Friday, September 22, 2017

New Hockey Frontiers

With hockey starting soon, I think it's good for me to reflect a little on the big changes that are happening this year, namely that we've left our old hockey program with completely bad vibes (on my part, N holds no grudges) and are playing in a new program over in the big city. It's a big change and one that I didn't think we'd ever make, at least not yet.

In the past, playing over in the big city always meant being more competitive and driven. It's a stronger program and churns out more high end players, which means that the parents have high expectations, i.e., they're way more intense. Then again, hockey parents are hockey parents, right? Several players from our old program moved over to the big city in the past because they wanted various things for out of it - from a bright future in the NHL of just parental bragging rights that their kids were in a kick-ass program. For full disclosure, the level of skill seems to drop off at the level that N is playing at, probably because the really high end players move on to select teams or go play at prep schools. It's still a solid program in the big city, just not at an elite level, which suits us just fine.

So given all the crap we had to endure last year at our old program, we made the decision to move over. There were many reasons for this change, most of them spiteful on my part, but it never would have happened if N didn't agree to it. His strongest motivator was the level of uncertainty in the old program. They go through this every year, never sure how certain teams are going to shape up, or if they're even going to have a team. This is the case with N's level, and as far as I can see, they are going to have a hard time putting together a team. Besides, despite all of my juvenile bad feelings for the old program, it would be nice to see N play on a team where his teammates were a little closer in skill level (at his old program, the players were all over the map), but more importantly, came out, worked hard, and gave some semblance of effort, i.e., didn't have crappy attitudes. This was rarely the case on his old team. In fact, I think it's fair to say that most kids on his team rarely, if ever, gave 100%. It was discouraging and telling at the same time.

Finally, N will more than likely do some high school work over in the big city, just like his sister, so this is the world that he will be inhabiting. It's not a bad time to get a foot in the proverbial door of this new environment. I'm not saying this is the promised land and we're going to have nothing but warm fuzzy feelings about life in the big city, but at this point, anything is better than being “over there” at the old program. I am done with that place.

This should be interesting, and like all things in our lives, will probably be filled with drama. I can't wait. At the very least, more of our lives are stationed over in the big city, including work, school, and friends. It's easier for us to get to the big city than the “other place,” (just a quick jaunt on the highway), there's way more to do in the big city (there's nothing going on “over there,” it's the epitome of dull), and a lot of these kids that are on his team will potentially be his future classmates. Coupled with my complete disdain for the old program, one could make the case that this change is a no-brainer. Then again, I could eat my words in a few weeks. You just never know.

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and make changes where you think they're needed, especially if you're unhappy with your current situation. Life's too short to endure people treating you like crap, don't you think?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Preparing for Fall Surfing

I know I've been commenting on how warm it's been, but truth be told, fall is on the horizon and the water is still a bit chilly. It really takes hot weather to make it comfortable, and that occurs in a small window of time during the same. That window has closed. Last time we surfed it was warmer than I'd expected, but with the fall weather closing in, the water only get chillier and chiller with each passing week.

With this in mind, we are doing some fall surfing prep, which boils down to doing whatever it takes to stay warm. I've been told that people surf until mid-late October, which is fine by me, but I can't fathom the idea of getting out of the water and taking off a wetsuit when it's cold and windy outside. Talk about brutal.

Either way, we have our wetsuits and booties to keep most of us warm, but one area where we really suffered when it was cold outside was our hands. It's mainly because when they're wet and in the cool breeze, they take a beating. So I got us some gloves, and they were surprisingly cheap online. We were able to get a sense of what size we would need by trying on various pairs, and then I did some bargain hunting. It wasn't a rush situation because it's still tolerable out there right now, but I'm thinking that if we want to surf in the coming weeks, we're going to need to protect those hands. For the record, I look forward to the day when our surf gear is complete and I won't need to keep buying stuff. Then again, that may never happen.

One final note, I was looking at gloves for around $40 a pop at surf shops, and I got two pairs for $30 online. I love when that happens. Now we're ready to keep hitting the waves.

Until the next time, thanks for surfing.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Passport Renewal

When we fly we often need some form of identification for all of us, but at the very least mom and dad. Now when flying in the US all we need is a driver's license, but just for good measure we bring along our passports. Well, imagine my surprise when we recently flew to LA and the TSA guy informed us that my passport had expired. Boy, it was a good thing we weren't flying international because we, or rather I, would have been in trouble. Since it was just a domestic flight he didn't make a big deal out of it, but he did inform us that we needed to take care of it.

It's strange that this passed below our radar because we are usually on top of these matters. However, since we haven't really done a lot of international travel this year, the timing could have been worse. Plus, with no big trips in the works, I had time to deal with it. This meant getting a new passport photo done, which is a bit of a hassle because camera shops, where I used to get them done, are a thing of the past.

Either way, no time like the present to get it done. Then we will be all prepped and ready for our next big trip, wherever that may be.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to John Dewar for the pic.

Big Mac

Wow, this sort of came out of nowhere, but I've managed to upgrade my computer and get a good deal at the same time, all thanks to my amazing sister in law, DR. Thanks, BTW. My current laptop is about 7 years old, which is 49 in dog years and 70 in computer years. It works fine but it is definitely starting to fall apart - my hard drive crashed and I had to replace it, the track pad is losing sensitivity, and the actual case is coming loose and is being held together with packing tape. As I mentioned, it still works, but the proverbial writing seems to be on the wall, and I've been looking around for deals on used MacBooks.

