Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tired kids

put the kibbosh on errands. At least that was the case today. Leapy and Reilly will both have to wait an extra day for the replenishment of their dwindling food supplies.

When I picked Banana up at the Farmer's Market--amazing what you can find amongst the organic vegetables and crafts--it was already clear that we were going to have a rough evening. There were bags under her eyes, and she was already a bit cranky with her mom. As resilient as she is, I think all the late nights in recent weeks and running around are finally catching up with her.

In any case, the market today yielded
arugula
cantelope
peppers
cucumbers
green beans
Italian sausage
ground beef
eggs

Monday, July 30, 2007

Stupid water

Apparently Aquafina has decided to admit that it is simply packaged tap water. I'd never noticed that the bottles were labeled PWS--Public Water Supply--and neither had many other people.

Thus continues one of the all-time ruses of consumer culture--bottled water. I've commented before on the absurdity of Deer Park's single-use "kid" bottles, but it's really the whole bottled water segment of the drink industry that blows my mind. And the fact that that segment represents $11B is even more mind-blowing.

Bottled water really seems like the snake oil of our contemporary culture. It may never have been marketed as directly better than tap water, but beverage companies have marketed the perception that water from a bottle is healthier. The reality, however, is that most tap water is not only safe, but better for you in some cases. Certainly, it is more economical and can be comfortably transported through faucets or refillable bottles.

What further disturbs me is the environmental impact. With the consumables come the trashables--tons of plastic bottles everywhere.

cheney's a robot

Dick Cheney had the battery in his built-in defibrillator replaced this weekend. This means his heart will continue to operate. This almost seems comic. Almost.

A Treefrog

Yesterday, I fulfilled my promise of Banana's birthday present--a new pet. Her first ideas were kittens and puppies. Those wouldn't do right now--a kitten because I'm not a cat person, and a puppy because I can't handle adding another mouth and set of vet bills to the mix. Failing that, she settled for a turtle. Then she changed her mind. She wanted a frog. Call it the Hopper Effect. Since frogs seem fairly low maintenance, I was okay with the idea.

The salesperson at PetSmart (the gender-neutral reference is essential, because I'm honestly not sure what this person's story was) gave me the rundown on what we would need to take care of a treefrog:

  • 10 gal. aquarium $10

  • screen $10

  • clip-on light and bulb $10

  • sediment for the bottom $10

  • hiding place--in the case of a treefrog this also meant a climbing tree $15

  • watering dish--opted to solve this with a waterfall $42

  • crickets $2

  • treefrog $18


This made for a rather pricey birthday present, but I'd made the promise. And the thing actually seemed kind of cool.

We are one day in now, and the frog still seems cool. It is named Leapy. Leapy has a voracious appetite for crickets. Leapy also needs a damper base than she (we know the gender) has. These facts mean that we will make another trip to PetSmart tomorrow for more crickets and a mister to dampen the aquarium.

Banana is overjoyed. Pictures will be forthcoming.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Saturday, July 28, 2007

my aching back


The first real injury I remember to my back came on an ice-slicked 6th Avenue, coming home from The Stoned Crow late one night about ten years ago. I imagine the spill was one of those comic moments when you're suspended mid-air for a moment before crashing to the ground. A cabbie stopped and asked if I was all right. I could barely breathe even the next day when I went to work--sitting all day at a computer in an agency bullpen. I had back issues before that too, but this is the first obvious injury I remember. The next came a year or so later when I hit a parked car while riding my bike. After that injury, I took the time to see a chiropractor who pointed out how messed up my back actually was at that point. Too much stress, too many locked-up muscles.

Sad to say, I never fully dealt with these things. My cavalier, invincible attitude is coming back to haunt me now. It's about time, I guess, as part of this lifehacking I'm doing to begin to take care of my body too.

I'm not getting any younger, right?

Saturday morning cartoons

Classic. That's all I can say. Classic.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Simplify

For three years, I have managed to juggle all of the responsibilities at work with a minimum of failure. Well, things are starting to break, and I'm losing the careful balance and structure I've tried to maintain. Who knew a quarter inch mistake could be such a problem...

