Monday, December 31, 2007

W00t! Last post (of 2007)!

The year started with a bang, and is ending with a thud. I'm just starting to get over a nasty cold, one that's affected me and Alastair, and that started the day after Christmas.

I haven't been a very useful person for the last week. Yuck.

I had to work today, even though I was sick. Double yuck.

We missed all of our favorite year-end festivities (Carytown ball-drop, eggnog walk) because I've been sick.

Here's hoping that 2008 will be a healthier one! (*hack* *wheeze*)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Old & Busted: Sleep; New Hotness: Screaming!

This Christmas, as with last Christmas, saw Alastair awake in the middle of the night.

But, unlike last Christmas, this isn't due to Daddy sneaking into his room in the middle of the night. Last year, we put him to bed and then realized we'd failed to turn on his little space-heater (it gets pretty cold in his room). I tried to creep in and turn it on, but Lucy (our black cat) thought that it was pretty funny to see me crawling, and wanted to talk about it. A lot. Her wailing in his room woke him up while I was crawling out, and we listened to him scream for an hour before we realized it wasn't going to stop. We repeated the bedtime ritual, and Christmas was saved.

On Monday night, though (Christmas Eve, in case anyone's reading this in 2042 and doesn't know that Christmas was on Tuesday), we didn't interfere. We put him to bed, ensured the heater was on, and crept out like any other night.

90 minutes later he started crying. I went and sat with him for a few minutes; we got him some water to drink; and we talked about why he was up. I asked him if he'd had a bad dream, and he said yes. So we cuddled for a bit, and then I asked him if he was ready to lay back down with his babies (stuffed animals). Again he said yes, and so we put him back to bed.

He pretty much made it through the night, with one little fit at around 3am that he got himself through, but was up at 6:57am. Christmas started a bit earlier than Mommy & Daddy could have wished.

Last night, though, was a chore.

We put him down as usual (a touch late at ~8:30pm), went downstairs and watched TV. We heard him shuffle about for a while, and then at 11:40pm he just started wailing. I heard him say "no!" at the beginning of his fit, so I thought maybe he'd had another bad dream. Boy had he ever. He was trembling, nearly inconsolable, and we had to completely repeat the bedtime ritual, from diaper to story to bed.

A few minutes later he started again. This time he told Amanda that it was too dark in his room. We installed a nightlight, he said that was better, and we left.

5 minutes after that we learned that the light was too bright: it was in his eyes. So I moved his space-heater in front of it.

10 minutes later it was too dark and too bright. I told him he had nothing to be afraid of and offered to leave the door open. He thought that sounded marvelous, so we tried it.

3 minutes later he wanted the door closed, and it was still too dark/bright.

Finally, I went and told him that the light was appropriate, not in his eyes, and that he needed to lay back down and go to sleep. Now.

That was around 1:15am. We didn't hear anything else until ~7am.

So I have 3 theories, all of which will remain plausible until I hear from Amanda:

1. He's sick. On Sunday we went to Foley Christmas where he ran around like a lunatic with his 5-year-old cousin Catherine. There were about 15 people in the house, any of whom might have been ill. Then on Monday morning, he threw up half of his breakfast. Then his right eye started watering profusely, as often happens when he's sick. Oh yeah, and he's been coughing a bit.

2. Christmas rush. This can be such an exciting sensory time of the year. I used to have nightmares a lot during the Christmas season, so it's possible he's having nightmares / night-terrors.

3. Sugar-high. We ate dinner with my in-laws, and pie was served around 7:30pm. He ate a fair amount of pie, then sucked down a cup of juice right before we left at 8:pm.

Oh, and Christmas? It was wonderful, thanks for asking! We each got lots of neat little goodies, including a new camera that saw lots of duty yesterday. My mom brought Alastair a stuffed horse that he can actually "ride" (it doesn't move, but will support the weight of an adult). He loves it. His maternal grandparents got him a trash truck (one of his favorite work-trucks), a leather bomber-jacket, and myriad toys & clothes. He collected almost half of the cast of Cars (Mater, Lightning McQueen, a cow-tractor, Lizzie, and Sheriff), rocked out in his bilibo, and made a fabulous mess of wrapping paper.

All in all it was a wonderful Christmas. But I hope this sleeping crap comes to an end pretty soon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Nerdfest Freakout

Put on your seatbelt: this is gonna be rough.

I've been musing on time-travel. Or more specifically, the ramifications of time-travel and possible paradoxes.

And frankly, I don't believe there are any possible paradoxes. I have two reasons, and they're polar opposites.

1. Time Travel Prevents Paradoxes - This theory works on the notion that time is directly linear. Objects are simply inserted into the stream of time, and "now" is always the sum total of that linear progression.

Huh? Basically, if you went back in time, then according to History (big H), you've already been in that moment of time, and anything you do will have already been woven into the fabric of our "now". Thus, you cannot go back and shoot your parents or kill John Connor because it never happened.

That's not to say you can't go back in time. It just means that whatever you did will not create a paradox, because now is never changed. If it were, that would mean there would have to be multiple separate "nows", each slightly different from the other, and all occurring simultaneously.

Consider: you go back in time and kill your parents. If you manage to accomplish this (and I don't think you could), you would never have been created. But if somehow you did manage to do it, it would mean that the universe fractured the moment you went back in time, creating 2 separate instances, each diverging from that moment. In one, you kill them, and never exist. In the other, you are born, grow up, and decide to go back in time.

Realizing that Occam's Razor is tough to apply to an already-metaphysical discussion, I think the multiple-universe theory gets a quick slash.

2. Time Travel is Not Actually Time Travel Because "Time" Does Not Exist - This is more of a development of what I say can't happen in 1, but it's intriguing, nonetheless.

Instead of the universe or time or whatever fracturing, what if we don't move through time in a linear progression? What if time doesn't exist? If time doesn't exist, then all moments in time are actually occurring right now. The future, the past, and the present are all right now. If that's somehow possible (say multiple planes of existence, a multiverse, or whatever else you can dream up), then travelling "back in time" is really just moving from one point to another on the fabric.

I think that's more how time worked in Dune, with the folding of space, and with warp-speed in Star Trek.

If you consider that accelerating beyond the speed of light allows you to look back in time, then finding a way to fold space (or abstracting the fabric of the multiverse to traverse it non-linearly) would accomplish the exact same thing: you'd get to a point in time before its time would normally reach you.

It makes my brain hurt to think about it, but it makes sense to me.

Personally, I'm a bigger fan of Option 1, but it too depends on something dear old Occam would frown at: time-intelligence.

For Option 1 to work, time would need to be consciously aware of its linear nature to prevent you from killing your parents. Perhaps you would be unable to gain access to them, or perhaps you would die in transit. I don't know, but if you killed them, not only would you not exist, but everything they ever did after your birth would also cease to have occurred.

A better option overall is to simply assume that time travel is incompatible with Newtonian physics and abandon it. But Newtonian physics is incompatible with quantum physics, where the rudiments of time-travel and teleportation have been proven and demonstrated.

I had more to say, but this has been a rough day, and people keep interrupting me. I'll (try to) expound later on my theory that time can be represented as an enormous sphere.

Monday, December 10, 2007

MINI v. Windshields

So far it's MINI: 3, windshields: 0.

Friday morning, while backing out of my driveway, I heard a gut-wrenching crunch sound. I knew the car had flexed, and that the sound had come from the windshield. I couldn't find any cracks, though, so I forgot about it.

Until this morning, that is, when the crack peered out from behind the inspection sticker (ironic placement, no?).

So far, I've lost a windshield each of the last 3 years. That's hot.

The next reasonably warm stretch of days will find me with a host of tools pulling all the after-market suspension stuff out of the car. I don't know that they're the ultimate source of the stress, but I'm just tired of this crap. I'd just trade it in, but the MINI I want is hard to find, and while I keep eyeing a Mazda(speed) 3, the range of options just isn't very inspiring.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hide & Seek

Old & Busted: Mommy or daddy hides, baby seeks.
New Hotness: Baby hides items from himself and has full conversations while looking for them.

Example: Alastair recently discovered that his bath spout-protector (a duck with an openable fireman's helmet) is a perfect hiding spot for his little PlayMobil 1-2-3 girl. Last night he put the little girl in the helmet and said, "Where'd the little girl go?" It's worth noting that he shrugged, too.

Then he proceeded to lift each item in the bathtub, searching underneath them for the missing girl. "Is she under the duck? No.... Is she under cock-dile? No... Is she under washcloth? No..."

Seriously. He enunciated everything clearly. He knew exactly where she was, but now he's moved into practicing the word-game.

This morning he repeated the ritual with his Curious George sticker-sheet.

He's also been working on enunciating words like "yes" (which had been "yeah") and "excavator" (which had been "ekhvay"), and late last week, when Vivienne was climbing into a bag she didn't belong in, Alastair walked over to her, put his hand in front of her and said, "No maam! Get down."

On Sunday night, we drove around looking at Christmas lights and listening to Chris Isaak's Christmas CD. There's one song where he repeats "Merry Christmas from one million miles away" several times. At the end of the song, Alastair looked at me and said "Merry Christmas." He'd only heard it in the song, but now we have him using it as a greeting, complete with "Merry Christmas to you" as a reply.

Kid's got some vocabulary skills. Rock on!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Much-Needed Recharge

I took the whole week off last week. Woohoo!

I blew and bagged the leaves, cleaned and organized the shed, and helped cook Thanksgiving dinner. It was all fun.

Saturday night (the 17th) was Mr. Harper's 8th annual Thanksgiving dinner for friends. I look forward to that dinner almost as much as I do to our own tradition, and it did not disappoint. Mariah and Evelyn missed it this year, but Alastair did not. He joined us for the first part of the evening, playing with Chris's Teletubbies and pooping on his stairs ("I sit down I poopoo. Mama hold hand! Mama go away."). The incident was contained, and Ed & Leigh arrived to take him home and babysit for the evening. Matt brought the Kugal, Gregory brought the world's best banana pudding (yum! and then some), and there was every obligatory Turkey-day dish known to man.

Tuesday night was the 8th anniversary of my proposal to Amanda, and I surprised her with a date at the same restaurant where we first celebrated our engagement (and where we had our first real date in 1995).

