Monday, December 26, 2011

Don't ride in the car with my mom

Just got back from a Christmas visit to a good family friend who lives close to Lancaster. It was a pleasant evening, good food and good people, but the most interesting moment of the night had to be in the car as we were driving over.

If you know my parents, you know that to say my dad has strong political views would be something of an understatement. Discussions and arguments usually don't go very well, and it's generally better to just not try to have them in the first place. So with just me and my parents in the car, completely out of the blue, my mom asks: "So Nik, would you vote for Ron Paul? How about Obama?"

... yeah

Desperately fighting off the panic, I stammered out something about Obama doing well enough for the hand he was dealt, and changed the subject as fast as I could. What my mom was doing even bringing that topic up I'll never know, but it was just one of the most random comments ever.

Merry Christmas Everybody!!

Merry Christmas from Lancaster, PA everybody!

This has been an awesome Christmas so far. I came to Lancaster determined to enjoy myself and break the funk that I've been in the past couple of month, and it's just been great. From late night burgers and shopping with Mom to a quasi-marshmallow-iced split-level birthday cake to oyster fricassee to family parties with hilarious paper plates, it's just been a great time. The plan for the rest of the morning is to sit, drink some coffee, watch Katie struggle with her crochet work, and relax.

Oh, and cats. Can't forget them :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Time for a Gingrich

Seeing as how Newt's atop all the Republican polls these days, I thought I'd take the opportunity to remind everyone of this little gem. It gets really good around 2:30 ... and yes, that is the actual text of the press release, verbatim. Enjoy!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving at the Parents

As usual, Thanksgiving was a blast this year. I think we ended the night just under 20 people, which isn't the record but still a pretty decent size compared to previous years. The turducken, after a disastrous first attempt, turned out pretty well, and everything else was predictably tasty.

Not everything was peaches and roses, though. The antibiotics I'm taking right now don't mix well with alcohol, so that meant no wine during the day to dull the edges. Also, I think somebody passed on their cold virus to me, which gave me the sniffles and destroyed my already-on-life-support sense of smell and taste. Finally, my work computer seems to have succumbed to the Recursive Loop of Doom(C), and is unusable, meaning I can't do all the work I'd planned to catch up on. Hmph.

Thanksgiving night, though, has to take the cake for the worst part of th trip. Mom and I sat down to watch some different holiday specials: Ice Age Christmas and the new Charlie Brown movie. Both were GOD. AWFUL. HORRENDOUS. Ice Age was a spastic mess; maybe it appeals to hyperactive 10-year-olds who absorb info in 2-second hyper bursts, but not me. And Charlie Brown should've actually been titled "Linus Tries and Fails to Conquer Addiction". I'll outsource the review to Charles Solomon, who writes:
The familiar characters sound angry, impatient and sarcastic; the viewer looking for joy and whimsy will do so in vain.
Ouch. Yet Accurate.

Right now Katie's out shopping the Black Friday sales, which honestly I wouldn't be caught dead at and have never understood the appeal to. I'm sure there are great bargains and everything, but tolerating the throngs of shoving people after a long and tiring day just isn't my cup of tea. Much rather be at home enjoying a hot cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fox News Republican Debate

9:01 - WOW, that is a red jacket

9:04 - First question asks about how to incent small businesses to hire. Perry responds with general regulation & taxes (and somehow gets in tort reform). This has been talked to death, Texas' celebrated job growth came from government employment, not private business responding to lower taxes.

9:08 - Wow, the accoustics in this debate are horrible.

9:09 - Michelle Bachmann apparently believes we should have 0% tax rates. Ok, now she's admitting that we need some taxation, but won't give a number. Bold, especially since the entire question was "you didn't give me a number last time".

Monday, September 12, 2011

Liveblogging the Tea Party Debate

7:57PM - Hmmm ... apparently the emcee is explaining to the crowd that he's going to tell them when they need to applaud. Odd

7:58PM - Wolf Blitzer: "How exciting is this?" Complete deadpan. Crowd is not all together enthusiastic about him. Especially his "Here in Tampa. Tampa? Is that where we are?" schitck.

8:01PM - Did CNN really just describe Newt Gingrich as "The Big Thinker"?

8:06PM - Odd observation: you don't realize just how many 8 candidates is until they're each introduced one by one.

8:10PM - Michelle Bachmann definitely brandishing her Tea Party credentials, probably thinking this is her last big chance to not become irrelevant.

8:12PM - Newt Gingrich: In the spirit of 9/12, I want to fight against special interests. Huh? What's THAT mean?

