Drinking from an empty cup.

•July 19, 2007 • 5 Comments

There is a scene in Music & Lyrics in which Drew Barrymore moves some boxes which are obviously “full” of air.  In Seven Brad Pitt’s character “drinks” from a coffee cup which is clearly empty.

I can spot an actor drinking from an empty cup from a mile away.  Sometimes there are giveaways—an audible “pop” when a paper cup is put down or the cup momentarily losing its balance when put down—but other times it’s just in the way the actor moves the cup to his or her mouth.

Making something look like it has weight and/or contents has to be, along with pretending to play an instrument, one of the hardest things for an actor to do.

The question is, why don’t they just put a drink in the cup or something weighty in the box?  That would solve/prevent the problem right there.

I should be a director, what?



•July 19, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Just finished P.G. Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves! (4/5 stars).  All recreational reading will now cease until the final instalment of the Harry Potter series arrives in the mail.  (I shouldn’t have pre-ordered it—I got 50% off, but was too cheap to pay for guaranteed release day shipping, so I may have to wait a couple of days after its release when I could have just bought it the day of at WalMart or Superstore for 40% off.  Alas…)

Now, let’s hope Randall will stay out of this

Independent bookstores I know and love.

•July 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

A High Fidelity moment.  In no particular order:

Books & Company, Prince George, BC — Books & Company was an overwhelming experience for a young man getting his first taste of the enjoyment of reading.  Huge selection, a store very similar to Regina’s Book & Brier Patch.  Treeplanters would come out of Books & Co. with stacks of books for reading in the bush.  I believe I purchased Catch-22 and The Slaughterhouse-Five, two formative books, at Books & Co.

Mosquito Books, Prince George, BC — Mosquito Books is a much smaller outfit with limited selection.  I mention it only because only they (of the Prince George bookstores) carried Handmade Forests: The Treeplanter’s Experience, an accurate depiction in text and photograph of the treeplanting experience (and a slightly romantic/nostalgic read for the treeplanting veteran).  Not only that, the proprieter of this establishment was willing to forward a copy of Handmade Forests to my brother and bill me for it—the man gave me, a complete stranger, a new book in good faith for future payment.  That alone is worth mentioning the store.

The Book & Brier Patch, Regina, SK — for nostalgic reasons: Dixie and I spent a lot of time there when we were dating and I asked her out in their coffee shop.  Great selection.  They always had lots of Tolkien material at a time when my obsession with the author was at its peak.

The used bookstore in the Sears discount store mall, Regina, SKAlso for nostalgic reasons.  It was my first used bookstore experience and kicked-off several years of incessant book-buying.  There selection wasn’t huge, but there was always something there.  I believe I bought a couple of Woody Allen books there.

The two used bookstores I visited in Guelph, Guelph, ON — one of them was possibly called Macondo Books.  The first store I’m thinking of is attractive mostly because of its idyllic setting: in an older part of the town with historic buildings, a little old-school shop with a wooden floor and great selection.  It helped that it was a rainy day the day I visited the store.  I bought Last Chance to See and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, among other books, there.

The other bookstore I’m thinking of is loved by my simply for the sheer volume of books it carried.  There were books from floor to 12-foot ceiling.  It was overwhelming and erotic in a non-sexual way, if that’s possible.  I don’t think I even put a (visual) dent in their stock in my time there.  I did, however, come away from there with Kierkegaard’s Fear And Trembling/The Sickness Unto Death.

Books N’ Things, Penticton, BC — a magical place.  There you will find books which aren’t there.  I went in looking for A Walk in the Woods and left the store with A Walk in the Woods, but as far as they knew, it wasn’t in stock and I couldn’t find it anywhere on the shelves.  It simply fell into my hands when I pulled an entirely different book of the shelf.   It’s a true story.  It’s also an overwhelming store, stock-wise.  I find their religion section impressive.  I would almost guarantee that there you will find the book you are looking for.

Westgate Books, Saskatoon, SK — they were a breath of fresh air after a dark encounter at Tramps.  They have good selection, great service and give good trade-in value (even if their prices might seem a bit high).

Honourable mention goes to McNally Robinson in Saskatoon.  I guess by definition they are an “independent bookseller”. but they are a chain and operate on a Chapters-Indigo Books level, so aren’t really what I have in mind with this post.

Feel free to add your own favourite independents in the comments.

The Haggler

•July 16, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Now that we own the van, I feel a little more free to talk about the experience.

I’ll begin by saying that our first car-buying experience (the Taurus wagon) wasn’t all that great.  Three problems I see, in retrospect, with that transaction:

  1. We really needed a car (our previous car broke down while on a ferry crossing the South Saskatchewan River).
  2. They had the car we really wanted (yes, we did want a station wagon) and we really wanted that car.
  3. We were green as green could be.
  4. They knew we were green as green could be.

