Archive for July 2007

The official WT07 FAQ

When does the World Tour actually happen?

It begins on 10 July, and continues for somewhere between two and three weeks, though closer to two.

What makes it a World Tour, exactly, since you’re not leaving the States or anything?

Two things: it’s awfully damned long, and much of it is through relatively unfamiliar territory.

How long is “awfully damned long”?

I expect somewhere between 4000 and 4500 miles.

You’ve done this five times before. Why do it again?

Because I can. More to the point, it’s good for me to get out of town, and it’s good for my car to get a serious workout once in a while.

Will you be blogging every day?

That’s the plan, anyway. You can still read the reports from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. (The 2006 version ended in semi-tragedy.) I have Wi-Fi capability, I carry a spare CAT 5 cable, and if all else fails, I have a dial-up.

What’s the shape of this year’s route?

It’s an irregular polygon.

How much of this is copied from previous World Tour FAQs?

Rather a lot, actually.

Is there any chance you’ll say “Screw it” and not go home?

I would have to be extremely fortunate, in the winning-lotto-ticket sense, or extremely smitten, in the “I’ve been waiting for you all my life” sense. Don’t count on either of these actually taking place.

How come it took so long to post this?

Two factors: I couldn’t reconcile my desire for a shorter Tour with the fact that I’ve seen most of what’s close by, and I have lingering concerns about my car, which has performed admirably on 400-mile days in the past but whose ailments, once manifest, tend to be hyperexpensive to cure.

What finally made you settle on a route?

An offhand (maybe) remark by Andrea Harris on this post:

It’s been this way all my life: no one comes to Florida.

I can’t believe you’d actually plan a whole trip over an offhand (maybe) remark.

That’s not a question.

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Or you could just take the train

Beth envisions a world of transpo-pods:

I think we’re at a point technologically where we could have vehicles that are completely programmable and self driving.

Imagine a vehicle — a kind of personal pod that can come in models for any # of people; one person, two person, six person, whatever, pods — that all you do is get in — type in your destination, and sit back and let it take you there. In the pod there is wi-fi, music, video, whatever you’d like for entertainment, or even just space to sleep until you arrive.

And the payoff is huge:

I know the initial cost would be massive.

But … just think what it would be worth to never have to pay for car insurance, or traffic tickets, or to sit [in] traffic, or have another crash or fatality due to vehicles.

I suspect it would take a lot more than robot cars to create this Utopia. For one thing, they’ll be operated by computers, and computers crash. Rather a lot more than cars do, in fact. If anything, this will force the price of insurance upwards.

Besides, some of us crazy fools like to drive.

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Strange search-engine queries (75)

For some reason, this feature has picked up an occasional fan, but I suppose I can keep doing it anyway. If you’re new around here, this is what happens: I comb through the last week’s worth of Site Meter listings, note the arrivals from search engines, and make fun of the goofier ones. It’s a good way to kill a Sunday evening, and it gives me a fresh post on a Monday morning.

pictures of a kid getting a reactal themometer stuck up their butt:  Obviously this person isn’t anal about spelling.

marie antoinette transvestite:  “Let them wear drag.”

the bustiest senior citizen in america who is she:  The winner, who prefers to remain anonymous, is a 94-year-old widow living near the Teton Range in Wyoming. She still has her original bison-hide implants.

horrible looking cakes:  Maybe someone left them out in the rain.

Vickie’s Valences:  Minus three, alongside nitrides and phosphates.

sex with bag over head:  So much for sucking face.

“big flaring nostrils” -dog -cat -bird:  Perhaps you should put a bag over its head.

What do a Cadillac Escalade and C3PO have in common?  You probably shouldn’t park either of them near the Mos Eisley Cantina.

definition of doomaflatchie:  It’s like those thingumabobs and those other gizmos.

mean bitches crushing mens balls:  Yeah, I’d say that’s mean.

yogurt of the eighties:  Surely it’s spoiled by now.

5 inch penis is satisfying:  “And who do you expect to satisfy with that?” she asked. “Me,” he replied.

president united states america country marine corporation bank of america corporation buyers at 6% wait for buyers at 3% conceal buyer human flesh livers penis and hearts bank of satan chruch employees masonic members 59th lodge israel trade switzerland from murder incorporated liberia human flesh language of human consumption locate correct address bank of america within san francisco california human flesh buyer corruption bribery the popatoe industry as front money increase too buyer human body parts for satanic rite cheifton dinner buyers consumers bank of america canobolism employees location usa fbi gov directer 14155537400?  Somebody’s working on a Conspiracy Theory of Everything. (The phone number, as it happens, reaches the FBI’s San Francisco office.)

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Well, we got no class

And I don’t have a whole lot of principal, which brings down my overall results in The New York Times Social Class Calculator.

Nor am I alone. Erica notes:

I think people in my particular demographic are seeing a huge discrepancy between occupation / education / income and wealth. At least I am, anyway.

