May 2010 Archives

here are the books i bought off amazon recently:

  • d!rty russian - coyne & fisun (ulysses press)
  • essential russian grammar - kemple (dover)
  • how to learn any language - farber (mjf)
  • random house webster's pocket russian dictionary - reference (random house)
  • russian word picture book - rogers & steadman (dover)
  • teach yourself russian - west (teach yourself)

obviously all of them are related to the russian language. except how to learn any language, which was suggested by ash as a guide for how to go about learning a language (such as russian).

friday after work i took my bike to meet the potts (minus sue) at the petrol station in the heights for supper. it'd been awhile since i'd been there. it was a pretty happening place, and they had expanded their tap beer selection. no giant domestics at all on tap. (awesome.) they had also fenced in the back area and put in some landscaping elements. it felt more like the back of poison girl or such, although there were lots of people with kids. (they are kid-friendly and have kids' items on the menu.) i had a stone brewing company imperial russian stout and a burger with swiss cheese. i gave the fries to the potts. the burger was juicy and fresh, on more of a sourdough style bun than a generic white bread bun. it was good. then, unexpectedly, the rain came. the potts left, and i waited for the rain to stop and the streets to dry up some. so i had another beer while i was waiting: the hairy eyeball by lagunitas brewing co.. it was very good. unfortunately, it's a seasonal. i figured i'd wait for the roads to dry up some, but i checked the radar on my iphone and another band was coming, so i hopped on the bike and rode home. i didn't get rained on, but the streets were still wet and at one point i slid some coming to a stop at a light. i also narrowly avoided getting splashed by cars a few times. but i made it home in one piece, with only my pants' legs wet.

at midnight i went to river oaks and saw a midnight showing of a clockwork orange. i had hoped i would have someone to go with, or at least to meet up with there, but of course i ended up watching it by myself. and i of course neither met nor talked to anyone. normally i'd just not go anywhere instead of go alone (which is why i stay home often), but i really wanted to see the movie again on a big screen. it was nice. there were maybe around 200 people for the showing, half a dozen to a dozen dressed as alex and/or his droogs. i wore my moloko vellocet shirt. no one else cared. :)

i had decided saturday i would try to get my brakes on the bel air fixed, so that's what i did. since it was only the brakes, and the brake system is fairly simple, i decided i'd drop by brake check just to see if they would look at it. (the one at 5637 southwest freeway, since that's the one jack went to a few weeks ago and they seemed nice.) they didn't know how to drive a 3-on-the-tree, but they said they'd try to check it out. i drove it into the bay, then they took the tires off and checked all of the drums and everything looked fine. they then said they could try a bleed and flush, since that would show any blocked lines or air in the system. and if it went fine, that meant it was the master cylinder or something mechanical with the pedal itself. it was only ~$40, and couldn't really hurt, so i figured that was worth it. they did the front brakes and everything was fine, but when they went to the back brakes both sides barely leaked. they brought me out to look at it at that point, because the connectors on the rubber line between the steel line coming from the front and the split on the steel lines in the rear were corroded and they weren't sure they could get it off without mangling/breaking the hose. (which meant waiting for and buying a new hose.) i told them to go ahead and do it. the steel line from the front flowed just fine, but the rubber hose barely leaked. so the rubber brake line hose was the culprit. based on that knowledge and the way my brakes were acting, apparently the clog was causing both rear brakes to always be at least partially on (thus the feeling my brakes were on at all times) while in the front the pressure was all messed up so my brake pedal was immediately tight (and was only really working the front brakes). they had to order the hose and said it'd be in the next day hopefully, so i decided to walk home. (probably about 4.5 to 5 miles.)

i walked over to chimney rock, then up to richmond. i stopped in the hat store to look at their fedoras (they didn't have that many...they're mostly cowboy hats) and see if they had plastic travel boxes for fedoras/bowlers (nope, just western size). i continued walking down richmond, and after i passed 610 i decided i'd stop in the pipe and cigar store there by luling city market. it's called serious cigars (4722 richmond ave, it used to be crofts pipe and tobacco shoppe). i was in there i guess a couple of hours, talking to the guy working there about all sorts of things while i looked at the pipe tobaccos, meerschaum pipes, and briar pipes. a guy smoking there gave me an aromatic to try, and the employee gave me a blend they'd made for xmas. i bought a custom blend he made, and i also bought a new pipe: a savinelli black rustic (trevi rustica, style 626). it's only about a 1/4 bent, with a fairly small bowl. so it's somewhat different than my other pipes. but i like the way it looks. (and of course i paid more than if i would have bought it online.) while i was in there for so long, brake check called me and said they'd gotten the hose in. so i told them i'd walk back. i made my purchase and left.

