Thursday, October 29, 2009

State Fair - Food

I went to the State Fair of Texas this year. Twice actually. Originally I was just going to go on Columbus Day since I had the day off from work and I thought it would be relatively non-crowded. And it wasn't since it was a cool and drearily-overcast day. However, I found that I just didn't have enough time to see everything that I wanted to see and eat everything that I wanted to eat. And so many photo ops! So I went back on the last day of the Fair the following Sunday. And spent about 9 hours (!) there.

I have so many photos that I thought it might be a good idea to break them into categories. For the first category I have chosen "Food".

One of the biggest draws to the Fair is the wide variety of exotic foodstuffs. Due to the hectic schedule that I maintained while there I didn't get to try as many things as I had planned, but I had enough.

I didn't try any of the alligator stuff. I've had alligator before, and it was OK although a bit chewy for my tastes.

Chicken fried bacon was new last year, and it won the 2008 "Best Taste" prize in the competition that is held before the Fair every year. Last year I thought it sounded awful, but the more I thought about it this year the more I thought it might actually be good. I had decided to try some on the second day that I went, but I ran out of time! You can literally spend all day in line for foodstuffs if you want to try lots of things. Maybe next year...

You can also see a new item on the menu board in this photo - fried pork chips. They were very thin pieces of pork battered & fried. I don't think they sounded all that great.

The corny dog is the granddaddy of Fair foods. It's more commonly known as the "corn dog".
The Fletcher people claim to have invented the corny dog right here at the State Fair of Texas, although there is some dispute over this assertion.

There's no comparison between freshly-made corn dogs and frozen ones.

This is my day 2 dog. Mustard seems to be the preferred condiment in Texas. I got laughed at as a kid for putting ketchup on a corny dog. I actually think ketchup tastes pretty good on them too though.

See it glistening in the sun.

This was my day 1 dog. This one was actually a bit better because there was no line, therefore it hadn't sat around long after coming out of the fryer. It was piping hot perfection. Look at that golden brown color!

I didn't get any cotton candy - I just liked the way this stand looked. I also like that the girl buying CC is wearing a hooded jacket & gloves (!), meanwhile the kid in the background is wearing a short-sleeved shirt (as was I). I mean, it was cool, but it wasn't cold.

Here's a guy slicing "Tornado Taters". They're very thinly sliced and then fried (of course).

I posted this photo the other day for comedic effect. This was the fried butter stand. Fried butter got all the attention as the craziest new food item this year. I didn't try it. The lines were absolutely mammoth. From what I understand it tasted like a really buttery biscuit.

This is the winner of the 2009 Best Taste award - Fried Peaches & Cream. I thought the lines were long for this on day 1, but I had to wait in line for close to an hour on Sunday night. The stuff in the cup was a creamy vanilla icing. It was pretty good, the fried coating went well with the peaches. I was really impressed with the presentation considering how many of these they were churning out.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 26, 2009

Up In The Air

I spotted this at a nearby construction site. I like the strangeness of this usually earthbound piece of equipment being so high up in the air.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wilco Plays Dallas

The Friday before last I went to see Wilco in concert. I have to admit that although I was aware of Wilco & Jeff Tweedy, I really had never been exposed to their music before. I'd heard good things about them for years, but somehow never got around to checking them out. In August a friend of mine told me about this show and asked me if I wanted to go, and I immediately said yes.

I wanted to try and get as close to the stage as possible, so we showed up about an hour and a half before the doors were scheduled to open. The wait went by quickly, and we were able to get a spot up front on the right side of the stage.

The opening act was Liam Finn. I didn't know this until the next day, but Liam is the son of Neil Finn of Crowded House fame. Liam's "band" consisted of him and a woman named EJ. Liam mostly played guitar and sang, although he also switched over to a drum set at a couple of points (even in the same song in which he started on guitar). He would often record a guitar or even bass part and then loop it so he could switch to another instrument. He is a high energy performer, and he had a couple of "spaz outs" for lack of a better term. I rather enjoyed his set. During one of his spaz outs he flung his guitar pick and it landed right in front of me, so I now have it as a memento.