Wednesday night, Alastair spent the night with Ed & Leigh so that we could get started on cooking Thanksgiving dinner. We dallied a bit, enjoying a wonderful Indian dinner at India k'Raja with Jeff & Evelyn (for 3 hours!), and eventually got to bed around 1:15am after wrestling the turkey into the brining bag.

Thursday was fabulous. Amanda's turkey was, by far, the best turkey I've ever had. Really. Very moist, very flavorful. I made shoe-leather-burnt stuffing patties, just like I remember from Greensboro. They were much easier than I'd thought. Amanda also made a cranberry sauce that Alastair and I really enjoyed (he's been clamoring for more), and her mom made sweet-potato casserole and creamed spinach.

We've been eating turkey and associated fixin's ever since.

Yesterday was the last autocross of the season, and I placed better than I have all season. It was probably because Daniel wasn't there, though (otherwise I would have tied my previous best).

It was a great week, with lots of fun time playing with Little Man, catching up on some Tivo'ed shows, and relaxing with friends and family.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Jamiesmitten: Criminal?

Today we went to the toy store. Alastair's been playing with PlayMobil 1-2-3 cars for a few months now, and over the last few days, he's taken to have the men play soccer, fall down, get hurt, and give each other hugs.

Seeing as how he only had 3 of the little men, he obviously couldn't have a fair soccer game. So I figured he needed another one, and since his obsession de la semaine is emergency services, I thought we'd keep the options to fire truck, police car, or ambulance (the obvious preference since the men fall down and get hurt a lot). Well, there's no ambulance, and the police car was cheaper than the fire truck.

So when we were playing with the police man this evening, he was putting the man on top of his stacker and knocking him off. I told him that he might hurt the police man, and that the police man might put him in jail. His response?

"Jail? Jail see Jamie?"

Friday, November 09, 2007

Reunion Workin' Churchin' Chili-n & Thanksgivin

A couple of weeks ago, Amanda and I went to our 10-year W&M reunion. It was weird. We hadn't really planned on doing much of the organized stuff, but we wound up dropping $100 for the Alumni Association party at the W'burg Lodge. We had fun with Shana, Chad, Synta, and her boyfriend, but most of our friends aren't reunion-goers, so it left something to be desired.

Plus, with my back medication failing me, I wasn't feeling too great. An open bar, a few conversations with some old acquaintances, and a bit of nostalgia are what I'll take away from the experience. We'll do it again at 20 years, but probably not at 15.


Work's been unrelenting lately. Apparently last week everybody decided that I'm the resident guru with every system we run, and who better to ask all your questions than the guru?

This on top of a major system failure that plagued us through the week and ongoing issues deploying new equipment frayed my already thin nerves, and I lost it this week at a coworker over something minor.


Amanda and Alastair and I have been to church almost every night this week. She and the boy started on Tuesday night with choir practice (I stayed home and changed wheels & tires on my cars), but Wednesday night was the Chili cook-off (where I had one bite of the worst chili in the history of Man), last night she was setting up for a craft-show, and this afternoon she'll be selling her button-jewelry from 5 - 8pm.

I doubt we'll go tomorrow.


Yeah, really: the worst chili. Ever. Amanda's was great (duh!), and so was Danny's (at least I think it was Danny's), but the stuff in the last crock-pot smelled like turpentine. I was still hungry, and I felt that I had an obligation to try it, since it was after all a cook-off, but even though I put in a huge dollop of sour cream and probably 1/4 cup of cheese, the smell and taste of cleaning-products could not be overcome.

One bite: into the trash.

Nasty nasty nasty.


Amanda and I have given up on the Greensboro family tradition, which has been in utter disarray since the death of my great-grandmother, and we're going to make our own damned turkey.

Ed & Leigh will join us, and we'll probably spend some time in the afternoon watching football or some other mind-numbing sport, and with any luck I'll pass out in the big leather chair.

It's gonna be perfect, and though I would love the Greensboro tradition to carry on (with us involved), I think we're gonna stick with this for a while.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hives. Wait; what?!?

Alastair has hives. He and I were out playing in the yard this morning, and when we came in for a diaper, I noticed a rash on his cute little legs. Then I found the rash on his feet, his tummy, his back, and his arm.

By the time we went downstairs for lunch (5 minutes later), his hands were breaking out. By the end of lunch, his right foot was covered in rash.

We called the doctor and scheduled a 1:30 sick-child visit, and 20 minutes later all of the rashes were gone.

5 minutes after that, he had a new rash on one arm.

Amanda kept the appointment, and said that she got to watch rashes form and disappear before her eyes.

Poor little guy, and this after a fabulous night as Big Bird!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Oh, lordy.

I've only been passively following this whole SCHIP debate, but when I decided to take a look into it, one thing became glaringly obvious: it's a very small step away from socialized medicine.

Essentially SCHIP boils down to publicly subsidized insurance for families making less than ~$37K/year. It sounds great: get the kids insured, keep them healthy. Do it for the kids! The kids!

But underneath that rosy glow of altruism is another erosion of personal responsibility. When Amanda and I first began to discuss having a child, one of the most important issues we had to face was money. Could we afford to have a child? Not just labor & delivery, and not just food and education, but health-care, clothing, activities, transportation, child-care, and anything else that might arise.

I pored over our family finances, looked for ways that we could reduce our spending, turned back the A/C & heat, and started looking for ways to get more overtime, if necessary.

We took the decision to have a child very seriously, and saw it as a responsibility that we shared with noone else. We would be responsible for feeding the child. We would be responsible for clothing the child. And we would be responsible for footing the entire bill. Granted, I am very well insured through my company, and that was important. It made me take my job more seriously so as not to jeopardize my position.

SCHIP removes that responsibility. No longer will families have to wonder: "can we afford a child"? The state makes the simple answer of Yes! And worse: I pay for it.

And far worse, it puts us a step closer to the liberal dream of socialized medicine. We already had Medicaid, but apparently SCHIP is designed to help those families that fall between Medicaid maxima and whatever society now deems "middle class" (which at present apparently starts around $37,000).

Now, the viciously conservative side of me says that instead of helping the poor like this, we should ask the poor to help society by waiting until they can bloody-well afford to have children.

The more pragmatic side of me sees this as a liberal incursion into personal responsibility that will ultimately end in socialized medicine. See, right now it's just "insurance". The government can help you pay for your problems but won't interfere. Eventually I see programs like this expanding to either all children or low-income families as a whole. From there, I can see assistance becoming requirement, where instead of the government offering to pick up your co-pay, they call you and tell you it's time for your checkup, but don't worry: it's free!

So what, right? Free health-care is great! Yes, it is, but there's a reason why Brits and Canadians come to the US for medical assistance: they might have the guarantee of free health-care, but they have to wait months for a simple doctor's visit, and there's no incentive for qualified surgeons to stay in those countries (they can't earn what they're worth).

The far-reaching implication, as I see it, is the further erosion of the US economy. The United States has long been seen as a service-oriented economy, with most manufacturing going overseas. But what services can we offer the world that will remain in demand? Movies? Sure, but the one field we positively own is medicine. We have the best medical facilities in the world, along with the best doctors. We have some of the highest success rates, and are continually driving medicine forward.

If we succumb to socializing the environment, we will lose our position as a world leader in this most important service industry.

And if we continue rolling out expensive social programs, we remove the incentive for the wealthy to invest in our economy, AND if we keep mucking up Social Security (SCHIP is part of the Social Security Department), it's only going to get worse for future generations to untangle.

So fight SCHIP. Fight for personal freedoms, responsibilities, and rights. Fight for the dissolution of intrusive government agencies*, and against the incursions of the left.

*I've been proselytizing at work about what it would take to "fix" portions of our economy. Part of my plan (and it's far-reaching) would be to dissolve Social Security, the Department of Education, and the IRS; return all the money paid into Social Security to the workers, allowing (and encouraging) them to invest that money; and revert to a federal taxation architecture more in line with the Constitution, which expressly forbids direct taxation of the people and calls for the States to pay for the US government. Maybe I'll expand on this in another post, but it kind of depends on me being king for a while...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Skimming the Pool

I think I'm done with BioBitch. NBC's attempt to revive the Bionic Woman series is beyond stupid. It transcends abysmal. It makes my bottom hurt.

My performance review went well yesterday. I'm moving in the right direction, but our group is still not focussed like it should be. I have to find a way to ensure more cooperation and more cohesion.

I checked last night, and my time in the go-karts still stands as the 3rd fastest of the week, and the 5th fastest of the month. At least 2 of the faster times were in super karts, though, so I don't count them....

I'm getting more serious about getting a truck & trailer. There's a fellow in Chantilly, VA with a combo for sale at a price that can't be beat. Amanda and I might go up some day next week, test drive it, and maybe bring it back home.

Alastair is doing really well. He's really developing his vocabulary, usually springing at least one new word on me every day, and beginning to conjugate verbs (I see, I saw, I did see). We've been playing in the yard every day this week, and he loves being outside.

Hmm... I think that's all for now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

Zany Brainy Baby

This weekend was the third and final Richmond edition of the National Folk Music Festival. If you didn't go, shame on you.

We went, and we took World's Craziest Baby along for the ride.

We got off to a good crazy start on Saturday morning by playing on the jungle-gym at Lourdes, and then running around their field for about half an hour. For no good reason at all. We just all ran around like lunatics, periodically tackling the baby, who acted like he'd never had so much fun.

Then we went down to the festival, where we met Amanda's parents. Alastair danced to all the acts, ran around with me in the open areas, and tried to mimic some ladies who were clogging. He did quite an impressive job, and distracted about 20% of the audience from the act itself. An official photographer came over and snapped some pics (though I doubt we'll ever find them).

He was so active that he passed out in the backpack on the way out. His little head bobbed back and forth for about 4 blocks before we got him to the car, where he passed right back out. And even at home, he crashed for another solid 2 hours.

Then we went out in the yard and ran around some more!

Yesterday I went go-kart racing, and Amanda & Alastair came to watch. Amanda said he was very good at pointing me out, even with my helmet on. He spent a good amount of time "driving" the racing games, and after his afternoon nap, we went back to the Folk Music Festival.

He resumed his crazy dancing antics, ran up and down the hill with me, and acted like a total fruit-cake for about 2 hours. After we came home, we spent another 30 minutes running around in the front yard.

I've never seen so much energy in my life, but we kept up with him (we took turns), and plopped his butt in bed pretty much right after dinner.

