Thursday, March 15, 2012

And So, Taco Bell Makes the First Salvo in What Will Be the End of the Fast Food Wars

I think Taco Bell has finally unveiled its next-generation weapon in its bid to win the Fast Food Wars. We all know, thanks to Demolition Man, that all restaurants are Taco Bell. What we didn't know was how a place offering third-rate tex-mex food could possibly beat out the considerable allure of the golden arches.

Wonder no more. Behold, the Dorito Taco!

Having recently purchased this genius invention, I can attest that it is just as good as you may imagine it is. I think the competitors can consider themselves put on notice.

Sooooo goooooood

Also, Stacy has never seen Demolition Man, an oversight I feel obligated to resolve. She doesn't even know about the three seashells!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Hm, where to start? Let’s see, I think we’ll go back a few months. Stacy and I have known for a long time that we have another daughter that’s missing from our family. Don’t ask me how we know it, we just do. Yes, I can see that look in your eyes and the answer is, we are crazy indeed. There, glad we’ve established that. Let’s move on.

Back in late January, Stacy and I thought that since neither of us was getting any younger we should try to have that last daughter. A few days later, we realized the error of our ways. Stacy still had an internship to complete for school as well as a couple more classes. The timing just wasn’t right. So we stopped trying and started preventing pregnancy again.

I tell you that story so you can have a good laugh at the next one.

Let’s fast forward to mid-February. We find Stacy gleefully holding onto a secret and desperately trying to get me to be bothered by the fact. Stacy hates that I don’t care about secrets. Here’s a little secret of my own. I don’t care because I know how bad Stacy is at holding onto secrets. Shh, don’t tell Stacy. This one, in a roundabout way, had to do with an order she placed with Thinkgeek. She broke down before the package could even arrive, which is pretty funny because Thinkgeek is local and their shipping rarely takes more than a couple of days. Instead of waiting, she sent me a link to the item she ordered, this one:

Yup, that’s a maternity shirt. I was a bit surprised. I knew Stacy could get pregnant if I looked at her funny, but I didn’t think we’d make it in that small one-week window. Hah! We didn’t. It turns out that Stacy was pregnant a couple of weeks before we even started trying. That’s right, Stacy’s body laughs at the pill and condoms combined. One of these days, someone will explain to me what it is that causes pregnancy.

I’m excited. I know adding another child to our family will be a challenge. We still have to get Stacy through an internship so she can get her Master’s degree. I’m confident that we’ll be able to make things work. There’s certain to be some tough times ahead, but we can handle it.

Little did we know exactly what was in store for us.

Stacy’s first OB/GYN appointment was at the end of February. We’d held off telling anyone about her fragile condition* until we knew the pregnancy would hold and the baby was healthy. Dr. Nance, Stacy’s OB/GYN since Zoe was born, couldn’t believe we were going to have another. But, since Stacy is his favorite patient, he seemed to be on board.

Nance ran through all the preliminary stuff once Stacy made herself comfortable on the table**. Then he broke out the ultrasound machine. As he moved it to focus on the right spot, a very strange thing showed up. It registered, but I was too incredulous to believe it. That is, until Dr. Nance said, “Uh, there are two babies in there.” My jaw dropped.

What was Stacy’s first reaction? She hauled off and smacked me in the chest and exclaimed, “I hate you!” She was smiling, though, so I don’t think she was serious. Well, not 100% serious at least. I hope.

I passed the rest of the appointment in mild shock, grinning like an idiot. Two? That’s what Stacy and I continue to say to one another. Any time it’s quiet and our minds wander inevitably back to the twins growing in her womb, one of us will turn to the other and say that simple word and then shake our heads in mock disbelief. Two.

So here we are now. Stacy and I were planning on having five kids, but we overshot the mark. Heaven help us if at least one of them isn’t that little girl we’re waiting for.

* Now there’s a contradiction, fragile Stacy.

** There’s another contradiction, comfortable OB/GYN table. At least, so I’ve heard.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ten Cent Repair

Ah, house repair. Nothing conjures the image of a cursing dad better than those words.

...dumb, frattin', housesnickle viper!

While I didn’t have to struggle with a rassafrassin’ furnace, I did have to fix our disposal. Somehow, someone* dropped a dime in the garbage disposal.

Not a pay phone

Naturally, this deposit into the First National Bank of Kitchen Appliances went unnoticed until the disposal was switched on. After some entertainingly distressing noises, the garbage disposal ground to a halt. Upon close inspection, the dime was revealed to have snuggled down into a cozy spot between the spinning bottom plate and the inner wall of the disposal. The spin of the plate managed to wedge it under a small bump of metal, encasing it both on top and bottom.

Secure in its Fortress of Solitude, the dime feared no interference from nefarious ne’er do wells

Stacy and I struggled with the dime for a while, but it was well and truly jammed. I determined that no less than removing the disposal to get into its innards would free the dime from its cozy new home. Not having the energy or time, I did one of the things I do best, put it off for later.