After the break in between sets, Wilco came out to the strains of the "Price Is Right" theme song and launched into "Wilco (The Song)". They played about 7 songs before any type of between song banter materialized. After that Jeff Tweedy addressed the crowd quite a bit, and seemed to be having a pretty good time. At one point an audience member wearing a gold lamé shirt traded shirts with Jeff. The audience member actually wanted the drummer's shirt (which had all these patches on it), but the drummer wouldn't part with it.

I really enjoyed this show. The band was top-notch and the sound was good. And I think we definitely got our money's worth because they played 27 songs over 2 and a half hours. I think I would've liked it even more if I had been more familiar with the songs (I couldn't participate much on the sing-alongs). The crowd was really into it, and I can tell that Wilco has developed a very devoted audience. Seeing this show definitely sparked my interest in tracking down some Wilco CDs. If they roll through here again I plan to be there.

1.Wilco (the Song)
2. A Shot in the Arm
3. One Wing
4. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
5. Bull Black Nova
6. You Are My Face
7. Company in My Back
8. Kamera
9. Handshake Drugs
10. I'll Fight
11. Cars Can't Escape
12. Impossible Germany
13. Sonny Feeling
14. Hate It Here
16. I'm the Man Who Loves You
17. Hummingbird

Encore 1:
18. Theologians
19. Jesus, Etc.
20. Can't Stand It
21. You Never Know (with Liam Finn)

Encore 2:
22. The Late Greats
23. Heavy Metal Drummer
24. Kingpin
25. Casino Queen
26. Hoodoo Voodoo
27. I'm A Wheel

Liam Finn

Eliza Jane, AKA "EJ"

Spazzing out

After trading shirts

Wearing Liam Finn's sweater

Here are some videos I found on YouTube:

Wilco (The Song):

Trading shirts:

Jesus, Etc.:


Monday, October 19, 2009

Something For Everyone

I went back to the State Fair again yesterday. I didn't get to see everything that I wanted to when I went last week, the weather was beautiful, and yesterday was the last day of the Fair. There was definitely no shortage of photo ops. I haven't had time to pick out all the ones I want to post yet, so for now I will just post one that cracks me up. Because apparently I have the sense of humor of an 8 year old.

They haven't quite resorted to this yet, but at the rate things are going I'm sure they will.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stuck In The Mud

I know this post is too long, so feel free to skim if that’s your thing.

Last Saturday evening didn’t turn out the way I had planned.

I was planning to drive out to a little cemetery about 40 miles from my house to do some more research for a family member who’s into genealogy. Like I did here. In fact, this cemetery is pretty close to the one I went to in May, and I wanted to go back there too to take some photos of the bison herd that is across the road from it.

The cemetery I was heading to is very small and is located along a small country road. As I noticed that many of the county roads I was seeing were dirt or gravel, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I wouldn’t be able to drive down them because we’ve been deluged by rain for the last month. However, when I got to my turn-off, the road looked to be fairly hard-packed gravel, and although bumpy it was easily drivable. I took a right turn at a T in the road, and the gravel continued up to a driveway on the left that led to a house about a football field-and-a-half away. Beyond the driveway the road was dirt. Only it wasn’t dirt – it was mud. Lots of mud.

I thought I would be OK if I drove with my tires out of the ruts in the road. I was wrong. The going was very rough, and my car got stuck and wouldn’t go any further. An initial bout of panic set in as I realized that I was stuck. After getting out and looking at the situation, I decided to try and see if I could drive in reverse back to the gravel road. The road wasn’t big enough to turn the car around. I got back in the car, put it in reverse, and after some hesitation the car started moving backwards. I went maybe about 20 feet back towards the gravel road when I got stuck again. My tires were spinning so fast that they started smoking. Crap.

The passenger side of the car was in a deep rut that was filled with water. The front end was lodged up against the raised spot in the middle of the road (although I didn’t know this until later). I tried to go forward and backward several times, but the car wouldn’t budge. Not good.

