Monday, August 31, 2009

Kid Takes Leap of Faith... Meets Ground!

It was beautiful this weekend. In fact it was so nice, we actually spent a considerable amount of time in the back yard playing. However playing gets boring so you have to spice it up a little bit. So as you can see, Little Guy decided it was not enough to climb and slide, but he decided to reach new heights, and then reach new lows.

The event of the afternoon was jumping off of stuff, which Little guy mastered, well almost. Wife caught us doing this and we got a stern looking at, I thought assuring her that we would stop if there were any broken bones would change her attitude completely. I was wrong, the look became even more stern.

I couldn't really tell but I am almost certain that Wife either wanted us to continue playing after something got broken, which, in my opinion, is just bad parenting (I mean at least wrap any exposed bone in a towel or something before moving on to other activities like bike riding or wrestling) or she wanted us to stop this behavior immediately.

This also seemed odd cause all I was doing was giving encouragement and taking pictures. I would yell good advice like "Don't land on your head, you're not wearing a helmet" or "Belly flops only look cool when done in water, but whatever, express yourself!" This finally got shut down when Little Guy jumped, put his legs straight out in front of him, and landed flat on his bum (can I say bum here? Even when not referring the homeless? I don't know the rules on this.)

Then there was one of our other favorite afternoon activities... Being Texans.

Being a Texan means doing something involving a gun of some sort. However we live in a very liberal part of Texas, so you have to balance a good gun story with some waxing and waning the value of post-modern cubism as practiced by the neo-ghetto-pre-sensationalist Tag artisans of South Central LA and their effect on modern architectural paint resistant nano materials.

So twin #1 (the older of the 2 by 2 1/2 hrs... lets not get into that) thought that carting an assault weapon style water gun around would while "tagging" my back porch would help him to fit in to our new culture.

I think he pulled it off with style. Notice how he sticks to only monochromatic themes so as not to unbalance his Chi. He also gets really into his work, as you can see, so much so that this required a near-bath experience to clean up.

Awesome Day!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brig's Identity Stolen... Perpetrator Caught!

So you've seen the movie "Single White Female" with Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh right? Let me sum up, chick moves in with other chick, crazy new roommate starts dressing like other chick and its basically identity theft before we heard about identity theft during every TV commercial break since 2003.

I never thought that I would be a victim of Identity Theft. As you can see here in this picture, I found the perpetrator of my Identity Theft and tackled him on my sofa as he was trying to escape out the back door. You can see from his smug little grin that he thought he was going to get away with this serious crime, and yes stealing my identity is a crime, and looking this HOT should be.

This latest event has all of the elements of a classic identity theft. First, kid stalks me every day. When I wake up, he is standing in my doorway, I go to dinner and I can be about 99% certain that he is going to be there. No joke, he even eats the same stuff I do almost every night! The worst of it is, I have seen him go out to lunch and shopping dates with a lady that looks exactly like my wife. It is freaking me out.

In the latest incident, he even stole my wardrobe! He went out with wife look alike today, and comes back to my house, MY HOUSE in these trendy plaid shorts and gray polo. Even though this freaky little "Mini Me" wannabe looks rather stylish, I got the distinct impression that not only has he stolen my identity, he has ripped off my DNA. Took it, with no regard to the consequences.

There needs to be an investigation into this institutional DNA theft. I think congress is involved in this conspiracy. I want to know what they knew and when they knew it. Then I want mandated education about DNA theft in schools.

Don't be a victim! Unless the perpetrators are this cute!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Brig Pushes Down Little Kid... Takes Bike!

I don't know how they made bikes like they used to, but the ones they make now are pretty nice. I stole this bike from some little kid on my street, ok, it was my own kid, but this bike was a lot of fun to ride. I know that I look like some circus clown in this photo, but I am a pretty good sized guy (getting smaller), and this bike didn't even budge. I didn't try to bunny hop, for the youngsters here, that is where you jump both wheels off the ground, but I'm certain it would have withstood that despite popular belief.

This is my little guy's new "Big Boy Bike." It's a 16" Jamis. Now I know what you are thinking, "When did Brig get to put the training wheels up as seen in this photo?" Well, although it is a fairly recent development, I can ride a "2 wheeler," although I do keep the training wheels on, you know, just in case. We, like many Americans, live on a pretty quiet culdesac, cul de sac is a stupid word, or three, because speel checker has no idea what to do with that word, so I am going to spell it 10 different ways just because I can.

What was even better about tonight, was that my little guy kept whining that he wanted to ride my skateboard. So what do I do? I give the kid a board. What happens next? Wife starts asking about pads and helmets and pillows and duct tape or something like that. I figured a helmet would be enough. Check out little guy in this pic though, he just landed a backside varial to shove-it. You can't prove that he didn't, so that is what I am going with for the sake of argument.

Also, wife wants to keep kids anonymous, hence the reason she started her private family blog, so I figured I could, without argument, show a picture of my little guy from behind, maybe this isn't even my kid, maybe I just goth this off the internet, who knows. My question is, how do I become "Daddy Blogger of the Year" if I can't even show the proof that I am in fact a "Daddy?" I mean paternity test aside, photos of a kid that, unfortunately for him, look eerily like me is all I've got.

