Saturday, June 30, 2007

Blue Hill Farmers Market

We started coming to this market in 2003, the summer we spent up here, and got to know some of the farmers. It's a small crew of local, exclusively organic farmers and the obligatory artisans. The produce is of a generally excellent quality--though it's still just greens season here--and more reasonably priced than at the markets in Richmond--$3 for a bag of mesclun instead of $5. It is still early in the season, however, so we only picked up mesclun, spinach, and chevre.

One of these days I'll have to be more adventuresome and buy things like beets and turnip greens.

Stink at Little Tunk

As a protected body of water, pollution should be minimal to non-existent at Little Tunk. That's why it was an unpleasant surprise to find foam and a yellow residue on the shore on our most recent excursion.

Most of it had accumulated near the reedy area where Banana and the other kids had been catching bullfrogs on Wednesday. Not knowing the source of the scum and yellow residue, I vetoed frog hunting. Banana was disappointed, though she soon found other ways to occupy her time.

Unhappy about the pollution, I was still happy there wouldn't be a debate over whether a frog could come home with us.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The sky tonight.

A picture really is worth (more than) a thousand words.

foodblogging - the lobster edition

Banana and I headed over to Tidal Falls tonight for our dinner out for the week. She loves lobster, and it seemed fair to split a lobster. Little did I know I would really only end up with the tail. Nonetheless, that's not the point, right?

Tidal Falls has been around in one way or another for a number of years. It was originally one of the best working pounds in Hancock, and as any good pound did, it served basic shore dinners. Most of these old pounds are gone now. The Cardinal at the bridge has become a wholesale outfit. Gordon's and others along the Route 1 corridor have closed up over the years, as did Tidal Falls for several years.

It reopened in the early eighties, owned and operated by a French woman I only remember as Madame. Her lobsters and moules were impeccable, and as a good French chef, she never skimped on the side items she offered, and the bread was always fresh. She also always kept a stash of wine even though the restaurant was technically BYOB; the deal was you replaced the bottle the next time you came. When she retired, the Frenchman Bay Conservancy raised the money to buy the point to keep it from being developed and to use the restaurant to fund their efforts. So how has it gone?

The menu now includes a thorough selection of fried options. When I tried the scallops last year, I was impressed. The breading was light, and the scallops themselves were excellent quality. The new operator has added barbecue to the offerings.He clearly is quite serious about the 'que, based on the set-up he has going. He also talked about how depressing it was to have to store and reheat food since he hadn't figured out the pace yet. (Apparently, the Conservancy is also against him advertising anything other than the lobster and fried seafood. Go figure.)

Anyway, the initial impression is actually a bit of sticker shock. Prices on lobster have climbed precipitously this year, with hard shells coming off the boat at close to nine dollars. Market price at the restaurant then becomes a painful fourteen bucks a pound. (Note to self: we'll have to check Beal's in Southwest Harbor to see what prices at a working retail operation are running.) In keeping with what I'm seeing everywhere right now, however, other prices are rising too--the most criminal example being Anna's four-dollar lemonade. But the real test comes in the food, right? So here it is:

The lobster was perfect and succulent. It seemed dirtier than it should have been, but then the days of Madame tightly controlling her supply are gone. In any case, Anna tore into the small claws and had some of the meat from the bigger claws before retreating to the garlic bread. I shared the big claws with her and had the tail, and it was very good. The corn was also good, though not as tasty as the corn I put on the grill earlier in the week. Even the cole slaw was good. The main downside was the garlic bread which was basically a hero role slathered with butter and garlic powder, not even much of a trace of minced garlic as it should have had.

Overall, the food was good, not great. (Yes, my veggie friends will crow that we shouldn't even be going through this.) But the thing about Tidal Falls is that half of the experience is the location--a tidal falls (runs in and out with the tide) between Frenchman Bay and Taunton Bay, across the narrows from our house:

In the dead-calm water between the tides, you can watch seals fish, herons and ospreys fly over. It's a stunning spot, and back in the cove are the remnants of its days as a working pound.

