Gruene Hall: We were there (together)

On July 1, 2009, Kim and I visited historic Gruene Hall outside of New Braunfels. Standing outside, a biker saw us and offered to take our photo. We obliged — who wouldn’t? — he was a biker.

Biker photo
The biker took our photo, though I'm pretty sure his bike stole the frame.

Then, Kim took my picture outside of the historic building.

Some guy in front of Gruene Hall.

Then, I took her photo.

Kim at Gruene Hall
Kim at Gruene Hall.

And later, using Adobe Photoshop, I combined the two individual photos to create an image of us together, in front of a full view of Gruene Hall.

Gruene Hall together
Grune Hall: We were there, together.

Then, later the combined photo was printed in a Shutterfly book I made for Kim.

shutterfly book
The Shutterfly book I made for Kim to remember our 2009 summer vacation across central Texas.
Gruene Hall photo in book
Here is the adjusted photo as published in the Shutterfly book.

Of course, the gallery of the photos I took during our Summer 2009 vacation can be seen here: day one and day two.

Zen and the hobby of car repair

“He tortured me with his awfulness” -Michael, on Toby, from THE OFFICE episode “Goodbye, Toby.”

It’s been a while since I posted, and that’s because I’ve been on vacation. I don’t blog on my days off. And for good reason. What’s a day off if you have to tend to your normal obligations? I also didn’t water the lawn during a few days of my vacation – and you know what? – it didn’t matter. Now the grass is higher than ever and it looks like I’ll be pushing the mower sometime this weekend at daybreak, the only reasonable time during this heat wave.

It was five weeks ago when I started my new daily blogging experiment. In post numero cuatro, I briefly touched on why I started blogging again: My need to achieve global domination widespread notoriety have an excuse not to do the dishes.

Of course, that was my intention by restarting my blog and vowing to myself to make a post every (week)day for as long as I can keep it up. (I’ve been meaning to mention this – but wanted to give myself a little wiggle room to flake out first, but, whoops, it’s out now.)

Of course, this blog post isn’t about my blogging hobby; it’s about a hobby that’s closer to my heart. Fixing my car. By throwing massive amounts of cash at it. On Monday, my 2003 PT Cruiser with 118,000 miles started driving a little weird … it was as if the automatic transmission couldn’t find its second gear.

Getting it going was hard work and it would slip all over the place until it got above 45 miles per hour. At 60, it was smooth sailing. I was so concerned, I took Kim on a test drive around the neighborhood that night, but the car’s symptoms weren’t as exacerbated as I experienced on my drive home.

So on Tuesday, June 23, I was driving to work, minding my own business when I got on the freeway to find that my stupid car wouldn’t drive faster than 45 degrees. It was struggling. And that infuriated the rednecks who zipped past me, nearly killing us all. I was able to get to a (rare) turnaround, point my car in the direction of my current auto repair shop of choice, and I slammed on the gas. The rednecks heading that way hated that, too. I called Kim and told her to meet me at the shop. And then, 15 minutes later, I got there, which was about 5 miles away.

I left the damn thing there, at Roy’s Auto Repair, 5050 Highway 36 in Rosenberg. It was like almost 7 a.m., and they don’t open until 8 a.m. I started calling them around 9 a.m., didn’t get ahold of Roy until after 11 a.m. and he said he’d take a look at it and get back to me. Later that afternoon, I called and he said the transmission was shot. He said he could rebuild it in three days for A Lot of Freakin’ Money But Much Less than What I Was Expecting to Be Charged. But he said he believed in his work so much, he’d guarantee it with a two-year warranty, when he normally only offers a one-year guarantee. I agreed.

Over the next week, I wasn’t able to get a hold of Roy the few times I tried. His staff was there, and they kept me briefed on the progress. Then I went on vacation. He called Tuesday, June 30, when I was in San Antonio, the car was ready. He said it was “No problem” that I’d be back Thursday.