In their case, it’s likely because they simply don’t own a lot of the stuff that is considered “wealth.” I have more of it, I suppose, but I also have more debt than they do (two words: “Surlywood mortgage”), so I come out around the same place. I may own six figures, but I also owe six figures. (Fortunately, what I own is still more than what I owe.)

And I used to have the same obsession with class as the Times has:

When I was younger — and, let’s face it, up to now I always was younger — I was convinced that the world, or at least the part of it that was relevant to my existence, operated on a caste system, and that movement across those social strata was less common than the American We the People mythos would have us believe.

I perceived three subsets: lower, middle and upper, each of which was divided into three further subsets: lower, middle and upper. The bottom of the range was therefore Lower Lower (duh), while the top was Upper Upper (double duh). I should have known that there was something askew with this scheme when I couldn’t locate the dividing line between Upper Lower (#3) and Lower Middle (#4), despite the fact that crossing that line was high on my list of Things to Do; I saw myself as Middle Lower (#2), and that sight made me ill.

Fortunately, I got over (most of) it.

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Have some beef and don’t crack a smile

In 1485, the Tower of London was first surrounded by Yeomen Warders, whose functions included looking after any prisoners in the Tower and keeping an eye on the Crown Jewels.

The Warders (there are thirty-six of them, one of whom is designated Chief) all come from the ranks of the Royal Armed Forces, where they served with distinction for at least twenty-two years. For the first 522 years, they were all men.

Not anymore:

[S]oon Moira Cameron will be resplendent in the traditional scarlet and blue livery of the Beefeater when she makes history as the first woman to join the oldest corps in the world.

The 42-year-old from Argyll, Scotland, beat five men to secure the post as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, and yesterday she said she could not wait to start in the summer.

The admission of a woman into the ranks of the Beefeaters did not sit well with some traditionalists:

John from Tendring has said: “That’s 500+ years of tradition gone and a large tailors bill to show for it.” Rose Howard from Milton Keynes also thinks Moira is ruining tradition: “Just does not look right, why can’t we hang on to our traditions, what is the point of this ‘updating’ … because they can … but whenever did a woman fit into the history of the Beefeaters at the Tower. That is what it is all about, it’s not an ordinary day job.”

Then again, she paid the same dues as the men at the Tower, served the Crown just as long, just as honorably. I really don’t see why this would be an issue, unless they’re worried about whether she has the capacity to behead someone, a one-time duty of the Warders that has long since fallen into desuetude. (There have been no prisoners held at the Tower for half a century, and no executions since 1941, when German spy Josef Jakobs faced, not the mighty blade, but a firing squad.)

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ASCII kudzu

Last week Venomous Kate asked me for “three things that make a blog suck,” and this was the first:

Neglect: failure to update on something resembling a regular basis. (A subset of this would be “inadequate spam controls”: nobody wants to read your archive pages if they’re filled with offers to sell Tramadol.)

To test this theory, take a peek at this page from a WordPress blog operated by the National Endowment for the Arts. I suspect a peek is probably all you’ll need.

(Swiped from Don Surber.)

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Here, hold my beer

This is almost believable:

I have this feeling that if the very last human being to ever die is a male, his last words — and thus the final words of our once-promising species — will be some variant of “Hey, watch this!”

Of course, if he is the final member of the species, there remains the question: “To whom is he saying this?”

Similarly: Frederic Brown’s short story Knock, which begins like this:

The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.

(Seen at A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance.)

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An open thread for the first day

Because, well, it’s not like I’m going to have a whole lot of stuff today otherwise.

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Bringing in the Shreves

Shreveport, Louisiana — 400.2 miles

I note with limited glee that I disregarded the route proffered by the New! Improved! Yahoo! Maps, and saved a whole half mile in so doing.

The magic number today was 115, as in “Will I get farther this year than I did last year?” And I admit to breathing a bit easier after the 115th mile. At that point, of course, it started to rain.

It had occurred to me that I’d never actually driven the Indian Nation Turnpike, so I gave it a spin. It’s a nice little road, a bit over 100 miles, posted for 75 mph, and given that it’s a toll road, the state maintenance on it is slightly less haphazard than on those crummy “free” roads. Indeed, two interchanges appear to be getting an upgrade this summer. Where the turnpike ends, US 271 kicks in, and almost immediately the sun came out. (Didn’t last.)

First stop of any note was in Mount Pleasant, Texas, a pleasant (well, it is) little town where 271 crosses Interstate 30. I’d been there once before, mostly because I’d married a girl from there. (We all know how that worked out.) The north side, near a probably-artificial lake, has some really spiffy new homes; downtown is pretty much your standard small town in Texas with a lot of the age spots covered over. The chatter around the lunch counter was about half drawl, a quarter Spanish-accented, and a quarter actual Spanish, so that much hasn’t changed.

