September 28, 2012
The Weeklies #230
The Weekly Weather Waffling. The weather around here can't seem to make up its mind. Will I be cold today? Hot? Why decide?
The Weekly Plumbing Catastrophe. On Sunday afternoon, our water heater kind of exploded. Or, rather, one of the hoses into the water heater did. Which left our basement soggy and us out $1,300. As it turned out, nothing the previous homeowner did when they replaced the water heater shortly before moving out was up to code. Awesome.
The Weekly Plumbing Related Text Message.
Her: Apparently 18 inches is the code now.
Me: That's what she said.
The Weekly Music. I'm almost 40 years old (I know) so I'm probably not the target demographic for Green Day. But I like them. So I picked up their latest album, Uno. I was relatively unimpressed. Don't get me wrong. This is good, solid material but it just lacks...substance. In fact, I got the feeling this is the shallow, fun stuff they wrote while piecing together American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown. Maybe a lack of substance is entirely the point. Solid? Yes. Groundbreaking? No.
The Weekly Read. There are few writers who've captured the angst and humor of Generation X and Y better than Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper. Hornby's always been a favorite of mine but I think a couple years back Jonathan Tropper beat him at his own game. Tropper is brilliant and his latest - One Last Thing Before I Go - is a perfect example of his talent. Silver is a former drummer with a one-hit-wonder rock band. Now, divorced with an 18 year old daughter, he plays weddings and lives in an apartment complex with other divorced men. Then a few things happen to change his life. I won't ruin anything but One Last Thing Before I Go was probably the best thing I've read so far this year. I urge you to pick up a copy.
The Weekly Perfect Moment. Owen, last night in bed, singing along to All You Need Is Love, one of his favorite songs.
The Weekly Question. The iPhone 5. Want it, hate it or all hype?
September 27, 2012
Point and Shoot
The first picture I ever posted to the internet was taken on August 28, 2004. I think I snapped it with an old Sony 3 megapixel point-and-shoot that was cutting edge at the time but now seems horribly outdated. I remember buying another Sony point-and-shoot after that, followed by a Samsung that lasted about two months, then a Panasonic that I still have. Then I bought a fancy Nikon DSLR.
Of these cameras the one that still gets the most use is that original Sony. It's Mia's now. It still works perfectly an she absolutely loves it. The others? I hardly ever shoot anything with a camera anymore. Just my phone.
We took several vacations this year. We visited a few beaches, went to Williamsburg, and did some quick weekend trips too. I only took a fancy camera with me once. And then it felt like it was just something that got in the way. My go-to camera was my iPhone.
I'm sure there will always be a market for nice cameras but I have the feeling the days are numbered for the stand-along point-and-shoot cameras.
Has your phone replaced your camera? Or are you a devoted camera person?
September 26, 2012
Situational Awareness is my middle name.
(That's really just a figure of speech. My middle name is Mathew with one t because apparently my father was really nervous when he was filling out my birth certificate paperwork and lost the ability to spell.)
Beth always claims to be the must unobservant person on the planet. Which is fine. Because I'm the exact opposite. I'm hyper-alert. I can tell you, for instance, which house on our street passing cars belong to or when certain neighbors are home. I notice when gas prices change at the local gas station and I know which servers at beach restaurants are consistently there year to year even though we only go to the beach once a summer. I don't know why. That's just the way I am.
That's why I know the neighborhood dogs.
There are the Opposite Dogs. They travel down our street with their owner twice a day. One dog is modestly sized while the other is perfectly bite-sized. The dogs are fine but the woman is not at all friendly. Then Dour Dog. Every day a lonesome-looking middle-aged guy who constantly looks as though he's just eaten a lemon walks his dog, a similarly lonesome-looking dog. The saddest is Carried Dog. He's ancient and though he could once be seen hobbling around the neighborhood, he now has to be carried. Twice a day, his owner picks him up in both arms and carries the dog around the neighborhood as if its the most natural thing in the world. My favorite, though, is Dapper Dog.
