Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hold my beer while I swap out this circuit breaker....

"Hold my beer while I swap out this circuit breaker...." I was sort of looking forward to those being my last words. I was hoping for a Darwin Award. But it was not to be. My electrical problems are solved (at least temporarily), and I didn't even shock myself.

As you may recall from our last episode, I had returned from RockFest only to find that the power in much of my house wasn't working. I checked the breakers and found that none of them were tripped. And I checked the fuses and found that none of them appeared blown.

But I figured that before I called an electrician, I ought to at least be able to tell him which breaker I thought was bad. So I got a pad of paper, made a diagram of the breaker box, and proceeded to test each breaker, noting what, if anything, went off when the breaker was tripped. And for each breaker, something went off. Which was not at all what I expected.

One of the rooms that had lost power was a bathroom in which I'd done a bit of rewiring, and I'd thought I remembered turning the power off at the breaker box. Apparently I was confused.

Having found that the problem was not in the breaker box, I rechecked the fuses. The fuse box has six fuses in two rows. So I drew my diagram of the fuse box and removed each fuse in turn to see if anything went off. I started on the left side, and something went off for each fuse. Then I tried the right side, and I got exactly the opposite result. Although none of the fuses were blown, it was apparent that the problem was in the right side of the box.

As it happens, above the fuse box is another fuse box, with two great big fuses. I deduced that each of the big fuses controlled one side of the regular fuse box (I didn't drop out of engineering school for nothin'). I had checked these before, and they both looked the same--corroded and black. Their little trick fooled me the first time, but now the evidence pretty clearly pointed to one of them as the culprit. And sure enough, when I pried the right one out, the metal cap on one end fell off and a cloud of soot poured out.

And so, after a quick trip to Home Depot, Wang's back online. And feeling pretty silly about missing something that should have been so obvious.


Sunday, June 26, 2005


The first time I went to Ford Park was for a ZZ Top concert a few months back. It was a nightmare. It took more than an hour from the time I exited the freeway to the time I got in the parking lot. And then it was about another hour to clear security. This time, there was no wait for anything. But then, this wasn't ZZ Top and the parking lot wasn't nearly as full. Nor was the pavilion. But there was still a pretty good crowd.

In case anyone hasn't been paying attention, RockFest '77 is a concert consisting of four tribute bands--Satisfaction doing the Rolling Stones, TNT doing AC/DC, Zoso doing Led Zeppelin, and Us and Them doing Pink Floyd. And they all do what they do very well.

And then there was the film crew. Several cameras filming the bands and the crowd (or that portion of it that seemed to be dressed in appropriate 70s garb).

And first up was Satisfaction. And I don't think the Stones could do the Stones better. "Mick" looked like Mick, moved like Mick, and sounded like Mick. Same for Keith. As for the rest of them, who notices?

And after the Stones, there was an intermission while they set up for the next band. And that band was TNT, an AC/DC tribute band.

TNT is a very good AC/DC tribute band. I don't think they're quite as good as Hells Bells, but they're close. I think their Angus looks a bit more like the real Angus, but I think Hells Bells' Angus is more animated, if that can be believed (or more authentically spastic, anyway).

And, since I mentioned getting mooned by Angus McWannabe in a previous post, I suppose I should mention that, during "The Jack," Angus dropped his shorts to reveal... AC/DC boxers. And then there was just a flash of a moon that was over before it began. There were children present,after all.

It could be the acoustics of the venue, or maybe a problem with the sound board, but I thought the Bon Scott vocals sounded a bit thin. Especially when compared with Hells Bells' singer.

And trough the whole set, the singer wore his Brian Johnson hat. (Hells Bells' singer only wears the hat when he's doing a Brian Johnson song. He removes his hat in honor of Bon Scott.) At the end of the show, the band took a bow, and the hat came off. And all was made clear. You just can't do Bon Scott with a bald spot. It just doesn't work.