The water isn't as clean as it used to be, but then that's nothing new. Unfortunately.

the meaning of summer

For the moment, impoliticeye appears to be turning into a photo-narrative essay blog. That's not such a bad thing. Neither is this perfect justification for a vacation afternoon at Little Tunk:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

on the coast

Today, we packed lunches--a lesson well-learned from yesterday's extended excursion to Little Tunk--and headed farther Down East to Schoodic Point. For those who do not know, Schoodic is a mainland extension of Acadia National Park. It's near Winter Harbor, and is a good spot for scrambling around some really cool granite coastal formations. It's also a favorite spot for kids who grow up spending their summers around here:

Even Reilly looked a little more spry after acting like a mountain goat:

You're facing out to the North Atlantic, the territory of rafts of gulls and serious fishermen. In fact, watching boats like this after all the politics I've been dealing with lately makes me wonder if I'd rather cash in my chips, and do something where there are no chess-like mindgames to play:

The surf might be no more predictable, but at least it doesn't smile at you while finding ways to screw you...
And it's a lot more fun to watch.

But I forgot the point. The point is what we can find. Or what Banana can find. Thankfully, nothing came home with us today.

Banana then found twins from New Jersey to follow her to tidal pools. These girls were a few years older, but they were great at exploring with her. A few minutes after this shot was taken, however, one twin's protectiveness proved even more valuable when Banana took what could have been a painful plunge off the rock face. The girl caught her arm, and Banana emerged wet but mostly unharmed.

A short time later, I snapped this as we headed off Schoodic toward Darthia Farm. This little shed is on the edge of Wonsqueak Harbor, and has had these signs painted on the side for as long as I can remember. Never shot it until now...

food, good food

A note to all my vegan and committed-vegetarian friends: this post may offend.

I neglected to take a picture of the crabcakes last night. Too bad, too, because they were perfect. Local crab tossed with a light mixture of egg (also local and organic), mayonnaise (I'm not up to making my own yet), cumin, hot paprika, celery seed, lemon juice, worcestishire, and a dash of breadcrumbs to bind them. Rather than pan-cooking them, I opted for the broiler. The old stove is electric, but they came out perfectly. We had them with rice and a salad of local lettuces, feta (not local), and yellow pepper (as local as the Netherlands). Good stuff.

Tonight's dinner selection was a little more mundane, and unfortunately involved fewer locally-sourced ingredients. Nonetheless, a hearty meal of spaghetti after a day of running around on the rocks and playing in the water... well, it's good too.

SCOTUS madness

The GOP couldn't hold their majority in the Senate and Congress, and Bush is at historic lows in the approval ratings. We as a country--and the world at large--are stuck with the bad choices that have been made in our names. But it seems clear that the longest lasting and potentially most damaging legacy is also the one that cannot be undone: the Supreme Court.

As the decisions roll in, it is clear that the Bush&Co have succeeded in establishing a court that will protect neocon interests in the near and long terms. From civil rights to environmental protections to the rights of consumers to hold corporations accountable to many, many other issues, the five justices most beholden to the Bush dynasty--Scalia, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, and Thomas--threaten to hold progressive interests hostage for generations.

This, I suppose is the sad and sick irony of Bush's original appointment by the SCOTUS. And it's going to haunt us for a long, long time.

Just looking

Interesting light on Frenchman Bay tonight.

Moments like these slow me down.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

GSW victim

Just some further thoughts on the topic of getting shot...

1. I was extraordinarily lucky. Every time I look in the mirror and see the scar at the crux of my neck and shoulder, I realize how lucky I was. Any minor deviation in the act of shooting the gun or in the trajectory through the railing and I would be dead--or at the very least, badly maimed. In so many ways, I shouldn't be here now, but I am.

2. There may be nothing stranger in my 36 years so far than saying the words "When I was shot." Every time any variation of this comes out of my mouth, I stop for a brief moment. There is nothing right about saying it. And nothing I can do but marvel at the strangeness of the words.

3. I prevented a robbery from taking place. Perhaps something much worse. I don't know why I have to remind myself of this, but it's not the easiest thing to process.

4. It still hurts. Physically and mentally.

5. On my earlier post, I was vague about how much deeper the bullet was than expected. My attending surgeon expected it to be close to the surface--not more than a quarter of an inch. Instead, it was more than an inch under the skin and had cosseted itself just on the edge of the deltoid, kindly avoiding the ribs, clavicle, lung and other vitals. I was lucky.