At this point, I still thought I could get myself out of it. “I’ll just get something under that tire to get some traction, and then I’ll just haul ass backwards out of here” I thought. Um, not so much. I put all kinds of crap in that rut – long grass from the side of the road, gravel from the good part of the road, some brick pieces that I found by the driveway to the house, my passenger-side floor mat – but nothing worked. While I was doing this, three dogs appeared from the area of the house and started making their way towards me. When they made it out to the road they gave a few half-hearted barks, but when they sensed that I wasn’t a threat they came over to me.

This was a pretty motley dog crew. There was a little one that looked to be part Pekingese, a lab that was either pregnant or nursing, and a large dog that was part boxer and part something else. They appeared to be farm dogs and thus were not exactly the cleanest animals. I didn’t mind them being around, but I was hesitant to pet them because I didn’t want them jumping up and getting mud on my clothes (I still cared about staying somewhat clean at that point). Which two of them did anyway. So I mostly ignored them and eventually they got bored with my doings and they headed back home.

It’s amazing how even in the direst of auto situations a man can be hesitant to ask for help. Or maybe that’s just me? I really didn’t want to have to walk up to that house and beg for help. I think I was hoping that someone up there would see me and at least let me use their phone to call for help. Oh yeah, did I mention that I didn’t have my cell phone? After a while though I got the impression that no one was home at the house, an impression which turned out to be correct.

I actually wasn’t too far from the two lane highway that I had turned off of. In fact, when a semi went by I could see the lights on the trailer from where my car was. I was hesitant to go up there and stand by the road because I was doubtful that anyone would stop since I didn’t have a broken-down car right by the side of the road.

Since I had gotten stuck about 5:30, I knew that eventually it would be getting dark. It was this point that I began thinking that I might have to sleep in my car. At least it was relatively dry and warm in there. By the time I got done trying to dig canals in the mud with a piece of PVC pipe that I found and a screwdriver to try and channel water away from the rut, I was pretty worn out. And I had blister on my office-soft hands. And I was getting kind of dirty. I was thankful that I had brought along a bottle of water to drink.

I noticed at one point that I could hear cardinals and other birds in the trees by the road, although I was much too preoccupied to pay them any mind.

After night fell, I turned on my hazard blinkers, grabbed my flashlight, and decided to head up to the highway to see if I could get anyone to stop since it was now pretty apparent that nobody was in the nearby house. There was a hawk in the field next to the house that started issuing the freakiest screeches every so often. Good thing I like birds or I might have been freaked out. The dogs must have seen my flashlight because they came back out to the road. Eventually two of them wandered off, but the lab followed me as I went up to the highway. It was actually nice to have the company.

There were plenty of cars passing by on the highway, but none of them even thought about stopping as far as I could tell. Can’t say that I really blame them. If I saw a guy standing on the side of the road in the dark trying to wave me down with a flashlight I don’t think I would stop either. It seems way too dangerous. Although my car was relatively close to the highway, you couldn’t see it from there even with the hazard lights flashing. I didn’t stay long because the dog didn’t know enough to stay out the road, and I was terrified that it was going to get run over. I tried to shoo it home, but it wouldn’t go. So I walked back down the road towards the house.

I did some more digging under my car’s tire to see if I could somehow wedge a brick under there or something. That’s when I found out that the car’s frame was pretty much wedged up against the middle of the road. The dog stood watch for a while in front of my car. It must have picked up on my distress because occasionally it would give a whine and come over to me as if to see if I was OK. Gotta love a good dog like that.

Eventually I gave up digging again and got in the car for a little bit to ponder my next move. I have an air compressor that I carry in my trunk that has a light on the front that can serve as a hazard blinker. I thought I would carry that up to the road and maybe it could persuade someone to stop. I just wanted to use a phone to try and get in touch with the county sheriff.

After a while the dog had gone back home, so I thought it would be safe to head back up to the road. I turned on the blinker, stood in front of it so I would be silhouetted, and waved my arms when vehicles drove by. Nothing. I decided to try and see if I could find some piece of civilization somewhere where I could get access to a phone. I started walking along the side of the highway with the blinker in my hand. I hadn’t gone too terribly far when someone finally pulled over!