I think he's only ever had this much fun at the Fair, and this time he didn't have to stand still for even a minute. God, what fun!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Linguistic Musings

It has often troubled me that words sometimes do not mean what they rightfully should. The best example of this, and the one that's bothered me more than any other, is "terrific". Consider:

terrible = horrible
terrify = horrify
terror = horror
terrific != horrific


Turns out, according to, terrific was added to the written English language in 1667 from "terrificus", which meant causing terror. This definition survived for about 140 years. In 1809 the word was given a second meaning: very great, large. I'm all right with that, as it dovetails with the slow evolutions of "enormous" / "enormity", but in 1888 a new usage emerged: excellent.

How did we go from horrible to excellent in 79 years?

I've touched on it, but how did "enormous" go from "very evil" to "very large"? Obviously the two words took the same evolutionary path, albeit in different centuries ("very large" emerged as early as the 1540's).

And, as with "terrific", the old definition is still valid, but often marked Archaic in modern dictionaries.

So what made me think of this? I was walking past the TV this morning when I found myself bored and unsurprised with the "continuing coverage" of the Cleveland shooter. I'm frankly sick to death of the media attention heaped upon these fruit-bats. Anyway, it got me thinking about the expression "going postal" and wondering how many times it took for USPS employees to carve out a little piece of lexicon all for themselves. Turns out (according to wikipedia) there were 40 instances of postal-worker violence from 1986 to 1997, and that the term first entered the language in 1993.

I graduated high school in 1993, and I clearly remember using the expression in high school, so I think it might have been coined in '91 or '92. Maybe it just wasn't used in print, or used frequently enough to get official recognition until 1993.

On a side-note, it's a clear example of the decline in American education when a guy can walk into a school with 2 guns and only manage to wound 4 people before killing himself. Sad, sad, sad.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Amanda is back! Alleluia!

But we had a great time. Here's the rundown:

Thursday: brought Alastair to work. We have helicopters, warplanes, anti-aircraft guns, and tanks on display around the facility. It's like a little-boy playground. While here, we rode the bus (endless fascination!), saw several firetrucks, visited the day-care where he spent 3 months of his life, watched & listened to the elk, and met all of my coworkers.

Friday: back to the State Fair. He'd had so much fun on Monday last week that I thought we'd do it again. This time Evelyn met us, and we watched racing pigs ("I see fast pigs!") & stunt-dogs, watched people ride the drop-zone ride, petted all of the baby animals, "drove" the tractors, and Evelyn & I shared a bag of fried Oreos (bizarre side-note: I got my fried goodies in a bag, which guaranteed messier-than-necessary hands, so I asked for a plate; the European dude behind the counter told me that I couldn't have a plate because they're for $5 items; I told him I'd given him $5 for the Oreos, and he just gave me this blank stare; eventually his coworker handed me a 2nd bag, as if that somehow made sense).

Saturday: Farm! We went to my mom's farm. Alastair got to pet the horses, ride a pony, drive a tractor, operate the fork-lift arm on the tractor, sit on an ATV, pet the bunny, and talk to the turkeys. Mom displayed her remarkable capacity for responsibility by not only allowing him to steer the tractor, but also to drive it on a public road. Granted, it was only about 60', but she got us out there and then started telling us how dangerous that part of the road is. Then she refused to wear her seat-belt to or from lunch, telling me some story about a woman who'd been trapped in her seat-belt for 8 days. Yeah? Well there's a reason why that was news, lady, and it's not because it happens every day.

Anyway, we had a really great time on the farm, and Alastair is still oohing and aahing over his tractor ride and the pony. He's positively beside himself over the goats and sheep at the fair, though.

Sunday: MINIs on a Ferry, II. My intention had always been to take Alastair for this, since he would get to ride on a big boat with lots of "Daddy cars". As it turned out, though, Ed & Leigh volunteered to take him for the whole day (and night!), and I didn't turn them down. It would have been tough on the little guy to have him in the car for over 3 hours without any real point to the drive, and without any place to let him run around.

We didn't set the record this time: only 65 or so MINIs showed up. But we still had a lot of fun, and it was far better organized this year (not to mention the weather: 85 & sunny vs. 45, windy & rainy).

Monday: Not so great. I started the morning well enough by getting Alastair's ceiling fan mounted. It's not wired yet, but I wanted to make sure everything was there before doing the wiring. I've been putting this off for a solid 2 years. But that was pretty much where the fun ended (and it wasn't all that fun). Alastair was very good right up until lunch, which was about 45 minutes after I picked him up.

Thereafter we just got on each other's nerves. It was a sad end to a great weekend, but I think we were both just really tired. He did get his first trip down Riverside Dr, though, and didn't seem too bothered.

So I'm beyond delighted to have Amanda back, but I really had a (mostly) good time with my Little Man. He's a great guy, and a real trouper.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Boys' Night(s) Out

Amanda leaves tomorrow morning bright & early for Seattle (hi Susan!), and Alastair and I have the house to ourselves for 5 days!

Yes, I'm terrified, but that's beside the point...

We're going back to the State Fair on Friday, during the day, we'll probably take a jaunt to work or to my mom's farm on Thursday, and we're participating in a world-record attempt on Sunday (more on that later). Saturday morning there's a pickup soccer game at Lourdes, and Monday night will be dinner at Legend with my dad.

Action packed, indeed.

My one short stint of down-time will come Sunday night, when Alastair spends the night with Grammy & Pappy, but I envision lots of GT4 on the PlayStation at night, a bit of car-work during nap-times, and general mayhem for the rest of the time.

I'm on a short leash with work, though, with a bunch of projects all coming together (just like every Fall).

Sunday will be the highlight. Last November we packed 76 MINIs and Minis on a ferry from Jamestown to Surry. Amazingly, the ferry was just over half-filled with MINIs, and we can do better. We also had to deal with 45F temps, wind, and driving rain last year, so it was rescheduled a month earlier. The goal is 125 MINIs, followed by lunch at the Virginia Diner (yummy Southern cooking). Alastair's old enough now to appreciate both the ride on the ferry and the sheer number of MINIs, so I'm really looking forward to it.

It's going to be a long day, with the RCM crew heading out of Varina at 8:45am, and the ferry depositing us in Surry at 11:30. We probably won't get home until about 2:30 or 3pm, so hopefully he'll nap in the car. Hopefully.

We're gonna have a good time, though. I've been looking forward to this for a while.

No work 'til Tuesday! W00t!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Daddy fall down. Daddy fall down...stairs.

Eventful weekend!

Alastair and I started off Saturday morning with a trip to the playground. We took a soccer ball (you should see him dribble: it's amazing!) and played on the fire-truck jungle-gym. While we were there, we met a couple of gentlemen who are trying to start a Saturday morning pickup game. So on Saturdays, from 9 - 11am, I'm going to try to wrangle Amanda and Alastair over to the playground to watch & play some fun, relaxed soccer.

It'll give us something to do on those weekends that start slowly, and should help me get back into running. I'm thinking of running on Tuesdays & Thursdays, and playing soccer on Saturdays. That should be enough to prep me for any future 5K's.

Saturday afternoon I washed the cars. I'd never washed the CR-V before, or anything that requires a step-stool, so I learned a few things. But when I got started on the MINI, I went nuts. I washed. I waxed. I applied Rain-X. I applied Rain-X Anti-Fog to the inside of the windshield (doesn't work worth a crap). I dusted. I put tire-shine on the black plastic trim.

When it was all said & done, I'd spent about 5 hours outside, most of it in the sun without a shirt on, and only drinking about 1/2 a glass of water.

Later (shortly after dusk), Alastair wanted to go out and watch the bats. In my effort to take him downstairs to get my shoes, my heel shot off the 2nd step (of 5), and down we went. My back took most of the impact, making a really loud cracking sound, and it hurt to breathe. I was certain I'd cracked a rib, but more certain that I'd crushed Alastair's arm. His right arm had been wrapped around me when I started to fall.

I pulled him slightly away from me, looked him in the eye, and he started tearing up. I gingerly felt over his little arm, and it felt ok. Amanda took him from me to console him, and I lay there wondering if I'd broken anything. Ultimately I decided to get up, and nothing shifted strangely, so I got my shoes and we went looking for bats.

Even later that night, we ate a dinner that was undercooked (I inadvertently turned the oven off right before Amanda put it in), watched some TV, and I started to feel a little woozy. I went to bed feeling strangely hungry, but figured I simply hadn't eaten enough.

Sunday morning I woke up even more woozy, even slightly queasy. Amanda got the boy ready for church, and I went back to bed. 30 minutes later, I was praying to the porcelain god. I was weak and tired all day, had constant headaches, and only ate 2 pieces of toast, a bowl of soup, some applesauce and some jello.

Today I feel great. So was it food-poisoning? Exhaustion from too much time in the Sun? Dehydration? A concussion? All of the above?

Alastair spent all day yesterday telling me about it: "I fall down. Daddy fall down. Daddy fall down...stairs."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Don't you have to be a writer to have Writer's Block?

Several times over the last few weeks I've sat down to post, and either the post rambles on to no point, or nothing appears on the screen. I've trashed a bunch of abortive efforts, like a brief treatise on David Purley, a Formula 1 driver from the 1970's who survived the worst wreck ever (170G's, stopping the car from108mph in just 20 inches - ouch) and heroically abandoned a race in 1973 to try to save a friend whose car had flipped and burned. He was unsuccessful - his friend died.

I've also been trying to put my thoughts together to recount the tales of what the adults did at the beach. So far I've come up with "we ate a lot of good food, drank a bunch of wine, and had a great time except for when things got tense on Saturday night at dinner". Not very compelling.

So I guess this post is just an amalgam of what's been on my mind lately.

Want more?

My cube-mate turns out to be evil. He came to work this morning with 4 dozen doughnuts. For the math-challenged, that's 48 doughnuts. And the smell...oh the smell. I've eaten one, so far, but I just found myself brewing more coffee so that I could enjoy at least one more.

Amanda's running a 5K tonight.

Alastair got to meet a bunch of policemen last night. We were walking in Carytown and he saw 2 police cars in front of 7-Eleven. He started doing his siren imitation and saying, "I see pee cah. Man diiie pee cah." So I took him into the store, interrupted the three officers' conversation (very politely) an told Alastair that they were the men who keep us safe (that really impressed the cops). He played shy, but he was clearly blown-away by the cool uniforms and their association with those neat cars.

