Friday, July 31, 2009

Free Gov't Money

Let me see if I've got this straight.

The government offers $1B for old cars during a recession. 7 days later, they run out of money as 250,000 new cars are sold.

The government is surprised at this.

Pretty simple, so far, right?

Except how in the blue hell do they act surprised when they say, "Come and get your free cash!" and people take them up on it? Didn't Hawaii learn the same lesson with their free health care for children? Didn't the feds learn the same lesson with the vouchers for analog-TV converters? Henrico County with the cheap iBooks (if you don't recall, that was a stampede that got national media coverage)?

When are you liberals gonna learn that if you offer something for free, people will swarm and swamp it? You want to bitch about Bush's tax refunds, but there was no swarm to deal with--just a cheque. At least with a tax refund, you know right off the bat how much money is going out. It's pre-capped. With this cock-up, Congress is now looking for more money to fulfill their "obligation" to this goofball program.

Oh, but before you get too excited about bilking the feds, make sure your car fits through the myriad caveats and EPA estimations and re-estimations and re-re-estimations of your MPG.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Daddy/Boy Beach Trip 2009


Picked Alastair up from his grandparents' house just after 1pm and got on the road. Told him to take a nap, and he dropped off instantly. We arrived at the beach around 3:30pm after probably 273 "Are we there yet"s, unpacked the car, and headed to the hotel pool.

It's a salt-water pool, which was interesting. My first fear was that it was just a really disgusting pool that tasted like everyone else's sweat. Thank God that was wrong. Anyway, Little Man enjoyed floating around in the pool, but was terrified of getting his head wet.

After an hour or so, we went down to the beach and he played furiously in the sand. We went out knee-deep into the ocean and he told me which waves he was scared of for probably about 10 minutes (doesn't sound like much fun, but it was super cute).

Then we went to dinner at The Raven, where my dad took me when I was a child.


Headed over to 17th St. Surf Shop for some rash-guards, new flip-flops for me, and a new, less European swimsuit for me. You're welcome, Evelyn.

Then we hit the pool for a bit, then the cool indoor pool "The Lazy River", which has big fake rock formations, grottoes, and an actual current that pulls you along a narrow channel on one side of the pool.

By the time he was ready to go play in the sand, storm clouds were rolling in. The beaches were evacuated, the pools were evacuated, and a little boy had to (shudder!) play with his toys for a while. During the storm, the outside air temp dropped at least 20 degrees, making it impossible for us to go out and play on the beach, or spend more than a couple minutes at the outside pool.

We settled for more time on the Lazy River, which was great because we now had water wings, a floaty ring, AND a boogie board.

We capped the evening off with night-time swimming in the Lazy River, and that little turkey who was terrified of getting his head wet was standing on the side of the pool and leaping out to me. A few times I told him I wouldn't catch him, and he leapt anyway! Full submersion! Over and over again for almost a solid hour.

My kid rocks!


It takes exactly 1 hour to get from the beach to Busch Gardens. It takes exactly 30 minutes to get parked.

We went to the Sesame St. area, which frankly sucked. Alastair was none too pleased that Bert and Ernie did not speak. That weirded him out big time. There was also not a scrap of shade in the Sesame Street area. A few rides, a few climb-on attractions, blazing hot rubber matting everywhere, but no shade. And it was almost100F yesterday!

We watched two people collapse from heat problems, but we did manage to ride a few rides: Oscar's Wiggly Worms (surprisingly nauseating); the sky-car, which might have been Alastair's favorite; a couple of rides in Land of the Dragons; the carousel; and the train. We saw the clydesdales, the wolves, and the eagles. We caught a show in the Fest Haus while eating 23lbs of chocolate cake. I bought him a constable helmet for no good reason at all. We climbed all over the tree-houses in Land of the Dragons (though he did not like skylarking on the rope bridges).

We were in the park for just under 5 hours, and he passed out immediately upon getting on the highway.

It was a great trip. And we are both now sick. With no hot water (the tank broke Friday).

And amazingly, through all the fun, my dumb ass never once remembered to pull out the camera.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

End User License Agreement

Contract terminated: I've exceeded its terms and conditions. While I did seek and accede to the exception, I do ultimately regret it. Principally because after the breach I violated the terms and conditions of the subsequent EULA, leading to a somewhat meaningless initial transgression. Boo.

If you visit the maximum security Prison of Lachrymosity, watch out: the guards and the inmates are equally dangerous and unpredictable.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On Coffee

I grew up hating coffee. Couldn't stand even the smell as a child.

When Amanda and I started dating, 2 "bad" habits of hers made me scoff and mock: smoking and coffee. She eventually stopped smoking, but her need for caffeine was set.

