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Day 6: Visit with Cousins

Walmart, North Attleborough⁽¹⁾ MA.  October 2nd, 12:23 PM.  Stop in to get a new CR2 battery for Wifey’s APX camera.  The camera was a gift from Kodak in honour of Kid #2’s birth.  APX cameras are no longer made; the Advantix® film for them either has been or will soon cease production.  Walmart insists on selling these batteries as a two-pack, so it costs $10 to keep the camera going for just a little while longer.  Also buy a new pocket comb for $1 because my old one is missing half its teeth.  The receipt is hard to read because significant quantities of the ink have fallen off—damn those thermal printers!
 
⁽¹⁾ Wifey (who lived in this town during her teen years) prefers the less-pretentious spelling ”North Attleboro”.
⁽²⁾ The City of Attleboro does not use the ‘ugh’ suffix in their official name, perhaps just to be different from the adjacent Town of North Attleborough.

BIL #3’s house, Attleboro⁽²⁾ MA.  Besides BIL #3 and his wife SIL #2, also present are his children (Cousins #1, #2, and #3) as well as BIL #2 and his wife SIL #3.  (The younger brother married first, so his wife gets the lower SIL number.)  The big family news is that SIL #3 is going to be a grandma because Cousin #4 (who married last year) is now pregnant.  The presents from Toys Я Us (which we bought on day 3 with BIL #1’s money) are well-received by the cousins.  My children get gifts of cash from BIL #2, who is still working at Chrysler.  Kids #1 and #2 both say they will deposit the money into their savings accounts to prepare for when their laptop computers next need replacement (which just happened recently, so their accounts are depleted right now).
      Unlike previous visits, which involved take-out food, today’s lunch consists of spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and salad.  SIL #2 proudly discusses how much money she saved while buying the ingredients.  Later, when we try to give to BIL #3’s family the McDonald’s game-tokens we picked up on day 2, they inexplicably don’t want them.  Eventually BIL #3 admits that they don’t eat at McDonald’s anymore because it costs too much.  It was then that I realized that ”economic Depression” is not just my trading stance on the stock market, but is also a real-world horror that my extended family is living through.  The sensible pundits are predicting another five years of this—but it could be twenty more years if the ultrarich insist on starting a Class War, which will get them all killed and leave the country without any business leaders until a new generation can grow up.  (Similar to Cambodia after Pol Pot?)
      Wifey takes some family photos with her camera.  Hopefully we’ll get them developed while the technology is still in practice. [October 25th: haven’t done that yet.]
      We pick up a package of clothing that Wifey had ordered from a website that refuses to ship to Canada, so she had them mail it to BIL #3’s house.  (There were also two other items shipped to BIL #3’s house that we picked up, but I have no receipts for those.)

Hawthorn Suites, Franklin MA.  For dinner we eat Chinese take-out, delivered to our hotel room.  Somehow the receipt didn’t get saved, but my credit-card statement shows a $24.56 charge for ”Bamboo House”.  Not the world’s best Chinese; we probably won’t be ordering from them again.

Day 7: Drive to New York

Hawthorn Suites: A bill for $720.45 was slipped under our door.  Yet another reason why we don’t drive to Massachusetts very often.

Stock market: The market is continuing to head downward.  Buy *more* TZA!

Wilbraham MA: All my life, every time I passed through Wilbraham on the Mass Pike, I made sure to take a look at the topiary that greets visitors: Welcome to Wilbraham, home of FRIENDLY’S ice cream!  The topiary is still there this time, even though Friendly’s filed for bankruptcy on October 2nd.  I don’t expect to see it again.

Gulf Express, Blandford MA.  Fill up the tank at a highway rest stop before entering New York, whose gas tax is higher.  12:47 PM, $3.57⁹/gallon, 10¾ gallons.