Time to go to Hugh Mcleod for a simple explanation:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

sporadic

It is my hope, my intention to get back to writing and posting on a regular basis. Now that the monster book is headed off to press at least one huge weight is off my shoulders (and my aching back). Given the time to organize at home (and figure out what to do with the box the dollhouse was shipped in), I really do hope to find time to spew words, pictures and randomness again.

Strange thing about this blogging thing: I miss it when I'm not keeping up with it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

birthdays, etc.

I'm officially exhausted after this weekend. A neighbor's party Friday night. A trip to the Virginia Living Museum yesterday. Friends and wine in the backyard last night. The pool, birthday time, and good food today.

Banana is now five. It's a great age. The know-it-all-ness, the arguing, the willfulness, the sometimes-hilarious reasoning. It's all great, really. still, all of the fun moments and all of the new developments really do make it all fun.

And now we have a massive dollhouse. And soon we will have frogs. This is my life.

A smart child and a messed-up back.

Friday, July 20, 2007

abstractions and war

According to General Petraeus on NPR this evening, "Our enemy is extremism." Translated, this means we are fighting an abstraction. Except that you can't fight an abstraction. Misunderstanding this reality may in fact be the saddest thing about our nation's misguided leadership.

busy

Sigh... It's been a busy week, but at least Verizon seems--finally--to have gotten my service issues corrected. Who wants to bet that the billing will be a fascinating journey?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Verizon, the saga continues

We are into day 7 of the Verizon comedy of errors now. Miss Green in Maryland has been working hard to get the situation wrapped up. She has involved her managers. A tech in Richmond assured me today that he would get things cleared up.

File this under "Computers are great until they're not" because apparently the only hitch is that the turnover of service has to pass through "the system" before the matter is fully resolved. I envision "The System" as some sadistic robot out of a sci fi novel, laughing at the mounting frustration of his human nemesis.

Meanwhile, I think I'd like an apology from the CSR who started all of this.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Verizon sucks, pts 5 and beyond

Note: I am still using poached wireless.

Ms. Green, my kindly CSR, assured me on Friday evening that everything was in place except for a final go-ahead on the TV. This would happen Monday morning, she assured me. I wasn't happy about having to go the weekend without service, but since the weekend promised to be busy and Banana would be with mommy, I dealt with it. I also had no choice.

Today--Monday--I left a couple of kind messages for Ms. Green, asking for updates. There was no return call this time. By 6:30 when we returned home from grocery shopping and what-not, I called again since the router still indicated no service. This time, Ms. Green's direct number was busy. Not a good sign.

I got on the phone with FiOS again to try to clear up matters. Or at least get a status update. The first CSR I get listens patiently, finds the account, and puts me on hold. a few minutes later, there is a click and the hold music changes drastically. I wait a few more minutes until I hear a recorded voice asking me to hold for a representative. Amazing that they managed to lose me as I'm trying to clear this up--again. I call back and explain the situation again. The CSR goes into another system and finds no records since the disconnect on 6/12. I rant. I really rant. Then I apologize when I remember it's not his fault.

At the end of the call, it is left that I need to call back in the morning again and speak to one of the account representatives.

And to think: This all started a week ago because I wanted to pay my bill.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Brooklyn days

Before I ever moved to Brooklyn years ago, I had developed a sort of preternatural nostalgia for Brooklyn's history. Videos like this remind me why.

ways to make airline travel even worse...

Horrible story--a mother kicked off a flight (on a stopover, mind you) because her toddler was talking and the flight attendant got annoyed. After an 11-hour delay.

via daddytypes and Consumerist.

Verizon, pt. 4

The latest CSR spent 45 minutes on the phone with me this morning trying to resolve the issues. She managed to track down and figure out where all the various orders happened. She also learned that the CSR yesterday understood me to say that I wanted to cancel all of my service--which is hard to believe. As the call ended, she gave me her name and direct line with the assurance that she would get the new account set up. She also agreed with my request that I not be billed for my service between May 29 and yesterday as a courtesy for the trouble. She also said she would call back when it was all resolved. (Where have I heard that before?)

Those were the assurances. Anybody want to place bets on whether this is, in fact, the resolution of it?