8:16PM - *Sigh, people need to stop spending so much time on Social Security. Yes, under pessemistic scenarios, it has a small shortfall over the next 50 years, to the tune of 2% of GDP. Without any changes, any retiree over the next 100 years will get more money than anyone does now. Small tweaks and its solvent forever. Period.

8:17PM - Tea Party Debate. Otherwise known as Romney vs Perry 2.0. And Perry is dodging, weaving, and misleading. The Romney quote was misquoted and misleading. Perry's completely ducking the question on how he can believe SS is unconstitutional and still needs to preserved.

8:19PM - Oh geez, Social Security is not "on its last legs". This really needs to stop, it's flat out bullshit.

8:22PM - Gingrich throws out the red meat. Then throws out more in the process of saying it's not red meat. (Aside: Wolf is actually pretty skillful at moderating this. I'm genuinely impressed.)

8:25PM - Gingrich says we can balance the budget by stripping out "waste" and modernizing. First, the waste has been cut over the years, precisely because it's so easy to cut. Second, the modernizing costs money.

8:27PM - Santorum says we can balance budget by privatizing Medicare. First off, the prescription drug coverage is underbudget because we're in a recession. Second, we know that privatizing Medicare doesn't work, because we have Medicare Advantage, which is exactly what they want to do. And it costs more.

8:28PM - Perry won't repeal prescription drugs. The other candidates are starting to get under his skin.

8:30PM - Romney actually tells the truth about waste, but then goes into the 20% budget cap. That's a REALLY bad idea, but not enough space to discuss here.

8:31PM - Paul wants to balance the budget by stopping the wars. Eliminating Energy and Education, though, while having the benefit of being mathematically possible, are horrible.

8:32PM - Bachmann says we need to balance budget by moving to 'personal responsibility'. Vague and star-bursty. Wonder how many people on SS right now think they're personally irresponsible?

8:36PM - Huntsman's answer to growing the economny: 1st, unemployment sucks. 2nd, reform the tax code. Huh? 3rd, repeal Obamacare & Dodd-Frank, because of 'uncertainty'. Real businesses say otherwise. 4th, drill baby drill.

8:38PM - Perry says stimulus didn't work, created exactly 0 jobs (will Blitzer call him out on that?) That and regulation.

8:39PM - Bachmann throws out red meat. The "blank check" thing is flat out wrong. And repatriation doesn't work ... we tried it 8 years ago, and it didn't work.

8:41PM - When did Dodd-Frank become the most recent boogeyman?

8:42PM - Cain's 999 solution is ... unique. Never heard of this before, have NO idea if it will work.

8:42PM - You know, I really wonder if Blitzer is trying to get Romney and Perry to go at each other? A lot of his questions are subtly doing just that.

8:43PM - Romney is laying out a 7 point plan. Detail like this is sorely needed, but this is stone deaf politically. "If you're dealt 4 aces, you're not necessarily a great poker player." Oh SNAP.

8:44PM - Perry's trick of ignoring the actual question, then putting out blind platitudes, is getting old. Ok, wait, now he's touting tort reform? Huh?

8:45PM - Wow, Paul just threw Perry under the bus. "I live in Texas, and my taxes have gone up." Ouch.

8:52PM - Ok, small break. This is getting depressing. Red meat, doctrine, and fantasy-based policies.

8:54PM - Santorum apparently proposes no income tax. Interesting, particularly when you consider the budgetary impacts.

8:56PM - The crowd just cheered, CHEERED, the idea that Ben Bernanke should be tried for treason for trying to help the economy. Bachmann isn't going to answer whether she agrees that he should be tried. Perry slimes his way out of the question, somehow saying that it's ok to help the economy, but not if helping the economy helps the president's poll #'s. Which, of course, it would. Umm, k?

9:00PM - Bachmann "loves that question. Loves that question." Oh, she loves that question. Romney gives an actual answer - and props for that, at least. Everyone else gets a pass ... which I think they're all kind of relieved about.

9:02PM - Gingrich keeps coming back to domestic drilling. Someday, I really want somebody to put up those numbers on a chart, show it to Gingrich (and his supporters), and say "ok, now what?"

9:03PM - Blitzer's follow up on tax deductions being an effective tax increase was a good one. Gingrich's answer kind of rambled.

9:05PM - Romney got NO applause and quite a few boos for that answer about consumption tax. Cause it included math and references to WTO tarriffs, I expect.

9:06PM - Perry's answer about the cervical cancer vaccine is actually somewhat compelling - he made a mistake about means, but he did it to save lives. It's worth a step back here and remember that we're talking about a vaccine that STOPS CANCER. One of the ways you catch that cancer is via sexual transmission.