Or never, whatever

We lived the next few weeks with no disposal. It seemed that any time I was ready to work on the sink, either it was full of dishes or the dishwasher was running. Oh, also I was lazy. The stars finally aligned today and I was determined to vanquish the rogue coin. I armed myself with a bucket full of wrenches, screwdrivers, and clamps. One of us was going to walk away from this a victor, with the disposal possibly becoming collateral damage.

A few scraped knuckles and some under-the-breath curses later and I had freed the disposal from its hoses, clamps, and power lines. All that remained was the offending money. Stacy managed to pry the dime away from the inner wall with a screwdriver while I turned the baseplate manually. A few more minutes and curses and I was able to grab the dime with a needle-nose vice and haul it out.

The offending dime

The dime was somewhat worse for the wear, but I had high hopes for the disposal. It spun freely using the manual key at the bottom. The riskiest part was still ahead, installing it so there were no leaks and no crossed wires. Amazingly enough, the reinstallation went pretty smoothly with Stacy’s help. We flipped the switch and heard the sweet music of the disposal spinning, ready to macerate anything we dumped into it, barring dimes, of course.

In and done!

*Living in a house with four kids, “someone” could be anyone, and yet is never one of the people I ask.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Zzzzzzz…snort! Huh? Wuzzat?

Oh, sorry. I nodded off there for a second. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, Easter Eggs.

Wait a second, that was two years ago! Hm, maybe I should get a little more current.

I’m afraid I am resurrecting this blog on a very sad occasion, the passing of a member of the family. She had been with me before I even met Stacy. We’ve been across the country together. I’ve spent good times and bad times with her. I’ve spent more money than I care to recall to keep her happy over the years. She was fairly young when we first met, but we grew up together. I will always remember her as my first.

Mourners gathered in the hundreds to pay their respects

I am, of course, talking about my ’95 Ford Probe, affectionately named Nikki. She has gone on to the Automobile Elysium Fields, to race rice burners off the line. I had hoped to keep her until we broke the 200k mile mark. We were only 38k away when she was taken from me.

An artist's rendering of the victim

It was dark on that fateful January evening. The skies were clear and the temperature unseasonably warm for a winter day. The roads were empty as we zipped down the Dulles Greenway at a healthy 65 MPH in the center lane. I had just hung up my handsfree with a friend who urged me to drive safely. “Hah!” I replied, “I love driving at night, no traffic.” How could I know that those words would come back to haunt me so soon. I was nearing the exit for Old Ox Rd., just one exit away from the toll plaza that would let me out onto Route 28, a road from which I would sooner expect tragedy than the Greenway. I spied a full-sized snowplow on the left shoulder up ahead. It seemed he was preparing to merge into the left lane. Thinking nothing of it, I continued on my merry way while trying to impart some scholarly wisdom to my oldest daughter over the handsfree as she struggled with her homework at home.

Just a mere moment later, time seemed to slow down. The snowplow hadn’t stopped at the left lane, it began turning sharply as if heading for the right shoulder or Old Ox exit. By then it was too late to swerve to miss it on the left, so I gunned Nikki’s engine, laid into the horn, and started drifting to the right. My hope was as he heard the horn, the driver would get back into the left lane and a crisis would be averted. It was a vain hope. He didn’t hear me and continued on his path of destruction. I continued drifting over, past the right lane and into the shoulder. It seemed like I was going to make it, just barely.

The snowplow’s front edge gouged into my door, flinging off the outside panel and leaving it as a twisted heap on the side of the road. Nikki sailed into a spin. Reacting as quickly as I could manage, I steered into the spin and brought the car to a stop halfway in the right lane and shoulder, facing traffic.

It’s funny the things that go through your head during events like these. I calmly thought that it was about time I was in a serious accident. I have had a blessed driving history up until this point with nothing but a couple of fender benders at very low speeds. Meanwhile, Vicki had continued sharing her homework conundrum, oblivious to my LeBouf-inspired, “Nonononono!” shouted from my end. I got her attention and had her put Stacy on the line. I told her what happened and then hung up to deal with the aftermath.

Alternatively, Gogogogogogo! or Movemovemovemove!

The snowplow driver came up to my door to make sure I was okay. I was shaken a bit, but other than that seemed fine. He helped push me into the shoulder. As I tried to get out to survey the damage, I noticed the door wouldn’t budge. Still not thinking clearly, I gave it a heave with my considerable bulk and forced it open wide enough for me to exit. Had I thought about it, I would have climbed over to the other side, since forcing the door open meant that it would not close again, rendering the car completely undriveable (that is too a word, Word.)

In photo: Nikki, not pictured: Nikki's door

The other driver was pretty badly shaken. I tried to reassure him that I was okay and that things could have been much worse. As we waited for a state trooper, I got a better look at the carnage. My door was practically a taco shell now. It had ended up about 100 yards away, in the shoulder. As Casey said later, Nikki’s insides were now her outsides. The plow hit the fender lightly before gouging into the door and ripping the panel off, but other than the bent hinge and missing panel, the car was fine.