When Roy called to say the car was ready, it was cocktail hour at the Drury Inn and Suites in San Antonio along the Riverwalk.
When Roy called to say the car was ready, it was cocktail hour at the Drury Inn and Suites in San Antonio along the Riverwalk.

When I test drove the car, it was like a whole other vehicle. So I told him as much, “Man, that’s the best that car’s ever driven.” Best I know is that Roy may not be the best communicator, but he runs one hell of a great repair shop, and I trust him. There’s nothing better than finding a mechanic one can trust when one’s hobby is throwing massive amounts of money at one’s ride.

Oh, and Kim “Anne” Kovar let the (wo)man have it today in her comment.

Fight trannys with beauties

Since I won’t (yet) be blogging about my transmission fail this morning, I’ll blog about my flowers instead.

I just uploaded a bunch of them to my web site photo gallery Plogger – see them all here.

The carefree beauty rose I bought from the last sale at the Rosery in Needville bloomed again, after I pruned the sunflower leaves that were shading it. This is the only thing that went right today.
This is the carefree beauty rose bush that bloomed today after I pruned the red sun sunflower leaves that were shading it a few days ago. This is the only thing that went right today.

MySpace: Good riddance or good luck?

MySpace is dying.

Which is sad, because Kim found me on MySpace but now we spend all of our time on Facebook and … well, Kim only found me on MySpace because I was smart enough to use my own name and she could have also found me through but, I mean, well … man! I’m a geek.

Meanwhile, Facebook is gobbling up the audience of people who want to connect to their friends on a social network. It could easily be replaced by the next big thing that also can’t figure out how to make money, but that’s not Twitter because Twitter is useless.

Jeff, over at Broken Record, argues that MySpace should concentrate on what Facebook never figured out how to do: Music and performance art.

“I’ve thought for a while now that MySpace should consider focusing primarily on entertainment – movies, music, comedians, etc. There is a real opportunity to fill a void, particularly since they have the interface and the fan base already in place. It’s doubtful they’ll follow that advice, but a site with the size and resources of MySpace could dominate online music.”

I agree with Jeff (and I commented on his blog) … but one of the reasons I dread touching MySpace is because it allows its users to do some very uncouth (rhymes with Sonic Youth) things, like installing way too many bandwidth-clogging graphics and cringe-worthy design.

MySpace: A place for music logo.
MySpace: A place for music logo.

I guess we’ll just have to see if Murdoch’s MySpace can recover from its downhill trend in a Facebook world … and what it might mean for local indie artists like Chase Hamblin, who doesn’t really have his new album online and available anywhere but MySpace and a handful of brick and mortar shops in Houston. Sigh. And it’s too bad, I’d order his new one if I could, but don’t really wanna hear it thru MySpace at this moment. And, I won’t be able to make Friday’s CD release party at the Continental Club.

Arts in Houston responds to my (sullen) comment

I feel like I’ve just been whacked by the fame stick.

Of course, that was my intention by restarting my blog and vowing to myself to make a post every (week)day for as long as I can keep it up. (I’ve been meaning to mention this – but wanted to give myself a little wiggle room to flake out first, but, whoops, it’s out now.)

But the last few posts I’ve made to this blog have been missing the key ingredient of any good post: a visual element.

Houston Chronicle art critic Douglas Britt makes clear the importance of purty pictures in his post, “More on print vs. online serendipity” that he posted to the Arts in Houston blog he shares with other Houston Chronicle critics.

I feel famous because Britt quoted from a(n angst-laden) comment I left on a previous post of his as he argues that newspapers still out-perform their online counterparts in the department of offering what one wants without one knowing that they want it. Britt writes:

I always come across stuff in the paper that I wouldn’t have noticed on; the converse is far less often true. And on days a story of mine gets good play in the paper — great images, nice layout, catchy headline — and even on some days that it gets so-so play, I hear from gallery owners that they were blown away with calls from people who not only weren’t on their mailing list, but in many cases had never set foot in a gallery.