9:08PM - Bachmann says no mandatory vaccinations, period. Wonder what she thinks about polio & small pox?

9:10PM - Bachmann makes a very direct shot at Perry for campaign contributions, and says she's offended for the little girls he hurt. Wow, she was out for blood. Wonder if one of her staff told her over the break she was losing?

9:13PM - Cain's health care plan is dumb. Tort reform doesn't work (we know, we tried it in Texas, costs rose faster).

9:15PM - Romney's settled on "what works for Massachussetts doesn't necessarily work for everyone" to explain his healthcare accomplishment. It's weasley and he (and everyone else) knows it, but it's his only shot at winning the nomination, which is all he really cares about.

9:18PM - Sounds like Paul is saying the young-man should die. Now he's scrambling furiously to find a way out of this. Settles on the charity solution.

9:19PM - How on earth did Paul get inflation into his healthcare answer?

9:20PM - Bachmann ate her Wheaties this morning. She's practically screaming now. Ok, now she's actually screaming. At Romney. Dun dun dun.

9:29PM - Paul throws a barb at Perry about in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Then brings up English as the official language, which wouldn't actually do anything, but whatever.

9:30PM - Perry defends his tuition piece, with a somewhat progressive answer, and gets booed. Bachmann goes in for the kill, and gets cheers. She might be coming back tonight.

9:32PM - Perry's getting a little ruffled on this issue, and you can bet it's going to show up in several campaign ads.

9:32PM - Whoooaaaa ... Huntsman just said Perry's comment that we "can't secure the border" is treasonous. Wow.

9:34PM - This is definitely Get-Perry night. Now Romney's going after Perry and Huntsman for the immigration issue.

9:35PM - Perry definitely feels very passionate about the immigration issue, and oddly enough, it's a pretty progressive position. He's arguing that children, even illegal immigrant children, should be given a chance.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

CNN Photo Fail

Ok, I guess technically this is probably an ad vendor's fault and not CNN, but seriously, this woman looks like she's got on war paint and about to do a double flip into a mob of angry amazons to wreak vengence upon those who used up her conditioner. For a mortgage ad. Honestly CNN, can't we do better?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mark & Johanna's Wedding

Pictures of my cousin Mark's & his bride Johanna's wedding are up here on facebook.

Also, for your viewing pleasure, a video of my mom and brother Will dancing along to "Love & Marriage" at the reception.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lancaster & Catch Up

Ok, all of these will gets posts of their own, but to summarize the past 3 weeks:
  • Backyard fence went up
  • Downstairs bathroom was (mostly) finished
  • Went to Strawberry Hill, had fun
  • Helped out at an RWC concert, had fun
  • Visited Lancaster once, and then again 2 weeks later
This post: the current Lancaster visit, aka the "My Cousin Mark is Getting Married!" post. The trip up was uneventful enough, although there were definitely some interesting people on the train.

Interesting Person #1 was the food car attendant who'd had 10 cups of coffee by 6AM, and who was obviously not used to that much caffeine. In between the shakey hand movements and darting eyes, I managed to order a bagel, which he then delivered in a kind of flirty way. I know it was probably the caffeine, but in another context all this could really be kinda sexy. "Soo... what're you gonna DO with this bagel once I make if for you?" and "Butter or cream cheese? Or, maybe, I have some ... jelly. You want some of my jelly? I'd give you my jelly if you wanted it."

Interesting Person #2 was a lady who was going to visit her family, and who couldn't remember whether her aunt had arthretis or dysentary. 'Nough said.

Interesting Person #3 was some cranky old lady who is one of the most entitled-feeling people I've met on a train. Business class, naturally. But god help the conductor if he didn't come back every 10 minutes and check to see if she wanted a drink so he could go get it for her. I think she had a mobility issue so I certainly don't begrudge her having the conductor get it for her, but she gave him hell after Baltimore because he spent too much time taking tickets instead of waiting on her hand and foot. I mean, she actually sent one of the other passengers back to find him so she could yell at him for not checking to see if she wanted scotch. On the rocks. Splash of water. NO FRUIT! At 10:30 in the morning. Jeebus.

Eventually I got to Lancaster and met my brother Will, who picked me up in his old beat-up Ford pickup. Threw my luggage in the back. It's good to be home :)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Trevor Bannister: 1934 - 2011

Trevor Bannister, who played the junior salesman Mr Lucas in Are You Being Served, passed away on April 14th this year.

I don't know what my odd fascination with this show really is, but I do love it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Arts in the Park

Keep meaning to blog about Saturday, but put it off until now. But no more!