Two bits of weirdness today. Just east of Longview I encountered an appliance-white Ford Crown Victoria with a ginormous antenna on the back and a Louisiana plate, doing a solid 74. Something official, I figured, and dropped back a hair. Suddenly it lurched over into the left lane, and as we rounded the curve I saw what was going on: a rest area disgorging half a dozen trucks at once. He knew. I got close enough to pull alongside and read the legend on the door: Halliburton. Not knowing which version of the death ray they had on hand, I did not further challenge them.

And as I was entering the hotel, a teenaged girl, teasing her little brother, released some spinning-top toy into the air. Gravity introduced itself, and the plastic whatever-it-was landed with a thump on top of my head. Children and parental units looked equally appalled; I said something to the effect that it couldn’t hurt me where it landed.

Toll report: Indian Nation Turnpike, $4.75.
Gas mileage: 26.5 mpg.

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Held up by many columns

I picked up a copy of The Times here in Shreveport, and took a look at the editorials: one actual editorial (on the burial of the N-word), one local column, Leonard Pitts and Jonah Goldberg. Not too unusual an array.

But on the second page of the section (which is dubbed “Conversations”), there is a complete list of all the columns carried by the paper, on what days of the week they appear, and, if syndicated, a “liberal” or “conservative” tag as appropriate. Ellen Goodman (Wednesday) is “liberal”; Michelle Malkin (Saturday) is “conservative.” I wouldn’t argue with any of these, particularly, though David Broder (Friday) is marked “liberal/moderate,” which almost demands a “Since when?” Still, this is a peachy idea, and kudos to The Times for implementing something I haven’t seen anywhere else.

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Where quality is a slogan

Remember this? Alvy Singer has to see the entire film from the beginning:

Alvy: Because … because I’m anal.
Annie: That’s a polite word for what you are.

Over the years, I’ve been described in terms of comparable politeness. Case in point: over the weekend, it suddenly occurred to me that I might have Done Something Wrong on my last day in the salt mine. I emailed the two people who would have to straighten out this mess, explained my inexplicable lapse, and recommended the appropriate fix. I was subsequently informed that I had done it correctly in the first place.

Which ultimately means only one thing: I will probably not be featured on Brian J. Noggle’s QA Hates You blog, which exists to demonstrate that there are people far sloppier than I am. “Those who can, do; those who can’t, QA.”

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Itinerary updates

Since there is some peripheral interest in where I’m going, here’s what’s mapped out so far (actual hotel reservations are lagging by a couple of days so far):

  • Central Mississippi
  • Southern ‘burbs of Atlanta
  • North side of Orlando (where Disney ain’t)
  • Somewhere else in Georgia (considering Savannah)
  • The Old North State Marathon (westward starting at Raleigh)

And thence into Tennessee.

Details on request, or watch this space.

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No sign of W. C. Fields anywhere

Philadelphia, Mississippi — 727.8 miles

Two anomalies this morning before I ever got underway. First, the father of the two kids in the Infamous Spinning Top Incident caught me at the door and offered profuse apologies, and said “I know you said it was no big deal, but they have to learn not to do stuff like that.” With this sort of thinking around the house, I think they’ll learn just fine. Besides, what is life without the occasional risk?

About twenty-five feet later, I looked over at Gwendolyn’s flank, and the left rear tire seemed flatter than usual. (I’ve had radials long enough to know that appearances can be deceptive, but work with me here.) I muttered something under my breath, popped open the console, and withdrew my pencil gauge. The results were discouraging. And if you were thinking “Yeah, but this is the kind of person who brings a freaking air pump with him,” you get the gold star. (It hadn’t lost any more air by the time I gassed up, so I assume that this was just a failure of my pre-launch countdown procedure.)

Two universities live, cheek by jowl, in the middle of northern Louisiana, and I saw them both: Grambling, an historic black college, is only a few miles from Louisiana Tech. Tech is neat, almost antiseptic; Grambling is rambling, and the legendary old football stadium has seen better days. (On the other hand, the new Assembly Center is pretty spiffy.) I saw lots of Tech students, not so many at Grambling, but everyone seemed bright and neatly-pressed, probably because it was still pretty early in the morning and the humidity hadn’t kicked in yet. Were I the cheapskate I profess to be, I’d probably wonder why these schools, five miles apart, weren’t merged. But their missions are altogether different, and I certainly wouldn’t want either of them to go away.

Canton, Mississippi is the home of Nissan’s US truck plant, which you’ll find out quickly enough if you come up 55 from Jackson: the exit right before Canton proper is marked “Nissan Dr.” The plant itself is huge, and has the capacity to produce 400,000 vehicles a year. (And if you want the tour, you need to request it a lot earlier than five minutes after you arrive.) Canton itself is full of “Home of Nissan” banners, but there were a lot of other manufacturers’ trucks downtown, although I did spot two Infinitis in one block, one of which was a loaner from the Jackson dealership.

