Norton commando fastback Interstate, originally uploaded by MotoAlchemist

We had dinner with my extended family on Thanksgiving Day, and "fake Thanksgiving" on Saturday with the in-laws. My family was very excited to see Ashley. Saturday was more fun for me, though. Besides spending time with my nieces, I helped my father-in-law lace the spoked wheels on a Honda Scrambler he is restoring.

Lacing is a tricky job! I happened to have some experience in this area from volunteering at a community-run bicycle shop a few years ago. The process is pretty similar with motorcycle wheels. There were a couple of minor setbacks until we hit on a technique that worked for getting the first wheel together. We used different colors of electrical tape to mark where everything should go, and it took three people to coordinate everything.

The second wheel was trickier. We took a break to eat and then went back out to the shop for another try. With four men looking at the problem, we were able to figure it out eventually. I scored some points with my father-in-law (always a good thing). Best of all, when he's showing off the finished bike, I can say proudly that part of it was done with my help.

Black Friday

Hallway, originally uploaded by Markus Moning

The day after Thanksgiving is either Buy Nothing Day or buy everything day, depending on your point of view. Traditionally we have a split perspective on Black Friday in our household. Which is how I came to be sitting at home with Ashley, reading a monk's autobiography, while my wife snuck out at 3:30 AM to go shopping with her sisters.

But I don't want to sound self-righteous or give you the wrong idea about my wife. She would rather not battle the crowds of bloodthirsty consumers before sunrise, but she endures it to spend time with her family. And in the middle of writing this post, I popped over to Amazon.com to check the deals on HDTVs.

Do I really need a new TV? Nah, of course not. The old one works just fine and I don't watch it that much anyway. Isn't it funny how there's a day set aside to be grateful for what we've got, and one day later we're supposed to rush out and buy more stuff because we don't have enough? Sorry, I'm not finished being thankful yet.


Unexpected Guests, originally uploaded by jump4joy

I've been browsing online listings for our "someday" home. We're one of those families who helped to precipitate the housing crisis by signing up for an ARM loan three years ago, and that sucker comes due in another two.

Of course, just like everyone else at the time, we didn't foresee a problem selling our house before the ARM expired. Now we'll be lucky to get out with our shirts. Suddenly "someday maybe" is more like "soon, or else."

Anyway, I don't worry about any of that. I just look at country homes and dream. Unfortunately those dreams are usually short-lived. At first glance there seem to be a good handful of affordable properties that fit what we're looking for in the area where we want to live. Then they start talking about the "potential" of the house and how it's a "handyman special." I'm sure if I were handy, I would think it was very special. But if we are going to buy something that "needs a little TLC," it had better cost a lot less than we paid for our current home.


1978 AMC Cool, originally uploaded by harley J

After my grandfather died, I drove down to Arizona with my dad to clean out the mobile home, and it was there that I made the biggest mistake of my life. "Do you want grandpa's car?" asked my dad. "If you want to drive it home, it's yours."

"Nah," I said.

That car was a 1979 AMC Concord, and it looked, well, exactly like this one. Take a gander at that gorgeous all-brown interior and woodgrain trim. I would also direct your attention especially to the color-keyed wheel covers. Then of course we have the vinyl landau roof and crushed velour seats that make a Concord "the new American success story."

One day I might like to atone for my lapse of judgment and buy one of these cars (or something like it). The problem is that AMCs in good condition are hard to come by. Luckily, rarity isn't enough to make them actually valuable. This lady got hers for $75, and here's another little beauty on Flickr that's priced at $900. That's less than I still owe on my current vehicle. Plus, everybody knows that AMCs are the cars of choice for super awesome custom car seats.

Now I wanna be your dog

I wanna be your dog, originally uploaded by e³°°°

Ashley loves our pug. Neither one paid much attention to the other at first. Lola (that's the dog) would sniff at her every now and then, or give her a lick if she came within tongue range. Otherwise they minded their own business for the first two or three months.

But now as Ashley's eyesight and hand-coordination improve, she has taken quite an interest in this strange creature. She watches Lola with great concentration. When Lola gets close, Ashley swats at her, grabbing patches of fur.

It won't be long before she's heaping all kinds of abuse on this poor animal. I wonder how Lola is going to react. What will she do when Ashley is chasing her around, pulling her tail, poking her buggy eyes? We've neglected her for so long, I bet she will enjoy the attention enough to put up with anything.

Do it now

Washing Day, originally uploaded by neilcreek

Since becoming a dad, I don't do things anymore when I want to, or even when I ought to. I do things when I can. Sometimes not even then, if it's not something I wanted to do in the first place.

