Saturday, July 03, 2010

3009 Escapes

Saturday, July 3, 2010

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
-- Plato --


So, last night the Hairless Hunk was cutting up some downed trees in my yard when Vic arrived to work on the van. I left them to it, and went to dinner and a movie. I didn't get home until very late.

HH called this morning to tell me that Vic fixed the brake line on the driver's side, but then found a leak on the passenger side too. So he'll be returning Tuesday night to replace that one.

Then Vic wants me to re-register it (it's still insured, and has plates on it) and drive it to Captain Vantastic's, where he'll finish the job. I'm not clear on this re-registering business. I let the registration lapse because I couldn't get it inspected. I guess Vic thinks it will pass inspection? And that it will make it to Esopus?

One step at a time. Right now I have to figure out how to avoid being trapped by Vic Tuesday night. I don't think I can just leave again.


Last night's movie was "City Island". It was really good, funny, I enjoyed it. Trailer here.

One thing I didn't understand was that at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, a big deal was made about the difference between people born in (on?) City Island (an old fishing village, a piece of New England, in the Bronx), and people who came there from elsewhere. Natives are "clam diggers", and imports are "mussel suckers". It was treated as very important. But the distinction had nothing whatsoever to do with the story.

Perhaps the movie is from a book, and that part was left out.

Watch for it. I recommend it. Men who aren't apes will enjoy it, too.


Today I went to a demolition derby at the Rhinebeck fairgrounds. I haven't been to a DD in forty years. I used to love them.

Well, I seem to have this problem. Every time I go anywhere new, to a party, on a tour, a hike, a festival, a date, whatever, if I haven't been there before I have a picture in my head of what it will be like, and I am ALWAYS disappointed. Always. I try very hard not to preconceive the experience, but I can't stop me, and reality never meets my expectations.

The old demolition derbies in Pennsylvania were always on a racing oval. It was an actual race (hence "Derby") in one direction around the oval, the drivers tried to put the competition out of commission, and the winner was the last car still moving. It took a while, cars lapped each other, and the track gradually filled with debris, bumpers, fenders, tires, and eventually what was left of the losing cars. Most collisions were either sideways or someone coming up behind another car and hitting it in the rear end. Bumpers, hoods, trunks were not reinforced.

Imagine my disappointment when I arrived and found this (clicking a photo will biggify it):
That's not a track! It's a boxing ring!

And that's pretty much how it went. They had 4 different "events" based on the size and weight of the cars. They'd throw 10 or 12 cars in there, and the drivers mostly just drove backward trying to bash the other cars with their rear ends, aiming mostly for the other guy's motor or tires. They couldn't get up much speed.

Lots of cars lost tires or whole wheels. One valiant little car did a heck of a lot of damage on three wheels - driver's side rear tire was gone. The advantage of four-wheel drive, I guess.

Lining up at the start. The second car from the right has a huge stuffed animal on top.

Getting caught in the middle. Bad place to be.

First and second place winners in this class. The dark car, second place, went through most of the round on three wheels - note that badly tilted front tire.

There were more people in the stands than these photos imply. The largest of the three sets of bleachers had a roof, and therefore shade, and was packed.

See what I mean about them having very little room to move, so no speed? It gets worse when most of the cars are disabled, and you can't get around them. Yeah, that's smoke coming out of the car in front, but it didn't catch fire. Those red things in the back are fire trucks standing by.

And, here's what happens when you go to a demolition derby:
(That's my underarm you're looking at, not what it looks like.)


Later. Now here's a 1:53 clip of a demolition derby sort of like I remember them:

This one's more exciting because it's a figure 8 track. Whoop!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

3008 Simon's Cat was based on reality

Thursday, July 1, 2010

“Ignorance: the root of all evil.”
-- Plato --


Silent movie, ok for work.


