Monday, October 31, 2005


It’s Halloween. That means my evening will consist of cracking open a pumpkin ale and doling out simple carbohydrates to the little children wearing costumes. When I was younger, I used to be into it. I’d dress up and wander through the neighborhood with my pillowcase loading up on sweets. Then there came a point in my life when I thought Halloween was the manifestation of everything satanic. I was pretty hard core against it. Now I’ve swung the other way and I’m back to handing out candy instead of Chick tracts. While I don’t doubt there are those who mark the occasion as some sort of pagan holiday, for the most part, under the proper supervision, it’s harmless fun.

Ally will be a witch.

Just kidding. She’s a flower. We will take her around for a little while and she’ll collect candy for my wife and me to eat later. Seriously, Ally doesn’t eat a whole lot of sweets. She’d rather have fruit, so she can keep all the apples and we’ll take the Snickers.

My wife is still smarting from the beat down her Redskins took at the hands of my Giants. I’ve never seen the ‘Skins play so poorly. Or did the Giants play well? Which Manning is quarterback for the Giants, anyway? But the Redskins really didn’t have a chance, due to the Dead Team Patriarch Factor, which went into effect when former Giants owner Wellington Mara died last week. By all accounts, Mara was a beloved and revered figure in the world of sports and very much the anti-Steinbrenner.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Some people have names picked out for their children long before they reach marrying age. Particularly for girls, I think it starts with naming dolls. Every doll should have a name. Even our two-year-old has names for most, if not all, of her inanimate creatures, human or otherwise. Boys don’t care. For this reason, the only acceptable doll for boys, GI Joe, comes pre-named so they don’t even have to think about it.

My wife and I didn’t decide on Ally’s name until we saw her picture. Before that it was just one of several possibilities. Ally is short for Alyssa, not Allison. My wife had a roommate in grad school named Allison and didn’t want that name for our child. I thought she got along well with Allison; maybe I’m wrong. But we liked Ally, so we picked the next closest thing that could be shortened to Ally.

Now that we’ve begun the paper chase for our second, we’re approaching the name thing with the usual lack of concern. Again, we have thrown around a few possibilities but there is no definite front runner. One name I suggested that’s already been shot down is Zoe. She will most likely be our last child, so I thought the A to Z theme was appropriate. There aren’t many good “Z” names for girls but Zoe is the one I like best. My wife informed me that Zoe is the name of a muppet character and she wouldn’t name our child that. End of story. I’m not going to push very hard.

I like Eloise, but I realized it rhymes with our last name. Forget it. I won’t subject my kid to that. I had a high school classmate who had rhyming first and last names and it was a running joke for four years. I don’t know what his parents were thinking.

Then there are the alliterative parents who start all their children’s names with the same letter. That may happen for us. There are several other “A” names we like. With two children, it can be seen as a coincidence. Three or more and you can tell it’s being done deliberately. I think if we had a third, we would go out of our way to avoid an “A” name. Otherwise, you can get carried away like this family. Sixteen kids, all their names starting with “J”. If they keep going, they’ll run out of “J” names.

Personally, I’m not big on family names. It’s not like I’m the scion of a great industrialist family empire where people associate the name with a product of some sort. Think August Busch. I’ve seen August Busch IV (or is it V or VI?) showing up in beer commercials lately. I think people will still drink beer even if the next in line isn’t named August.

My side of the family is not exactly rife with possible names. My parents’ names are both taken by my oldest niece (feminizing my dad’s name for her middle name), so they’re out. Moving to the grandparents, then, here’s what I have to choose from: Bertha, Katherine (Kate), Isaac (Ike) and Wasyl (Wasco). Now, we’re assuming we’re getting another girl, so Ike and Wasco are going to have to wait another generation. Katherine is a distinct possibility. Bertha is not.

On my wife’s side, there’s Christine, Mary, Rose, Margaret. Some good choices there.

I’d like to avoid popular trendy names, if possible. Nothing like being one of five kids in your class with the same first name. Also to be avoided are celebrity baby names like Apple, Fifi Trixibelle or Moon Unit. Besides, there’s only room for one God’iss Love Stone in the world, if you ask me.

So we’ll keep plugging away, but I don’t expect to settle on anything until the last minute. Then I suspect something will hit us and we’ll have that “Aha” moment and wonder: Why didn’t we think of that sooner?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


In this post, I mentioned the message ("LIVE LIFE") my deodorant had for me and mused over what marketing genius dreamed up putting inspirational dictums on sticks of Degree. Well, I received an e-mail from that marketing genius:
Hi Ray,

My name is Mike F____ and I work on the Degree Brand team at Unilever... We came across your blog where you wrote about the message on the Degree antiperspirant sticks. First of all, I want to say how great it is to hear that consumers are actually noticing the phrases. All the logistics that went into the project were worth the effort! Just to give you some background on why you saw the message in the first place: Degree is positioned as the brand for men who take risks, and we thought it would be fun to incorporate that into the product (literally).

And you are correct in thinking that we have more than one: there are 5 different phrases that you can find on different sticks. Since you went to the trouble to write about us, we'd love to send you the whole lineup-- as an added incentive it's over a year's supply of free deodorant. Just send me your address, and we'll send
it out asap.

Thanks again for choosing Degree!

Mike F_____
Marketing - Degree

I sent along my address and yesterday FedEx dropped off a box containing five sticks of Degree anti-perspirant. Yes, there are actually six different messages. So, for the next year, I'll be pleasant to be around.

By the way, the other messages are "LEAD THE WAY", "GO FOR IT", EMBRACE CHALLENGE", "TAKE THE RISK" and "GO ALL IN". As a runner, I'm used to going all OUT, but I guess they're trying to capitalize on the poker craze.