New Lams Chinese Kitchen, Amsterdam NY.  Found by Googling for “restaurants” while at the Pattersonville rest area on the New York Thruway.  Food less than wonderful; we won’t be back.
      The local Coke saleswoman came in and wanted to complain about cans of Pepsi being stored in the Coke-branded refrigerator.  She insisted on speaking English, but the Mom+Pop owners of the restaurant would have much preferred to discuss the matter in Chinese and their English-speaking son wasn’t in the restaurant at the time.
      Cash only; no receipt.  Had to borrow US cash from Kid #1’s gift from BIL #2 to pay for it.  [October 25th: still haven’t paid her back with loonies.]

Homewood Suites, Liverpool NY: Includes free dinner!
      Homewood is now owned by Hilton.  Our stay is complimentary because we have so many Hilton Rewards points, which were about to expire so we used them to stay here.  Actually, we didn’t have *quite* enough points so we had to pay $12 to buy more ”free” points to top up the account for a ”free” room.
      There was a middle-of-the-night false fire alarm, which the hotel blamed on ”the wind”, even though it was a windless night.  Apparently the hotel staff have been taught standard lies to tell to guests, regardless of weather.

Meanwhile, in Canada: The Township of Wilmot took $180 from my chequing account for property tax.  Union Gas took $88 for methane supply.  Rogers took $150 for cable+Internet; one of these days I’ve gotta call them and cut back on the extraneous cable channels we don’t even watch!

Day 8: Shopping & Return Home

Land’s End Inlet, Rochester NY.  This is an outlet store for clothing.  Total $184.56, net after $150.54 ”savings off original price”.  1:28 PM.

Applebee’s, Henrietta NY.  Within sight of Land’s End, but the receipt says it’s in a different town.  $61.93 at 2:46 PM.  The food seems about the same as always.  Some people think Applebee’s will be going bankrupt soon.

Wegman’s Supermarket, Rochester NY.  Within sight of Applebee’s and Land’s End.  The receipt is about 30 inches long!  We buy lots of stuff that is more expensive and/or not available in Canada.  The receipt shows that we presented 15 coupons (which Wifey had printed out from the Internet) for a total of $13.45 discount (plus $3.70 for ”double coupons” less than $1).  We also get $14.07 off for using our Wegman’s loyalty card.  Final total $485.52, which I think is the most we have ever spent at this store (it used to be more like $300).  The haul includes one box of Sunshine Cheez-Its.  Exit at 4:21 PM.
      At 3:48 PM, I use the Wegman’s food court wi-fi to check the stock market.  The market had been heading downward, but in the last half-hour of trading it decided to zoom up and erase all losses for the past two days.  Just as I log in to check on it, my emergency trailing stop activates and sells all my TZA shares.  Rats!  The shares bought on day 7 got sold for just about what I paid for them, while the shares bought on day 3 were sold for a 13% gain.  Not bad, but I’m still waiting for the Big Drop when I’ll make a 60% gain on TZA.  Some people say that ridiculous behaviour like a 5% average rise in all 6,000 stocks over a 40 minute period is indicative of market manipulation, but everyone knows the market is rigged so either play along or go home.  Automated trailing stops are mandatory!

Wegman’s, 4:36 PM.  After loading our purchases into the car and deciding how much room remains, I return to the store to buy more Cheez-Its.  16 more boxes for $35.00.

New York Thruway rest area, Clarence NY.  Bought a muffin at Tim Horton’s; don’t remember why.  $1.27 at 5:46 PM.  Bought gas: Sunoco, $3.76⁹/gallon, 14⅞ gallons, 5:51 PM.

Canadian border, Queenston ON.  We declare $1600 in purchases being imported.  Because there are four of us and we were gone for a week, this amount is small enough to avoid having to pay sales tax upon re-entry.  To verify our story, the border guard asks to see a receipt from a week ago.  Wifey thumbs through the receipts envelope and selects the one for Penzey’s on day 4, which is less than a week ago but the guard accepts it anyway and waives us through.

Our house, Wilmot ON.  Good night!

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Day 4: Science Museum

September 30th was one of two days of the trip set aside for museums, on the grounds that BIL #1 would have wanted us to have some fun with his money.

