Check out some Honda wagon goodness: Wagon Attack
Is allowing pollution and corporate greed about the environment akin to slavery? Take a look and decide: at Treehugger
October - November:
Life has been kinda rocky lately, but I gotta take my rocks with the good times. In the good times category, Amanda and Jeramie and I have decided to start a partnership to invest in real estate. Jer has wanted to have rental houses for a while. I recently have decided that in order to get real long term and passive income, rentals would be the way to go. We got ourselves a mentor who has been helping us understand things in the RE world and get us some contacts of good business people to know. It’s been interesting and at times just a little scary; but not so scary once we start taking action.
We had been visiting some rental houses for sale and getting our finances ready to buy a property. We were calling FSBO’s and taking notes. Then there was a property info sheet forwarded to us, and we looked, listened to several people in the biz, and decided to purchase it.
So that’s what we did today, and so now we are officially real estate investors! We’ll only have very minor fix up to do to the house, and we’ll try to get it rented quickly so we can start making some profit. Really the first year will only probably get back a lot of the initial expenses, but after that we’ll have extra cash.
I went to see my favorite (now) race series, the American Le Mans Series, in Atlanta over the past weekend. I love seeing them race, 3 classes at the same time, a harmony of different engine sounds and varying car speeds, continual overtaking of the slow classes and potential for the leaders to get held up and passed if caught up in traffic. I have some pix at a photo gallery at: http://www.paveglio.com/firebird/gallery/2009almsplm/index.html
July seemed to slip by quickly. There was an autocross that went pretty well. I had to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get some new wheel hubs for the Trans Am- but they are rebuildable and dare I say race-grade. Then I also needed a new master cylinder since it started leakings veryyyyy slowlyyyyy now and then. I like speed but I really like stopping. So that's fixed. We also fixed Amanda's wobbly wheels on her car- it was bad aftermarket wheels. D'oh!
In August we went to a wedding in Ohio. After the reception we went to Cedar Point amusement park. The bride and groom went on with their tux and gown. They got the photos from their favorite coaster. I had to make sure I got on the Top Speed Dragster. Best ride ever!! It just shoots along, goes straight up, back down, and stops. But it starts from a dead stop and goes 0 to 120 MPH in 4 SECONDS! HOLY GEEZ!!! Unless you've been in a real drag race car or Navy fighter jet on an aircraft carrier takeoff, I guarantee you've never felt this kind of acceleration. I loved it. Totally worth 90 minutes wait.
We also went to visit grandmas in NY state. It was a working vacation- we cleaned a car very thoroughly, it had 4 years of road grime stuck on the wheels. At the other one we shovelled 2 tons of dirt around on the lawn and reseeded. It was nice but isn't quite my idea of "vacation".
I am also once again up to speed in the technological lifestyle. I'm on Facebook. Is this good or bad? Well, I'm there and that's fine.
I had a weeklong stay at the Big Nerd Ranch in Atlanta. It was 6.5 straight days of programming. I was learning "real" Mac programming. It was out in the boonies, at a rebuilt paper mill overlooking a stream, on about 120 acres. I had a single cabin a small hike up a hill from the main lodge. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner served. We did not need to go very far for all our needs. Each day we had classroom time from 9 to 6.30. I learned so much there. It was like college, but compressed. I learned so much I'm positive that I didn't retain it all (I should have done some extra [knowledge retain] commands ahead of time). It was completely on target and the best thing I could have done to get a good leg up on programming. I told my wife that before I did not know what I was looking at if I saw a program. But now I can be relatively sure of what I see, and can start to make it on my own at a slow pace.
Just a week or so after that, Amanda was laid off from work. She had been in a department whose sales slowed down significantly this year. She's still looking as of today. Pray for her to find a great good paying job soon, and send any leads our way. Thanks.
At work I've been scripting my butt off with some neat projects. I've been busy during a relatively slow time. But I haven't gotten to put my newfound skilz to use yet. It's been 2.5 years since I had a raise, ugh.
Last week we finally bit the bullet and had the carpets cleaned. They are still the same original carpet from when the house was built I think. We got the steam-clean kind of cleaning and it did a decent job. There are a significant number of cat puke stains that just will not come clean. But the carpets are going to be replaced sometime in the future I think.