Mississippi 16 is a lovely, if unchallenging, two-laner that starts in Canton and took me to Philadelphia, a town of about 8000 that probably wouldn’t have so many hotels were it not for the Choctaw Nation reservation just to the west, a veritable Casino Heaven if you like that sort of thing. Me, I shrug.

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While I contemplate a paint job

Homeowners Association: brilliant invention or instrument of torture? Joel at the Oklahoma City Real Estate Blog has looked at them from both sides now:

To some there is no greater violation then to be micro-managed in the affairs of one’s own castle. To others there is no greater transgression then to have one’s greatest possession degraded by another’s poor behavior. These feelings about one’s home are at their root emotional and personal.

Which presumably explains why they’ve ended up in a blog. Not being a member of an HOA, I really can’t say much: we have a Neighborhood Association around here, but it’s not in a position to micromanage things for the residents. And there isn’t a whole lot of “poor behavior” around here, either; most of what there is can be traced to nonresidents skulking about, or to a small segment of apartment dwellers (we have a fair number of apartments, but few actual thugs) on the edge of the neighborhood.

Whatever your perspective, consider this a call for dialogue. (I have readers who sell real estate, and I’d particularly like to hear from them.)

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To the person sitting in wonderment

No, I’m not feverishly looking for new topics each and every evening; when I left on Tuesday I had four or five posts still in the can, and rather than face the possibility that the less I post the greater my traffic, I’m gradually releasing them into the wild.

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Waiting for the stars to fall

Newnan, Georgia — 1056.5 miles

Old 80 and I go back a long way. I can remember being sprawled on the floor of a VW Microbus (to the extent you can sprawl at all in a VW Microbus, which isn’t much) all along Old 80 from Savannah to God knows where. Probably Shreveport. We made this cross-country run I don’t know how many times, and somehow Old 80 became more than just a road: it became a memory.

The eastern edge of Mississippi twisted itself into the leading edge of Alabama, and something was different somehow. It didn’t take too long to figure out what it was: one of the last segments of the old two-lane was being upgraded to a full-fledged four-laner. This will no doubt improve the road; it may even make it safer. But it basically killed the emotional connection: it’s as though they’d actually continued building I-20 along Old 80 instead of detouring it through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham on the way to Atlanta. This may not perturb you particularly, but I’ll miss the way it used to be.

One thing I won’t miss is I-65 through Montgomery. There would be suicide on a Guyanese scale in ODOT had Oklahoma City’s soon-they-say-to-be-supplanted Crosstown Expressway deteriorated to this point: the speed limit is down to 45, and even that’s a pain in the ball joints.

Just beyond the Georgia line, I filled up Gwendolyn’s tank with another shot of 93 octane, a rare commodity back in Soonerland. (We’re a quarter-mile above sea level, which I assume is the reason most vendors offer 91 at the most.) She seems happy with it, returning almost 28 miles for each gallon, and it’s not much more expensive than the alleged premiums in Oklahoma — except in Georgia. The person who had filled up at this pump before me left her receipt behind, and I don’t know why. I do know, though, that in the three hours and odd between her fillup and mine, the price went up six cents a gallon. I blame McGehee.

Newnan, focal point of the McGehee Zone, is named for road engineer Alfred E. Newnan, whose I-85 project has been going on for what seems like decades. But don’t bother asking him about it: he’ll just shrug and say “What — me hurry?”

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Beyond mere sustenance

At least once in your lifetime you should eat at a place which has a Lewis Grizzard special on the menu, especially if Alan Jackson used to wait tables there.

McGehee confessed to some misgivings about the recommendation, but here in the real world, I wouldn’t pass up such a thing. (And we had a wonderful time; I swear he almost cracked a smile.)

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DNS of iniquity

Once in a while, my broadband connection at home refuses to serve up some Web sites. And by “some,” I mean this: about two-thirds of the sites on my blogroll become inaccessible, but the others work just fine. This happens just often enough to be annoying.

So I’m considering pointing my router to OpenDNS, bypassing my ISP’s DNS server. If any of you have tried this particular expedient, I’d appreciate hearing about it. (Not that I’m going to be doing this any time soon, what with being on the road and all.)

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Share the drought

Noontime in Alabama:

“Doesn’t look like rain,” I said to her as she was cleaning up tables.

“Too bad.” She shook her head. “We need all the rain we can get.”

I told her where I’d come from, and that we’d had a year’s worth of rain in less than seven months. She asked if we were going to plant rice next year. I said I’d certainly suggest it.

In the meantime, fashionable Oklahoma women (yes, there are such, now shuddup) have begun wearing these:

Haute couture waders

Click to embiggen. (Thanks to S.M.)