So ends this moment of navel-gazing. Thanks for tuning in.

the meaning of vacation

Late this morning, after a breakfast of cinnamon raisin french toast, berries, and applewood-smoked bacon, we headed for Little Tunk Pond.

Like a number of areas in Sullivan, Little Tunk has come under the protection of the Frenchman Bay Conservancy. This group has worked to protect some beautiful spots from the developers' knives in recent years. While this goes against the moneyed vogue, it ensures that others have access to some truly beautiful spots--and that those spots will remain truly beautiful.


The trip started out as a short jaunt with a plan to pick starfish at the old dock at Edgewater at low tide. Banana connected with a few kids--Miranda 13, Nick 9, and Luke 4--and I sat with their parents for a bit. Our dogs got along worse, but it was summer vacation and beer-thirty so we burned off the rest of the day. By the time we left with a bullfrog in tow, it was after five, and we were all tired. The bullfrog returned to a stream near the house. Despite Banana's pleas for it to remain, I insisted that there was no way the frog would make it back to Richmond.

I am a mean dad sometimes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

hype and craving

It's taken me a few years to come back to being a technophile. I'm not entirely there yet, but my Core 2 Duo iMac and 30gb video iPod are becoming more central to my organization, communication, and entertainment. I am also keeping up more with the latest techno news, especially as it relates to Macs.

This is to say that I am paying attention to the iPhone. Hell, even David Pogue likes it, and that's saying a lot. He usually hates most things Apple.

trashing the coast

This is Sullivan Harbor at nearly low tide. The harbor was not recognized as a working harbor until less than twenty years ago. Unitl then, the water was only broken by a few private moorings and lobster pots. Then old zoning regulations were uncovered and the town fathers decided to make it a working harbor. Since then, we've seen an interesting run of boats anchor here. This increase in activity has coincided with a general increase in fishing and dragging in Frenchman's Bay.

Generally, coastal laws prohibit dragging, trapping or fishing in working harbors. These laws are also fairly specific about how and where fishing can be done. Unfortunately, Mainers have a stubbornly libertarian streak and there is very little direct enforcement of some regulations in rural areas. To that end, boats work to fulfill demand for scallops, mussels, crabs, and lobsters and various kinds of fish without much regard for the law.

To wit, the picture. Below what we have always referred to as the Big Rock is a tidal mussel flat. This means that it is covered by eleven feet of water at high tide and bare at low tide. Twenty years ago and beyond, it was a pure run of mussels. Now it is gutted and pockmarked by illegal dragging.

This is an object lesson in my frustration with contemporary Green vogue. Global warming gets a lot of attention, but the whole question of sustainability and other damage to our natural resources seems to get lost in the noise about organic products. The real discussion of how to deal with our environment ends up obscured in an absurd debate between corporate interests, societal interests, and the view that "real" environmentalism is somehow a freakish, patchouli-soaked abomination.

vacation notes

I'll probably post a run of these to Flickr, but here's a quick taste...

There was a run of jellyfish that had been beached today. This was one:

Reilly loves it up here, but he's definitely getting older. Pictures like this remind me of that fact:

Let's see the inventory in this one: Coffee cup (I had to go up to Dunbar's Store to grind the Whole Foods beans this morning since I forgot no one has put a coffee grinder in the house yet. And apparently I don't plan to either.), pint container for shells and rocks, Hanna Andersson dress, new L.L. Bean shoes, ledge on the Maine coast. What price a stereotype?

It's a stone, just a stone. The simple pleasure of finding a treasure like this meets that wonderful texture of the beach below her feet, however, and it's also a reminder of why I love this place.


This is what I woke up to this morning:

We left Montclair yesterday before noon, and I opted to cut up the Garden State to the Tappan Zee rather than going to the GWB the way I usually do. We made killer time up through the parkway system and past Hartford. It was easy enough that we were able to make it to Freeport for dinner at Gritty's. (Yes, I prefer the original Gritty's in Portland, but the Freeport one is so easy with kids because of the back lawn and play area.)

Anyway, we got in late last night. And woke up to the mountains this morning. Stay tuned for more blogging from Sullivan.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"This could easily have been fatal."

