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Name: Justine
Location: Annapolis, Maryland, United States

Justine, is a little bit more than you'd expect. This is where you are supposed to put your "elevator speech". What you'd say if you were in the elevator with somebody you wanted to connect with. I don't have an "elevator speech". If I ran smack-dab into one of my "heroes" I'd just have to smile and be polite and keep my yipper shut and that's probably for the best anyway!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Happy Ending

Have you seen me?


Happy ending. NO not the shady massage parlor "happy ending"! I mean the kind where you have freedom from fear, enough to eat, a home with working mechanical systems, and shoes that fit. I won't take it to the la-la land level of requiring an everlasting love affair with Mr. Hottie or a job that comes with a corporate jet. Just regular happy is used for my purposes here.

It's been tough on celebrities in the last week. The public has watched the passing of a clutch of public figures from my young life. Earlier in the month David Carradine started the mystery parade. Farrah Fawcett showed bravery and dignity. Billy Mays did "shock and amaze" us. Ed McMahon went to be with the major portion of the old guard on heavenly television. Fred Tavelina fell silent forever. Then there was Michael Jackson.

I've been dismayed at my behavior at Jackson's passing. I've caught myself tuning to CNN or going to the CNN homepage waiting for the cause of death to be determined. I keep hoping someone will turn up with a will that protects his children and gives them a safe home with their nanny. But none of that has come to pass. Only within the last few hours has Michael Jackson news released its grip on CNN's entire home page. It seems there will be years of legal wrangling and fighting.

More than that, the forecast appears to be for more pain and suffering, especially for Jackson's children. To be orphaned at the center of such a storm truly is a misfortune. Today claims have surfaced that the children are not genetically Jackson's and that because he didn't adopt them they may not be legally his children. Can you sense the monsters circling?

At the BET awards Jackson's father made the comment that he wished people had celebrated Michael while he was alive. I think he might have missed something.

Nobody had ever doubted that Michael Jackson was a consummate performer. However everybody noticed the toll life took on him. I believe most of the world was hoping that he could have some peace and healing. We were all pulling for Michael to have not a Peter Pan happy ending but a real world happy ending. We wanted him to have a stable home, happy family, peace, comfort, plenty, and a close matrix of kinfolk and friends that loved him for the man he was without the glitter.

When his life was cut short it meant our little wish for him to find happiness wouldn't come true. If a man with all that talent, wealth, and fame couldn't be saved from destruction, what hope did that leave for us?

I would posit that all the celebrations aren't hypocrisy but the world's way of trying to retroactively give Michael a good ending. As good an ending as possible.

His life and death were a tragedy played out in the public eye and no public protection agency, no counselor, no minister, nobody could stop it. We watched him maim himself with surgery. We saw him waste away to a tiny skeleton. We realized that in spite of his generosity and great heart, he didn't know how to live in an adult world. He gave off all the signs of another human being in distress and on the path to self-destruction.

Is there anyone who hasn't seen someone close destroy themselves with alcohol or drugs or any self-destructive behavior. In our deepest heart we want to help them, stop them, and save them. The sorrowful truth is, we can do very little.

Michael Jackson lived the tragedy in broad strokes on a worldwide canvas. He was an archetype of a pain we all know. We were all keeping our fingers crossed that just maybe he'd be saved and give us all hope.

Since that could not be, I believe we are all hoping that he is whole, loved, healed, and held safely in the arms Christ. Michael and everyone else we've watched loose the struggle for a happy ending.

PS. Wondering who is in the pic above? Nope it's not James May. Although today I do believe James May is probably having more fun than I am. James May is supposed to be on twitter and FiatPanda. But I can't believe James would ever Twitter. Dog the Bounty Hunter does so who knows?
Monday, June 29, 2009
Hidden Objects?



Despite the image sizes, there is an odd similarity.

The one on the left is Pharoh Akhenaten.

Apologies for not have better pics to compare, but you can ammuse yourselves with Google and find pics on your own.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Boil, boil, toil and trouble. .. . . .
The brilliant, white hot intensity of grief has left me a shining, smooth pebble in the sand.

Each pore, crack, or fissure that might have let in grief or sighed out pain has melted or broken away. I am worn smoother still by the ocean of overwhelm.

Life has remodeled me.

Today I am a tiny stone on waves edge. I am still. I feel nothing. I am another blank stone waiting to be faded to another color by the sun and the tide.

It is a familiar feeling, this blank hiding in plain sight. I got used to it as a child. I learned, like many children, to turn off pain and put it away in a box. I learned that being invisible was the best way to survive.

But I could never quite do it. Whatever I effaced on one side came out magnified somewhere else. Everything I bottled away brewed up a stronger Justine.

