Sunday, November 30, 2008

continuing journeys

A whirlwind trip of five days to Ohio and back is liable to make one feel like this:



In truth, despite traffic and very mild family dramas, something like this characterizes the trip much better:



I'm a bit tired to write more tonight. Suffice it to say for now that it is nice to feel old enough to return "home" without feeling all of the pressures, petty dramas, and angst associated with such journeys. It's also pretty amazing to turn around and look at your kid and say, "When did you get to be so big?"

Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Going Home

I haven't considered Dayton home for many, many years. Still, it is the place I spent many of my formative years, and it is the place where I return once a year for a sort of homecoming. It is one of the places where I never have to think about how to get some place, and one of the places I stand a fair chance of running into someone I've known for more than thirty years.

That said, it is always a strange, somewhat challenging experience to return "home."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

dreams into reality?

I know that I as a kid would have been ecstatic to have a jet pack. I'd still be ecstatic as a 38-year-old.

There is no parachute. There is no safety net. There is no air bag. But there is 800 horsepower on my back," said the former TV stuntman who on Monday piloted his hydrogen-peroxide-powered jet pack across the 1,053-foot-deep Royal Gorge.

In a 21-second burst of deafening thrust, 45-year- old Scott soared across the 1,500-foot-wide chasm, setting all kinds of first-ever records in the nascent world of rocket-strapped flight as hundreds of spectators gaped.

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

At 135 pounds, Scott's pack is the most technologically advanced flying machine in existence, said Eric Strauss, the Boulder aerospace engineer who designed it. Strauss was almost hyperventilating after Scott's successful traversing of the Royal Gorge. So many things were uncertain, he said in a whisper.


It's just cool, just so cool.

Monday, November 24, 2008

foodblogging on cold, rainy night

We had some pork chops from Faith Farms thawed in the fridge, and some fresh, local cider that was about to turn the bend. Having read Elegant's recipe for cider-sauced pork chops, I decided to marry the two. From Elegant's recipe I dropped the cider vinegar and the whole grain mustard as these might make the dish a bit too tart for Banana's palate. In their place, I used a splash of orange juice to add tartness without the extra bit. The accompaniments were roasted tri-color confetti potatoes and whole garlic cloves with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika, and steamed green beans.

The result? Banana declared the potatoes "famous" and the pork chops "excellent." I love my kid.

*******

Part 2...

In the refrigerator were the following: chicken carcass and carrots, parsley, shiitakes and kale all just past their prime. Add a couple quartered onions, salt, pepper, and water. Turn the fire on high. Wait approximately half an hour and your house fills with the smell of jewish penicillin. Once the initial boil is finished, turn down the heat to a simmer and let simmer for at least 8 hours. At that point, add water and any other spices to taste and raise to a boil. Turn the heat off and allow the stock to cool. Strain and freeze until the next cold.

Bigfoot wanted to play a little Chopin.


What a brilliant little mystery. A piano and a bench at the end of a road in the woods. Too heavy to be moved by one person. Set with the bench ready for playing. And best of all: apparently in tune. Perhaps the ghosts of Thoreau, Frost, Lowell, Dickinson, and Emerson were planning to gather and play us into an apocalypse ringed with maple and black flies.

Authorities in Harwich, Massachusetts, are probing the mysterious appearance of a piano, in good working condition, in the middle of the woods.

Discovered by a woman who was walking a trail, the Baldwin Acrosonic piano, model number 987, is intact -- and, apparently, in tune.


Picked up from Boing Boing, story here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Fun - The Darwin Awards edition

Just one more reason to love the interwebs...







Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Really?!?


Apparently, today is World Toilet Day. I am not making this up. Really. If it's a joke, it's a well-designed joke. To quote the site:
Toilets deserve better social status. WTO has been striving to elevate the status of toilets to make them status symbols and objects of desire.

Really? Wow.

a new 'puter?

So, Impolitic Eye has decided to expand our arsenal of computers by a factor of one. The thing is I can't decide between



Any thoughts? Votes, suggestions, and comments are welcome.

oh, the memories...


When I first moved to New York and before I started playing pool at every opportunity, I liked to write. I wrote in dive bars and cafes. Often writing in a cafe would lead before long to pulling up at a bar and dropping my manuscript on the bartop where I would continue working and beginning drowning the caffeine buzz with pints of Guinness. The best of the dive bars were cheap places where you could go in the daytime and be left alone. Bartenders at these places tended to be generous with buybacks every third or fourth drink. "Cheers," they'd say as they left your money on the bar. The only exception was probably the Holiday Cocktail Lounge on St. Marks. The bartender was never generous and the place was too dark for an aspiring writer trying to slide down the gullet of New York to work in, but the Holiday had its other charms.