We had our neighbor lady and her kids over for dinner the other night. She had looked after the cats when we were away. We had grilled chicken burgers and corn and she brought some pasta salad and cheesecake. It was nice. Her one kid was acting up a bit and almost put the entire ketchup bottle in his mouth. I was concerned from a cleanliness standpoint but that earned him a timeout for about 20mins back on his own porch.
June 2009: NYC Trip to see British Mike and fiance photos
Jamaica Trip Photos are posted!
Jamaica Trip Blog: Hey it's our big trip to Jamaica, mon!
Thursday morning our flight was early. We got to BWI at about 5.30am, our flight was at 7am. Amanda got the unjust pat down by a novice metal detector (female) jockey who was wearing a ring and gave false beeps about every 2 inches. It took 5 minutes to get through that. Our flight was smooth and fast, only 3 hours or so. Now that's traveling! We flew into Montego Bay, and thought to ourselves how that airport seems so much more industrial than what we saw in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. No matter, we weren't staying there.
We boarded a van to go to the resort, but had to wait quite some time for other passengers to arrive and get through customs. We filled the van, and listened to Jamaican radio and watch the skies rain down on us. It was the start of the rainy season in Jamaica, only what we had found out a couple days earlier. Thankfully, it was not an all-day rain, but just a couple hour rain until it became sunny again.
Along the way on our 1 hour trip we stopped at a roadside stand for a pee, a drink, I got a rum cream; which is like Irish cream but made with rum, and apparently only available in Jamaica, and surely not in ass-backwards liquor law PA! We saw a gimpy chicken with no claws but just a club foot.
The island is quite poor, and also sort of sandy and rocky. From movies I though islands were lush and soft. But really, most islands are lush with vegetation but it's hardy and has to grow on rocky corally soil. Our bus driver said that we can get the best rum, best weed, and when it rains they call it the season for making love.
When we got to the hotel, it was earlier than 3pm check in, so we walked the grounds and had another drink. Once readied, our room was nice and spacious. Too bad it smelled like a horrible humid moldy locker full of mildew. Ugh! Of course it's a tropical clime, but the AC in the room clearly did not work well, and I suspect it's lack of cooling power (there was just a tiny bit) was due to a broken compressor, though the fan worked OK enough. And the bed, which was supposed to be a king size, was, well cavernous. Which is, there was a cavern between the beds. Yeah we had 2 full size beds pushed together. On a shiny floor.
We changed and ran down to the beach asap for some sun and waves. The water there is very warm and you can walk out a good 200 feet and only be up to your chest. At least at our hotel's beach area. The RIU Tropical Bay in Negril. Down the street was Sandals, which we were told was just as nice as RIU but more expensive, and Hedonism (nudist), and Couples, and a few others. We changed for dinner then and asked a Maitre Dee if there was a free table that the reservation didn't come. He said to wait about 15, so we went for another drink and then came back. Well it was the buffet restaurant and they told us to just walk right in. We sat out on the patio area where the view was nice and had a little breeze.
We walked down the beach in the morning, and were pummeled with offers of trinkets, ganga, shirts, or all. We had to gracefully decline. After walking back we waded in the water for a while and met this guy Barton from Texas. After swimming a while, we just hung out under a tree for a while on the beach. Back near the pool hotels we heard music start up and it was a raggae music fest and dance expo. Girls were dancing and doing some crazy hip motions. They had some jerk chicken being grilled in a hut, and had coconut juice from real coconuts, or pink juice with rum.
After lunch we swam a bit more, but then got on our bus to go on our Rick's Cafe boat tour. Charlie, the driver, stopped and picked up some other folks. We boarded the big catamaran by wading into the water and climbing a small staircase on the boat. We sat on the front and talked to some other people from RIU. Clouds were moving in over us. We cruised around the end of the island to Ricks. There we had to just jump in the water and swim over to the cafe stairs. It was a lot harder than I realized! It was sort of far, and also was against some waves and current. I was swimming with my sandals on. On the way back they began to come undone which slowed me down and worried me a bit. Once at Rick's, Amanda was pretty quick to go to the high dive and jump off. It was a good 35-40 feet up. I got her on camera jumping in. On the way back we had quite a downpour on us. We all crowded under the canopy, had a drink, danced, and made like subway riders, holding onto the overhead rails. After the rain stopped, a beautiful blue and golden sunrise was going down. Amanda and I danced a bit, a very slow hustle, on the deck. I think we had some watchers. Ha ha!
