Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Overthinking the Family Vacation

Pack the car, it's vacation time!!

Parents. You've been planning for this since last year's tax return. (Or, for chronology's sake, you're planning how to spend this year's return.) But did you OVERTHINK the whole thing?


Let's face it. Movies like National Lampoon's Vacation and Uncle Buck gave us plenty to think about when it came to planning a decent time for all family members (dead grandmothers tied to the roof rack aside).

But did you over plan the whole thing?

Chances are, if you're the type to demand perfection, you did. Now me, I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of vacationer. Pack some clothes, head in a direction, and see what we see along the way to somewhere and take lots of pictures. I ended up staying a block off of Bourbon Street in the executive suite at a hotel during the Carnival season in New Orleans for $59 a night. (Was that enough clauses for you in one sentence, dear reader?) Yeah, $59 a night. And valet parking was included at that price. So let me tell you, when I fly by the seat of my pants, I tend to soar.

But anyway. YOUR trip. Have you planned out every meal, every activity, every waking moment (including allotted time for each family member in the shower each morning)? Chances are, if you have, the trip will be far more work than fun, and you'll return needing a vacation from your vacation.

Chances are also that each family member will want something different and remember something different out of the experience than you will. Someone probably doesn't want to be so strict with the itinerary that parades, rides, and meals are dictated down to the hour. And the younger the child, the less chance they recognize that time has any meaning anyway. What they'll remember is the smiles, the laughter, the break from routine and video games and cell phones and computers and primetime TV. And even if they're old enough to whine that they'd rather be hanging out with their friends, the reality is that they're gonna make memories that they'll cherish one day.

Relax, have fun. It's a vacation for crying out loud. Not a business meeting. Take a deep breath. Whether you're fishing for trout or visiting Cedar Point or taking a cruise, throw your watch in your suitcase and let the winds of change blow you where they will. You just may have more fun than you ever expected.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Are You Ready to Move Out of Your Parents' House?

They just don't get you anymore. Your parents don't understand your friends, don't approve of your choices, hate the way you dress, wish you'd go to school, join the military, get a real job. Maybe it's all of those, maybe it's none of those. But for reasons of your own, you want to move out, and you want to do it now.

Are you ready? Yes, I see that you've already packed up your stuff and are taking it out to your car's trunk, but are you really ready?

Understand your budget. Whether you work for minimum wage at McDonald's or have just graduated from med school as a doctor, you are on a budget whether you like it or not. Balancing your bills against your paycheck and figuring out how much is left over is a good place to start. Consider your car payment, auto insurance, student loans if you have them, any credit cards you may have, and that cell phone that until now your parents have been providing for you, and you'll have a small idea of how much a month you can spend on rent.

But before you go rent a place that's out of your budget, you need to ask a few questions of your potential landlord. Are utilities included in the rent? If so, which ones? If not, what do utilities run on average? If the landlord has no idea, consider running away from the location, but if you just love it, then ask for the names of the water, electric and gas companies that the place usually does business with, and call them and ask them for a rough estimate.

For the entertainment portion of your budget, how much do you have to spend on internet or Netflix or purchasing X-Box games? It's very good to know the answer to this question before ordering DSL internet and a premium subscription to cable.

Not to be forgotten is fuel for your vehicle, and a plan for oil changes and tire rotations and even tire replacement. Such maintenance is fairly predictable, and can be easily included into a budget so that you don't find yourself unable to take care of your transportation.

Can you even afford a place on your own? If not, do you have friends that you plan on sharing a place and therefore rent with? Can you trust them? What I mean is, are they the types of roommates that will pony up their portion of the bills religiously, or will you get stuck working overtime to make sure you all don't get evicted? If they are the latter and not the former, let them rent the apartment in their name and not yours.

If you are moving in with anyone else - be it a significant other or a best friend - know before hand who's name the utilities are going in. It's your social security number that will be tied to this stuff... protect your credit. Friendships have been lost over much less.

Don't forget that you'll be buying your own food and clothes now. How much is left in your budget so far? Remember to make a place for groceries and household goods as well as eating out. Sooner or later you will get sick of Ramen noodles and want a nice juicy quarter pounder. Likewise, sooner or later you'll just want to go home and make a pb&j. If you're getting a roomie, how will foodstuffs be accounted for? It sucks when your roommate drinks all your soda and eats all your Pop-Tarts and doesn't replace them, leaving you to go fork out the money twice for the same food.

And have you considered that tattoo you want to get? Good tattoo artists aren't cheap. Do you have a savings plan for this and that trip to Cancun you want to take on your time off next year? Planning for the future is an important part of moving out. Getting married, having kids, needing a bigger place and a mini-van... it's always good to consider that you will not be where you are right now in another five or ten years.

And even if you are in the same place, chances are your beer budget will be bigger.

The bottom line is that being fully autonomous demands that you pay attention to the details that your parents took care of up till now, like medical insurance and renters' insurance and car repairs. Be prepared by knowing exactly what you have and exactly what you can spend. Live by a budget and live within your means. If all your i's are dotted and all your t's crossed, then spread your wings and fly, little bird. There's a whole new world waiting for you.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kettle calls Pot collect

...and the conversation rang up quite the tab for Pot. But what really struck a chord was the ringing in Pot's ear after the 2x4 hit the pot broadside.