Discovery Museums, Acton MA.  Acton is an hour’s drive from our hotel, because this museum had been chosen back when we had been planning to stay further North and West of the same-old hotel we ended up going back to.  It began life as a 10-room Victorian mansion that one math teacher somehow found the money to buy and convert into a toddler’s museum 30 years ago.  It was so successful that they bought the adjacent parcel and built a science museum for older kids.  From the roadway, it’s just an old house with a big mailbox that happens to say ”Discovery Museums” on it; we missed it the first time and had to turn around.  Arrival time = 1:15 PM.  Admission = $42 for a family of four.
      The museum is overstaffed for the light Friday-afternoon crowd.  It is a little creepy: I try playing with a flashlight/magnifying glass/fossils exhibit, but the flashlight didn’t work; within seconds, a staffer shows up to replace the batteries.  I don’t really care about the fossils that much—no need to fix it just for me!
      There are magnets and pendula and watery playthings of various kinds.  Not bad for a science museum!  Then we proceed to the Victorian toddler’s museum to see whether there is anything not too babyish.  One room is filled with tracks and has balls to race down them!

Penzey’s Spices, Arlington MA.  4:32 PM, $114.80 for a selection of specialty spices that are hard to find in Kitchener; also includes a few gifts for (A Certain Furry) that I owe some gifts to.  I’ve previously mentioned the crayon drawing table that my children had used on previous trips—it’s gone now.

Rainforest Café, Burlington MA.  It’s Friday night at the Burlington Mall and the parking lot is packed!  The Salem Five Bank is having a grand opening for their new branch in this mall and is handing out free reusable shopping bags enblazoned with their logo.  I accept their gift, but it seems weird to me to be opening a bank when there’s a Depression in progress.  But sometimes it’s the most contrary business plans that turn out successfully.
      The café is showing its age.  Some of the animatronic animals have visible cracks in their latex, which reminds me of some of the decaying exhibits at Disneyworld.  The food is okay.  $102.64, 6:06 PM.

Bath & Body Works, Burlington Mall.  The receipt says we bought ”AB_1ZHNDGL_CP” for $1.50 (plus 6¼% sales tax).  The receipt notes that there is another 6¼% tax called ”MANL TAX” but the item is exempt from whatever that tax is (Google doesn’t help).  6:33 PM.

Bank of America, Burlington Mall, 6:39 PM.  I need some more cash to pay the tolls for the trip home.  The mall ATM is provided by Bank of America, about whom I have heard nothing but bad news these last few months.  Sometimes they act like they own the country (”We have a right to make a profit” says its CEO—no sir, you have the right to *try* to make a profit); other times they act like they’re already insolvent: shutting down their website and having customers arrested to prevent anyone from closing their accounts; transferring trillions in bad bets from their investment bank to their retail bank to force the government to insure those.
      But I just want to withdraw some cash from my Canadian chequing account; what could POSSIBLY go wrong?  I insert my card and press some buttons.  Out comes a $20 bill and a receipt that implies no withdrawal fee.  Later, my bank statement from TD Canada Trust says $21.50 was withdrawn, but it doesn’t say whether this was due to the exchange rate or payment of a hidden ATM fee.  (There is a US law against hidden fees, but Bank of America is above the law.)  Also, TD charged me a $3 foreign-ATM fee so my USD 20.00 withdrawal actually ended up costing CAD 24.50 which is an 18% markup.  In the past, TD has charged the $3 fee only once per trip, but I made only one withdrawal of cash during this trip.

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So, I drove the family to Massachusetts and back.  And I said I would write a post about it.  But all I have is this pile of three dozen receipts.  How am I supposed to weave them into a story?  I guess I’ll start with a dedication:

This road trip was funded by a grant from the estate of BIL #1, who died last year of alcoholism after being thrown out of the Army for refusing yet another tour of duty in Iraq.  I consider him to be a war casualty.

