$3000 Int'l iPhone Bill, Yay Technology.

Let's hear it for technology and free enterprise! The ability to charge the average schmo out the nose for being on the cutting edge of innovation if they don't pay attention.

Seen on Boing Boing.

As we know, the iPhone can't be unlocked to use a European provider's SIM card for more reasonable rates while traveling. There's part two of the trap.

To be safe, I went online to My Account at AT&T a couple days into the trip and again a week later and was told "usage data is currently unavailable"... and that's part three. I had no way of knowing specific usage data until I received my bill over the last weekend.

A bill for $3000.

I don't plan on going overseas any time soon, but this makes me want to leave my phone at home and make long distance calls. Might be cheaper.



Another Mrs. Austin photo gracing the home page of the Round Rock Leader newspaper site.

Some of you may recall the 4th of July picture that ended up on the front page of the paper. I'm very proud of her for doing this work that sees print. Freelance or not, freelance pay or not, it's good seeing someone do work that they love doing.

She may be getting on with the Pflugerville paper as well. Pflugerville, for those who don't know, is a suburb of Austin. It's actually one of the fastest growing of Austin suburbs. It's a great little town, something like 35,000 people live here. The schools are some of the best in central Texas and it's got a lot of parks and paths and pools for the kids. Pecan Street is a neat little road that cuts through the heart of an old fashion downtown.

We live on the edge of Pflugerville, somewhere between the lost reaches of north Austin and the actual city line. In fact, when you come out of our subdivision, you have to drive past the "Welcome to Pflugerville" sign if you go east. If you go west you hit the highway and are technically in Austin. Utility companies love the area because most of them say they don't service it even though the city gives out their numbers. SuddenLink doesn't have our zip code in it's system. Three waste removal companies have trash cans on our street, but when you call them it takes them a while to find the street.

Plus, so far we've had nothing but good experiences from the people hear. The people who (accidentally) hit our dog were the nicest folks. When Mrs. A's car had its problem last week, no less than 10 people tried to help. The Mexican food restaurant in downtown had the nicest wait staff I've seen in a long time. I guess that goes for Austin in general as well. In between NPR bits, the local station, KUT, has interviews with locals about their Austin experience. One man talked about going to Central Market where a be-dreded and be-inked young woman asked him how his weekend was going. Being from Boston his thoughts were, "It'd be a lot better if you gave me my change and let me go." After a year here he goes back to Boston to visit and realized that no one was making eye contact or exchanging pleasantries and if he saw that girl again now he'd ask her how her weekend was going.

I have some people I know online moving out to Austin soon and it makes me think of how they view our city. Nationally, globally, I think there's a southern - and more than that, Texan - stereotype but people seem to know that Austin is somehow a bit different. I heard somewhere that Austinites are some of the only people in the country who talk about how great it is to be in Austin. More people should have that. More people should either be proud of their city and happy to be there or they should get out and find some place they like. There's no reason to live where you are unhappy as it may be the place that's making you feel that way. I spent about two years in Houston and they were abysmal. There were good and bad times and it wasn't the people or the jobs, it was the town. Leaving Houston felt like tearing off a soot stained, mildew smelling blanket of glue and cheese and taking a hot shower.

So yeah, Austin is great. Yee haw. Pflugerville is a good place to be that's not technically in Austin. I'm glad Mrs. A is able to show others through her photos how nice the place is.

Carry on.


Boys Weekend

Air Hockey
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Mrs. A and LMA went out to Conroe for the weekend to see Mrs. A's parents and other errands. That left me and G-man to take a lazy weekend of video games and TV.

I had planned to letter a couple pages of a comic, draw some sketches for another commission, do some robot drawings, laundry, cleaning, do some work from home for my day job, but it just didn't happen.

G-man and I just cooled it. We both played video games (he on NickJr.com and me on the PC for about a half hour.) I watched a couple movies when he was in bed and we both watched a lot of cartoon together and wrestled on the floor.

I also spent a large amount of time fighting with my internet connection. 10am Saturday I wanted to remote into my work and do an upgrade but as soon as I kicked it off I lost connection and it didn't come back until almost 5pm that night. The rest of the weekend was spent reseting routers and dealing with connections so slow I thought for sure I had a 14.4 modem. It was sad.

So we went to a local coffee shop, got cheese sandwiches and burgers and shakes and tatter tots at Sonic and capped it off with a lunch date at Chuck E. Cheese.