Seems I've been slacking on my posting.

Figures. I get a couple of new loyal readers, and they're already heckling me for new and constantly changing content. Sheesh the masses can get demanding! :D

Here's the thing about new content. I've gotta have some to post it.

Okay, okay, I have some. I'm just a slacker.

Let me tell you about Monday, as it's some new content:

On Monday, I went kayaking again. Get used to it, it's a new habit. And it gives me content.

Anyway, I went out and had a great time in the boat, and came back to grab my camera and shoot some local wildlife: birds, otters, and a bucket. Don't worry about the bucket, that's a whole 'nuther story.

About this time, another kayaker came around the bend, as it was, and got swept up by the current and pushed up against the pier I was standing on, and he dumped. For a few moments I was concerned that he wasn't coming back, as he was in a sit-in kayak, and had to fight the current to get out of the craft. When he did surface, it was for just a moment, as his boat tumbled on top of his head and submerged him again.

By this time, which was only a few seconds in real time, I had put my camera down on the pier and was scurrying over to help him. He, specifically, was out of my reach, so I grabbed his kayak, which was very quickly sinking as it filled. We stared at each other for a moment, and I realized that the 50-ish degree water he was trying to tread was far too cold for his blue-jean and sweatshirt clad body to tolerate for long.

At that moment, however, he was not understanding the words that were coming out of my mouth.

"Shimmy down the dock to the edge" was Greek to him. "Shimmy down and get out of the water" was no better. "I have the boat, just worry about you" didn't really register either. After repeating it a few times, however, the fear and shock in his eyes cleared enough to realize that he wasn't going to ever get that boat out of the water by pulling up on it from in the water.

He agreed that getting himself out was a good idea. So he shimmied down the dock after all.

By this time a passerby raced down the pier to join us and he grabbed the kayak. I moved to grab the aft end and lift it out of the water, forcing some of the water back out. Good thing this guy came along too. My fingers were getting numb from the water temperature, and the kayak was fully submerged just below the surface, held visible only by my cold stiffening fingers.

We wrestled the craft topside and rolled it belly up onto the pier. We even managed to locate and retrieve the paddler's paddle, which had conveniently caught on the opposite side of the same pier. Fortune smiled on that guy, let me tell you.

We got his boat back to the truck, and I left him with the piece of advice to get out of those wet clothes ASAP so as to avoid hypothermia setting in. Then I returned to my normally scheduled day, glad that my kayak was a self-bailing sit-on-top model, and that no matter what else happened that day, at least my boat would be afloat.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Churning Sea

January 5th, 2008. The storms that flooded southern California and blanketed northern California with snow gave central Cali huge surf, as large as 20 ft. waves in places. I went on a two-day coastal road-trip with my camera in hopes of capturing some of the biggest waves.

Here are some of the waves I captured.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Reverse Golden Rule

I think I have 5 readers now. Just to pander to them in attempts to gain their loyalty, I thought I'd write another tidbit from the depths of my mind.

Problem is, I'm fresh out of fascinating stuff from the depths of my mind.

So I looked in shallower waters and found this nugget of wisdom:

The next time someone really good and ticks you off, ask yourself if you were a victim of the golden rule. Were you treating them the way you got treated?

I bring this up at all because I recently got my head snapped off for being coldly succinct. Imagine that, someone accused *me* of being succinct. Anyway, for a few moments I felt remorseful and slightly ashamed, then realized that I was simply responding in kind to how I was being treated in the first place. Well, that allowed me the freedom to feel indignant, ergo this post.

Point is, chances are if people are often nasty to you, you're a nasty person.

Deal with it or fix it.

As for my new readers, there's no pressure to leave a comment, a complaint, or a tip of the hat in appreciation (I prefer tips *in* the hat to tips *of* the hat, truth be known). However, if you want to participate and make this an interactive experience that we can all benefit from, you're gonna have to pony up in the comments department. Suggestions are appreciated as well. They are often ignored, granted, but they are appreciated.

Friday, January 11, 2008

rereading, digressing, and romantic tangents

I just reread my own blog for the last couple of months. Man, I do believe I've been embracing the jaded side a bit! Scroll all the way to "Hats" (or visit October 2007, maybe November. Hell, hit them both, there's good stuff there!) to find something juicy to wrap your tongue around! Mind!! I mean Mind!!!!!

Funny, that the last couple of months have coincided with some of the most personally stressful times I've gone through in years, also reminiscent of years past. But I digress.

Now that Christmas is behind us (and all the other holiday terms centered around the winter solstice), I can start turning my evil eye to Valentine's Day. You remember Valentine? Patron Saint of "how much money can I spend proving to my girl she's worth more than all those other girls out there in an egotistical competition to win the next-day water cooler story about how romantic I can be and therefore land her in the sack for some much deserved and paid-for-at-a-premium-in-gifts sex"?

Ooh... the snark bug has already bitten me.

