You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Any Idiot Can Have a Kid…

Posted in Addison, Social Life, Travel by Stacy McMahon on March 23, 2007

I know, because I’m an idiot and I had a kid.

First, why I’m an idiot. Vicky and I are joining other friends for some spring skiing in Vail next week, flying out Sunday. Because I’ve been distracted as hell, I started thinking my flight was tomorrow (Saturday) instead. I rushed around this evening packing, forcing my poor girlfriend to watch lame TV shows alone while I washed dishes and ran two loads of laundry. Her night did have one good point when we dropped off the house keys with Sarah and Ed. They invited her to attend their Battlestar season finale party in place of me Sunday night. She’s a closet sci fi fan and I know she’ll love getting her geek on.

Anyway, after all that I go to check the hotel info and find emails referencing the Sunday arrival. Uh oh, which day is my flight, really? I thought I was coordinated with Vicky. And I am — on Sunday. Which reminds me I need to cancel the cab that’s going to show up here at 6:30 am.

Second, if you pay enough attention to this blog to have noticed how I said the post about life’s strange twists and turns was a teaser of sorts, here’s your reward. As of three and a half weeks ago, I am the proud father of a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Addison Grace was born on February 28, the best late birthday gift ever. She is 9 lbs 15 oz (extrapolating from Wednesday’s weigh-in) of perfection. But who wants to listen to me make noise. Have yourselves some pics:

2007-03-17-addison-meets-parents-004-1.jpg

2007-03-17-addison-meets-parents-002-1.jpg

For those of you more personally in the loop, you probably realize it’s taking me some courage to post here. I’m doing it now because: I want to document Addie’s early life and my reactions, because as her mother says, “she is my gorgeous daughter and I love her; everything else is just details”, because waiting much longer would have risked stealing Christina’s spotlight 🙂 and because this is the only hard post. From now on I’m just another proud dad asshat who thinks their kid is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

And hey, it’s not as if I don’t know this will be the first really interesting category I’ve added!

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Quoth The Raven

Posted in Books by Stacy McMahon on March 19, 2007

My parents were in town all weekend, which was fun since they live in New Hampshire and I don’t get to see them all that often. Mom keeps in touch with some friends down here who were parents of my high school classmates, and one of them apparantly mentioned the book What Really Happened to the Class of ’93: Start-ups, Dropouts, and Other Navigations Through an Untidy Decade (the reader reviews are interesting and several are from my former classmates.)

Mom asked if I was in the book. I said I’d never read it and didn’t know, but that the author had interviewed me by phone shortly before turning in his manuscript. I don’t remember what we talked about, but remember thinking none of it was likely interesting enough to make it into the book. Then today, by pure chance, this old post of Christina’s turned up in a Google alert for my name.

This is actually a book about my high school class. I’m not in it, but my friend Stacy McMahon is quoted several times! The book is okay, it profiles 16 of my former classmates. I didn’t really know most of the people profiled, and didn’t know any of them really well. I guess the two I spent the most time with are Sean Bryant, who committed suicide, and Tim Yerrington, who sadly is now HIV positive. The most surprising was that Matt Farbman is a tranny now. He was in a group that often overlapped with mine. I just remember him being really weird. I wish them all well anyway.

I remember Matt Farbman. An odd duck, sure, but I remember him seeming plenty interested in girls. To each their own, though. Tim was a nice guy, and while I wasn’t friends with Sean Bryant, I had a couple classes with him and I remember him being quiet and popular. In fact, he was a member of what passed for the “in-crowd” in our remarkably (but far from entirely) clique-free high school.

Anyway, I’ve had What Really Happened… on my wishlist for a long time, and since it seems to be out of print I just went ahead and ordered one of the last new copies. Chris Colin himself is as much an artifact of the 90s as any of us, having been a writer and editor at Salon.com during its salad days. I already know at least one of the main themes though — it’s something many of us recognized even before graduation, and all of us did soon after. We were told we were the future of the nation, that most of us would grow up to be leaders and all of us would do great things somewhere, somehow. The propaganda was merciless, but mercifully hyperbolic enough that it was hard to take seriously even at the time. Every kid thinks that way though; nobody says “I’m going to grow up to be completely average” and it’s always a shock at some point when you realize there’s a ceiling, and that it’s a low one. I think it was worse for some of my classmates, and that’s at least one reason I look forward to reading this book.