Back at the hotel we had dinner at the Krystal Fusion restaurant. It was a 9pm engagement. We were first in. The place was very upscale and had rotating color lights in the walls. The appetizers were teeny tiny. It was tomato and watermelon foam, a miniscule piece of salmon, and a tiny bit of fried cheese. The smallest pieces of food I've ever seen. Amanda had some spicy pumpkin soup and I had chick pea puree with cooked tuna strips. My main course was lamb bits and vegetable bits. Dessert was a decent size bit of chocolate and ice cream. We left there and stood and watched a dance show of African dance and fire breathing. It seemed to sort of mirror the Lion King story.
We had a late breakfast and then went to the pool. I like the pool and swim up bar area, and wanted to be in clean water for a while. The sky was growing cloudy but the water is very warm. We got a drink and were watching some of the other people there. It appeared to be a wedding group in front of the bar. We noticed a guy with a yellow bandana whom I dubbed "Hulk Hogan". Then we heard him talk and he was very british. So he was the British Hulk Hogan. He stopped over and started talking to us. He was father of the bride. After some time it started to rain and drizzle. We were all sort of chatting together and having drinks and toasting. We met this guy named Rage from Los Angeles. Then we met a couple from Minnesota, Ben and Megan (say Meee-gan). And then we met from Maine Mike and Savannah. BHH (British Hulk Hogan) was getting tanked and climbed up the fountain in the middle of the pool. His dauther "with the little titties and big bum" went behind the bar to get out of the rain I guess and was trying to help serve drinks. Ben and Megan and MIke and Savannah and us later went to a little table/sitting area off to the side of the pool and had more drinks and talked and laughed. A couple from Belgium came over and tried to talk with us and tried to make us drink this wretched concoction of tequila, gin, and vodka, ie TGV like the train. We did the stage drinking technique and tossed it over our shoulder while they weren't looking.
We had dinner at the Japanese restaurant that night. Good sushi, better than I was expecting! The night was hot and muggy and we did not want to stick around for whatever show was going on. We had to walk through the "street sales" area in the middle of the resort again I think, and just went to bed.
We had planned to go snorkelling but it was raining reasonably well by the time we got to the front to get ready for it. I had asked someone up at the desk if they still do it, and she said usually; but she was not our official tour lady. We stood in line for reservations to the steakhouse place, which again seemed like a huge waste of time, considering we were there at 7.30 and were still 30th in line. So as we sat our tour lady showed up and called and said our snorkel was cancelled. Amanda instead went for a massage and I finished reading the worst novel ever, the Unconsoled. Do not read it, its total crap. I actually skipped about 200 pages and went toward the last couple chapters. I missed nothing.
We went to the Scuba Caribe house and signed up for some snorkelling on Monday and wind surfing later in the day. Our windsurf time arrived and we got on some vests and went out into the shallow water with our teacher. He gave us the lesson in the usual Jamaican way, which was short on technicals and long on "OK mon". I had water skiied before and knew it was a whole body workout/solution. I got up on the board, and took several tries to right up the sail. Amanda tried it a bit then. I tried again and got the sail up and eventually I was sailing if for only about 20-30 seconds. In the mid section of the lesson though our teacher started sailing out with the wind and never turned around. He was out for a bit, then fell. Then was up, sailed farther away, fell. He was a good 1000 feet out and we wondered what the hell was going on, and went and inquired about it at the booth. Well, no problem mon, your lesson will be OK. Eventually he swam the sail back and fixed it, he said it broke. To make up, after our lesson, we went out on a catamaran boat for a sail. He gave us some instruction on sailing technique, although honestly I had no interest in learning sailing and was slightly concerned how far away from the beach we were.