Alastair has now taken to getting up and telling you what he did before he went to sleep. It's pretty cool, and since Amanda wasn't with us last night, she got to hear the story of our trek through Carytown from him this morning. He's getting so very vocal.

Homecoming is coming. No Amos-Halloween Fete this year as we'll be in the Burg.

I think that's all. More (rambling) later.

Monday, September 24, 2007

VA Beach 2007 - The Tale of Sir Sleeps-a-Little

The beach was a blast. I'll just go ahead and say that right off the bat. Alastair had a lot of fun, and really impressed the hell out of us.

Thursday afternoon, I got to put Mr. Screamy-Naptime-Pants down for his nap. Amanda scooted out for a bit, and I listened to him wail while I packed for the beach. He lasted for 20 minutes before surrendering, and slept for exactly 1 hour before waking up screaming again. At least he slept.

The drive down to the beach was uneventful. We stopped in W'burg for an early dinner (Cheese Shop goodness!), walked around for a bit, and then braved I-64E traffic, which turned out to be pretty easy.

When we got there, the first thing we did at the B&B was to close the blinds in the room. Even having never seen these blinds, Alastair immediately began freaking out about bedtime. We dealt with it, had a fun bath, and put him down. After a moment of screaming, he was out.

Until 5am.

We tried putting him in the bed with us for a while, which worked for about an hour, and then just relented and got up early (he played quietly on the floor for a short while, letting us rest just a bit longer). So began our "relaxing" stay at the Beach Spa Bed & Breakfast.

We had a grand ol' time at the beach, with lots of boats and airplanes being spotted and called out with regularity. There was a tractor smoothing down newly-delivered sand, and he's super-crazy about tractors right now, so that was the big obsession of the morning. To heck with all that water!

The B&B rented us a Radio Flyer wagon for our stay, a nice one with pneumatic tires and wooden rails to keep him from falling out. Dad and I sensed his boredom with sitting in the sand and took him up to see the pier. It was much farther than we'd thought, so we were walking for about an hour. Through the sand. Dragging a wagon with a 30lb baby inside. Ugh.

Then it was off to the showers to get the sand off, after which he told us "I shower. I clean!"

After another 1.000 hour long nap, Amanda and I decided to take Alastair up & down the main drag for a walk. We brought the wagon so that he could ride in style, but he had other ideas. About a mile from the B&B, he decided he wanted to pull the big heavy wagon. The little turkey dragged it behind him for about 4 or 5 blocks, handing it to us at intersections and proudly exclaiming to all passers-by, "I puh wag!" At one point we passed an older dude sitting on a step who proclaimed Alastair to be the world's strongest baby. Sweet!

When he wasn't pulling the wagon, he was gettin' down to the music playing from the street poles, which made a group of old ladies think he was waving to them. They waved back, and he gave the greatest "What are you looking at" stare back at them.

Dinner at the Raven unveiled the latest and greatest baby oddity, far exceeding his love of pickles: a love of lemons. He was being really good, eating his food, my food, everybody's food, and I decided to tease him by giving him a bite of lemon. He absolutely loved it and didn't quit until not only the juice was gone, but also the pulp. He then proceeded to eat 3 more slices of lemon out of everybody's tea glasses. He proudly repeated this trick the next night, so it wasn't just a fluke.

During his bath, he kept saying "I puh wag" to Amanda, while playing with his cups. Amanda said, "that's right, you pulled the wagon." Alastair fixed her straight in the eyes and slowly said, "I puh wah-tu." Priceless!

Friday night was super easy with bed-time, and though he wasn't exactly overjoyed on Saturday morning, we did at least get to sleep until about 6:45am. Not bad.

The real story was on the beach Saturday. He was really not too thrilled to just sit and play in the sand, and the tractor wasn't out, but it had made a big mound of sand about 300' from our chairs. We went and played on it for a while, with Dad snapping pictures of the little man scrambling up one side and sliding down the other on his hands & knees. We did this for about 20 minutes before heading back to Amanda & Randy. Shortly thereafter, he was missing his sand-pile, so he just started wandering back.

Thank God Amanda followed us, because the transcendent joy she got to witness was worth every moment of lost sleep and all the money spent. He climbed up and down, sometimes running down the steep slopes, sometimes face-planting, but always with the best attitude and never a tear. He'd proudly shout "I climb dirt!" over and over again, then chase me across the top of the pile. What joy!

This wore his ass out, and we got our first 2.25 hour nap in over a week. Yippee!

But, Saturday night was reserved for the first sleepless night we'd had since Christmas Eve 2006. I put him down at 8:30, and at 9 he started screaming. I went in and repeated the bedtime ritual, and he seemed fine.

At 1am, though, he woke up pissed off. We tried to calm him down and put him back in bed, but every time we put him down, he'd stand up and cry. So we put him in our bed, and he was fine for about 5 minutes. Then we had play-time until 2:45am, with him crawling over us, smashing his forehead into our eye-sockets (he got both of us with this charming trick), and riding mommy.

She put him back in his crib after I snapped at him, and she laid on the floor right beside him. Apparently that was all he needed: to be able to see us (I think he was homesick). So Amanda slept on the floor so that I would be able to drive us home.

We got through until about 6, and I slept until about 7.

He passed out shortly after leaving the beach, and slept about half way home.

Last night he was happy as a clam to go to bed, and didn't stir once in the night.

So Alastair learned new verbs this weekend: pull, push, pour (all of which sound like "puh"), shower, drive, and play. He also learned how to open the doors in our B&B's room, which was kind of a pain, since one opened to a very steep spiral staircase and the other opened to the bathroom ("I see daddy peepee" was not my favorite thing to hear). Last but not least, he learned how to tickle. Awesome.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Beach Vacation 2007, Round 2. Fight!

Today we head off for our 2nd beach vacation of the year, this time to VA Beach. We're staying at the Beach Spa B&B with my dad and stepmother. As Amanda is commenting on her own blog, though, this comes with its own share of challenges, namely Alastair's new-found hatred of nap time.

We got the first glimmer of this new phase on Sunday, when upon returning from Maymont Park, he cried at me for a minute before I laid him down.

Since Sunday, he either utterly refuses to take a nap or sobs uncontrollably for about an hour before passing out. Great party trick! Great for other beach-going B&B occupants! Tell all your single friends (sorry, Jamie, it's just so catchy...)!

For the last couple of days, this activity has been expanded to crying again upon waking, and isn't restricted to nap time. Yesterday at 6:45am I went charging into his room when he started wailing. It only took about 15 seconds to calm him, though, so even though I was worried, I felt played. This morning he started at 6:01am, and though I lunged out of the bed, I stopped myself 2 steps later. My theory was that if I just keep running in, he's going to keep doing it, and maybe earlier and earlier. So I climbed back into bed, and at 6:02am he stopped and went back to sleep.

He did it again an hour later, but about 15 seconds into his fit, a big truck drove past, and he absolutely cannot resist the temptation to say "Big Truck!" over and over again. Since he can't cry and say "Big Truck!" at the same time, I took the opportunity of the break in screaming to go scoop him up. I'd rather he associate our entry with good moods than bad.

So that's the big challenge. Fortunately we have an escape route at the beach: Dad & Randy are staying in the room below us, so we can stay in the B&B but get out of the room if he gets Out Of Control.

But I'm excited. We're going to try to track down a jet-ski rental place, have some great food, relax in the sand, and try to get one last fling out of Summer. Heck, there might even be some go-kart racing and putt-putt involved.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I peepee pah-y!

Last night, for the first time, Alastair made a deposit in the toilet. All praise the angels on high!

At first he was a little confused, and couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. But Amanda and I were beyond excited, so eventually he got just as excited as we were, and we asked him several times today what he'd done on the potty. By and large he got it right, with this little grin of accomplishment. It was great!

Go Little Man! You peepee on that potty.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Osama: The Metrosexual Terrorist

I've been struggling to find a good comparison shot, but there were great video grabs on TV this morning showing the new Osama video and the last one, from 2004. He's dyeing his beard.

It must be pretty hard to look all tough and bad-ass while decrying the zionist pig-dogs and combing in your Just For Men gel. In just 5 minutes, he can comb away the gray!

I bet he drinks through a straw, too. Fruity drinks with umbrellas.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

105/64, Pulse 57, 154.9lbs fully dressed

I'm officially comatose again. I just took my blood pressure, and I've come back down about 10 points on diastolic and systolic. Yippee!

It must be all that racin'. Or else it's that 30lb monkey I wrestle with every day... Honestly, I think time spent working on and racing the Miata has provided an extremely healthy outlet for my aggressions. I still bottle all of my emotions, but now I have a single point on which to focus them, and nobody has to get hurt or yelled at. As a result, I'm calmer during the day, and I think that's why my blood pressure has come back down from 117/71.

And before you write that off as being within the statistical margin of error, bear in mind that there's been a 11% drop, and even though the numbers were low to begin with, that's a significant change.

It probably also helps that we had a really nice weekend, complete with wrestling, tickling, driving around, playing at the park, ice cream, and plenty of good old fashioned baby shenanigans.

And Amanda made waffles yesterday. I like waffles.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Thank You, TrackDaze!

What an awesome event! I'm definitely doing this again.

Yesterday got off to a great start. The first run of the day had some impressive hardware on the track. In our group there was a Porsche 911 Turbo, a Ferrari 575, at least one M3, and a 2008 VW R32 that was being provided by VW for use during the day.

I found out about the Ferrari and the Porsche during the run, when they suddenly appeared in my mirrors right after Oak Tree. There's a 4000' straight from Oak Tree to Roller Coaster, and with my ~120HP to their ~400, they appeared and then were gone. But not for long...

I caught up to them entering Roller Coaster, which was really weird, but weirder still was what happened next. My instructor had me hold off just a little bit through Carousel, and then drop the hammer through Hog Pen. At the exit of Hog Pen, we were on the Ferrari's bumper, and he gave us the point-by to pass.

So there you go: my day started off by passing a Ferrari in a Miata.

My instructor signed me off for solo runs for the remainder of the day. The first one was fabulous. Without the extra ~175lbs, the car was much quicker, and I was able to surprise a bunch of folks. Braking was better, acceleration was better, transitions were better, everything. Yeah, there were some folks that passed me, but mostly very high horsepower cars.