That's what my attending physician said today after he took the sutures out. Apparently, the bullet was deeper than expected, and closer to "real" damage than shown on the scans. He was also kind to add the comment that it was a big bullet, and that it was mostly intact.

Again, I must say: I got lucky.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Byrd House Market, Week 5

This week's market haul:
Mesclun mix (complete with pea shoots)
small bouquet of wildflowers and lilies

The only disappointment was the strawberries. I should have known better, though, than to buy strawberries after the real heat came on. The berries looked on the edge at the market, and within a couple of hours, they were in sad shape. Out of a quart, I got a small bowl of cut-up berries with a bit of sugar tossed in to keep them from retarding further.

Lifehacking, a side note

The financial part of the growing up agenda is going to be hell, I think. Digging myself out of the hole I've dug over the years is complicated. Staying out of the hole may be even harder.

Of course, much of the complication is to be found in the current facts of my life: moderate income, all of the expenses of single parenthood, little-to-no savings to cover random bills. If I had my debts paid and a few thousand dollars in savings, my income would be enough to cover day-to-day expenses. But with the rising costs of daily living and little things here and there, it feels like I am constantly climbing a sand dune.

I can't really count this as the next step in the process, because I haven't found any good lessons yet.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Life-hacking 2

The second example: Throw things away.

I am willing to blame my parents for at least part of my pack-rat habit. My parents both have a remarkable talent for holding on to things. This can be good sometimes, but it can also become a frustrating, irritating tendency.

During the recent move, a couple of friends forced me to throw some stuff away, things that had little intrinsic. Without their help, I would probably have packed and put away these things--egg poachers, inexpensive vases, extra sets of poker chips, and more--without thinking about it. In a few years, when Banana and I moved into a new house, these things would have traveled again.

The lessons were good ones, though, and I have continued to purge. With each box, I have decided what really needed to stay and what should go. With Anna's stuff, I have taken as hard a line as I can on getting rid of toys that she no longer plays with, and quietly stripping out the weird little detritus that children collect.

More and more, I think that part of growing up is realizing what should stay and what should go.


Trader Joe's Hack

One of Banana's favorite foods--perhaps her favorite food--is Trader Joe's Pizza Formaggio Di Capra. She calls it the "Circle Cheese Pizza." Anyway, it's a nearly perfect thing, surprisingly so for a frozen pizza. The crust is thin and crisp, coated with a mild tomato sauce and cheese, punctuated by four olives--calamata or nicoise--and four discs of chevre.

On a whim tonight, I drizzled the pie with good olive oil and added some fresh basil. Banana pulled the basil off--she's at that irritating age when reliable flavors are no longer reliable--but we finished it off quickly.

Good stuff.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sad reflections on the Eighties

Mountain Stage tonight has an interesting line-up: Martin Sexton, Ryan Adams, Cowboy Junkies, and... The Hooters. I can take or leave Sexton and Adams--both are competent and have done a few good things. The Junkies, I love.

And then there's The Hooters. I had a fair dose of nostalgia for them from the era when I actually owned their tape--the only one that mattered. Their first few songs on the show were good, and then they closed with "And We Danced." It was their hit. It was good, right? But there are certain songs that should never be played acoustically with a mandolin, piano, and the vocorder-thing that was the "hooter." Never. Never play songs like this in that way. "And We Danced" only belongs in the rock-concert-fun nostalgia of the Eighties--through amplifiers, with people cheering, and very little spotlight on the actual song. Stripped down, it loses even the nostalgic fun.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Son Volt @ Ginter Garden

I am a bit of a johnny-come-lately to Son Volt. After Uncle Tupelo broke up, both Wilco and Son Volt stayed on the periphery of my music. It took seven years for my Wilco interest to pick up and another six years for Son Volt to really hit my radar. The album Okemah brought them onto the radar and regular play on Radio Paradise fully brought them into my CD collection.

That said, I have only seen the various incarnations of what started years ago once-apiece. Tupelo touring with Michelle Shocked and Taj Mahal in 1992. Wilco last year. And tonight, Son Volt.

The show started off on low notes with a couple of tracks from the most recent album. The sound was muddy and awful. Farrar's vocals and all of the instruments were at the same level and lost in the outdoor venue. By the third song, however, the sound man had begun to clear things up.

