Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday wanderings

There's no real point to this post. I took the little Canon Elph with me as we did errands today and took some photos. I didn't even remember to take a shot at every stop, but here are a few I did take...

We went to the Central Mail Facility. Things dropped off here get moving faster than if we leave them at our local post office.

The State owes me some money. They found a b.s. excuse to send back my papers, so I don't want to waste any more time getting it back to them. I used this do-it-yourself machine at the Central Mail Facility to weigh the papers and get them on their way.

Then I put a bunch of envelopes in this lovely mailbox. And what's the deal? The Postal Service can't even manage to sand and repaint this mailbox? Will the whole thing have to rust first?

We made a vital Petco stop.

Browsing the aisles for just the right dog food. Not to suggest that our kids are spoiled, but there are some flavors they refuse to eat.

Loading up the cart.

Maybe I should subscribe to this magazine. Then when I'm standing on the subway platform and one skitters along the tracks, I can enjoy the sight! (Really, people, I'm an animal lover, but rats as pets? Can't you just get a puppy or a kitten? There are millions in desparate need of homes!)

Have to love a store where the cashier has an avian assistant.

Later, we stopped at Trader Joe's.

A handful of our items.

Of our local supermarkets, this has one of the crappier outward appearances, but it's actually a good store. We often stop here on the way back from Trader Joe's (for the many things TJ's doesn't have--or doesn't do well).

Well, there you have it--a sampling of our Sunday travels. Exciting, huh? Well, it beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!*

*Thanks to Matt for getting that phrase stuck in my head. :)

The real Mel Gibson stands up

Now we need him to go away. Hey, Mel Gibson, fuck you!

I had long suspected that he was a gay-hating anti-Semite. While this weekend's news doesn't address his homophobia, there's no question about his anti-Semitism anymore. Go to hell, you disgusting bigot!

Coffee the way it should be

We like coffee, but neither of us has been satisfied with most cups of coffee. When we're at restaurants, ordering a cup of coffee is a crapshoot. Even at home, where we have the best quality coffee we can find and a very good machine, it never came out the way we wanted.

So how did we want it? Well, whenever we'd go to France, we'd order coffee wherever we could. Time after time, we'd order coffee and get a great cup. Wonderful, smooth flavor. That little bit of oil from the coffee beans floating on top of the coffee before it gets stirred. Not just good... great! So what could we do to get closer to this at home?

Well, one thing we encountered regularly was the french press coffee maker. Well, it was France, after all, but perhaps this was part of the trick. We'd certainly heard that the french press was one of the best ways to make coffee. So we went to Bed[,] Bath & Beyond to do some shopping, and we found what we needed: a Bodum Chambord 8-cup French Press. Here we see it during its first use (this is before being pressed):

Interesting thing about those eight cups it makes. They're eight "four ounce" cups. Four ounces? Maybe some people drink cups of coffee that size, but those people aren't me (or Marc)! :)

We grind our own coffee beans. For the french press, they have to be kept to a coarse grind. It takes the same amount of coffee beans for this french press as it does to make a full pot of coffee in the regular coffee machine.

And how many actual cups of coffee do we get from each use of the french press? Two!

Yes, two. So if want some punch from your coffee, well, this will do it. Lots of caffeine! (Of course, we have decaffeinated coffee, too, but what fun is that first thing in the morning?)

Bottom line: this little thing is wonderful! It's quick, too. Just put in coffee, hot water, stir, wait 4 minutes and press. Voila! It's coffee! Wonderful!


One last note, if I've made anyone think about getting one: when we remodeled this house, one gadget we put in the kitchen was an instant hot water dispenser. It makes the french press a lot more convenient to use. If you don't have that but you want to use this great coffee-making method, buy one of those quick hot water makers (like this one). They're cheap and will make the process a lot easier.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A field trip

We love to take little day trips. A few weeks ago, we spent part of one day going out east. We drove to the North Fork, stopped at a couple of wineries and a couple of farm stands. It was a fun day. Here's a handful of shots from one farm stand stop...