For years, a little old Korean man walked his tiny dog around our neighborhood. The dog was always dressed up, usually in something red. When it rained, the dog would wear a red raincoat. In the winter, he sported a red sweater. In the summer, just a bright red collar would do. And the little old Korean man always carried a matching red umbrella. Always. Regardless of the weather. The little old Korean man now walks alone, with his red umbrella. Sometimes an old transistor radio. I'm pretty sure the dog is no longer with us. And I doubt the transistor radio feels like much of a substitute.
September 25, 2012
Where Do You Work?
I divide my time between two offices - one in my basement and my one in an actual office building. Each have advantages and disadvantages.
I'm always interested in where people work, you know, where they do their thing everyday. So I thought I'd show you my basement office.
(Yes, I'm aware it's a bit dark but I shot the picture in the three and a half seconds I had available to me yesterday. The other ten hours of the day were spent on conference calls. I had to take lots of ibuprofen last night. And honestly, my office is like a bar. The lower the lights, the less horrifying it seems.)
Where do you work? What's your office space like?
September 24, 2012
I don't like it when one of the kids is sick. No parent does.
On Friday afternoon it became obvious that something was going on with Mia. She was up all night Friday, coughing and being generally miserable. It was 90% authentic with 10% drama thrown in because, well, because she's Mia. Neither Beth nor I got any sleep.
Saturday was a mess. Mia felt lousy and Beth was on the hook to take Owen to his soccer game and coach Mia's game even though Mia wasn't going to play. I got to hang out with a very miserable Mia. She slept soundly on Saturday night and rallied on Sunday in time for a family birthday party for my in-laws. Then her fever spiked and she crashed. (Then a line to our water heater blew itself up and our basement flooded but that's a whole other story for a different day.)
We're a little paranoid about Mia when it comes to the whole breathing thing. My mind always flashes back to a very sick, very hospitalized Mia trying to go to the bathroom, rolling her IV around with her, getting tripped up in all the lines and wires. So, we should be excused when it comes to sprinkling in a little extra worry.
Like I said, no one likes it when their kids are sick.
Haiku For Monday #426
How hard is it to
get out of the sack on a
chilly morning? Hard.
September 21, 2012
The Weeklies #229
The Weekly Download. iOS6. Kinda disappointing, honestly.
The Weekly Affliction. Sleep crapnia. That's where you sleep like crap for the better part of a week.
The Weekly Read. James Sallis wrote Drive, a hardboiled noir thriller that turned out to be a pretty interesting read. The same can't be said of the follow-up, Driver. As a matter of fact, the only real positive thing that can be said is that it's short. Somewhere in the first few dozen pages I totally lost the story. It became an interwoven mix of narrative and flashbacks and I can't be entirely sure how it ended. Not because it was needlessly confusing - which it was - but because I was completely uninterested. Skip it.
The Weekly Music. Ben Folds Five is back! Now, I was never a massive Ben Folds Five fan but I've always liked them just fine. Nevertheless, I picked up their latest - The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind - earlier in the week when it hit the virtual shelves. It's awesome. Particularly of note is the awesome Do It Anyway which might just be the coolest, smartest thing they've ever recorded.
The Weekly Customer Service Story. I bought an MP3 album from Amazon a couple years back. As I usually do, I downloaded it and loaded it in iTunes. I went looking for it a few days ago and couldn't find it. Amazon showed I'd bought it but the MP3s weren't in my Amazon Cloud Drive or Cloud Player either. So I dropped them a line and received an automated message telling me that they'd get back to me in 12 hours. Three minutes later I received a response. Not only that but the kind individual on the other end of the email uploaded the files so I could grab them for me, no questions asked. Now that's customer service.
The Weekly Question. If you could go back in time to any moment - merely as an observer - what moment would that be?
