Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chuck the Writer sends more records to Goodwill

Two more crates of albums are now at the local Goodwill. I rescued a few recordings (anything with Dragon on it stays; I found an autographed copy of Din's "Great Traditions" that has special meaning for me), but the lion's share is now being picked through by bargain hunters.

This morning I boxed up another crateload of 45's, going through and transferring anything that I might want to listen to in the future to an .mp3 format. Surprisingly, I found a US stock copy of "Makin' Time" by the Creation, which is some serious freakbeat (albeit the copy is about a C+ with some scuffs and the owner's name written on both sides of the label). Also pulled out Buckner and Garcia's "Pac-Man Fever" (the original version has never been released on CD or iTunes), Fred Knoblock's "Why Not Me" (which is going into my "Armor-Plated Heart" collection of songs I want to hear when I'm depressed beyond belief), and a bluesy version of "Sail On Sailor" by a 70's all-star group called KGB with lyrics that don't match the Beach Boys' hit. Nice stuff.

Also on the rescue block - "Benihana" by Marilyn Chambers on Roulette (yes, THAT Marilyn Chambers, proving that between her and Andrea True, there are no adult movie actresses that can sing), the mix of "Billie Jean" and "Do It Again" by Club House (somewhere I've got the Slingshot version that was actually the bigger hit in America, but I gotta find it), "Whisper To A Scream (Birds Fly)" by the Icicle Works, a 7" of "Breakdown" by Colourbox, and "I Can Dance (Long Tall Glasses)" by the Canadian group Shooter. Sweet.

All in all, my goal of clearing out what I don't need is progressing nicely. I think the only party who has an issue with me lugging boxes of heavy records off to Goodwill is my lower back.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chuck the Writer Ain't Thrilled with Sunset Rec's Saturday Night Trivia

The headline says it all. I won two pitchers of beer, an order of wings, and I'm not going back to that trivia competition ever again.

First off, let me say that I do enjoy playing competitive trivia. And when I heard that Sunset Recreation, an Albany-based bowling center, was hosting Saturday night trivia at its adjacent bar and grille, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Trivia started at 9pm, and was scheduled to go until 1 in the morning. Yikes.

Apparently the rules changed with each round, and I don't think the host was able to keep up with the rule changes that he himself was putting together. At one point he offered a question as to "how many different versions of Absolut are there?" (I guess there's 19 of them), and he gave points for each correct one mentioned. So that meant someone on another team was able to nab 8 or 9 points right then and there.

During one round, I tied with one team for best score, and the host brought a rep from both teams (my one-man Street Academy team meant that I went up there myself). Suddenly I noticed that the other team didn't feel like sending a representative, so someone from ANOTHER team stepped up to play. And they won, beating me 3-1 in "name that tune." So I lost to a team who couldn't even be bothered to send someone up from THEIR OWN SQUAD to play? STRIKE ONE

At around 10:00 p.m., the host asked people to write on the back of their answer sheets three TV shows and three movies that he would consider for trivia next week. Okay, what the heck, I wrote down three TV shows (including Friday Night Lights and Deadliest Catch), and three movies (including Ghostbusters and Animal House). Surprisingly, Ghostbusters and Animal House became categories THAT VERY NIGHT - in fact, I think the host was writing the questions in the middle of the trivia competition!

Which of course wouldn't surprise me, in that a round would take ten minutes to complete, then there would be 10 minutes of music - the scores would be read - then there would be ten more minutes of music before the next question was announced. I gotta wait 20 minutes between rounds? STRIKE TWO

In the end, however, I had an 8-point lead and looked like I could cruise to the finals. I also had coupons for two pitchers of beer, a dozen wings, and $100 off the host's DJ or karaoke services. Then all of a sudden the host changes the rules around - now, questions that had incorrect answers cost teams points. And he took off points for spelling! And in the end, my 8-point lead dropped to a half-point deficit - just in time for the house team to win the game.

STRIKE THREE - I'm out of there. Not even worth my time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chuck the Writer Practices What He Preaches

I've been on my father-in-law's case about him hoarding junk all around his house. So last Saturday, my wife's aunt (his sister) and I went through his living room and, with the tacit understanding that we would look through things before indiscriminately throwing them out, we bagged up huge contractor bags full of garbage, we packed grocery bags full of old newspapers, and we boxed up two crates of old cassette tapes.

He was a bit upset about the procedure at first, but before long he was thanking us for our efforts. That, and the fact that he could now see his living room floor, was a big plus.