I also spent most of my time since Friday with a sinus headache. I don't know what tripped it, but I'm sure the constant rain and high humidity hasn't helped. So after a while of trying to maintain focus on projects and work I just decided it wasn't worth making my head hurt more and the cocktail of ibuprofen and Sudafed wasn't doing the trick. It wasn't a bad weekend, I just wish I could have got more done.

Mrs. A and Lil Miss Austin had a good weekend as well, but you'll have to email her and ask her about it, they haven't got home yet so I don't know exactly how good. I'm sure it'll all go back to normal tomorrow, back to the rut. Next weekend is a company picnic and we might go to a place called Valente Beach in Austin. I've always been afraid of the place, but it's got slides and water and the kids love swimming so we'll see.

I also spent a lot of time watching Doctor Who and Torchwood episodes online. I know, shame on me. Buy the DVDs you cheapskate. Oh I will, I like the shows enough, but I just couldn't stop. The last few Doctor Who's all tied together and I couldn't just leave it. I'm fully caught up on season 3 now and it hasn't even aired in the US yet. I also watched some Tour de France, last couple stages. The Spaniard on the Discovery Channel Team won. Yeah I know. Doctor Who and Tour de France. No I didn't watch any NASCAR.

That's all for now. There's thunder over head and the dog doesn't like it. It's been raining off and on today and the thunder's been around since about 3. I heard that Austin is out of drought condition for the first time in over a decade. I'll be going to Lowes to pick up 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits of wood.

Carry on.


Ford can suck it

Mrs. A has a 2001 Ford Focus. It's been an okay car for the few months we've had it. It's used so there were some issues at first, but it's been running okay for a while.

Until yesterday.

Last week the family went to check out a Mexican restaurant in our little suburb and then walked across to get ice cream. We hadn't been out as a family in months so it was a little treat. While Mrs. A was in the ice cream parlor, I was in the car with the kids. I reached across with the keys to start the car. I put the key in and it wouldn't turn. I thought the steering wheel had locked so I moved it a bit and tried the key again. Nothing. After a couple minutes of introducing the kids to some new and dangerous sounding words, I was able to He-Man the wheel loose and the key turned.

I chalked it up to an inordinate amount of pressure on the front wheels.

Well, as it turns out, Ford Focuses (Foci?) have a ignition key lock defect caused by crap metal used to make the keys and the design of the barrel lock. Once the key can't properly interface with the tumblers in the lock, the wheel will not move and the car will not start. Even if the car were under warranty, it's up to the dealer to either claim that the issue is not part of the coverage or charge you a deductible and replace it...

...with another defective part.

Most of the heat for this happened years ago, probably as all the 2000-20001 models were passing their 60k mile mark exempting them for anything but extended warranties. But there are listings of recall petitions and class action filings, none of which seem to have gone anywhere. Ford says it's not considered for a recall because it doesn't cause a safety issue. I'm sure those who become stranded in remote stretches, hundreds of miles between towns or in sketchy parts of town will disagree with what passes as "safe" for the execs at Ford.

I bring all this up because guess what happened yesterday? You guessed it. Mrs. A and the kids were returning from a failed trip to the grocery store (thanks Captial One) and were fueling up. She put gas in the car and went to start it and the wheel didn't move. Now, she wasn't in the middle of no where, she was in a grocery store gas station in a suburb, but it was 90 degrees and she had two kids with her. Is that safe? I know people who've been arrested for leaving their kids in hot cars.

Luckily she wasn't far from home and a friend of hers was able to come get the kids and take them home and watch them. I left work to come up and help because as soon as she said what happened, I recalled the ice cream parlor incident and thought I could muscle my way passed it again. Well I was wrong and so were the other dozen or so people who tried. We even jacked the front end up thinking we could relieve any tension on the front wheels. I went over to the store and bought some WD-40 to clean out the lock. The lock is super clean now, but it didn't help.

In the end we called (ironically enough) Ford's roadside assistance and we got a tow to a service station near the house. The tow was $70, the cost to replace the barrel lock is $350. The scary thing is, I don't know that this won't happen again. From the horror stories I've read, people have had to do this several times in just a few years. I'm not looking forward to doing this again. What happens next time Mrs. A is on a shoot 2 hours from home, what kind of tow cost is that going to be? I think it's ridiculous that a known defect doesn't get a recall, safety or not. Cars have always bothered me like that. They're so expensive and yet so frequently if they aren't babied in just the right way they completely go to shit. For the amount you pay for a car, it should be taken car of by the manufacturer for life. And let's face it, even the luckiest of us don't have a 30 year old car unless it's been completely rebuilt and driven only once every year.