Anyway, little guy skied 4 Black Diamonds this year in Utah (Sundance/Park City), so with any luck I can help him get into the X Games next year, maybe he will compete in both skateboarding and skiing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Farewell Good Friend... A Memorial

It has been a tough day for me. The passing of an Era one might say is always hard to bear. If there has been one single stalwart that has stood the test of time, I/we have now lost that stalwart. Yes, there have been ups and downs over the years, but this titan has overcome all obstacles.

Maybe it is the pedigree from which this noble giant came from, a history of exceptionalism, generation upon generation of reinvention while holding o
n to old world values of integrity, hard work, and no one can argue with the style that always seemed to complete the package. One can and will miss the glory days, going where trailblazer dared go before, reinventing a way of life while looking to ensure that all men can look forward to greater heights and a brighter future.

This fighter has taken the greatest of falls, has been knocked down time and time again only to come back to life in a way that no one expected, when all hope was lost, life sprang forth from what some would consider the divine. Many doubted the tenaciousness, critics waxed and waned over what can now only be heralded in memory by the passing of this once great icon that will forever be imprinted on my mind and cherished in my heart.

I personally share in the loss of this once great comm
unicator, a voice coming out of seemingly nowhere to awaken the senses, as if a long lost friend had bridged the great divide with only simple words, and they came across as clear as ones heart and mind could accept them. A seeming endless fountain of innovation with a hint of practicality as this leader acted as a compass many times to show us the right way to where our ideals could only take us generally.

Often playful, this uniter brought us together in laughter, a voice as an endless stream of melodies and rhythm. This voice has now been silenced, and energy and power taken from the being from which light will no longer lead us through the darkness.

Now with this passing, I would like to say goodbye old friend, good bye.

Oh, you thought I was talking about Ted Kennedy? No way, I’ve never met the guy. My old iPhone died last night so got the new one today. Somehow the touch screen on my old one went out, so I had to go to the AT&T store today at lunch to get a new one. I am very sad to see my old 1st generation 2G iPhone gobut after 3 years, it was bound to happen.

That thing was tougher than nails, hit the concrete dozens of times and every time it turned back on. Anyone who knows me knows that I am tough on small electronics, phones, watches, cameras, you name it, I’ve broken it. The old iPhone was practically indestructible. Now I have to re-download all of my music and applications like GPS, flashlight, light saber and pocket tanks.

The new iPhone has an acrylic case, and not nearly as tough as the old one, but the technology is so much better. Let’s see if this generation can outshine the last.

On the shoulder of giants we go into new frontiers with the knowledge that we can give brighter hope to the generations that follow.

Here's to New Beginnings! And here’s to Apple getting their act together and putting video conferencing and a mini-projector on the next generation iPhone!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

P90X (Day 2)

DAY: 2




Best Buy Sucks!

Sorry, I couldn't let this slide. Over at WitnessToInsanity Wife decided to post about Little Guy's new Big Boy Bike. Unfortunately she missed all of the details, this was not a simple load up the Brady Bunch into the station wagon and take a nice stroll down to the Pigley Wigley for ice cream cones. This was a full on load up the freaking Griswalds in the Family Truckster and head to Walley World, complete with Cousin Eddie and a dead cat.

Here's the real story. Rather than going directly to Walmart (the smart decision), we decided instead to go to Best Buy to get the Wii and Rockband. So we get to Best Buy, and mosey our way back to the video game section. I am totally excited because we have been talking about this forever and I am even more excited because it is not simply about video games (as most of you know I hate playing video games, but love watching them being played...don't ask, I think it is jacked up too), but we get to have Rockband because Little Guy no longer takes a #1 and drops a Deuce in his shorts. Little Guy is Potty Trained. This was alluded to in Wife's post, but this is a HUGE DEAL!!!

So as usual, while at Best Buy (actual crappy Best Buy near our house photo to the left), we can't find anyone to help us. We need help because Wife somehow missed the fact that there is a difference between RockBand and Guitar Hero. WHAT? This is like saying there is no difference between ______ and _____. Sorry I couldn't think of anything clever to put here, but you get where I am going with this. So as usual at Best Buy, there is NEVER ANYONE AROUND TO HELP YOU! Did I say that already?

My mistake was going there in the first place. Last year I got Wife an iPod Touch. I spent over 30 minutes waiting for 3 different idiots to find a key to get one out of the case, and then ended up just leaving when nobody ever came back. I swore I would never go back, except we have been going there off and on to play RockBand/ Guitar Hero off and on for a few months (which makes me wonder why I need to buy this for my house if I can just go to Best Buy and break theirs). That is the next problem, every time we go to Best Buy, one of the game systems is broken.

