Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Food Trauma

This is sort of funny, but sort of not. We went to lunch the other day and they were serving African food, which we love. The food is somewhat exotic, but nothing too crazy, just a lot of stews and root vegetables, and of course, rice. Usually there is a vegetarian offering and a meat offering, though this time around, there was a Chinese food meat offering, chicken with green beans. The food is excellent, and all prepared by one person, MD, and not only is it an enormous amount of work, but she does a great job.

Either way, this last time we brought along a friend who is not used to eating African food, and I don't think it went over too well. Maybe even a bit traumatizing, though complaints were never vocalized. I felt bad, but it wasn't that offensive. Then again, I shouldn't have been completely surprised. People don't like to try exotic new things, and this is especially true with food.

I'm glad our kids are willing to at least try new foods, many of which they have embraced, including sushi, African food, shellfish, and others that I never ate as a kid. I lived on fast food and Top Ramen. How's that for a terrible diet? What's crazy is that it's standard fare for a lot of people.

Oh well, live and let live, as the saying goes. Besides, who really knows what's best for you? Your parents, of course.

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

It Pays to Be Patient

As some of you may know by now, I have been looking for employment that will pay me the big bucks while allowing me to be at home with the kids while working on my tan. So far, I haven't found much, but I'm still looking.

In the meantime, I've been working more diligently at finding something, especially in terms of my glorious freelance writing career. That is constantly in the works, but I've also looked at jobs where I have to physically be there. It's funny how this works, but most jobs just won't pay you unless you're present and accounted for. What a bummer. I could probably find a job full time because they are always looking for people, a fact that I learned first hand when I explored job opportunities in the next town. I got a few call backs, which really surprised me.

Anyway, I've also been looking at the big boss around here, Dartmouth, and there is not a lack of opportunities. They were even looking for an assistant coach for the men's hockey team. How cool would that be?

I did find something intriguing over at the hospital, and that was being a standardized patient. I didn't even know they did these sort of things, though I later learned they did a Seinfeld episode on it. It makes sense, doctors and nurses need to practice with real people, so they get people to act out in staged situations. They even pay people to do it.

I applied, thinking it would be a nice part time gig, and they called me. I went to the interview not really knowing what to expect, and it was pretty low key. I even knew one of the other interviewees. I'm not sure what will come of it, I don't even know if I got the job, but I'm guessing they'll let me know. It could be an interesting experience, to say the least, though they don't pay much, as you would expect.

I'll let you know when I find out more. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Stanford EdTech for the pic.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to everyone. It's hard to grasp that April is almost over, I can't believe it myself. Where does all the time go? We were wrestling with the idea of hiding eggs and candy about the house, wondering if the kids were getting too old for this sort of thing, but when we asked, they gave us a resounding thumbs up. So it was decided, we'd do the egg hunt, except that last night we forgot all about it and went to bed. This morning R reminded me, and at about 5:30AM, we started hiding stuff outside and around the house. It was about 20 degrees outside, and I was tired and whiny... what else is new?

We got it done long before the kids woke up, and I'm glad for that, albeit a little tired. The things you do as a parent.

Happy Easter and thanks for reading, and thanks to Feli Caravaca for the pic.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Snow Tire Revelation

I just had the summer tires put on our car and it dawned on me that R went the entire winter with just all-season radials. Now there were a couple of times where they were not adequate, and I was there for one of them. We were going to visit our friends and her car got about 75% up the hill and literally slid all the way back down. Truth be told, I don't know if I would have made it up, we had freezing rain and the hill is steep.

Either way, it's expensive to buy snow tires, and to have them installed and removed twice a year. I think they go help, especially since I have the kids with me, but we buy fairly high end snow tires, and I'm beginning to wonder if that's not necessary. I know several people who buy whatever is on sale, which of course speaks to my heart. I took the advice of our former neighbor in the Red Barn, CS, who said buy the best snow tires you can afford. This seems like sound advice, though perhaps a bit of overkill, especially when you consider the source. CS is probably not the best person to take advice from, especially when it comes to matters involving parenting and relationships.