So this comes at a time when Mrs. A and I have just started to recover from that horrible real estate investment where we almost lost everything. We still owe a ton to a lot of people but thanks to Mrs. A's efforts we were making some head way. This just set us back a few months and there's really very little we can do about it.

I hate cars the way I hate insurance companies, and I hate insurance companies the way I hate racist bigots and goats. (Square eyed devil beasts.) I think cars are built just well enough to be sold and then fall apart. They aren't hardy, reliant pieces of equipment. They aren't dependable. This is one of those times I wish we could just abandon cars altogether and start riding bikes or taking the train. It's funny that because of the cost of having a car, which should provide someone with an independence you can't get from mass transit, the owner now has the freedom to do whatever they want. But at the price we pay for them, we just don't have the money to do anything.

Plus, Mrs. A met with a couple last night that didn't book for whatever reasons and now she's in a state. She's blaming herself, saying she failed the family. No one blames her, of course, but that feeling just doesn't go away easily. If it were me, I'd curl up into a ball until payday, but knowing Mrs. A, she already has a plan. I don't know what that plan is. Last month the credit company we have the car note through sold the loan to a company in Florida. So now instead of being able to pay in person, we have to mail a check or pay an extra $5 to pay over the phone. It's not a great situation, but what's worse is because of the shift we owe a back payment now. Again, not our fault. We got the paperwork late (which seems to be an issue with our small town post office) and immediately fell behind. So Mrs. A was counting on booking something to cover the car payments but didn't get that.

I fucking hate cars, did I mention that?

This is unusually candid and I apologize. So much happens in our lives that I don't talk about that some times I feel I'm running out of things to write. But I believe this was fair game because it involved one of my least favorite things in the world and I always have to write about when I have car problems.

Carry on.


The tubes, they are clogged.

A major power outage in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood this afternoon brought down many web sites including Technorati, Livejournal and Craigslist.

Now I know my readership and I know very few of you were affected by this. The event has caused quite a commotion amongst some online communities and yet the irony is some people weren't able to write about it. As of this writing, most of the sites are back up; Livejournal being the exception I found so far. I have an LJ page but I haven't used it in years.

Here's an amusing newscast from The Onion.

What cracks me up about this whole thing is the seeming lack of battery back up. I'm fairly sure these are not all run out of people's basements and garages and they all just happen to live in the same area. More than likely all the servers for these sites are sitting at one maybe two possibly three collocations in their own little racks. I mean, it probably doesn't take much for a site like Craigslist to run; it's just a message board. I could run one of those off a machine I have at my house. It's the bandwidth these sites need more than anything, something collocations provide as part of their service. You put your server at a data center because they have fat pipes.

Which makes me wonder what happened to their battery backup? In just the last couple years, I've worked with companies that have made a point to have a power backup. One company had a UPS so large it wouldn't fit up the elevator, and that was a relatively small day trading firm. Where I work now has a backup that sits on it's own circuit and a cabinet with like 10 car batteries. There's enough power to run all the servers for at least a couple hours. The biggest problem is a server room without AC for any length of time. Are these sites really running without backup? What about the data centers, isn't that one of their selling points?

I don't know. I thought it was an interesting way to spend the evening; watch the Daily Show and write about nearly meaningless crap.

Carry on.


Someone Stop Her

Cheryl M&M
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Rollman.
Mrs. A is addicted to these "make yourself into something" gadgets.

I need someone to help organize an intervention. I should have never showed her the Simpsons one.

More Art

Short Sale

So this is one of the commission pieces I've been working on. I haven't heard back yet if the colors were ok. They seem flat to me (because they are) but I wanted to leave it open for them to provide some feedback. It's a fine line between showing what you can do and overdoing it and giving the client more room to say, "Could we lose the fancy-schmancy?"

The 100 Artists Project received, in just a couple days, almost 500 views and almost 200 sign ups. I had to change a few pages on the site because it was apparently confusing to people how the project worked, but I think I've got it cleaned up. There were surprisingly many people from South America signing up for the project and we also got a lot of new countries to add to the list; Italy, Germany, Korea, Brunei, Chile, Brazil, Ireland, South Africa and Spain to name a few. A lot of Brits and Aussies signing up too. I'm really pushing for this project to be successful and I hope people are taking it seriously.