They played a very clean set, mixing things up from the last two albums for the first half, and then bringing a good selection from the early albums. The band is tight, so tight that there was often little to distinguish the live performance from the recorded tracks. Farrar's reputation for staying aloof from the audience held true, and there was very little banter between songs. While this can make for a tight set, it can also take away from the live experience.

Basically, it was a good show, but except for one killer set of riffs during the encore, nothing really made it great.


There are days when there's something to say, and then there are days like today. Everything that seemed important evaporated.

Then there's this: management stinks. Even if the people you have working for you are great most of the time, circumstances arise. Things go wrong. Simple things. And then, you have to figure out how to keep stupid slip-ups from happening again. If only so you can reassure your clients that "it" won't happen again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Byrd House Market, Week 4

Starting at the beginning of May, we had a new farmers market open in Richmond. Opened in Oregon Hill (made semi-famous by the Cowboy Junkies), the market runs on Tuesday afternoons. Unlike the other marketin Richmond, this one actually seems focused on growers and is scheduled at a more convenient time for people who work. It also has the benefit of being in a neighborhood that defies easy description. Having a good, accessible farmers market has been important to me since the days I used to make special trips to farm stands outside Boston.

That said, this week's haul included
• Strawberries
• Blueberries
• Baby lettuces
• A chicken
• Green beans
• Cucumbers
• Asparagus

From last week, I still have
• Shiitakes
• Goat Cheese
• Italian sausage

Good stuff, though my one complaint would be that some of the prices are significantly higher than what I used to pay at the markets in New York and Fayetteville.


I've been working on growing up, becoming an adult. Finally. Sometimes I almost feel like there was some kind of basic lifeskills class I missed along the way. You know, the one that teaches you how to be fiscally responsible, how to keep up with organization around the house, basic patterns of daily life that reduce stress... I could go on in pretty much every facet of life.

Regardless, the skills and habits I'm trying to keep are so basic that it feels like I should have been doing them all along. But I haven't.

The First Example: Dishes

There is no good excuse for dishes to build up. I have known this for years, and in fits and starts, I have been successful at keeping up with daily dishwashing. Then something happens. It doesn't matter what the excuse is, but there is some day when it just doesn't seem convenient to do the dishes. Then, like randy rabbits in another day or so, they multiply. Before long, the kitchen is barely usable, and the dish coup is fully established.

My new resolution after moving into the new house is to make sure that the sink is empty every night. After a couple of weeks, I have been mostly successful.

The brilliant part of this is that life feels much calmer and more settled when the pieces are in place. That's the little pay-off I always forgot before--just how much easier it is to function in the mornings when I don't wake up to a mess.

There are, of course, small important details to this. For instance:
1. It is essential to use fewer items to cook. Done well, this does not inhibit my creativity or capability while cooking.

2. Wash or rinse dishes as used.

3. Clean and organize all dishes and cooking utensils as soon after the meal as possible. The inertia of a mess is quick.

Mind you, I know this is all common sense. Some of us just take a little longer to put skills like this in practice.


Monday, June 11, 2007

marketing through mad-libs

Our new place is at an odd edge of the Fan. The area mostly gentrified years ago, but walk over a block and you're on the ever-funky blocks on Broad. That said, we have some decent restaurants nearby, as well as one of the best diners in Richmond. Unfortunately, they had just closed when Banana and I went to get our post-painting lunch. Arby's, however, was open.

I'm not a big fan of any of the big fast food chains... but the Beef and Cheddar sandwich I had brought me back to life. Banana wasn't thrilled with her chicken, but the fries and Tropicana juice were favorites.

As unhealthy a lunch as this was, I wasn't prepared for how unhealthy the "prize" would be. A Mad-Libs book is what it was, and at first glance, it seemed far better than the movie-branded toys that come with most kids' meals.

Until we did our first "story."

It was a neat little fitness story about a figure-skating girl who wins the gold medal and jumps in her coach's arms. Hello, Bela Karolyi. Anyway, the story ended with the sentence "Plus, she's looking forward to ___verb ending in "ing"___ tonight at Arby's!"