In case you haven't seen it, the cartoon Simon's Cat is here:

3007 But wait, that's not all....

Thursday, July 1, 2010

“If women are expected to do the same work as men,
we must teach them the same things.”
-- Plato --


A little excitement on Tuesday, on route 9w in Esopus. A dump truck driver towing a trailer carrying construction equipment (a paver and a Bobcat) missed his turn and decided to make a U-turn. He pulled over to the right shoulder and started the turn (how! Route 9w at that point is not particularly wide. I'd hesitate to try to turn Suzie there!). He didn't notice a truck coming up behind him, and got clobbered broadside.

But wait, that's not all. The truck that hit him was a fuel oil truck, carrying 3,000 gallons of fuel oil. The oil tank ruptured, spewing oil on the road, and the oil caught fire.

But wait, that's not all. Both trucks and the trailer were engulfed in the burning oil (the drivers did get out and away in time) and the heat melted them (I heard the Bobcat became an unrecognizable lump). The fire was so hot it melted the propane gas line under the road. Which proceeded to leak gas.

But wait, that's not all. A warehouse next to the road, the building served by the gas line, caught fire and burned to the ground.

But wait, that's not all. The warehouse stored fireworks (possibly illegal, since private fireworks are illegal in NY), which of course caught fire.

A little excitement.

The Hairless Hunk told me about it yesterday. He works with a volunteer fireman who had been there. Then Vic the mechanic told me about it, too. It was just up the road from Captain Vantastic's shop, and almost across the road from Vic's house.

Local newspaper article here:

Very short video here (turn the sound down):


3006 My fleet

Thursday, July 1, 2010

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
-- Plato --


This is my fleet. From the left: flashy Hal, workhorse Fred, plucky Suzie. Of the three, I think Suzie is actually the healthiest and most trustworthy.

After I move, one of them will be sold, and I'm torn as to which. Fred is a wheelchair van, with a dropped floor, electric ramp, and a huge open area in the center which makes him enormously useful for transporting things since you don't have to lift anything into him, but he's not very dependable, rather temperamental about those sensors, and doesn't do well in snow. Suzie doesn't have a lot of space, but she's been very good, very polite. You'd think she'd been raised by nuns. Hal, as we know by now, hates me. Or maybe he was just testing me. Maybe the spanking he got last Friday has straightened him out.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

3005 Busy time

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Computers make it easier to do a lot of things,
but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done."
-- Andy Rooney --


The past four days have been very busy. The Hairless Hunk has been removing everything from the front flower bed, including all roots, and digging down about a foot, leveling, packing, filling with rock, a triple layer of plastic, and a bed of rock dust, ready for the paving stones. I'd been shopping for paving blocks, and discovered that Kingston Block has exactly what I want for less than half of what the garden centers and Home Depot wanted. They'll be delivered in about a week.

I bought several huge plastic pottery-look pots to be set on the paving stones. No more weeding!

The front downspouts feed into PVC pipes underground, that lead to the lower ground on the side of the yard. The pipe wasn't taking the water, and I figured it was full of animal nests, or squirrel caches, or something. The Hunk snaked it, found it clear all the way up to the edge of the house, so he dug it up and found that a joint had come loose. He repaired that, and now the downspouts drain far from the foundation.

Monday morning I spent some time on the phone with my car insurance people. Tuesday morning they sent an adjuster out. Later Tuesday morning my insurance company called and said that the other guy's insurance company had accepted full liability. Then his insurance company called to make an appointment with their adjuster. I said I wanted BMW to do the repairs, and it turns out that BMW in Poughkeepsie is one of their "authorized repair centers", which means that I don't need to get any estimates or anything. I just take the car in, BMW fixes it, and they bill the insurance company directly. No further authorization required. Then almost immediately, Enterprise Rentals called, to set up the rental while Hal is being worked on. The guy's insurance company had called them.

So I drove Hal to BMW Tuesday afternoon (his 7-week birthday) so they could figure out what parts to order. He goes to the spa next Tuesday. Then I stopped by Enterprise to schedule the rental for Tuesday. This time they promised me a small car.