LMA is going to school in a little over a month. Registration is in about two weeks and we have some forms to fill out and Mrs. A has to take her (and G-man) to the doctor for their yearly check up. Pflugerville ISD needs to know LMA doesn't have rabies or mad-cow disease. We already know G-man's cuteness is contagious but there's no drugs for that. You just have to deal with it.

We weren't able to get LMA into a camp this year so we're hoping there's going to be some extracurricular activities. Although, the more I think about it, the more that sounds like a lot. She's still only six and I think going from 8am to 3pm without a nap and without the playtime she got in kindergarten is going to be hard on her. Well, ESPECIALLY her. She's been more and more bossy and moody and independent lately and she and I have been clashing a lot. I've tried to be calm and understanding and not jump all over her when she talks, but lately it hasn't mattered. As soon as she doesn't get what she wants - or interprets something as not getting what she wants - she's off to her room screaming and stomping and half the time Mrs. A looks at me funny and I just stand there saying, "I don't know what happened."

It's been that way for a while. The whole house actually has taken on a bit of a short fuse, and it's not just me. Everyone is reacting too quickly and too stubbornly to each other and it's causing a lot of stress. No one is getting the benefit of the doubt and there are a lot of accusations and a lot of misunderstandings. These sound like ground up problems between Mrs. A and me but it's not just us. G-man has stopped doing what he's told unless you really lay into him, LMA is about as sassy a Jackie Brown, my tolerance and patience is dwindling slowly and I'm sure Mrs. A just wants out of the house and away from us on a constant basis.

And don't read too much into that. What I'm talking about is typical of a family. Siblings get annoyed with each other, parents argue and fight. Kids and adults usually don't get along. I think the time has now come when LMA is now officially finding out that her parents are idiots and she knows everything. She's already 12, but she's in a 6 year old's body. I think first grade is going to be rough on her, but I don't want to be pessimistic about it. I hope she does well. I hope we all start standing together as a family more than we have been. We've been at each other's throats a lot. I think it's all the rain.

Anycrap, more art soon.


An online friend and fellow artist Adam Koford is a contributor at Drawn! A few weeks ago he said he'd pitch the 100 Artists Project. I know for a fact that being linked on Drawn! gets you noticed as an artist. Not being an artist that has a gallery in SoHo, I was fortunate enough to receive a whopping 5 requests for robots when Adam wrote about his, Len Paralta's and my projects to bring small, custom art to the masses with our Hoboes, Zombies, Monsters, Monkeys and Robots. (They have had considerably more success with it than I have for some reason.)

Adam was going to ask me a few questions about the project, but instead took the info from the web site and just put up a post. I had no idea when he was going to do it as he's been moving for the past week so imagine my shock when I woke up today to 50 emails from people wanting to sign up for the project. By the time I got to work it was up to 70. Right now we're almost at 100. And there have been some new countries represented as well; Slovenia, Brunei, Italy, Germany, Chile, Spain, Korea and Ireland.

All I can say is that it got to the right venue. The original idea on Penciljack drew about 130 sign ups (from which about 30 came through so far) and a group listed on Flickr as well as a few bumps from other message boards and the count is at 55 submitted pieces of art. That's been over almost 4 months. In 12 hours thanks to Drawn! I was having a hard time keeping up with all the emails this morning. Plus, people are linking from their sites back to Drawn! and I've even seen a Spanish translation of the project. I'm not sure what it said, but hopefully it was good.

This was needed too. I hadn't received any art in weeks, the one exception being a replacement piece from someone who's art I'd lost. The responses so far have been outstanding and I'm a bit scared now that it's becoming more than I can handle. It's been very "seat of the pants" until now and I'm constantly worried I'm overlooking a key aspect to the entire project.

I've had to make a few changes to the site really quickly. I didn't have an FAQ and the Thank You page after submitting the form was a bit 'pleh." I'm not terribly happy with the site. It's clunky and if I want to change the header or footer I was dumb and didn't make those their own files so I have to change every page. I should change that. But now my main issue is just keeping track of it all. I'm sure with the new surge of interest more art will come in and like everything else lately it may be more than I'm set up to handle. Some times I wish it wasn't a one man operation. I had a couple guys help me out to start with the design and some programming suggestions, but that was it.