But later that afternoon, I realized something. I had tons of junk around my house as well. How could I, in good conscience, tell someone to clean up their junk when I had not done so myself?

And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? [Matthew 7:3]

Bible on Hypocrisy

Quote from Quotations Book

So what did this mean?

Essentially, I had to practice what I preached.

And that meant I needed to get rid of stuff as well. Old books that I hadn't read in years - I looked at them with a critical eye, determining that if they weren't autographed or weren't part of something important in my life, they were headed to the Albany Public Library. Videotapes that I had laying around for ages were, unless they held family memories, going on their way to DVD, and from there to a digital format for quick storage (I started doing this with all my over-the-air copies of Tour of Duty - great show back in the day).

But it also meant that I had to finally decide what to do with the record collection.

Mind you, I have been collecting 45's, LP's, 78's and whatnot since the day my sainted Grandma Betty brought home a box of dusty 45's that were once found under the table at a flea market. That eventually led to a massive and burgeoning record collection, a ten-year stint with Goldmine magazine, interviews with everyone from James Brown to Weird Al Yankovic, and the authorship of two record collector's guides. Definitely worth marking on anyone's life list.

So that afternoon, two big boxes of records were delivered to my local Goodwill. And I've resolved that since then, anything regarding my record collection must be done in such a way so that by the end of the summer, my entire remaining collection should fit in a single shelving unit. No excuses.

If the record in question contains a song or songs that I would want to hear on my iPod, or to be burned onto a CD, I will transfer the recording digitally. About four or five years ago, I had my Technics SL-1200MK2 turntable modded so that, in addition to records that spin at 45 and 33 1/3 RPM, this bad boy can play 78's at the proper speed (and I can attach one of two different tonearm headshells, in case I'm transferring a regular 78 or a "hill-and-dale" Edison Diamond Disc). I hooked the turntable up to an amplifier, and in turn routed the amplifier to the back of my supercomputer. Voila!

So if the song does not exist on CD or on iTunes, and if it's a song that I will play in my car stereo to drive everyone else nuts, then it gets transferred over. Then the record gets put in the box with the other records I can't keep any more, and off to Goodwill it goes.

Now you're thinking, Come on, Chuck, you've been collecting for years, you must have one of those rare records that are worth lots of money!

Actually, I did have one or two of those. I had Nirvana's first 45, "Love Buzz." I also had George Enesco's Bach Symphonies and Paritas on the Continental label, of which maybe 100 copies were pressed. Those were sold off long ago. I also have some autographed albums - James Brown, Grandmaster Flash, Manhattan Transfer - those ain't getting sold. Those stay on the wall where I put them. 'Kay?

A lot of records were bought and sold as part of articles I worked on for Goldmine or for other publications. Some do have emotional attachments, others need to find new homes. And for me to even think of putting stuff up on eBay - you've got people who gripe about condition (you swore to me it was near-mint, I heard a tiny crackle on side 2, I want my money back you ripoff artist!), plus you gotta buy shipping materials, you gotta schlep it over to the post office, you gotta deal with PayPal, the whole 23 yards. If the record's going to cost me more to get rid of it than it would listing it on eBay, then it's not worth the trouble to me.

I essentially have to resign myself to the fact - shit gotta go. And if I'm going to expect my father-in-law to get rid of all his junk, then I gotta do the same.

Besides, if someone's looking for some records, go help out the Goodwill, they could use all the support you can provide. 'Kay?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chuck the Writer Avoids a House Wiring Mishap

Yes, I'm still working on my "Bob Vila meets Reddy Kilowatt" phase, so I went to Home Depot and picked up another set of lighted switches, as well as a ceiling light to replace a crappy-looking single-bulb fixture in my hallway. I was ble to sap out the switch with no trouble, but when I disassembled the fixture from my wall, I got the shock of my life.

No, not THAT kind of shock. I did have the circuit breaker off, so that wasn't an issue.

I did discover, however, that the wiring in the ceiling had become old and brittle; the rubbery casing that sheathed the copper wire had become brittle and crumbly. The casing fluttered to the floor, leaving some very exposed and dangerous wires in its wake.

So what did I do?

Real simple. I admitted to myself that I was entering territory that no Home Depot "1-2-3 Wiring" book would explain comfortably, so I called an electrical repairman.

