PermaLink Yes, I've been absent08/02/2006 10:41 AM



Has it really been more than a week since you and I last talked?  A lot has been going on, and given the choice between living my life and writing about living my life, I've lately preferred to be out there getting dirty.



I've been lazy this week, at least when it comes to writing.  I have a small pile of excuses, all of which I'll share with you now.


Suzanne came down again last weekend so that we could go to the tractor show over in Berryville, Virginia that I visit every year.  This actually makes her the fourth different woman I've taken to that show... my ex-wife went for several years, then Penny, then Sarah last summer, and now Suzanne.  I was a little worried Suzanne wouldn't enjoy it, or would be bored, or put off that I have such an old-guyish hobby as collecting and restoring tractors, but except for the heat, she enjoyed it a lot.   She took a bunch of pictures of ancient tractors (note the image of me next to a
1919 Avery 25-50 on steel) to send to her father, who apparently finds such things interesting.  We had bean soup (cooked with an ancient vertical steam boiler) and ice cream (vended from the side of a 1936 Ford truck) and wandered around and looked at everything.  Because of the heat, we decided not to stick around for the horse pull at six o'clock, preferring instead to go home and then go out to dinner at a place I like in Frederick.  Suzanne looked terrific in this one red dress she has, as usual

Sunday, we lounged around a bit and I worked on the air conditioning of the new Passat, which passed inspection after a couple of small repairs.  Then we drove out to
Sideling Hill, an enormous road-cut on Interstate 68 near Hancock, Maryland that was cut in the 1980s to complete one of the last major interstate highways in the country through western Maryland, where previously there was US 40/48.  I remember driving around that site in the late 1980s because the road hadn't been completed yet...  I do still miss the old road, which is now "Scenic US 40."

We took a run down to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia to explore a little.   The spring is running full-bore, but I have to admit that I don't like the supposedly-medicinal water as much as my own definitely-medicinal spring water.  Alas, because of the intense heat this week, my spring is running at barely a quart a minute instead of Berkeley Springs' thousand gallons per minute.  I am hoping that intense thunderstorms will close out this week of over-90 heat that we've had and keep the mountain from drying out.  Suzanne took home both a gallon on Berkeley Springs water (which is free) and three gallons of mine (which is also free, though I should collect in sexual favors or something).  We also stopped by Shrimp Guy, a local fixture during the summer, and picked up three pounds of the biggest damn shrimp I've ever seen for sale, from his bank of coolers out the back of a pickup truck in a parking lot across the river from me.  Suzanne separated them into several ZipLoc bags of six or seven monster shrimp each and froze them for our later use, probably at her house next weekend.


The new Passat is a puzzle.  Apparently it was built just when Volkswagen was moving to OBD-II onboard diagnostics, and the computer in this particular car is not OBD-II compliant.  This is something of a drag, because I received a new
Scangauge/2 in Saturday's mail and was interested in plugging it in to see what it could tell me about the TDI Passat.  Alas, it refuses to talk.  It talked perfectly well to the red Passat, as well as Suzanne's Chevrolet, but could elicit nothing but electricity from the black Passat.  An ECU upgrade would fix that, but I doubt I'll be able to find a dealer to do the upgrade.  I guess it's time to ask around.

Speaking of dealers and upgrading, the Passat is right now at a garage near my office, having the air conditioning serviced, or at least diagnosed.  It didn't run at first, and I replaced the expansion valve, pulled a vacuum on the system and then recharged it with new R-134a coolant, but I wasn't able to persuade it to reliably produce cold air.  It would, then it wouldn't, then it would again.  Finally I said scruit and took it to this place and asked them to deal with it.  Since it's going to be 100 degrees or more out today, I don't envy the old guy who'll be working on it, but then... he gets paid for that.  I popped the bike out of the back and rode the mile or two to work, only to be confronted by a self-important rent-a-cop who insisted I couldn't bring the bike into the building.  I told her, "well, I'm not leaving it outside to get stolen," and trundled it into the elevator as she sputtered.  Jeez, you'd think I was bringing in a grenade or something, not a bicycle.  So much for federal government being supportive of employees using alternative transportation!  I get hassled when I bring Segway in, I get hassled when I bring a bike in... fuck'em.  Come upstairs and arrest me, dimwits!


I had to take the little tractor back to the service place again.  I got it back, "fixed," and it made it exactly 150 feet before it started spitting black smoke and lost almost all power.  I stopped mowing and drove it back to the barnyard and parked it, finished mowing with the 1960 International, and called Summers and told them to come get the little one, it still ain't right.  No word yet on what they found.


Some things just don't want to be fixed, I guess.


Anyway, Suzanne is back at work in New Jersey, I am trying to survive the heat, and assuming I have usable air conditioning, I'll be going up there this weekend so that I can hear her deliver a sermon at an area church.  I'm also tasked with videotaping the event, and from that I'll be able to make DVDs she can send to her parents and whoever else she wants to annoy, I guess.  I do love my Apples... they're just damn good at everything.  A friend of mine, for example, recently damaged the screen on a nearly-new 30-gig iPod, and nearly simultaneously the hard drive on his PC failed.  He got a new drive, and as soon as he plugged in the iPod, iTunes, seeing that it had no music on the PC, removed all the music from the iPod.


Yes, it will do that.  Be wary.


Anyway, this meant that the only place he had more than 2300 MP3s, including stuff he bought on iTunes, was in erased files on an iPod with a bad screen.  The iPod is covered by a service agreement, but of course, they'll just give him a new iPod and the old one will get thrown in a box, along with all his music.


Turtle to the rescue.


I found tools on the net which could undelete all the deleted music on the iPod (treating it as a hard drive) and rebuild his music library on the PC by pulling the music off the iPod's drive, which iTunes doesn't permit you to do.  I burned him three DVDs' worth of MP3 files, and when he got his PC back, he restored his entire music library, replaced the iPod with the new one, then recreated the iPod, all in about two hours.  It took me about four hours to resurrect the files and burn the DVDs, but since he was buying me beers to keep me going, I considered it a perfect favor.


Maybe you can do this type of magic on a PC, but I had no problem doing it on my iBook, and knew that it would work right when I was done.


I do adore my Apples.


Now all I have to do is get this girl I'm seeing to love them, too.  She does love her birthday iPod, and is busily filling it up, but she still uses a cranky HP desktop machine at home.  I've been looking for a used iBook to get her before she moves in with me.  I just don't have space for desktop machines any more.   That space is needed for... cats.


The cats are very flat this week.  They're also displaying even greater stupidity than usual.  Rather than sit downstairs, which is air conditioned, they flab around on the floor of the upstairs hall, which is the hottest spot in the house.  I come out of the bedroom in the morning, and there are anywhere from four to eight flatcats blocking the hallway to the bathroom.  I lecture them and tell them to go downstairs, and they just blink at me.


Cats.

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