More Search Term Fun

Posted in The Intrawebs by Stacy McMahon on March 19, 2007

Vicky is distracting herself from a case of strep by pondering search terms leading to her blog, so I decided to do the same. My new favorite: “saratoga silly pink bunnies“, appearing in the first page of Google hits and leading to this post. At least it’s not some of the porn crap that Clint gets, possibly because I put the German incest couple behind a cut.

The stats aren’t just funny though, they also help me see what I write about that people actually are looking for (I don’t assume that means they find it interesting when they get here.) The one that pops up almost daily is “allodial title”, so I may do more research and write about that one again. It’s an interesting historical subject, though I suspect that’s not why most of those people are searching on it.

We’re Movin’ On Up .. To The Big Time…

Posted in The Intrawebs by Stacy McMahon on March 18, 2007

So I got a link from the Washington Post. No, they didn’t find this blog fascinating enough to write about, but it turns out they’re collecting trackbacks for some stories now. My last post made the cut since it linked to a Post story, and at least one person came here from there. Cool 🙂

Life Takes Weird Turns…

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on March 16, 2007

The lack of posting is due to extreme busy-ness, for several reasons. One of them was a sick kitty–sick enough to need a night in the animal hospital. He’s fine now, but needs to swallow some medicine twice a day. You can imagine the fun. Another reason was, as usual, school. And the third was …well, all in good time.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reminds us what a long, strange trip a person’s life can be.

[Michail J.] Makarenko had lived in the United States since 1979, when he was exiled by the Soviet government for his repeated dissident activities, according to an article in the Russian magazine Glasnost provided by Burnside.

Among his crimes were running an avant-garde art gallery and engaging in union organizing. He served a total of 11 years in prison. His longest term, eight years, was for anti-Soviet agitation, Burnside said. While in prison, he continued his activism, working for prisoners’ rights, the article said.

[…]

“He was an important dissident,” Burnside said. “He fought for human rights and resisted communism every way he could.”

All so he could be senselessly murdered outside a rest stop by a crazy drifter.

“I went to eat, and when I finished, maybe five or ten minutes later, he wasn’t in the car,” Burnside said. “Then I saw someone was on the ground. I got closer, and it was him. His head had been bashed in by a rock. I just did the sign of the cross over him, recited the Lord’s Prayer and told him to hang in there.”

Tragic. Fortunately not all of life’s wacky curveballs are so awful. Some of them are even a pleasant surprise. Yeah, that’s a teaser 🙂

“Starbucks …what, you really wanna walk another block?”

Posted in Economics by Stacy McMahon on March 13, 2007

Megan McArdle, guest-blogging at Instapundit, asks for help understanding the success of Starbucks and its bitter, terrible coffee.

Any free market economists want to take a swing at this one? I too would prefer less roasting. I have two conjectures: either they’re benefitting from first mover advantage, or stupid Americans have some sort of macho attachment to burned coffee, as if that charred flavour makes it somehow more authentic and manly.

I can’t speak to the role of machismo in coffee drinking, but Tim Harford spends a lot of time on Starbucks in his excellent book The Undercover Economist. Basically, his theory is that Starbucks isn’t on every street corner because it’s successful–it’s successful because it’s on every street corner. Coffee is coffee, and they know it as well as you and I do. So their strategy isn’t product, product, product like most retailers, it’s location, location, location like real estate developers (who, afterall, are selling you the same house downtown as uptown, but charging 2-3 times as much for the commuting convenience.) If Starbucks is right here, and Dunkin Donuts or whatever is four blocks away, hey might as well go with convenience.

I can’t add much else to that, except to suggest that another reason they might not be worried about the taste of their regular coffee is that they have a much higher profit margin on their fancy drinks, which are only loosely based on coffee. It’s the classic up-sell. In fact, that might even be it–why let a customer walk out having spent only $1.70 for a coffee when you can encourage said customer to spend $4.90 on a frappucino instead? Just make the coffee bad enough that they’ll be willing to pay for an alternative, but not so bad that they’ll walk that four blocks to someplace they can get a decent cuppa joe.

Yeesh…

Posted in Silly/Funny, The Intrawebs by Stacy McMahon on March 12, 2007

Someone got to my blog by Googling “20s no social life” …and I’m the #4 result!

At least the actual hit proves I do have a life.

Getting Back Outdoors

Posted in Outdoors by Stacy McMahon on March 11, 2007

Well daylight savings time managed to sneak up on me, even with all the hype. Around “10:30” this morning the phone rang. It was my classmate L, asking where the hell I was and didn’t we agree to meet at 11? Oops.