So finally some guy shows up to help us, and he ends up laying on the floor for 20 minutes trying to fix the RockBand system so that we can check out the playability before we lay down a couple of Benjamins to take it home. So, he never got it fixed, but we (Wife) decided to go with Guitar Hero (I liked RockBand cause the drums have a base pedal and drums are more stable, however Wife objected to the graphics of some dude hanging off the side of a truck swinging a ball and chain while singing punk songs, thought it might give the boys a bad example, unlike the church-bound mohawk/multiple piercings/tattoos/spikey crotch thing wearing guys on Guitar Hero = Role Models.) Anyway, Best Buy didn't even have a Guitar Hero set for the Wii, they said they did, based on the computer, but after running around for another 15 minutes asking all of the check-out clerks if they had sold it, the guy decided that they in fact, had sold it earlier. NO KIDDING!

So then we loaded up the crew into the Truckster and headed to Walmart. We get there, head to the back, get us some Guitar Hero and on the way to do some general grocery shopping we pass by the bikes. Here is where my life started to rock. Little Guy turns to me and says, "Dad, I changed my mind, I don't want RockBand, I want a bike!" I'm thinking wow, this kid is my hero, an inspiration to us all, what a great decision, what insight he has, most little kids would never think to save me like $400. So we started to check out bikes. We went from 16" to 18", and he decided he wanted the 18" Green Mongoose, complete with green plastic spoke things. Now in like 1987, that would have been a really cool bike.

Kid 1: "Dude, what kind of bike did you get?"
Kid 2: " I got a Mongoose, what did you get?"
Kid 1: "I got a Huffy"
Kid 1: "Um, I guess that's cool, how come you didn't get a Mongoose or a Haro?"

However technology has changed in the last 25 years. Cast Iron is no longer an acceptable material for building a bike, as witnessed when wife tried to lift the Mongoose and almost ended up in the hospital. The thing weighed like 45 pounds, no joke, that was the shipping weight. So long story even longer, the bike seat was jacked up and we somehow convinced Little Guy to stop riding it around the store and promised to get him a bike the next day. Later that night, Wife decided to get a better (read lighter) bike after reading some product reviews on the Mongoose comparing it to a really effective boat anchor.

We finally picked up a Jamis from Southwest CycleSport, a local bike shop with knowledgeable sales guys recommended to us by another bike shop that apparently specializes in bike apparel because they only had like 4 bikes in the entire place including the one brought in by a disgruntled guy that needed to take a chill pill and drown it with a fifth of Jackie D.

So, Cool Bike: Check.
Griswalds home safe: Check.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

P90X (Day 1)

DAY: 1


It has been pointed out (by my nit picky little brothers) that my Day 1 weight loss appears to make me superhuman in the weight loss world. Although this is true, I can gain and lose up to 5 pounds a day (I love McDonald's Quarter Pounders, and I really love 10 of them in one sitting) , even I would have a hard time dumping 13.5 pounds in one day, even the day after the 10 Quarter Pounders. So in the spirit of full disclosure, I have been doing P90X for about 4 weeks already (off and on). For the purposes of a bet that I made, I am starting over.

The bet goes as follows:

Contestants: 2
Bet: $200 each, $400 pot
End Date: November 25th
Details: The bet is broken into 2 parts. $200 (actually only $100, cause you get your $100 back) goes to the total % weight-loss winner. My comrade and I both started at about 225lbs (stop mocking me! I know, I know). The second $100 can be earned back to either or both contestants that lose 10% of their total body weight based on earlier weigh-in. So, both of us have to lose about 22.5 lbs. So, If I lose 11%, and comrade loses 10%, I make a net $100. however if comrade loses 11%, and I lose 9%, then he makes a net $200.

Do you have what it takes to get into shape? Wanna bet on it?

Post your challenges in my comments section and I will track your contests weekly here on Brig's Blog for 1/7,000,000,000 of the world to see. For instance, my 2 Connecticut readers (not Michelle) could probably stand to lose a couple pounds, they could challenge each other here to a 5% loss by Thanksgiving, and I will post their results weekly
(I know their wives, so we can keep them honest.) The best part is that no money need be involved, just the public non-humiliation of having your anonymous weight loss results posted here. I can do non-anonymous as well, for additional motivation.

Let's get it on!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Exclusive: 2 New Features on Brig's Blog

So I thought I would add a couple of features to Brig’s Blog. The first is going to be my weekly stock picks. This feature will give you my incredible insight into my stock picking genius. You may know that I have extensive experience pretending to be a finance guru.

My non-pretend actual resume includes a year long stint as the top analyst in the $1,000,000 MBA run Silver Fund at the Marriott School of Management, a semester as an analyst in the $20,000,000 Student Investment Management Fund at The Ohio State University, and last but not least, I was entrusted by Morgan Stanley with their Most Valuable Potential Client Cold Call List (MVPCCCL) – it also goes by its more common name, The White Pages (TWP), for use at my discretion in attempt to swindle people (not rich enough to get an unlisted #) out of literally hundreds of dollars for which I made a whopping Wall Street Bulge Bracket Hamptons Mansion (picture) Buying $8/hr.

