Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tables Turning

Recently A has become interested in old school forms of music, i.e., vinyl records, if you can believe that. I know it's been a bit fringe trendy for a long time, and I didn't really give it much thought until now. I figured it would just be a blip on the screen and then fade away, but somehow vinyl is still popular in certain circles. Since A is a music officionado, she's mentioned now and then the interest in getting a turntable, though it's not a priority at this point. Nonetheless, the mere mention has put the idea on dad's radar, and over the past few months I've kept my eye out for one at the Listen Center or through the town listserve.

A few have showed up at the Listen, some of them pretty nice, though not as cheap as I'd like. Ideally I wanted to get one for free, because let's face it, I was not about to drop a lot of money on a record player. Plus, there was the added threat of facing mom's scorn at procuring yet another piece of equipment to take up space. If it collects dust and isn't used, we're talking a double whammy of angst. Plus, who buys vinyl anymore? We don't even own any, though I used to have plenty when I was younger.

As I mentioned a few showed up at the Listen but I was reluctant because they were on the pricier side. I felt bad, but A said it wasn't a big deal, and she was sympathetic to my domestic concerns, especially since she's been in my shoes. Well, as luck would have it, our friend and neighbor, CF, was trying to get rid of his old turntable and I said I was interested. In fact, he was looking for an old bike for a friend, which I happened to have, so we worked out a swap.

The turntable was kind of cool, though I know nothing about them in this day and age. Clearly this was an older model, and it had a custom made case that CF made himself. It was heavy, however. I got it home and wasn't sure how mom would react, though A and N thought it was pretty cool. I even bought some vinyl at Listen for $2. They have stacks of old records, some of them so cheesy that you wouldn't believe it.

Either way, this is where the story gets good. As it turns out, the turntable didn't work (oh great). I plugged it in and the thing didn't turn. What good is that? I was sort of bummed but figured I could just tell CF it was broken, then deal with it. However, N said he'd like to take a look at it. He got out his tools, the same ones he uses build drones, and went to work. He literally worked for a few hours on that thing, cutting, snipping, and soldering, and by the end he got the darn thing to work. I was so impressed, not to mention stoked because now the machine had legitimacy in mom's eyes since it had become N's project. Don't you just love when that happens?

What was also cool was that he fixed it and tested it with an amp and speaker that he created from scratch. He builds these things, so maybe that's why he wasn't too intimidated about fixing it. We hooked it up to our stereo, which we rarely use, and lo and behold, the thing works. We cleared out some space in the stereo cabinet to make it as incognito as possible, though mom found it immediately. I think the kids explained the situation and she was very agreeable about the whole thing, probably because her “budding engineer” of a son brought it back to life.

Of course, this means we'll have to start keeping our eyes out for vinyl, but it's not a rush. That turntable is not going anywhere soon.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

State of Retail

They say that traditional retail is in jeopardy of disappearing because of the internet, and I can kind of see this happening from firsthand experience. I'm a bit skeptical about the demise of brick and mortar stores, but stats tell a different story as more and more people are buying online. I know I prefer just getting something online, not only because it removes the hassle of shopping and driving, but also because it's often cheaper. However, I also think that people like the shopping experience, and maybe it's good to get out of the house now and then rather than sitting on one's computer all day. Plus, even though this seems like the next wave, I really can't imagine buying groceries online. Amazon thinks differently.

Either way, some retail stores seem like they are having trouble, especially some of these big chains, not to mention malls. I'm not a fan of malls, anyway, but when you into them and they are empty, I find them completely depressing. We experienced this back in LA, and I see it whenever I go into the retail district up here. The one tiny mall we have is always empty, and certain big chain stores like Kmart and JCP have 3-4 customers max. Walmart still seems to draw them in.

My original point that has gotten lost in my rambling is that I was attempting to buy some jeans at JCP online, and it kept failing on me. Like many stores, you get free shipping if you pick them up at the store, but more importantly, I can easily return the clothes if they don't fit. The pitfalls (and there are many) of online shopping is that obviously you can't try them on, and you have to pay for return shipping. Once you find something that fits, it's easy, but it takes a little legwork to get to that point. Buying online from a store that's in the vicinity (I'm reluctant to use the word “local”) means that you often get the free shipping, and if it doesn't fit, you can easily return it for free.