The second one was not fabulous.

These will sound like standard racer excuses, but while individually they're excuses, collectively they create enough variables to be admissible:

1. I forgot to check tire pressure before going out. I expect the front left was 3psi high, while the others were at least 2psi high. That can make a big difference in cornering and braking.

2. The cool-shirt wasn't working correctly. I had dumped out some water to drop weight, but apparently enough that the pump was sucking dry. In hard left turns, I'd get icy cold goodness, but in straights and right turns, nothing. It's a right-hand track.

Anyway, I was aware of both issues by the first turn, but I didn't back off because I had already half-way decided to come home immediately following that session. I wanted to go out having fun! I nearly went out. Twice.

The first time was at South Bend, a turn that terrifies seasoned veterans. It's at the end of the climbing esses, is off-camber, downhill, and requires a tap of the brakes before entering. I'd chatted with some of the instructors during the day, and they thought 80mph was just a bit slow for entry, so I tried to bump it to 90. Not so good. The car skated out like it should have, but the back end began to over-rotate. Normally, correcting this will shoot you off the outside and into a tire wall, but instinct made me fight the spin. I overcorrected, overcorrected again, calmed down and made 2 or 3 more corrections, and found myself on my original line, only 10mph slower than I should have been, and pointed directly at the braking marker. Sweet!

A lap later, I came through South Bend perfectly but carried too much speed into the first apex of Oak Tree, dropping the left tires off, correcting, dropping the rear tires off, correcting again, and finding myself nearly perfectly aligned for the 2nd apex. I gave the corner workers a wave and kept on going, but 2 cars I'd been working very hard to keep behind me made up a lot of distance over those 2 laps.

After making two major mistakes in as many laps, I decided absolutely that the end of that session was going to be the end of my day.

To top things off, the TireTail failed on the way home. Entering Rte 58, I felt the weight of the car shift, looked back, and saw a wheel rolling across the road. I stopped, got the wheel, actually found the TireTail's linch-pin and backing plate, put it all back together, and continued on. I'd put the thing together incorrectly in the paddock, and I paid the price.

It was a long, slow drive home, but it gave me plenty of time for reflection, and there's no way that will have been my last time in a passing group. Holy smack.

I also got a ride with Mr. Kimmelshue in the E46 M3. That thing isn't like most cars. There aren't brakes, per se: they're more like anchors. Big anchors. He hits the brakes and the car just stops. There were several turns it felt like we simply couldn't make, but a tap of the middle pedal would pull the car down in an impossibly short span, and through the turn we'd go.

As for that ride in the Atom, it was just one mile, from the paddock to the Lodge, with Mr. Kimmelshue at the wheel, but you can do a lot in one mile in that car/thing. I'm definitely scratching it off my list of dream cars, though. My left ear hurt for about 2 hours from the supercharger whine (it's right next to your head), and it throws rocks at you in turns. Not to mention the bugs and face-ripping feeling of the wind. Maybe if I'd been better suited (driving suit) I would have liked it more, but it felt a bit unhinged. And God forbid you should find yourself behind it on track. It was by far the loudest thing I heard out there (during my sessions), and even 100 yards in front of me it made my teeth hurt.

Final thought on the Miata: I analyzed the Gtech and pyrometer data and found out why some cars on stock tires were able to stick with me: too much camber at all 4 corners. At least 1/4-degree needs to be dialed out. Outside temps were consistently 10-degrees cooler than middle and inside, which were generally equal. Braking suffered dramatically, with readings never exceeding 0.60G (0.2 worse than what we've seen at the autocross, even with race pads). Turning was pretty good, with max numbers in the 1.14G range, but acceleration was horrid, never exceeding 0.18G. Yuck. Granted, acceleration wasn't due to camber, but maybe I wouldn't have had to do so much of it if the suspension were set up properly...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm Pooped

Day 1 is complete, and I'm wiped out.

The morning began with too little time to eat breakfast (got some coffee, though!), $4.00/gallon gasoline, a wet seat, and a cool-shirt that wasn't flowing. An inauspicious start, to say the least. Oh, yeah: and our first session on track was only about 4 laps. Apparently they were running behind and wanted to stay on schedule.

There was also a SuperPerformance Cobra that tried to take turn 14a upside down before our session. Curiously this was not the fast line through the turn.

The second session was much more intense. I was surprised that many people were giving me the signal to pass. There are a bunch of VW R32's in my group, along with a handful of mildly exotic sports cars, and one Porsche 911 Turbo (he passed us all a lot), but by and large I was chewing up the mirrors of slower traffic throughout the run.

Somewhere in the middle of it I got the signal to pass coming onto the front straight, but the driver signaling didn't let up on the gas, so I had to make a late pass. Now, it takes a second or two to collect your wits after passing someone to figure out what's next. Unfortunately, I took too long, went way too deep into the braking zone for Turn 1, and slid off into the grass. Oops.

The car was fine, my instructor didn't have too much negative to say, and when I pitted in, I simply told the guy in the pits that I got on the brakes too late, and off I went. I was totally panty-waisting that turn for the rest of the session, and most of the 3rd (and probably even part of the 4th), but I did learn the proper line through HogPen, which is where I spun off the track last year. That turn went from being terrifying to my biggest thrill on the course. Holy smack, HogPen is freakin' awesome.

I had fun today.

Sorry, Tripp: no photos. I thought about it and then left the camera at home anyway. While there are a bunch of VW's and Porsches here, there really aren't any hyper-exotics at this event. Well, except for the Ariel Atom I got to ride in...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Roll Call in the Sleep Inn Parking Lot

2 Miatas (including mine)
3 Z06 Corvettes
1 E30 BMW
2 VW R32's
1 2007 MINI Cooper S
1 Formula Ford
1 Dodge Viper
1 Porsche 911 GT3
1 Porsche Cayman (no badging, but it might be an S)
2 Ford Mustang GT's

I'm down in Danville for 2 days for a HPDE (high-performance driving event) put on by TrackDaze. It's 2 days on the track at VIR, where I've driven twice before, but the difference is seat-time with an instructor and the right to pass slower traffic.

I'm super jazzed about it!

I got down here this afternoon around 4pm and headed over to the track to unload & prep the car. Swapped the wheels, mounted the cool-shirt's cooler in the boot, and ran all the electrics that I'd need for the event.

Then it was time to hob-nob. First up was a guy in another Miata, and from the looks of his car, he knew what was what. Evidently not: he bought the car already prepared and had a look of trepidation when he got close to mine. He must have asked about every single component of my car. It was cool, though, to see the enthusiasm and curiosity that only comes with being new to this racing thing.

Then I spent some time with Ashley (of RiverCityMINIs fame) and his buddy with the 944. Yummy cars... Eventually my eyes settled on a familiar looking vehicle: an E36 M3 that I've seen several times behind Mr. Kimmelshue's house. The fellow unloading it didn't look familiar, though, so I introduced myself. It turns out Chris is poison for other people's wallets, too, as this guy got into track events after talking to Chris.

Anyway, the guy couldn't have been nicer, but while he was releasing the tie-downs that held the car onto the trailer, we were probably flapping our yaps just a bit too much, because he forgot to put the car in gear. When he let the last strap go, the car just started rolling. Both of us had a moment of "hey, is that supposed to happen" before panic set in. I foolishly tried to stop the 3000lb+ car by pulling on the A-pillar. No dice. Then I figured that since the car came with brakes, I might as well use them. I dove through the window (the car was still about a foot or so of the ground) and cranked the emergency brake. 5 feet later it stopped, but it could have been much worse.

15 minutes later, we saw what "much worse" meant. There were a number of cars in line to be tech-inspected. The last two were a Cobra and (I think) an R32, in that order. The guy with the Cobra hopped in, fired the motor, put it in reverse, and slammed the R32, to the utter amazement and stupefaction of at least 10 onlookers, including the R32's owner. Yikes!

Hopefully, that's the worst I'll see this week, but horsepower and adrenaline are closely related, so wish me luck...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wait, how old am I?

So that's the question that I find myself facing this week. Tomorrow's my birthday, and a curious thing happens when you have a baby: you cease to exist as a separate entity. The first time someone asked me how old I would be on my birthday this year, all I could think was "19 months". I think it took about 15 to 20 seconds for me to come up with "32", and that was based on some shaky math.

Yes, I'll be 32 tomorrow, but it's really not much of a watershed event. It's a day that I get to spend with my wife and child, and that's really all I care about.

Enough sugar and fluff...

This weekend was fun. Hot (oh my god...) but fun. Saturday started with a really great, laid-back breakfast at Feathernesters in Lakeside. The place is a local kitsch shop with a tea room, and their food is superb. They do a bunch of pies & pastries, but we restrained ourselves to some very fluffy pancakes, tasty bacon, and an english muffin for the little man. Yum yum yum.

Then it was off the the Richmond Raceway Complex for the National Street Rod Association's Richmond Nationals. Thousands of street rods (read: cars from the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's souped up and maintained to a level of perfection that is only attainable by the retired or the soon-to-be-divorced) were gathered on the sweltering pavement, and while they were beautiful, they did not engage Alastair's attention. The heat sucked us dry, but we managed to have some fun, and doused the boy with a full bottle of water (straight shots to the face, and he loved it!).

Saturday afternoon we pulled out his baby pool and did some front yard swimming. That kid does love some water!

Sunday was spent on yard work and home repairs during the day, but an absolutely fabulous dinner with friends. It's easy to fall out of touch with friends, and you don't realize the tragedy of that fact until you lose them forever. I'm very blessed to have friends who realize how long it's been and how important it is to sit down for a relaxing time together.

Chris, Terry, Jeff, Evelyn, Amanda and I (and Alastair, of course!) went to Nacho Mama's and spent 2 wonderful hours eating, chatting, gossiping, and acting like fools. It was great, and I think we should make it a more common gathering. The only person missing was Mariah, but we spent a good deal of time talking about how much we miss her (we miss you, Mariah).

What a great ending to a great weekend. I hope we do it again soon.

In 2 days I'm off to VIR for a high-performance driving event. It will be 2 days of flogging the Miata on the race track. Mmmm, yummy...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Don't you buy no ugly truck

That used to be the tag-line of a local used-car/truck dealership in town. I haven't heard it in years, but it leapt forth in my mind today.