(Here's a bit of unbelievable trivia. Cliff Williams, AC/DC's base player since 1977, toured with Al Stewart in 1974.)

Anyway, TNT did a bang up job. Bon Scott/Brian Johnson belted them out, Angus spazed across the stage, and even toured the crowd on a roadie's shoulders. A good time was had by all.

And then they were done. And about this time, I was thinking it was time for Jive Train. Or any suitable Funk band. Someone who could tear the roof off; tear the roof off the mother, sucker; tear the roof off the sucker. I was really ready for someone to give up the funk. But alas, it was not to be.

Next up was Zoso, the Led Zeppelin band. While AC/DC revels in a three-chord progression of beer, bawdy innuendo, and adolescent sexuality, Led Zeppelin's music (with some notable exceptions) tends more toward an artsy, ethereal sort of stuff infused with deep meanings. Or at least meanings that seem deep after a few hours of breathing in the "atmosphere" at The Bulldog in Amsterdam. ("If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now...." Seriously folks.... Does anyone think that has any non-pharmacological meaning?)

(Here's another bit of trivia. Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, played on Al Stewart's first recording, the excrable "The Elf." He also played on Al Stewart's quite good album "Love Chronicles.")

Anyway, Zoso provided a nice opportunity to leave the seats, stretch out on the lawn, and take a nap. Led Zeppelin has a tendency to do that to me. Don't get me wrong. I like a lot of Led Zeppelin's stuff. But a lot of it also has a hypnotic, soporific effect.

If you ever find yourself thinking you want to kick off your shoes and lie down in the grass as the sun sets on a Southeast Texas summer day, think again. Right now I really want to soak my feet in boiling water. Sure the skin would all sluff off, but it would take the mosquito bites with it.

After Zoso finished, the special surprise act cranked it up on the side stage. There was a poster on the side of the lemonade stand that had their name, but I can't remember what it was. Mocor or Melcor or something like that. Maybe. Maybe not. I dunno. I'm not sure either of those is even close. Suffice it to say that they were a KISS tribute band.

I am not a KISS fan; much the opposite, actually. But I have to give them credit for one thing. "Rock 'n Roll All Nite" is one of the truly great rock 'n roll anthems; right up there with Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight," AC/DC's "Long Way to the Top," the Stones "It's Only Rock 'N Roll," or Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll." (As I see it, in order to qualify as a proper rock 'n roll anthem, the song has to be about rockin' 'n rollin' and not much else.)

Not being a KISS fan, I didn't really feel qualified to comment on how they did as a KISS tribute band. But I can say that their costumes looked really good (whether they looked authentic I couldn't say), and I thoroughly enjoyed their rendition of Rock 'n Roll All Nite. But I thought the Jean Simmons character needed to lose some weight.

Believe it or not, this wasn't my first KISS tribute band. I've actually seen Strutter more than once. I liked this band's costumes better; they had a more professional look. But I couldn't say which band does KISS better. I'd like to see them side-by-side sometime, each with their full show, including pyrotechnics and whatever else they might have in their bags of tricks.

And after KISS was over, it was back to the seats for Us and Them.

And then it was time for technical difficulties. But not too many; and after a not entirely unreasonable time, the band took the stage.

If you close your eyes, Us and Them is indistinguishable from Pink Floyd. And if you opened your eyes, the laser show was fantastic. But, unfortunately, that wasn't enough. This thing started at about 3, and they didn't take the stage until around 11. By that time, everyone was hot, sweaty, sticky, and tired. They could have blown everybody away with a tight set of Pink Floyd favorites.

But they didn't.

Instead, they played a few of the standbys, but mainly the more obscure stuff, with extended Floydian instrumental breaks. I'm sure it was terribly authentic, and it sounded exactly like the real thing, but the music selection just wasn't right for the occasion. This was a time to hit on the hits, not to play "Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 41." It was good, but not what it could have been. I'd like to see them some time fresh, and with air conditioning. I'm sure they'd be great.