He showed up about an hour later, chastised me for doing my own electrical work ("Do you know we have to study electric wiring for five years before we can even be certified?"), and then he looked at the ceiling, with the exposed wires - and immediately changed his tone. "It's a good thing you saw this," he said, "because in old houses like this, we come across a lot of deteriorating wire - especially if the light source, like a ceiling light, is too close to the ceiling itself, the heat actually causes the wire casing to harden up and break."

Since the circuit for the ceiling light would only affect a couple of bedroom lights, and not an important appliance like the refrigerator, we agreed to have him come back Monday, rather than have him work Saturday hours (and me having to pay Saturday rates).

Monday morning, right on time, another repairman showed up. He had already been briefed on the situation, he went up to the attic, replaced the wiring and the ceiling light housing, then he and I put the light fixture together. Two compact-florescent lights later, I turned on the circuit breaker, and the hallway lit up.

With light from the bulbs - not that "other" kind of lighting.

Honestly, while I'm not thrilled for getting chastised about doing my own work around the house, I am glad that when a situation arose that was outside of my comfort zone, I was able to make the right choice and call in a professional.

Plus, when my wife gets back from her trip, I think she'll really enjoy the new light fixture in the hallway.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chuck the Writer Does Not Blow Up His House

Whenever my wife gets angry at me for something, she brings up this little nugget -

"The reason we bought this house was that I thought I married a handyman who could fix or repair anything!"


So while my wife is visiting my daughter in Seattle for a week, I decided this would be a good time to do some minor upgrades and repairs around the house - you know, little things that can be learned from reading "How-To 123" books from Home Depot and watching several "How-To" videos on YouTube.

First thing that needed fixing was a faulty light switch that powered the lights in the back hallway. The light switch at the top of the stairs wouldn't flip completely to the ON position, so the light could not be controlled upstairs (i.e., if it was on, I couldn't turn it off).

Trip to Home Depot. I purchased a Leviton 3-Way Lighted (15A-120V) light switch, along with some black electrical tape, a slotted screwdriver, some needle-nosed pliers and a white face plate. After turning off the circuit breaker to that part of the house, I unscrewed the fugly face plate, and pulled the burned-out switch out of its housing. There were three wires that needed to be connected to this unit - I disconnected the wires from the old, burned-out switch and connected the wires to the new switch. I wrapped the unit in black electrical tape, and screwed it back into the wall housing. I added the new bone-white face plate, turned on the circuit, and ...

Just so you know, I'm not typing this blog from beyond the grave. That should give you an indication that I ain't dead yet.

Not only did the switch work without any trouble, but it also is an "illuminated" switch in that the toggle switch itself lights up in the dark. So if the lights are out and you need to see what you're doing, you can find the switch and turn on the power.

Project #1 finished. Let me see what I can do for Project #2. Fa fa!!

Chuck the Writer nabs Second Place at Brown's Brewing - with his new teammates

Those who know that I play competitive trivia know that I like playing as a lone wolf, a solo player among teams of 3 and 5 and 17 players. While that has worked for me in most trivia games around the Albany area, it hasn't worked as well at Brown's Brewing, my Wednesday night hangout.

That changed a few weeks ago, when Jennie and Mark joined my Street Academy team.

A bit of background. Jennie used to be one of the dancers for the Albany Patroons basketball team, she also danced for the Albany Conquest arenafootball2 team. Mark is her boyfriend. They used to play on a team called "Boats and Hoes" (yeah, I know it's probably spelled differently, but hey, kids might read this blog), until a disagreement occurred and they left the team. They played as a two-person squad for a week or so, until Jennie and I recognized each other (I was photographing the Patroons back when Jennie was on the dance team), and I invited them to join the Street Academy team.

To my surprise, they accepted - and showed up the very next week.

Their main goal was to beat the Boats 'n Hoes team, and every week we came close, but could never get past them. Last night, we had a near-perfect round (category was "Duos"), but all we did was tie Boats and Hoes. The next category was HBO, and there was a discrepancy with one of the questions -

How many HBO channels are there?

I asked the host if he was counting East Coast and West Coast feeds - he said yes. So you figure there's regular HBO, HBO2, HBOSignature, HBOFamily, HBOLatino, HBOZone, HBOComedy, then you multiply that by 2 for the West Coast feeds, and add HBO On Demand, that's 15.

Host said the answer was 7. So instead of pulling ahead, we were still tied with Boats and Hoes. By the fourth round, Boats and Hoes took a slight 2-point lead, and my teammates looked as if they wanted to crawl under a table.