On the way home, I stopped by Hertz to find out what size truck I might want to rent to move larger furniture, and how much it would cost. There were two clerks at the counter, working with two customers, so I waited. By the time the clerks had finished with them, there were several more people behind me. The first clerk turned and went through a door in the back, and didn't return. The second clerk, when she had finished with her customer, also headed for that door, but she said to me, "I'll be right back." Eighteen minutes later, neither clerk had returned. By then, there were at least eight more people behind me. I got pissed and left.

On Monday I had stopped at a print place and got some Mensa letters printed. I am on the Nominating Committee. The way the local Mensa elections work, we need five people for the governing board. If only five people agree to run, then there's no point in balloting, and those five are declared elected. There hasn't been an election in the past twenty years. It looks bad - it looks like the outgoing board simply chooses the next board, so I am absolutely determined to have a real election this year. We need a minimum of six nominees.

My suggestion is to send a "personal" letter to every member of the local group, explaining how the election works (you don't run for a particular office, you just run for the board), what the various duties are, and how to nominate oneself. So I wrote a one-page letter, got it reviewed and approved by the other two members of the nominating committee, Monday I got 200 copies made, ran them through my printer at home to put a return address on the back, folded them, and stuck one of those little circle closure doohickies on the center bottom of each to keep them closed. That took several hours.

Tuesday the membership address labels arrived, and I put them on the letters and took them to the post office to buy stamps, and depending on how long it took to put the stamps on, to mail. But Gail, my favorite PO clerk, explained that because it's one sheet of light paper, the one circle sticker in the middle won't be enough to prevent the machine they go through from catching a corner and mangling them. She recommended a sticker on each corner! Tuesday night, after 4.5 more hours, I had stickers on each corner, as well as in the middle.

Since I had gotten a key made for the van, I called Vic, Captain Vantastic's mechanic, on Monday and made an appointment for him to come and check it out. The van has been sitting in the driveway for the past two+ years. Long story. Anyway, he was to come on Tuesday evening, but the van was full of yellowjackets in every crevice. It was dangerous to even open a door. I wanted to spray them before he touched it. The Hunk said that it was supposed to get down to the 40s overnight Tuesday (he always knows what's going on weather-wise, and he's always right), so I called Vic, and we rescheduled to this evening.

You can't spray yellowjacket nests during the day. It has to be done at night, or in temperatures below 50 F, so that all of them are in the nest, not out foraging, when you spray. Otherwise, you have a cloud of confused and ticked off yellowjackets swarming around the nest for days.

At dark last night, it was still in the 80s, so I set my alarm for 5 am. Sunrise (per Hunk, again) was 5:30, so I'd have enough light to see. At 5:30, the temperature was 49 F, and there was plenty of light. Perfect! The insects were sluggish, I sprayed, and got them all.

Vic came this evening. The Hunk was still here working on the yard. Vic popped the van (the van's name is Fred) hood, put a new battery in, and **DAMN!** Fred started right up! Not only that, but he moved, right out of the three-inch-deep divots the tires had sunk into the driveway. And the tires were down only 2 or 3 pounds. Vic puttered around under the hood, verified that chipmunks had not filled anything important with seeds, nuts, or shells or chewed anything, jacked it up, slid under it, and found a leak in a brake line, and WOW, it really looks like he might actually get it on the road again. Vic says it's not too bad as far as he can tell so far. No idea yet why the "check engine" light had gone on, or why the battery had completely died overnight that long time ago.

Hunk (front) and Vic (rear) poking around in Fred's nose:

The Hunk had to leave, dinner time, but he'd seen how Vic looked at me, I guess. Before he left, he asked if I'd be ok, and said that if I was at all concerned, to call him. It was kind of cute. Vic is a small man, 50 years old. When Captain Vantastic recommended Vic to me, he'd said that Vic was recently divorced and implied that Vic and I would match nicely. He seemed to be playing Cupid. I suspect Capt. V. told Vic I was a small available widow.

By the way, the original plan was that Vic would come and look at Fred, and if he thought there was hope of resuscitation, he'd come back with a flatbed and take Fred to the shop. Now Vic plans to do all the work right here in my driveway. That could get awkward....