So yeah, if you'd like to help and have skills doing projects like this, I'd love to talk to you.

That's all, big day.

Carry on.


Robots Still Kickin'

Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Just as I get a big commission and offer to help out a friend on his comic and start filling in for the production manager on ASJ41, THAT'S when I get 3 robots from one person and 2 from another.

All my freelance friends will say, "Feast or Famine." "Flood or drought." And I know this, it's the same with everything.

The faerie drawing is done, but I haven't heard back from the client. I've had so much to do in such a short time I haven't been able to do the "mess around" things like the rest of the 700 Robots. But that's a blessing, it's all paid work. I just wish it didn't come due all the same week.

On a different note, my friends and family know about my Bob Cartwheel story so I thought I'd share because I have moments like it rather regularly. A few years ago I made public a revelation I had. I finally tied together the acrobatic move "the cartwheel" and the actual cartwheel, the wheel on a horse drawn cart.

Now, think about it before you poke fun. Growing up since the 40's or 50's, have we had a need to think that the cartwheel was in fact the wheel of a cart or the gymnastic move? Growing up, I associated the term more with the move than the wheel. Couple that with understanding certain athletic moves were named after the people who pioneered them, I just assumed after a fashion that the term "cartwheel" was coined after someone who did it in the Olympics or something. My family loves this story. "Oh," they laugh, "You mean like Bob Cartwheel?"

Yes, that's exactly it. I mean, with things like Fosberry Flop, Lutz, Salchow spinning around, and with no real life reference to a cartwheel outside of what all the kids were doing on the playground, isn't it feasible that there was confusion? I'm not looking to excuse my idiocy, but surely there are some things like that that confuse people? German Chocolate Cake? Nothing to do with Germany. Evolution? We didn't evolve FROM monkeys, it's a long line with a common ancestor. Religious? Adam and Eve never ate an "apple" but a Fruit of Knowledge. These are all fine and dandy, but I have the epiphanies more like, "Oh, cigarette is small cigar."

So, I'll be open and honest about my lack of understand towards words and their meanings if you do the same, dear reader.

Carry on.


How Old?

So the subject has come up recently as to how old LMA and G-man can be before we leave them at home alone.

The obvious answer is "not until he's 13" but is that the practical answer? Mrs. A works from home and I'm 30 minutes away. If she needs to run to make a FedEx drop or over to Walgreens to get milk or pull-ups, can a 6 and 3 year old hack it for 20 minutes?

Now, before you fire up those comments, let me assure you we don't plan on going to the movies without getting a babysitter. We're not that desperate or parentally inept. But what about a quick drive to the mailbox? Gone and back in 3 minutes. Mrs. A and I sit out on the front porch and have a smoke for easily five times that long while the kids are out back or inside playing.

So I looked it up and it's odd that despite all the concern over child safety, there are very few state laws required children to be of a certain age before they are left alone. I found this off the Clackamas County, Oregon Juvenile Department website.

Generally speaking there are three primary variables which need to be considered. First, the maturity of the child, second, the environment provided for the child and third, how long the child will be unattended.

I think the first part answers it for us. LMA is a smart cookie, but she has the maturity of a tadpole. Her environment is fine as far as I'm concerned and we'd never leave her alone for more than 5 minutes. Mrs. A is more of a hawk than I am and doesn't even like it when they're in different parts of the house unattended - a trait she's quickly abandoning, sometimes grown ups need quiet.

All the cabinets and drawers and oven controls are child proofed. I think the worst thing they could do themselves is leave a tap running. They can get their own food and water and even G-man is starting to go to the bathroom himself. I think when a discussion like this comes up, it's less about what a kid can do to themselves and more about what can happen to them. I read a comment where a parent said they live on a small island and they have no problem leaving their kid alone for a few minutes or in their car while they pop into a gas station or the like. But they said were they in the city there'd be no way they'd do that.

What a horrible thing we have to think about, that someone would harm a child. It's larger conversation to be sure and one that's as gray as summer storm clouds. Personally I can understand crimes of passion, crimes committed out of desperation. I cannot fathom the psychological make up that would need to exist that would cause you to premeditate a nefarious act against a child. It's sad when I'm more worried about a random stranger busting into our house and defiling or stealing our children than I am about them turning the gas on and playing with flaming Ajax soaked scissors.