i only made it part way back before they called to check on me. they were already staying late to get mine done. i told them i was still walking, so one of them came and picked me up. we hopped in my car to test drive it, and the brakes were obviously better. i got about 1/4 mile and my car almost died. i guess i should have put gas in it. i drove a bit further down the road, asked if there was a gas station that way, he said "no" so i did u-turn to head back to the closest station. the car died and i coasted across the road and up to a pump. whew! i got out and put some gas in it, then we were on our way again. the brakes seemed fine. so fixing the brakes cost about $120: $40 for the bleed/flush and $80 for the hose/labor. anyway, i recommend these guys. they seemed fair, and willing to explain to and discuss things with me.

after leaving brake check, i went back by the pipe store to pick up another thing of tobacco. i had smelled it earlier and it reminded me of...something relating to our family land. maybe the house, or the barn. i couldn't place it exactly. but i smelled it again and it was still in there. i'm going to send some to my dad and brother and see if they can connect the smell as well.

saturday evening i went over to the potts and watched snl, then i came home and watched district 9 on netflix streaming. it was a good movie, although i wasn't overwhelmed by it. i seem to recall hearing it was done pretty cheaply, and if that's the case then the cg work is pretty impressive.

sunday afternoon i ate lunch with the potts, then sunday evening i went over and had supper at the potts. we had pierogies, sausage and links, sauerkraut, french bread, and real ale's devil's backbone (a belgian-style tripel). later that night jack and i watched art & copy via streaming netflix. it's a documentary, sort of about the history of advertising in america but really focused on the work/history of about six or so gods or rock stars in advertising. it was pretty interesting, although i think i would have liked it more if it delved into the creative process and the life cycle of ads from brainstorming to print more than being more of a reminiscing. they tried to stitch it, or add a different angle, by interleaving data and interviews with a guy who actually puts up billboards -- but, while connected in a general sense by the topic of the film, it really seemed sort of disjointed instead of in the flow.

today i ate a late lunch with the potts, then i headed over to the half price books on westheimer way out west. i picked up a few comics to add to wheresthatbeen.com, and i bought a few cds and a book for myself:

  • belle and sebastian - the life pursuit (rough trade)
  • circlesquare - songs about dancing and drugs (!k7)
  • japanic - red book (plethorazine / southwest wholesale)

not sure i'll like the belle and sebastian, but i figured i'd pick it up and try it. i'm hopeful about circlesquare based on the label he's on and the description of his stuff i read via google. japanic was a local houston band...i think i heard them on ktru back in 2001 or something and always meant to try and see them and pick up their cd(s). well, i finally got this one. (i think they had two, one before this one.)

  • the torrents of spring - ivan turgenev (grove press)

tonight i finished watching alexander nevsky, a 1938 russian film by eisenstein. it tells the story of alexander nevsky, a 13th century russian prince who (for the part of his life the movie is concerned with) protected novgorod (and thus most of what is now russia) from the germans (an order of the teutonic knights, actually). it was, in fact, part of the northern crusades -- the roman catholic church trying to take north and east (pagans and orthodox) instead of the east (muslims and the holy land). by chance ;), at the time this movie was made and released the nazis just happened to be building in germany and looking at russia. this was a motivational call to arms to the russian people to defend their homeland from invaders (such as...oh, the germans). in fact, nevsky was used throughout that time period as a symbol of protecting russia from the invading germans. the movie worked, as nevsky is still considered one of the most important people in russian history by the russian people.

this is only a ceremonial title

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a couple of weeks ago i failed to note the 12 year anniversary of failure.net. yea, failure.

here's the rest of the stuff i mentioned last time that i ordered from amazon and ebay:

  • the knife - silent shout 2-lp vinyl (rabid / brille / mute)
  • madness - one step beyond... (salvo / union square)
  • madness - absolutely (salvo / union square)
  • madness - 7 (salvo / union square)
  • miss kittin - batbox (nobody's bizzness)
  • trentemoller - the last resort (high note / poker flat)
  • various - the box collection no. 1 (international deejay gigolos)

the knife album is a still-sealed 2-lp vinyl version. the 3 madness cds are 2-cd re-releases. they have remastered versions of the original albums, plus some videos, plus b-sides and live recordings and such. these are their first three albums. (evidently they are going to do this will all 7 of their old albums.) and for the record, somehow i never knew (or i forgot) the self-titled madness album i played and loved all those many years was actually a compilation album. even though i had a cassette copy of one step beyond.... the miss kittin album is a fairly recent release of hers. the trentemoller cd is an asian version which has an extra bonus cd of remixes. it's an interesting jewel case design too...i'm not sure if it's common in other countries or it's just uncommon in general. and finally is the gigolos box, which includes the first four dj gigolos compilations (plus a bonus disc, unless comp 4 was always 2 cds...they pitch it as a bonus disc).

last friday night (21st) i got off work and though "man, i feel like going out and doing something." unfortunately, i have no single friends that i hang out and do stuff with, so i had no one to call or meet up with somewhere -- so i just drove around awhile, then came home and watched a movie by myself. i ended up watching machine girl (2008), which is one of those hyper-violent / extreme asian films. in other words, tons of gratuitous and completely over-the-top blood and gore and such. it was kind of stupid.

saturday (22nd) i went and watched the film exit through the gift shop at river oaks. it's a documentary (of sorts) about the street art scene. it's supposedly done by banksy, although his identity is sort of secret. the story is that this french guy obsessively films everything and lucks into hanging out with and filming all of these street art guys, then says he's making a documentary, then befriends banksy. he has tons of film but no skills with editing, so banksy says he'll take over and tells the guy to go do street art. he does and becomes mr. brainwash. the movie never really lets you know what's real and what's not, but it's obviously edited to poke fun at art culture. my personal opinion is that the entire movie is pretty much an elaborate setup, and mr. brainwash (who in real life had a giant opening in l.a., sells art, does interviews, etc.) is a giant joke on the "elite" art community. the movie doesn't state that bluntly, and no one has admitted the joke, but come on..."mr. brainwash"? and his techniques are basically ripoffs of other street artists? and in the film some of his comments about himself once he becomes "mbw" seem to totally come off as belittling what he does (without his realizing what he is implying about himself)? the movie starts off believably, but once you get to the part where banksy takes over it gets somewhat asinine. i have a hard time believing banksy isn't "taking the piss." however, it's still cool to see all of the footage of these famous street artists at work, getting arrested, etc. which is what i think the actual point of the film was. i'm betting banksy, sort of like andy kaufman, is in it for the personal lulz and doesn't care if almost no one else is let in on it. but then i really liked kaufman's mindset.

sunday morning (23rd) i got up early. even earlier than i do for work. why? because myself and a couple of co-workers had made plans to go down to galveston for the day. first we went on an airboat tour of part of the bay. the water was murky and i didn't see much of anything in the water at all (i finally saw one small stingray, murkily, for a couple of seconds), but now no one can say i've never been on an airboat. from there we headed over to the strand and walked away for awhile, eventually eating at fisherman's wharf. i don't like seafood so i had the burger. it wasn't that good. then we walked on the strand some more, ending up at a "bar". it was like a biker bar, sort of, but i don't think they have a liquor license because all i saw for sell was beer and machine-mixed mixed drinks. so they are probably wine-based. we were there for a bit, then we headed back to houston. it doesn't sound too exciting i suppose, but it was nice to hang out with the guys outside of work and do something different.

man, i'm about tired of things. i ordered several books on russian from amazon, which arrived recently. i'll list them later. i'm not sure why i want to try and learn one of the more difficult languages to learn, since i've never learned any others and have no reason to believe i can do it.

the last few days i've been trying to play with my korg electribe sampler, seeing if i can manage to do something besides come up with cool 1-bar or 4-bar loops. (which i've done.) i've never really tried to write out a full song before.

i finished paying off the "one year no interest loan" (credit card with 0% interest for a year) i used to help get the engine put in my bel air. i still owe myself a bit for the trip to taiwan, but i should have that paid off within the month. then i can start saving some money to do some more work to the bel air.

