so clearly made, we were even tempted to call it man-made, maybe even hidden on purpose behind the far gray planet, and if so, maybe it was put there so that we would find it when we were ready, when our civilization was advanced enough. All these things were argued in the scientific community. Then when the press got involved, all these arguments got folded in on themselves, flattened out, and before we knew it, the government had hired a subcontracting company to haul the array down to an orbital platform where it could be studied.

And now we stare at it. Eighteen lighted grids suspended on a platform at the edge of the solar system. Meaning . . .

First we had to build a machine to interpret the grids. To communicate with the array. And then a brain--a computer network-- to translate the interpretation. Then there was the carbon dating that yielded nothing-- the array was made of a substance that, as near as anyone knew, was older than the earth. And then there were the models that proved only that the array could be imitated. Then the endless arguments. Obviously this proved the existence of intelligent life in the universe. But what was it for? Why was it there?

Or obviously it was evidence of the existence of God. But why would God make something so resembling the works of Man?

Or-- this was my favorite-- obviously God made it to give credence to all the cheesy sci-fi movies of the 50's, that, somehow, aesthetically, this was the shape of future things.

But in reality, we hadn't been able to make it mean anything. My fifty-odd years life experience, my three PhD's, all the computer technology on the planet, Bobby's endless enthusiasm and bottomless pots of coffee, over the course of three years, still had not resulted in making it mean anything.

I gulped my coffee and closed my eyes, willing the thing out of existence, but when I opened them again, there it was on the monitor screen. Bobby shook his head and said, as he always said, "I don't know, Barb. Maybe we should start again?"

Start again and find the same nothing we always found? Of course we would. How could we not?

What the hell is this thing?

Friday, July 20, 2007

More Songs About Buildings & Food

Mainly food, actually.

Although I could blog about the building. The place where I went for lunch today is called the Midtown Sundries. There are something like five or six of them around now; it is a locally owned & operated chain that started out by trying to buy one of Charlotte's original Olde Haunts, a joint known as Providence Road Sundries, which is one of those joints that started out life as a drug store, then turned into a dive bar some time after the original owners gave up the rat race and the kids were uninterested in carrying on. (In a standard issue Charlotte-town twist, thery just kept the old sign and called the dive Providence Road Sundries, how clever and subversive, ha-ha-ha.) That turned into a pretty good bar-and-grill sometime between the late seventies and early eighties.

When it turned into a chain, or even if the original B&G is aprt of the chain, is somewhat unclear. I can only state with certainty that sometime in the mid 90's these Midtown Sundries joints started popping up, the first one being in a part of Charlotte designated Midtown, which, true to the nature of my lovely burg, is off to the side of downtown. (Which isn't even actually there anymore, the whole area having been plowed under to prepare for the construction of a brand new condos-and-courtyard shops complex. Which is fine. People bitch about everything in my town getting torn down and new stuff being built in it's place, but nothing in Midtown was ever worth going to Midtown for, with the exception of a Wendy's and a movie theater, and the Wendy's only stayed in business because once you were at the theater it made more sense to eat next door than to fight the traffic getting out. It was a dismal little area. Which is why, in the standard issue civic voo-doo, the powers that be'd gave it the sobrioquet "Midtown."


So some years back construction started on a couple of modified strip centers up towards the outer end of town. As the place took shape, we began to speculate on what the shape on the far corner of the thing was supposed to be. As time went on (and structuire went up) it became more and more obvious that it was going to be a restaurant. And it kept looking nicer and nicer as the building filled out. Feildstone walls outside, dark wood panelling inside, HUUUUUUUUUGE banks of windows, just lovely. The space stayed vacant for a while, maybe a coupla months, and then it started filling in and becoming more and more obviously a restaurant. Then one day the sign went up: MIDTOWN SUNDRIES.

I didn't trust the place. For a number of reasons:
  1. It was a Midtown.

No, really, there was more to it that that. It was more like this:

  1. Midtown had bit me in the past. I had gone to one that had just opened, and the manager misrepresented the menu, saying they had something they didn't have, and the waitress screwed up and forgot to put our order in, so we had to eat in the space of about ten minutes (once the food finally got to us) so we could scurry back to work.
  2. The kinds of places the Midtowns were cropping up were not areas known to attract real restaurants.
  3. The last time I had eaten at one-- see above-- the food had been distinctly mediocre, and the menu was decidedly limited.

Other than that, I had nothing especially against the place.

Anyways, eventually we ended up going there, and the food was good, the service friendly and timely, and the menu not too terribly limited. And since it is along a fairly standard path of travel, we find ourselves going there fairly regulalrly.

So today I went there for lunch.

And the moral of the story is, not everyone who poops on you is your enemy. No, wait. Um, never fly off the handle when you're full of shi-- No, that's not it. Er. Um. That Superman is one mean drunk?

This was all supposed to be a set up for yet another installment on the UST (Unified Sandwich Theory), which I usually only post on the Non-Blog, so you'll have to go over there to read it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Break in the Action

So here's a quick story. My Miata is at 62 thousand miles, which is the point at which it is recommended the timing belt be changed. The Wifey called the place that did her old Corolla when it hit 65 thousand, and they said they could do it. SO I went , got a starting time, returned that afternoon, waited an hour before they informed me that they couldn't do it.