Anyway, this didn't seem to work out with JCP. Every time I ordered a pair, they canceled it because they didn't have the jeans in stock. I tried about three times, slightly varying each time, and I kept getting cancelation notices. Talk about a pain, why not just say they are out of stock before I go through the whole ordering process? I finally gave up and looked to Amazon, which happened to have free shipping and free return shipping. Say no more.

While I have some issues with big internet companies taking over the world, you have to give Amazon some credit, they sure do have their act together. The older more traditional stores seem a bit behind the curve, but I guess that's why their all going out of business. I'm not sure what the future holds but I'm guessing there is both good and bad on the horizon.

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

Meet the Parents

It's interesting for both N and I (and eventually mom, I'm sure) playing in a new organization. Our old place was chock full of people we knew very well. In a way we were one of the older established families because we had been there so long. Now we're over in the big city and it's a whole new set of parents to mingle with. The difference is that since we're in the big city, it's a lot more hip and happening parents who are basically doctors, lawyers, and Dartmouth professors. We're talking a whole new set of interests, and for that matter, values. I'm finding that I have to re-learn the art of conversation.

I think N is fine because he really just wants to play hockey, and while these are more of the guys he'll probably see if he takes classes at the school, I'm not sure how many long term friendships will come of it. I can say that after 5 years over at our old program, not too many connections have been maintained, at least not for him.

Boy, life sure is complicated. In the beginning I was pretty anti-social, just hanging out in the corner and watching practice, but I'm opening up a little more to the big city parents, trying to get to know them, and they've been very nice. Their kids are all high hockey performers so that's a big topic of discussion, but slowly I'm getting to know more about them.

This should be interesting. Yet another topic to fuel my neurosis as the season progresses. I will say this - joining the big city program has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone and forced me to confront new and sometimes terrifying situations, like meeting highly successful parents who are hip and attractive. Not too many SAHDs in this group.

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

Split Decision

Summer is over and now that we are in the midst of fall and winter is knocking at the door, I decided the time to cut wood has ended and the time to split has arrived. While I like to pretend that I'm a real man by splitting it all by hand, the truth of the matter is that I have a fairly substantial pile of blocks that are too hard to split. I probably could do it with a lot of effort, I just don't want to spend 30 minutes with each one, so I've made a request to our good friend AM to borrow her splitter. She is so cool about letting us use it, I can't even begin to express how I much I appreciate it. I just have to arrange transportation, which isn't the easiest thing, but a drop in the bucket compared to the benefits.

Once we get the splitter, A&N (probably mostly N) can assist, and then we can set our sights on getting the wood pile done. Then again, it's never really done, is it?

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to macguys for the pic.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Finally Getting It Done

Okay, like other important maintenance projects that I've put off, I finally went out and got an undercoating put on the Mighty Fit, in the hopes of preventing it from turning out like this. Undercoating is something you would never dream of doing if you lived in California. In fact, you've probably never even heard of it, I know I never had. But when you live in New England, the frame and chassis of your car take a beating from the brutal winters. Our last car, the Mazda, was running fine when part of the frame rusted out and the back wheel essentially broke off. I was driving around town, thankfully going slowly, when the back wheel disconnected from the frame. It was a bit of a bummer.

It did, however, highlight the fact that cars are vulnerable to the elements, especially corrosion and rust from all the salt on the roads. Granted, up here they don't salt as heavily as they do in the bigger cities, and I think the Mazda suffered from our time in Providence. Also, we didn't care for it as well as we could have, which meant regular and frequent car washes with particular attention paid to the undercarriage. This is key.

Since we've owned the Fit we've washed it regularly and I think (hope) that it is in decent condition. Undercarriage washes are a regular part of any car wash, so it gets done fairly frequently. Even still, I've been told by several people in the know, including the Amazing PR Man, that an undercoating is a good idea up here. For those of you who don't know what it is, an undercoating is basically spraying a protective film over the metal on the bottom of your car. In the past they've used petroleum products, which is essentially oil, but are now moving more toward wax/paraffin based undercoats. That's what I got.