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Going the distance

Through the first three days, I’ve traveled 1056.5 miles. How does this look compared to previous Tours?

  1. 1212.2
  2. 1197.7
  3. 1363.0
  4. 1096.8
  5. 1206.4

Remind me to order a “Slacker” T-shirt.

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Heed the calendar

Longwood, Florida — 1539.2 miles

Things started out innocently enough. I had gotten to within a hundred miles of the Florida line when I saw Hugh Hefner’s trademarked Rabbit on a billboard. Who knew that (1) there was a Playboy Outlet Store (2) in Georgia? I pulled up, decided the place looked too depressing, and drove off. What’s within, said this traveler:

It was … disappointing. I was really hoping for more variety but honestly? It was all scary leather ‘clothing’ with the bunny head in contrasting leather colors. And the shoes … oh, my, nothing like the Playboy brand shoes you find in the local stores, no, these were jelly heels. Heels, y’all. Jelly. Heels. Oy to the vey. But I did pick up a pair of pink and silver bunny post earrings. Of course, because of the big biker party that weekend the cash register wasn’t hooked back up yet so I had to go to the adult store next door to pay for them.

Apparently I didn’t miss much.

Closer to the border was a place advertising thousands of books, none over $3. Which is true, sort of: they have two storefronts, one at each end of the strip, and one of them has more conventional (and higher-priced) remainders, but the other one is indeed $2.99 and under. (Yes, I hit them both.)

Then I entered Florida, and there was a billboard that read “Welcome to Florida. Mortality rate 100%. Are you ready?” Pertinent Bible verse affixed near the bottom. Then the rain started. And got worse. Visibility dropped to zilch. I said, mostly out loud, “Do I really want to die this way on Friday the 13th, fercrissake?” So I pulled over and waited it out.

Interstate 75, incidentally, is like the New Jersey Turnpike with crummier pavement; getting off of it was the single most relaxing thing I did all day. And due to people testing that mortality rate, it took an hour to get across Orlando. I suspect, though, that this is the norm for Mausplatz.

Toll report: Florida’s Turnpike, $3.00; total $7.75.

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Pending downtime

At 1 am Saturday (Central), and for several hours thereafter, this site will be offline while the hardware is physically (as opposed to virtually) relocated.

Things should be back to normal by daybreak.

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Is this still Friday?

Hardeeville, South Carolina — 1835.7 miles

Actually, things started out pretty well: breakfast with the Twisted Spinster.

No, really. And her vaguely pixie-ish appearance would seem to conflict with that whole Right-Wing Death Beast thing, but that’s not important. What matters here is her demeanor, which is Seriously Genial. Besides, she can discourse on a ginormous (there’s that word again) number of topics, something I always appreciate. (And she got a ride from Gwendolyn, albeit short.)

There’s more to tell, but my wireless card isn’t working (again), and there’s no local dialup number to be had, so I’ll have to pick this up tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll pull another post from the can so you’ll have something to read.

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And it’s not even gender-specific

There is one universal pronoun in English, and, like an infinitive, it takes two words: “your ass”.

Seriously. Maybe.

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With heels of tar

Tomorrow, barring catastrophe (I use that phrase a lot these days, I’ve noticed), I begin the North Carolina Slag. First stop, for no good reason, is Fuquay-Varina, mostly because I’ve always been curious about a town that would keep a name like Fuquay-Varina. (Mental note: Here’s an excuse to go to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico next year, or whenever.) This will be followed by a run to Asheville, and then into deepest Tennessee. If you’re on the way and would like my cell number, drop me an email.

Addendum: Because I wanted to know:

Fuquay Springs received its name from a farmer named Stephen Fuquay, great-grandson of settler William Fuquay, who discovered a mineral spring while plowing his fields in 1858. This spring eventually attracted attention from people living in other parts of North Carolina, for it began to develop a reputation for its healing properties.

Meanwhile, Varina was affectionately named by a Confederate soldier in honor of the pen name used by his sweetheart in their wartime correspondence. Initially, this name was applied to the first post office, but later the Varina Mercantile Company was formed. In time, a community developed around this store and adopted the name Varina as its own.

Over the years, these two towns grew by commercializing the popularity of the mineral springs and capitalizing on the profits associated with the tobacco industry. In 1963, the two merged into one town.

And now you know.

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Who knew I had a social calendar?

So this evening I met up with the lovely (well, she is, dammit, and I refuse to believe she’s that old) Deb from Boondoggled, and not only can she put up with me for an hour or two, she’s a pretty fair raconteur (I refuse to turn this into “raconteuse”) in her own right. Over Mexican food and beverages I will not describe, we swapped tales about all manner of things, a task made easier by the fact that most of her pre-Suthun life was spent in good ol’ Oklahoma. (There’s a funny Wayne Coyne story, but I’d rather she told it.)