Saturday was Arts in the P, an annual gathering of arts, crafts, etc. Went with the Drakes (a fine addition to any afternoon), and then we ended our day with a walk in Carytown and basil icecream from Bev's. Good times.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Thoughts on Bin Laden

Well, unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Osama Bin Laden, the ultimate mastermind behind the September 11th terrorist attacks that killed 3000 people and brought down the World Trade Center Towers, is dead.

In the earlier years of my life I'd always heard about how you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when certain important events happen ... and I'd always kind of wondered whether it was true. Then 9/11 happened, and now I know what that means; I'll always remember those couple of minutes when I was watching the tv and my mind actually processed what was happening. And I'll never forget those next couple of hours, when I walked around campus and saw people on cell phones desperately trying to get through to somebody, anybody, who could tell them whether person x was ok (Cornell had a lot of students from NYC). And yet they pale in comparison to what those who were actually present would've experienced. I just can't imagine that, and hope I never have to.

It's kind of weird, but I don't feel 'joy' or 'happiness' at the news, at least not really. A kind of 'stoic accomplishment' is the best I can come up with. I mean, on the one hand, I didn't really lose anyone, so 9/11 will never be 'real' to me in the way that it is to thousands of others. And if this gives them closure, I'm genuinely happy that they get it. But for me personally ... dunno, it just doesn't seem like something necessarily worth celebrating. There's certainly a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that a murderer has finally been brought to justice, if you can call what happened to him 'justice'. And there's a lot of valuable intelligence that will certainly help in some shape or form. But joy or celebration? That I just can't feel.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

From the "Things I Didn't Know" File..

From CNN's writeup of last night's White House Correspondents dinner:
The White House Corresponden' Association dinner was Obama's second as president. It has been a ritual in Washington since 1920, when it was first held to boost communication between the press and the president, according to the association's website.

It was only open to men until 1962, when President John F. Kennedy said he would not attend unless women were invited.
I'm still always surprised to read things like that, although thinking about it for a bit I guess I really shouldn't be. Props to JFK for making a statement.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Cat Blogging

Earlier today I found a bunch of Lucy's ping pong balls under the treadmill, which eventually all ended up on the papasan chair in the office.

Lucy decided this would be a perfect place to nap, promptly curled herself up on top of them, and even managed to maneuver one into her "this is mine" space. At least that's my interpretation. You be the judge.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quiet Moment

So, yesterday, when I was changing the contacts over from my old phone to my new phone, I realized I still had my PopPop's cell # stored in it.

At first I stared at it for a while, not really sure what to do, just remembering for a bit. Then rational Nik started yapping, saying of course there was really no reason to have it stored there anymore, it probably already belonged to someone else, and really this was taking way too long for a simple phone number that I'd never have a reason to call anymore. But of course, it wasn't just a simple phone number. It was PopPop's phone number. And making the active decision to delete it meant I was making an active decision to delete a reminder of him. Even though I have so many other reminders (pictures, memories, letters, etc) that aren't related to this.

After a few minutes of thinking, I deleted it. The indecision and open-endedness just got to be too much, and I had to do something. And I knew that if I didn't do something permanent, I would keep thinking about it forever now that it was in my mind. So I made a decision that I couldn't undo. And now ... I'm glad I did, but I wish I hadn't. I know that doesn't make any sense, but it's the best way I can describe how I feel.

It's so strange ... only 10 years ago these little devices we call cell phones were a novelty, a tool to be used, nothing particularly special. Certainly they didn't contain anything particularly special. And now, for whatever reason, deleting a 10-digit # that I couldn't tell from Adam off of a microchip just feels so much more permanent, so much more meaningful, than anything else I could possibly do. It's so strange.

Love you PopPop.

Department of I-didn't-know-that

Oh Virginia...

Via Mother Jones, I learned today that sodomy and oral sex (ie gay sex, although it applies equally to straights) are still classified as a class 6 felony in the State of Virginia. The Supreme Court's Lawrence v Texas decision means that can't be enforced, but the statutes are still on the books, and all efforts to repeal have been blocked by social conservatives in the General Assembly. *sigh

Monday, April 18, 2011

Long Day

Ugh ... today was one of those brutishly long days that just didn't seem like it would ever end. Nothing necessarily bad happened, but no matter how many different items I crossed off my list, there would be another one waiting.

The work day was almost entirely free of meetings (a big rarity these days), so I spent most of it doing busy work that needed to be done but I just couldn't normally find the time to. So by the time 5 o'clock rolled around, I'd been staring at a computer screen all day, having thought through a gazillion small issues, which was ultimately satisfying but also exhausting.