That was last Monday. The following day I found a place that guaranteed me they could do the timing belt, but said they couldn't squeeze me in until this morning. So this morning I drove over to the place, and the guy I talked to (not the same guy I talked to last Tuesday) said they couldn't touch it 'til Wednesday. So, on the way back from there I dropped in on the Goodyear shop where I got my Dunlop A-2 Sport Performance tires. They, of course, couldn't do it , but they recommended a Mazda shop not far away. I got home and called over there, and, after getting bumped back to the reception desk 3 times, got a guy at the service desk. Not only can he do it, but he is also a Miata owner-- owns one of the coveted yellow 92's, production run of only 15,000 vehicles, he he he he he he-- so the only hitch there is that he can't see the car until tomorrow morning. Early.

This has been doubly difficult. I am reticent to let anyone mess with my car, especially when it is running perfectly and there is clearly nothing wrong with it. So, basically, I need a break. Which I facilitated by writing a poem about our favorite Chinese buffet.


Here we scuttle, pagan crabs sunk in a Christian sea,
Back and forth from seat to steam table,
Selecting servings of spicy meat, steamed dumplings,
Sweet cakes and banana pudding
Dodging servers bearing pans
Fresh and reeking from the mysterious reaches behind swinging doubled doors.
Smart enough to mock the churchgoers, silly enough
To trust this food which emerges like magic
From a void for all we know, we take faith, we trust
That all is for the best
In this best of all possible buffets.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Eastern Enlightenment

Remember a few blogs back, when I reported that the head of China's equivalent to the FDA had been condemned to death for taking bribes?

They killed him.

As the Wifey observed: and Bush thought Scooter Libby's punishment was harsh.

But what strikes me, and strikes me as very sad, is that this guy, whatever his sins, was killed as a scapegoat for systemic ills which his death will in no way cure. For systemic sins that never should have been allowed to exist. For shit that ought to make the proud Communist state die of shame.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dancing About Architecture

THAT will be the title of the book I write about music, when eventually I write a book about music, which I am convinced I will, against all available evidence. But this entry is, at least, partly, for August, who turned me on to Money Mark, whose real, full name, apparently, is Mark Ramos-Nishita. This guy gets more intriguing as time goes on.

So far, what I like about Nishita's stuff is that it is architectural. It's built. It's solid. Probably part of why August is "bored" with it: it's maybe a little too "built." Everything is resting on the foundation. Welcome, Wal-Mart shoppers.

But I hear something a little more than that here: something kind of serpentine, wiggly. Liberated. Libertine. Like a master sergeant on leave, he knows exactly how many beers require a cheeseburger. (I do too know what I mean by that. You don't have to believe me.)

Part of why August doesn't dig the thing in toto is likely because none of it, aside from track 2, was co-written by Jack Johnson (no doubt how she came across the stuff to begin with). Admittedly, it is the peppiest and most positive number on the disc. The rest of the stuff could easily be described as Meatball. Which is more than fine. Nothing better than a good meatball, right? (Besides, the secret here is in the sauce, all on top of some fine Jim Keltner pasta percussion.)

Besides all that, I am forgiving the admittedly mopey mood of the vast majority of the cuts on the disc (six of eleven, Borg-ly enough) on the basis of anticipating the rapture of listening to the previously released change is coming, which has been delivered, and the original solo work Mark's Keyboard Repair, which is pending, and -- fingers twisted tightly-- could even arrive today. (Of course, I had to purchase that disc from an outsourced Amazonian, one of the legion of companies that help keep up the illusion that Amazon can procure anything anytime anywhere, one of whom has dissapointed in the past, so who the hell knows.) But oh, rapture!!! The unbridled cheesiness of it! The pure, keyboard funk!!! The sheer electronica of it!!! This, dear readers, this, THIS! (change is coming), is not just meatball. This, my friends, is a genuine, New York style meatball sub. Dee-lish.

And now, if you will, pardon, dear readers, you humble host, who is in dire need of ice water.

See, here's the thing: you can dance about architecture. I think you should. When appropriate, when you feel like it. Every now and then, when you come across a really cool building, maybe an old Victorian house with turrets, or a post-and-pillar apartment building that seems like it was built on air, or even one of those old limestone govenment buildings that seem to insist that, sometime in the past, we were all Americans, there is nothing wrong with busting a move, laying down a little boogie, or even wiping it on the wall. No one else has to understand it. The worst they will do it shake their heads in sad mystery. It is not an arrestable offense, in any city in the world I know of, to shake a leg if you think you see angels in the architecture.

So it is no more a crime for me to write about music. If I want to. If I feel like it, I can. Right? Even if I do not provide samples, or MP3's, or links, or whatever. Right? Sure. At best, it might encourage others to go explore, check out Mr. Ramos-Nishita's very cool stuff. At worst it could confuse them. If nothing else, it has made me feel better, and, along with a very strong mug of coffee, an oversized quiche baked inside a croissant shell, and the aforementioned ice water, done a great deal to sooth my vodka-and-stout induced hangover, in itself a commodity of inestimable worth. (The soothing? The hangover? Take your pick.) On the other hand, in the words of the inimitable William H. Joel, Jr, you can't get the sound from a story in a magazine, much less from this dumbass blogger.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Why I Procure The Artifact.

On the advice of Goes By August, I bought the latest Money Mark disc (after hearing a couple of samples of the work, and also after concluding that I needed some of the earlier stuff as well.

This is the cover.

This is the disc within.