When Vic was finished with the van, planning to return Friday evening with some other tools and parts, he sat next to me on the front steps, and looked like he was planning to stay a while. Hmmmm. I was wondering how to send him home without doubling what the van repair was going to cost, when what to my wondering ears appeared but the sound of the Hunk's frontloader coming up the driveway. The cavalry had arrived! In armor!

Vic left a little after that. The Hunk asked if I was ok, and I said yes, that Vic was just flirting a little. The Hunk's response surprised me. He said, "Hey, I've been flirting for two years, and I'm not getting anywhere." My response surprised me. "Vic's divorced. That's a big difference."

I'm going to have to repair that somehow.

I told Vic I have a dinner Friday, so I may not be here, but I'll leave the key in the van. After I got in the house I checked my calendar, and I don't have anything Friday, but I think I will arrange to not be home anyway. I'll tell the Hunk that tomorrow. Might make him feel better. And I'll thank him for playing cavalry. The rescue was in fact much appreciated.

3004 Starry starry sky

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

There are people who would rather hear and pass on a lie that fits with their own prejudices,
even when they know it's a lie,
than hear a truth that does not fit their beliefs.
I cannot respect those people.
-- Silk --


This is from Boston,com's latest photo essay, on Afghanistan. It struck me because those of us who live in light-polluted areas don't often see the sky like this, the stars massed. When I lived on Red Rock Mountain, this was my sky.


3003 Scatological Muse

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You either sink or swim or you don't.


I've known many men intimately enough to be familiar with their bathroom habits.

It seems to me that almost all of them had a strange relationship with their bowels.

Maybe it's from changing my baby brother's diapers when I was a teen, and then my daughter's later, and eventually Jay's, but I'm very pragmatic about my own poop and flatulence, and that of others. Hey, it's natural! It's normal! Nothing about it (within reason, like hold it until you get out of the elevator, please) bothers me at all.

Yeah, poop doesn't smell nice, but that's natural, too. The purpose of the odor is to keep you from eating it. Note that an animal will sometimes eat the poop of a different species, but rarely eat the poop of its own (with the exception of mothers who will often eat their baby's leavings, to prevent a carnivore sniffing them out). Odor is natural and normal, and has a purpose. If it didn't stink, we'd have died out as a species millennia ago from intestinal parasites.

Most of the men with whom I have ever shared a bathroom seem to fall into two groups - those who seem mortally ashamed of their necessity to eliminate and pass gas, and those who seem inordinately proud of it - never something in between. (I once had a male cat who was very proud of his deposits in the litter box. He marched around proudly proclaiming his every achievement. He was a very macho cat. Rather reminded me of guys who think farting loudly is an admirable skill.)

It has been my experience that many men won't move their bowels in the vicinity of a woman. They won't simply go when the urge presents. They'll hold it, often for days, until they are assured of privacy (no women around). Then of course it's not an easy task. Years of that practice, holding it against the urge, can ensure that it's never easy. The urge dies. That's when the bathroom becomes the reading room.

There's a guy I know of (not one of "my men") who, reluctant to use the toilet in the house he shares with his wife, has built himself a fancy ventilated composting outhouse in the back yard. His excuse is that using the toilet is wasting a valuable resource that could instead nourish the garden. The utmost in recycling. Composting it and burying it deep in the garden bed instead of spreading it on top eliminates the disease problem. He's very virtuous about the whole thing. Actually, given his preference for pooping in the woods if he can when away from home rather than in a hotel bathroom, I suspect the compost aspect is an excuse. He just doesn't want to be associated with his feces.

Many men will expand their prejudice against the natural process to their women, too. She's never allowed to foop or poop naturally and openly. It must be hidden. I had been taking Glucerna bars and drinks when I went somewhere with The Man so I wouldn't miss a snack, until I discovered they give me a lot of gas. It didn't bother me (I "whisper", remember?), but he seemed disgusted by the very idea, and I was turning blue trying to hold it.

Men are weird about poop. And they think women are difficult to understand?