Interestingly enough, I agree with him.

And his blog frequently includes an image, which is part of the reason I keep going back to it. Another huge reason I keep reading his (suck-up alert) well-written, artistic musings is because they’re automatically sent to my RSS reader, which I plow through every day as I would the newspaper I get delivered at home but never bother to open.

I do open the darn thing on Sundays, the local daily has yet to figure out how to embed Best Buy’s circular (gotta know what CDs are released this week and daydream about geeky gadgets) on their website and I prefer the paper version of that, Zest and the Sunday Comics to their online counterparts, hands down. But that might also have to do with my need to stay “offline” on Sundays.

I guess if I were to really make a go of this blog, I should post an image to every post. I should also probably limit my word count to 500. Baby steps.

Here's something I threw together real quick in Photoshop, playing with brushes and hue jittering. I call it "Duck Jitter Hue Fur, Copyright 2009 Brandon Moeller Art for Profit Not Fun Enterprises."
Here's something I threw together real quick in Photoshop, playing with brushes and hue jittering. I call it "Duck Jitter Hue Fur, Copyright 2009 Brandon Moeller Art for Profit Not Fun Enterprises."

Why landscape disaster reminds me of timing belts

The other day, I left a comment on bearkat110’s reader blog I Like Pretty Flowers on, sympathizing with her “very very bad haircut.”

Bearkat110 is a novice gardener just like me and she frequently offers some great posts about her captivating work in progress in Spring, Texas.

Her post starts off:

My stomach hurts and I am sitting here ready to break into tears…..

I asked my landscaper to trim up my yard before he put mulch down.

Look at what I came home to. Every where I look, I see the hacking.

The photo she posts with her blog brought me to tears, too, and it reminded me of a recent hack job I got at a local car repair shop that I trusted.

But after my experience, and about a gazillion dollars later, I will never take my car back there. Because I no longer trust them.

Here’s why. One day, I raced a co-worker to the parking lot as we were free from another day at the factory. I let him pull out first and I was following, until my whole power failed in my prized 2003 PT Cruiser and I coasted to a nearby parking spot 20 feet from where I started.

The car was towed to this shop I had frequented for the oil change because of their cheap advertised specials. The shop is Auto Care USA, 5757 Reading Road in Rosenberg, and they haven’t been there more than three years. New building, many nice bays, always have the history channel on in there and the place is cool. I liked it.

I arranged to meet the guy there the next morning; I was there when he got there at opening time, sharp.

Twenty minutes later, he came and assessed me of the situation.

Said that there timing belt done broke and that’s why the car wouldn’t start. Said most of my cost would be in labor, taking apart a PT Cruiser to get to the belt was no easy task (hell, changing the batter on this thing ain’t no easy task – that took me more than an hour one cold, cold morning in some corporate media parking garage). Said I might as well replace parts X, Y and Z while they were in there.

Said it was going to come to some astronomical figure that I can’t even disclose here in fear that male mechanically-inclined friends and family will publicly mock me.

But I am not mechanically inclined. I am service inclined. I am a web mechanic, but I don’t get my hands dirty. I can trouble spot and manipulate and fix some pretty nasty code, though, but if my fixes are going to change the function of the website or drastically alter the design, I’m going to clear that with my client first, because there’s nothing worse than doing a bunch of coding without communicating.

And so when this clown told me I was in for quite a repair bill, I told him that there was something I wanted fixed while he was in there. Hell, add it to the bill, I said. And then, I went out to the bay and with a flashlight, I showed him a wire that connects to the starter that has been frayed for about a year now. Every now and then, whenever I have somewhere important to go in a hurry, this wire will spazz out on me and I’ll have to open my hood and reach my hand down there in a very tight spot and wiggle the damn thing. I told him to fix it. The guy next to him said, well, we could just put some electric tape … and I stopped him and I sternly told him to order the part with the other parts they had to order and install it.