When asked for a defining moment in his life, James May said it was when he punched a bully choirboy in the face.

I don't know who I punched in the face or when, but somewhere along the line Justine stood up on her hind legs and fought back. I've been at it ever since it seems.

I may not be recognizable to a huge chunk of the world's population like James May but I do have a lot of what I set out to achieve. Today I have my own home, a nice car, and a stable job. I don't live in fear anymore. I do fairly much what I please. I have a treasure trove of good friends. I've come a long way towards a calm, balanced life.

Do I still want more? Sure I do. Am I surprised I could feel so charred and awash again? Not really. Survival mechanisms don't change. When they no longer serve, you have to fight them away.

This time I know what's going on and why the sky looks so wide and blue and the ocean so black and deep. This time I have my experience like a chart to guide me wherever I go next.

Is James May having more fun than Justine today? I doubt it. :)
Monday, June 22, 2009
Push Push In The Bush

Hit me baby one more time?


I had houseguests last weekend. You'd think that we would have raided the fridge crisper drawer full of bottled beverage bliss. Perhaps, you'd suspect, we went to the drive-in and spent a warm summer evening watching comedies. Maybe we went out somewhere posh for a nosh?

No we went out into the yard, armed with an electric hedge trimmer, loppers, and a box of trash bags, and attacked a shrub larger than my Caddy. We removed bags holding 133 gallons of vegtation from the lawn. It took my clipper wielding cohort an hour to fight back "the bush" from engulfing the air conditioner and one end of the house. I aided by raking up and bagging trimmings. Then I keeled over from the heat.

When the sun dipped below the tree line we went out again and attacked the border garden. A hapless EveningPrimrose I bought a few weeks ago was finally planted. Mulch was strewn about, briars were ripped up, and a box wood was slashed into proportion.

My little home looks like a picture postcard. If you ignore the plastic mailbox, it all looks like it would have in the 1960s when it was built. My friends have come to my rescue. I appreciate it.

Last summer I didn't get the shrubs and garden trimmed back. With the rainy spring and early summer season this year, everything had taken on gargantuan proportions. My hand clippers were no match for the rampant vegetation.

As Monday dawned I ambled out to work, leaving sleeping house guests. A stack of bagged yardwaste awaits recycling. I am feeling very, very blessed.
Friday, June 19, 2009
What is your tailor?

Have you been to the Goodwill?
Jeremy shows off a little something he picked up at a Goodwill Store in the U.S. James wears a shirt that looks like a double for one my mom made for me when I was in grade school. Richard looks like an add for an HBO special series. (Pic from Top Gear site.)


Ok, Mr. May is a fully grown man. He's able to make his own wardrobe choices. When he shows up on television wearing a a double of a shirt my mother made for me when I was in grade school I have to comment.

If he shows up on next week's Top Gear with the rest of the outfit I'm sure a lot of people will comment. My dark red flowered shirt had a coordinating solid color jumper dress with matching flowered lining. I still have the dress in my "keepsakes". The shirt is missing.

Richard, on the other hand, looks like he's doing a promo for HBO's TrueBlood. It would be quite a treat to see him as the newest Bon Temps Vampire.


Um, pool cue and balls?
Richard as the newest vampire heart throb in Bon Temps? Juicy or Looney?

He'd give Eric and Bill a run for their money. Heaven knows I'm sick of seeing Sookie's poonhound brother romping around naked.

Old but not moldy?
Eric, Vampire Sheriff of Area 5, ancient Norseman.



Poonhound
Sookie Stackhouse's HornDog brother "Jason"


Time to see some of the full grown boys work their "glamour".


5th Amendment
James as a Bon Temps vampire. He "glamours" entire audiences into remembering the Bernoulli Principle and the Mayard Reaction. Makes enormous fees working part time at a standardized test "cram school" in Japan. Spends the rest of his time in Bon Temps where his yard full of old cars is commonplace.


To add to the Top Gear excitement on the webberoo today, Jalopnik has a nice article about the opening of the Top Gear Museum exhibit opening today. Bop over at this link and take a look!

They even have the blood red Toyota Hilux that the highly esteemed Mr. May took to the North Pole. It still has a mangled running board from where Jezza bashed it on an ice bolder. It's hard to tell how the driver's side door still opens.

They even have the "Peniston Oils" & "Larsen's Biscuits" 24 hour racer on display.

It would be nice if the National Gallery or the Smithsonian would have a similar exhibit. The Smithsonian does have Big Daddy Don Garlitz's "Swamp Rat 13" on display. I don't think the National Gallery would consider the "Toyboata" or the "Heart Break Herald" as modern sculpture. They will display a huge hunk of metal shaped like a pencil, but a sea going car wouldn't be up their alley.