September 20, 2012
I'm not proud of this but the math homework I helped Mia with last night kicked my ass. Reminder - Mia's in second grade. It was some shit with a butterfly, and clues, and ruling out numbers that didn't belong and it kinda made my brain turn inside out. I had flashbacks to elementary school.
I went to a private school from kindergarden through the middle of fourth grade. By the time Christmas rolled around in fourth grade, I'd heard enough about god, heard one too many racist jokes from the teaching staff, and somehow came to the realization that I hadn't learned a damn thing aside from how to effectively memorize then immediately forget bible verses written on index cards. I clued my parents into what was going on and they immediately enrolled me in public school. Where I realized that I knew less than I though, particularly about math. I struggled with math all the way through high school as a result.
Now, I'm pretty good with numbers. I have to be for my job and I kinda like them. Enemies turned friends after years of doing battle. But I'm a little bitter that I was confused by my second grader's homework. That's just not right.
September 19, 2012
Mittens Romney messed up. Thinking he was speaking at a private fundraising event that set attendees back $50,000 a plate, Mittens opened his mouth and inserted not one but both feet. I'm not sure, ultimately, how badly this will impact his run for president but I, personally, hope this eliminates whatever chance he might have had. Let's look at what he said.
On his heritage:
"My dad, as you probably, know was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico ... and, uh, had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this, but he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico.... I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."
What was Mittens saying, exactly? Without coming out and saying it, he told us all that he can't win the race based on his qualifications, his skills or his record. Instead, it comes down to race. He doesn't want to be part of a proud heritage, rich in tradition. He wants to play the race card for his own benefit. Damn my luck! Why couldn't I have been born with en cuna de oro in my mouth instead?
On Middle East peace:
“We sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it. I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues “And I say, ‘There’s just no way.’ You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem.”
Yep. Fuck it. It's too hard. Why bother trying? Makes you pretty happy George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King didn't share Romney's apathy, doesn't it?
On reliance on government:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
He said it is his job not to worry about these people. So, if you're part of that 47%, Mittens doesn't really give a damn about you. He's written you off. You're not his job.
Look, I'm a democrat. You know this. I'll readily admit we're not perfect. We're disorganized, often wishy-washy on issues and we consistently elect people like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid then expect things to change. But the republican platform seems to have developed this monolithic if you're not with us you're against us attitude that's sad. The party is happy to let you starve to death, your kids go uneducated or have you bleed out in an alley without getting involved but god forbid you have the nerve to have a uterus and an opinion about it.
The rhetoric is getting me down this time, folks. We don't need it and we don't have time for it. Maybe Obama's not the answer but Mittens sure as hell isn't either. Not now that he's abandoned half of the country.
September 18, 2012
Honey Boo-Boo is the worst thing in the history of television and I know this without having ever watched it.
Look at the premise. A - how to say this delicately - unconventional, backwoods family lives vicariously through their obnoxious pageant-winning daughter and hilarity ensues. Except it doesn't. It's pathetic. It's what's wrong with America. Sure, there's a lot of other shit wrong with the country too but this doesn't help. The family in its entirety looks to be barely above the poverty line, they eat roadkill, and my four year old with his slightly flawed speech is far more articulate than any adult in the show. Yet this isn't entirely their fault. Someone saw them and said we can make a buck off these people. The Learning Channel, to be exact. And they've squeezed it into a lineup that sports overbearing pageant moms, midget doctors, hoarders, strange sex addicts, and the occasional cupcake show. Since when did learning become a synonym for freakshow?
Honey Boo-Boo is offensive. It's tragic. She's not all that adorable - the premise of the show! - but even this marginally cute phase - this phase where she can be cute by being so grotesquely stereotypical - will only last so long. And what's ahead of her after her parents finally fuck her up beyond repair, the camera lights are off and she's just a kid trying to be normal with no idea what normal is like? Unless this is a strong, capable kid (and I try not to underestimate the awesomeness of kids), the road in front is paved with trailer parks and meth. And if any introspection is applied to her life down the road, the question what the fuck did my parents do to me?