I've had the desire to buy a truck for a long time. 4 years ago, I missed my chance to own one for $450 at a silent auction. The inherent utility of a truck is such that almost every household ultimately needs one: bringing large things home where delivery is cost-prohibitive (sometimes 15-20% of the total purchase price!), hauling stuff to the dump, moving, and if you get a 4x4, getting around in the Winter. To say nothing of the ability to tow your own car to the shop for long-term work, and then being free to keep on motoring.

Recently the Miata's transformation into a race car was completed, and with that came a number of concessions to the race track that make street-driving very unpleasant, like a roll-cage that's hard to climb over, an extremely loud exhaust, and the utter lack of ventilation inside the car. Oh, yeah, and the windows don't roll down: they're either on or off.

So the two have been converging: I still want a truck, and I still want to race, but now it's not really all that much fun (or safe) to drive the Miata on the street.

Real story:

I've been looking for older 1/2 ton trucks so that I can tow, but with A/C and a radio for those long trips. I started with hope, saw a bunch of clunkers, and eventually found the truck I wanted. It was a retired VDOT truck with 151K miles. That sounds like a lot, but diesels run forever. Specifically, it was a 1992 GMC Sierra 1500 with a 6.2L naturally aspirated Duramax diesel. It had a tow package, A/C, automatic transmission, and for that touch of ultra cool: the VDOT light-bar was still on it!

Did I mention it was orange? Like exactly the same orange I want to paint the Miata?

So I made an offer, that offer was accepted, and today I went to test-drive the truck. In a rare moment when luck and logic meet, I called my buddy Jay at Elliott Tire and asked if, since he was already doing some work for me, I could bring the truck by for a look-over.

I got to the dealership and found the hood up with a battery charger connected. The dealer told me that he'd had to install a new alternator, and that he "was losing more and more money on this deal" (like that was my problem!). Anyway, I took the truck and drove it over to Elliott Tire. It was a slow and laborious drive as I figured out what was where, how to do stuff, and I was excited.

Things took a turn when I parked the truck. I got out, handed the keys to the mechanic, and heard with horror the sounds of a dead battery. They tried to jump it. They tried to jump the other battery (it has 2). They tried to charge the battery, whereupon the 2nd battery started smoking. We're talking 5-packs-a-day kind of smoking, with battery acid bubbling over the side.

Yeah, I'm not buying the truck at this point. We're just in "salvage the day" mode.

Ultimately we wound up leaving the truck in place (another dude who's very familiar with that family of engines pointed out a fuel leak, and we'd already identified a possible oil leak) and went back to the dealer. He wouldn't make eye-contact.

See, that battery wasn't a truck battery. It really wasn't even a car battery. Jay's mechanic suspects it was a lawnmower battery! He also said something was putting a massive electrical load on the battery, even with everything disconnected. They further suspected that the starter had destroyed itself in all the efforts to get it started.

Another guy in the shop was telling me about horror stories he's heard about some of these cheapo dealers. One evidently put sand in the transmission to mask slippage!

So Jay's going to give me the number of a place that rents trucks by the day, but for considerably cheaper than what I've seen elsewhere.

Yeah, don't you buy no ugly truck.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Busy Little Bees

Even in the midst of my yuckyness last week, I managed to fill every second of my weekend with activities.

Saturday saw Amanda & Alastair off to early yard sales and a trip to the park, while I lay around recuperating. Then Jeff & Evelyn came over for lunch, and after they left, it was off to a RiverCityMINI's barbecue. I came home from that an hour later so that we could hit the Filipino Festival, a block away from home. After eating some tasty Filipino food, it was back over to the barbecue for a right proper dinner (and a very tasty one!).

Home, bath for baby, bedtime for baby, and videogames.

Sunday was an autocross, mixed in with baby splinter-removal.

This week people are coming by the house to bid on bricking the edge of the driveway, and Alastair's going to spend at least one night with his grandparents so we can see The Bourne Ultimatum.

Amanda's also trying to figure out when she can go to Seattle to visit Susan, and I'm planning a post-Labor Day beach trip, all the while trying to figure out what to do for my birthday (anybody want to race go-karts?).

It's busy time when it should be dog-days time.

But maybe it's not really all that busy: maybe I'm just recovering, and it seems busy to me.

Enough about me; how's the baby?

He's great! Yesterday we danced around in the living room for a good long while, watched some Sesame Street, and rough-housed on the sofa for a bit. Every afternoon usually sees us wrestling, playing hide & seek, and chasing each other around the house. There have been lots of frozen treats in the last week, too, as I try to heal my throat, so Alastair has been in ice-cream heaven.

BTW- Anybody know why Bruster's on Staples Mill was closed on Monday night?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tonsillitis Sucks

Wednesday evening I started to feel light-headed right after dinner. Shortly thereafter, my eyelids got warm, which is always my first indication of a fever.

Thursday I took off work, and it was a wild roller-coaster of a day, going from freezing in my bathrobe under sheet, blanket, and comforter, to burning up in nothing but underwear. At one point, I went and sat on the front steps to warm up (it was about 102F out there, actually a little cooler than I was). I slept, I ached, I began to feel pain in my throat, and the most exciting symptom of all set in: reduced perception of light. It was like someone had dialed back the electrical service to our house by about 15%.

At the height of my fever yesterday, I was at 103.4, but 2 hours later I was barely touching 101.

This morning I awoke with a much nastier feeling in my throat, a fever of 100.8, and decided it was time to see a doctor (especially when Amanda's mother suggested it might be strep--yuck!).

A trip to Patient First, a negative strep test, and a fusillade of antibiotics. I've felt pretty stable most of the day: a little headachy, lots of naps, but no major temperature swings.

Hopefully the worst has passed.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Beach Vacation 2007

What we agreed to and paid for (back in September 2006):

A week-long celebration of Chad's birthday, lots of booze, and a room in a big house.

What we got:

A wedding
A baby shower
3 birthday parties
Yelled at
A math problem*

Moving on...

We did have a great time, and watching Alastair play on the beach was nothing short of heaven. He had so much fun covering himself in sand and letting the surf wash over him. We played in the waves, crushed sand-castles, sifted for stones, played Where's-The-Baby, and frolicked like champions.

I watched my little man eat crabcakes and pickles, discover a deep love of NASCAR and motocross, and obsess over dirt and basketball.

Amanda and I got some much needed time together without household responsibilities (although we did wash all the dishes in the house one night since nobody else seemed interested).

And we got to spend a week with Susan, which was a lot of fun.

Amanda reconnected with an old friend from college, and our little 'uns played together for a good while.

It was fun, but the traffic and the attitudes detracted from the experience. Will we do it again? Sure, as long as we know in advance what we're getting into, and those plans are protected from change.

*The house cost $7400 for the week, and featured 8 bedrooms. We bought one bedroom for $900 for the week, and assume that the other bedrooms went for similar prices. 7 bedrooms were fully occupied for the whole week, equaling $6300. Another bedroom hosted a number of "floaters", or people who may not have chosen to stay the whole week, or who came by themselves. Floaters paid $65 / day, and at least one paid for the whole week: $455. At least three other groups of folks came on Wednesday and stayed thru Saturday: $585. Shana's parents stayed two nights, and assuming they paid $65 as a couple, that raises us to $7470. All of this does not add up to the total number of people who stayed in the house. At least 2 or 3 other folks showed up during the course of the week, and at least one of them did not pay to stay. At an inside estimate, assuming Kent and Raleigh were only there for 2 nights ( can't remember if they were there for the wedding or not), we have a total financial contribution of $7730, for a profit of $330. I say it's an inside estimate because Grandpa didn't sleep in a room. Did he pay, or was his share donated by the family? I'd say it's easy to assume closer to $1000 was collected in overpayment, even with the freeloader(s). Did my overpayment go to paying for the wedding, or did it get pocketed? If my estimates are even close to accurate, and considering the weight of a full-room share as opposed to a single-share, I figure about $100 should be coming back to us.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Snip Snip Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

We had our first haircut yesterday.

After some scheduling issues at Amanda's salon, we swung by SuperCuts at Willow Lawn, where walk-ins are always welcome. Fortunately, they had a baby in the chair, so we knew right off the bat that they would cut baby hair.

We waited for about an hour, during which Alastair was having a great time climbing on chairs and playing with his brand new MINI Cooper toy (Chili Red & White!), but when it came time to get in the chair, the waterworks started. And boy did they start.

He started when the apron went on and didn't stop until about 2/3 of the way through the cut.

But, the upside is that I got to be there for his first haircut (he sat in my lap!), and he can't easily be confused for a little girl right now. Yay!

Monday, July 23, 2007

18-Month Vocabulary List

At 18 months, a baby should have a vocabulary of 10 to 20 words. The words don't have to be perfect, but they have to be consistent. Here's a list of what Alastair has so far:

1. Daddy
2. Mama
3. Kitty (pronounced "keey", sometimes "keeeddy")
4. Doggy (but generally we go for "bow whoa")
5. Eye
6. Ear ("eeee")
7. Belly ("beh")
8. Balloon ("boon")
9. Poot (the pride of parents everywhere!)
10. When asked what one does on the potty, we get "poopoo" or "peepee"
11. Hot ("ha")
12. Cool ("coo")
13. Boo!
14. Bath ("ba")
15. Ball ("baah")
16. Ice cream ("eye key")
17. Microwave (yeah, this was a shocker that he dropped on me tonight: "microgoo")
18. Pappy
19. Grammy ("guhgy")
20. Big truck ("big uh")
21. Big Bird ("big eee")
22. Apple ("apu")
23. Strawberry ("gwogoo" thus named because his beloved cereal bars feature an outline picture of Grover, who's also known as "gwogoo")
24. Toe
25. Chin ("chee")
26. Hair ("heh")
27. Knee
28. Shoe
29. Down ("duh")
30. Eat
31. Up ("uh")
32. Boat ("buh")
33. Guitar ("g'tar" or "itar")
34. Helicopter ("hacku")
35. Basketball ("back eh")
36. Coffee ("coh")
37. Pie
38. Pea
39. Bean
40. Broccoli ("bah key")
41. Juice ("joo")
42. Fish ("sh" or "shee")
43. Go
44. Bye bye
45. Hi
46. Cracker ("kaka")
47. Dirt ("deeeeeee!!!!!!!!")
48. Boom
49. Uh oh (daddy's first word!)
50. Bed ("beh")
51. Pants / pajamas ("peh")
52. Hug ("huh")
53. Chair ("share")
54. Yellow ("wewoh")
55. Blue ("boo")
56. Green ("gee")
57. Cookie ("key")
58. Teeth ("teeh")

Though he can say a form of all numbers from 1 - 10, he tends to count in his own base-8 scale:

One ("uh")
Five ("hi ee")
Six ("hii")
Seven ("weweh")
Eight ("eee")
Ten ("teh")

Animals by their sounds:
Sheep ("baa")
Cow ("mboo")
Wolf ("aooooooooo")
Kitty ("mbaaoooo")
Bear / Lion / Dinosaur (this one evolved from "raaar" to "aaaaieeee")
Mad Man ("aie aie aie")
Rooster ("cuck oo")
Chicken ("cuh")
Goose ("hah hah" <-There's a house in our neighborhood with geese, and he starts saying this about a block away) Monkey (curious heavy breathing sound with pooched lips. Yeah, don't ask...) Bird ("tee tee") Objects that make familiar noises:
Car ("thppt")
Boat ("too too")
Train ("shoo shoo")
Horn ("beep! beep!")

