Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spring Projects

Speaking of real-man's work, the snow has melted and I hear the call to duty. That means resuming and initiating various projects that require power tools, blaring rock music, Budweiser, and a lot of blood sweat and tears... except for the tears, of course. The kind of work that would make my role models proud, which would include my Mentor, JH and His Magic Bag of Tools, and of course, the Amazing PR Man.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of projects in the pipeline. That's why they call it real-man work, it takes a real man to get it done, or at least a real-man in training. In addition to finishing the barn, the main house needs some attention, and then there is garden, the yard, the firewood, and plenty of other fun things. And as always, there is so much to be done that it inspires me to kick into my default mode, which is to shut down and do nothing, whining (of course) about how much there is to do, and how none of it is getting done. How's that for a self-feeding loop?

Over the course of my real man training, however, I have learned that the key is not to be too ambitious and to set reasonable and realistic goals. One step at a time, as the saying goes, and most of all, don't be a whiny baby. The last part is the hardest for me. Whatever be the case, yesterday I figured the time had come to break out my cutoff jean shorts and get to work. I wanted to get three things done - stack some of the wood that I split last year but didn't get to (it was covered with snow by December), start painting the house (a job that will take all summer), and deal with the compost. If I had to prioritize, I would put the last one first, because with spring kicking into full gear, we have to be wary of bears eating the compost. We have been visited by a black bear the past two years, and my understanding is that once they find a source of food, they will continue to come back. What a bummer.

I therefore need to take care of that before Yogi Bear shows up, which could be any day now. Personally I don't care if they eat the stuff, but I don't want big black bears hanging around our house. They're still dangerous animals and best left to mother nature. Dealing with the compost is more involved than it should be because I didn't plan properly over winter, but what else is new? More on this later, but suffice it to say that I did manage to at least touch on all three of my goals, albeit with different levels of success.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Real Man's Work

With all that's going on with hockey and transitioning into spring, I'd forgotten that I'm still training to be a real man and there is always work to be done. While I'm waiting for the snow to melt so I can start splitting wood (though I guess a real man would just split it in the snow), we had a situation come up inside the house, involving our toilet, no less. When we first moved into our house one of the first things we did was install a new toilet upstairs because the one that was there was black. Who installs a black toilet?

Either way, it wasn't easy buying a toilet because for whatever reason there are a ridiculous number of choices, all with creative names, no less. We ended up getting a higher end brand, Toto, and I'm not even sure why. Every now and then little things seem to malfunction, and this time around it was the flushing mechanism. The handle actually broke so the flushing arm wasn't working properly, i.e., we couldn't flush the toilet. This can make life a bummer. 

I went over to F.W. Webb in Lebanon, one of the few places that sells Toto toilets, and got the part. I was hoping just to replace the handle, but ended up having to get the entire unit, which actually made replacing it a piece of cake, though like all things in life, it was more expensive than I had anticipated. Also, the customer service was terrible. The guy helping must have been on medication because he was moving so slowly at one point I thought he'd forgotten I was even there, and I was standing right next to him. He had no clue where to find my part so he asked the guy who seemed to be in charge, and this guy couldn't cram corn chips fast enough into his mouth. I was staring at him thinking, "Maybe you should just take a break and eat those things somewhere else." Talk about unprofessional.

I guess in the end I shouldn't complain because I got the part, and best of all, it gave me a chance to break out my tools and do real man's work. It didn't involve anything with a combustion engine or sharp blades of steel, but that will come in due time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Eugene Huo for the pic.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Everyone's A Winner

Way back when hockey season was going on, N had a tournament at toward the end of the season and they had a raffle that A actually won. Her prize was some cash, several lottery tickets, and about 25 pounds of candy. It was a ridiculous amount of sweets, and it was excited that she won, what the heck were we going to do with all that candy? We sure as heck were not going to eat it. We found out about the win on the car ride home from the arena in Leb, mom phoned us to let us know, and we made a detour to UA. The tournament was still going on so we stayed to watch some of it, and when I called R to tell her we'd be staying a little longer, she suggested trying to give away as much of the candy as possible.

What a great idea! It just so happened that one of our teams was in the final so several of our friends were at the arena. A basically stood at the entrance with the bag wide open and told every kid who walked through to fill their pockets. They were going crazy and filling every possible pocket with the stuff, it was a sight to behold, and everyone came out a winner.

Despite the feeding frenzy, we still came home with a lot of candy and had been eating it for weeks after the fact. We even brought bowls of candy to assorted events, and just last week mom took the last bowl to work and left it in the lunch room.

Now, of course, we have a big bowl of Easter candy to contend with, but what are you going to do?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Edinburgh City Libraries for the pic. 