But then the music round came in. The songs were all based on athletics, and surprisingly the third song played was "Basketball Jones" by Cheech and Chong, which I recognized instantly - while everyone else was going "huh??" I was also able to nail that the version of "Basketball" was performed by Bow Wow, as opposed to the original by Kurtis Blow, and Street Academy was back in the running.

The final round was supposed to be questions relating to - get this - Toxic Shock Syndrome. After the host figured out what is normally associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome - I bet he had to RELY on Wikipedia for answers - he changed the category to things associated with toxicity. We nabbed 9 out of 10 on that category (including Mark getting the Shakespeare play in which a king is murdered by someone pouring poison in his ear, and me knowing which president died of lead poisoning), but someone else hit 10 out of 10. That meant that my Street Academy team - as well as Boats and Hoes and another squad, who keeps changing their name to reflect some celebrity who recently died (some of their names included "Seizing on a Jett Plane" and "Rihanna Deserved It") finished in a three-way tie for the lead.

The captains for each team went up for a special quickie question, and in the end, Street Academy finished - after two tiebreakers - in second place, with Boats and Hoes finishing in third. For second place, my team earned its first $25 bar tab coupon; we also broke a tie from one of the earlier rounds (the music round) and garnered an order of beer pretzels for next week.

Personally, it's the best game I've ever pulled at Brown's - I've come in third three times, so it's nice to figure out how to use a bar tab coupon in this place. Plus, I'm glad that Mark and Jennie were able to be part of the team, without their help, Street Academy would not have gotten as far as it had.


You think Street Academy's tough to beat before this - now your man has reinforcements, bay bee! (At least on Wedneday nights)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chuck the Writer Crosses #87 Off Life List

So here's the story. Last Saturday I drive up to Barre VT, home of the Vermont Frost Heaves of the Premier Basketball League. The plan was to get action shots of the Frost Heaves as they try to secure a wild card berth in the PBL, as well as get photographs of the new Montreal franchise that replaced the Montreal Sasquat'ch midway through the season.

Originally I would have gotten nice photos of Team Montreal at their home court, but since they weren't playing at Centre Pierre-Charbonneau any more, and the teams who visited Ecole Lucien-Page found the court unsuitable for a pro game, Team Montreal have become the league's "Travel Team," which meant that their home game against Vermont was changed to a road game in Vermont against the Frost Heaves.

So I'm getting set up, photographing the new Montreal players for their head shots, and I walk down one of the stairwells in the Barre Municipal Auditorium, and I overhear one of the Frost Heaves' directors of operations trying to get a hold of the person who was scheduled to sing the national anthem, and having no luck in doing so.

Now your man Chuck has sat through enough American Hockey League games in his life to know what the Canadian National Anthem sounds like. And I've survived ear-puncturing performances by Carl Lewis and Roseanne Arnold and others, to know what not to do with the American national anthem. I stepped to the plate and volunteered to do the anthems.

After he quickly checked to make sure I knew the words to both anthems (which I did, albeit the English version of the Canadian anthem), I was pressed into service. And at 4:15 p.m., I took the basketball court, and sang O Canada. I then turned, faced the American flag, and sang The Star Spangled Banner. The acoustics at the Barre Municipal Auditorium meant that I was hearing a half-second echo from what I was singing - which could have turned my performance of either anthem into a retro Max Headroom stutter. But I quickly covered one ear with my hand (similar to what Gary Owens used to do on Laugh-in) and finished the anthem without any trouble. Although those high notes were a prayer...

So I can now say that yes, I sang the National Anthem - two of 'em actually - at a professional sporting event. I can also say that I'm glad that no video footage exists of my performance. Ha ha ha!

There was, however, photographic evidence of my work... as you can see above.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chuck the Writer and the Last Day of Circuit City

First off, I've never really been a fan of Crapola City, but when the store declared bankruptcy and started selling off everything they had, I did pick up some nice bargains here and there - mostly memory cards, blank CD-R's and DVD+R's and the like.

Today was the final day of Circuit City's existence, so I went over to my local branch to see if there was anything left. That place was picked clean like carrion. Most of the fixtures were gone, sold for pennies on the dollar. There were a couple of display computer towers, but I would suspect they've probably got more viruses than an overpopulated day care center.

Still, it reminded me of the time when another store closed, and I bought what I thought would be a perfect addition to my house.

See, I love the aesthetics of a vintage Wurlitzer 1015 jukebox. You know, the kind with the bubble lights and curved glass domes, the kind that just scream "I am a jukebox and you will love music from me!"