UPDATE: She actually called back! The situation isn't thoroughly resolved yet, but at least she called with new information.

a bit of fun



Soft and folky, yes, but she's a damn good songwriter.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

identity crisis

navel-gazing moment

I'm still in the process of settling in to the new place. The latest stage involves going through boxes of files I haven't touched since 2004, at least. This includes all of my grad school files, tons of rough drafts of stories--some of which never even got typed up, edits galore, old job-search records, early portfolio stuff, source materials for the Coney book, memories, memories, and more memories.

Strangest finds so far include copies of my paternal grandparents' birth certificates. My Danish-immigrant great grandfather was a "horseshoer."

Verizon, pts 2 & 3

Note: I am writing this from poached wireless access.

Pt. 2

So, I called Verizon after I got to work this morning to resolve the matters. After several minutes of explaining the problem to a FiOS CSR, he contacted billing and transferred me to them.

The CSR in billing asked me to explain the situation again. I did so, at which point she told me that I had never ended my service at the old address. We went around on that issue for a few minutes until she understood what had happened. At that point, she assured me she would issue the cancellation for my old service. I carefully asked her whether that would mean the billing issues would be resolved and my current service at the new house would remain intact.

She assured me it would.

Pt. 3

Banana and I arrive home, and Banana wants to watch Angelina Ballerina. (She has just come from her first ballet lesson.) I flip on the TV, and realize that there is no service.

I get on the phone with FiOS, go through the story again, and the CSR finds my account easily this time. Unfortunately, both accounts had disconnect orders issued. At this point, I am just as amused as I am irritated. He puts me on hold for several minutes, comes back and confirms the service I should have (data and TV) and where I should have that service. He tells me he is going to resolve it, and that he will call me back.

fast forward two hours

I call back to find out the status of the issue. I go through the story with the latest CSR, and he is very sympathetic. He goes through the various accounts and orders that now exist, but can find no record of this afternoon's phone call. Great. Just fucking great.

This phone call, the latest phone call, ends with him telling me to call in the morning when the billing office is open.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

customer service, verizon, billing... and fun

When we moved, the FiOS moved cleanly and the install was relatively painless. Six weeks in, however, there are some fascinating billing issues coming up.

First off, they are billing me for phone service I no longer have. Second, they are billing me for a wireless router, except that the tech used my old wireless router. So I am being billed for a service I am not using and a wireless router that I already received for free. Brilliant!

I called into FiOS customer service this evening, even though I knew the billing office was closed, to find out what they showed for services and accounts. Apparently, there are two accounts still open for me. Stay tuned whether the billing people can actually get this wrapped up in the morning and remove close to $250 in erroneous billings.

crunchtime

The beast of a project has taken over my life again, bringing me to invoke Hugh McLeod:

the world

is too much with us here and now late and soon. There is so much to worry about, from food to toys to war-mongering to so many other things. I'd rather just think about this:

Monday, July 09, 2007

organic food is healthier--who knew?

Picked this up off of Consumerist... Apparently organic tomatoes are healthier than "conventional" tomatoes. This should surprise no one; the real surprise should be that we even need to investigate such things. It's like investigating whether machine cut "baby" carrots have as many nutrients as carrots pulled fresh from the soil. It's like investigating the nose on our collective face. Sheesh.

I'll probably dive into writing heavily about Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma when I get closer to finishing it, but suffice it to say that this really isn't a surprise.

hype and craving, pt. 2


I played with an iPhone today, finally. One of my part-time staff has one. I shouldn't have done it. Now I want one. They really are that cool.

NPR madness and Iraq

This afternoon on All Things Considered, an Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel was interviewed. He talked about how grateful the Iraqis were--in spite of the difficulties of getting them to finish their police training consistently. He explained his rosy view of things by putting it in historical perspective... historical perspective as long as you only believe that Iraqi history begins with Saddam Hussein's regime. Sadly, as long as our government and the supposed watchdogs of the media continue to foment this myopic view of a complicated regional history (The amalgamation of fractious regions into a manufactured "country," eh? The problematic British occupation in the early twentieth century, eh?), we will continue down the path of lies, half-truths, and fatal inanities.

Quote of the Day

I just stumbled across a note I made in Maine a week and a half ago:

"Do starfish sleep a little later than people?"