For fuck's sake, how's that for trying to create subtle brand identification? It's not enough that parents end up taking their kids to these "restaurants," is it. No. We have to create life-long consumers. I've given up thinking that I'm being too cynical in seeing these efforts for what they are; I've been in the business too long. No, these companies want to create fat children addicted to food high in fat, sweeteners, and salt, and addicted to their brands.

And it's not new. Remember candy cigarettes?

The pink won.

Banana's room is now pink. Very pink. PMS 236.

I taped out the doors, windows, and faceplates, primed over the painted samples, and laid the dropcloth on Saturday before meeting friends for a dads night out. Good thing I did too, because I had to force myself out of bed in the morning.

Anyway, I had a few hours to do it before Banana mere was to drop Banana off.

The first wall went well, except for a one bump of the roller against the untaped ceiling. I also realized that I should have gone for the better brushes rather than the low-end brushes I had chosen. Getting a decent line along the ceiling was more of a task than it should have been. The walls went fairly quickly along the drywall surfaces. When I got to the nubbly plaster, door, and windows things slowed some. Nevertheless, there was just enough left when Banana got there for her to help on the last few surfaces--her room is a funky shape.

The payoff came that night when I pulled the tape off and moved everything back into the room during her bath. She went into her room to get her nightgown, and I found her there standing in the middle of the room, grinning broadly and giggling.

It's good to be Daddy.

Friday, June 08, 2007

"Her" weekends suck

When we were getting ready this morning, Banana excitedly put on the dress Mommy had just bought for her. Because it has spaghetti straps, however, she had to put a t-shirt on under it for school. The t-shirt she happened to choose is one of the Hannas I bought for her recently, and it bummed me out that she was going to wear it. I didn't say anything about it, though, and swallowed the feelings instead. See, the real issue is that the shirt I bought for her is now going over to Mommy's and may or may not come back to my house any time soon... Except that the real issue is that this was the start of Mommy's weekend.

She'll go over there this afternoon and come back on Sunday afternoon. That's the arrangement at this point. She lives with me and spends every other weekend (or at least most of every other weekend with Mommy). This means I get adult time (unless I get a babysitter) every other weekend. I should be happy about this, right? Happy about the chance to catch up with friends or go out or get things done without worrying about what to do with an almost-five year-old every minute. Happy about it, right? Except that I'm not.

The reality is that I miss being Daddy when Banana isn't around. There's a certain emptiness. I can fill it, as I will this weekend, with some bar time with friends and painting her room--finally. But the reality of being a divorced, single parent is that I still feel incomplete when it is "her" weekend.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


navel-gazing moment

I like working, I really do. That's why I do so much of it. Really. I just don't like working so hard that I'm braindead the rest of the time.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

more richmond

Venture Richmond is trumpeting the recent NYT article. (Venture Richmond is the current incarnation of the various groups trying to "brand" Richmond.)

This is exactly the sort of excitement that keeps making Richmond seem like an underdog among metro areas. It's almost as if they're just excited that the NYT noticed the city--Yay, we're big-time now! I'm going to term this the Dayton Syndrome--rather than really working at making the urban area a great place to be, you keep re-branding the place and hoping people in other cities with believe how great it is to be there.

This said, I think Richmond has a hell of a lot more going for it than a city like Dayton--or many others I could mention. Unfortunately, like Dayton and other cities, overcoming the legacy of white flight, incipient racism, hermetic classism and the lack of decent, widely-used public transportation is very difficult to overcome.

Monday, June 04, 2007


The actual surgery took 15 minutes, the pre- and post-op time two hours each. I spent the rest of the day and evening feeling woozy and a little lost from all the sedatives and morphine they had pumped in my system. The next day I woke up for a bit, and then realized that being up and moving around was not what I needed to do. By the afternoon, though, I found a few bursts of energy to organize things around the house. Meanwhile, my mother was tackling the kitchen. Later that evening, the pain crept in again. The next morning I was feeling good enough to do a little more around the house. After we took the bandage off, however, there was a whole new set of sensations. Taking a shower was phenomenal, but having shirts rubbing against the sutures hurt. By this morning, then, I moved off the percocet altogether.

The remarkable part is that my body already feels better. I feel looser without having the bullet back there. And stronger. This is good.