Day didn't end with work, though. I made myself go to the gym for an hour, then to the gas station (which just always seems like a chore, I don't know why), then across Richmond to the FedEx facility to pick up my replacement phone. Once I got home I had to finish trimming the strip of grass between the sidewalk and street that I couldn't finish yesterday, then inside to cook and eat dinner, then transfer all my contacts & pictures off the old phone, and then some more work, and etc.

Finally, finally, everything that can't wait until tomorrow is done, and now I have just enough energy to vent in a blog post before collapsing into bed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Time!

Ok, fall will ALWAYS be my favorite season, but I have to admit that spring has its perks too. I was a little worried at first that my tree out front wasn't turning green along with the rest of the block, but now some green is starting, and I couldn't be happier. Funny how tiny things like that can make such a difference.

Next up, planters out front!

Sunday Cat Blogging

Sleepy head. It's tough doing nothing all day. :)

House Update

It dawned on me the other day that I've had the house for almost 6 months, and besides some minor repair work, I really haven't done anything to it that I planned. No fence, no bathroom, no planting, and (most importantly) no renting out the downstairs.

This isn't entirely my fault - I called 3 contractors to come out, look over the house, and give me estimates. The first one I wrote off almost immediately as way too expensive, the 2nd one (recommended to me by my realtor) got me an estimate in less than a week, and the 3rd one ... well, the 3rd one is now 2 months overdue for the estimate. I called him in mid March to check in and see if he was going to get back to me, and he promised he would in a few days. 30 days later ... still nada.

He came highly recommended by a friend, so I really wanted to give him a chance, but the weeks just kept going by, so last week I made the decision that 2 months overdue was too long of a wait, and called back #2 to give him the job.

First up is a fence for the backyard (right now it's completely open to the street), followed by some gutter work, and then some major work on the bathroom. The bathroom is going to be tricky, since I won't be able to use it while he's working on it, which means either a hotel or imposing on a friend for a few days, and figuring out what to do with Lucy.

Once that's done, though, it's time to rent!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday Cat Blogging

Ok, so technically it's not actually Sunday, but it's the last day of the weekend before work, so it feels like Sunday.

On the left, we have Lucy looking out of the kitchen door, which I had open during the warmer days last weekend. I've had them open a few days now, and she really seems to like it. On the right, we have a very content kitty enjoying a very sunny spot on my bed. This wasn't captured mid-roll, she was actually sleeping like this. Which is weird, because anyone who knows Lucy knows she is definitely NOT a tummy cat.

UPDATE: Argh, and if anyone knows how to make blogger put these pictures side by side, I'd love to know.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Random Thought

How pissed does Brett Favre have to be that all the attention is on two quarterbacks who aren't him? Or that his latest retirement papers didn't so much as generate a peep of interest?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Cat Blogging

Not sure what I did, but this is the Lucy Shun(c). Who knows what goes on in that feline head?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Wicker Box and the Heebie Jeebies

So, 2 things to share:

First, the box cover that I bought for Lucy's litter box came today, and I put it together. It's a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but it fits her litter box, which is key. I got it for a few different reasons: 1) I think the wicker box looks nice. 2) It's a functional piece of furniture that I can throw my gym bag on. 3) The litter box was taking up valuable space in the bathroom, and I wanted to move it, but not without giving it a cover. The flash somehow illuminates the box so that you can see right through it to the concealed litter box, but in regular light you can't see a thing. Weird.

Second, I am kind of scared out of my mind right now. Last night between 9 and 10 I heard what sounded like a door opening and closing - and closing violently enough that I actually went to my window at one point to see if I could see anything. I couldn't, and just wrote it off as my neighbors. This evening when I went downstairs to get the mail, though .... the door to the first floor apartment ... was open. There's a door chain that locks from the inside that was keeping it from swinging wide open, but it was taunt and there was a 3 inch gap that you could see directly through into the dark, downstairs apartment.

When it comes to the idea of strangers being inside my house, I am not what you would call a brave person. In fact, I kind of freak out. In my old apartment I knew I was surrounded by a bunch of other apartments & people, which was actually kind of comforting. That's not true in my new place, and for the first couple of nights I was acutely aware of that. The open door downstairs, combined with the banging last night, brought all those feelings back.

So, without looking into the apartment, I grabbed the door handle, pulled it shut (tightly), and went straight back upstairs, where I will remain for the evening. Tomorrow, during daylight, I will go back downstairs and check the apartment to make sure nothing's wrong, probably with a hammer or something. I know, I know, there's really no reason to be scared, it was probably the wind or the fact that it's an older door, but rational-Nik is not in charge right now.