i'm still sticking to my "no tea, coffee, or soda" and "no fries or chips" stance. i don't really know that it's doing much of anything, but i'd assume it's got to be cutting 200 to 700 calories a day from my normal eating patterns. but if i want to see results of any value, i'm sure i need to exercise too. i hate exercising. i hate it with a passion. end results do not motivate me to do it. nothing motivates me to do it. it may be a contributing factor to my life sucking, but at least i'm not having to exercise. ;)

i'll catch up things from the last few days in another post. i want to go ahead and put this one out instead of sitting on it even longer. (i originally wrote it about a week ago.)

monday evening i watched paths of glory (netflix streaming), an early kubrick film starring kirk douglas about a french troop during world war one. it was pretty good, but played like a fairly normal movie to me. (although i'm not well-versed in movies from that time period, so it may have been quite out of line for its time.) it's kind of negative about the abuses of power and rank in the military, as well as showing the decisions and...well, the culture...of the military as being less honorable and noble than it presents itself to be.

tuesday and thursday nights i watched the two parts of ivan the terrible. it's yet another russian film by eisenstein. this one was filmed later than his others i've watched, so it's a talkie! but it seems like a stage acting style also took over -- it feels much more like filming of a stage play than the earlier movies (that i watched). by "stage acting style" i mean overly dramatic gestures and facial expressions, etc. it was kind of out of control. it was interesting just for some history about the russian czar system and what was before it.

speaking of russian history, i'm still trying to figure out a way for me to move to russia. it doesn't seem like the job market there is very active, at least for foreigners looking for tech jobs. i've started to consider teaching english, since there is some demand for that. but it doesn't pay that well, and it can be sort of a crappy job (depending on the company you work for, etc.). plus i'm not actually a teacher, nor do i have a teaching background. and my degree and experience are technical, not in linguistics or some area of liberal arts that might relate better. but it'd get me over there and some of them would give me a chance to learn russian while i'm teaching. of course, i've also starting wondering if russia is a very safe or stable place for me to be. i really have enjoyed reading russian novels, watching russian movies, and i think the culture and history are interesting (plus i enjoyed many aspects of the time i spent with a russian -- the hrc -- here, although she didn't really seem to care about her russian background much), but i've heard a lot of stories about russia being a sort of hardened, rough kind of place due to their history. (not just recent, either.) so i don't know. plus the two big cities for jobs are moscow and st. petersburg, and they are both pretty far north and really cold for stretches. i'd still like to do it anyway, because, "hey, why not?" it'd be way out of my comfort zone, and what really do i have to lose anyway?

i got my car back on friday. the new shop i took it to was very good about contacting me, telling me what was going on, etc. it turns out houston performance had pretty much not adjusted any of the valves correctly (with one on the driver's side having over 1/2 inch of play). in addition, they'd not put the distributor on correctly so the timing was all off. and they'd re-used the gasket on the thermostat housing at the manifold so it was leaking. the new shop fixed all that stuff, although they said even with a new gasket the old thermostat housing was still leaking some so they put on a new one. (that's probably because the original mechanic re-used a lot of parts of my old engine.) the only out-of-pocket cost to me was the new housing. i talked for some time with both of them during my visits, and they both seem to be knowledgeable and professional. i'm thinking it's very possible i'll be looking to them to do some work for me in the (near?) future.

of course, it wouldn't be my car if something wasn't wrong. so with the engine seemingly fixed, something new had to start up. now it feels like my brakes are constantly at least partially on. (yes, i checked to see if i left the parking brake on.) in addition, my brake pedal feels really tight, like it won't depress much (as much as it used to). it also feels like my brakes don't work as well, so it takes me longer to stop. i don't see how any work of either shop should have affected my brakes. i guess it's possible that during the tow the towing hooks crimped one of the metal brake lines or something. i'm not sure yet. it's just yet another thing to keep me dealing with the car instead of enjoying it. my pickup, on the other hand -- while sounding like crap and being in moderate to bad shape -- just keeps plugging along.

saturday i went by ikea, then headed to an auditorium at a middle school to see calista perform in a dance recital. the whole thing was a bit painful. (not meaning calista's performance or anything.) i mean: all of the kids dressed up and performing on stage, all of the proud and overly support parents, all of the costumes and music and announcing. i kind of felt like the jaded guy with earplugs in little miss sunshine. fortunately, none of the dances played the song "superfreak", so i didn't have to stand up at the end and yell "yeeeeah!"