The second new feature is my P90X Progress Report, now this one is more selfish than anything. To keep me honest, I am going to post daily about what workout I am doing, and whether it is helping or not. I may add a “Daily Gut” photo, but will have to think about as I doubt anyone wants to see that, least of all me. As you may know if you have visited us lately, we have removed all of the mirrors from our house so as to avoid having to look at my gut (which, come to think of it, would also explain Wife’s make-up and hair tragedies lately). The last part about the mirror removal is completely and positively untrue, but one wonders if it should be. This feature will be like an episode of the “The Biggest Loser” except without the annoying giganto-scale and goofy tank tops. That, and I fit both connotations of "The Biggest Loser."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Countdown to REI Garage Sale II (Friday)

News Flash: Brig is an Idiot

Ok, so maybe this is not exactly news to most of you, I was a little shocked though. I have known Brig all my life, and at no point have I ever witnessed me doing anything so stupid, that it defies logic. I have been so irrationally excited about getting to go to another REI Garage Sale, that I turned down an early round of golf tomorrow, and didn't take the time to reconfirm the dates first.

So there is no Garage Sale tomorrow. I know, all of you were so excited about hearing about the guy with the clip in dreadlocks, the hairy leg chick that hasn't taken a bath in a week, yet somehow still driving a Prius and drinking $8 coffee, the scout master that showed up in his uniform for some reason, and drug his 13 year old quartermaster along with him, also in full scouting battle gear, the motorcycle guy that drives up and down the line scoping out whether he wants to wait in line, or just pay retail later. But you will not get to hear about this, and you will also not get to know about my last weekly installment of Countdown to REI Garage Sale II (Friday). Sorry, no hate mail please. It's not as if most of you have been paying attention anyway, based on the comment level of a couple of this weeks posts.

So, in recognition of my moronicness, I am going to go golfing tomorrow, and resume my REI Garage Sale-ing in September. The best part is I haven't told WIFE that I am going golfing, she thinks that I am just going to hit the sale for 20 minutes and turn around and come home and rub her feet. Uh-Uh sister. I am going to take my shiny new Callaways and hit my way up and down some delicately manicured significantly overpriced ecologically disastrous real estate. And I am going to drag it out.

Here's to going from faux hippie to faux yuppie!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Countdown to REI Garage Sale II (Thursday)

If there is a staple in the REI Garage Sale, it is the Chacos. For some reason everybody loves to buy these things, and then for some other reason, by my calculation, about 56.3% of buyers return them.

That is where I come in, this is my second pair of garage sale Chacos. My first pair was a size nine, and all black, they barely fit, but I was poor and they were $9.83. I needed to look cool, you know, like those faux hippie pot smokers that protest everything and care about nothing, but they are the IT thing in sandal footwear. So I wore that pair for about 5 years.

Chacos used to be a counter culture sandal, they were the anti-Teva. Teva was the original anti-Teva, but they "sold-out." So we needed to embrace another not yet sold-out brand, and Chacos won the fight. What was unique about these at the time was that the webbing is basically 1 piece, and when you snug them up, it hugs your feet like your auntie Gertrude, but without the missing teeth and slobber.

Then several years ago at a Garage Sale in Sandy Utah, I got these beauts. The glue is coming undone on the bottom a little, but otherwise they are holding up like champs. And you guessed it, they only cost me $9.83. The return on investment on these is huge. My Chacos have seen a lot of action, they have done time in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Potrero Chico Mexico, Enchanted Rock in Texas. This pair has stood on the beach in Santa Cruz California and at the feet of Lady Liberty herself.

Where have your Chaco's been?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Countdown to REI Garage Sale II (Wednesday)

One of the best finds ever at an REI Garage Sale was my bike stand. This is a Feedback Sports Sport Mechanic Bicycle Repair Stand, it retails for $150, and cha ching!! I got it for $9.83.

Now I know what you are thinking, it was missing a leg, or it was broken in half. Actually, it was in perfect shape except for one of the knobs to tighten the adjustable upright, that was cracked. So my brother who worked at a bike shop at the time, sent it in from his shop and a couple of weeks later it came back either fixed, or they just sent me a new one, we couldn't tell.

This thing has come in really handy. Working on a bike is a pain enough, especially without a repair stand. Even simple things like airing up the tires is easier on a stand. However this makes it infinitely easier to work on the derailleurs, cranks and breaks.
What I really like about it is how easy it is to put the bike on, then rotate into the right position for whatever you are doing. It also folds up really small for when it is not in use.

I really wish I had a good story for this thing, however it is not like I am going to take it backpacking with me and try to use it for roasting small animals when we forget the food in the trunk of the car and go 3 days scrounging for whatever we can get our hands on cause all we brought was a bag of trail mix. I would never do that.

However this is a good spot to rant about my bike for a minute. I love my bike. I ride an SWorks M2. It is not flashy, and it is definitely not full suspension, it is half suspension! Some people call this a "hard tail." Do you remember those? They are bikes that don't come with 4 wheel anti-lock disk brakes, double wishbone suspension and air bags. This is a real bike, and it is light.