Well, about 10 years ago this locla party supply store went bankrupt, and among the fixtures they were selling was a jukebox display that advertised these budget CD's of "Drew's Party Music." Drew's Party Music was actually a company that manufactures knock-off CD's that almost sound like your favorite artists, but I didn't care. The display unit would take six CD's in a tray, you plug the tray into the display cabinet, you could punch in your selection (track and disc) and the music would play. I paid $35 for the unit, had it disassembled (didn't realize how much particle board and pressboard it would take), loaded it into the car, drove home, unloaded it, and re-assembled everything in my home office.

I plugged in some CD's, and started the unit up. Everything looked great. I started the unit on its first track, Boston's "More Than A Feeling," and felt like I had accomplished something great.

90 seconds later, the machine jumped off the Boston track and went to the second track on the CD.

Hmm. Is there a scratch on my CD? I tried another CD in the set.

A minute and a half later, the song ended prematurely and the jukebox went to another track.

This isn't good. Unless I have this hankering for 90-second songs, I've got to figure out where the controls to this unit are, and what I can do to fix this.

And that meant putitng in a phone call to Drew's Party Music.

It took forever to find a phone number for the company, but sure enough I tracked down their home office. I called. "Drew's Party Music, How can I make you smile today?"

I explained my situation and asked if there was a way to disengage the 90-second feature on that unit.

"Oh sorry sir, you're not supposed to own those display units. Those aren't for public use, those are only for in-store display. When will you be sending that unit back to us?"

After we had a further discussion about why I WOULDN'T be sending the unit back to wherever they were located, I asked again about bypassing that 90-second delay feature. She explained to me that the 90-second feature was to make sure customers heard several different tracks from the Drew's Party Music catalog.

About a few weeks later, I disassembled the unit - looked for anything on there, like a dip switch or a settings conductor or a bypass connector - and found nothing. I eventually tossed the entire unit in the trash, and chalked it all up to a personal learning experience.

As the trashmen hauled away the disassembled pieces of wood and plastic and electronics, I thought to myself - this was probably the only way that Drew's Party Music would make me smile.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chuck the Writer and Thursday night's PBL Matchup

Unlike the PBL's Central Division, which the Battle Creek Knights have already sewn up, or the PBL's Atlantic Division, in which the Manchester Millrats could take the division title this weekend with two wins, the PBL's four-team Eastern Division is still too close to call. The Wilmington Sea Dawgs and Rochester Razorsharks are in a near dead-heat for the Eastern Division lead, while the Augusta Groove are only a game and a half back. The fourth team in the division, the Buffalo Stampede, have their own cross to bear - they need to win five of their final games to avoid having the worst PBL regular-season record ever (they're currently sporting a 1-11 record).

Tonight's game between Wilmington and Augusta is critical. The Sea Dawgs have kept a solid base together, with strength from returning vets Cedric McGinnis and Alexander Harper, and key off-season acquisition like Brian Leggett, Joseph King and Kadiri Richard. The Augusta Groove, having lost the league's leading scorer in AJ Millien, have rebounded, winning two of their last three games on the strength of scoring from Demetrius Howard, Donielle Davis and Kendrick "Modie" Johnson. The game will be at the Schwartz Center at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC.

Here's the playoff permutations. If Wilmington beats Augusta tonight, the Sea Dawgs take the lead in the Eastern Division, moving the Rochester Razorsharks down into the wild-card mix. A loss by Wilmington would help Rochester secure the Eastern Division lead, and could actually help make the wild-card race a more tightly-contested affair.

Right now, Wilmington and the Vermont Frost Heaves are the top teams in the wild-card run, in which the two teams with the best non-divisional record will advance to a "play-in" game for the playoffs. Other teams in the mix for those two wild card spots include the Halifax Rainmen, the Chicago Throwbacks, and the Augusta Groove, while the Detroit Panthers and Montreal franchise need minor miracles to make the postseason. And since God seems to be too busy with trying to answer Simon Cowell's prayers to keep Normund Gentile off American Idol, I don't think that divine intervention will provide a postseason for either Detroit or Montreal.

In other words - we're now getting into the final third of the season, in which every game is crucial for playoff positioning and participation.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chuck the Writer and the new articles on RoadKing

See that truck over on the right? That's part of my brand new article for RoadKing, "Tears For a Bulldog," which was just published this week. I traveled to Hillsborough, New Hampshire, where a local resident had collected over 100 different trucks, haulers, pavers, plows, bulldozers, etc. Click on the link above and read the article.