Which means that the middle of the day, which was marked by thunderstorms and traffic and more thunderstorms, will eventually be forgotten, while the memories of two remarkable women (here’s the first) will remain. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Not that anyone would have thought so

But no, I’m not working for the Giuliani campaign team.

Besides, that’s his middle name. (I’ve read Molly Worthen’s book, and even reprinted an anecdote therefrom.)

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Out of sight, out of shorts

Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina — 2166.8 miles

No rain, and no impediments to high-speed driving, so I got here about an hour before check-in, decided not to wait around, and backtracked about seven miles to a coin laundry. Five days’ worth ran me a solid $6.75.

Also no bars: contrary to T-Mobile’s coverage map, either there is no GSM 1900 east of about Nashville, or they lost their roaming agreement with whoever does have it. Either way, I got no phone, so I dug out a TracFone (I do try to anticipate these things) and put myself through the activation process, which is a genuine pain. The phone, or Fone, is kinda cute: it’s a Moto V170.

Oh, about that “high-speed” business: I didn’t think I was going that fast, and I made several stops along the way, yet the desk clerk seemed amazed that I could get from north of Savannah to south of Raleigh in five hours forty minutes. It’s only 300 miles, for Pete’s sake. (Today’s mileage total reflects both the retrace to the laundry and a tour of downtown Fuquay-Varina and nearby Holly Springs, which pushes the day’s work to about 331.) I don’t think I ever once (okay, twice) hit over 80 mph.

Overheard in a Wal-Mart: “Why is it ‘men’s wear‘ but ‘women’s fashions‘?” I suspect this will be someone’s thesis someday.

Tonight: meeting with Dr. Weevil; other possibilities present themselves.

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Garden of Weevil

Erudition I expected; a puckish sense of humor I expected. But I didn’t envision the man’s capacity for pizza, which exceeds even mine own. (The operative word is “hefty”: we ordered a large, they brought a small followed by a large, and we did make a dent in the big one before senses were regained and/or acid reflux was remembered.)

And I didn’t count to be sure, but I suspect he has more books than I have blood cells. What’s not to like?

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Strange search-engine queries (76)

I may be on the road, but the Googlers and Yahooligans and whatever keep coming, so, with apologies to Russell Cardwell, here we go again.

good pair of nude hose that look invisible:  Might as well get a can of spray and be done with it; at least it won’t run. (You hope.)

how to tell the difference between a girl finch and a boy finch:  I’ll just bet it’s somehow pecker-related.

scoreboard bedroom light:  I wouldn’t know. I seldom score there.

“nine years old” 36c bra:  If it’s that old, you might as well throw it away.

cocaine lye:  But J. J. Cale told me she don’t lye.

used jockstrap lou christie:  No wonder the gypsy cried. She could barely breathe.

male enhancement 5 seconds:  If it’s only 5 seconds, it’s not much of an enhancement, is it?

is modern lyric writing just blither:  No. It also contains bathos, pretentiousness, and dubious rhyme schemes.

claims adjuster nude:  Honey, that wasn’t a claim he was adjusting.

is there anyone who likes working in retail:  That character who wangled the 90-percent employee discount, maybe.

What Is Octagon Soap Used For?  Among other things, washing stop signs.

transvestite women welding while at weddings:  Insert “hot rods” joke here.

girls in bikinis knock on my door and ask for condoms:  Right. Sure they do.

r’lyeh mcgehee:  Cthulhu comes to Coweta!

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Altitude adjustment

Asheville, North Carolina — 2462.4 miles

First order of business after leaving Fuquay behind was breakfast with Bigwig, who tore himself away from the usual sysadmin stuff to trade stories and reminisce about blogs gone by and stuff like that. (You could tell he was a sysadmin just from the uniform. I’ll let you wonder about that.)

Today’s route will make life complicated for the cartographers in our midst. I took US 64 west from the Triangle to the Triad. (North Carolina: The Threesome State.) From Thomasville, more precisely, NC 109 north to Winston-Salem (didn’t see so much as a pack of camels), and west on I-40, partially to see if it was as drab as Jennifer warned (it was) but mostly because Interstates have that Holy Grail of travelers: rest rooms. I was sufficiently bored by around Statesville to drop onto US 70, which was mildly entertaining for a few miles but eventually reconnected to I-40. And then, mirabile dictu, the Interstate became interesting: the ups and downs and almost-off-camber curves made poor Gwendolyn have to work for her BP Ultimate, and truckers were falling by the wayside left and right. (Mostly right.)

Still no official phone coverage, but I have the little Dispos-A-Phone up and loaded with 120 units, which may or may not be minutes, so I’ll at least have some form of voice connectivity for the next couple of days. I have five months to use it up. And since it has a 919 area code, it will be interesting to see how much they’re going to soak me for roaming. Cute little Motorola, it is; unfortunately, its ultrasleek design makes it a poor choice for leaving it on the car seat. One good curve, and NC has plenty of them, and the phone is under the seat. (Another disadvantage of automotive leather.)