Since it's wax based, I've been told that they don't apply it in the summer, and usually wait until fall. That way you get the protection before the winter comes. Winter is too late, and in the spring it's not as critical because you don't have road salt. So I guess fall is pretty much the only time they do it. Hey, I'm new at this, too.

Next came deciding where to go, which is never a simple thing when neurotic dad is involved. As with everything in life, there are too many choices, coupled with the fact that every business that has anything to do with automotive repair is jumping on this procedure. It's becoming fairly regular when you live up here, and more and more people in the know are recommending it. From first hand experience I can see why.

I ended up asking our local Honda dealer, and they pointed me to two places, one of which I ended up choosing - Kidder. It's funny because I've driven past them countless times and didn't really give them much thought, until now. I washed the car the day before and then took it over to the shop, where it took about 30 minutes. It's been something I've been meaning to do, and now that I've started it, I feel much better. It was explained to me that you should do it for a couple of years and then go every other, so that's something to keep in mind. Also, don't do any hot undercarriage washes, which is kind of a drag because what else is there?

Too much to think about, for now I can rest a little easier when that first snow comes. Then again, that just means I'll have to start shoveling, right?

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Stephan Ridgway for the pic.

Dental Woes

This is a bummer, to say the least, but it appears that I'll be needing some rather involved dental work done, namely a root canal. I can't think of too many things in life that elicit the dread that a root canal does, and for good reason. I had a root canal done when I was a little kid. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old, I can't even recall, but it was a pretty miserable experience. In retrospect, I'm not even sure why you'd have a root canal done on a primary tooth, but times were different back then, right?

Needless to say I'm not jumping for joy to move ahead, but move ahead I must. I've been assigned an expert in root canal procedures, better known as an endodontist. I was under the assumption that your dentist just went in and drilled out the nerve, but clearly I was wrong. Personally I figured they could just pull the darn tooth out, it's in reasonably poor shape, but the goal here is to save as many teeth as possible, right? This becomes more relevant as you get older, when everything starts either falling out or falling apart.

Oh well, we'll see where this one goes. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Joel S for the pic.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Still Time

It sure seemed like we were on the cusp of fall about a week back when the weather suddenly turned cool. Suddenly seems a bit oxymoron because let's face it, it's time for cooler weather, so we shouldn't be surprised. However, right before the temps cooled down, we had a crazy stretch of really warm weather, almost hotter than any stretch we'd seen all summer, if you can believe that. It was good for hitting the beach, but not so much for everything else. Either way, it was hot, and then the temps suddenly dropped overnight by about 25 degrees, I kid you not. It was a bit jarring, and suddenly we were burning wood every morning, which is more like it is supposed to be.

Then, out of nowhere, we have gotten another stretch of warm weather. Yesterday it was about 80 degrees with high humidity, and it sure felt like summer. I was talking to our neighbor at the farm and he said we really need some rain. I guess you don't really think about drought conditions at any other time besides summer, but it can happen in the fall and spring. Winter not so much.

The weather hasn't been miserably hot, so I can deal with it, and another silver lining, if you can call it that, is that I can continue doing some outdoor projects that I didn't get to over the summer, namely painting the house (for the record, I totally feel this guy's pain). I can split and stack wood in the snow, if need be, but painting is a trickier project. You really need moderate temperatures for the paint to dry properly and withstand the brutal New England winters. I've been told that the days need to get above 50 degrees to paint, and I'm hoping that gives me another couple of weeks, at least. Maybe more.

I'm aiming to paint the other gable end of the house and finish the front. Last year I started on the bottom half and for whatever reason, and there are many, didn't do the top half. You can see the line of demarcation where the new paint ends. This time around I'm hoping to paint the trim and finish the clapboards. I'll hit the front first because it faces north and doesn't benefit as much from warm sunny weather. It's also the most accessible since it's not as high as the gable end, which require a 30 foot extension ladder, which I am not a fan of. Plus, on the gable end, I'm dealing with wasps galore. Like the other gable end, I'll work up to a certain point and then stop to avoid clashing with the little buggers.

We'll see how my master painting plan works. I'm hoping to avoid relegating this project into the realm of pipe dreams, because let's face it, I can't make my way to being a real man by just splitting firewood and making casseroles, can I?

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