Hurricane Ernesto is going to dump a few gallons of water on us this weekend, so we took some time after lunch to shore up the plants in our garden. The cucumbers, which were coming on strong in the early part of the year, are getting long in the tooth and not producing as much (they were averaging about four cukes a week). However, the tomatoes are now in their prime and absolutely bursting with fruit—a rough count of six plants totalled at least 150 tomatoes in various states of completion. The basil Jen planted among the tomatoes is now waist-height and full with leaves.
We’re already planning the addition to the current garden—I’m thinking it will roughly double in size. We’re adding eggplant, red peppers, more soybeans, and pole beans to this year’s lineup, as we know that it’ll all do well here.
Further to the west, our neighbors engaged a landscaping company to wrestle control of their yard back from the weeds, brush, and poison ivy that have slowly been choking it to death. This week two men have used chainsaws, trimmers, clippers, chippers, and a Bobcat to haul off at least four trailers worth of yard debris, including the majority of our shared treeline. What was once a tangled “hedgerow” running the length of our west property line is now an open plain of dirt punctuated with a few startled-looking trees. Our cherry trees are intact, as well as a few sugar maples on their side of the line (and not the ones I’d have picked—I prefer trees that grow straight up and down), but all the ivy on both sides of the law has been scraped off with the blade of the Bobcat.
What was once a private, enclosed (and somewhat untidy) side yard is now a public space, visible and audible from the road, which has us concerned. Because the driveway side is less than aesthetically pleasing, we’ve been using the west side as our outdoor getaway, but that’s a thing of the past. It’s looking now like our plans to add a fence along the treeline just got bumped up in priority…
When I went off to college in the fall of 1989, one of the many things I packed for the trip took up little space, but was one of the biggest lifesavers of all. It wasn’t the cofffee machine I never mastered, or the heavy dishes I never washed, or the metric tons of cassette tapes I lugged up and down flight after flight of stairs. No, the lifesaver was a little plastic card issued by Citibank for shlubs like me, entering into
the prime target demographic the hallowed halls of higher education like an innocent lamb. Many life lessons were learned there, from banal (don’t mix lights and darks, no matter how desperate the need for clean underwear) to life-threatening (don’t climb the Howard Street Bridge after three 40’s of Crazy Horse) to common-sense (art chicks are crazy) to survival (First Thursdays=free dinner and cheap wine) to painful truth (I can draw really well, but I can’t paint worth a damn). One of the best lessons I learned was how to be smart with money, and how not to abuse a credit card. I would—and still do—scoop up change off the sidewalk to afford a beer at the Tavern, dive through dumpsters for furniture, and buy all my best leisure wear at the Goodwill.
For awhile, during the heady days of the Internet Boom, and when I was loosely affiliated with the prosperity that wheezed through Maryland, I lived pretty large. I had a nice little house in the city, a toy truck to play with, and spending cash to have fun with. Somewhere along the way, I started using my credit card for stuff, and got pretty cavalier about it. To the point where I realized one day that I was carrying a balance that was alarmingly large. And this coincided with one of those periods where I wasn’t getting paid on time. (You may already know where this is going.) After doing what I could to save money, and missing one payment along the way, I was able to pay the card off—but not before my interest rate was hiked to prime plus 20%.
I vowed never to have this happen again, and went back to my skinflint ways—only buying what I could afford with my debit card from my checking account, and retiring my credit card to the back of my wallet, behind my library and Sam’s Club cards. The last time I carried any balance at all on my card was April of ’05.
This afternoon, in preparation for booking a flight to California, I pulled it out to see if I could have the APR reduced. The nice lady on the phone cheerfully told me that my account was closed.
Closed? I asked. For what reason?
Because the account has been inactive for a year, she replied. Can I help you with any other services today?
So let me get this straight. If I carry a balance of $.01 on my card, Citibank charges me a “handling fee” each month, plus interest. If I don’t have any activity on my card at all, for a year, my APR still stays at Prime-plus-anal-rape, and Citibank closes the account without notifying me after I’ve been a customer of 13 years? Fuck you, Citibank.
We’re back from the City of Brotherly Love and our third vacation weekend of the year. We started our weekend in Delaware at the Chadds Ford winery for a Pinot Noir tasting and class, which was given by a very nice man who knew a lot about wine. We sampled a flight of seven bottles, ranging from Tazmanian to French, plus two local wines. After getting on a respectable midmorning buzz, we drove up the street to Longwood Gardens to walk the grounds and enjoy the fresh air.
As with our last two visits to the area, the sky was cloudy and overcast, but there was a light breeze blowing and low humidity. I brought the TLR setup and embarassed myself by walking around with a black and blue cardboard box, pointing it at flowers and attempting to get some good pictures, until I got tired of being a dork. There wasn’t enough control over the light metering or the focus to get consistent results.
We walked the entire length of the gardens and through the conservatory until evening, and then stopped in at the Terrace restaurant for a light dinner and a bottle of wine.