We were meeting Megan and Ben for dinner. We had a nice time chatting inside over dinner, it was international night, which meant essentially no theme foods we just make what we want. Though it was reasonably good. We went over to meet Mike and Savannah for the evening show. It was a steel drum band, which jumped around like headbangers and played feverishly. Their act seemed to deconstruct into a breakdance competition with all the RIU hotel dancers taking a shot at jumps and flips and breaks.
Snorkelling onward! Onto a catamaran with Barton and his crew and others. We snorkelled close to the jut out of the southern end of the beach. I had been having some water trouble with the underwater camera bag but today it was all kosher. There were not too many fish around and certainly not very large ones. We boated off to the island of MBJ Making Babies in Jamaica and snorkelled there. It was much more corally there with many large rocks and upcroppings of coral and stone. It was sort of confining because we do not want to crash into the reef but had to swim really carefully. At one point it was like a maze. I tried to have Amanda take a picture of me when I went under but didn't breathe right and got a lungful of water.
After that Amanda wanted to lay out on the beach. We neglected to put new sunscreen and thus got burned, not to be discovered until about 4 hours later. I tried to hand feed a white bird some scraps from a table where food was left. We got a shower and went out to see a nice sunset on the beach and take some photos and a movie. We walked southward on the beach to check it out and see the nudist area. We had a lot of time to kill until our late dinner at 9, we walked the beach again for a bit. We were bitten by lots of mosquitos and at dinner it was nearly non-stop. I got twitchy from every little thing I felt on my skin. We had snacked a little at the buffet and were not very hungry at 9 and did not eat too much of our meal. The wine was pretty mediocre too, but hey it's free.
Amanda wanted to shop so we went down the beach and hit up, or were we hit up, the sales shops. We finally saw one of those little sand crabs digging his hole. Our goodies bought, we had to pack to leave a little earlier then scheduled. Thank God for air conditioned busses. Our hotel departure at 11.30 was good, since the ride was 1 hour until we had a break. At a gift shop tourist trap. I bought some rum cream but I think it has gone bad. Then in the bus for another 90 mins stuck in construction traffic. The airport was easy to get through, the flight was fine. BWI had drizzle and low visibility, icky weather. But otherwise uneventful.
Chris's tips for rum buying in Jamaica
Your best bet is probably the Airport duty free shop. BUT, you will only be allowed 2 bottles per person. At the airport, you will check your baggage, then go through security, then after through security, you can shop at the duty free shop upstairs. The liquor store there clearly has the best selection possible. Many flavors of rum cream, all versions of Appleton rums, and many other liquors, all fresh, and they pack it in little sealed boxes for you to carry onto the plane.
If you want to bring more than 2 bottle home per person, you'll need to pack it in your checked luggage. So you'll need to buy it before getting to the airport. Don't overpay! I paid for Appleton Reserve and 12 about US $40 a bottle, which was way too much. The same product was about $15 in the airport store.
Appleton is available in the US (hey even PA!) in a couple varieties. So refrain from buying anything you can get in the US. Check your local stores or websites before you travel!!
What you probably won't find is the Rum Cream, of various flavors or brands. Check your stores first, I see very little of it available in the US. So, seek out rum cream if you like it. You can get this at the airport store. There are many flavors of rum cream, including "plain", coffee, banana, coconut, and chai tea I think.
In the US airport, I did not specify the number of bottles of rum we were bringing in, only a dollar value, on my customs form. I am vague on the actual law for importing, ie the number of bottles or dollar value. If you are unassuming and average looking I imagine you could bring many bottles of rum back with you, more than 2 each, so long as it doesn't seem like a struggle to pull/carry your luggage. Also consider the extra weight fees for checked luggage, and of course good packing technique. You could conceivably but 2 bottles in each checked bag, and also buy 2 at the airport store to carry on the plane and be fine.
May 2009: Trying to get rid of excess junk in my life. Selling/giving away some stuff. Fixing the Trans Am door, getting an oil analysis with help of Jon French (mini-TA) husband of a friend at work.