After we graduated from college, I took a 37-day trip across Western Europe. I was all of two days into my trip, sitting in a brasserie in Paris, when it occurred to me that I was denying myself a quintessential element of the Parisian lifestyle. So I ordered an espresso and drank it black. I loved it. Why hadn't anybody told me the stuff was actually good?

So for 35 days of my European adventure, I drank espresso or coffee. I kept this a secret from Amanda until one night of drinking at Avalon. She ordered a cup of coffee, and before she could muck it all up with cream & sugar, I grabbed the cup and took a sip. I had never before (and frankly never again) seen THAT expression on her face. She looked like I'd just pulled back the mask to reveal my secret lizard identity. It was priceless.

A few months later, we moved in together. She started buying coffee, or at least what the supermarkets at the time were calling coffee: Folger's. Ok, that's not coffee. But it was cheap and it got the job done. For the first time, I found myself adding milk & sugar to mask the taste. So we drank that for about a year, and one day I simply sprung for a bag of some better coffee (I don't recall what brand), and was blown away at the difference. I refused to go back to the $3 cans, and Amanda refused to pay for $6 bags. So I made my own independent grocery trips just for coffee.

Then one month after we were married I started hating coffee again. It just tasted horrible. I continued to endure it for a month before I bothered to realize why: the milk had gone quite rancid. And yet we were both drinking it. Ew. So I stopped putting milk & sugar in my coffee and became an instant coffee snob.

I drink my coffee black, and I like to try exciting new flavors. We did cold-brew. We tried burr-grinding. A couple of years ago I started hearing about pure kona. I bought a $25 bag and was astounded at how much different it tasted (it wasn't acrid at all: totally smooth), and frankly had a hard time going back to Starbuck's bags.

So that's the back-story. A year or so I read the story of the Starbuck's CEO's trip to New York. The one where he learned about Clover coffee makers. Apparently there was a local coffee shop with a line out the door. Intrigued, he got in line and had what he considered to be the best cup of coffee in his life. So Starbuck's bought Clover and began deploying what few Clover machines there are into their own stores.

Richmond has a Clover. It's not at Starbuck's: it's at Ellwood Thompson. I've put off trying it for two reasons: 1) I was not too jazzed about paying $4 for a single cup of coffee, and 2) what if it wasn't good?

Well, yesterday I decided to try it. Though the first few sips were quite intriguing, I quickly realized that I didn't like it. Was it the specific brew? I'd never had Ethiopian Yergacheffe, but somehow there was an undertone that tended more toward the brewing process. I managed to finish 75% of the cup before realizing there was heavy sediment at the bottom, which is a big turn-off for me, and one of the reasons I can't deal with permanent metal filters.

So there you have it: I don't like the fabled Clover coffee. Which is a good thing, because I don't think my budget can handle an additional $20/week habit.

And no, I will not be traveling to SE Asia to try civet coffee. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Impossibly High

I've decided to set the bar impossibly high in my next (?) SO: she must have similar taste in music. Amanda and I had just-divergent-enough tastes that we actually rarely played music in the house. Her faves were Tori Amos (duh), which I could take--the early stuff was good; Ben Folds, which made my teeth hurt; Everclear, oh dear; and a random smattering of Christian bands, which she knew not to play while I was in the house. I, conversely, was not allowed to play Primus or Dream Theater while she was home. Fair enough.

Music, however, has always been my solace, and the correctly chosen album or song can either amplify a mood, alter it altogether, or ruin my freakin' day.

Since she died, I've begun to devolve into my college-years music Nazi self. Perhaps not so harsh as I once was, I have nonetheless once again found myself judging others for their plebeian tastes. This does not bode well for dating.

If you know a woman who occasionally says, "Ooh, you like Primus, Curve, and Madonna, too?!", send her my way. Must also like beer. Bonus points if she hates Kevin Smith movies and only likes early Radiohead. No freaks.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

New Music, Round 2

A week or so ago, I ordered 3 new CD's. I'd done so well the first time around, I figured I still had the juju. Yeah, maybe not.

In order of current preference:

1. Metric - Fantasies

This took a couple of listens. I really like thrashing guitars and discordant melodies, neither of which were delivered on this album. But there's a lot of catchy hooks in their songs, making them easy to want to sing along with (of course, I do not sing along; nope, not me). But the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me. The slow songs are too slow for my taste, but I still find my toe bopping along.

So this one has been on repeat more than the other two, and I think I like it a little more with each listen. Not too bad (especially since I can't freakin' stand the recent shoe-gazing tripe coming out of studios these days, i.e., the Shins, the Yeah Yeah Whatevers, and the rest of 'em).