As it turns out, this guy had seen my car because he lived in that nearby house with his parents. I think he had come home and seen my car, and maybe went looking for me. He let me use his phone and I dialed 911 because I wasn’t sure how else to get in touch with the police. The dispatcher told me that the sheriff didn’t have any towing equipment, but she gave me the numbers of two local towing businesses. I dialed the first one and got an answering machine. I got a hold of someone at the second number, but he pretty much blew me off by telling me that the roads were too bad even for them. Sorry. I don’t have any friends who have trucks that could’ve pulled me out of there, so I really didn’t have anyone else to call. So I guess it turns out that even if I had had my phone it wouldn’t have helped much. The guy who stopped told me that his parents were gone for the day, but that they would be home about 10 (it was 9:30). I thought that sounded promising, but my hopes took somewhat of a hit when I could hear his mother tell him that she wasn’t sure they would be able to help me.

He gave me a ride back to my car, and I settled in and tried to go to sleep. I was kind of resigned to the fact that I would be sleeping out there, but at least there were people who knew I was out there. I had been listening to the radio with the seat reclined for about half an hour when I saw some lights behind me. It was the kid’s parents getting home. I saw the truck drive up to the house and I thought “Well, that was that”. But soon I saw lights again and a truck pulled up behind me. It was the kid’s father.

He agreed to try and help pull me out of there, but said that he couldn’t be responsible for any damage that might occur. I agreed and he tied a piece of rope to the hook under my rear bumper so as to try not to damage it, and then he tied the rope to a thick nylon strap which he hooked to his truck. I got in my car to drive it in reverse as he tried to pull me out. When he started pulling, there was a snap as the rope broke. He re-tied it with a stronger knot and we tried again. The rope snapped again. He said he would go get a chain and we would try that. He came back a few minutes later and said he didn’t have a chain, but he had a bigger nylon strap that he hooked directly to the hook on my car. This time it worked! He pulled my car all the way back to the road in front of his driveway. I got out and it looked like my rear bumper didn’t rip off or anything. I told him “Sir, I can’t thank you enough” (truer words were never spoken) and shook his hand. Then I got back in my car and started the drive home.

It was 10:30, and I couldn’t have been happier to know that I now had a pretty good chance of sleeping in my own bed. The car drove OK except for the fact that I could tell my front end alignment had been totally hosed. I decided that I would wait for the roads to get nice and dry before I try to go out there again.

I had my camera with me since I planned to take some photos at my original destinations. I really wish I had had the guts to take some photos of my predicament. I knew that I had my camera, but I was kinda pissed off and stubbornly refused to consider using it. In hindsight it might’ve been kind of interesting to take a few photos. This one is of a clump of mud that came off my car the next day.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Little Kids

I have so much to write about, but not enough time to write it! Maybe I can sneak in a little post writing at work. Don't tell my boss.

Today I went to the State Fair of Texas. Which deserves a post of its own. But for now, I leave you with this. Cute baby goats.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Griffith Observatory

One of my favorite spots to visit in L.A. is the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park. I love the Art Deco look of the observatory building, and I love the views of the valley below. Since I went there on the first of my recent trips, I probably would've given it a miss on the second trip 8 days later, but the sky was so much clearer on the second trip that I just had to go back.

Amazingly enough, this last trip was also the first time that I had been inside the observatory. Pretty much every other time I had been the building was closed. It was closed for nearly 5 years while undergoing an extensive renovation, and it just re-opened in late 2006. In fact, I was so used to it being closed that I was almost ready to leave until I realized "Hey, I can go inside!" The inside of the building is well worth seeing too. There are lots of cool exhibits and a wonderful mural painted on the inside of the main dome.

This was the view on the first of my recent trips. There was lots of smoke, haze & ash from the Station Fire.

And here is the view on the second visit. Much clearer, although you can see the smog layer.

First trip

Second trip

I love that little vantage point in the lower middle of the photo, and how the streets seem to go on forever.

Dome mural

These are famous physicists & astronomers.