But really... why do women need the validation of love in the form of roses, chocolates, an expensive dinner at a nice restaurant, and the expectation of jewelry to boot? Why do men need to prance around like horny peacocks showering ladies with more material pomp and circumstance than even Christmas can muster up, just to prove their worth as a man? And by worth.. I really mean their bank accounts, assets, investments, holdings, real estate, legacy worth here. In the famous words of Cuba Gooding Jr... SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!! Just make it in the form of diamonds, rubies, lobster tails, and long-stemmed red roses. Oh, and wrap it in a romantic holiday for two at a secluded spa complete with couples' massages.

Does anyone even know *why* Valentine became a patron saint at all? It wasn't for rejuvenating the diamond industry for DeBeers... that's for sure. He was a martyred saint of Ancient Rome. Read about him here. If you scroll all the way down, you learn that there used to be 11 St. Valentine's Days a year as recognized by the church. Makes one glad for separation of church and state, doesn't it? Valentine's Day came out of legends about the man. Imagine that. You mean someone blew the story of him up into a whopper of a fish tale? Oh, and there are speculations that the date was chosen to supercede a pagan holiday. Imagine that. And just wait till I get to Easter....

Digressing again.

Leave it to Geoffrey Chaucer to be responsible for the romantic notions associated with Valentine's Day. Damn notions of courtly love... though I remember Chaucer more for pastoral poetry than courtly love. Oh well, Wiki must surely be right, right? Shakespeare got all caught up in that too, which his sonnets. My favorite was Sonnet 130:

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far more red, than her lips red,
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight,
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.

Yeah, romantic as hell, right? Well, in that "man you've got flaws girl! But I love you anyway" sort of way. He wrote that to save his own neck. He was a court poet at the time, and his "mistress" was an earl that commissioned a poem from him. The "sun" was the king, so of course he had to write a poem that kept his head on his shoulders and still flattered the paying party. Delicate business, that poetry writing stuff, back when it could cost you your life. But great way to end it, too, with enough vagueness to please everyone, flatter nicely, and allow for sequels.. i.e. more clients.

And digressing again.


Men. There are 365 days a year to be romantic.

Women. There are 365 days a year to appreciate *how* your man shows his romanticism.

Let's try something really innovative. Let's try to bring romance back to the average ordinary Tuesday night and the not-at-all special Thursday lunch. Let's try not to impose such monetarily-based notions of love surrounding one miserable day where half the planet mourns no love at all.. and let's even attempt to bring daisies or carnations back as a gesture of affection.

I swear, I hear so many people complain about "it's roses or nothing... the cheap S.O.B. can fork out the money for roses once a year...." that it's no wonder they don't get flowers the rest of the year. They have no appreciation for the sentiment behind it.. just the item itself.

Think on that next time you look at the wedding set on your finger you shallow, self-centered, over-glorified wives who wonder why he'll cheat on you with a woman that just wants to feel his arms around her and his kisses on her neck.

Oh, and because I refuse to do it come Feb. 14... Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Cracked Crab

Every once in a while one experiences something so impressive that one must shout it from the rooftops.

Since the invention of the internet, rooftop-shouting has become unnecessary.

Segue to The Cracked Crab, Pismo Beach, CA. It's on my short list of must-do's for all central coast visitors.

Their menu changes every single day, so you can be assured that the seafood is fresh-and-I-mean-fresh. They are known for their buckets -- $48 for one person, $68 for two. Choices of snow crab, dungeness crab, rock crab, a shrimp or two, and possible substitutions like lobster (at a higher price) are all available for the bucket. It comes with potatoes and corn on the cob, rolls and all the tools one might need to crack into shellfish.

I had the crab-stuffed domestic gulf shrimp at $21. Some 6 days later my mouth still waters at the thought of that delectable meal.

And just to really go all out, I added a cup of crab bisque for another $6. The only thing I've wanted to eat every single day since I first visited the Cracked Crab was another cup of that crab bisque.

The menu has a shrimp po' boy at $9, a couple of melts in the $18-$20 range, and caters to high rollers with lobster entrees that rate up there with the buckets. Kids meals are $6 as well. They have a nice wine list, the atmosphere is both cozy and casual, and while they have no ocean view dining, it's a short 4 blocks from the beach. Okay, maybe 6 blocks. They're still short.

So whatever your budget is, you can be well fed and have orgasms in your mouth. Well, maybe not orgasms, but your taste buds will not be disappointed.

*disclaimer, Margo Crawford is not a paid endorser of The Cracked Crab, though she would be willing to consider any offers.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

one way to dock a boat

'08 started here in Central Cali with a wonderful storm full of photographic opportunities... like this one.

I said photographic opportunities, I didn't say great photographic opportunities.

This photo, btw, is untouched. I mention it because I recognize fully that it's dark, fairly monochromatic, and looks like there's a ton of camera noise. There isn't a lot of camera noise; that's called "rain".

As for the boat, I"m sure it will be fine once it's not beached on a sand bar. But you should've seen the surf this vessel avoided! For those photos... come back in a few days. I have some post-processing to do.