Compare and Contrast

Shannon and I had a wonderful night-and-morning out. Our only regret was that we unknowingly came home two hours before Shannon’s mom expected us. We coulda read magazines at the coffeeshop until noon! Now that we know this, we may try to cash in our unspent chips the next time we can trick Nonna into taking the kids.

Anyhow, we did have a very busy, fun, and relaxing time. I got as much sleep as I’ve have in years, and that was just the unconscious part of the 18 hours. We also had a great dinner (see below), decided on the spur-of-the-moment to go see a strange but good movie (a truth of thirteen years of marriage: Shannon’s openness to impromptu decisions is directly proportional to her state of relaxation at the time the decision is made), had a great slice of cheesecake after the movie, read in bed for a few minutes at the hotel, went to sleep early, got up late, and then got coffee at a nice coffeeshop in Moorhead. Oh, and I didn’t have to listen to a single second of baby-monitor noise!

With all that said, dinner tonight back at the house – exactly 24 hours after dinner out yesterday at Timberlodge Steakhouse in Fargo – was an eye-opening study in contrasts.
8/21: I had just one dinner companion, my lovely and charming wife, though a number of other diners – all approximately twice our age – were also at the restaurant, taking advantage of the early-dining specials.
8/22: I had six dinner companions, including my wife, my in-laws, one of the girls’ cousins, and the girls; only two of these companions would have been able to use AARP cards at the restaurant, though three might’ve been able to order from the kiddie menu.

8/21: My wife was the most beautiful woman in the joint.
8/22: My wife was the most beautiful woman in the joint, though Nonna and the girls are all pretty cute, too.

8/21: I had a delicious meal that was entirely prepared by someone else (the kitchen staff at the restaurant).
8/22: I had a delicious meal that was entirely prepared by someone else (Shannon’s mom).

8/21: I didn’t have to pay a dime for my food, thanks to a gift card to the restaurant. (I did have to pony up a tip.)
8/22: I didn’t have to pay a dime for my food, thanks to the generosity of my mother-in-law. (I did not have to pony up a tip – or even do dishes.)

8/21: Someone else brought me all of my food, over the better part of an hour.
8/22: My mother-in-law brought me my soup, but I filled the rest of my plate myself, and only had time to hurriedly enjoy one big helping of everything.

8/21: I enjoyed a rather good $2 glass of house merlot.
8/21: I would have paid $22 for a shot of whiskey.

8/21: After finishing my meal, I held my wife’s hand over the table while we decided on going to the see the movie.
8/22: While finishing my meal, I let Genevieve hold onto my pinky finger with one slimy hand because she was apprehensive of her teenaged “boy cousin,” who showed up at the table just as everyone else was winding up.

8/21: An hour after finishing my meal, I was settling in at the movie, wondering if I had room for popcorn with melted butter. (Answer: no.)
8/22: An hour after finishing my meal, I lying on the floor of the living room, wondering if last night’s time off would help me keep from getting P.O.’ed during Genevieve’s inevitable bedtime meltdown. (Answer: no.)

8/21: I thought continuously about how great it was to be away from the girls, missed them a little bit more each hour, and frequently voiced my thanks that Nonna could take them.
8/22: I thought continuously about how great it was to have been away from the girls, enjoyed being able to enjoy them again, and frequently voiced my thanks that Nonna took them.


Shannon and I are packing up for our night out and away from the girls, which will start pretty soon now. The four of us had a nice morning at the Red River Valley Zoo. Here are my better three-quarters in front of the rather grand carousel there, having seen the camels, the llamas, the baby goats, and assorted other creatures.


This will be my first-ever night away from the girls when not on a business trip, and as far as I can recall, Shannon’s first-ever night away from Julia except when in the hospital delivering Genevieve. It goes without that this really doesn’t count, and that she’s never spent the night away from Vivi (or both girls, for that matter). I imagine that the two of us will manage the sleeping all right (hotel bed, no infernal baby monitors humming), but I’m a bit worried about whether we’ll remember how to eat dinner without the distraction of monitoring two toddlers. We’ll soon see!

Mystery Coil

In my numerous walks and couple runs around Moorhead, I’ve noticed objects like this in the overhead lines.

Mystery Coil
Mystery Coil

I naturally wonder what the hell it is. Some options:

  1. It’s part of the city’s (decent and cheap) municipal wi-fi service.
  2. It’s a way to manage the civic problem of the many, many people who are sticking their bare feet up on the dashboard of vehicles using Moorhead byways.
  3. It’s an attempt to make the grass grow on any, some, or all of the incredibly patchy lawns in this town.
  4. It’s a public-health effort to prevent suicides among the readers of the horrific stories on the front page of the Fargo Forum. (Thankfully, the paper requires registration to read the articles, so I can avoid hyperlinking to the gore.)
  5. It’s a means to try to help the city’s coffeehouse baristas remember more than one item in an order. On three different occasions, I’ve had the barista need me to repeat a two-item order two times; on one of those occasions, I had to say it a third time. Gawd.

What’s that? People are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan? Perhaps that’s related to these mystery coils, too…

(Update, 8/22: According to a well-informed commenter, this is a “fold-back” created with “extra fiber optic cabling that has been relooped on that strand” to make repair or replacement easier later. I LOVE THE INTERNET.)

Cashless Economy

I spent a couple hours this afternoon finishing the grading for my online course, a task which became slightly less onerous when I was able to do it at a nice little coffeeshop here in Moorhead. Though the people-watching wasn’t as good as it is in Northfield or in Minneapolis, there were some good moments. For instance, the author of some crazy-seeming “political” books stopped in and surfed on one of the public computers for a good hour. (His van was parked across the street.)

A few minutes after that, a young-ish woman came in with two cute kids. She went up to the counter and loudly asked how about the price of a certain (complicated, girly) drink. When the barista told her, she energetically hunted in her purse for some money, only to discover she didn’t have enough. Throwing the expensive-looking bag on her shoulder and clutching a big Blackberry-type smartphone in one hand, she trooped back out with the kids. I guessed to a friend that she must have all her money in bonds; he snarked back that she probably blew all her cash filling up her Tahoe or Excursion.

At Five, I’ll Use My Jetpack to Fly Home

Spurred by my scratched-cornea ordeal,  I just ordered some prescription sunglasses online through a sunglasses website. I used a Wikipedia entry to understand my prescription card, a ruler to measure my pupillary distance according to instructions on another store’s website, Paypal to handle the transaction, and our office copier to make and email a scan of my Rx to the vendor. All very casual; I hardly noticed even doing any of this until it was all done.

Why I Have a Scratched Cornea (Again)

1. I absent-mindedly used silicon spray, not saline solution, to clean my contacts.
2. Because I wanted to see how many different eye medications I could get. (Three and counting!)
3. I make the poor decision to act on my life-long desire to kiss a porcupine.
4. I recently led a secret Special Forces mission in western Afghanistan which included an ambush of al-Qaeda forces during a sandstorm.
5. The gods answered my prayer for the opportunity to hear the phrase “epithelial erosion” again.
6. I tried to perform LASIK on myself with a CD-player laser, a thimbleful of whiskey, and a paring knife.
7. Because after you get one scratch on your cornea, you’re forever susceptible to renewed scratches in that same spot.