Judith Leyster
Judith Leyster Self Portrait (Pic from National Gallery of Art)


The NGA is going to host an exhibit of Judith Leyster's works this summer. Ms. Leyster is believed to have been a student of Frans Halls. She was married to fellow painter Jan Miense Molenaer. The exhibit includes works from all three.

Admission to the museum is free. The NGA will be giving FREE Gallery Talks on the exhibit. The gallery talks are guided tours given by experts on the paintings. A lot of the guides are very "into" the works and share their excitement and insight. It's worth a trip into DC on the metro.

I love the Dutch painters. Rembrandt seduced me a decade ago. I've been a Dutch junkie ever since. The NGA has had exhibitions of Jan Steen, Vermeer, and the lesser known artists of the Dutch Cabinet market.

I highly recommend the novel "The Lost Diaries of Frans Hals" to anyone who likes a mystery and wonders what life was like in that era.

While I was looking up the above book link I came across a similar novel called "Rembrandt's Whore". I'll be putting that in the "to read" stack and will chirp up in the blog if it's a good read.

I've taken a few stabs at "Girl With A Pearl Earring" but haven't gotten drawn into it.

I'm a Rembrandt nut who is drawing up her will. The lawyer is looking into a clause that will leave my estate for the purpose of maintaining the National Gallery's Self Portrait of Rembrandt. If all my loved ones go on before me, I want Remy's portrait to live on and seduce others the way it did me.



Oh beloved!
Rembrandt Self Portrait 1659 (Pic from National Gallery of Art)


Above is the NGA's photo of the portrait. In the canvas, the actual article looks very little like that photo. Remy's eyes are green. The color of the Atlantic ocean in the evening. From 35 feet away that gaze stops you in your tracks.

The expression on his face is crisp, clear, and immediate. The flesh tones glow with life. You gaze down 350 years and straight into a living face. The expression is recognizable. The message is as clear as the look on an old friend's face.

I remember the day I met him. I was in the NGA looking for information on the Pre-Raphaelite. All the reference guides emphasized how the Pre-Raphaelite were rebelling against chiaroscuro . Any time I looked for a master of the chiaroscuro technique the references cited Rembrandt. I decided to take a look at the Raphael Madonna and give the Rembrandt gallery a gander.

Wandering down the main hallway towards the Raphael I caught a pair of eyes staring at me from across the crowd. I turned my head, looked into those oceanic eyes, and walked over to the portrait.

For all the detail, romance, and frippery in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings, there is nothing like the life in the self-portraits of the chiaroscurro master.

A Rembrandt Self Portrait, a home made ocean going car, a Jeremy Clarkson column, and a plasticine flower garden, they all hang together in my personal gallery.

If the time-space continum bent itself so that Rembrandt could paint a portrait of James May portraying an erudite vampire in an HBO televsion series... would I call it art?

Oh yeah, I would.


Let's Party!
Early Rembrandt etched self portrait.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Share a bite with me?
Come escape the everyday with Bill Compton!

Oh James

Oh James!
The Highly Esteemed Mr. James May.
At the UK Preview of Valkyrie. Pic from Yahoo


Don't think for a minute that I don't notice that whoever made the shirt James is wearing in the pic above matched the patterns on the button placket.

That is an amazing thing. Considering how much fabric has to be folded over to make the facing for the buttons, it is a very amazing thing that the flowers all form together perfectly when the shirt is buttoned.

I have also noticed that it has been one year since I set out on my one year challenge to include Top Gear and Mr. May in all my posts.

Almost a year to the day after I discovered the romp that is Top Gear, mom passed away.

Mr. May and the Top Gear group saw me through a year of turmoil.

That's what entertainment does. It gives you a tiny something bright in the distance to focus on when your everyday life is a pitch black tar swamp.

Thank you Mr. May.

Which brings me to the question, "Now What?"

I've remodeled the house. Now I'm in the process of remodeling myself. So much of my time and energy have been wrapped up in being a caregiver. Now I'm at loose ends.

I also must admit, as much fun as it has been riffing on him, Mr. May is a public figure who works in a place far across the sea. He writes about motoring, toys, space travel, wine, and his Woman. I am not a personal acquaintence.

What am I going to do with this blog now?

What is your opinion?

I'm not even sure I have any readers. The usual loquacious "R" has slipped from the scene.

Chirp up readers! I need your feedback.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Celestial Navigation?
Monday. Oh yum.

Not yummo. Oh no, not a Rachel Ray fan.

Catching up on the highly esteemed Mr. May's column this morning, I read he has a navigation cert. Guess he would have to be able to pilot a plane.

I too have taken formal navigation courses. Coastal navigation. I still have the tools and the text book. The class nav chart was chopped up and fed into the collage work a while back. I remember it included "Buzzard's Bay". I don't know if it was the Buzzard's Bay mentioned in the Buffett song "Volcano".