Plus, we know all of our Sesame Street Friends.

I didn't set out to brag with this list, but when Amanda and I really thought about it, we were astounded by how many things he's actively communicating vocally.

All I wanted was a cup of coffee

10:00am - Decided to leave at 10:30 for a bag of Costa Rica Terrazu at Ukrop's
10:30am - Left for Ukrop's
10:40am - Arrived at Ukrop's
10:43am - Resigned to fact that they don't have Costa Rica Terrazu; pick Colombia instead
10:47am - Return to car; she won't start!
10:50am - Call Terry Robertson at work for a jump
11:15am - Jason Looney arrives to give me a jump
11:30am - Resigned to fact that a jump won't work (battery is very very dead)
11:40am - Buy the wrong battery at Advance Auto Parts (they don't have the right one)
11:50am - Perform jury installation, car starts!
11:56am - Big traffic jam
12:15pm - Return to desk, hot, tired, $90 poorer, with a battery that doesn't really fit and coffee that I really don't want any more.

Such is life. And 2 days after a very successful RCM tech day, too. Grr.

But, Alastair had his 18-month checkup this morning, and he weighs 28.8 lbs and is 33" tall. Chunky Monkey.

We're in the final few days before heading down to Nag's Head for a week! Yippee!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


What I expected:

Indulgent cheeziness (Michael Bay)
Cool action sequences
A few nods to the original
A passable but not very good script
Product tie-ins and carefully placed bottles of Deer Park water ("That's good water!")

What I got:

An all-out assault on my intelligence
Probably the single worst script I've ever encountered
Horrible performances from some very good actors
Mediocre action sequences
Multiple rounds of exposition
Multiple moral lessons better suited to 2nd graders than adults.
The desire to chew my ears off the side of my head.
But...really cool metamorphoses and some truly bad-ass US military toys

Let me review some of the finer points of this gem:

Basil Exposition: You may recall this name as Austin Powers's boss, who sets up the story for us in that film. It was a perfect cheeky name, and Amanda and I use it frequently when the back-story is set up poorly in fiction. This time, we not only had Optimus Prime (hereafter: OP) telling us about the All-Spark (who the F picked that name?) at the beginning of the movie, but also when he meets Sam Witwicky, and then one more retelling when Sam repeats the story to John Turturro's character.

I'm not an idiot, and the story's not that complex. Did we really need to hear it 3 times?

Dialog that would choke a camel: Michael Bay isn't known for his prose, and I accept that. But what I cannot accept is dialog that makes Anakin and Padme's lake-front vacation seem like Shakespeare (remember the bit about how sand gets everywhere, and she's all soft and smooth?).

This movie's target audience was probably always intended to be young adult men, so why did they lift lines directly out of the 1984 series and 1986 film, both of which were intended for boys? And why is it that the teenagers in the movie were more credible than any of the adult roles? Shia and Megan seem to be the only ones who gave anything approaching a performance, and the only ones who got lines that didn't burn on contact.

And did we really need to her "more than meets the eye" twice? I mean really: once was enough to elicit a groan from the audience.

Some of the worst acting performances...EVER: John Turturro and Jon Voight used to be pretty good actors. Evidently the mortgage has gone up, though. Mr. Turturro needs desperately to buy his soul back before God smites him like Raul Julia for showing up in Street Fighter.

So wait: are the extraterrestrial warring robots intelligent or not? OP goes on about how humans have a lot of learning to do, and that all beings should have the right to determine their own destinies, but can't sit still in an alley for 5 minutes? Why the holy F were he and his buddies crouching behind the house? Why did Jazz need to act all "yo"? Why did Ratchet need to call out Sam's desire for Mikaela? (Ok, yeah, it was funny that they learned English from the world wide web, and that they learned the location of the magical glasses from eBay...)

And as the story unfolds, we get constant moralistic reminders from OP about being good, but all pitched at about the intelligence level of the average 7-year-old. How are these things going to protect us?

Physics: thy laws are hereby revoked! Shia LaBoeuf takes a tumble from the side of a very tall building (one that seems to get much taller through the action sequence...). He's caught in mid-air by Optimus, which strangely doesn't snap his neck or anything, but then OP takes his own plunge down the side of the building, hitting the pavement below with a very big whack. He opens his hand and out pops a perfectly unharmed Shia LaBoeuf! Ta-da! Thank you ladies and gentlemen! I'll be here all week! The worst part about that is that it happened twice!

And then there's that scene in the desert where humans demonstrate parthenogenesis, but in an extremely evolved way: when the soldiers first flee the base in Qatar, there are like 9 of them, but after the scorpion decimates them, suddenly there are 12 of them! Magical halleluia!


Now, there were some really cool things in the movie, too, like getting to watch an AC-130 Spectre gunship raining down 105's. Never seen that before in a movie! And some of the transformation sequences were really cool, too, but it seemed that they got faster as the movie wore on. What was up with that? Were they learning how to transform themselves, kind of a practice-makes-perfect kind of thing?

And I wasn't really bothered by product placement. In The Island, it was wretched ("Let me call him on my Cisco IP communicator" was really a line. Really.), but it's next to impossible to show a GMC truck without showing the logo, and trying to sell old trucks and old Beetles as super-advanced alien technology would have been pretty hokey, so I'm cool with that. In fact, I thought they did a great job with the Autobots and the GM tie-ins.

Anyway, it was certainly entertaining, and it was quite the spectacle, but frankly, for as much of an intellectual disaster as Die Hard 4 was, I think it worked better as a movie.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

It's so nice to be home. I got home earlier than I expected on Friday and got to spend some time with my family. Yay!

I learned a lot in the class, including (and most importantly) that I have a lot of work to do here. Basically I learned that our implementation is a hot mess with absolutely no coherent design philosophy. So I'm gonna work on that, and hopefully save some taxpayer money (or at least spend it more wisely).

Of course, I came back and immediately met resistance from the politicos. Oh, well, such is life.

Speaking of life, I had a wonderful time with Amanda and Little Man this weekend! There's nothing like a week away to make you realize how much your family means. In just those 5 days, Alastair already looked different from how I remembered (that was a shock: they change so fast!).

He was my little buddy all weekend, and we played in the sprinkler, wrestled in the grass, and got a couple of new 18-month toys (he'll be 1.5 on Sunday!). My favorite toy is the PlayMobil 1-2-3 race car and corresponding tow truck (race cars tend to be magnetically attracted to walls, so we had to get a tow truck).

In other Alastair news, he's starting to shuffle-run. It's definitely quicker than a walk, but still a bit too wild to call a proper run. He also has a pretty full head of teeth, with all 8 fronts, at least 3 pre-molars, and the tips of at least 3 canines. Fortunately he still uses all of this munching power predominantly for food, and occasionally toys--not mommy or daddy.

And, he's getting his first hair cut next week. The kid looks like a white trash disaster right now. But it's oh-so-cute.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


So far, the class has been pretty interesting. Including me, there are 3 students, so we're moving through the course-material faster than the trainer is accustomed to.

Dining alone is weird. There's no point to buying groceries for cooking, as few things scale down to the appetite of one, but going out for every meal is depressing (nothing worse than eating alone at a restaurant). Tonight I tried to obviate the issue by going downstairs and having tacos and wine at the hotel's happy hour (it's free!!), but that ends so early that I was starving by 9pm. So out I went.

Last night I walked over to the closest sit-down restaurant and listened to the guy next to me complain on his cell phone for over an hour about his housekeeper. Apparently he pays her $20/hour and isn't satisfied. She marks his walls and his coffee table with the vacuum; she doesn't clean ceilings; there's dust on top of the refrigerator and along the base-boards; she doesn't clean his mother-in-law suite above the garage. His wife's name is Darnece (sp?), I think the housekeeper's name was Avalene (the accent is a bit tough down here, so it could have been Evelyn or Abilene), and he's Eddie. Now, Eddie is rich, but not as rich as Terry, who also employs Avalene, but Terry's more laid-back. Eddie is a huge pain in the ass. And I'm not sure, but I think Eddie might not realize that he's gay. That's just my take.

And evidently Eddie spends so much time at this restaurant that he has never-ending wine service. Eddie needs a life.

But the class, so far, has been pretty cool. It's already given me some ideas on what we might implement in the future, and shown me that our current SAN configuration is horribly out-dated.

And I miss my family terribly!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Business Trip

Parting is such sweet sorrow... No, it just sucks.

Today I packed up my stuff and came down to Cary, NC to attend a week-long SAN training class. When it's done, I'll know everything there is to know about SANs (note the little 's' at the end, it's not capitalized, dammit). But in the meantime, I'll be deprived my daily dose of baby and my rock: Amanda. Oh, and furry purry companions, too.

I had such trouble leaving the house. I just kept finding more and more excuses to come back into the kitchen, where Little Man was having his dinner.

The pang is all the more bitter because I spent the day at an autocross, when I could have spent it with my family.

I suck. But enough grousing, I'm here to learn!

BTW- It was really f'ing hot today. And I spent all of it outside, most of it in the sun. You should see the sexy tan-lines on my back.... ooh, sexy....

Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm feeling much better. I think I might like to go for a walk.