What is awesome about this bike is that the frame is completely un-breakable. I say that because I have broken every single component on this bike except for the frame. I took monster jumps on this thing that left the front shock literally broken in 2, and I run beefy Manitou shocks. I have broken a handmade custom Paul derailleur, I have broken the handlebar, some shifters and even a rim or two or three. The frame has not even a hint of damage.

Did I mention that this thing is probably about 10 pounds lighter than your bike? It might not be the downhill Cadillac that some nutcases ride, but it gets the job done, and I didn't have to spend $1000 to put a "brain" on it to tell it to let me ride uphill without losing all of my power. So if you want to go hit some single track, let me know. I will take you out and sow you how to barrel head first into a tree, time after time after time and again, without breaking anything but my skull.

And in case you were wondering, this is not a retail bike. Your bike may look like a pro, but this one has a stamp of authenticity. It is so exclusive, that I can't even sell it to you.! Booyah! I'm still looking for a stamp though that says you can't steal it out of my garage when my wife continually leaves the garage door open.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bonus Post - Wife Caught with Gin Blossoms Singer

I got tickets to a Gin Blossoms concert this morning (concert was tonight). I called wife and told her to get a sitter, we are going out! I told her where, and she got depressed and asked if we could go to Walmart instead and check out Michael Jackson Commemorative Posters and Plates. I assured her it would be for a good cause (me sucking up to the corporate man, good enough cause for me).

Anyway, she had such a lame time, she let me talk her into getting her picture taken with the lead singer. After wading all the way from the back of the venue, through nearly a dozen people to the front of the stage, I got this awesome pick. Nice.

I don't want to get all downer about these guys, but when you are shilling for corporate gigs, things must have taken a serious turn for the worst. At first, the show was pretty tame, the bass player looked bored through the first three songs. I even caught him on camera during song # 2 talking to the drummer about how they were going to go on strike if their management company didn't raise their 401k matching from 3% to 5%. Ouch. I'm sure these guys are still getting annual royalty checks in the hundred to hundred fifty dollar range, so any extra income they can get by doing concerts for middle aged computer programmers is probably welcome.

Things started to look up though when lead singer dude started passing around the tambourine. That is when things got interesting. Although I didn't get a turn on the bang hoop, the crowd turned on a dime and got into it. Notice my fake excitement as if I give a crap (Left). That perked up the bassist and he even got a little bit sweaty from jumping around, and the drummer started hitting it like it needed to be hit. By about half way through, it started to be a lot of fun. I've always been a casual fan, in fact I put out hard earned dollars for both the "New" and "Congratulations I'm Sorry" albums. What sucks is I had to go into the living room to find the albums cause I had no idea what they were called.

I guess I'll put it this way, I like them enough to put off switching the radio station to NPR in order to hear the end of their song if I accidentally hit the wrong preset and they happen to be playing. One suggestion though, don't start a concert, even a corporate sell-out event by saying, "yeah, we play a lot of crappy gigs." Cause you never know, could be a self fulfilling prophesy. Good recovery tonight though.

Countdown to REI Garage Sale II (Tuesday)

So it is day 2 of my countdown to this weekends REI Garage sale. I am debating going into the store to ask them their format for the sale, whether it is a playing card sissy show up late version, or if I need to camp out the night before to get a great spot in line. In order to get a shot at hoarding all of the good stuff, you have to be in early, and one of the great finds of REI Garage Sale's past : Garmin eTrex H. scored this thing for $19.83.

This is probably the most basic of the Garmin hand-held GPS units. It is also the least functional. This thing basically gives basic GPS information, speed, altitude, distance, etc. The satellite up-link on this is a little slow, but once it is dialed in, it tracks to within about 30 feet, which is pretty good unless you are a surgeon operating on some poor sucker's heart and using this thing to find the left ventricle, then you are definitely screwed, and should definitely get something that is not only more accurate, but that allows you to download maps, which this definitely does not do.

What this unit does do is a pretty good job of judging distance, which is great if you have a good map to use along side it. Like I noted in the comments section of a previous post, this thing saved my butt from a lot of extra walking a few years ago. My cousin's husband, her son and my brothers were backpacking in Texas in some real muck a few years ago. On the last day of the hike, we thought we were headed the right direction. we pulled out the map and didn't see anything odd until I pulled out the Garmin and noticed that the shape of the trail we were actually walking was not the same as the shape of the trial from the map that we thought we were walking. We had to backtrack a couple of miles, but no harm no foul.

A similar unit to this is map compatible, and would appear to be an overall better choice, but it is about twice as expensive. This one retails for about $99, and the upgrade is about $200. There are certainly better units out there, but the nice thing about a scaled down unit, is you still get to have an adventure, rather than having all possible information at your fingertips, in which case you might as well just watch Rick Steeves hike this thing on the travel channel.

I had a chat with one of my good friends last night, so it looks like there is going to be a Mt. Whitney trip next year, so I am definitely on the lookout for the right GPS solution. What kind of GPS are you using to make your way through the grocery store wilderness?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Countdown to REI Garage Sale II (Monday)

So I thought today I might start a countdown to this weekends REI garage sale with a hit list of my favorite REI Garage Sale finds. Today's installment is a tribute to hiking boots. I got a pair of Lowa Renegade hiking boots around Christmas time in 2003 in at the REI in Tempe Arizona. That was definitely one of my top 3 Garage Sale's ever.