Day 0: Preparation

Buy gas: It is 1:45 PM on September the 26th.  The big trip begins tomorrow.  I am at the recently-opened gas station down the street from my house, filling up my tank.  I buy 67⅔ litres of gasoline for $81 (that's about $4.80/gallon for Americans).  I am thinking that perhaps I shouldn’t buy so much gas, since it’s cheaper across the border in New York, but I don’t want to deal with the stations near the border — last time I had trouble with a gas pump that wouldn’t accept my American credit card because my address doesn’t have a zipcode.
      This gas station has a large sign that says “Mac’s” with an owl logo.  The pumps have logos for Shell Oil.  The receipt says it’s from Shell Canada.  Nowhere to be seen is the name ”Alimentation Couche-Tard”, which I think is the shadowy megacorp that actually owns this store.  They are apparently not very nice and perhaps the #OccupyMontreal people should keep them in mind.  Still, they were willing to spend lots of money to build this station in my little town, so I guess they have some redeeming social value, unlike the banks who refuse to open any branches here.
      The receipt also includes a store number, a gas pump serial number, a transaction number, a credit card approval number, a sales tax ID number, zzzzzzzz...  You know what?  I don’t give a shit about this crap!  Let’s jump forward to the middle of the story, because that’s just the kind of left-handed doggie that I am.

Day 5: Aquarium

October 1st is one of two days of our trip that were set aside for visiting museums, on the grounds that BIL #1 would have wanted us to have some fun with his money.

Drive to Boston: We are on our way to the New England Aquarium.  I paid some tolls on the Mass. Turnpike to get here, but didn’t get any receipts so fuck it.  I haven’t been to this aquarium in many years.  As we get closer to it, I vaguely remember that it has some sort of parking problem.  I pass by one garage that seems quite far away from the destination, but advertises $18 for aquarium parking.  I keep going in hopes that maybe something more convenient will show up.

Parking: We arrive at Central Wharf, which is a mob scene with wall-to-wall tourists.  Eventually, at 1 PM, we complete the maze of one-way streets to arrive at the parking garage that is adjacent to the aquarium.  The charge is $35.  Ah, now I remember!  The aquarium and the garage next door are enemies; it is the $18 garage that is friends with the aquarium (get your parking stub stamped for a discount).  The aquarium hates the $35 garage because it causes people to feel cheated before they even get in the door, which reduces the take from their gift shop, etc.  This has been allowed to go on for many years, so I presume the City of Boston is raking some off the top from the garage.  Mustn’t miss an opportunity to scalp the out-of-towners!  The whole thing stinks of corruption, which overpowers the slightly-fishy odour of the wharf.  As we exit from the garage, we are accosted by barkers trying to sell us overpriced tours on harbour boats.  For a moment I feel like I’m back in Mexico.  But we must soldier on because that’s what BIL #1 would have wanted.

Waiting in line: It is Saturday at a museum.  The line to get in is very long.  I generally avoid lines, figuring that anything *that* popular is probably overhyped.  But “visiting the aquarium” is our scheduled activity for the day, so we enter the line.  I feel like a sitting duck with a neon sign over my head saying, ”Attention all pickpockets!  The tourists are ⇒HERE⇐ and they can’t leave this line.”  But our time spent in line is uneventful.

* * * * *

I later learned that #OccupyBoston was holding a demonstration at South Station, about a mile away, but there was no evidence of any disturbance at Central Wharf.  I wish the occupiers well, but the situation is similar to the end of apartheid in South Africa: it is very, very difficult for the oppressors to climb off their pedestals, having told each other all their lives that they *must* remain on the pedestals because otherwise surely the unwashed masses will tear them limb from limb!  Well, no, actually the masses just want this horrid financial game to be over.  It is only after food becomes unaffordable that the violence will start.  There is still time for the top 0.01% of the ultrarich to do the right thing, but very little evidence so far that they can find it in their hearts to do so.

There is some confusion among the occupiers about who their enemies are.  While “the 1%” is a catchy phrase, most of the top 1% hates the ultrarich as much as the bottom 99% do.  Once all the wealth has been sucked out of the 99%, the vacuum will then be turned upon the 1% and probably many of them know that.  The real enemies are people whose names you have never heard of, who have fudged the public records so their loot appears to be spread out among a horde of fake nominees, because they believe that if their lives ever became public knowledge then of course they would be put to death immediately.  You might as well call them ”the Voldemorts”.