this evening i watched video games: behind the fun (by the history channel) on netflix streaming. it's somewhat outdated, but it provides some interesting tidbits of info about the history of computer gaming. plus it's kind of fun to see people talking about some of the older games, as well as what was current and expected at the time the show was made.

update #whatever

friday morning i got up and called aaa Texas towing, and they came by and picked up my car and towed it to the new place. the guy there seemed professional and knowledgeable, so let's hope they're competent.

friday night was the geek gathering at coffee groundz. i once again got to play dj. which is basically me picking songs off my ipod one by one. i'm not sure if anyone cares, but it keeps me somewhat entertained. i'd like it if i could actually dj (i.e., cross-fade via two sources, loop, etc.), but i don't have the skills. or the equipment.

saturday i went with the potts to the art car parade. i found jay and dwight where they were announcing, but they were busy so i didn't interrupt. it's sometimes weird being in that huge of a crowd who pretty much all live in the same city and realizing i don't really know any of them. it reminds me of how few people i actually know.

afterward, jack dropped sue and the kids off with me at my house and he took off for some work. the kids played around while sue tried to help me dig up a smallish tree and its roots. its root system was big and going under the corner of the house and concrete walkway. we got it about 3/4 free, but that 1/4 kept it from budging. i broke my new tie-down strap trying to pull the tree/roots with my pickup. later i drove them all back to their house, and i hung out there until late. when i left, i borrowed my chainsaw from them.

today i got up and went to work on the tree again. the chainsaw was better, but wasn't working that well. i decided to go buy a new chain and some chain lube. the new chain helped a lot. but it was still stubborn. i left and went and ate with the potts, then came back and worked on the tree some more. i finally got the big root torn/pulled out. unfortunately, some of it goes under the concrete for the walkway, so i think it will grow back. but maybe not. i thought about buying some root killer stuff, but i had pulled up some lillies or some kind of bulb plant that was right next to the tree, so i wanted to try and get them replanted before they died. (of course, they might die anyway, but i tried to give them a fighting chance.) you might be surprised to learn i don't have to do much of anything physical for my job, nor do i ever exercise. so my hands and body don't seem too excited about the physical labor involved in pulling up a tree.

this past tuesday evening i watched the vanished empire (2008). it's set in russia in the 1970's, and follows a high school kid dealing with friends, relationships, and "rebellion" by going against his family's intellectual heritage. instead he sells his family's books at second hand stores, buys contraband american rock albums on the black market, drinks, chases women, gets in fights, etc. difficulties ensue and he has to come to terms with his choices and his path in life. it was a pretty good movie.

this evening i watched 12 (2007), which is a modern russian reworking of 12 angry men. it deals with a chechen teen accused of murdering his russian step-father with a knife. the jurors are from various backgrounds with various baggage/perspectives. the film intermixes the jurors deliberating with scenes from the chechen kid's past. the characters are kind of quirky, the acting a bit odd at times, and there are some weird bits of symbolism and such -- but in the end i thought the movie finished off really well and i think it's worth a view.

even though i'm still waiting on some things i've ordered, i'm going to go ahead and list the stuff i've already received:

  • adult. - suck the air 7" clear vinyl 378/2000 (ersatz audio)
  • the dead milkmen - bucky fellini (restless / fever)
  • the dead milkmen - chaos rules: live at the trocadero (restless)
  • devo - e-z listening disc (ryko)
  • the knife - hannah med h soundtrack (rabid / cooperative / v2)
  • kraftwerk - the catalogue (klingklang)
  • lowfish - frozen & broken (noise factory)
  • memory systems - ad placement for the collective unconscious (form)
  • miss kittin - radio caroline vol. 1 (mental groove / emperor norton)
  • miss kittin - a bugged out mix by miss kittin (system / resist)
  • various - electrecord cd 2000 (k7 / electrecord)

i'm close to having all of the adult. stuff now. just a few more vinyl, although the few left are mostly pretty scarce. i'm not sure how i never got bucky fellini, since i really liked the dead milkmen. but i never had. i picked up the live album on a whim since the guy selling bucky fellini had the other for sale too. the "musak" devo album put out by ryko in1987 is kind of hard to find, and usually sells for $25 or so. i scored one at about $9 so i was pretty happy. and it's in great shape! the knife cd is a soundtrack album they did for a movie. a movie i can't find on netflix. the kraftwerk bit is an album-sized box set containing 8 of their albums (it's missing the first three they ever did), all remastered. new artwork, 12x12 booklets for each album all in a hard slipcase, etc. i used a 40% off coupon from border's so i got it at a pretty reasonable price. the rest on the list above are i guess all considered part of the "electroclash" scene of the late 90's and early 2000's. although miss kittin is also a dj, and her two albums are dj mixes she did (a bugged out mix containing two sets/cds).