So the Lowa Renegade was not exactly what I wanted, but I'm glad that I ended up with them, and they were definitely worth the $19.83 that I paid for them. You heard that right, they were less than $20, and I really couldn't find anything wrong with them.

The first time I took these out for a spin was on a trip to the Grand Canyon. A couple of friends and I decided to hike to Havasu Falls. We met up at the Phoenix airport and drove to Flagstaff for the night after stopping at Papadeaux's for dinner. I mention that because I had never been to a Papadeaux's outside of Texas before, and it is a most excellent place for Cajun style seafood. So we drove out to the Grand Canyon early the next morning.

So I put on my new Lowas for the first time since I had tried them on at REI, a mistake that would haunt me for nearly 2 months. We hiked down, and if you have not been to Havasu Falls, there is definitely one thing you need to know. There is about 1 mile of kind of steep rocky switchbacks, followed by 9 miles of gently downward sloping deep sandy small crushed rocky crap. I would take the switchbacks any-day over the deep sand hiking.

The real issue here is it is really hard to keep the sand and rocks out of your boots. The only thing that made this trip worth it was the ridiculous color of the water leading down to the falls. It was the most amazing iridescent blue that I had ever seen. This was a welcome because the only other thing you see for 10 miles is brown and reddish and yellowish rock and dirt until you get there.

The problem with the boots was that I did not break them in properly before going on this trip When I laced them up, the top set of lace hooks would dig into my upper ankle, and so I had to loosen the boots, this in turn let sand and small rocks into my boots, which beat the crap out of my feet. In addition to that, I was wearing heavy boot socks, rather than a lighter weight Smart Wool style sock. So not only were my feet getting bloody and torn up from the rocks, but they also were sweaty and irritated, and being a genius, the only other shoes I brought for the week were a pair of Chacos (also purchased at an REI Garage sale in Austin TX). You can see my bloody socks in this photo taken back at the parking lot after the hike back (days 3 days after we hiked in). Seriously after eating 3 ice cream bars sold out of a trailer for $8 each, (no joke) this is the only shady place I could find to lie down and barely not die.)

However, since that first trip, I have nothing but good things to say about my Lowa boots. In fact, I am looking to replace them after my next trip and might just buy another pair, even though I have a staring contest/love affair with a really sweet pair of La Sportiva boots every time I got to an outdoors store.

Have you bought a pair of hiking boots/shoes at an REI Garage Sale? I would love to hear about them. If you have other hiking boot suggestions, leave those in the comment section too! I have a spare pair of Lowa Renegade Hiking shoes (low top version of my boots, only worn once, size 9) to GIVE AWAY to the best hiking story posted in the comments by September 1, 2009. Let your friends know, I'll pay the shipping.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Suckered...Comfort Style!

So I got suckered yesterday. I agreed to stay home with the boys after I got home from the REI Garage Sale so WIFE could go grocery shopping. No big deal. Then she got home, I mowed the lawn, had lunch and then was told that she had forgotten a few items at the store. Again, no big deal, happens all the time. I mean you put tons of stuff into a basket, and then try to remember if you got everything. For this I recommend a list that you can use to cross of items as you put them in the basket, but that's just me.

So I know that you are thinking "so what? Why am I reading this drivel?"

Well, because when WIFE left to go pick up some of those random odds and ends, a tube of toothpaste for the babies, a small spatula, a $2000 sectional for the living room, a tub of cool whip for the strawberry shortcake later.....


Oh, so you forgot to pick up that couch? Was that in the "Home Essentials" section at Walmart? Is that next to the lamp shades? Now I haven't been to Walmart in a while, at least a couple of weeks, but when did they have shopping carts so big that it is hard to see if your combined Love Seat, Couch and Chaise Lounge made it in there. I know that the carts at Sam's Club are pretty big, because they have child seating for two, I know, I have twins and it is always refreshing not to have to push 2 carts around.

But I'm pretty sure that the new carts at Walmart aren't patterned after those dump trucks that work in the mines with the 10' tall tires, and capacity enough to throw in a couch or three among the rest of the junk making it impossible to tell if you really got it or not. I mean how much junk do you have to buy in order to lose track of the item that will barely fit in our living room?

Usually when WIFE gets home from shopping she comes in all chipper and asks if I can come help unload the car, and then she magically disappears after bringing in one loaf of bread. So I empty the rest, and most if it nicely fits on one half of the kitchen table, granted the new kitchen table is a lot bigger than our old new kitchen table that has been relocated to the dining room to preserve it for posterity because heaven knows that we will never use that room as evidenced by our last dining room that I entered to put in a dining room table the day we moved in, and re-entered the dining room to remove the dining room table the day we moved out.