The bar that became my muse, however, was Milano's. The old men who came there had known the daytime bartenders since before their wives had passed and when they were still working men. There were regulars who'd grown up around the corner and came back to drink after they moved out to Queens. There was a bartender named Maggie who liked to talk for hours, which was great until the day she kept serving Jameson's with the conversation—never saw a bill for that one and barely remember getting home. There were the happy hours when the owner showed up and bought rounds for everyone in the place, and I swear the bartenders just figured out a fair price sometimes.


The price for the nostalgia, however, was that I stopped being a productive writer. I had to learn my lesson, had to stop going there, had to realize that for all the "character" I thought I was learning about in those times, I was also losing something.

So, yeah, I have a certain nostalgia for dive bars, but I don't have much nostalgia for what dive bars do to people.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My (Sporty) Concession

A week and a half ago, I took the 2004 Jetta in for its 40K service. Our local VW dealer had just gotten in a new shipment of cars, including a few Jetta SportWagens. I've been tempted by these since they were announced late last year. Well, it just so happened that one of the models had a manual transmission—still one of my requirements for a car.

I drove the car and found it stiff but sporty. The engine had a good bit of zing, and the car felt as stable as any I've driven—more like a couple of Audis I've driven than the last generation Jetta. It was also remarkably roomy inside. In the end, I played with the financing and thought through one basic issue: the '04 Jetta was coming out of its warranty, and I probably couldn't handle any major service bills that might come up, at least not in the foreseeable future.

In the end, it just came down to a decision to take one more step to putting the past behind me, and I came home in this:



I will admit I've had some moments of buyer's remorse—moments where I wonder if I should have stubbornly stuck out paying off the 2004 and moments where I wonder if I've made the ultimate concession to parenthood and approaching middle age by getting a wagon. In reality, though, neither is really a good reason for remorse. Paying off the 2004 would have been an honorable activity, but might have not have benefitted me in the long-run. And the wagon question? Well, the reality is I need to haul a kid, a dog, and all the stuff that goes along with those responsibilities. I also hope to get back to more active, outdoor pursuits, and a wagon just works better for that.

In the end, though, I'm a dad. I'm almost forty. I'm an adult in need of adult trappings. Would I love to have the cherry red GLI with its 6-speed gear box and 220+ hp engine I looked at before buying the last Jetta? Sure, I would. But that one will have to wait for the day Banana inherits our well-used, paid-for 2009 SportWagen... in 2019.

God help us all...

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

One other thing I should add: I love the car. It truly is fun to drive. And when we came home from IKEA and Trader Joe's this weekend, there was room to spare. Time to add the Apple sticker...

Friday, November 14, 2008

dinners

My standard for dinner preparation is increasingly being held up to two standards: taste and ease of preparation. Banana crashes too early and I'm too fried after an average day to pull together some of the complicated meals I've tried in the past. Beyond that, I've begun to embrace the power of simplicity. To that note, tonight's dinner.

Center-cut pork chops from Faith Farms, kale and peppers from Victory Farms, and couscous. How many extra ingredients and preparations? As few as possible.



I added a little sea salt and cracked pepper to the pork chops before searing them in butter in the Calphalon Everyday Pan (my best kitchen purchase yet). After they were browned, I added some white wine, and once the pan was deglazed and the wine cooked off, I added a bit of balsamic vinegar. Total ingredients: 6

I briefly steamed the kale and peppers, then poured off the water and added a pat of butter and some salt and tri-color cracked pepper. I would have added a bit of lemon if I had any fresh. Total additional ingredients: 2

The couscous simply had butter and a bit of cracked pepper added. Total additional ingredients: 1

In the end, the meal was remarkably simply and easy-to-prepare. It tasted delicious—even though I omitted garlic for the evening, and was as local and healthy as possible. Banana even asked for seconds.

good stuff

First Saturday in November. Apples. Dads. Kids. And finally, beer.

The apples were courtesy of the Vintage Virginia Apple Harvest Festival in North Garden, south of Charlottesville. And the beer was courtesy of Blue Mountain Brewery.