Actually, you can read two articles. This month's edition of RoadKing also contains "Good Vibrations," the story of the rise of electric football games. It's similar to an article I wrote for Toy Collector some time ago, and was a lot of fun to write.

Speaking of Toy Collector, don't forget to read my article on hockey icon and collectible figurine Peter Puck, and all the collectible toys, games and goodies associated with this little vulcanized chunk of rubber.

Yes, the old Chuckster's been busy of late... what with PBL road trips and magazine articles and the like. But it's fun. Keeps me out of trouble.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chuck the Writer and another PBL road trip

Well, what was supposed to be a quick trip to Montreal this weekend ended up becoming a more fulfilling trip to Quebec - and then to Burlington, Vermont - for two games of PBL action.

First things first. My original plan was to go to Montreal and take pictures of the new team that replaced the Sasquat'ch franchise. But on Friday night, I got the news that the game in Montreal had been moved from one venue to another - and eventually was canceled outright.

So after a little juggling and some last-minute phone calls, I decided to drive up to Quebec City and photograph the Halifax-Quebec game on Saturday night.

What a good decision that was. This was my third trip to Pavillion de la Jeunesse (the Quebec Kebs' home court), and that place had 2,000 fans and was as noisy as a rock concert. Every time one of the Kebs touched the ball, or even got near the hoop, the fans went nuts. Of course, there were some vans of Halifax Rainmen fans in the building, so there were plenty of alternating chants of "Go Kebs Go!" and "Let's Go Rain-Men!" back and forth.

Also, I finally resolved that this time in Canada I would find some decent poutine to eat. No, get your mind out of the gutter, poutine is actually French fries with cheese curds and a gravy-like sauce. I had an order of poutine at the Pavillion de la Jeunesse, it was quite good - and had another order of poutine at a restaurant on the way home, a truck stop called Restaurant Madrid, just off the Jean Lesage Highway.

To top things off, I decided to pick up a can of poutine sauce for the trip home. Of course, once I passed over the border into Vermont, and was asked if I was bringing any food over the border, I showed them the poutine sauce can and figured that hey, if I've got to declare ALL foods, I guess this counts too.

Burlington, Vermont has one of those old-school basketball arenas, the kind with a balcony that rings the court and a stage at the far end of the building. But that place was bouncing like crazy, as the Frost Heaves fans cheered their hometown heroes for a 126-72 win over the Kebs (yes, that was a 54-point margin of victory). The Frost Heaves play in two buildings in the Green Mountain State; I've been to their Barre home court twice, and this was my first time at the Heaves' Burlington location.

This building also has some great locations to shoot action shots, as you can see from this picture.

This shot was taken from the balcony of the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, with my Nikon D70 and my manual-focus 1970's-era F/1.8 Nikkor E-series lens. It was also published in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus, and was my second photo published in that publication. Whee!!

Then came the trip home. Because I'm not 100% familiar with the fastest way to get from one PBL city to another PBL city, I often rely on my TomTom One GPS navigation system. Normally it gets me from point A to point B without any trouble. This time, however...

I'm tooling down US 7, and all of a sudden it tells me to take a right. I then drive through three miles of windy road, and all of a sudden it says to me, "Take the ferry."

There is a ferry that runs from Charlotte, Vermont to Port Ferry, New York.

Only problem is - it doesn't run at night. And I wasn't going to sit by the dock of the bay and wait for the ferry to pull away in the morning.

So I doubled back. And normally, when I change directions and deviate from the GPS-programmed path, the GPS will plot a different course for me.

Unfortunately, this GPS was INSISTENT on me getting on the ferry. "Turn around when possible," it chirped at me. "Take the next legal U-turn." I put up with about 20 miles of this, when the GPS finally figured out I wasn't going to take the frickin' ferry.

It then decided to get even with me.

I ended up on about 40 miles of backroad, then crossed over a bridge from Vermont to New York, and ended up about 12 miles from Ticonderoga. Then the GPS took me on about 25 miles of windy Adirondack back roads, where the double-yellow no-passing lines were probably down to half a stripe, and the roads twisted and turned and raised and lowered as if I was riding at 25-mile long roller coaster. Eventually, however, the directionals finally got me back on the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87), and I was able to safely find my way home from there.

Just for that, I'm going to leave the GPS in the car all night. I hope it freezes up in the snowstorm we're about to have.

Actually, I shouldn't complain about the TomTom GPS. If you really want to hear me complain, let me tell you about Verizon's VZ Navigator software and what a rip off that is.

But I'll save that for another post.