A thunderstorm brewed up about ten minutes after I got here; the rumbling seems so much louder than usual. Of course, I’m in the mountains: I’m closer to the source.

Random statistics: I have spent $274 so far for gas. Total expenses, here near the halfway point, are hovering around the $1000 mark.

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I meant it about that altitude

Still raining outside, but here’s a straight horizontal shot, give or take a degree or three, from the hotel room, which should give you an idea of how far up this place really is.

West of Asheville

(Click for larger version.)

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Jersey barriers

Being a grown-up sort of girl is not one of them.

(Via Brian J. Noggle.)

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Speaking of expenses

At least someone is buying me gas.

I probably won’t redeem the points until after I get home. Still, fifty bucks is fifty bucks.

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The shape of things to come

This is the schedule from here out, subject to minor alterations for logistical reasons and, as always, barring catastrophe:

  • Tuesday: Knoxville
  • Wednesday: Nashville
  • Thursday: Champaign/Urbana
  • Friday: Cedar Rapids
  • Saturday/Sunday: Kansas City

Inasmuch as the first item here reads “Knoxville,” here are the Top Ten things I’m more likely to get than an audience with Glenn Reynolds:

  1. The chance to rummage through Marg Helgenberger’s lingerie drawer
  2. The keys to an S-Class Benz
  3. A winning Powerball ticket
  4. Video of Al Gore buying a Hummer
  5. The RIAA reconstitutes itself as a time-share operator in Florida
  6. Hillary admits she’s had nothing lifted or resculpted — but Bill has
  7. Immediate and permanent cessation of all comment spam
  8. Burge/Goldstein ticket unstoppable in the primaries
  9. CBS replaces Katie Couric with Megan McArdle
  10. Actually getting blogrolled by Glenn Reynolds

Jagger’s Law — “You can’t always get what you want” — applies.

Update: It didn’t come off, and the Interested-Participant thinks he knows why: “I personally believe that Reynolds wants cash.”

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Opportunity Knox

Knoxville, Tennessee — 2642.2 miles

Well, maybe not so much: the Professor is still unaware of my existence, and the lovely Tamara K. is otherwise occupied. (I think, though, I caught a glimpse of her about 3:35 Eastern on I-40 westbound, and if she really looks that good, maybe it’s better I keep my distance.)

A lot of driving today, but not much actual distance. I spent the morning at the Biltmore, about which more later, and there was a nasty wreck on I-40 west of Asheville which closed the eastbound lanes for about three hours. I was westbound, but I decided I didn’t want to deal with it anyway, and dropped down 23 to 74, taking a side trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway, where 45 mph is more than just the law: it’s a survival mechanism.

I came back to I-40 about mile 20 and discovered that inasmuch as the trucks can’t hold to 50, what with gravity and all, it’s pointless to try to keep it at 55. Not that it’s any less scary at 70, and if you’re in the fast lane, those concrete barriers in the median seem a whole lot closer.

Mixed bag here at the hotel. The chair is too, too short; on the other hand, there’s a hot tub. Let’s see if I can be inventive after a seven-day slog.

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On the verge of a Great Truth

After a few radio commercials, I determined that Asheville doesn’t have a Lexus dealer — but does have a Land Rover dealer. And judging by this view from the Blue Ridge Parkway, I find this perfectly understandable.

Village of Saunook

(Click for larger version.)

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The big house

At the time, it was the largest personal residence in the country, and despite the best efforts of Hollywood types and other dealers in delusion, nobody’s yet built one bigger.

There are many reasons why there will never be another Biltmore. For one thing, nobody, not even Gates or Buffett or Carlos Slim, has this kind of money anymore: George Washington Vanderbilt’s nine-figure wealth of the 1890s would easily equal twelve figures today. And even with a hundred billion dollars at hand, you’re not going to find any 200-square-mile tracts in highly-desirable areas.

Perhaps more to the point, styles have changed, and not for the better. The Biltmore House is imposing, but it’s not ostentatious. For one thing, it’s a three-mile drive from the gate to the house, which means that the house is not exactly scowling down on the rest of town. For another, with the possible exception of the 70-foot ceiling in the Banquet Hall, nothing is really oversized or overdone: everything is where it is, and everything is the size it is, because Vanderbilt specified exactly how many guests he might wish to accommodate, how many servants would require quarters, how many objets d’art he expected to be able to display. Among the fifty-odd rooms open to the public, I found very little wasted space.

(Okay, maybe one bit of excess: before I got to the appropriate section of the audio tour, I said something to a guide to the effect that having one’s own pipe organ was probably as luxe as one could get. The guide gently corrected me: while the pipes indeed had been installed at Vanderbilt’s request, the actual organ, a vintage 1916 Skinner, was not put in place until 1999.)