After dinner, at 9pm on Saturdays, there’s a fountain light show set to music that lasts for a half hour, which was a beautiful way to cap off the evening.
Sunday, we drove into Philly and checked into our hotel, then went for a walk through the Rittenhouse Square area, where a bench called out to us. Heeding the bench’s call, we sat and listened to the city around us, peoplewatching and enjoying the afternoon. I had read an article online about the Rosenbach Museum and Library, where the original manuscript of Joyce’s Ulysses lives, as well as an entire floor’s worth of rare and priceless first-edition books. (Jen wrote her senior english seminar on Ulysses, so I figured this was a slam-dunk.) We were shown in by a dour woman, paid a small fee, and got an hour’s tour of the museum by a big man who knew a lot about books, antiques, and art. The book collection is immense; we could have spent hours ogling the bindings and titles on display. (besides Joyce, there’s Shakespeare, Conrad, Melville, Milton, and a hundred other famous names I can’t remember now.) We were, however, somewhat disappointed with the selection of Ulysses on display—two chapter title pages and a pair of envelopes. Later, we made reservations for one of Philadelphia’s many BYO restaurants, and we were delighted with our choice: Twenty Manning, an upscale asian-flavored bistro a few blocks off Rittenhouse Square. The food was delicious, our waiter didn’t sneer at our hoopty wine, and after closing the restaurant down, we walked halfway home in a light rain (before better judgement kicked in and we hailed a cab.)
Monday, we made like good tourists and drove down Market Street to Old City, and followed the crowds to the Liberty Bell (where Jen did not get in trouble for getting inside, like she did in 1976), and after being turned away by the screeners at Independence Hall for my Leatherman, which I’d left in my messenger bag, we walked over Ben Franklin’s house, through Christ Church, Betsy Ross’s house, and down Elfreth’s Alley. Before leaving, we capped off our walk with a light meal at a quiet Afghan restaurant by Penn’s Landing, which made us both sleepy and sated.
My impression of Philadelphia is a lot more favorable than the last time I’d visited; the vibe is young and lively, and there’s a ton of history there to be had (and not just revoutionary history.) The city is full of architecture, old signage, and excellent food, and we’re already talking about going back for a photo expedition when Jen gets her digital SLR.
Here’s some head-to-head research on the new Mac I’d love to buy myself. (I have a dream, and it’s a simple one: One Machine To Rule Them All. One machine, two monitors, two operating systems. No multiple machines on my desktop, with 3X the cabling, power supplies, keyboards, etc. etc. In this dream, I’m able to run all the apps in Windows on one screen, and all my Mac apps on the other. In full, 1280dpi or larger glory.) Here’s my wishlist:
- Support for two monitors (non mirroring), with one at least at 1280x 1024
- DVI output
- Dual-bootable OSX/Microsoft
- 2Gb of RAM (preferably cheap)
- At least 100 GB of hard drive space
- iSight camera built-in
- Firewire and USB ports (preferably FW800 and USB 2.0)
|MacBook||IMac 20”||Mac Mini||IMac 17”|
|Speed||2 Ghz||2 Ghz||1.66 Ghz||1.83 Ghz|
|Price (at max config)||$2049||$1999||$1224||$1674|
|Base Monitor Size||1280 x 800||1680×1050||None||1440×900|
|2GB of RAM||$500 (apple)||$300 (apple)||$300 (apple)||$300 (apple)|
|Hard Drive space||$200 120GB||250 GB||$125 120GB||250 ($75 apple)|
|Firewire ports||1 FW400||2 FW400||1 FW 400||1 FW 400|
|USB 2.0||2 USB 2.0||3 USB 2.0||4 USB 2.0||3 USB 2.0|
I had no idea until today that the new iMacs support dual monitors. That alone is worth the price of admission. Plus, twice the hard drive for almost half the money, two FireWire ports, built-in iSight, and cheaper RAM sell me on the deal. Portability? Well, I’ll just fall back on the iBook. And with the impending change in my hosting plans, I’ll merge over to IMAP mail service, which means threaded mail on multiple machines so I don’t need to worry about synchronizing.
The winner: the 20″ iMac by three lengths.
- I haven’t been writing much around here lately. Most of the stuff I’m posting goes over in the interesting links section, because I don’t have enough time to write a full post about something, or I can’t get coherent writing together about whatever it is I’m thinking.
- Project Runway was halfway surprising last night—basket-hat guy won, which was a big surprise, neck-tattoo guy almost lost (and continued to be a dick—no suprise), and boring barbie-guy got kicked off—again, no suprise.
- I haven’t been taking too many pictures lately either. Having an office in one’s house and living in the suburbs means you’re taking pictures of your cats or nothing at all.
- Having a PC laptop with a dead clock battery is kind of like knowing the main character in Memento; just when you’ve fixed the BIOS settings, the clock settings, and rebooted twice, it’s time to go to bed, so you have to shut it down and go through the process all over again because it won’t sleep like a proper computer should (see: Apple.)
- Looks like I’m heading west again sometime in September. Details to come.