Have we seriously sunk this low? That this is what passes as entertainment?
This makes me mad. Can you tell?
September 17, 2012
Before & After
We got our kitchen back last week. Not just the crappy old kitchen we had when we left for the beach in August. The new and improved kitchen of eternal awesomeness.
Here's what it looked like last month.
We chose materials carefully, not wanting the kitchen to be outdated in five years.
And as of last Thursday, we now cook in this.
It is a massive improvement. And it's gorgeous. We sit in the living room most evenings staring not at the TV but the kitchen.
So, whatcha think?
Haiku For Monday #425
Weekends are far too
short. Too short by about two
hundred fifty days.
September 14, 2012
The Weeklies #228
The Weekly Awesome Fact. Holy crapballs, our kitchen is done. Done, I say!
The Weekly Weekend Activity. Cooking. We've been without a kitchen for so long we're just planning to cook all weekend.
The Weekly Beer. Sam Adams Latitude 48.
The Weekly Read. I love Nick Hornby but frankly his latest novels haven't quite lived up to his earlier stuff. But still, I jumped at the chance to download and read Everyone's Reading Bastard when I saw the short story (novellaette?) pop up on Amazon. It was good, entertaining and way too brief. My only issue was the ending which seemed rather abrupt, kind of like Hornby just got tired of writing, turned his computer off and wandered off.
The Weekly Sport. Soccer.
The Weekly Word I Can't Spell. Herding. If you're a Facebook friend, you understand.
The Weekly Sign That I'm Getting Increasingly Old. For no apparently reason my upper body has been sore for, like, a week.
The Weekly Question. What's the one word you just can't seem to ever spell?
September 13, 2012
Our kitchen is 93.57% complete. Exactly. I just did all the math.
We've eaten out more than I care to admit. Local takeout places are very familiar with us. We, in turn, are very familiar with paper plates. And I've grown to hate paper plates. We've learned to wash small things in bathroom sinks and large things in the bathtub. Instead of asking the kids to take their dishes to the sink, we've learned to say take your dishes to the trash. (We're going to have to change that pretty quickly.) While the contractors are incredibly clean, we've got dust in every crack and crevasse. Our neighbors are probably tired of the endless truck traffic, sawing and hammering.
On Monday I'll reveal the before and after pictures. It's dramatic as hell. You'll just have to wait. There's still 6.43% to go. The end can't come soon enough.
September 12, 2012
A Guy Walks Into My Office...
Yesterday, a guy walked into my office. "You know," he said, "I don't think this is for me."
"What? What's not for you? If it's the tie you're talking about, it looks great."
"This job. It's not me. It's not what I want to do. I've decided to be a financial advisor. I've got a bunch of exams to take first but when I get them all done, I'm going to be leaving the company, going somewhere else and help people with their money. That's more me"
I'm this guy's boss. I've got about 15 years on him and I outrank him quite a bit. But I have to admit, I admired the way he handled it and respected his reason. He wasn't after more money, a bigger office, or a more prestigious title. He just wanted to do something that suited him better. Regardless of what stage of life you're in, it takes guts to admit you're not doing what you like. And even more guts to start over.
Me? I like my job. And I'm good at it. Are there other jobs I'd dig? Sure. I'd love to be a record producer, a sound engineer, a graphic designer, a photographer or a professional beach bum. Until I win the lottery, though, I think I'll stick with what I've got.
What alternate career would you like to have? Even if money's no option.
September 11, 2012
The two best pictures I've taken are technically pretty bad. They were snapped on a three megapixel Sony camera that now belongs to my daughter. The colors aren't good, the image is grainy and it's poorly composed. But they were taken in New York City not long after 9-11.