Of course, it is presumptuous of me to be speaking on behalf of the 1%.  I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor have I ever wanted to be, a member of that class.  At the peak of my career as a software engineer, my income was barely into the top 20% for Americans; it is much lower now.  I have always refused offers of promotion into management.  I have never kissed anyone’s ass (no, it’s not just a figure of speech) and I don’t intend to start now.  I have gotten into stock trading, not because it’s a popular pastime among my rich friends, but because my health is poor and it is one of the few jobs that truly doesn’t need anything more than a brain, a computer, some seed capital, and a whole lotta nerve.

The stock market is broken.  It has become a casino where the world’s wealth is gambled away.  It should be restored to its proper function.  But in the meantime, if you’re not playing, you’re losing.  The world’s corporations are taking the money from your pocket and putting it on the stock market.  If you want it back, that’s where you have to go.  To win, all one has to do is be smarter than the average bankster, which seems like it shouldn’t be that hard.  But the banksters have had many years to hone their game, while I am a newbie.

Many people have written their versions of ”What #OccupyWallStreet’s demands should be”.  Here is one from Shah Gilani, who is a member of the 1% and has been neck-deep in Wall Street for 30 years.  The language is a little stilted, and some of his demands are perhaps too lenient, but he seems to be roughly on the same page as the protesters outside his offices.  That’s a refrain I’ve heard from many sources: most of the people who work on Wall Street agree with the protesters, not with their own overlords.  They hate how corrupt their jobs have become.

* * * * *

Aquarium entrance: At 1:40 PM we finally got to the front of the line.  In the meantime, the rear of the line had become maybe 20% longer.  I pity the fool who joins it now!  Admission is only $91.80 for a family of four.  As soon as we get in, we immediately find ourselves at a penguin feeding show.  I really dislike the crowd-control language that the emcee is using, so I wait on the nearby benches until the show is over.

Lunch: At 2:20 PM we head to the cafeteria.  I get a salad.  Later I get the runs; hey Toto, maybe we really are back in Mexico?  The kids get chicken fingers and French fries, which are heavily coated with some bright orange powder of indeterminate origin and purpose (I suppose it *might* be food).  Only $31.51! McDonald’s would have been healthier and tastier.

Aquarium exhibits:  I liked the deep-sea tank, because it was a fake diorama.  They can’t actually replicate deep-sea conditions in an aquarium tank and it is very hard (or impossible) to capture deep-sea creatures alive and put them in tanks.  You can’t even taxidermy them because their bodies explode when you bring them to the surface.

Aquarium gift shop: The receipt says we bought a T-shirt for $25, but I don’t remember that because I waited outside.

LongHorn Steakhouse: In Franklin MA, just down the street a ways from our hotel.  We had stayed at this hotel in the past and thought this restaurant was worth revisiting.  Just over $100 for a family dinner with tax and tip.  I think the food was not as good as I remembered.  Perhaps the restaurant has had a change in management?  Wikipedia says the LongHorn chain was bought by the Olive Garden/Red Lobster people back in 2007.  Ah well; something’s gotta give in a “down” economy.  Receipt is dated 7:21 PM.

Stop & Shop supermarket: In same shopping plaza with LongHorn.  Just popping in for a few items while we’re here.  $22.35, 7:43 PM.

Buy more gas: Actually, this was 11 AM.  I am mentioning it out of order BECAUSE I CAN!  And because I wanted to start with the driving-to-Boston scene. Only $3.39⁹/gallon! Filled the tank with 17½ gallons.  Sunoco station in Franklin MA.

Jo-Ann’s Fabrics, Walpole MA.  Wifey bought $45.62 worth of sewing supplies.  We could probably obtain them in Canada, but Jo-Ann’s has a nice selection and we remember them fondly from our old life in New Jersey.  The receipt says we completed this purchase at 12:03PM, while the receipt from the $35 garage (27 miles away in Boston) says we entered there at precisely noon.  I think the garage is lying its head off.
      The Walpole Mall is just sad.  Around half the stores are out of business.