Anyway, apparently I will have a new couch on Thursday. Interesting that the couch store was 15 miles from the tooth paste store, and that the couch store didn't even provide carts in which to lose your couch. I've been suckered. I wonder if I could use similarly ridiculous reasoning if I were to come home with a new 60" LCD 1020dpi 4HDMI TV and argued that I didn't even see it in the cart when I was shopping it just must have fallen in there as I was on my way from condiments to socks by way of a shortcut through electronics.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

R.E.I. Garage Sale Ritual

This morning I woke up early to do something that I do a couple of times a year. I'm not sure why I am compelled to go to R.E.I. on garage sale day, but religiously I do. I think it might be the part of me that loves to get a good deal on man gear, that is broken enough for other people to return, but not broken enough for me to pass up if it is cheap enough. For instance, my brother bought a huge Kelty sunshade that didn't come with poles, and to this day i don't think he has ever successfully set it up. I bought a pair of Lowa low top hiking shoes, when I already have the high tops purchased at another REI garage sale a year earlier. I did buy a set of Flow snowboard bindings for my brother last year, that he ended up contacting Flow and getting a replacement part and now has the sweetest bindings I have ever seen, for $40. And I got a bike stand for like $10, easily worth $150 after my brother sent it back to the manufacturer from his former bike store and we got back a new one. We have made some good scores, along with lots of bad ones, so maybe that is why I continue to go back, just in case.

So I trekked out later than normal. I didn't leave the house until 8 (garage sale always opens at 9). Now historically that would have been utterly stupid, but over the last couple of years, most REIs have handed out playing cards to everyone that shows up and then picks cards out of a new deck and let in the people with matching cards, so it doesn't matter what time you show up.

Well, not today. There was a line, and it went all the way around the building. I had probably about 150 people in front of me. I did have a hint of deja vu though. I came to a garage sale at this same REI with my little brother a few years ago. The only thing that made me feel good about myself, is that about 50 people showed up after me.

No if you have never been to and REI garage sale, it goes like this. Faux Environmentalist Granola people show up really early with Starbucks or Whole Foods branded coffee (because their evil greedy capitalist profits are not as bad as McDonalds evil greedy capitalist profits) and stand/sit/ lie down and/or sleep on the ground in a long line. Then when the doors open, they get into the warehouse where the stuff is, and grab everything in sight and hoard it into a corner where they then sort through it and decide what they really want to buy. While they do this, the other 150 people that showed up late mull around and wait for the guy with the dreads to decide that he really doesn't need a 20th titanium cooking set with a missing cup. Then everyone jockeys for a shot at it.

It is quite amusing. The spectacle is quite predictable, most of the time the mob is respectful, but sometimes there is an argument over the hoarding and the REI staff has to get involved.

Normally I just go to see "what there is," however this morning I was on a mission to get something that I REALLY don't need. A GPS/altimeter/heart rate monitor watch. I was looking specifically for a Suunto. A Suunto is basically a computer the size of a dessert plate with a strap that goes around your wrist.

Now this watch retails for around $500 and if you read this blog regularly, you will know that is peanuts compared to the coveted $6,500 Corum Jolly Roger skull and crossbones watch with a 46mm wide 18mm thick saphire bubble crystal covering the face. So you would think WIFE would be excited about this, well ok, maybe you are smarter than that, but I thought she would be excited about this. She wasn't, surprisingly even after I told her I was going to try to get it for less than $200.

This is the ultimate outdoors-man watch. It has a digital compass, so you can find your way around in case you slept through astronomy class like I did. I'm sure the sun rises and sets, but I won't pretend to know when, when or what that information could possibly do for me as I am trying to gnaw my arm off while sitting in the bottom of a canyon contemplating how much of my arm actually has to come off in order to secure a 7 figure advance on the book rights, and movie and action figure and other assorted paraphernalia perpetuity.

So you ask, did I find one? Did I get one? Can you all come over to admire my awesome find? Yes, No, No. Bummer. I did find one, and when I picked it up for no other reason than to walk around with it for 1/2 hr until I would finally resign myself to set it down again, I knew why nobody else was interested. The price tag on it was $330, and it was broken. The face was coming unglued, and it just wasn't worth the risk to take it home only for it to crap out on my first Man vs Wild adventure. The only thing it would have been good for would be to serve as a raft if I had to go downstream over heavy white water, or if I got bored and needed to stop to play Frisbee with it.

Oh well, next week there is another garage sale at a closer REI. Wish me luck, I'm going early!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Minivan Dilemma

So here's the problem, a mini-van is still a van, and vans suck. Unless it is a '69 VW Bus, but that is more of a bus than a van, so I think it is exempt from sucking.

The issue? The wife has it stuck in her head that she "needs" not wants, but "needs" a minivan. Fortunately I have been cunning enough to avoid and defray this long, but I don't know how much longer I can do this.

Minivans are the great emasculator, as you may have read here, and this is a pretty good source (I know the author). I naively though that that was just metaphorical until I saw this DROP BOX to the left at our local Honda dealership (or on my home version of Photoshop, I forget which it was exactly) . Now I am freaking out over this. One of my best friends/MBA buddies just got one this week, and i haven't even had the stones to call him to ask about the pain, I stay awake all night in a frantic sweat because the nightmares will kill me, and I want to face death with my eyes open.