Lightbulb Mania

Ah, the perfect outlet for my OCD. The state of Vermont is subsidizing the purchase of LED lightbulbs, yet another cool way the Green Mountain State is encouraging more eco-friendly choices not to mention saving some money. Our electricity bills are generally speaking pretty reasonable, in no small part because we make an effort to reduce our consumption. We have fluorescent lights wherever it's reasonable, but in many instances, fluorescent lights leave me a little flat. The light is never quite as warm, they take awhile to warm up, and the mercury issue is always on my mind. They make fluorescent flood lightbulbs and they really don't work very well.

When they came out with LED bulbs, I thought they were a great option but so darn expensive. To replace a $5 floodlight was going to cost about $30, which is pretty outrageous for a bulb. They apparently last longer, about 10-12 years, and they reduce your energy consumption, but I just can't get past that initial $30 outlay. No thank you. Even the regular 60W bulbs can cost you about $15.

You can imagine my surprise when I was visiting a friend, SH, when he told me he got the bulbs at Home Depot for $5 a pop. I go to HD all the time and found that this was not the case, but I didn't realize I was going to a HD in NH. He is close to Rutland and since it's Vermont, which as I mentioned is subsidizing the price of the bulbs, they are $5 each. I couldn't believe it. Rutland is a bit too far, so I called the Lebanon HD and they said they had coupons for VT residents that brought the price down to $5, but only for select bulbs. I then called Aubuchon and sure enough, they had bulbs for $5 a pop. How stoked was I?

Under ordinary circumstances, $5 a bulb is not cheap, especially when a normal incandescent bulb is less than a dollar, but it seems to be the wave of the future. There is talk about phasing out incandescent bulbs completely, and I know in certain countries this has already happened. So, as you can imagine, I am in the process of replacing some of the bulbs in our house. I like the LED bulbs better, they give off a warmer light and in most cases they use less electricity than even fluorescent bulbs. Plus, they last for 10 years, how can you beat that. Finally, and this is a superfluous quality, but they look cool. Enough said, show the light bulbs.

For now I am only replacing the incandescent lights, but who knows what the future will hold? Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to samsungtomorrow for the pic.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Video Star

We went to the CATV video music awards the other night, and it was a nice program they put together with a lot of good music. DC with Yellow House Media was the emcee and he gathered together some amazing local music for people at CATV to put to video. I didn't realize the range of music from local musicians, you just don't get to hear this stuff, and a lot of it is really good. Either way, the impetus behind the contest was to pair local musicians with local video makers to give the songs some exposure and the filmmakers a chance to put the tunes to video. A great concept if you ask me.

A and N decided to make a video of a song she wrote, thus getting around any sort of creative issues with between artists, sibling rivalries not included in this logic. She sat down with R and N and mapped out the concepts, storyboarded the progression, and then went to work. Her guitar teacher EE has a recording studio so she recorded the song and then went about filming the video, with N on camera. For the record, and I'm being totally objective (of course) about this, but I think he did a stand-up job on the cinematography. R took them around town to scout out locations, and when they finally decided on a place, we check-out a camera and did the filming. I was the roadie so I packed lunches and dropped them off. Being out and about gave me a chance to do poster-boy work, leaving them to film. It's really cool to see them at work, they take it very seriously and work very hard. Plus, I am completely out of the loop except for support, so the project is really theirs and theirs alone.

After finishing the filming, A downloaded the footage and set about editing the piece. Again, she worked very hard, logging in many hours at the studio to finalize the piece by the deadline. One complication was that with the deadline looming, she wasn't completely happy with her song. On the day she recorded it she had a cold, so she thought she sounded a bit stuffed up. We tried to get some studio time but EE was all booked up until the Friday morning that the video was due. How's that for going down to the wire? To add to the fun, mom was away in Santa Fe so I was the only support available, so I had to wear many hats that day.

Whatever be the case, I'd just like to say that I am impressed with A's confidence in her abilities under duress, because there were complications. There always are. The plan was to go to the studio in the morning, re-record her song, then take the music file to the TV studio and incorporate it into the video, doing all the final edits, as well. Then when she was done, she could submit it then and there. The file was too big for a thumb drive so EE put it in her DropBox and she retrieved it online. Boy, technology is an amazing thing.

She got it all done and turned the video in. The re-recording session worked out nicely because she re-did the guitar track and it sounded great, and then she worked on some of the backing vocals and the end-product sounded better than the first run, in my opinion. Then again, what do I know?

On the night of the awards ceremony, the entries were awesome. People did a really nice job on their pieces, and A and N actually won first prize for their age group. It was a fun evening, and her buddy MS came along to support her. Actually, she didn't really have a choice because she was sleeping over and going to A's hockey game the next morning, but it was still nice to have a friend along.

There wasn't much time to bask in the glow of artistic prowess because we had to drive to Middlebury the next morning for a weekend hockey tournament, but it was fun while it lasted.

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

Monday, April 6, 2015

Adventures in the Really Big City

We had quite the day this weekend in Boston, on a number of levels. I took A and two of her friends to take part in a comic convention, or ComicCon, in the city. Technically it was an "Anime" festival known as Anime Boston, but it was essentially a convention for people who are fans of all things animated. There is a particular affinity for Japanese cartoons, also known as Anime for those who don't know, though if you're like me and grew up with Speed Racer or Kimba, you have some experience with this genre.