An example. I walk through the kitchen, and there are dirty dishes in the sink. They would only take a couple of minutes to clean. I just handed baby off for nursing, so both my hands are free, and I don't have anything urgent going on, but... well, today I put everything in the dishwasher and I felt good about myself. Another day I would have ignored the mess and followed my original plan of wasting time on the Internet.

My challenge is to do what I know I should, whenever I can.

Daddy Drinks: Gimlet

Gimlet coktail bar, originally uploaded by germeister

I mentioned previously that I'm not typically a fan of gin-based cocktails. A bittered sling is one delicious exception, and a gimlet is the other.

Where the sling is an elaborate concoction that hides the taste of gin somewhat, a gimlet is straight-up simple. All you need to get the party started is four parts gin to one part lime juice. Or, you can go old school and mix equal parts gin and juice. Make sure to use Rose's if possible.

Once you have poured your base, you can get a little fancy, but not too much. Some recipes allow up to one part simple syrup. If you're going to garnish it, a lime slice is your only option. Anything more and it's not a gimlet.


a lovely evening cruise, originally uploaded by Laura Travels

What do I love about you at four and a half months? Your adorable two bottom teeth. Your beautiful blue eyes. Your long eyelashes, and how you crinkle the corners of your eyes with a mischievous smile. The way you furrow your brow when you're sleeping or concentrating on something, just like I did when I was your age.

You love to be naked and hate getting dressed (sleeves and collars are the worst). You're learning how to stand (with assistance), and you were quick to appreciate the advantages of vertical orientation. And you love it when I sing to you, give you baths, and lift you high in the air.

I love my little girl so much, that I can't even find a Flickr photo to adequately express my feelings. And, so: here is a picture of a boat instead.


Twister Game (Nintendo Company), originally uploaded by Gen Kanai

Our baby doesn't crawl yet, won't really roll over, and she couldn't dance... but she can really shake 'em down. Yeah, she can do the twist.

I mean, seriously, she twists all over the place.  Ashley contorts her body on the changing table to grab things from the supply basket (and stuff them in her mouth, natch).  She cranes her neck backwards to watch me playing Super Mario Galaxy.  Lay her on her back, she can spin ninety degrees in under a minute.

She can really move.  I'm sure that, before we know it, she will even be able to mash-potato.


get lost, originally uploaded by JKönig

A few weeks ago, before it started snowing, we rounded up the nieces and drove into the country. The family of a friend owns orchards and it was a beautiful weekend to visit. They had three pygmy goats and yes also a miniature horse pulling a cart. We ate fresh donuts with hot apple cider.

I didn't want to leave. In fact, after the rest of the family left, we stayed for a demonstration of mashing up apples with an antique press. It does not get any sweeter than that fresh-pressed cider.

Maybe someday my family can get an acre or three, plant some food and raise a flock of chickens. Country is good for kids. That's where I grew up. Then I had a burning desire to live in the city, and now I've had my fill of that. Time to get back to basics.

Cold Season

Sick Sick Sick, originally uploaded by delinion

We're all sick. Our baby got it first with a runny nose. The congestion makes it hard for her to sleep at night, and she's more clingy during the day, I guess because she feels so gross.

Mine started in the throat and worked its way up into my head. By this morning I was aching and exhausted. I slept an extra four hours and stayed home from work. It snowed today. Awesome.

When I'm sick, my writing gets congested too. Words come more slowly. sentences shorten. At least my fingers can still communicate clearly, because my voice, it was not so good. Ashley still cries when she needs us, and I smile at her and she smiles back. We understand each other, we're taking care of each other.


Contemplation, originally uploaded by The Green Album

I wish I could write more often, but having a baby doesn't leave much time for contemplation. Caring for Ashely isn't something I think about. It's something I simply do. My wife would say that I don't do this enough, either.

I'm trying my best, though, usually.

When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time thinking. I was able to be alone. Whether I was out letterboxing in the woods, riding my bicycle to work, or walking through the streets of Japan, it was soothing to reflect on my day and slowly turn ideas over in my head. Now I'm lucky to get off a weekly blog post.

Oh well. This too shall pass. For now I will enjoy my daughter's company and try to be a better dad. I can think about it in eighteen years, when she's in college.

Writing Life

95- Let's see, income for 2007: SPACE!, originally uploaded by RRRayMan!

Every November for the past four years, I have participated in NaNoWriMo. Writing 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days is always hard, but I managed to do it every year. Not this time, though.

I decided to skip it in order to focus on more important things. With everything I have going on this year, I simply don't have time to draft a novel on top of it. At least, not without doing a half-assed job of everything else.

A wise man once said, that when you get the urge to write, you should lie down until the feeling passes. If I feel tempted to exercise my typing fingers, maybe I'll just blog instead.