I remember having babysitters when I was young, but I was really young and it's the fading part of my memory that exists in my pre-adolescent years. Research shows you have a good memory of your life, even birth, until you're about 15, then suddenly you start not remembering your childhood years as clearly. I remember a babysitter we had for a short time and I remember her being "fired" but I can't remember why. I don't know how old I was at the time. The thing is, my mom stayed home and my dad worked so there was always someone there. We didn't have distant banks of mail boxes, we had a milkman and we had in town grandparents and family friends who could watch us if mom and dad needed a night out. I don't remember being left alone. I remember being left in the car for a couple minutes at a time, but we also didn't have car seats and could sit in the front seat if we wanted.

It was a different time, it always is. I suspect in another two or three generations, children will live in a completely sealed off and sterilized room until they're 18. Which will be good for the parents piece of mind, but the almost-adult will probably get a cold the first day out and die.

Unfortunately we don't have the close grandparents or the tons of family friends to count on. We've got a couple people that can be there if we need them, and that's nice, but it's definitely not a village.

Carry on.


Colorado Trip

Here are the photos of the trip, view and read along. You'll know it's time to advance the frame when you hear this sound.


Let's begin.

First off, I'd like to apologize to Mrs. A's brother to whom I told I would blog while on this trip. Turns out I was busy doing other things. I had thought there would be plenty of free time but I was mistaken.


LMA and I headed up to Colorado on July 2nd. The original purpose of the trip was to see Transformers with my brother. Later we decided I should take LMA with me so the grandparents could see her. The departing flight left just after 08:50 and had a lay over in Phoenix. The first leg of the flight was just fine. No bumps, good landing. PHX was a decent airport. Older, but clean and easy to navigate. It also had the distinction of offering free wifi to travelers on the concourses. Thank you Phoenix.

The leg from Phoenix to Denver was bumpy but otherwise fine. We arrived in Denver at 14:31 to a bright and dry afternoon. It had been raining in central Texas since the Ford administration so we were glad to see the sun. We stayed at my dad and stepmom's for the first couple days and they were nice enough to let us eat their food and drink their booze. The first evening was spent chatting and relaxing. I think we tried to watch a movie but I was wiped out so we turned in early. I'd also worked on getting my laptop to connect to my dad's wireless. I'd forgot my Bill Bryson book at home so I needed something my brain could zone out on before falling asleep.

LMA slept with me the entire trip. She didn't want to sleep by herself, a habit we're trying to break but vacation was not the time. She sleeps sideways and is recorded at 126°F.

The next day we have breakfast and I go off to see my brother and sister-in-law. They have a nice condo on the border of Denver and Aurora. They've done some work on it and it's a cozy place. I'm jealous of my brother because they have one room dedicated to his (and I think some of her) collection of action figures, posters, models and all things geek. They have nice countertops too.

Off we go to the movie. If you're reading this, I'm going to talk about Transformers. I may or may not spoil something for you. But you know what, it's a movie about giant robots fighting over humanity and earth. It's not like there's a huge twist.

Personally, I was entertained. There were bits I didn't like and could have done without, but you know what, I wasn't going in expecting Notes on a Scandal. This is the same people who brought you Bad Boys and Armageddon. I wanted to see Megatron fight Optimus Prime, and guess what, I saw it. I'm going to see it again because I had a very out of character moment during the film. I had a large coffee before hand and a bottle of water, but just before the movie started I went to the restroom. Well, about thirty minutes into the over two hour movie, my bladder starts screaming at me. I kept thinking, surely I can hold it till the movie's over. We don't seem to have much longer. Boy was I wrong. I got up with about 10 minutes to go and missed apparently the best line in the film, a reference to the original 1986 movie. I was literally and figuratively pissed. I was shaking and sweating by the time I got to the urinal. Thoughts of kidney failure, bladder rupture and uric acid poisoning. I get back long enough to see the last throws of the big battle and the denouement.

Was it worth it? No. I enjoyed the movie but I think I caused myself undue discomfort, but I didn't want to miss anything. In typical guy fashion, I'd like to say that's never happened before.

Anycrap. We all enjoyed it and afterward we headed back up to my dad's for some 4th of July BBQ, an exchange of birthday gifts (I got my brother a Mr. Potato Head Transformer and he got me an actual Transformer,) and then off to fireworks. We debated going to Brighton's show (because that's where my dad lives) and Thorton (because my brother heard it was a good show with more festival-ness.) We ended up going to Thorton and had a good time watching parachutists, eating funnel cake and playing ball. The sky darkened quickly thanks to some clouds rolling in, but the show didn't start at the announced time. The wind picked up, the orchestra vamped, people were saying it'd just be a few more minutes, but it never started.