This was Banana's question when she discovered that the starfish we had brought back from Edgewater seemed, um, not to be very responsive despite our efforts to put together a nice little tidal ecosystem on the shore. It was at that point that I realized I had used a basin that probably had decades of bleach residue imbued in the plastic. Oops.

The comment is closely rivaled by tonight's at Sticky Rice, after she had decorated Piko with a tutu and fuschia shoes: "She's so stylish."

back in rva

We landed last night after an extended trip back--full day's drive on Friday, built a treehouse while Banana played with her cousins in Jersey on Saturday, finished the drive yesterday. Needless to say, I'm a little tired and wish I'd taken an additional day off to get grounded and get the house cleaned up... Meh. Exciting stuff.

Know what's really exciting? Returning from 70F in Maine to 97F+ in Richmond.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Foodblogging - Isleboro Dock

During our foray out to the Cranberries, the first stop was a late lunch at the only restaurant on the islands-- the Isleboro Dock. It's an informal place with a short menu: a couple of salads, chowder (out of it), a mezze platter; the obligatory burger, crab roll, lobster roll, and two bbq sandwiches; and a third section that offered lobster at market price and "Something Steamed." The steamed something turned out to be mussels, and I ordered them, along with a Bar Harbor Real Ale. It was the first I'd had either on this trip...


The beer, I know. It was good, as always--especially because it was on tap. The mussels? Oy. Double oy.

I've never had mussels this good. The broth was butter and white wine over a perfect stock. There were cloves of roasted garlic that had simmered for so long they melted in your mouth. Carmelized onions added an unexpected smokiness to the dish, and the fresh oregano--from the garden across the road--lent a pungent punch to the whole thing. The bread came from a bakery in Northeast Harbor, and it was crusty and airy. Perfect to soak up the brodo.

I worried about being hungry afterward, but there was no chance of that. (Of course, snacking off Banana's perfectly crisp french fries helped too.)

And when the power went out mid-meal for a few minutes, that didn't throw anyone for a loop. Life is slower on an island, and if I could eat like this for the rest of my life... oy. I'd live a happy man.

A trip to the islands...

Grandma, Banana, and I decided to take the ferry to the Cranberry Islands this afternoon. The weather was awful all morning and kept plans in the air until Banana decided that she would rather take a boat ride than see Flash in the Pan. I was torn so I gave her the choice. Flash is a wonderful, amazing, community-driven show that is full of energy; I love it, but this is what we ended up with:




The ride out during the fog proved to be even more interesting than Grandma and I expected. The seas were fairly calm, and the air was crystalline.

What is truly remarkable is the singular feeling of being on an island. Nothing compares. Whether it is an island off the Brazilian coast (Ilha Bela) or the Irish coast (Inish Moor or Inish Boffin) or Little Cranberry Island, there is a common feeling to island culture--a combination of friendliness and suspicion, and a quiet awareness of isolation. It's remarkable, really.

Anyway, I've now marked Little Cranberry as a point for further exploration. I like the feel of the place, the remoteness punctuated by the honest friendliness of the people we met. There isn't more to write, sadly, about the place because we didn't have enough time there. The next post will explain why...

Schoodic oddness

Check out these satellite topographic projections:


Stunning, right?

The trick is that these are actually pools of concentrated sea salt on Schoodic Point. Never seen this sort of thing before. Tidal pools that were neglected and dried up into salt supplies.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Respect for the Holiday

In the interest of national security, faith, and all that is good, I have decided not to post or write today.


********************


Aw, Hell, the real problem is that I'm tired. The news has been crazy--from bizarre car accidents downstate to the insanity of national and international events--and exhausting. Keeping up with Banana and the rest of the family demands has been exhausting. (Add to that firing a cannon at the annual Third of July Party.) Really, from the pain of downloading today's pictures on a D50 I was playing with to saturation of everything else, I'm just in the mood to sit. And read. Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. More--much more--about that later.

Be well, and raise a glass to the country. And to the hope that we can win it back one of these days.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

frogs and more frogs

This is the most recent incarnation of Hopper. Hopper 7, the sequel you might call him.

He (?) was one of the smaller bullfrogs Banana caught at Little Tunk, and one of two this afternoon. He (?) was quite an amiable little bullfrog, and Banana insisted that he liked her. Even as he tried to hop away a few times. After a while, I insisted that he needed to be returned to his home in the reeds. She was slow about it, and I got a little more frustrated than I wanted to be.

