Monday, October 18, 2010

Ready! Set!

Commence Restoration!

Here was the poor toothless, thoroughly disassembled mini when I first returned to see her at the beginning of August:

I'm afraid Gunnar had had his way with her...

meaning specifically that Gunnar had removed all the beat up, rusted out panels that made up a large part of the body. About 50% goes the current estimate. But then, things started looking up! Around Labor Day we had a full order put together for the home office back in England, where 'original' mini parts are still manufactured, and a little over a week ago, a care package arrived from across the ocean.

Naturally, I went to visit, and here's what I found:

If you were expecting more, temper your expectations! But look at that brilliant new nose panel!

Now, as it turns out, when you get 'original' mini parts from the home office in England, they are not original in the sense that they fit. They are sort of in the general vicinity - so just getting that nose panel on took some hours of work, which is where we get back to tempering expectations - probably looking at another 2-3 months of just panel re-installation, and that's not even getting to things like the suspension, the engine, the paint... But for now, the process has commenced, and I'm excited!

As for the painting...

A mildly surreal site in Gunnar's paint room... The green you can glimpse there is roughly the color that will eventually be replacing the fluorescent yellow on the mini - those aren't my doors though...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Remember Burma and Tibet?

... and the cute Panda bears in China? I hope you do because had you forgotten and tried to go back and look them up again on the blog over the last couple of weeks, you would've certainly found all of my writing, but not any of the pictures... (Thanks, Lott, for catching this!)

Well, the good news is last night, I went through and fixed everything, so the pictures are all back. I even tried to fix my spelling and grammar errors - I do tend to proof-read my posts, usually, but it seems I'm still not all that good at it. There is no bad news - everything is just back. There are some boring technical details, which you are welcome to skip, but I'll type up anyway, just in case you care (and because it gives me a forum to bitch at the governments of Burma and China for their idiotic internet policies): Burma and China aren't the types of countries that particularly encourage free and unfettered expression, such as blogging. They attempt to control it by using a standard, heavy-handed, Communist-style approach: you cannot access or from a computer in China or Burma. As with most standard, heavy-handed, Communist-style approaches to solving problems that shouldn't really be problems in the first place, the approach doesn't work. I was obviously able to post from Burma and China - all because there's a million proxy servers out there that computer users of China and Burma utilize to get around their respective governments' idiotic restrictions. In Burma, the proxy would usually be already installed on most of the internet cafe machines... In China, they had wi-fi, so I got it on my laptop. There was, however, an issue - routing all your requests to through a server in, say, Holland, made your [already slow] internet connection speeds that much slower, so I gave up on uploading pictures to blogger, putting them on my site instead, then simply referencing them from the blog. It actually took a bit of work to get the process all figured out, but pretty soon, I had it down to a science (which makes it kind of sad that I had to spend three hours undoing all of my cross-site magic last night). And this magical science worked great... all the way until last month, until I had to transfer the site from Arnie's server to one of my own - a process which allowed us to discover that when you cancel your account with 1&1 Hosting (whom I'm reluctant to recommend at this point, btw), they insist on hijacking your domain name for a month and using it to redirect traffic to one of the other sites they are being paid to host (and some nice man in Hyderabad, India will be powerless to do anything about it). This, naturally, means that all the images I had uploaded to my site from Burma and Tibet had now evaporated, so the blog posts that were pointing to them were now picture-less... So, that's the annoying technical reasons - if you are unclear on what the hell I'm talking about (or even if you are), never fear - the photos on the blog are all back now! (Unless you are reading this on Facebook, which imports my blog posts, but doesn't update the imported snapshots when I change them, so if you want to take the time to navigate their ineffective UI to get to some of the posts from last February, you will discover these elusive picture-less posts... But you shouldn't do that! You either don't care at all, in which case you should've stopped reading ten minutes ago, or you'll just use the fairly intuitive navigation tools you get at

And as a reward for indulging me in my little rant, here's a few of these 'recovered' photographs:

Shwedagon Pagoda - Yangon, Burma

The Golden Rock on Burma's Mount Kyaiktiyo at sunrise

A fisherman on Inle Lake

The plain of Bagan just before sunrise

Snake Temple outside of Mandalay, Burma

Cute pandas in Chengdu, China

Tibet's Potala Palace, flanked by the Himalayas

A terracotta general: Xi'an, China

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How To Enjoy The Burning Man Experience From The Comfort Of Your Own Home

Reprinted from It could be a copyright violation in the real world, in theory, but there are no such legalities in the world of Burning Man! Besides, it's absolutely hilarious... and strangely true!