This young man, apparently a distant relative of our Mandy, was in the car parked next to us. He was very friendly!

How about that for being close to the source? This is the view right out the back of the farm stand.

My other half, as he checks out some asparagus.

I loved the name of this book!

For all the fun we had visiting farm stands and wineries, the drive out east with my baby is the most fun of all.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How nuts am I?

Today, I saw a colleague at work. Seeing him reminds me of something that irritates me, but I think it would be petty to say anything now. Still, it irks me.

So here's the deal. Weeks ago, there was a party for the staff. This colleague paid for it, and several of us management types chipped in and reimbursed him. The initial estimate was $55 each, so I gave him a check for that. When the final bill was tallied, we each had to chip in another $14. So the next chance I got, I gave him a $20 bill. He didn't have $6 change, but he said he'd give it back to me as soon as he could.

Then he apparently forgot about it. I have no doubt that he forgot--it's not like he's trying to make off with six whole dollars!

It's not the $6. If he needed the $6, I'd gladly give it to him. Much more, in fact. I'm not tight-fisted. If anything, I've been told that I tend to be too generous sometimes (if there even is such a thing as "too generous"). It really isn't the $6. It's just that... well...

I don't know. It bothers me. It's like something left undone. Crazy, right?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The math just doesn't work

We went to Eastern Pennsylvania yesterday. We checked out towns like Bushkill and Stroudsburg. We visited a real estate agent's office, and we went looking around at possibilities.

After thinking about the costs and benefits, we decided that buying a second home just didn't make sense. We considered how often we'd be able to use it, and then we started adding up all of the expenses--principal and interest on the mortgage, taxes, insurance, homeowner's association fees (if applicable), utilities, maintenance, etc. Also, we found that the cost of tolls and gas round-trip ran to almost $70.

We could rent the house on weekends when we're not using it to make a few bucks back, but that just adds more complications.

The bottom line is that we can put some money into REIT mutual funds to get some real estate diversification with as much investment value as the further equity-building this would have provided. With the rest of the money, we'll have plenty to do some extra weekends away, if/when we can find the time.

The last complication is the dogs. Honestly, as Marc and I discussed today, the dogs were a big motivation for doing this. The idea of having a place to take little weekend trips and be able to have the kids with us--and have yard for them to run around there--was a great attraction. But really, does it make sense to buy another house to simplify things with our furry kids?

There's an alternative. Having now taken the trouble to look, I've already found area B&Bs that are both gay-friendly and dog-friendly. So I think we'll stick with the one house. We like it just fine, and we can still have our little trips.

Monday, July 17, 2006

How does one manage a weekend home?

I know, I know. We should all have such concerns! Actually, I don't think we could afford a second house, but that doesn't stop me from liking the idea of having one.

Yesterday, we were looking online at properties in eastern Pennsylvania (Stroudsburg & the Poconos region). We saw a couple of nice places, but the challenges are daunting.

First of all, I don't know that we could swing the payments in addition to our current mortgage. More importantly, I started considering the logistical issues.

One that comes to mind is this--suppose the heat goes out in the middle of the winter while we're 100 miles away. First, how would we even know? Is there some kind of remote monitoring equipment that we could install? Of course, if we didn't know, all of the pipes would burst!

Second, even if we knew about such a thing, what would we do about it? Would we have some local person on call who would have a key to the place?

This is just one thing that comes to mind. There are plenty of other issues I could think of.

Maybe we should just stick to day trips and be happy with one piece of property. I just love the idea of a "weekend place." Eh, it's probably more trouble than it's worth.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Maybe the Neutron Bomb was a good idea

Remember the Neutron Bomb? For all I know, we actually have some. The idea is low-explosion high-radiation nuclear weapon. It would kill all the people but leave most of buildings intact. Whenever I'm out shopping on the weekend, I think of such things. Of course, there are a few people I'd save.