Coastal navigation makes so much sense when you've got the chart on a stable table on dry land. Once you hit the water, all bets are off on me finding anything. I don't get sea sick, I get vertigo.

I've read somewhere that the highly esteemed Mr. May gets vertigo as well.

I've also read a recent interview with Mr. May that says he doesn't take well to being a popular figure. He mentions female fans leaving things for him at his local pub.

Ten years ago I went to the UK with a friend who was bonkers about a Britt actor who lived in London. I went with her on her search for the pub in his neighborhood. I had instructions that, if she should become too fruity, I was to toss my coat over her head and shoulders and drag her away. I suppose I was supposed to say her blood sugar was low or she was off her medication.

We had a nice pub lunch someplace down the street from Anna Pavlova's old house. Then I grabbed her by her camera strap and dragged her back down the subway before I keeled over from embarrassment.

Good heavens! I would not go on the "prowl" for anyone. That includes the highly esteemed Mr. May.

I would go to a book signing and buy an autographed book. I would like to be in a TG audience one day. If the genuine illustrious Mr. May offered to become a regular contributor to my web site, I'd snap that up. I'm not going out stalking.

I'm way to old for that. :) If I was 21 with slim hips and perky boobs it might be excusable to behave like an overheated radiator. At my stage of life I'd get locked up until I was through menopause!


Is that you I smell?
This snow leopard is definitely not stalking James May!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Thinking outside the box?

Nobody puts Baby in a box?
"You don't just think outside the box, you've never even seen the box." - Software Company Tech about me.


I've seen the box. Trust me. I've seen about 15 of them. They've been stacked in the dining room since April.

Inside those plain brown paper wrappers are my chap books, art journals, pens, markers, crayons, pastels, paper punches, book binding tools, embossing supplies, paints, and inks.

As much as I want to play in my new studio, one thing keeps me from unpacking and proceeding to frolic.

It's those boxes!

In August of 2006 I started dismantling my mother's household. I swept from there to packing my own household and moving. I topped that off by combining both sets of stuff and then remodeling the house I was living in. I've been packing, sorting, tossing, and donating almost for 3 years. The last chunk of junk is piled up around my house. With mother's passing I acquired a large number of framed artworks. Nothing much more.

What lurks is the final pass through the house to toss junk, thin down possessions, organize accessibility.

This means, attacking more boxes, more trash bags, and more sorting.

I know that lurking in the guest room closet are three boxes of mom's paperwork. There are photo albums, Missy's ashes, a green velvet smoking jacket, paisley pajamas, and a silverware case with a leg missing. The "storage" room has become a disheveled mess stacked with artwork, end tables, and footstools. The whole shooting match needs to be sorted out again. My dream of orderly and accessible storage has been dashed.


Oh Darling!


Facing another 40 or 80 hours of sack and stack seems like facing a channel swim ten minutes after a near drowning experience. There's one little thought that says, "After all the last few year's unpacking this is a cakewalk." Then there's the other little thought that says,"If you open one more box I'm going to give you a stroke just so I don't have to unpack it. For heaven's sake go do something fun." Then a third little thought pipes up, "Fun. What the hell is that?" At that point a forth little thought pipes up and says "I don't know what I want to do for fun." Then the fifth little thought stabs me right in the head with, "See, you are such a screw up! You can't finish up your house and you don't even know what fun is anymore!"

It's only a five thought walk from observing boxes to being ready to run in front of a beer truck.

James May must have more fun than this! If he doesn't, I truly feel badly for him. I wonder if he ever goes home and longs to set a match to everything and run away? Does he have a secret junk room full of mismatched pieces of scale railroad track, broken Scalectrix cars, outdated neckties, photo albums, vinyl records, and rolled up car posters? Doesn't everyone?
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Burn Baby Burn

My old flame?
Cozy fire munches on McLaren (Pic from Top Gear site.)


My brain is bubbling merrily away as I write this. I could cite grief, menopuase, exhaustion, poor nutrition, bad lighting, boredom, or divine discontent as the cause for the engine knock in my conk.

Another almost sleepless night left me taking a few hours off this morning for some extra "zzz"s. Once again I have not made a complete 5 day workweek. As hard as I struggled to get this job, it doesn't make me very satisfied. I've been at the "wait for work and read manuals" stage for two and a half years now.

When I received work on my last posting, I hated the work. I wasn't good at it, I hated it. It was hired on to do DBA work and got tossed into the tuning group. I took the work because I needed the money. I'd spend several days cooking up a solution for a poorly performing program. Then the customer would refuse to implement the solution. Then they'd complain because I didn't fix the problem so that they didn't have to change anything. I would have been fine if I had come on board as a junior member of the team but I was put on the project after several people quit. It was a sucky job. Part of me realizes that it was a no win situation. Part of me thinks I should have put on my super hero costume and rose to the occasion. The smart part of me had sense enough to get another job.