Buildings are buildings. As much as we like to attribute a certain amount of character to them, they're buildings. They stand, they serve a purpose. And sometimes they fall. But people, well, people dream, feel, love, laugh, cry, try, fail and, most importantly, hope. In the cab ride to Ground Zero, I tried to prepare myself for the worst. But when we arrived, I saw only a construction site. A big hole in the ground. When I entered St. Paul's, though, I saw the tragedy, the real effect, the true cost. Remember those people.
September 10, 2012
Why I Need A Nap When It's Only 7:48 In The Morning
It was a crazy weekend. You want proof, you got it.
- Soccer games abound! Owen had his first soccer game first thing Saturday morning. It's pretty awesome to watch a bunch of four-year-olds chase a ball around a field. Owen scored three goals. Not that anyone was counting. Seriously, they don't keep score. Mia's game was later in the day. It, too, was pretty great though it got called after the first fifteen minutes on account of the big-ass storm that moved its way through the area Saturday afternoon.
- Rides! On Sunday, we took the kids to a local amusement park. And by local I mean sit through DC area traffic for an hour and a half each way. Aside from the commute, it was fun. The kids had a great time. By the time we got home last night, everyone was wiped.
- International travel! We didn't go anywhere but my in-laws just returned from Germany (they were not, thankfully, wearing lederhosen) and my folks took off for Paris.
- Reclaiming the kitchen! Our kitchen is 80% done. The barriers preventing use of basically the entire first floor came down and though we can't really use the kitchen at all, it feels a hell of a lot better that we can at least walk through it. T-minus four days and counting. There will be pictures. And, perhaps, champagne.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make some coffee and figure out exactly how many conference calls I have today.
What were your weekend all about?
Haiku For Monday #424
I'm so unprepared
for blogging this morning. I
blame crazy weekends.
September 7, 2012
The Weeklies #227
The Weekly Event. School started! Mia began her second grade year while Owen started his second year of preschool. Amazing.
Weekly Most Valuable Utensil. Red Solo Cup. I'll Fill You Up. And Have a party. Because we have no kitchen or ability to wash anything.
The Weekly TV Addiction. Have you watched The Booth At The End? If not, you really should. Now, it's only available on Hulu but its totally worth finding it. Why? Other folks have summarized it the best but I can say that what started out as a curiosity turned into something of an obsession. What's more surprising is the fact that nearly nothing happens in the show. It just proves the power of good writing and good acting.
The Weekly Read. The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli might top by list of best books of the summer. It's most accurately described as a family saga but the family is a pretty interesting one, full of criminals, one of whom is on death row and has one final request for his estranged brother. To say more would ruin the story. Suffice it to say, this is an excellent book. I was thrilled to hear Piccirilli is writing a sequel.
The Weekly Kick Ass Use Of Technology. Eric Whitacre just might be one of my new favorite people. He's not a household name but he should be. He wrote of piece of music, conducted a virtual choir of 2,000 people, stitched the individual voices together and emerged with a stunning piece of music. Watch the story as presented at TED earlier this year. Prepare to be amazed.
The Weekly Speech. Not to take away anything from President Obama but Bill Clinton blew it out of the water on Wednesday night. What's even more amazing is that the fact checkers could find nothing wrong with it either.
The Weekly Product Review Hilarity. Have you seen the Amazon UK's product page for the new BIC pens for her? The reviews are perhaps the most hilarious the internet has ever seen.
The Weekly Question. Are you ready for fall? Or bummed that summer's over?
September 6, 2012
There are many signs that it's fall - or, at least, nearly fall. Chief among them? The return of my scratchy nuts.
Oh, come on...I wait all summer to use that line.
My nuts are, more specifically, chestnuts. You know, the things you roast over an open fire while Jack Frost is nipping at your nose? It's a true sign that fall is right around the corner when these babies start falling. Actually if feels more like nature is throwing them at us. Seriously, one of these catches you in the head on the way down, you feel it.