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To Rochester NY for more shopping!  And more shopping!  And even more shopping!!!  We went to the “Land’s End Inlet” which is actually a misnamed outlet store.  It was disappointing; many of our desired items were not on sale.  Then to Wegman’s grocery store to stock up on chicken and butter and other stuff that costs much more in Canada because they don’t abuse undocumented Hispanic serfs to keep their prices down.  When we visit the States, we usually return with more butchered chicken carcasses than is permitted for “personal use” importation, but they never search our car so we get away with it.

We were about to get back on the highway when I remembered that I had wanted to go to Wal*Mart to return a multifunction digital watch that BIL #1 had given me for Christmas.  I already have a digital watch and the gift watch’s face is too large for my taste.  But I couldn't return it at Wal*Mart Canada because the two companies have separate computer systems, so neither the UPC nor the code on the gift receipt would register there.  The Wal*Mart clerk in Rochester thought my story was a little hokey (and Christmas 2009 was a long time ago), but it helped that BIL #1 had sent watches to both me and Kid #2 and the clerk could see that Kid #2 was wearing his.  So she gave me an in-store credit and we went around buying stuff to use it up.

The New York Thruway offers public Wi-Fi at all rest stops.  That’s not so unusual these days but I hadn’t tried the other turnpikes.  To get on the Internet, you have to click past a landing page that asserts the right of the State of New York to monitor your activities and refuse service to anyone for any reason.  But they don’t ask for ID!  This shreds all the RIAA’s arguments that it should be considered a crime to have household Wi-Fi that isn’t protected by password.  Really, the only reason to restrict access to your home Wi-Fi is so that you can’t defend yourself against an RIAA lawsuit by claiming that the songs were downloaded by some random passer-by without your knowledge.  If they really cared about child porn, they wouldn't let you just show up at a rest area and download it without a trace.  But music takes too long to download so the RIAA doesn't care about rest areas, just libraries (where you have to show ID to surf the web).

The Thruway accepts Canadian currency at a steep discount of 10% off face value (the exchange rate would suggest a 6% discount) but they insist on giving change in American money.  The bridge into Canada accepts American money at face value but insists on giving change in the same currency.  So it seems to be impossible to leave the USA without some leftover American coinage in one’s pocket—the Good Lord knows I tried!

We arrived home to find that our second freezer was operating properly and was ready to receive all the chicken carcasses.  It had been malfunctioning for months.  The temperature control was broken and the cooling system just ran continuously, creating a −25°F environment that was too cold for ice cream.  I had taken the freezer to our local electrical shop for repair a couple of days before the trip, but the repairman had other things to do (like attend a funeral) so I didn’t get it back until the morning of our departure.

All’s well that ends!

(This completes the “Mass. Trip '10” series of posts.)

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Friday, August 8th (08/08/08)

The big day!  The main event of the trip!  My brother-in-law’s wedding!

But first, more banking.  Back to Strata Bank to cash in another ¼ of the bonds.  Over to Bank of America, where this time we were greeted at the door by Seth, who told me “for future reference” that lunchtime was not a good time to open an account at his bank.  Yeah, Seth, that’s the way to go: blame the customer for your bank’s failure to provide mid-day staffing.  Anyway, it was too late for the account-opening approach to our problem.  A teller cashed the final ¼.  Kid #1 noticed that the dates shown on all the bank’s calendars were correct today, for a change.

So now we had mucho dinero in untraceable American currency, in eight packets with children’s names on them.  What should we do with it all?  The hotel room had no safe.  I put the money in a DHL courier envelope that I was carrying around anyway (passports, terribly important papers, etc.)  The envelope was already beginning to look a little beat-up from being carried so much; no one would ever suspect the Spanish Inquisition that it contained serious quantities of loot.  When we went into our hotel room, it came with us.  When we went out, it stayed in the car.  No one ever steals anything from our car, which apparently has acquired a “Someone Else’s Problem” field.  There is value in driving a boring family minivan: cops and robbers both ignore you.

