Goodbye Tree

We lost a tree today. It’s actually been dead for some time now, but unlike dead people, dead trees often manage to stay standing for quite a long time. But today it came down with a chainsaw induced crash. I’m struck by some emotion over this (it’s not my first such nostalgic goodbye), it had to go, but it’s always been there.

We’ve lived in our home for 27 years, and the tree was here first. So that’s how long we were acquainted. It was a pine tree of some sort. I don’t know enough about trees to specify a particular sort of pine tree. But it had needles, and cones, and sap, and smelled like pine. That was good enough.

Years ago, we were visited by a young man who lived in our house before us during his childhood, his family was the original owners (we’re the third – did any of us really ‘own’ the home? – but I digress). This young man told me that for their first Christmas in this home, they had a live Christmas tree that they planted in the yard after the holidays. This was our pine tree. I wrote about it at the time.

Pine tree saw our three kids grow up, providing sturdy and evenly spaced limbs for young climbers, and plenty of sap to sticky them up to mark their efforts. Tree’s branches supported piñatas at birthday parties, and bird feeders that were quickly emptied by acrobatic squirrels. Tree’s shade was of a superior quality. Yet each year tree dispersed piles of brown needles which covered our roof, filled our rain gutters, and took out one hot tub pump after sneaking past the filters.

In tree’s shadow is a younger dogwood tree that I planted 12 years ago on an inspired arbor day. I wrote about it at the time. Dogwood has done well in Pine’s shadow, and will now enjoy much greater light, now that Pine’s not there to cast a shadow any longer. I’m glad that Dogwood will inherit the legacy of being the tree planted by one of this home’s rotating owners.

Pine tree fell victim to some sort of boring beetle (I’ve yet to ever meet an engaging beetle). Goodbye Tree. You will be missed, and remembered as your remains will be cremated in many driveway fires for years to come.

Goodbye Family Minivan

I don’t care much about cars. I’m definitely not anything at all what you would call a ‘car guy’. My requirements for a car, as Steve Martin so succinctly put it, “Four fucking wheels and a seat!”. But we just sold our car, and the truth is, I’m feeling pretty sentimental about it.

We purchased our 2001 Honda Odyssey used way back when it had about 20,000 miles on it, and we just sold it with 208,074 miles. And among those miles in between, we raised our family it it. Local miles to school and soccer games, family trips to the Outer Banks, and home to Illinois. It drove us through big cities, and it delivered us to campgrounds. Our kids learned to drive it, and it sat loyally in the driveway every winter, posing for the obligatory buried in snow photos without complaint.

But as we empty our nest, and downsize our belongings, we no longer need an old minivan. We considered many options; shooting it (don’t own a gun), living in it (down by the river), abandoning it (probably traceable DNA to be found on lost french fries and cheerios on the floor), or selling it. I’m very happy that we found a buyer, a family with five kids, and dad’s a mechanic. They live close buy, so it’s gonna be kinda weird seeing our minivan on the road sometimes. But it will be nice to know, it’s found a new family to serve.

Here’s a few photos from over the years:

A Driving Odessey

Dumping Coins

Washed and ready for refilling

Washed and ready for refilling

For many many years, since I was a kid, I’ve kept a coin jar for collecting loose change. Piggy banks are boring, you can’t see what they hold inside! Coin jars rock. You can see your hoarded coins accumulate and shake them around hunting for the right coin to suit your needs. My jars sit in my closet, and each day I add whatever silver is in my pocket to the smaller of the two jars, and segregate pennies into the larger jar. The silver jar sees a lot of traffic, both in and out, as the whole family would routinely fish for quarters to help pay for a day’s lunch or bus fare. But the pennies just accumulated. Once in the jar, there’s never any real reason for a penny to come back out. Until today.

Today I acted on a notion that I had since the start of the year, that maybe it’s time to dump the coins, turn them into more practical funds, and give each jar a fresh start. So here’s how that went.

First, upon hearing of my plan, daughter Colleen asked if she could first help herself to quarters from the silver jar. I dumped the jar and gave her some time to hunt and gather quarters as I bagged the rest of the coins. She managed to scoop up $11 in the process. The remaining silver and all of the pennies, now dumped into plastic bags for transport, headed to the local grocery with me for tallying in the Coinstar machine. Now back in the day, I remember the burdensome chore of getting paper coin rolls, carefully counting out all of your coins and rolling them, and then having to write your bank account number on every single roll, just so you could deposit them in the bank and make some use of your excess coinage. It was a lot of work and hassle, and that’s probably why I haven’t bothered in so long. Coinstar machines will sort and tally your coins for you, and then you have three options; receive a cash voucher (after a 10.9% fee), or without fees you can get the full amount on a gift card, or donate the full amount to charity. But I was in this for the cash, and figured the fee was worth it.