And on one final note, late June isn't the best time of the year for an all day outdoor event in Southeast Texas. Not quite the worst either, but pretty close.

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When I got home from RockFest last night....

RockFest was quite an experience. More on that later.

After RockFest last night (this morning, really), I came home to an unusually dark house. It seems that something funky's going on with my 80+ year old wiring, and I've lost power to most of the front part of the house. One window air conditioner works in the living room, but there's otherwise no power except in the kitchen, bedrooms and attic. The bathrooms, living room, dining room, hall, and garage are all dark. The TV, stereo, computer, garage door opener, etc., are all non-functional.

What fun.

I checked the fuse box and everything seemed to be in order. And I checked the circuit breakers, and they also appeared to be in order. Yes, the house has both fuses and circuit breakers; some parts of the house run through the fuse box and some parts through the breakers. It appears to have been wired by one or more Evil Geniuses. My guess is that one of the breakers fried itself without tripping, and that everything will go back to normal if I replace the right one without electrocuting myself.

I suppose I should probably call an electrician, but I'm afraid that any reputable electrician would take one look at the wiring and refuse to fix anything without first rewiring the whole house.

So I guess ol' Wang won't be posting a whole lot until this little problem gets taken care of.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Wang's closing shop for a while.

Due to the oppressive pressures of work and other considerations, Wang's going to be curtailing his Internet activies for a while. Check back after Rockfest.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wang's Fables: The Mimosa

In Wang Chi's front yard there grew a beautiful Mimosa tree. There were also Tall Pines and Magnolias and many other trees, but every year, the Mimosa's pink silky blooms were the focal point of the yard.

And also in Wang Chi's front yard was a rusted water line. At first the hole was small, and only provided a little water. But as time went by, the hole got bigger, and provided more and more water.

The Tall Pines, with their long taproots, did not partake of the leaky line and looked down on the Mimosa. The Magnolias were too far away, and could only get an occasional sip.

But the Mimosa was close, and devoted all its energy to growing roots to soak up the water from the leak. And the grass grew tall, and other trees took root, and they all drank deep from the leaky pipe.

And when more plants took root, the Tall Pines warned that the leak would not last forever, but the Mimosa and the others took no notice. With each passing year, the pipe rusted a bit more, and there was more water for everybody. And so it would be forever. Or so thought the Mimosa.

But Wang Chi saw that his water bills were rising. And, in time, he noticed a soggy spot in the yard. And he called a plumber. And the plumber replaced the leaky water line with a new, non-leaky line.

But by this time, the Mimosa had become completely dependent on the leaky water line, and when it disappeared, so did the Mimosa's source of water. And when spring came, it was drier than usual, and the Mimosa could find no water. And it died.

And the moral is, if your livelihood depends on exploiting a broken system, sooner or later it'll get fixed and you'll die.

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A plug for Rocky's Roadhouse

A long time ago, The Hofbrau was a pretty good place to go after work to have a beer, listen to some live music, and maybe get something to eat. But over the years it got less good until it finally closed. Now it's Rocky's Roadhouse, and it's a pretty good place to go after work and get a beer, listen to some live music, and maybe get something to eat. It's happy hour until 7:00 (including dollar drafts), and from Wednesday through Saturday, there's live music from 7:00 to 10:00.

There's no cover and no walls, but there is a roof. The outdoorsishness of it means that it can get a little muggy on those Southeast Texas summer evenings. Unless you sit inside, in which case there's no cover but there are walls and a cieling and air conditioning. But since the band plays outside, it sort of defeats the purpose.

I went there last Saturday just after happy hour ended and had a few beers and a passable chicken fried steak while listening to Cypress play a mostly acoustic bluesy/folksy/country mix of covers and their own originals. They were pretty good, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.

I expect I'll be back.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

A note about the blog title.