Anyway, after a nice late breakfast and getting a few things straight about our project, L mentioned having gone to Huntley Meadows Park yesterday. I was shocked to realize I haven’t even thought of that place since around this time last year. So, since I can’t resist going outside when it’s warm, I decided to reacquaint myself. If you live in the DC area, you should get acquainted too!

Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows

Installing a GFCI Outlet

Posted in Home Improvement by Stacy McMahon on March 10, 2007

I hate when house guests drop their blowdryers in the sink and electrocute themselves. Besides the liability issues and annoying holes in my social calendar, cleanup is just a bear and the smell of burning flesh takes days to dilute. To avoid these issues in the future, I decided to replace the standard electric outlet next to my bathroom sink with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet.

GFCIs are basically circuit breakers built into the outlet. They sense incoming and outgoing current, and cut power if these become different from each other. That’s known as a ground fault, because the “missing” current has found another path to ground, for example through our hapless preening house guest. You’ve seen GFCIs–they’re the ‘fancy’ outlets with buttons and maybe an indicator light in the middle between the plugs. I’m too lazy to check, but the fact that I see them in many bathrooms makes me think they’re required by code these days. Anyway a GFCI is a good thing to have, plus which my old outlet was ugly:

Bathroom Outlet - Before

You can’t see it too well in that picture, but all the household wiring for my block appears to run through this box. That made it a PITA to install the GFCI, which is big and bulky. I needed an extra 1/4″ of space behind the outlet, and just barely managed to find it. The installation is almost certainly not up to code as far as having enough ‘breathing space’ for the wires, but I decided to go ahead anyway since a) it basically fit, b) there’s room in the wall for a deeper box and c) I’m planning to remodel the bathroom in the next 12 months, which will include opening the wall. I’ll fix the box problem then.

Here’s the new hotness:

Bathroom Outlet - After

Not as hot as I’d like, though. The gap on the right side of the cover plate is a common problem throughout the house. Besides using the cheapest possible components, whoever installed the wiring was damn sloppy about cutting the holes. You can see in the first pic how much extra space this one has around the sides of the box. That’s nice for seeing exactly where cables come in and out, but technically the ears on the outlet and switch should be resting on the drywall, and instead they’re completely inside it.

There is No Mafia Media Bias!

Posted in 2008 Election, Politics by Stacy McMahon on March 9, 2007

I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t have an opinion one way or t’other about whether Newt Gingrich should be president.

But someone does.Time ran a story yesterday about Gingrich’s affair with a congressional staffer (whom he married after divorcing his second wife) back in the days of the Clinton/Monica sex scandal.

Gingrich, who frequently campaigned on family values issues, divorced his second wife, Marianne, in 2000 after his attorneys acknowledged Gingrich’s relationship with his current wife, Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide more than 20 years younger than he is.

We’ll start with a point deduction for lousy grammar; “acknowledge” appears twice in the same sentence. Much more interesting, though, is that this isn’t new — the affair was revealed in the press back when it happened. From a 1998 article in Salon:

Gingrich’s reluctance to stone Clinton for adultery — or Gore for campaign finance violations — is not motivated by Christian compassion. […] Six months after divorcing Jackie, Gingrich married a younger woman, Marianne, with whom he had been having an affair.

So why is this nine year old story suddenly news in March 2007? Time offers the following weak excuse:

“The honest answer is yes,” Gingrich, a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, said in an interview with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson to be aired Friday, according to a transcript provided to The Associated Press.

See, they’re adding value to a wire story about a public figure! The real reason, though, is almost certainly the increasing chatter about a possible Gingrich presidential run, which they mention at the head of a list of anti-Gingrich talking points making up the entire second half of the article.

He has repeatedly placed near the top of Republican presidential polls recently, even though he has not formed a campaign.

[…]
Reports of extramarital affairs have dogged him for years as a result of two messy divorces, but he has refused to discuss them publicly.

[…]
His first marriage, to his former high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, ended in divorce in 1981. Although Gingrich has said he doesn’t remember it, Battley has said Gingrich discussed divorce terms with her while she was recuperating in the hospital from cancer surgery.

[…]
Gingrich’s congressional career ended in 1998 when he abruptly resigned from Congress after poor showings from Republicans in elections and after being reprimanded by the House ethics panel over charges that he used tax-exempt funding to advance his political goals.

I don’t think you have to be a conservative, a Republican or a Gingrich fan to see what Time did here. If their goal was to let people know Gingrich would be on TV the next day, a quick blurb would have been plenty . There was no need to go through all the (negative) background on the guy.

Just a little something to keep in mind when you read “news” about politicians or political issues.