2. Silversun Pickups - Carnavas

I'd read a fair amount about the guitar rigs after a few listens to Swoon. I had correctly surmised the lead guitarist uses a Big Muff distortion pedal, and I kept encountering inquiries about a song from Carnavas: Lazy Eye. Evidently it's a good one, so I bought the album. Talk about a difference between two albums from the same band. This one is much less aggressive, and that caused it to spend a week on the floor. I gave it another listen yesterday, and it's not bad, it's just different in a direction that I wouldn't have expected. Frankly I don't think the instruments are played as well on this album. There are some strange, almost off-beat notes that feel forced in a couple of places. All in all, it's not bad, just...I don't know...weird? Meh. Yeah, that sums it up: meh.

3. The Mars Volta - Octahedron

Ok, I liked Amputecture. I do not like Octahedron. It's still painfully avant garde, but that's frankly boring at this point.


I've also pulled out some of Amanda's last purchases, and I can't handle them. Feist does little to nothing for me, and Arcade Fire is just plain dreadful. I remember watching them on SNL with her and wondering why she thought that was good. Sheesh.


Finally, in Amos-family music news, Alastair has now begun to be hyper-aware of lyrics. Oh, dear. One of his favorite albums as a baby was Scissor Sisters Ta-Dah! Uh, yeah... "Daddy, he said 'fuck'!" "Yes, he did, but you don't have to repeat it."

Monday, July 06, 2009

Holiday Boy

With apologies to other parents, I have the best little boy ever.

Alastair came home from Grammy's house on Thursday afternoon, just in time to hop in the car for the 100-minute drive to Irvington. He was fabulous in the car, and super excited about seeing the parade, the fireworks, and going to the public playground. He ate well, played well, and even went to bed without any fuss or muss.

Friday morning, Irvington had their July 3 (ID-1) parade. My dad's house is the 2nd house on the right side of the parade, so we get started and finished early. Alastair ate it up, watching the neat old cars, the few floats, the Shriners in their little cars (by FAR the hit of the parade), the Army trucks, and the godawful loud fire trucks. He stuffed his face with Tootsie Rolls, Now&Laters, and other candy, and when it was over we trudged up to the town commons, where everybody in town was gathered with the parade vehicles. We'd scored tickets for hotdogs, and he plowed through his and a bag of Sun Chips like a machine. He then proceeded to play to his heart's delight for almost 90 minutes on the playground before we finally walked back to the house for a nap.

2.5 hours later, he was up and ready for some ice cream at The Local. Then it was back to the playground for almost another hour before heading to Kilmarnock for their monthly First Friday walkabout. There he met up with a group of 5 girls, with whom he was instantly infatuated, and their dad offered to take him for a while. For 45 minutes, I let my child be karted around by strangers.* When he came back, he was in absolute boy heaven. They'd taken him to a bouncy castle, and he had managed to convince one of the girls to go in with him. Score!

Later still, when we went to dinner, we discovered those same 5 girls were seated only 2 tables away. They fawned over him before leaving, and his evening ended with pure joy.

Saturday was the Farmer's Market, and he & I walked up with Dad & Randy. We bought a really cool fish painting for his wall, and shared a cinnamon roll. We also spent at least another hour at the playground before walking back, this time taking time to examine the cornfield.

After lunch & a nap, we once again headed over to the Local, but this time for juice and a cookie. He'd never had fruit punch before, and LOVED it. Another hour at the playground, and it was time to head back to the house to prepare for dinner and fireworks at the Tides Inn.

Since dinner was at 6:30, and the fireworks would be after 9, we had plenty of time to kill. He ate everything like a champ, including rock fish, crab imperial, beef terayaki, and a whole slice of key lime pie.

To kill the intervening 90 minutes, we headed down to the dock. We watched with gleeful fascination as the jellyfish swam underfoot, marveled at the yachts, and identified buoys in the creek. Then he told me that he wanted to go on one of the boats. I asked him which one, and he pointed at the one with the astoundingly gorgeous girl on the back deck. Uh, yeah buddy: good choice! I made him ask if he could come aboard, and we got to tour the most beautiful sailboat I've ever been on. Good job, Alastair!

Then he ran around with about 20 other kids on a croquet pitch while waiting for the sky to darken, and was a super champ about the fireworks. Ah, his glorious face! I had as much fun watching his smile as watching the fireworks.

Sunday morning, he was even a champ about being stuck in traffic for over 45 minutes.

To cap his exciting weekend, I took him over to his friend Kaden's house for a cook-in (it was raining). He played to his heart's delight for a couple hours, got to sit in a real fire truck, wear a real fireman's helmet, and ate terribly.

My little boy is a good little boy. Amanda, if you have Internet access, you should be very proud.