I'm not certain, but I think this is a LOT of money somewhere!

I’m not certain, but I think this is a LOT of money somewhere!

Here’s my tally:

$ 6.50 – 26 Quarters
$25.90 – 259 Dimes
$ 7.50 – 150 Nickels
$21.79 – 2,179 Pennies
$61.69 Total
$ 6.72 Service Fee
$54.97 Cash


There were a few coins rejected by the Coinstar machine, all legitimately so. They were 10 Japanese Yen, 1/2 Swiss Franc, 1 Czech Koruna, and 2 Irish Cents.

I did a bit of shopping with my newly flush wallet. And then at home, I gave both of my coin jars a nice scrubbing, and filled them each with my newly acquired change totaling $1.33. That was after spotting I had a commemorative issue Virgin Islands Quarter which was removed for placement in one of our state quarter collection folders.

The idea occurs to me too late for this year, but in 2015 I’ll plan on starting the year with empty jars in order to tally exactly how much pocket change I accumulate in a year. That will be exciting won’t it?? Stay tuned! (and hope I remember).

Tracking Beers with Untappd

Chris on UntappdI will be the first to admit that I frequently demonstrate symptoms of OCD. It’s not crippling, or anything weird, but I frequently like to count and categorize things. In some cases it can be useful, for example it has added to my success and enjoyment of constructing my family tree. Other times, it serves no purpose at all other than to satisfy my own curiousity. That was the case when I spent a day  counting and categorizing my t-shirts, just so I could understand the big picture of my t-shirt collection. Or when I  took a photo of myself (almost) everyday for a year in order to make a short movie..

I also love technology and gadgets. And in the age of the iPhone, I’m a fan of many apps that allow me to check-into locations, track my runs, sort my music, and find my friends.

For the last two years, one app in particular has especially caught my imagination, bringing my love of tracking the mundaneness of daily life crashing into my love of gadgets, with another of my loves, beer. That app is called Untappd, and it’s a must have for any curious beer lover with a smart phone. For me, using Untappd has greatly enhanced my appreciation of beer. It has driven me to explore a broader variety of styles, visit breweries, bars and other places to imbibe, seek out new ‘distinct beers’ that I’ve never had before (at least since I started tracking them), to enjoy all of that socially with other beer loving friends on Untappd. Sometimes this quest for unique beers can be daunting. My wife rolls her eyes at me at every restaurant visit, as I quickly compare their beer offerings with my history on Untappd, looking for something new. And she has spent countless extra hours waiting for me as I peruse the beer section of the grocery store, like an indecisive kid at a candy counter. Once, when I brought home a six-pack of some very sub-par beer from the store, she asked, “I thought you loved good beer, why would you buy that?”. And she again rolled eyes as I explained that I needed to drink bad beer in order to be able to appreciate good beer, and besides, it was one that I had yet to check into on Untappd.

When Untapped added the ability to post photos with your beer check-ins, my worlds collided again. I’m well known for being my own favorite photo subject, and what better to join me in a picture than the beer I’m currently drinking and checking in? And having recently collected 500 such beer self-portraits, the occasion called for another movie starring me, straightforwardly titled 500 Beers.

All this beer drinking has also led me to revisit the hobby of home-brewing that I dabbled in for a few years in the mid-90s. The enjoyment of sharing your own home brew with friends is better still when it can be shared via Untappd. So get to know me, and if I have any to spare I will happy share with you a truly unique beer check-in courtesy of Casey’s Brews.

Political Activity in Montclair, Virginia

For my Montclair friends & neighbors,

Although not on the published agenda, I believe that our MPOA Board of Directors will once again consider a proposal to prohibit political activity of any sort at MPOA Events at tomorrow nights board meeting (7/13).  

This is coming about because someone was upset with the fact that at our recent Montclair Day event, our new Delegate (as a result of re-districting) sought to introduce himself to his new constituents in Montclair, and a candidate for office that sought petition signatures to get on the ballot.  Both perfectly appropriate and desirable actions to take at a community event, in my humble opinion.

Our guidelines already limit MPOA events to residents with tags and their two guests.  Anyone else can be asked to leave, as could anyone who was doing anything truly disruptive.

But please, let’s not invite our neighborhood’s private government to regulate or prohibit that way our REAL elected American government works.  I would love to meet with and speak to political candidates at our community events.  And anyone who doesn’t feel the same can ignore them and move onto the dunk tank or their funnel cake.

Tomorrow is my birthday.  Give me the gift of joining me at the MPOA Board Meeting (7:30 pm, July 13th, MPOA Building) and demonstrate your opposition to our Property Owner’s Association interfering with our rights as American’s any more than they already do.

Thanks!  Chris

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