# Tear down your house. Put it in a truck. Drive 10 hours in any direction. Put the house back together. Invite everyone you meet to come over and party. When they leave, follow them back to their homes, drink all their booze, and break things.
# Pay an escort of your affectional preference subset to not bathe for five days, cover themselves in glitter, dust, and sunscreen, wear a skanky neon wig, dance close naked, then say they have a lover back home at the end of the night.
# Stack all your fans in one corner of the living room. Put on your most fabulous outfit. Turn the fans on full blast. Dump a vacuum cleaner bag in front of them.
# Buy a new set of expensive camping gear. Break it.
# Only use the toilet in a house that is at least 3 blocks away. Drain all the water from the toilet. Only flush it every 3 days. Hide all the toilet paper.
# Set your house thermostat so it’s 50 degrees for the first hour of sleep and 100 degrees the rest of the night.
# Before eating any food, drop it in a sandbox and lick a battery.
# Mail $200 to the Reno casino of your choice.
# Make a list of all the things you’ll do different next year. Never look at it.
# Search alleys untill you find a couch so unbelievably tacky and nasty filthy that a state college frat house wouldn’t want it. Take a nap on the couch and sleep like you are king of the world.
# Shop at Wal-mart, Cost-Co, and Home Depot until your car is completely packed with stuff. Tell everyone that you’re going to a "Leave-No-Trace" event. Empty your car into a dumpster.
# Spend thousands of dollars and several months of your life building a deeply personal art work. Hide it in a funhouse on the edge of the city. Hire people to come by and alternate saying "I love it" and "this sucks balls". Blow it up.
# Cut, burn, electrocute, bruise, and sunburn various parts of your body. Forget how you did it. Don’t go to a doctor.
# Walk around your neighborhood and knock on doors until someone offers you cocktails and dinner.
# "Downsize" last year’s camp by adding two geodesic domes, a new sound system, art car, and 20 newbies.
# Lean back in a chair until that point where you’re just about to fall over, but you catch yourself at the last moment. Hold that position for 9 hours.
# Don’t sleep for 5 days. Take a wide variety of hallucinogenic/emotion altering drugs. Pick a fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend.
# Set up a DJ system downwind of a three alarm fire. Play a short loop of drum’n'bass until the embers are cold.
# Have a 3 a.m. soul baring conversation with a drag nun in platforms, a crocodile and Bugs Bunny. Be unable to tell if you’re hallucinating. Lust after Bugs Bunny.
# Spend a whole year rummaging through thrift stores for the perfect, most outrageous costume. Forget to pack it.
# Read "Dhalgren" by Samuel R. Delany. Read "The City Not Long After" by Pat Murphy. Cut off the bindings, throw all the pages up in the air, and shuffle them back together. Reread "The City After Dhalgren" by Samuel Murphy. Burn it. Read the ashes.
# Listen to music you hate for 168 hours straight, or until you think you are going to scream. Scream. Realize you’ll love the music for the rest of your life.
# Spend 5 months planning a "theme camp" like it’s the invasion of Normandy. Spend Monday-Wednesday building the camp. Spend Thurs-Sunday nowhere near camp because you’re sick of it or can’t find it.
# Bust your ass for a "community." See all the attention get focused on the drama queen crybaby.
# Get so drunk you can’t recognize your own house. Walk slowly around the block for 5 hours.
# Tell your boss you aren’t coming to work this week but he should "gift" you a paycheck anyway. When he refuses accuse him of not loving the "community".
# Ask your most annoying neighbor to interrupt your fun several times a day with third hand gossip about every horrible thing that’s happened in the last 24 hours. Have them wear khaki.
# Go to a museum. Find one of Salvador Dali’s more disturbing, but beautiful paintings. Climb inside it.

Burning Man 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sometimes dreams really do come true!

I showed up on the shores of the US of A for the first time almost twenty years ago, in April of 1991. And being 13, I promptly headed across the street to Lexington Mall (which no longer exists, but holy crap(!) - they've got a wikipedia page!) to explore the American musical phenomenon, an experience that ended with me walking out of the store with a tape (yes, I said tape) of Guns'N'Roses, Use Your Illusion I. 1991 was a pretty big year for the band... I proceeded to listen to the tape... a lot! (there were a few Russian tapes mixed into my Walkman repertoire at the time, but they were quickly fading away - hey look, wikipedia also has a page about Наутилус Помпилиус, crazy!) I proceeded to like the music... a lot! I made sure to acquire the rest of the band's albums, even the hard to get European Live disk set(!), upgrading them to CD's in due time, continuing to like everything I heard (well, except for The Spaghetti Incident?, which was terrible!). I never seriously considered seeing them in concert - the videos on MTV were pretty cool, but I can't imagine a big band like them choosing to visit Lexington, Kentucky in those days.

Fast forward almost twenty years to present day. A band named Gun'N'Roses still exists, but the only original member is Axl Rose, who has apparently been enough of an ass to the rest of his former band-mates that they don't appear to wish to have anything more to do with him. They also still make music on occasion - the Chinese Democracy record took more than ten years to finally get released... and was unabashingly awful! So, they were out. On the other hand, there was still Slash, he of the eccentric looks, the floppy hair, the top hat, and the guitar skills to merit having been called one of the top five guitarists of all time... Slash continues to perform, with a band of his own now, continues to have a feud with Axl, and has had nothing to do with The Spaghetti Incident? or Chinese Democracy, I like to think. Instead, he is now touring this land of ours with his own band, and this past Saturday, here he was in good 'ol Seattle, putting on a show.

Not that you can see all that much - cameras weren't allowed at the Showbox, so this is courtesy of my iPhone, but that's Slash, top hat included, right there in the front!

They proceeded to rock the house for some two hours, playing some of their new material, some of their older material, and a whole bunch of Guns'N'Roses original material! Now, I can't tell you if this really qualifies as dreams actually coming true, seeing how I never really thought or dreamt about seeing them in concert back when I was in high school, but today, I can very honestly tell you that I was never expecting to hear 'Welcome to the Jungle,' 'Civil War,' 'Paradise City,' and 'Sweet Child O' Mine' playing live! The new lead singer doesn't quite screech to hit the high notes the way Axl used to, but Slash is still there being badass, and the whole atmosphere is still amazing... electric... insanely loud!

"Sweet Child O' Mine" - Iconic Guns'N'Roses! That's right, the iPhone will do video too!

The band was quite awesome, and surprisingly humble as well - for guys who've been playing huge shows all over the world for the past 25 years, they seemed genuinely excited to be there. They might not command the same audiences they did back in '91, but they did seem quite genuine when thanking all of us for being there! I was excited to be there as well!