houston performance: my experience

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this was supposed to be my post where i talked about how i'm still not satisfied with my car, but at least all the work i got done involving the new engine is functioning properly. of course, since it's me we're dealing with, it's far from it.

i told work i was going to be out this morning to go pick up my car. jack and his daughters gave me ride up to the place. the place is houston performance (houston performance website), located on 249 a little inside beltway 8 north. i walked in and after a minute or two the owner (steve) showed up and said "yeah? oh, it's you. the keys are in it." when he had called a few days ago to let me know the car was ready, i thought it was odd he just said "your car's ready" since i'd asked him about doing some other work for me, like looking at the clutch, problems shifting, trying to see if my transmission has overdrive, etc. but he hadn't talked at all about anything, just "your car's ready". so i now asked him about the shifting (as one thing), and he said "yeah, it's messed up. you need to talk to a transmission guy. i've got a card for one." i said "so you didn't look at any of the other stuff?" to which he replied "yeah, it's not really our thing." i was kind of annoyed he completely blew off everything i'd asked about, especially given he'd made it sound like they could look at that stuff. but, oh well, what could i do? i wasn't having to pay them so i wasn't losing anything. i went out and got in the car and took off.

within 50 feet the engine was clicking just like when i dropped it off. "well," i thought, "maybe it just needs to get some oil in it when it starts up." so i kept driving it. no, the sound was...worse. louder. same sound though. we were only going about 1.5 miles to eat, so when we got there i told jack and we turned around and went back to the shop.

i walked into the office and the boss and his two workers were sitting in chairs. i said "the car's still making the same sound. i think it's worse now than it was before." they looked at each other for awhile without saying anything, then the boss said "well, i don't know what to tell you. we did what edelbrock told us to do." pause. "i thought it sounded better. but i didn't drive it. you?" (aside: this comment is rather interesting considering the first time i was there he talked to me about my shifting/transmission as if he'd looked into it some.) one of the other guys replied "nah, i just started it up and moved it back. so, uh...." pause. then the boss said "i guess you need to just call edelbrock." that was evidently all they cared to say on the matter. i was shocked. they hardly talked, would hardly make eye contact...not a single one of them went out to look at or listen to the car. they couldn't even bother to get out of their fscking seats. i turned around and walked out. (and for the record, i was not angry, confrontational, taking attitude, or anything at any point with them.)

i went back to my car and immediately called edelbrock. fortunately the guy at edelbrock was at his desk and answered his phone. i told him the story and he seemed surprised. i told him i was still in the parking lot, so he said he'd call the shop. i sat outside and waited while he called and talked to them. while waiting and checking my engine, i noticed that several cosmetic hex nut inserts that go on top of the rocker arm covers were missing (which i'd never noticed being gone before.) i could see oil left on the spark plug wires and headers they didn't clean off. so i guess at least i could tell they'd done something to the engine. after some time, he called me back and said the guy told him he thought it'd been fixed. i was still letting the car idle, so i told him i could let him hear it over the phone. he was shocked a shop would give an engine back to someone when it sounded like that. he even brought a mechanic over and let him listen to it over the phone. he was shocked and said it sounded bad too. i told him how they'd acted, and he told me he got the impression they weren't really interested in dealing with this at all, so he thought we should take it to another shop. i agreed, saying i was concerned at this point they would be annoyed with me, even though none of this was my fault at all. the edelbrock guy agreed. i made sure i should still be able to drive it, since it was making the same sound as before and he'd told me i could drive it. he said it was fine. note during the 20 or 30 minutes i was outside and they were on the phone with edelbrock, plus the time they were off the phone with and i was talking to edelbrock, they never came out to me or anything. their bay doors were open and i was right there near them. i hopped in the car and off we went back to the place to eat.