However it doesn't just say you are a DAD, it says you are a dad with no sense of style. It says you are a dad that has to rent the truck at Home Depot because you don't have a real mans ride. It says you are a dad that can't go anywhere or do anything you want to because you only have little tires and low "handles like a car" ground clearance.

I don't want my big bulky people box with wheels to handle like a car unless it is in fact a car. I don't want my truck to handle like a car, not even close. I don't want a good turning radius, I want to have to do a 15 point turn to pull a Uey on a 6 lane road. I want to be able to put enite sheets of un-cut 4' x 8' sheets of plywood in the back, held in only by that little sissy twine your get at Lowes.

I want this car. And lucky enough for me, I have this car. This is a 1997 Toyota LandCruiser. I can't think of another car that says MAN, than this. This beast has a 9 1/2 inch axle under it. It has FRONT and REAR 4 wheel locking differentials, which I am proud t say that I have both needed and used. This thing has P285 tires, nobody carries those, you have to get them ordered and when you get the bill it hurts, hurts bad. This beast laughs at the gas station as it robs the pump of thousands of gallons a year, it gets 12 mpg regardless of whether it is going straight up the mountain, or straight down it. This thing suck gas while sitting in the driveway turned off. What minivan can do that?

So why on earth would I ever agree to a minivan? Yeah, they come with automatic opening doors, and DVD players and navigation systems. They have slick dials and comfortable seating for 7, where your 3 year old is far enough away from the 1 year old twins that he can't take their blankets when he is cold, or rest his foot on one of their cute little faces when he just needs to "kick back" while enduring a 12 hour road trip.

But WIFE wants a Honda Odyssey. I didn't know exactly what that was, so I looked it up on the internet. This freaked me out as much as the Drop Box! I mean the thing doesn't look too bad, for a guillotine, but what is with all of the little midget creepy crawly guys that it comes with? This is not a feature I was expecting, and I'm not sure if they are standard on all Odysseys. My guess this is an upgrade with a monthly maintenance fee, kind of like On Star, but more invasive. And what exactly do they do? In this picture it looks as if they are performing routine cleaning and maintenance, but do they also dial your cell phone for you as a safety/courtesy while driving? Do they smack your kid for you when he gets too loud while you are trying to listen to Depeche Mode? Is the scaffolding they are climbing on optional, and if so, and you don't buy it, can you opt for slightly taller midget guys? Is this add offensive to Little People? There are important questions that I need answered before I can buy a minivan.

The bigger issue is what to do about the 2nd car. I don't think we need 2 gas hogs, and our Honda Civic gets like 36 mpg. That is great little car for jaunts around the city and my weekly golf game that is about 40 miles each way. It is crazy cheap to drive, and is a great commuter car, hate to get rid of it, but we don't need 3 cars, and I'd prefer not to have to insure all 3 either. Is there another option out there?

Please advise, I am desperate.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tax Withholding...

So I was reading this article in the Wall St. Journal today about class warfare being waged by politicians through the tax code. It stated that every American should have to write a check to the government each year for their share of taxes, rather than having their employer withhold taxes on their behalf and forward them to the government (to enforce compliance, rather than trust individual Americans to actually send money to the govt. on their own). This in effect would force each American to contemplate the vast amount of money the government takes from you in a real concrete CASH way (and then forwards it to causes that you detest while your kids get crappy textbooks and the potholes in your street go un-filled).

So I was thinking, is there a way to enforce compliance, and ensure that the govt gets their cash?

I think so, why not have the employer deposit the gross amount of the cash (including their portion, your company matches your Social Security taxes of 7.5% of your gross in effect 15% of every dollar you make subject to some funky math, because the company portion doesn't come out of your stated gross, but it is a factor in determining how much salary/wage the company will pay you, but I digress.)

Where was I? Oh, so your company deposits all of your taxes, including taxes they pay on your behalf into a bank account solely accessible by YOU, with the only transferee being Timothy Gheithner (Pictured), and YOU. Tim Geithner is the US Treasury Secretary, he signs your dollar bills, that is a sweet gig. He also gets all of your tax money to give to his friends at Goldman Sachs (I wish I was one of his friends at GS, they are getting new yachts this year, with enough money left over to buy tacky plaid shorts to wear while sailing those yachts.)

So here is how it works:

1. Company deposits all of your tax payments into a secure bank account for you at your bank of choice.

2. You watch the account grow every 2 weeks.

3. You fill out your tax returns each year (or quarterly like most small business owners do - it's called estimated taxes)

4. You get hostile as you see the amount of real money the government takes from you as you make a bank transfer to the Treasury based on your tax return.

5. As soon as the Treasury clears your payment, you get a bank transfer from your tax account to your designated savings or checking account.

6. You seriously think about this when you go to the polling booth with a copy of your actual tax bill, not just the paltry income tax return that you fill out annually, the big one with all of the taxes on it, that you actually had in your possession, in the bank, and then had to send to Timmy. And then you seriously think about it again before you pull that lever.

What do you think?