The owner and brewmaster of Blue Mountain was with Goose Island in Chicago for several years before moving to the South Street Brewery in Charlottesville. He's turned out some really nice beers at Blue Mountain now. Their pale ale is excellent. The kolsch is nice and light. And the nitro porter is excellent. I also enjoyed the growler of aged hefeweizen I brought home. In addition to some nice brews, they have a stellar location looking out to the Blue Ridge and link in nicely to the locavore movement by growing their own hops and serving as much locally produced food as possible on the limited menu.



What I also appreciate, though, is the space they've created. The room is open and inviting, with big windows looking out to the deck. Because it's non-smoking and fairly sedate, it's also a very parent-friendly environment. In fact, it's exactly the kind of place I wish we had here in Richmond: a place where adults and kids can relax, eat, socialize.



My only complaint (and suggestion): Two dollars for a bowl of mini pretzels? Really? Kind of absurd. They should be free. Really.

Friday Fun - advertising edition

Went to the AICP show hosted by the Richmond Ad Club last night. There was some truly great work shown, and some spots just demanded to be seen again. And again.


Tide-to-Go "Interview"




Bud Light "Swear Jar"




Skittles "Touch" (Brilliant echoes of classic stories in this one.)




JC Penney "Aviator" (Touching, really touching.)




JC Penney "Magic" (One of many that show how nice it is to see the whole spot as opposed to cutdown versions usually included in ad buys.)




Guinness "Dot" (Someone had seen the classic MGM cartoon of the circle and the line before making this spot.)




StuffIt Deluxe "Pregnancy"




Epuron/German Ministry for the Environment "Power of Wind"




Peace on the Streets "Kill the Gun" (Reverberated with me for obvious reasons.)




And because I don't want to end on a somber note...

Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

days in the life

In a recent conversation with my old friend Bonnie in NY, I described life as a single dad caring full-time for a first-grade daughter and holding down an occasionally-demanding full-time job as "balancing a bunch of different things on the ends of sticks with one hand while juggling with the other hand while standing with one foot on a yoga ball while blindfolded and with a mongoose on your head. In a hurricane." She added "sharp tacks on the ball's surface." To which, I also added "balancing the ball on a balance beam over a pit of hot coals."

As much as life can feel like that, though, there are things like the birthday gift Banana made for me:

Dear B & H Photo:

I was shopping on your site, and I liked some of the prices I was seeing on the Nikons. Unfortunately, your site is now broken. I guess the error message means I will look elsewhere.

Signed,
indecisive

Monday, November 10, 2008

Coming Back

I'm coming back. Regularly. I swear I am. The happy hangover of the election has left me as speechless as did the final months of the race, but I'm going to be giving daily attention to this blog soon. Part of it depends on getting a new MacBook—it's easier for me to work when I'm not constrained to a single desk. Part of it also depends on the direction I plan to take the blog.

Politics will probably never leave Impolitic Eye altogether, but I have to admit that writing about politics doesn't particularly make me happy. I am reminded of a recent story on NPR about Berkeley Breathed's decision to end Opus. I am addicted to politics, but I prefer writing about parenting—particularly life as a full-time single father—and advertising and design. Food, of course, is an essential piece of the blog.

I guess the point is there are plenty of people covering the political beat, from small blogs to massive communities. If Impolitic Eye is going to have value beyond offering a public diary of my life, I want to find the ideas, the mental places where that value can be best realized.

Choices, Consumers and The Future

Picked up from Hugh Macleod, this is a brilliant exploration of the connection between assembly-line thinking and the marginalization of consumer (public) voices. Read it. Seriously.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Fun - pt. 2, the seventies edition

And here is where I give you a couple classics that my generation grew up with. You may curse me after the third day they are stuck in your head.




(points if you can tell me which 80s video seems to take a few visual cues from this one)

Friday Fun - pt. 1

Pixel art and a music video created in ASCII characters in Excel? Awesome.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A New Day Dawns

I told Banana this morning that Barack Obama won, and she said "Yay!" Much of what I could or should say about this historic moment I've already written in past posts. It's time for us to roll up our sleeves and get back to the work of making our world a better place.





Tuesday, November 04, 2008

a note to my neighbor on Monument Avenue

You were correct this morning when you told me that political signs are illegal on public thoroughfares and are only allowed on private property. You were not necessarily protected by the law when you removed the signs, however, and the growl in your voice betrayed your politics. When you ignored my question about whether you would pull McCain signs — had there been any out — I got my answer about your motives. What you did not do, however, is change any votes, and I made a point of picking up one of the signs and replacing the one that had been stolen from my yard.