Today's icing on the cake was stepping in gum some inconsiderate asshole left on the ground. The bastard should be shot!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What's wrong with people?

This morning, I was again reading about the battle in Massachusetts to try to get rid of same-sex marriage. I just can't understand why so many people feel so threatened.

The Bible says...? Well, no one is asking you to have same-sex marriages in your church. What we want is legal equality.

The one that really burned me up recently was a guy I saw on TV who said that our having survivor benefits, etc., would be too much of a burden on the system. I see it the other way around. I know Marc and I each earn more than most American families (but we live in New York, so we stay poor anyhow). I want all of those straight families to stop leeching off of OUR tax dollars!!!

Too much of a burden on the system? Hey, asshole, I pay taxes, too! Plenty of taxes! Who the fuck are you to stand in the way of my partner of 11 years getting benefits if I die? Who is anyone to say he can't visit me in the hospital? How dare these people!

I used to be somewhat indifferent to this issue. I figured civil unions might be fine. But not now! Now I'm pissed, and I'm going to support gay marriage, just to piss off the narrow-minded bigots!

BTW, we will win this battle. It may take time, but the outcome is clear. One day, all of these people will be seen in history as what they are. Serves them right!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Let's wrap this up

I was looking at the remaining trip photos and decided that what's left isn't worth the bandwidth, except for one. The one I'm posting tonight sums up the whole trip. It's holds the reason for the trip and why I'll always be happy we went. A mother and her son...

This was her first time out of the United States, and her loving son got to take her. What could be better?


By the way, for anyone interested in such things... you know how I always say that I don't put the full-size originals online? Well, this time, if you click on the photo, you'll get an only slightly cropped version of the photo. So you can see what the "normal" files from this camera look like (and I can make them bigger, if I want, but still... this will give you an idea. So go ahead and click it!). :)

Monday, July 10, 2006

The previously promised British birds

Here they are. All of these photos were taken in St. James Park. I think that's the name of it--it's the park at Buckingham Palace. I'm not sure if it's more correct to say it's next to Buckingham Palace or if the palace is in it. Anyhow, if some Anglophile would like to clarify these details, I'd appreciate it.

Now, presenting the birds (as always, click on them for bigger versions, and tell me if you want the really big (full-res) versions)...

This is one aggressive bird. He made his move before I knew what was happening, so I didn't have time to adjust my shooting speed. The blur is neat, but I might have liked a bit more sharpness.

Here, you can see the bird he was driving off.

First, I saw this female swan by herself, but watch the romantic dance that's about to follow.

Here comes her partner.

They begin the greet each other.

They draw close and their heads cross.

Then their heads cross the other way.

And so on. They were beautiful and a wonderful reminder that we humans aren't the only animals who live and love on this planet!

Isn't this a great looking bird? Look at all of the copper and blue!

This guy's almost like a negative of the prior bird.

Okay, so this isn't a bird, but it is part of where they hang out.

You may see a bit of feather hanging from this bird's beak. That's because another bird had just been driven off with a peck to the back. The bit of feather belongs to the other bird. This is a tough crowd!

A bit more of the park.

A nice view of the top of the London Eye sticking up in the distance.

Okay, that'll do it for this entry!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A break from trip photos

We're nearing the end of the trip photos, but I want to post something different tonight. Marc bought me a gift this week. It's a Nikon R1C1 close-up Speedlight flash kit. It's meant to enhance the ability to take close-up photos. While learning how to use it, I took a handful of shots. So I thought I'd share two of them. The first is of a few raspberries I took off the counter in the kitchen. The second is a quick shot I took of Dodger.

Click here to see a larger version. (Larger, but not full-size. The full-size version is huge. If you want the original--or a print of it--feel free to ask.)

I'll get back to the trip photos soon!