But the rain did.

The group we were with decided it's not worth sitting in a rainstorm, and LMA was getting cold so we all packed up, said our goodbyes and started hiking back to the car. As we got back to the main road (we parked in the neighborhood nearby) we hear the announcer count down and we turned back in disbelief as the fireworks started. LMA and I plop down on the side of the road and watch but my dad and step-mom never sat. They kept edging toward the side streets. My dad (like most dads, like most people) hates after event traffic and will always try to leave early. So we did. After about 10 minutes of firework watching, we left. Yes we beat all the traffic.

The irony was, when we got home, the Brighton show had a rain delay and started 90 minutes late. We were able to see the last bit of it from the loft.

Thursday was a lazy kind of day. LMA played in the little pool the grandparents got her and we all went to see Ratatouille. I liked the movie, Pixar did an amazing job with it, but I honestly still liked Cars or Incredibles better. I was hoping LMA wanted to see Transformers (as she is a huge fan) but at the last minute she balked and we saw the rat movie instead.

The next day was a nice breakfast of fruit face pancakes and bacon and then around noon-ish we headed over to see my grandma and mom and aunt. We had a nice lunch and my mom took me to an art store for my birthday present and so I got a few Prismacolor markers (like the wants over on my Wish List, doesn't mean dear readers should ignore that now, right?) So we hung out at grandma's for an hour or so and then headed out...

...into the worst traffic jam I can remember.

Something hazardous and unknown had spilled on the southbound lanes of I-25, the main north/south artery in Denver. It happened two hours before we left my grandma's but the highway was still closed, but as my mom pointed out, they were still letting people ONTO the highway farther up. Anyway, we had to get off the highway, take a few side streets and try and make our way back to a point farther south. In hindsight there was a better way of going, but by the time we had realized it, there was no way to turn around. The normal 90 minute drive from south Denver to Woodland park took four hours.

LMA slept through most of it.

Woodland Park, Colorado is a lovely little town. It lives about 30 minutes west of Colorado Springs and is virtually in the shadow of Pike's Peak. We got into town just in time to get a pizza and chat a bit. We got a tour of the house (which I hadn't seen yet) and then passed out after trying to watch Spirited Away. (LMA's favorite movie.)

The next day we had a nice breakfast of eggs, hashbrowns and fruit and then headed to The North Pole, Santa's Workshop. This is an amusement park at the foot of Pike's Peak. It's geared toward smaller kids, but we all had a good time. After much cajoling, LMA boarded the gondola, the first ride, and realized there is a thing called "thrill." She then rode every ride, no matter how gut wrenching it was. She is an adrenaline junkie. I think she had a good time. She was allowed to drink a soda, she had lime sherbet (which she called lima bean ice cream) and she wasn't really forced to eat much if she didn't want to. Plus she got to sit on Santa's Lap in July. How cool for her. How horrible for Santa, it's freakin July!

The idea was to go to the park and then a movie, but by the time we were done dragging LMA away from the candy-cane colored splendor, we were all pretty beat. LMA and I had a long drive back to Brighton to make so we all decided to go back and rest.

The rest of the trip was typical. Lots of driving, waiting, boarding, checking in. The flight home was nondescript and I was glad to get home to the smell of my own house and the feel of my own bed. It was wonderful to see Mrs. A and hear G-man's voice. Last night Mrs. A came home from running a few errands with three books of sheet music. Oh, did I mention we got a FREE PIANO!?


Carry on.



Yes, yes. We went to Colorado for a few days. I'll write about that tomorrow. Here's an hors-devours to hold you over.

LMA - Mommy, can we go to the White House?

Mrs. A - Yeah.

LMA - Can anybody go to the White House?

Mrs. A - Yeah.

LMA - Even Mexicans?

Mrs. A - Uh huh.

LMA - Wait, did George Bush die?

Mrs. A - No...?

LMA - But what if the Mexicans don't speak English?

Mrs. A - Well I don't know.

LMA - Does George Bush speak Spanish?

Mrs. A - No, not very well.

LMA - He's an idiot.


Seven New Wonders

This seems relatively culturally important.

Of course in five years, some reporter will ask Americans what they are and no one will know because apparently we don't know shit.