Ok, 4 days off the drugs, and I feel pretty good. It turned out the itching was caused by the infection still thriving in my left hand, so I re-medicated, wore a very sexy cotton glove with little yellow and blue flowers to bed, and life has been much better.

Last night Crossroads Coffee & Ice Cream celebrated the grand opening of their second location. Alastair and I went down to enjoy some coffee and live music, and right after we walked in the door, an intense summer storm blew through. We got a great, free light show.

Anyway, life is good, the 4th is coming up (heading down to Irvington on Tuesday and coming back Thursday), then I'm off to training in North Carolina for a week, and then 2 weeks later, it's vacation time! July is gonna be fun.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Caution: Use of this drug may make you a drooling idiot

Or at least that's what the label should say. Hydroxyz 25MG was prescribed for me to stop the itching last week. The doctor described it as a mild sedative, but that doesn't exactly capture it. This shit is a horse tranquilizer, and at only 1/4 the recommended dosage, I can barely function. Granted, I don't itch, but I hardly know where I am right now.

The bottle gives a little more insight: it claims that the drug is also useful as anxiety medication. Um, yeah, I'll give it that; I can only feel 2 emotions right now: slightly happy or slightly angry.

It took me close to 5 minutes the other day to even hear the alarm clock, let alone the 1.5 hours of snoozing I did afterward. Every afternoon when this stuff starts to wear off, I get migraine symptoms (partial blindness, sensitivity to light, slight nausea, fatigue) without any accompanying pain.

My God, the itching is bad, but is it this bad? Everybody who's come to my desk today has asked me if I'm ok, and frankly no: I'm not. I was listening to my iPod a few minutes ago, and when someone came by to talk to me, I couldn't figure out where the music was coming from to turn it off.

I wonder what would happen if I took the recommend 4 / day. Yeesh.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Goings on

Let's see...I've been a bad blogger lately, so here's the short list.

Racing: the Miata now has a full roll cage and is technically legal for Spec Miata, but is back in the shop this week getting some problems hammered out (I got burned in the car when antifreeze dumped on my leg, then Daniel gashed his leg on an exposed sharp ledge trying to get out of the car, and then I ran out of gas because the fuel gauge doesn't work...).
Work: Still very busy, but I've had a moment to catch my breath this week. That's nice. In about 2 weeks, I'm heading down to North Carolina for a SAN training class. It's my first formal education since starting this job in September 2001, and I'm excited. I'm not too happy about leaving my family, though...
Boy: Awesome. He's so much fun, and he's starting to move to a 1-nap-a-day schedule, which makes life so much easier.
Health: I started feeling itchy last week, and finally broke down and saw a doctor on Tuesday. I have scabies. How freakin' weird is that? I haven't visited Turkey recently, spent time in any nursing homes or daycares, or fooled around with any transvestite hookers. So where the hell did that come from? Turns out to be fairly common in all socio-economic groups, but the only things I've done differently lately include gardening and a change in soap. Perhaps it was some nasty f***er at work who lingered on the toilet a bit too long right before nature called me. Anyway, I've been treated, and hopefully I'll be itch-free in time for my impending business trip. And no, it's not leprosy.
Wife: I love my wife! That's not really news, though.
Politics: This morning I heard an ad for Wintergreen, a popular ski resort in the area. They're trying to get some Summer business, and their pitch is that since they're in the mountains and it's therefore cooler, you can go there and "experience Summer the way it used to be". WTF?! I've never read that Summers had average highs in the mid 70's in this area. I was mortified that global warming is so accepted that its being worked into our advertising.
Driveway: It's a thing of beauty, and I'm hosting a MINI tech day in late July to celebrate the joy that is my new driveway.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Having the mulch folks come last week was great, but it left a huge mess in the gravel driveway, one that I couldn't easily remove. What to do?

Duh: a new concrete driveway!

Actually, we've wanted to pave the driveway for years. The constant weeding, sloughing, and bottoming-out of the MINI (and sometimes the Miata, too) was getting very tiresome, and it generally took almost 2 gallons of RoundUp to clean the whole space. The driveway is huge.

So a month or so ago, when I placed the call to ServiceMasters looking for an electrician, I mentioned my driveway desires. The dude who called back was initially very high-priced, but then called back last week to offer a $1300 discount. Um, yeah... sold.

The dude came on Monday or Tuesday to show us what they'd do, and offered to dig trenches under the driveway to run gutter pipes out to the edge of the property. I jumped at that chance, too (no run-off over the driveway for me!), and the fellows got to work on Wednesday.

Yesterday they poured the concrete, and they were still working last night at 9:30pm. Today they came back, cut expansion joints, and issued the edict that we were not to park on it for 5 days, and that it must be watered twice a day for that period to keep it from curing too quickly.

But hot damn, we got ourselves a great looking driveway!

Monday, June 04, 2007


Wednesday morning, the task list of things that must be accomplished before Saturday night looked insurmountable. We had not ordered mulch, bought balloons for the balloon arch, finished wiring the lights in the back yard, done anything about mosquitoes, or bought any of the necessary food or drinks. There was a big pile of trash in the back yard, the grass needed mowing, and Amanda was planning to be out of town Friday afternoon.

And yet it all came together beautifully. Hats off to Pete Rose, first of all. I called them at about 8:30am on Wednesday and asked when they could deliver 10 cubic yards of mulch. They said, "About 11am". Wait, what? Today?! Awesome! So with that taken care of, I made plans to start working on spreading it that night.

I don't know if you've ever seen 10 cubic yards of mulch, but it's about chest-high and covers an circular area about 15 feet wide. It's a lot. Thank God for wheelbarrows and pitch forks. I managed to get it all spread and evened out on Thursday (took that and Friday off), finished the lighting, and headed to Costco for food & drinks.

Friday afternoon, my mom came over with her F350 dualie and hauled all the trash away, and I got the yard handled. Sweet!

Anyway, prom was a blast. We had 21 guests in various degrees of prom attire (hats off to James and Ben, who actually wore tuxedos!). The music was horrible, but in a good, cheezy prom kind of way; the food was tasty, and the company was fabulous. No neighbors complained, and the case of Yeungling was utterly destroyed.

Apparently Daniel is screwing his wife's husband, but that's neither here nor there.


Thanks to all who came out, and to those who didn't, we're sorry we missed you! Oh, and congratulations to the Prom King and Queen: Jeff and Evelyn Cronin!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Prom Prep

It's been an exciting couple of weeks at Casa Amos. The shed was recently completed, and I determined that it had to have power. The electricians came on Tuesday and delivered 2 new 20A circuits. I've spent the last couple of nights wiring the lights and outlets in the shed to take advantage of the new juice, and we also have 3 new outside boxes on the house.

All of this will be used for lighting at prom, which comes in just over a week.

We're also having some junk hauled to the dump, trying to get some mulch delivered for the newly-tilled flower beds in the back yard, replacing exterior lighting out front, seeding the section of yard that was torn up to lay the new electric lines, and cleaning the house.

If there's any time in all of it, I'm going to try to figure out what to wear, help Amanda plant some stuff in the yard, and clean the house.

We're off to Irvington this afternoon for some much-needed downtime. Hopefully after a couple of days of relaxing at the river, we'll come back charged up and ready to get it all knocked out.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

3 concerts in 2 weeks

It's like we're young again or somethin'.

We saw Muse and My Chemical Romance at W&M Hall on the 28th of April, Col. Bruce Hampton & the Aquarium Rescue Unit and The Derek Trucks Band last night, and will see the Rachel Leyco Band on Friday night.

While the first of the trio was a really great show with excellent showmanship from both bands, great performances, and cool light effects, last night's show was decidedly on a different note. In a word, it sucked.

Col. Bruce Hampton & the Aquarium Rescue Unit was a monumental, groundbreaking band in the early '90's. Bruce brought together Jimmy Herring (a phenomenal guitarist who later went on to tour with the Allman Brothers), Oteil Burbridge on bass, Apartment Q-258 on drums, and Chuck Levelle (the former touring keyboardist from the Rolling Stones). Their music was southern rock / jam / jazz / experimental / fusion, kind of all tossed into one, with a little flair of country mixed in for good measure.

In the early days, they weren't so much a jam band as they've become. Sure, there would be a longish solo somewhere in almost every song, but each of these guys were virtuosos, and the song always had a cohesive beginning, middle, and end, and often the solos would work within the fabric of the song, telling a story that weaves its way back to the melody. The music was wildly inspiring, and seeing them on stage blew my mind. Twice.

Sadly, the Col. had some health problems in the 90's, and he left. He went on to some lower-key projects like the Fiji Mariners and CodeTalkers, but never really put another group of musicians together that were as talented as ARU. ARU, however, couldn't keep up the momentum without Bruce Hampton, and they disbanded. Jimmy went with the Allman Brothers, Oteil released some solo stuff, and the rest just went and played with other groups.

Last night, they were all together again, with some dude I didn't know playing banjo. Chuck Levelle was nowhere to be found, and Count M'butu (who originally played percussion) was slated to play with the Derek Trucks Band later. Weird, but ok.

Anyway, they sounded like they had never played together before. The Colonel didn't play much, and didn't call on his bizarre vocal tricks very often. He was very subdued, and the band was, too. Oteil was great, Jimmy was phenomenal, but it wasn't cohesive. The songs regularly dissolved into solo masturbation, each handing off to the next for minutes on end. It quickly became difficult to tell one song from the next, and the banjo player was pinching off a lot of notes: just not playing cleanly at all.

I still enjoyed it, don't get me wrong. But the music and the vibe have changed. There was a cool moment when Derek Trucks just showed up on stage and started jamming with them (I swear, the guys playing sounds exactly like Duane Allman's), and a couple of times when Apt. Q-258 handed the drums over to other folks in the middle of the songs. So it was an engaging and entertaining performance, but altogether lackluster.

We decided to catch a couple of Derek Trucks songs afterward, and that was all I could handle. His music was very proficient, but also very boring.

All in all, not really worth the price of the tickets, but it was great to see all my heroes back on stage together. I even got a pic of Col. Bruce talking with Derek Trucks between sets (I was just about 6 feet away from them, but couldn't get close enough to ask for an autograph).

I'm sure Rachel's performance tomorrow night will be much better. I know and enjoy her music, and this time, we get to take Alastair with us.