This was part of A's birthday gift, she wanted to attend this gathering of kindred spirits, and take along her good friends, both of whom were very excited about it. I wasn't sure who is just a fan and who is a serious "fan," but they both were enthused. The idea behind it is that people who love these programs, or just love any of these creative shows that include radio programs and live action shows like Breaking Bad and Dr. Who, get together and dress like their favorite characters and hang out and have fun. At first glance it is redolent of a Star Trek convention, but after experiencing it, I have to say, it was a lot different than that, not that I've ever been to a Trekkie convention. For the record, I am a big fan of the show but have not gone so far as obtained a pair of Spock ears... at least not yet.

Probably the biggest difference was that the crowd was at least 50% girls, a ratio I don't think you'd find at a Star Trek or Brony (My Little Pony) convention, which would probably be mostly guys who don't get out much. The crowd was good looking, as well, and even A and her buddies concurred with me on this. Furthermore, there were a lot of couples and even families with young children. Of course there were your share of fringy boys and girls who probably spend their days indoors in front of the computer or TV, but for the most part, the crowd was pretty interesting. You could see that they were hip and attractive people outside of this event. It reminded me of the Halloween parade in NYC, which is an event not to be missed. People really get into it, and this festival was no different, just a bunch of people having fun and getting a break from the conventional lives. Nothing wrong with that.

Like the NYC parade, some people really got into it. The costumes were amazing and I spent at least an hour sitting on a bench and watching people walk by. I had no idea this was such a big deal, but someone said they expected upwards of 80,000 people over the weekend. The event was held at the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay, and it is right in the thick of things in the city. In fact, there's a big mall connected to it, so the Anime people took over the mall. It was quite a site to behold, and I'm sure the stores and food vendors were stoked for the crowds.

The girls had a blast, the big question was, what the heck was I going to do for 12 hours in the city that was interesting and cost little to no money? Well, I had a few options. I'd brought my computer with me, so I just needed a chair and an internet connection, which in this day in age is ubiquitous in any city. The Boston Public Library was a few blocks away, but I sort of needed to be closer to the action in case the girls needed me. I could hang out at the mall, but I hate malls, and I'm not a shopper. I could have walked around the city, but the weather was pretty fickle, and again, I wanted to be closer to the girls.

I ended up at Barnes and Noble, working on some stuff on my computer and reading magazines. It reminded me of my days with R in NYC, we used to spend hours at the bookstore just hanging out and reading. I found a table at the cafe, set up my computer, and started writing. The internet was a bit spotty, but worked fine for the most part. I figured I could stream something in a pinch. At some point the girls called me and wanted to meet for lunch, then afterward, just as I set up again, A called me because she left her wallet in my backpack, so I had to forsake my location and meet them again. It was a little crazy, but being constantly on call seems to be my MO.

We had agreed to meet around 8:00PM to have some supper and then head home, and rather than wait for the call, I just waited for them at our chosen location and sure enough, they emerged from the Con, tired but excited. We grabbed some supper and then headed home. It was quite the day, and I had been up since 5:00AM and was tired but had to make the long drive home. I bought a cup of coffee just in case, but ended up not drinking much of it.

All in all it was a fabulous day. The kids had a blast, I got some work done and enjoyed the sights of the Con and the big city. It would have been nice if R and N came along, but maybe that's something for next year. It's never too late to start thinking about it, I know A is.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to proacguy1 for the pic.

Happy Easter

Hope everyone had a nice Easter Sunday. It seemed to come early this year and I have to confess that it took me by surprise, so much so that I wasn't really prepared. It was a crazy weekend but mom took care of the fun stuff and I managed to plan a meal at the last minute. Plus, we got to see a movie on top of all that.

On Saturday we spent the day in Boston with A and her buddies and it was an all day affair at the Anime Festival. We got home around midnight and as A went straight to bed, R was getting the candy and eggs ready for Easter. Even though we're not that hardcore about celebrating the occasion, we always manage to do something fun. Part of that is the old Easter Egg hunt, not to mention tons of candy and a nice family meal. The kids don't seem to tire of searching for the candy and eggs, so we should enjoy it while we can. Plus, they never tire of an occasion to make fun of their dad for doing such a cheesy job of hiding the eggs.

We had a nice breakfast of pancakes and bacon, and then the kids hung out with mom while I went out and got dinner rations. The plan was to make beef stew, which we actually do every year for Easter but I seem to forget this fact. I set about making the stew while mom and kids made our other holiday tradition: Easter bread. It's an impressive piece of work and tastes amazing. Once the stew and bread were made, we headed out to see a movie at the Hop - we have season passes to the movie series there - then it was home for supper and a little R&R. It sure is nice not having to run around for hockey.

It was a nice day, and makes you realize that when you can appreciate the little things in life like spending the day with your family and having a nice meal, you're doing okay.

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