Yup, something like that

We exchanged information through the state trooper that showed up later. Stacy arrived on the scene shortly after. The tow truck wasn’t too far behind. All told, we were out on the road for about an hour. As the driver hauled Nikki up in the tow truck, I was hit by a wave of sadness. I had a feeling that I had just enjoyed my last drive with her.


My fears were confirmed three days later as the snowplow’s insurer informed me that it would be a total loss, the cost to repair being much greater than her value. I was told to retrieve my personal effects and prepare for Nikki to be totaled.

As Stacy and I drove away from the tow lot with my things in the back of the van, we reminisced about all the good times with Nikki. I proposed to Stacy in that car. We brought home our firstborn in the backseat. We’d driven through many states with her. She was my first car. While I got away with some aches and pains, Nikki was not nearly as fortunate. I hate the fact that I’ll never get to drive her again. Rest in peace, Nikki. I’ll never forget.

The face of destruction

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Hunt & Dye 2010

The McCoards joined us for Easter egg dyeing and hunting on Saturday. Stacy went light on the eggs this year, only buying 6 dozen.(!) We decided not to hide the freshly-colored eggs this year and went with plastic eggs outside. Oddly enough, the postage-stamp-sized yard we have didn't leave the Easter Bunny with many choices for hiding places.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

House of Wax

We went to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Washington, DC this morning with Vicki's Girl Scout troop. The kids had a great time posing with the figures. They even got to get their hands cast in wax. I did mine in the only pose I could, Web-shooting Spider-man style, in red wax, naturally. The figures were actually so realistic that it was a bit creepy. If you looked right at their eyes in their line of sight, it seemed like they were about to come alive and start talking. I don't have pics of the wax hands yet, but here's a nice big slideshow of the rest.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Accident Prone?

My traffic accident this morning all started with the funky colors appearing on my cell phone screen.

Yup, another accident caused by a cell phone, though this one is a little more convoluted than the usual. About a month ago the gorgeous display on my cell phone went wonky. Images looked solarized and there would often be flickering bands of color across the screen. As fun as it is to own a psychedelic freak-out phone, I'd rather have normal colors and images, thenkyewveddymuch. HTC (the manufacturer) recommends on their site to perform a hard reset to fix this problem.

Blech, that means losing everything I've installed, including the custom pain-in-the-ass theme I've had since I first messed with the phone. Well, if I had to reset it back to factory specs, I figured I might as well upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.5 at the same time. Since there was no official ROM of WM 6.5, I had to use a "cooked" ROM from the HTC Fuze community. I opted for one that also had the newer, slicker TouchFlo 3D 2, the pretty UI that sold me on the Fuze in the first place. I grabbed a beta version that a nice ROM chef had cooked up and went through the lengthy process of installing it on my phone.

It was sweet, too. The interface looked great, WM 6.5 had some nice new features and updates. I was enjoying it for a while. Then, I noticed that I wasn't getting notifications from calendar items or text messages. Well, that could be a problem since I rely on my phone both as my schedule-keeper and a communication device. I ran into a few other bugs with the cooked ROM that eventually made me realize that it just wasn't ready for prime time. Also, the hard reset hadn't fixed the color problems.

I knew that I'd have to restore to factory settings if I wanted to fix the color problem via the ridiculously expensive warranty I opted for the phone. Shoulders slumped in defeat, I went about reinstalling the old ROM. Well, not quite. HTC had released an updated ROM for WM 6.1 one with a couple of features I wanted, such as FM Radio and means to program the useless PTT button. Since it was official, I could still get the phone repaired under warranty. If possible, restoring the phone was even more of a pain in the neck than putting on the cooked ROM.

BUT! I had the FM Radio. Little did I know that it wouldn't work without a wired handsfree set. Apparently, that acted as the radio's antanna. I just so happened to have one, though, so I decided to head out this morning with the handsfree and try out the radio. I got it going in the car before I started driving, all safe-like. However, the darn thing could only pick up one station. Meanwhile, my car stereo picks up more stations than I have presets. WTH? I figured it was because of my location, so as I drove, I'd click the channel surf button every once in a while.

I continued doing this until I reached the Manassas intersection on 28 near the CVS. As I looked down to see what station, if any, the surfing had landed me, the car ahead slammed on his brakes. We had just barely started to move with the traffic, so I couldn't have ramped up to more than 5 MPH. I was going too fast to avoid bumping him, though.


Luckily, he and I had the presence of mind to pull into the CVS parking lot rather than ruin thousands of other people's days by sitting in the middle of the road. Neither of us were hurt, thank goodness. His (already damaged) bumper had two bolt-shaped dents in it where my license plate pressed into it. I mentally crossed my fingers that he would be willing to overlook it and we could keep the insurance out of the situation. No luck. He insisted on exchanging information and told me he'd call them after he got situated in the morning.


He seemed like a level-headed fella. He said his concern was that the bumper had been pressed in beneath the outer facade and might require work. My concern is that my premiums will go up, I'll lose any safe driving discount I may have had, and an accident will be on my insurance record.


Meanwhile, the graceful curve of my front end is now marred by the license plate bolts being driven deeper into the bumper.

What a great way to start the day.