As I've mentioned before, Wang Chi is a character in Big Trouble in Little China, one of my all-time favorite movies. If you haven't seen it, you can read about it on Mutant Reviews. I don't know where the "House of Pancakes" part came from except that Wang Chi owned a restaurant in the movie, and I was looking for something that's open all night.

Anyway, while browsing through the wares at the Wing Kong Exchange (where you can get Jack Burton's tank top and Wang Chi's jacket), I ran across Big Trouble in Little South Park. I thought it was pretty funny. Probably not so funny if you haven't seen the movie, though.

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Mooned by Angus McWannabe

Hells Bells at Antone's. But first, Oliver Black. Okay, I guess. The band played competently and the singer belted 'em out. And she looked good doing it. But something was missing. I think it might have been song writing. That can be a problem for bands that insist on doing original material. Or maybe I just wasn't in the right mood.

And then Hells Bells took the stage. On their website, they say they "will rock your ass," and they're not kidding. They do AC/DC just like AC/DC. Even down to the point of the Angus character shedding his school boy uniform during the performance (I wonder what Jacko would think). And their singer has a hat that he wears when he's Brian Johnson and takes off when he's Bon Scott. And when he's being Brian Johnson, he sounds like Brian Johnson; and when he's being Bon Scott, he sounds like Bon Scott. The only discernible difference between Hells Bells and AC/DC (other than the size of the venue) is that the Hells Bells version of Angus doesn't sweat nearly as much as the real thing.

But back to the title.

Sometime when I wasn't paying close attention, the Angus character lost his jacket. And then they played a few more songs. Then they went into Jail Break. And during the break, Angus did a sort of a striptease as he took off his shirt. And then he mooned the audience. Hadn't seen him do that before, although is seems like appropriate Angus Young behavior.

The band was great, but the people I was with were keen to get over to The Vortex to see Devil Doll. They're a good band--one I'd go see again--but they're no Hells Bells.

Oh well. It's my own fault for giving in to peer pressure.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"RockFest '77" Update

I visited the RockFest 77 website and noticed a change in the line up. No longer will AC/DC be played by Hells Bells. Their replacement is a band called TNT from Phoenix, a band with which I am not familar. I'm sure they'll do a bang-up job.

For those set on seeing Hells Bells, they'll be at Antone's on Friday, June 10. And so will I.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

My Wine Futures.

A couple years ago I bought some 2001 Bordeaux futures. They arrived recently. Big deal, you say, 2001 wasn't such a great year for Bordeauxs. And you'd be right, if we were talking reds. But mine were Sauternes (sweet white dessert wines), and for Sauternes, 2001 was about as good as it gets.

And I chose wisely.

I now have in my wine fridge six bottles (actually, these are all 375 ml half bottles) of 2001 Chateau Climens (Wine Spectator 100 points), 12 bottles of Rieussec (WS 99), six bottled of Suduiraut (WS 98), six bottles of LaTour Blanche (WS 97), six of LaFaurie-Peyraguey (WS 96), and a dozen others nearly as highly rated. Most of these have at least doubled or tripled in price since I bought them, which makes me feel like a real smarty-pants. (If only my 401k had done half as well.)

I'm hoping that by the time they're ready to drink in 2010 or so I'll be able to pronounce their names properly.

And by that time, I might even have someone to drink them with.

I believe that's the year my son turns 21.


Speaking of Al Stewart (Again)

It's standing room only for the Al Stewart show at the Mucky Duck on Friday, September 9, but they've just added another show on Thursday the 8th. As with the other show, tickets are $25 and a bargain at twice the price.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

No Child Left Behind.

"I would make the argument that America is safer when Democrats are in the White House, than when Republicans are in the White House," Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said in a speech to Democratic supporters.

He's sort of got a point. As long as you don't count World War I, World War II, Korea or Vietnam. But other than that....

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." At least that's what George Santayana once said. Or words to that effect, anyway. But now we have "No Child Left Behind," and no one has to repeat history. It's a damn shame.