The children were very good and never blabbed to random strangers (or anyone) that we were carrying around an envelope full of filthy lucre.

Left at 5 PM for the wedding.  It was raining cats and dogs, but I didn't step in a poodle.  Apparently there is typically a huge Rush Hour backup at the interchange from I-495 to I-90, which blocks the entire road even if you don’t want to get off there.  The jam used up all our “spare” time and caused us to be late for the wedding.  Wifey hates being late for anything!  I fully expect to be late for my own funeral.

The wedding was being held at a quaint country inn.  My youngest brother-in-law (BIL #3) was waiting for us by the front door, so Wifey and the kidlets got out with their umbrellas and went inside.  The parking lot had a sign commanding visitors to use the special path and not to walk in the street, but the special path was a raging torrent so I walked in the street which had better drainage.

The justice of the peace was having a discussion.  Somebody or other had forgotten to bring the marriage licence!  Eventually it was decided to hold the ceremony anyway and fix up the paperwork later.  Kid #1 recorded that the ceremony took 7¼ minutes and the words reminded her of the Borg assimilating a new species (“one mind, one heart… I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Him”).  The groom (BIL #2) was confident in his “I do!” but the bride stumbled through her vows—her attack of nerves was cute!  Meanwhile SIL #1 in Arizona was listening in via a speakerphone.  My children sat quietly through the ceremony and dinner, causing everyone to mistakenly believe that they are well-behaved at home.  (BIL #3 had left his kids at home, knowing that they were still too young to pull off such an illusion.)

We “borrowed” $200 from one of Kid #1’s packets to use for a wedding present.  Each of my kids received a gift bag from the wedding couple, including treasure chests full of official USA coinage!  Kid #1 (who has issues with useless presents) was reasonably good at pretending to like her gold bracelet.

The bridesmaid was the bride’s daughter from a previous marriage, who had brought along her Missouri-drawling boyfriend.  They found it hard to believe that we had driven “all the way” from Canada, although their trip from Missouri was actually twice as far.  My new SIL seemed to like it when I introduced her daughter to my kids as “this is your new cousin!”

We left the inn at 9 PM and proceeded to… more shopping!  Wal*Mart for more Iraq care-package items and some homeschool supplies, Barnes & Noble for yet another book for Kid #1, whose Canadian ABM card (attached to her youth savings account, $50 max withdrawal per day) worked perfectly as a payment method.

Saturday, August 9th

Today’s scheduled activity: visit BIL #3 and his family in Attleboro MA.  But first, a visit to mother-in-law’s house.  Since MIL’s last at-home child just moved out, she has less need to cook now, so Wifey brought a bunch of home-cooked goodies that we had been keeping frozen all week.  MIL gave Wifey a whole bunch of just-married BIL #2’s old Halloween costumes “to sell on eBay”.  I think Kid #2 will be mixing and matching some of the pieces for trick-or-treat this year.

In Attleboro, cousin #3 is now just barely old enough to remember us from 11 months ago.  Cousin #1 has been officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  His mother (my sister–in-law–in-law?) gave us a Xeroxed booklet about the syndrome, which we all noticed contained a duplicate page.  Kid #1 joked that the booklet is a test: if you notice the duplicate page, you’ve got the syndrome!  It seemed to me that Cousin #2 also has some spectrum-disorder issues, which were being ignored because he is “almost neurotypical” compared to his brother.  New cousin #4 was not present because she was on her way back to Missouri.  BIL #1 showed up and spent a lot of time playing with his brother’s kids.  I asked him whether it would be nice to play with kids more often and he (a confirmed bachelor, back in Illinois now having served a tour in Iraq after being called up from Army Reserve at age 50) looked at me like I had two heads.

After the visit, more shopping!  Bought a paper shredder so we can compost our own junk mail instead of putting it out for the county to recycle.  And why did we need to buy this in the States, as if our car's trunk weren't already full enough?  It was ON SALE!!!

When we returned to our hotel, Wifey took the kids to the exercise room to burn off some energy while I tried to get some paid work done on the laptop.

[Poll #1266541]

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