That brings me to this posting. I got a pay raise to take this job. I'm back to doing the work I'm comfy with. I've been able to roll along with anything given to me. I'm going to get to cut my teeth on installing a test system next week.

But I still feel like Bunny Brain Bertha. I've had so little to do for so long that my skills feel rusty as old hat pins. I used to be the "go to girl" and now I feel like the "done gone granny".

My performance review was "satisfactory". I'm not in danger of being tossed to the sharks.

But cheese and crackers I feel like a slug! A ludite slug who will explode in grey slug gooo if it has to read one more computer manual.

Manuals without having a system to play with equals a big fat ZIP! I don't learn or retain anything anymore.

ARGGGGGHHHH!

Ok, now I feel much better.

This has been a test of the emergency insecurity system.
This was only a test.
Had this been an actual nervous breakdown you would have been instructed which hospital I had been taken to.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
MERT, My Standard Road Test
In the June issue of "Top Gear" magazine James May takes the stand that tuning for the Nurburgring has ruined the feel of many a car.

Of course this leaves me feeling a bit sheepish. My car touts being "ring tuned" as a selling point.

Not having been to Germany or having driven a quarter of a million dollar "performance" car I have no true idea of what James is talking about.

However I do know that I picked my car because when I took it through the MERT it held the road like it was glued down.

MERT, Maryland Exit Ramp Test.

It's a little known fact that if you are able to run a road grader in a safe and sane way or if you are able to design an exit ramp to actually looks like a "clover leaf", the state of Maryland will not hire you for road works. There are no exit ramps on the beltway or the bypasses and interstates in this area that have banked, wide radius ramps. Every ramp is designed to toss you in a ditch, up a tree, or into a concrete wall. The ramps either aren't banked or are banked at bizarre angles that line you up to become airborne when you hit the sudden ninety degree turn at the end of the ramp. Exit 2 on I695 doesn't just do a 360, it does an un-banked right 360 coupled to a left 90 in a question mark configuration. If you take this ramp too fast you have the thrill of crashing into the concrete pillars of the exit ramp bridge you just came down.

If a car can navigate a test drive with several ramps, chances are it will do as much "Nurburgringing" as you can stand.

My militant little Cadillac did that. Despite forced repairs to its leaky trunk, blinking "check engine light", and disintegrated wheel bearing it still corners like a champ.

A few weeks ago "W", a small pickup truck driver, was in the car with me on the way back from the hardware store. As we bolted off the highway onto a curvy ramp he threw his hands up on the dashboard and yelled "Curve, curve CURVE!".

I popped my foot onto the brake and we rumbled onto the shoulder. I stared for something in the roadway ahead. I scanned the woods for an oncoming deer. There was nothing but open road and some vehement sunshine.

"W" settled back into the seat. He wiggled his fingers at the road ahead, waving me to drive on.

I sped up and moved back onto the road.

A tiny quiet voice from the passenger side mumbled, "We would have flipped over in my truck."

"Oh," I tried not to smile. "We would have been run over if I hadn't gotten onto the ramp and away from that truck behind us."

Different vehicles, different driving styles.

"W" is the official handy man and lawn mower of four households. He loads his riding mower into his truck and takes his show on the road for a bevy on aged female relatives.

A Cadillac isn't made for hauling lawn equipment. It's made for driving to the bank to withdraw money to pay my lawn guy.

James may scoff, but I feel my choice of a CTS was an informed and deliberate one. James lists the "Official Nurburgring Hymn" in his article. He goes on to say that the ring is a ". . . dangerous cult that will spread mullets throughout decent society."

Neither "W" or I have a mullet so I think we're still safe. I sort of doubt that Mazda is going to start speed tuning its runabouts on the ring, so "W" is permanently safe. I, on the other hand, may always be in peril.

Perhaps that is why James is a motoring journalist and I am a computer jockey.

Oh James, once again you have more fun.

At this point, you may have overcome the pea green web design and the whining about exit ramps to realize I'm going on about the June issue of a UK magazine.

That's right. I now have a subscription to "Top Gear Magazine". It was a Christmas present and the first issue landed in my mailbox on what was a very awful day in May.

I wasn't sure what to expect as I pried off the plastic wrapper. Would it be a combination of "16 Magazine" and "Car Porn Weekly"? Would it be soft focus portraits of Hammond, Clarkson, and May with some slick car bumpers added for shine? Oh no, it's an honest-to-yummy-goodness real auto magazine.