Anyway, they barely budged on their asking price.  I think we managed to get their asking price, taxes in, so I guess they did go down a bit, but it was in no way a relaxing experience.  They wouldn’t even give us a full tank of gas!

Our dealings with Toyota were much different.  Perhaps they’ve got the game down better than the guys at Ford.  In any event, it was a much more satisfying experience.  Perhaps it helped that our sales rep was green as well.

We came to the dealership excited about the possibility of buying the van, but willing to walk away after a certain price.  We had come up with our ideal number, which involved an all-in number.  Our ideal price was to be our initial offer.  According to the research I had done, one should start at least $500.00 to $1,000.00 below the asking price.  Our ideal number was $1,600.00 below the asking price.

After 20 minutes of awkward note-taking and shifting around and wondering who would start this business and how, I told him what our ideal number was.  He then spoke for a while about showing his boss (it turns out he was only the go-between) that we were at least somewhat flexible and willing to give.  I thought his speech would end with the suggestion that we start with a higher price.  Much to my surprise and delight, he suggested we LOWER our initial offer by $700.00!  Maybe he was just playing us, but it made me feel good, so well done to him.

After what felt like a wholly unnecessary game of…whatever you’d call a game in which you write down a number and the guy leaves the office to talk with a higher up who, in turn, scribbles over your number and writes down one of his own, we settled on a price that was only $200.00 higher than our “ideal” price.  After 2.5 hours or so at the dealership—between inspecting the vehicle, test-driving and haggling—we came away feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

We may have been duped, we may have been played—Johnny Salesman may have pulled the proverbial wool over our eyes—but we very nearly got the price we had decided on beforehand, so what does it matter?

Now let’s hope and pray that this baby lasts us a good long time like a good Toyota should.

Should I buy the extended warranty?: a question for you car experts out there

•July 14, 2007 • 11 Comments

We just bought a 2002 Toyota Sienna (to be paid for and picked up on Monday).  It’s got about 106,000kms and it comes with a 1-year or 20,000km powertrain warranty.  Naturally, they want to sell me more.  They are offering a 2-year or 40,000km comprehensive warranty.

The powertrain warranty covers (selected parts within?):

  1. Engine
  2. Transmission/transaxle
  3. Front/rear wheel drive
  4. Cooling system
  5. Seals and gaskets/fluids and filters

The comprehensive plan covers (selected parts within?):

  1. Everything covered by the powertrain warranty
  2. Cooling system (more parts)
  3. fuel system
  4. front suspension
  5. rear suspension
  6. steering
  7. brakes
  8. electrical system
  9. air conditioning
  10. electrical switches
  11. all sensors and computers
  12. engine (exhaust manifold)

I don’t know enough about cars to know what’s what.  The big deal is the engine, which is covered by the powertrain warranty, but the other parts could be an issue as well.  While the Sienna is generally a reliable vehicle, one weakness listed by Consumer Reports is the brakes, which are not covered by the powertrain warranty.

My inclination is to skip the extended warranty.  The majority opinion of the interweb appears to be the same.

That said, while I was looking up extended warranty opinions, I noticed that there has been quite a flap about an “engine sludge” issue with Toyotas, an issue which could result in complete engine failure—a costly repair!  The question is (and I shall ask it before we hand over a cheque on Monday) whether the powertrain warranty would cover the sludge issue.  I suspect it does, but who knows.

I did do quite a bit of homework before buying this vehicle, but not enough, apparently.  Consumer Reports gives a resounding YES to Toyota and never mentions the sludge issue and Toyota’s reputation has been the highest for some time, so I’m a little taken aback.

It’s making me feel a little queezy.

That said, it’s a used vehicle and one never knows.  I might buy a Dodge or Ford that runs relatively problem free for 300,000kms.  I might buy a Japanese vehicle that gives me trouble from the get-go.  What can a person really do?  It all depends on who you talk to—different places will tell you different things about different vehicle makes.  What’s a person to do but take a chance (or not drive)?

Anyway, what is your opinion on getting the extended warranty?

And, has anyone heard about/dealt with this engine sludge issue?

Acoustic guitar preamp and piezzo pickup installation

•July 13, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I do this for posterity and for those who are looking for instructions, as I did.

It all begins, of course, with buying the product itself. I will assume you have already done so and will not trouble you with a thorough recounting of the adventures had by yours truly in doing so.

The first step, then, is locating a template. And you want a template, because you are going to be cutting into a fragile instrument and you have never done anything of the kind before and you don’t want to screw it up. So find a template. The Artec website provided templates for a variety of models. When you have printed off the template, make sure that it is to scale (Artec included measurements)—some software, such as Adobe Reader, will adjust graphics to fit the page (a setting which can be undone). Continue reading ‘Acoustic guitar preamp and piezzo pickup installation’

Precious moments.

•July 13, 2007 • Leave a Comment