This age is a lot of fun--and one can only hope that the various creatures see their experiences as adventures. Banana seems much more aware of the world around her, asking lots of questions about things around the house and suddenly saying "whee" as we go over little hills in the car. But for all those fun moments, there are all the little pains in the neck like when she repeatedly tried to negotiate for more time with the frog.

So this is the battle: No versus But.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Scuttling Scooter

I raised the question the other day, "How much more damage can these guys do in the next eighteen months?" The answer came back, "A lot."

Of course, it is semantically better that Bush commuted Libby's sentence rather than just pardoning him outright. A nice little rhetorical trick, actually. Doing so, however, is just another maddening reminder of how ethically bankrupt the administration really is. The U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously rejected his request for an appeal, but Bush certainly found his way around those "activist judges," didn't he?

Then again, since Cheney is really the one who is running things, why should I even be surprised. Kagro X on Daily Kos takes us back to where all of the ills of this administration seem to start: the end of the Nixon administration. Hell, just keep reading the rest of Daily Kos for coverage. It's good. And sad.

starfish

For generations, kids have pulled starfish and other things like urchins, crabs, sea dollars, sea cucumbers, and moon snails from the tumbled down granite blocks on the point below Edgewater Cabins.

This jumble of granite blocks was a steamer dock in the early part of the century when Sullivan was a prosperous little burg on the coast. Much of the granite used to build Washington DC among other places came out of local quarries and passed down this landing onto steamer ships. Sullivan also had a thriving silver mine industry. When things went into decline after the twenties, the dock went into disrepair and eventually became an unrecognizable pile of heavy granite blocks.

For the generations since, it has been a boon. Kids whose families owned houses on the road mingled with kids whose families rented cabins or houses by the week as we scrambled over these blocks. We scraped our knees on rough edges, cut the soles of our feet on barnacles, and risked what must have seemed like life and limb in pursuit of the perfect starfish. Why? Because there are few places I've ever been where you can so easily reach into the water and find this:

In recent years, they've put in the new dock and float off the point, and shored up parts of the pile. To those of us who've been here for years, the changes are obvious but understated enough to be "acceptable." Regardless, the starfish have survived well, though there seem to be fewer big ones now. Other changes in the ecosystem are evident, though. Sanddollars seem to be entirely gone; sea cucumbers are rare, though a few anemones still survive; urchins and crabs are around, but there is no sign of moon snails.

Still, the starfish remain. Banana and future generations can still pluck starfish from the rocks and leave them out to dry. I hear it's possible, though I never managed to get anything but a stinking mess out of my efforts to dry one. But being a kid is--and should be--all about optimism.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Little Long Pond and the Rockefellers

Acadia National Park exists because of the Rockefellers. Much of Mount Desert Island exists because of the Rockefellers, the Astors, and other obscenely wealthy families over the last century and a half.

In the thirties when John D. donated his land Mount Desert to the National Park system, he created a wonderland of nature available to the public. The family did, however, keep some significant chunks of land around their houses and the "secret" garden John D. built for his mother. Part of this land is included in the Little Long Pond carriage road loop.

As an aside: the Carriage Roads were the centerpiece of Rockefeller's holdings on Mt. Desert. They are a beautifully graded and engineered system of roads for horses and carriages. They have become an essential connective tissue of Acadia, an important way for people to get from trail to trail and to ride bikes and horses.

Little Long Pond is better kept, however, than the rest of the network. The private Rockefeller crews keep the property beautifully, and there are no bikes allowed. The only horses allowed are those owned by the various parts of the family. The loop is kept open for the public, as well, and one benefit the family offers is that dogs are allowed off-leash. Unlike the rest of the park system, this allows for people to take a three to four mile hike with their dog roaming and saying hello to other dogs. It's brilliant and rare.

Add to this the stunning natural beauty of the woods and the wide-open fields, the pond with its fish and tadpoles, the beaver huts, the occasional moose, and you have the recipe for an Eden-like setting. Never forget, however, that you are a guest. This is not a warning; just an acknowledgment that we are lucky to have people who still do this.