There are a few unusual advertisements for "spot cream" and "exotics for hire" but for the most part "Top Gear Magazine" is a thick, juicy, glossy paged car mag. This issue has a buyer's guide, test drives, articles by the TG 3, plenty of good reporting, and some nice car porn pics.

Mr. May even takes a test drive of Honda's CBR1000RR and then kicks out some sweet prose about it. "W", who works in the Honda motorcycle trade, even appreciated James' review.

"W" was even more surprised, that "Top Gear Magazine" is a "real magazine" and not a slap-dash television spin off rag.

I am too, since issues of TG Mag will be piling up in my living room stack-o-goodies. Part of me wants to keep them in a slip cover like an automotive version of "National Geographic". Part of me wants to slice them to bits with a razor blade and shove the photos into collages in my notebooks. I have a feeling that I will compromise. Reference articles will be sliced out and put in my "binder of crap I refer too" and the rest will be trimmed out and churned into my art chapbook.

I imagine the "Nurburgring Hymn" will have a nice place front and center on a sepia tinted page will allusions to my dark desire for a car that costs more than my house.



Jezza, Fezza, Chezza!
Monday, June 08, 2009
Back in green?
The blog needed a color update. The somber black had to go. I'm don't have access to a garage any more so the garage pic had to go.

This version is rockin' the art nouveau graphics I had on hand. If you logged in for a while on Saturday I had a "fish" motiff going on.

On Sunday I found the rest of my graphics books and tried this little bubble riff.

Pea green wasn't my first choice of colors. However I liked the reapeating bubbles. "Screamy" just seemed to fit for the banner pic. There are some color corrections to do with the body, perhaps I'll get to those tonight.

It's amazing how long it takes to do this stuff.

When the rest of my studio supplies are unpacked, I want to create my own background design.

I also widdened the page design. It's now for a minimum 1100 px wide. Most all screens have gone pass the old 800 width limit. This makes for less scrolling up and down.

Please send me a comment and let me know what you think of the changes.

Thanks! Justine
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
I want your. . .
Spellchecker.

Yep, it wouldn't hurt one bit if I ran these blog entries through a spellchecker before I hit the "publish" button.

When I look published page, I sometimes cringe at the spelling gaffs. I'm trying not to think about some of punctuation and grammar that wangle out either!

It's all part of a cunning plan. "A plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel!", as Black Adder would say. I write this blog for fun.

That's it. I write this missive to the digital desert just to write something. I howl into the bitmap wind only for the sake of the howl. If I don't write, I don't thrive. (The last long stretch of life has been my journey across the Nafud.)

Today I think I'll bark about cars. Last night I drifted off to sleep with Top Gear Series 10 in the DVD player. James May was cursing an Aston Martin N24 as I dozed off. The last I remember was the roaring of the car and James shouting "crushed testicles".

Apparently the Aston Martin racer had almost no dampening in the suspension and James was being bashed on the bottom by an unpadded racing seat. Cars are equal opportunity maimers though. I don't think anyone connected with the seat belt industry has breasts over an A cup size. Every car I've had has strategically placed the shoulder belt so that it attempts a brutal partial mastectomy during a panic stop.

Granted I'd rather need breast repair than slam my skull into the steering wheel. However, I think somebody could build a crash test dummy that looks like the actual people who drive cars. If the research department doesn't know what variety of humans will be driving their cars they should ask the marketing department.

If a car is meant to be marketed to American women over 30 who make under 100K a year, then you know from the blithering media reports that your target driver is short, plump, and frazzled.

Ford made a good stab at the SPF market with their adjustable pedals. In the Sable/Taurus they even set up the controls so a short driver could reach the dash. They included nifty key remotes that opened the trunk and triggered security lights. They engineered the car to earn a 5 star crash rating. They added fold down seats and pass through options that made a Sable able to haul as much cargo as a Honda PlaySkool van. Then Ford dropped the ball entirely by producing the shittiest domestic car electrical system in modern times. They compounded their fumble by setting up the system so the first thing to fail on in cabin electrics was the front defrost.

My Sable began its failure with a flourish on Christmas day. I took my mom and friend "D" out to the light display at Sandy Point State Park. Halfway through the drive we had to open the windows because the damn car decided that the defrost button really meant air conditioning. All the windows fogged over like we were having a road going orgy. I cranked the windows down and we drove through the display with Christmas music blasting from the radio and the dashboard blasting swampy hot air.

When I took the swamp mobile to be repaired I was told the problem wasn't with the dashboard air diverter but with the 900$ computer chip that controlled on board electronics. This is the same module that had been replaced 6 months earlier after it blew out the window motors, the air conditioner, and the sun roof motor. Except the second time around the car was out of warranty.