Star Trek movie came out on 5-8 and it is AWESOME! 6 out of 5 stars! I loved it, we all loved it
April 2009: Autocross season is here again. The month started with a 2 day event in the blowing wind and moderate cold at Hershey. I had some competition from CPR and other regions. Sam Strano brought his Camaro, and beat the rest of the field by 2 seconds but seemed to be grumbling about it. WTF? Anyways it was fun. I then went to some Porsche Club autocrosses (caution sh*tty website), they have invited others to attend to fill the ranks and maybe make some extra dough. The first course was smooth and extremely fast! 2 Turns that were essentially high speed sweepers with 50+mph entry speed. My TA with 315 tires really stuck well. I totally kicked asses there! Made a name for myself at the second event. I missed FTD by 0.003 seconds (to a prepped 911). I was getting props from some guys including the Porsche guys. Some European guy told me that he expected my car to swerve out of control, but then he saw me drive it and knew I had the skills. Totally creamed a 914 that had a Chevy v8 transplanted inside it, and some guy in a Subaru that was skeptical of my claim of FTD the week before. Fear the Trans Am!! My hubs on the car are getting worn from the big tires. My brake rotor just developed a crack. At the 3rd PCA AX, my brake booster motor pretty much failed me completely. Ugh, vacuum.
I decided that I must become richer and increase my skill level. I am going to the Big Nerd Ranch to learn Mac programming, for real. It's an intensive immersive 7 day course, in Atlanta, that will give me the knowledge to take on more programming on the Mac and iPhone. Wish me luck! Finally got to see my friend Mandi. Hadn't seen her for years. She needed some Mac upgrades to her old eMac. It took a new hard drive, DVD burner, and some more ram. Runs like a champ now, but could be a bit faster. The new OS and new software sort of taxes the processor. But that machine is built like a tank! If the processor could be upgraded with a plug in CPU like some old ZIF pc processors, this would scream and still be a fantastic machine. Even the screen (tube) still looks great. It was fun to be with Mandi and see her photography she has been doing.
March 2009: I had been eagerly anticipating the Watchmen movie. I read the book/comic book with interest just to know the story and know what the fuss was all about. It was pretty interesting, and I am not a comic book reader really. Playboy is more my kind of magazine (haha!). So the movie premiered and I LOVED it! It was everything it should and could have been. Well it could have been longer, but realistically it was just right. It was a fantastic character development movie, that moved along, had some action, and a nifty plot. The changes from the book to the movie plot made a lot more sense actually, and worked well. I recommend this movie to everyone!! 5 stars out of 5!! It's not for little kids, grownups only! I saw it twice in the theater. I should have seen it more. Today, now it's May, I could go for seeing it again actually.
We fixed up Amanda's bagpipe lair with some panelling in the basement. No longer is it exposed beams and insulation, now it's a real wall. I want to do some more fixing up but I often don't feel like I have the time, the project seems "big". Thankfully it's only the basement.
I bought a toy - Aliens the movie figure of the Queen Alien, it's 12" tall and realistic. Sort of scary and sexy. Not like in "it's a girl" but "it's designed beautifully".
February 2009: Amanda and I decided we were going on an anniversary vacation. We really liked the all inclusive resort from the Clipper trip, so we wanted that kind of experience. No worries about dining, payments, drinks, anything. We went to Liberty Travel, and got booked there. Ha, booked sounds like we're criminals. A travel agency is the easiest to deal with for this kind of trip. We could have researched it ourselves but it's so much faster to name a destination, name a price, name a date, and you're done. I know maybe we pay a bit for the service, but again, it's all included. We are going to Jamaica, at the Riu Palace hotel. They have 6 restaurants, free alcohol, a fridge in the room (very important for Amanda's insulin!), a nice size pool and beach, free snorkelling maybe and 1 free scuba lesson I think. It fit our budget just a little better than Sandals or Beaches or Hedonism.
We went to an interesting wedding in DC. Amanda's friend got married to an Indian man, like Ghandi-Indian. The first ceremony was in a R.C. church then at a hotel was the Indian part. It was all in Hindu and few people understood that language. It was long but there was a nice cocktail hour and dinner was nice, the Indian dance music was fun!
January 2009: Started off with not a bang but some fun hoopla with my best friend John Nissley and his wife. We went to the center of Lancaster, had some drinks, make some noise and jokes, and went to see the Rose drop in the square. Well the rose didn't drop, it popped out of a box, and it was barely off the ground. It was sort of underwhelming. Pffft.