In 2005, the restored quarters for the female servants were opened to the public for the first time. They were not as fancy as the rest of the house, but they were likely better than anything their occupants could expect to find elsewhere, and Vanderbilt apparently paid them above the prevailing wage for their hard work and long hours. What’s more, Biltmore’s advanced technologies — the house had elevators, refrigeration of a sort, electrical wiring, hot and cold running water, and a complex call system — might well have made life a bit easier for the housemaids.

Vanderbilt’s original plan called for the estate to be self-sufficient: Biltmore had its own livestock, its own truck farm, even (during its construction) its own brickyard. And the estate is still self-sufficient: there’s a winery, an inn, lumberjacks — Biltmore was practicing serious forestry from day one, and founding forester Gifford Pinchot went on to head the US Forest Service — lots of activities, and almost three thousand visitors a day. I suspect most of today’s were as impressed as I was.

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Among 1352 guitar pickers

Nashville, Tennessee — 2876.7 miles

Says Tamara K.: “I check my email once a week, whether I need to or not.”

Late yesterday, she did, and after a bit of voice chatter, we met for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel. Like many Southern women I know — she describes herself as an Atlanta girl — she carries the wisdom of the years, but it’s not visible as lines on the face: you read it in her eyes, and you discover that someone who is probably smarter than you and who can probably kick your butt nine ways to Sunday is someone you ought to cherish. Besides, she seemed amused that I had a small grasp of the importance of Kingston Pike, a few blocks away, and I think I didn’t bore her too much:

He’s as witty in person as he is online and, despite having been blogging since the web was steam-powered and data was transmitted by banging two rocks together, modestly starts hardly any stories with “When Glenn Reynolds was a pup…”

I suggested that she could write rings around me: consider that an arc.

The run to Nashville was largely inconsequential; I dropped off I-40 at Lebanon and entered Music City by way of US 70, and inasmuch as I’d gained an hour by crossing back into Central time, I decided to see if I could get myself into a Nashville frame of mind. When I was a pup, WSM used to pump out the Opry on weekends and good C&W the rest of the time; on the other hand, WLAC, the other big radio blowtorch in town, had the legendary John R., rock and roll, and R&B. But WLAC is talk these days — I dialed over and found Rush Limbaugh — so WSM it was, and they obliged me with Hank, and I mean Hank Sr. I drove around for about an hour and a half, and I suspect I’m no closer than before to understanding that which is Music City, though I did wander over to the fortress of Gaylord Entertainment just for, um, laughs.

Winston Rand of nobody asked offered me the Grand Tour, about which more after it happens.

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Take a swing at it

Regular readers will recall that I have been a registered Democrat for thirty-five years, and while I have had substantial differences with some of the party’s stated goals recently, it has never quite occurred to me to bolt for the door.

But this analysis of the Designated Hitter rule [link to PDF file] makes me wonder:

[W]e find that self-identified Democratic Party members are more likely to support the DH rule than are either independents or Republicans; the odds ratio of 1.90 suggests that, on average, Democrats are 90 percent more likely to support the rule than are independents.

And why is this?

Social-psychological studies of political conservatism note that one of the central principles of that philosophy is reverence for tradition and a corresponding resistance to change. Conversely, those on the political left are typically more accepting — even welcoming — of change, particularly when those changes can be shown (or are believed) to yield tangible benefits. This line of reasoning suggests that those on the political right will be less likely to favor the DH rule, while those on the left will be more likely to support it.

Reinforcing our change-based rationale for the right’s opposition to the DH rule is its effect (actual or perceived) on the culture of the game. Opponents of the DH often make the claim that the practice seems to condone a lack of personal responsibility from the very players who play a pivotal (if not the pivotal) role in the game — pitchers and sluggers. One of the bedrock Judeo-Christian values woven through American history and society, they argue, is the notion that individuals take responsibility for their own actions and fulfill their obligations to community and country. By allowing pitchers to avoid hitting, and some batters to avoid fielding, the DH rule is suggestive of a larger-scale decline in the culture of personal responsibility in America over the past several decades. To the extent that political conservatives are more likely than liberals to be receptive to this line of reasoning (cf. Feldman and Zaller 1922), it reinforces our expectation that it is political conservatives — including individuals who identify with the Republican party — who most strongly oppose the rule.

And what are these “tangible results”?

In nearly all circumstances, teams substitute pitchers — who, lacking the motivation to practice batting, are often notoriously poor hitters — with individuals who excel at the plate but who may be lacking in defensive skills. This means that, since 1973, teams in the American League have sent roughly 12.5 percent more true hitters to the plate (Freeman 2004, 94).

I must point out here that it’s not how many hitters you have: it’s how many runs you score.

Still, if ever I decide to become a one-issue voter, this is the issue.

(Via Rodger Payne at The Duck of Minerva.)

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