about 200 or 300 yards into the drive, my car started making a new sound. a bad sound. not a high-pitched ticking like with the lifter knock, but a low-pitched loud clanging/thunking...more like pistons hitting valves or something. i let off the gas and it subsided, so i hoped it was temporary. but the next time i gave it some gas and started to get rpms beyond idle it started doing it again. it did this a couple of times, so i ended up having to mostly let the car coast or move at very low speeds. i called the edelbrock guy while driving and told him the new twist, and gave the car some gas to let him hear the engine. (oh, it was way loud enough to hear over a phone.) he said that sounded really bad and i shouldn't drive it. i agreed. to be honest, it sounded about like my previous engine did before it blew. (thank goodness i hadn't immediately taken it onto a highway, because it may have happened under high rpm at highway speeds, and it might have been really bad.) i was at the parking lot for the restaurant so i pulled in and stopped the engine. he said he'd talk to his guys and come up with a plan. i told him i had aaa, so i could tow it somewhere. he said they could pay for it, but if i wanted to use my aaa he'd appreciate it.

we ate, then we left my car and went to an auto zone to get a fuse for jack's van. he called me and said he was trying to get me into fast lane. which looked like a very nice shop from when i looked up their web site a couple of months ago. plus it was only a few miles from where my car was. i felt pretty confident fast lane would probably do a good job. but then he called me back later and said fast lane was overbooked and couldn't take me. so he told me he was calling the Texas edelbrock rep to find somewhere, and he'd call me back. so we went to the mall. he called me back an hour or so later with contact info for a new shop to try.

so i called them. they couldn't take my car today. *sigh* so i had to get my car towed to my house, and i'm supposed to tow it to their shop (which is only about 7 miles from my house) tomorrow. of course, i had to miss the whole day of work, which wasn't planned. and now i'm going to have to miss part of work tomorrow too. i called aaa and set up the towing, but i also learned aaa only gives you 4 free tows a year (i thought it was 5) and i had already used 3. so today was my last free aaa tow until my membership renews (in august). so i called edelbrock back and told them i couldn't use aaa tomorrow because my free tows were gone. he told me keep the receipt and edelbrock would reimburse me.

now, at this point i'm a little worried about what is going on with my engine. i'm hopeful that everything will be taken care of under warranty, especially since the edelbrock rep has been on the phone with me for the whole ordeal today (as well as the last couple of months in getting it into a shop) -- but anytime stuff like this happens i always get worried that they're going to find some reason to blame me or the mechanic that put the engine in or something. i don't think that'll happen this time -- i drove it probably 1000 or 2000 miles with the lifter knock and no other problems before houston performance had it -- but who knows? i spent a lot of money buying a brand name "performance" crate engine, and had to pay way more than i thought i was going to have to in order to get it installed. so it'd just be nice if you spend the money to get nice stuff done that it would fscking work. it's annoying to feel like you could have spent money better on getting crappy work and crappy parts and it all probably would have worked better. or at least it would feel like you got your money's worth.

but mostly what i'm on about right now is houston performance. they are a mustang shop, and almost all they had there were mustangs. so maybe they don't deal with my kind of engine often. but why did they agree to take my job, tell me (and edelbrock) they could do stuff (and the edelbrock guy said they described the work properly), but then act as if they'd washed their hands of the whole thing and were completely disinterested in the work they were supposed to have performed when the work they did didn't fix the problem? and now it seems very likely that something they did while working on my car has actually made it really messed up. (even if it turns out to be an easy fix.) i'm pretty sure if i would have pushed the engine, it would have irrecoverable damage. hopefully just the little amount i did drive it today didn't mess it up. based on my experience with houston performance today, i don't think they'd give a sh!t anyway.

maybe you can expect that sort of crap from some shade tree mechanic that is self-taught, irresponsible, and (perhaps) incompetent. but i don't see how a business that is supposedly "performance" and specialty can act like that. seriously? blow off customers and their problems, ones that you were specifically contracted to work on? even if it's outside of your normal work/experience range, what you don't do as a professional business is act like you could care less about the work you did and the operation of the vehicle you just worked on. it's beyond unprofessional, it's almost a level of poor customer service and inconsideration that you have to work at to achieve.

i guess we'll see what happens with yet another shop. why is it so hard to find a mechanic that is competent and professional? i sure hope this new place turns out to be an exception to most mechanic shops. if they seem to be, i'll certainly sing their praises.