I started shopping for a distinctly non-Ford product. Since it two years before I anticipated needing a new car, I had to enter used car circuit. I turned to the only car info source I could really trust, Top Gear.

I knew I didn't want a vintage Lancia Beta Coupe. A 1963 Opel Kadett was impractical for beltway traffic.


Oliver!
The Fabulous Oliver after restoration. (Pic from Top Gear site.)


I tried the "Top Gear Car Selector" only to find I was uniquely aligned with cars not available in the United States. The next best thing was to look at the road tests. I watched Jezz, The Stig, James, and Richard motor and rant. I wrote my short list.

It was a 28 degree evening when I ambled out into the fenced pen of mechanical menace that is the CarMax Laurel lot. In the lamplight gleamed Mercedes AMGs, Mitsubishi Evos, Audi sport models, seductively sculpted Jaguars, and elusive models of every ilk. I blotted my lips with my scarf, daubing at a thin line of drool. Here were cars I had only seen in flickering images on the television screen.

In reverie I rambled the lot. I reached out a tenuous finger to touch the door handle of a Jaguar Unattainable. A salesman leaped out the darkness and wedged his body between mine and the dark steel I desired.

"This is a beautiful car!" He barked.

I latched fingers on the door handle, holding on for a moment more. I was touching beauty, insensate beauty. The touch tingled through me making my coat feel warmer.

"Yes it is." I was wistful.

The salesman seemed to respect that. He stepped back. Perhaps the look in my eye told him that I was not just a status seeker but a true car fan looking for a little sweetness in everyday life.

The salesman gave me the ten second sizing-up glance. I let go of the Jag. Slowly I reached into a coat pocket for my candidate short list.

I read slowly out loud. The man clipped "We have that here." calmly after each entry but I noticed his eyebrows twitch.

We were rambling across the lot to the first test drive when he said, "I'm not going to have trouble with you am I?"

Loud laughter wasn't the reassuring response he wanted but I laughed at him anyway.

"Look at me sugar! Do I look like Lewis Hamilton? I drive forty miles a day on the beltway. I just want to have a little fun before I die."

He gave me a hard look and I winked at him. From then on we were fine.

I bought Cadillac CTS with the shift override feature. I named him Oliver. For all his trunk leaks he zips along nicely and handles like nothing I've ever driven before. Jezza and the lads didn't lead me wrong.

My car excitement seemed over until I scrape up enough scratch to go car shopping again. But today a missive slipped through the electronic mail slot that set me tingling. The Skip Barber racing school is opening an AMG Driving Academy! Mercedes is sending a selection of 2011 SLS AMG models for school use. The first classes are in September in Lime Rock Park CT. They're 20% off until June 12th for heaven's sake!

I have lost all reason. Even re-reading the email has me ready to leap on the desk and do the "Snoopy Dance". As I sit awash in the gleaming, scintillating excitement, I secretly know that I can't go to Lime Rock Park in September. There are three reasons that leap to mind. Firstly, I wont' have the vacation time. Secondly, I won't have the spare cash. Thirdly, I'm in no health to go to racing school.

Yes, yes, I know I promised myself racing school in 2009. AMG school is just making the shimmering ring even brighter. (For your amusement I will now argue with myself.) The obstacle of vacation time is easily overcome. Work is installing a new software release this summer. I can pull and bank 40 hours of Comp time with ease.

The option of spare cash is harder to over come. However I would be willing to scrimp, wrap pennies, and take out a line of credit to do this. I could also work more overtime and bank it as cash.

The third hurtle is a little more daunting.

Let's just leave it there.

I haven't been this excited in a very long time. This is where desire and ingenuity team up to make change. I just registered for "More Class Info". Let's see what the universe comes up with.

Wickedly Yours,
Justine


Glrrrggggg
Advanced Intel Photo of the 2011 Mercedes SLS AMG
Monday, June 01, 2009
Pink Icing Monday
Pink Icing. Sounds so Innocent doesn't it?

Frilly little girl birthday cakes with plastic ponies and ballerinas come to mind.

The taste of "pink" twinges the memory. In the way back days when icing was made out of sugar and not used motor oil, "Red" had a distinct taste. "Pink", by association, had a similar taste. It was sort of a flat, root vegetable note. It was not as palatable as the mysterious "Blue Icing Flower" taste or the subtle "Yellow Writing Icing" twang.

I want sugary icing back!

The hell with this chain store fake butter cream/cool whip petrochemical based splooge!

America's Test Kitchen & Alton Brown have recipes for 7 minute boiled icing in their current rotations. It makes me want to make a cake just to see if all is as teeth achingly good as I remember.

My commenter "R" has suggested that she perhaps would elect for pink icing instead of Bacon Salt as a topping for an esteemed journalist.