Our squirrel population quadruples as does our old Asian lady population. Apparently chestnuts are popular with both demographics. And thus starts a delicate dance we perform each year. The old Asian ladies ask if they can have my nuts and ask if I've ever roasted them. We say yes and they're not our thing. They come back two days later with my nuts, roasted, in Tupperware. We return their Tupperware several days later claiming that we enjoyed the roasted nuts. And we lie. Because my nuts? Taste like a sweaty armpit.
Soon our yard will be covered with pointy husks. I guess it's really fall.
September 5, 2012
Lost In America
At the beach a few weeks ago, several of us were sitting under umbrellas contemplating our next move in a day that had already involved complicated and critical decisions like having an extra cup of coffee for breakfast and what to have for lunch. Worries at the beach just aren't quite as worrisome as they are in the real world. Some, at least.
During the debate a tall man of African descent, began howling. The beach was packed. It took a lot of howling to get the attention he eventually did. Whatever he was saying - and clearly he was trying to say something - was unintelligable. After a few minutes of howling he threw himself on the sand. He rolled around and eventually assumed some sort of praying position. Several seconds passed, he sat up, then stood, and commenced howling and running around again, sweat pouring from him, sand forming a line down his body from his forehead to his stomach. We were finally able to make out words. "My son! He's missing!"
Instantly everyone understood his terror. And an amazing thing happened. People didn't sit around apathetically. They stood up, mobilized. One took him by the hand and got the details - where his son was last seen (the water), how old (seven), how tall (about up to here), what he was wearing (red swimming trunks). Another several people found lifeguards. More located the police. The rest of us looked. Anyone who had children found them, hugged them, told them to sit down and stay still, and never took their eyes off of them. The lifeguards came. So did the police. There was a false alarm when a seven year old wearing a red swim suit found his way onto our section of the beach. It wasn't him though the father had already fallen to his knees and kissed a policeman's feet in thanks.
The father and newly arrived mother went off with the police leaving their beach setup depressingly empty. Things slowly went back to normal, or as normal as they could be. Everyone kept their kids close.
An hour later word made its way down the beach that the kid had been found, wandering along the boardwalk taking in all the cool things the beach had to offer. Five minutes later the now-intact family came back to their beach chairs and umbrellas. There were many words of gratitude, many smiles, and an abundance of orange Crush.
For an hour a kid was lost and parents lost their souls. That's all I can really imagine losing something so fundamental is like. Your soul. We tried to explain to the kids what was going on but no matter how delicately we tried to phrase it, nothing could ever undo that father's wailing. It's something I won't ever forget, such a raw display of unmitigated heartbreak and terror.
There was a happy ending. And even happier side effects. I mean, after all, a group of strangers came together to help someone the best they could. There was no apathy, no selfishness. Just people trying to do the right thing.
September 4, 2012
Requiem For The Summer
If there is one true barometer for summer - something by which you can measure the progress of summer - it is our neighborhood pool. It opens every Memorial Day. People descend, neighbors reconnect, kids play and dreams of swim team surface. Later, swim team practices dominate the pool in the early morning, meets kick off Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings. Eventually the season ends, attendance drops, the summer warms the water. Then Labor Day rolls around. At precisely 8:00 in the evening, the chairs are put away, umbrellas rolled up and trash taken out one last time. And like that the summer is over.
While I realize it was the same number of days, hours, minutes and seconds as every other summer before it, this summer flew by. I don't really know how to account for it. We squeezed a lot in, had many adventures, made new friends, won medals, visited beaches, floated down rivers, and went new places. And for all those reasons, I'm going to miss this summer.
Mia starts second grade today. Owen starts his final year of preschool later this week. Next year he'll be climbing on a bus. How these things happened, I have yet to figure out. What I know is this - time is most easily measured by milestones and the things that happen between them. Maybe that's why that window of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is so precious, so fleeting, and so wonderful.
What were your favorite parts of the summer?