January 24, 2006

Damn Car

Just days before Shelby is supposed to drive it all the way up to Napa, and just weeks (hopefully) before we get rid of it for good, and what happens with my car? I start it up yesterday and the "Check Engine" light comes on. My car has always had an uncanny knack for telling us that we need to Check Engine immediately before big trips, but this time I think it really knows — one last stalling maneuver to get some attention before it's dragged kicking and screaming out the door.

Since Shelby leaves on Thursday, we haven't got time to send it off to a mechanic so that they can keep it for a couple of days and then charge us a bundle of money to tell us that the left #3 SO4 sensor experienced a single two-microsecond voltage drop two weeks ago — but don't worry about it, because everything's okay now. It seems to be running just fine, so we'll let it go for now. Maybe if we're lucky, all of this driving around will even cause the check engine light to clear itself (it's been known to happen).

Posted by Kevin at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2006

Another Trip Through The Photo Archive

While browsing eBay, I came across an auction for a reproduction of an 1870s map of Anaheim. The preview image was frustratingly small and content-free, so I started browsing around to see if I could find a copy of the map in an online archive. I couldn't find a better image, but I did find that you can purchase a copy of the same map from my alma mater's Bancroft Library — as a poster (in one of five different sizes), T-shirt, or card. Go Bears!

After that, browsing further around the Bancroft's web site eventually led me into a chain of links that led back to the Anaheim Public Library's "Digital Anaheim" photo archive.

When we moved to Anaheim, one of the gee-whiz features was knowing that it was a city founded by Germans, who came here to make wine. For a while, they were able to do pretty well at it, until catastrophic disease amongst the vines lowered vineyard yields to the point that the land was converted over to the orchards that Orange County became more famous for. Unsurprisingly, there are numerous pictures of Anaheim's founding industry in the archives.

Producers: We've got the:

Part of a letter, dated Nov. 15, 1885 and written in German, on the letterhead of B. Dreyfus & Co. ("Growers Of And Dealers In California Wines and Grape Brandies".) I can't make out much beyond the salutation, because it's in frightening archaic German handwriting (too old to be the even-more-frightening Sütterlinschrift...)

Retailers: Long before the Wine Exchange, Anaheim had the Orange County Wine Company. (According to another picture, we're viewing their "Family Liquor Department". Did families just send Junior and his wagon over with empty bottles for a refill from the casks?) Alternatively, you could visit (their arch-competitors?) the Fisher Wine Company — check out those giant "Port" casks!

And before those two, we had the mysterious "Wine Rooms", dated ca. 1870.

This is labelled as a plat map of Anaheim, but if you look at the enlarged image, it's much worse: a map of the gradual death of Anaheim's vineyards during the 1880s, full of notations like "Zinfandel Set '80; Disease Noted Aug '85; Mostly Dead Jan '87".

House-Related: Unfortunately — despite the fact that he seems to be one of the patriarchs of an old Anaheim family — the Digital Anaheim archive doesn't have any pictures of John Taggart, the man who (as far as we can tell) built our house. There is, however, a circa-1917 picture of the Taggart Motor Company, selling Studebakers and Chevrolets in a building that's still standing today (nowadays, it's a Mexican hair salon with a Day-Glo yellow facade).

Posted by Kevin at 09:37 AM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2006

Hello Friends

I'm back! Happy Very Belated New Year, everybody ...

Blogging Software: I upgraded our happybeagle blogs to Movable Type 3.2 earlier this week — because after a day of working with software, there's nothing like kicking back with even more software! The upgrade will mean little to all of you on the outside looking in, but it should hopefully provide Shelby and me with a better blog-producing experience (indeed, the facility it's already shown for dealing with Viagra comment spam is worth the upgrade alone).