This made me wonder if a man, any man, were to be draped in pink icing for recreational purposes. . . would the icing be pink or would you just put the icing on the pink parts?

Industrial fake-butter butter cream would certainly throw a wrench into the festivities! Would boiled sugar icing be better because it can be slurped completely away?

What flavor of icing to choose? Rosewater tint. Orange extract? Vanilla? Chocolate? (Perhaps that is too outre')

Cognac is best served warm, approaching body temperature. Pouring it on the skin releases the beautiful bouquet and the salt of the skin heightens the taste.

Not that this works with young, lousy cognac. That will still taste like gasoline with rug cleaner thrown in it no matter what you do to it.

Besides it's difficult to get cognac on a reclining human body without making it look like you're adding fuel for a ceremonial fire. It just seems to say, "Here darling let me douse you with flammable liquid and strike a match."

A small sea sponge with a touch of cognac perhaps would make it civilized. But then alcohol cools the skin and it doesn't help to give the shivers to a man you are trying to seduce.

That leads me back to bacon salt and pink icing. Some would chime up and say "whipped cream". But that's back into chemical splooge territory. Of course you can always make fresh whipped cream but it is a bit conspicuous to excuse yourself and go fire up the Kitchen Aid. The whirring of a viciously powered kitchen machine only says "hot sex is on its way" to a select few. (Remember Kitchen Aids also have meat grinder and sausage stuffer attachments.)

Movies have come up with all sorts of idealized comestibles adventures. Seriously how many couples over 30 are going to trash everything in the fridge-freezer and boink away in the cabinet? We're all thinking about how much we paid for the food and how much trouble it's going to be to clean up.

We are not even going to mention vegetable follies at this juncture! That brings to mind pay-for-view web sites and infections that won't clear. Plus there's not much way to make a basket of raw veggies seem romantic.

Nope, kissing, licking, mouth oriented creatures that humans are there will always be nibbling. The allure of strawberries and champagne, chocolate sauce, and edible underwear will remain. The trick is to avoid the pitfalls associated with any slurp related romantic prop.

Remember back in the old days of sugar icing? Way back in the 1970's? Back then any man with enough testosterone and genetic predisposition to produce a fine crop of chest hair was considered to be packing a "big block" engine under the hood? Remember checking out guys in swim suits and low waisted jeans for the "goodie trail" of fur from the belly button to the "mystery zone"?

Somewhere along the line "hair" went out of fashion, now men are supposed to be shorn like sheep and waxed into an adolescent look. Women as well for that matter. But that doesn't seem to be linked to a quest for ease of clean up after a pink icing and bacon salt romp.

Since when did we get so squeamish about being human? We're engineered to be hairy, like sugar, be randy, and play with our food. Sometime since the 70's the we've lost a chunk of our humanness. People buy into whatever eating mandate the media touts as life prolonging. "Making love" has been packaged as "hit that". Casual sex has been going on since humans found out they had genitals. But at least for a while in the 50's , 60's, and 70's there was a veneer of politeness and consideration to it. Romance was at least paid lip service. That social veneer has peeled off.In the music, behavior, and media, the standard operating procedure is to go out, find a person who looks like your flavor, boink them, and run away. There are no nuances or subtle piquant flavors of learning about a lover. Lovers aren't even lovers anymore, they are "whores" and "players". Everybody is devalued to a set of genitals in a vending machine atmosphere. Got a yen? Go down to the club and nosh on the sexual vitality of another human being with the ease and lack of thought you'd give to buying a Mars bar out of a vending machine. Junk Sex.

I know this is nothing new. Caligula was quite the party boy. But even his 'peeps' decided they had their limits and "little boots" was dispatched to the great orgy across the river Styx.

I started with a thought about bacon salt and pink icing. The corruption of the 12 Caesars isn't a suitable place to wind up.

Dissolving into the old George Michael song "I Want Your Sex" wouldn't be any better.

Perhaps I am too reminiscent for pink icing, furry chests, and an era when I still had some belief in romantic love.

I will leave you with a link to Alton Brown's recipe for Coconut Cake and 7 Minute Frosting. Click Here to enjoy!

Cover me with syrup?
Pic from Food Network Site.


I'll even sweeten the deal by putting in a link to my favorite homage to icing gone wrong, Cake Wrecks!


Oh baby!
The Infamous Mohawk Carrot Riding Babies! (Pic from Cake Wrecks site.)


Note: No place in this entry did I mention that the Stig smells like peanut butter. Nor did I speculate on the hirsuteness of any public figure. Nor did I mention that I stood in line for almost 2 hours to get Alton Brown's autograph on my cookbook. Nor did I mention Mr. Brown has amazing deep and vital green eyes. The lights are on and the hamster is trucking in that man's head!