I'd heard that the Dartmouth computer store sells off old laptops that departments use and then replace. By old I mean 2-3 years, which would be a huge upgrade to my computer. The problem is, they never have computers available when I inquire, and I when I inquire, I'm talking emailing them every week. At some point my conspiracy-minded brain started to think they were yanking my chain, but one of the salespeople actually told me that faculty have priority on the MacBooks and there is a long waiting list. I.e., I'm out of luck. My friend JP actually has one of said MacBooks, which sell for around $300, which is a great deal if you can get one, but you can't get one, so it's not such a great deal.

Anyway, I'd pretty much given up and thought that at some point I'd have to look to eBay or Craigslist when the clouds parted and DR came to the rescue. Woo-hoo. I am stoked because the timing is good, and it's something the entire household can use. I don't need a high tech machine, but if I'm going to get a new computer, I might as well get something nice if I can, right?

Either way, I'm hoping that one future problem has now been addressed, and I can direct my attention (and money) to other important things, like hockey equipment, snow tires, and surfboard wax.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rocky Chen for the pic.

Splitting Like Crazy

I'd been splitting wood and trying to finish year 2 at a reasonably casual pace, but it has dawned on me that I was going to have to step up the pace because no matter how much wood I think I've split, it barely makes a dent in the wood pile. Needless to say this is incredibly frustrating because I'd like for it to just be done, but no such luck. On a bright note we do have plenty of log length wood, and I've blocked up a reasonably good-sized pile, but as I've experienced in the past, a massive pile of un-split wood is no reason to get complacent. Sometimes I'm amazed at how much wood we burn.

We were lucky to get a brief spell of cool weather (I was sure fall was here), which made cutting and splitting more bearable, but the heat has returned, and it's been a challenge, especially for a whiner like myself. Over the past week I've been splitting whenever I can, and just when I've got this big pile for stacking, I'm floored by how much farther I still have to go. The kids have been helping me and it makes a big difference, so the only thing to do is stop whining (yeah right) and just keep chopping away. The kids don't whine when I ask them to help, so I should just keep my big mouth shut.

Meanwhile, the pile of blocks that I can't seem to split keeps growing, so at some point I'm going to have to borrow JP or AM's splitter, I'm still not clear who it belongs to. Maybe I should just get ahold of said splitter sooner than later and just finish the whole damn pile. Then again, there are a lot of things I should do.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ken Dodds for the pic.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Big City Girl

A has been quite the big city girl lately, heading down to the big city with her friends, sans mom or dad. She's so cosmopolitan. It bears mentioning that even though mom and dad are not going, parents are involved, and her friends are actually her bandmates and they are, for the most part, older and in college. I know this sounds like a potentially complicated situation, but we know and trust her friends, and as I mentioned, parents were present.

The first weekend she went down to see this band called Snarky Puppy, which is a jazz ensemble that is apparently the hot new thing. Several of them went to Boston and they later learned that other friends and bandmates were going as well. Very cool. A has begun developing an interest in jazz because her jazz band at school is encouraging it, and her bandmates are into it, as well. More on this at a later date. One of the dads, who is a music head, drove the guys down and they stayed at a relatives house in the city, which is pretty cool. They hung out in Boston, went to see the band, and had an overall really cool time. Plus, they got to see some killer live music.

The next weekend she went to Concord to do some music stuff with her band. Again, this was very cool because they are a talented bunch of musicians and they are taking their craft seriously. One of the bandmates used to live up here and now lives in Concord, so they stayed at his house and his mom prepared meals and put them all up. How cool is that?

All in all A had two amazing musical weekends in a row. It's very cool to see her so interested in music, though not just playing for fun, but taking it reasonably seriously. Who knows what will come of it but suffice it to say that she has mom and dad's support.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to bandonthewall for the pic.

New Guitar

A got a new guitar and I'm really stoked for her because not only is it a cool guitar, but it's something she researched and picked out. First, a little background. Way back when she was first starting we got her a starter electric guitar that was reasonably cheap because let's face it, we weren't sure it was something she'd stick with (though I was hoping she would). It was recommended to us by her guitar teacher at the time, EE. He said that they were fairly well made and were a good option for a first guitar. Plus, since they were cheap (i.e., made in China), they had a wide selection of colors and body styles. She picked out one she liked, we got her a decent amp, and a rock star was born.

Well, a few years later and she's playing in several bands, if you can believe that. She's been using the same guitar and it's served her well, but it's not without it's small issues. I can't adequately explain what the problems were, but we've had the guitar guy at the Dojo do a few things with it. Nothing major but small problems that keep cropping up. At some point A inquired if she could get a new guitar, and of course she'd been doing her homework and looking into various options.

One thing that was fun about this process was that she could go to guitar stores and try them out. They are very cool about letting you try just about any guitar they have in stock, even if it's still in the package. This happened to us in LA, where we visited the Guitar Center in Hollywood. She asked about the guitar that she wanted and they unpacked the thing, tuned it up, and handed it over so she could jam. Even though we didn't buy it, they were very accommodating. For the record, I think that was the fourth Guitar Center that she'd been to.

Anyway, when we got back, she searched the internet for her guitar and found one to her liking. My mom had actually given the kids some cash as a gift and A used that towards her guitar. It came very soon after she ordered it, and she's stoked with it. I have to confess that I'm happy that she's playing with a decent quality instrument. Even though I'm a fan of cheap, I can appreciate the value of spending the money for something of good quality, especially when it involves a special item like a guitar, surfboard, skis or snowboards, or most stuff for the kids. For me, I'll generally lean towards the cheaper option. With surfboards this is not an option because you can't find cheap or used surfboards around here.

Plus, you can't deny the importance of the “cool factor” when it comes to kids. I don't mind using junk but when you're young you just can't pull it off, you need to have the good stuff, and you're usually better off in the end. Now that A has a quality guitar, she has more of the cool factor on stage, and that's important when you're a rock star.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Chris Owen for the pic.