Jury Duty: Yesterday, I did my duty to the state by reporting at 8 AM for jury duty. In contrast to my previous jury duty experience (in Palo Alto, where we sat around all day doing nothing), we were whisked off to a courtroom by nine o'clock for jury selection. The case seemed pretty straightforward — The People Of The State Of California were accusing some schlub of possession of paraphenalia for the consumption of 'opiates' (heroin, I'm guessing; opium or morphine would seem so ... Victorian). We were obviously working at the bottom end of the justice system: rather than the regal wood-panelled palaces of TV dramas, our courtroom was teeny-tiny and modern; the defendant's lawyer wore an ill-fitting suit and looked like he'd just started shaving earlier this year. Through the luck of the draw, I wasn't selected — which is too bad, because I had a perfect crotchety-curmudgeon answer to one of the prosecution's litmus-test jury-screening questions. And what's more, I actually believed in my answer, unlike one woman who was selected and chose to give both the prosecution and defense lawyers bizarre answers to their questions in a transparent attempt to get one of them to kick her off of the jury. (It worked!) The question was something like this:

"Most of you have probably watched one of those CSI shows on TV, where they run all kinds of sophisticated tests all the time — checking items for DNA, fingerprints, and things like that. Well, you can guess that real detective work isn't like that. Money is tight, and there are so many cases, that the police can't always run tests. If we were to submit a piece of evidence that, for budgetary reasons, had not been checked for fingerprints, would you assign less weight to that piece of evidence?"

It seemed to me that the only acceptable answer was "hell, yes!" If there were extenuating circumstances — if the piece of evidence was a very distinctive-looking hash pipe, and they had surveillance pictures of Suspect X smoking out with that pipe — that's a different thing. If the police tried to dust for prints, but didn't get any — the object had been wiped clean, or left out in the rain, or whatever — that's a different thing. But for budgetary reasons? That just seems like a great all-purpose excuse for railroading someone into a conviction. "Well, he claims that he spent the entire night of the murder with his priest and an old college roommate, but we couldn't get around to interviewing them to confirm his alibi — it was the 'ol budget, dontcha know. Not enough money to gas up the cruiser until next month!" "Well, you're supposed to take photos of the crime scene, but we haven't got any — do you know how much a pack of Polaroid film costs??!?"

The prosecutor wasn't having any of that, though; she exercised her perogative and kicked anyone who showed the slightest amount of skepticism to her gee-we-just-haven't-got-the-money question off the jury.

I was hoping that I'd end up on the jury for the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" naming trial, but no such luck — the case is in Santa Ana (I was in Fullerton), and jury selection was last week.

The Vicissitudes Of The Market: I sold off a big chunk of Adobe stock earlier this week in anticipation of the coming of our Prius. After that, of course, it went up another dollar and change. I should publish some kind of newsletter, so that subscribers can follow me around and make their trades the day after I made mine. But today ADBE has gone back through the floor with the rest of the market, so now I don't feel so bad. (And the magnitude of the difference isn't as great as last month's noteworthy trade, when I sold Apple stock at $73-ish, only to watch it climb thirteen bucks more in the following few weeks. But still, I bought it in 2000 for about $7.50 a share, so again, I'm not feeling that bad.)

Miscellaneous: And here are some of the links that I collected while I was busy not-blogging:

  • Germans behaving badly in IKEA: It's not only a source of inexpensive furniture, it's great for cheap meals, childcare, and free baby supplies! I might have passed up this article from Spiegel, except for the fact that I've shopped in the Hamburg-Schnelsen store!

  • A German writes (in German) for Stern about living in Los Angeles.

  • Rounding out the German-related links, I never got around to linking to this blog entry by Andrew Hammel back in October on the 'glories of do-it-yourself marketing' — the wierd little indepedent stores that seem to make up the streetscape of most German cities. He's found a particularly jarring example, but our street in Hamburg had a couple of little shops that could've entered into the running. Why aren't mom-and-pop stores in the average American strip mall this offbeat? Perhaps because they're increasingly a part of one franchise or another ...

  • A quiz forwarded by Marc (of Marc's Graduation fame): Arial or Helvetica? Can you spot the difference? (I got 8 out of 10.)

  • And why didn't we see this kind of Al Gore back say, when he was running for President? Fearlessly speaking fighting words seems to be a skill that (former) Democratic candidates can muster only after it's far too late. But maybe this speech was the first step towards, oh, a Gore/Obama ticket in 2008. I can only hope!

Posted by Kevin at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)