To you, I also say this: it must be hard to watch your well-defended Southern Republican world pushed to the point of a defeat of historic proportions.

a touching tribute

Barack Obama's remarks about his grandmother on her passing yesterday are an inspiration:

She was somebody who was a very humble person, a very plainspoken person. She is one of those quiet heroes we have all across America, who are not famous, their names are not in the newspapers, but each and every day they work hard. They look after their families. They sacrifice for their children, and their grandchildren. They aren't seeking the limelight. All they try to do is do the right thing. And in this crowd, there are a lot of quiet heroes like that, people like that, mothers and fathers and grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives and the satisfaction that they get is in seeing their children or maybe their grandchildren or their great-grandchildren live a better life than they did. That is what America is about. That is what we are fighting for.

Monday, November 03, 2008

what it comes down to tomorrow

Picked up from Daily Kos, this video is extremely well-done and pulls into a nutshell the history of disenfranchisement we confront as we go to the polls tomorrow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

catching up, pt. 2 — the garden edition

Our garden this summer produced the following:

  • limited quantities of two kinds of cherry tomatoes
  • a healthy basil crop
  • no parsley
  • no melons
  • two peppers which were devoured on the plant
  • one roma tomato
  • one oddly shaped, but tasty cucumber




Next year, I'll do a little more planning.

Hard-working Americans

On Friday night, every conversation I got into turned toward politics. Whether I steered the topic or someone else brought it up, the presidential contest as well as a few local races dominated everything.

The conversation that stunned me the most was the final one of the evening. I had stopped in to say hello to my neighbors as the evening wound down, and M quickly enlisted me to help convince their visiting friend why she should vote for Obama rather than McCain. She tossed out a good many of the standard Republican and Fox News talking points and seemed stunned by some of our rebuttals ("we had to go after them" vs. "Iraq didn't attack us" followed by "he was planning to bomb us" vs. "he had no weapons capable of hitting us").

The talking point that struck me the most, however, was her contention that "hard-working Americans" should be able to keep their money. I stopped and asked her, "What makes someone who is making half a million dollars a year a harder worker than me?"

She said, "Well, I just don't think we should penalize anyone for being successful."

But I wouldn't let the taxation point go. "What," I asked her, "makes someone who earns ten times what I earn a harder worker than I am and why should that person pay a lower percentage of their overall income in taxes?" She came back with her comment about hard-working Americans, and that's when I really set in. "I earn a good salary on paper," I told her, "but I work full-time and am a full-time single father with no support. In what way am I not a hard-working American? Why is it fair for me to pay a higher percentage of my income in taxes than our neighbors in the million-dollar houses?"

My attack was harsher than it needed to be, but the point was still dead-on. I earn what should be a fairly comfortable middle-class income and work my ass off to do so both at work and at home. Hard-working people should be able to keep a fair share of their income, and the determination of that fair share should start from the bottom and middle of society rather than the top down.

As Phil and I decided yesterday, the rhetorical and ideological world conservative Republicans live in these days really is a topsy-turvy, carnival mirror take on reality.

I wish them good riddance on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

toys

I went into the bathroom to stow some towels this evening. Half of the towel shelf was already occupied by a neat stack of towels; the other half was occupied by bath toys. Boats, fish, mermaids, all holdovers from Banana's toddler years. I'd held on to them through the move to our current house a year and a half ago and put them in the bathroom as though they would continue to be relevant to her life.

Over time, they were replaced by the Barbies she plays with during the occasional bath—often enough, she showers these days. When replaced, they moved beside our claw-footed tub. They eventually moved up to the shelves during a cleaning. In all that time, they were never purged. Until tonight.

Through a combination of lassitude and slack oversight, I'd managed to overlook them for this long. When I looked for a space for the stack of clean towels, I realized that this space-consuming collection of toddler toys would never be played with again, at least not by Banana. Should I become a father again, it's not going to happen soon enough to warrant keeping these obsolete toys in our active living space. So, out the toys went.

I suppose there's always a point in parenting (and life, in general) when you realize you've kept the artifacts of the past far longer than necessary. There's a certain bittersweet feeling to realizing that you truly have grown past that part of your life, and I know some mothers who mourn the moments when they realize their children are no longer their babies. In fact, it's happened to many of our friends as they sent their kids to first grade. Yet, though I fondly remember Banana's younger years, I also am coming to accept that we need to purge some of these artifacts (physical and otherwise) if we're going to move forward and grow into the next phases of our lives.