In other news, Tyrone Singleton has been released from custody. The detectives claim to have other leads, and they now have the bullet to use for forensic evidence. I want to move on from this, but I also want the fucker to be caught.

Is Target killing bargain options?

I have become a bargain shopper. As a single parent on a modest income, I have to pay attention to price details; I also have to take advantage of store-brands for items where there does not seem to be an appreciable difference in quality, such as basic household goods and toiletries like mouthwash and pain relievers. Sometimes even a slight break in quality is worth the cost-savings. By a loose accounting, I save hundreds of dollars a year this way, and I do it without ever stepping foot in the ultimate hell--Walmart. This is why it was with some distress earlier that I discovered that Target has apparently trimmed its stocks of store-brand items such as ibuprofen.

While I could have purchased any size of Advil, there were only two sizes of liqui-gels and one size of the basic tablets available. And there were no shelf cards indicating tat the other sizes they had previously stocked were missing. I noticed the same thing on a stop through the mouthwash aisle. To all appearances, the store was no longer stocking options of in-house items.

This would not be so distressing until you compare actual prices. Advil 50 ct. bottle = $6.44. Target-brand 50 ct. ibuprofen = $1.77. Extrapolated across the broad spectrum of items, this is the kind of price difference that could become very painful very quickly. Anybody know the real story behind this?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

NYT absurdity--and laziness

The Times has undertaken to draw NYers and others to Richmond for its growing and complex urban culture... or not. The lede in the article in this weekend's Escapes section is
YOU don't have to go that far south to find the South. Richmond, a mere two hours from Washington, has a magnolia-and-veranda-swing appeal that is worlds apart from anything even a little farther north. And notwithstanding its ties and testimonies to Robert E. Lee and other heroes of a long-lost world, Richmond today competes with Washington, its near neighbor, in up-to-date cultural sophistication.

You'd think based on this beginning that Lindsay Moran is going to delve into Richmond's odd balance between old South and new Metro. You'd be wrong.

In the subsequent grafs, she describes a couple of old-school southern food joints, and a new-school southern joint that is as much New York as it is Richmond. She manages to miss the southern joints that truly make the place--Croaker's and Millie's, to name two. Worse than that, you'd hardly know from Moran's article that the city has supported a strong dining scene since at least 1992.

For neighborhoods, she describes Monument Ave. in language ("The stately houses lining most of the street are Queen Anne, Victorian, Tudor, Colonial, Italianate, Greek Revival, and it's easy to imagine oneself as a guest, sipping refreshing libations on one of their gracious verandas.") that is remarkably close to the city's description of the neighborhood ("Federal, Greek Revival, Richardson Romanesque, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial, Art Deco, and Italianate styles are all represented"). Her description of the Jefferson Hotel's history and inclusion also seems remarkably close to others I've read. Her descriptions of Shockoe Slip and The Bottom are similarly generic, and suggest to me that she never actually walked the streets or went to any of the restaurants.

The real kicker on neighborhood descriptions is her description of Carytown:
Browse the shops selling a variety of wares: estate antiques, beads and rocks, dolls and bears, designer cookies, and hats that only Southern women can get away with wearing

This description barely scratches even the western-most block in Carytown which is where these shops are, and does so in a way only a lazy travel writer could love. Never mind that Carytown is home to an excellent indie music store, a locally-owned toy store at the heart of one of the more heartbreaking stories in recent years, the classic Byrd Theater, a spin-off location of a local used bookstore, numerous restaurants and other truly funky retail. Never mind that the picture of Vivian Leigh touring Savannah that Moran seems to be trying to create has no place in Carytown.

Never mind all of that. Mind this: only a weak anecdote at the end of the story suggests to me that Ms. Moran actually visited Richmond. The rest of the article could have been (and I suspect was) written based on a few Google searches. It's a pity that someone was paid to do a hack job that wouldn't have passed muster in one of my comp courses. There are writers (including me) who would love to have put together a real article about Richmond.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Late-night ponderings...

The Sudanese ambassador is threatening to cut off our supply of gum arabic, crippling the western civilization by the removal of soda, unless we recant our accusation of genocide.

Bush is proposing a global summit and agreement on how to deal with global warming. Funny, I think other people might have mentioned it before.

Fred Thompson looks like a happier Nixon.