Sunday, January 27, 2013

Car Shopping

I have been scouring the Internet for months looking at European cars. Mostly Porsches, but also the odd BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar. I really want one.

Rationally, buying an older car of foreign manufacture is not a wise fiscal move. Having previously owned an old Land Rover and a BMW I have felt the sting of labor bills and the costly replacement parts.

It might make more sense to buy a new, cheap American or Korean econobox. But they are soulless. I cannot make an emotional connection with those vehicles.

What about a Honda or a Toyota, one might ask. The rugged dependability of those brands does appeal to that part of me that likes things to work with little conscious thought or effort. But I am not wild about them.

So my thoughts return to the cars from Europe. A BMW M5 with a manual gearbox. Maybe a 650i with the bizarre rear end. The newer Jaguar XK is sleek, but the residuals are scary. The SL500 is a nice car, but the body styles vary a great deal year to year, and the headlights look odd. Porsches are what I truly lust after, but am I setting myself up to become a statistic of I purchase a car with that much power and grace that I would be lulled into trying driving maneuvers that I would never contemplate in a lesser vehicle?

Let us hope that the Saab continues to find its way to work and back each day and that I continue to add to the car fund until I make up my mind and don't rush to buy something out of desperation or passion. The hangover from buying a car can be worse than a bad night out drinking.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

And Now, the Weather

It has been gray and rainy for quite some time now in my lil patch of the Deep South. I am certain that this is not the sort of thing that the Chamber of Commerce is pleased with, and I imagine that in some dimly lit office downtown there are people even now drafting memoranda to the National Weather Service seeking an explanation that does include any heretical references to "global warming."

With the forecast for snow being tossed out yesterday, children had hopes as high as on Christmas Eve hoping against hope that somehow snow would fall and school would be closed. No such luck. The morning broke rainy and cold, but the local forecasters were adjusting their models and tried to pinpoint the exact moment when the rain would turn to snow today.

We shall have to wait and see what happens. I like an occasional fall of snow. I prefer it to occur overnight, so I don't have to drive in it with the mighty throngs of fellow Southerners who have no idea how to drive when there is even a hint of snow.With my luck, though, whatever snow the descends will be about the time that I leave work, and the drive that normally takes 30 minutes will take hours. I can even imagine commuteres telling tales of their heroic trek through an inch (or less) of slush, and how poodle was even eyed as dinner in case a Donner party situation were to occur on the interstate.

Stay warm and dry, and if you see my car, steer clear. I won't have the traction control on because I need a thrill.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Nerd Chronicles, Part mmxiii.xii

 Or, "How I Spent My Christmas Vacation."

You might think that the recently divorced Jud would be the scamp and up to some sort of mischief that would bring a tear of joy to the eye of Bacchus, but no. I was, to use the vernacular, "getting my nerd on."

After Little One headed off to spend time with the EW, I hopped in the car and went off to the land of the palmetto, the low country boil, and shrimp and grits to do some research. I spend a couple of days in the state archives, assisted by a helpful and friendly staff, paging through volumes in the stacks, digging in the microfiche cabinets and looking for images of centuries old documents.

The sense of excitement and giddiness that I felt at times can be likened to that of a child at Christmas, as a piece of data fills a gap in knowledge. A hunch is confirmed - or dispelled - but then the truth is known and proven. One answer led to many more questions. My mind was often racing faster than I could take notes.

I would hop off from the microfiche reader and rush to the computer, look at something else, grab the pad, and then head to the map room to locate some ford in a small river in a district that no longer exists but has been split into counties. The time flew by. I took few breaks. I spent lunch eating in my car, or down the street at the waffle hut, drinking bad coffee and refilling my LDL cholesterol.

I took my dinners sitting at the bars of local eateries, a pint of beer or a glass of scotch before me, straining to read poor copies of documents from 1795 and making notes on a legal pad. Fortunately I was thoroughly engrossed so that no fellow patrons or bartenders tried to make witty banter with me. I felt curious glances at times, but chose not to be drawn into inane conversations with these passersby.

I also visited the state university's library and remarkable map collection, adding to my wonder and respect for librarians, archivists and their craft. I don't have the patience for all of the cataloging, arranging, filing and storage, but I do appreciate that they do, and have done it so well for so long.

After two days and nights, I headed out to find a Revolutionary War site where one of my ancestors had trod. I spent the best part of a day wandering along the river, trudging across muddy fields and wooded paths. I spoke with the ranger several times. As I was the only visitor enjoying the park that day, we had time to talk in depth about the formal research that has been conducted on the site over the years, the documentary history of the battle, and the state of preservation of the site. My father had been a park ranger, and it isn't too hard to tell if a ranger really loves what they do and if they really know much about the site where they work. This man was a student of his site. He had been there for 12 years and was well versed in its history, research, and the period as a whole. I was impressed.

I took lunch on the porch of the visitors center, eating cheese, crackers and an apple. It was a cold winter's day, fairly gray and windy, but beautiful nonetheless. Late in the afternoon, after an exchange of email addresses with the ranger and a parting wave, I headed towards the coast.

I went to a coastal city rich in history. I had known of it more for its importance in the Civil War, but it possesses a history much richer and deeper than that. The dichotomy of the present and the layers of the past was great fun. Amazing, fresh seafood was to be found, and the sun decided to come out and dance upon the water. I sat for some time watching boats sail in the harbor, dwarfed by a container ship that made its way in from parts unknown with its load of cargo.

I spent my New Year's Eve writing in the hotel. I had a ground floor room, so I heard the chirps of people locking and unlocking their cars all night. I was asleep early, probably by 2200. In the morning, I rose, went the gym, nibbled at the usual complimentary breakfast fare, then hit the road for home.

It was the best holiday I have had in years. I hope to have more and similar travels in the not too distant future.