So remember kids: Blogging pays dividends.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Weekend in the Shenandoah Valley

We went to the Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon and Wine Festival last Saturday. The weather was beautiful, as Fall usually is around here. Unfortunately, the hot air balloons usually launch in the morning and late afternoon, not around midday when we were there. Regardless, we got to do the usual Fall festival kind of stuff: hay ride, merry-go-round, musical performances. They had a really bad comedian for the kids. I say this as an adult, but then I'm not really the target audience. The one-man-band he warmed up for was more fun. And there were the HUGE pumpkins. This one on the right was carved to look like a demon. Scary. The sign below it says it was over 1000 pounds.

Ally wasn't scared of the scarecrows. She had a good time, in spite of the fact that the only balloons we saw were helium-filled. She still takes a nap in the middle of the day, so we ended up leaving around 1:00, at which time she promptly fell asleep in the car and stayed that way for the hour-long trip home.

Did I mention the wine festival part? There were 17 Virginia wineries offering tastings of some of their recent vintages. Lauren and I have been to these before and they tend to be somewhat zoo-like, with people crowded around the individual booths waiting for a pour. I'd rather go to the individual wineries and relax a bit. Some of the wineries that were there are located pretty far from where we live, so the chances of me visiting them are remote. And the smaller ones, in particular, only sell at the winery or in a very limited area. So before we left, we picked up six bottles from several of the smaller, more distant places: Afton Mountain, North Mountain, Farfelu, Wintergreen, Rebec and Windham.

The Windham selection was their Vintner's Reserve (2003). This is a Bordeaux blend that, I think, tasted better at the Festival. We had it with some shepherd's pie and it turned out to be about average and a little on the acidic side. Maybe not the best pairing, but there are better examples out there (Barboursville's Octagon being one of the best.) Grade: B-.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Toilet humor: Adventures in potty training

We tried to get Ally to use the potty soon after she turned two. Ambitious, I know, but we thought she could handle it. We had only moderate success. She would go, but only if we initiated. Part of the goal, so I thought, was to get her to tell us when she had go potty. So we switched from pull ups to diapers again and decided to wait awhile.

Now we've started to encourage her again, and we definitely think she's closer to being diaper free than she was a few months ago. And she's having fun with it. Here she is trying to show Hello Kitty how it's done:

Ally decided Hello Kitty was ready for the big potty:

I don't know, I think she's a little small.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ready for fall

We had a successful trip to the pumpkin patch last weekend. After a romp on the hay pile, a ride on the cow train, a swim in the corn box (think of a sand box, but with corn), Ally found two appropriately sized pumpkins. These will stay inside, so we'll have to look for smashable gourds for the porch later. After picking our pumpkins, we ran the gauntlet of barnyard offal to go pay for them. Then back home for some pumpkin bisque.

Ran the Army 11.4 Miler on Sunday. What? There is no Army 11.4 Miler you say? I beg to differ. You see, last Sunday was the first ever 11.4 mile race. This was due to the fact that one of the bridges crossing the Potomac (the 14th Street, our inbound bridge, as it turned out) was seen to have something "suspicious" resting underneath. Too suspicious, it turned out, so we were re-routed back across the Memorial Bridge and ended up running an extra 1.4 miles. There was no time to move the pads that read our timing chips, so there were no times given for the race. No awards either. I think I ran five minute miles the whole way. Yeah, that's it...

My anti-perspirant has a message for me. I went to open the top of a fresh stick of Degree and got the equivalent of a fortune cookie. Can you read it? It says "LIVE LIFE". Gee, thanks for the reminder. I was going to go out and have a perfectly average day. But then my deodorant told me to "LIVE LIFE". Why thank you, I'll go and do just that. I'm tempted to go back to Target to see if the other sticks say the same thing. Maybe there are different sayings and I'm supposed to collect the whole set. I wonder what marketing genius dreamed this up.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Here we go again

Since having one daughter is so much fun, we thought we'd try it again. This week we sent in our preliminary application to Bethany Christian Services to adopt another child from China. We're hoping to go late next year some time. The fact that we've waded through the blizzard of paperwork before should make it easier this time around. We'll see.

We're required to attend a training seminar offered by Bethany. Heh. Try and tell us something we don't know. Trouble is, the next one offered is in November, in Charlottesville. That would require us to stay overnight there and childcare is not provided. So, anyone willing to spend a couple of days with our wonderful daughter? Send us an e-mail.

Went to the Nationals-Phillies game last night. We bought a seat for Ally, but she didn't use it. She preferred to run up and down the row, flipping the seats. She had a pretty good time at her first ball game and RFK is set up pretty nicely for baseball. It was far from a sellout so we had plenty of room to spread out in our nose bleed seats.

We took Metro to the game, which is a pretty long trip from our nearest station. Between driving there, parking, purchasing farecards, waiting for the train, etc., It probably took over an hour and a half to get to the stadium. Quicker going back, due to it not being rush hour. We were dismayed to find out that a SmartTrip card is required to leave the Metro parking lot, which they will gladly sell you on the way out for $10, five for the card and $5 in magnetic money on the card. Parking cost $3.75 by the way, so if we want to use it again, we'd need to fill infuse it with more magnetic money. Ugh. Free parking on weekends and after hours made Metro a pretty nice way to get into the city. No more.

Oh, the Phillies won, 4-3. I was keeping my eye on the Yankees-Red Sox score. The Yankees lost, so they're tied for the division lead after 160 games played. Best. Rivalry. Ever.

It's a nice day today. We might go and look for our annual pumpkins. Wouldn't want to disappoint the neighborhood hooligans by leaving our porch with nothing to smash.