The repairs took longer than estimated. The time they projected came and went, I had to call them to get appraised of the situation. I missed two days of work. And close to closing time the second day, they called and said it was ready to be picked up.

When I got there, they told me they had noticed my A/C wasn’t blowing too cold, and so they said they recharged it for me and they’re looking for the leak. I told them that it was no bother, and that I’d like to pay and go. So I paid and went.

The next day in the garage, the car wouldn’t start. Popped the hood, and there was some electric tape on that part starring at me. I gave it a wiggle. Cranked right up.

Four days later, my car was blowing hot air. And in Houston, that hurts. I was beyond pissed. I think these guys wrecked my A/C system. I think they recharged it – without my permission, and when they did, they blew a hole in my hose. Or. maybe they just exacerbated an existing problem. I don’t care. You do not mess with a closed system in my car unless it fails – that’s my motto. Perhaps it’s a silly personal superstition, but it’s my superstition and they did not communicate anything to me before doing it.

And then, six days after the very very very unpleasant expensive repair, my oil light would start binging at me after extensive driving. That never happened before, either.

And so the other day I posted this to Bearkat110’s blog, which should now make more sense, with all this long-winded background:

brandonmoeller wrote:

Fire ’em. If they want your continued business, they should have communicated with you thoroughly about what you want. I bet they’ll want to communicate when you tell them they’re fired (if you bother to communicate to them, heck – they didn’t bother to offer that favor to you by clarifying your wishes with you). If you must, you can communicate “it’s too late, pals.” I recently had a lot of work done on my car. I went in the garage and specifically told them a part I wanted replaced. They said they’d add it to the extensive repairs I was getting. They didn’t. I haven’t been back since. And I didn’t communicate why to them. They should know.

Roy’s Auto Care, 5050 Highway 36 in Rosenberg, took my car in and couldn’t find the A/C leak at first. But they were able to clean what appeared to be a oily mess that was making my oil light sensor act all haywire. So they recharged the A/C system and charged me a fair and modest fee. A week later, when the A/C system went kaput again, they did find the worn out hose and they replaced it, and after everything was back together, they noticed a little bit of fluid escaping from the A/C dryer. But, a week later, Roy basically refused to let me schedule that part to be replaced – he said, “Let’s play it by ear.” And he was right. If we’re gonna have to replace that part down the road, anyway, which requires recharging the A/C system, then let’s go ahead and wait until it all escapes out anyway.

That was about a month ago now. It’s still blowing cold. There’s nothing better than finding a mechanic you can trust, who charges a reasonable rate and who can properly communicate and listen.

P.S. In the random department, part one: It’s comforting to know we can only move at the speed of light.

P.S.S. Trent Reznor nailed it: “Idiots rule.”

P.S.S.S. New Danger Mouse out, but the music’s not in the stores. It’s here – “Danger Mouse” “Dark Night of the Soul” torrent – throw this into a Google search field, then download the torrent from The Pirate Bay. Some interesting fan commentary there, too. 209 seeds when I jumped on. 250 two minutes later when I jumped off.

Google Wave won’t replace newspapers

Here’s a comment I just posted on the Buzz Machine’s story about Google Wave.

Don’t know what Google Wave is? Check out a video of the Google team announcing it at some geek conference.

Here’s my comment:

This could replace Facebook – it allows for better communication with more ability to import/export stuff for users who are focused on what matters to them: The people they know.

It won’t replace news gathering … and I don’t think that’s its intention at all.

However, though it appears to be 10X more powerful than facebook and 20X more powerful than standard e-mail alone, the question arises: Can it draw the audience that MySpace, Twitter and Facebook has?

The great thing about the other three social networks I just mentioned are that if you join, it’s not long before old friends and acquaintances start finding you. The more you friend, the more you find/find you. It grows and grows.

I wonder how one would search Google Wave for their peeps?