another note from an npc

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well, it's now been over three weeks without soda, tea, or coffee. to be honest, the only one i've missed much two or three times is coffee. it's the only one of the three i don't drink regularly (i probably only drink coffee on average once...maybe twice...a week), so i don't think i'm craving it exactly...it's more like something i occasionally do and i miss having the opportunity to do it. i think because it usually involves sitting at a coffee house or somewhere, reading or talking or such. i've also still managed to stay away from fries or chips so far. i do sometimes find myself wanting a few chips or a few fries, but excepting a few fried onion strings once i've avoided anything similar. as i've said before, it's not like i'm eating anything else differently or more healthy -- i'm just trying to cut some calories i usually consume for no good reason. (although i am hungrier more often now.)

i've watched a few movies, all via netflix streaming:
4 (2005) - this is a modern russian film. it starts off with 3 strangers plus the bartender hanging out and talking in a bar. they basically all lie about what they do for a living, for whatever reason. the pace is pretty slow, but all of the stuff before and including the bar scene was pretty interesting. after they leave the bar, the movie gets rather weird. and really slow. (the movie clocks in at over 2 hours, and the bar scene portion is about the first 30 minutes.) the girl from the bar finds out a sister died, so she treks into the country for the funeral. (i mean like 15+ minutes of trains and her walking through mist and mud.) a lot of stuff is somewhat surreal from that point on, and some of the lies from the bar are perhaps hinted at as actually being true, although nothing is for sure. most of her story involves a bunch of old women crying, yelling, fighting, gorging, getting drunk, yelling, and sewing dolls. i'm not sure i can recommend the movie, although it was...unique. i think part of its point is to show the huge difference between urban and rural russia, as well as modern and "old" russia, in modern times, but there's more than that.
the battleship potemkin (1925) - this is a classic silent black and white russian film by eisenstein. it tells the story of some of the beginnings of the bolshevik revolution, starting with mutiny on a military ship and including the resulting anger and then crackdown in odessa. (not Texas :) it's definitely has a pro-soviet propaganda slant, but it's interesting historically.
the king of kong: a fistful of quarters (2007) - a story about drama around the world record score for the stand-up arcade game donkey kong. steve wiebe got laid off and decided to try and beat the 20+ year old donkey kong record set by billy mitchell in 1982. no one had ever gotten close. he did it, but drama ensued. this documentary delves into the world record score arcade scene and culture, the players, the fighting, etc. this is a really cool film! i highly recommend it.
man, woman and the wall (2007) - this is a japanese film about a magazine reporter who moves into an apartment building with thin walls, and he can hear the hot girl in the apartment next door. he gets kind of creepy about learning things about her and finding ways to listen to her better and fantasizing about her, but her current actual boyfriend is really screwed up. i think this is sort of a male fantasy movie where the sort of creepy infatuated guy defeats an even creepier perverted guy and gets the hot chick. but the movie was okay for what it was. :)
october - ten days that shook the world (1927) - this is another classic russian black and white silent film by eisenstein. this was sanctioned to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the bolshevik revolution (1917). like ...potemkin it's pretty heavy-handed propaganda. the peasants and bolsheviks all portrayed as great, friendly, people of character, all others (provincial government, tsar system, etc.) are grotesque, odd, laughable and/or evil. plus it embellishes the gravity of the events leading up to and during the october revolution. but the general history is accurate, and it was filmed in actual locations just ten years after the events, so it's got some pretty impressive visual historical value. plus eisenstein was ahead of his time as far as directing/editing.

saturday afternoon i went by sears and picked up a new washing machine raj bought online. i brought it home and got it all hooked up and such. so on sunday i was finally ale to do some much-needed laundry.

i recently finished the best short stories of dostoevsky, which included "notes from the underground". i think i might need some notes from a scholar to better understand some aspects of that story. i did enjoy "a gentle creature", "white nights", and "the honest thief" though.

the shop called me and my belair is ready to be picked up. hopefully it'll actually be fixed. this month i'll also finish paying off the credit card i used to get the engine and other stuff (thus resulting in a 0% interest loan, except for the one automated payment glitch which cost me a late payment fee). and i should be close to done paying myself back for the money i borrowed from my ranch account. which will leave the harley as my only debt.

i've gotten a few things from ebay and amazon, but i'll detail all that once most or all of it arrives.

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