My point is, maybe we don't need top of the line snow tires, especially since R made it through the winter, and it was a long, cold, snowy, brutal winter, with all season radials. Maybe we could get by with moderately priced snow tires, which would probably not be as effective as top of the line models, but would surely work better than summer tires.

Something to think about next winter, even more so since our current snow tires have worn out and need to be replaced.

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

Sock it to Me

Coaching for both of my kids hockey teams was a bear of a job, and one more than a number of occasions I asked myself, "What was I thinking?" I would do it again if my kids thought it was helpful, and I think it is on some level. Sure, they roll their eyes over the antics of their dad, but there's no denying that I'm definitely involved. I'm not sure if I'll do it again next season, but we shall see.

In the meantime, I was given gifts from both of the teams. From A's team they gave me a gift certificate for a local restaurant, which was really nice. And form N's team, and I believe this was the work of one family, I got a pair of socks. Not just any socks, but a pair of Darn Tough socks, made in Vermont. I've seen them before at assorted stores but never bought them because they were too expensive. As most of you know, I go cheap, and pay the price for it, no pun intended.

This is somewhat ironic because over the years living in New England, I've come to appreciate the value of a good pair of socks, especially wool socks. Cheap socks wear out and then you have buy new ones, or wear them with your toes and ankles sticking out. The cool thing about these Darn Tough socks it that they are guaranteed for life. If they wear out, they'll replace them, no questions asked. How can that possibly be?

Now I've only had them for a month, but I already love them. I hope they last, because I'm sick of wearing cheap crappy socks. The story of my life. Check back with me in the fall, where they'll really be put to the test. For now, thanks to SY and AM for the incredibly thoughtful present.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to fishify for the pic.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Splitting Time

As I mentioned, the snow is receding and I'm able to access some of the wood to split. Last year I borrowed a splitter to split numerous logs that I couldn't do by hand, and it was pretty impressive how well that thing worked. Since some of the blocks were 2-3 years old, you can imagine that they wood was not in the best shape, and I probably should have just let them rot in the woods. Instead I split them and burned some of them this winter, and I think it was a mistake. The wood didn't burn that well, or it was not that efficient. There are probably creosote consequences to my decision, but hopefully nothing that can't be fixed this summer.

I guess my point is that now that I'm splitting wood that is not that old, it looks so much nicer. It's not as black and ugly, and burns much more cleanly. While I'm glad to have burned through that old stuff, I think it's better to have wood that isn't one step away from petrification. I'm sure my Mentor would agree. Part of the reason I let the wood go bad was because it was too knotty or big to split by hand, and when I finally obtained the splitter, I ended up splitting it big. Having the big pieces made it much easier to stack, but I've found that consequently, we burn through the pile much quicker. Maybe it's a good thing that we're going through the bad stuff, not that any wood is bad, right?

Now I'm making a conscious effort to split the blocks into smaller pieces, and it sure makes stacking more rigorous. It will dry and burn more efficiently, but it is definitely more work. Oh well, I knew the job wouldn't be easy when I signed on, and who wants to do things the easy way? Not me, that's for sure.

My goal, and it's an ambitious one as usual, is to have two years worth of wood split, stacked, and drying before June. The one constraint on this lofty goal is whether or not I actually have two year's worth of wood on hand. If I do, I will be so stoked, but I won't know until I actually do the work. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

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

Auto Parts and the Mixed Blessing of Technology

I have to confess, I appreciate technology but sometimes view it with some degree of skepticism, at least in terms of how it's supposed to make our lives easier, and for that matter, better. I'm not even talking about smartphones and iPads, which I think are a double-edged swords. I am thinking about car repair, and of course there's a long drawn-out story involved.

If anyone has purchased a car in the past 10 years, you may have noticed that tire pressure monitoring sensors (TPMS) now come standard, I believe on all cars, but maybe just imports. My understanding is they stem from a problem with Ford Explorers, whereby low tire pressure problems somehow led to fatal accidents. You might have to check up on that one.

Whatever be the case, we first encountered TPMS on our road trip out west. We rented a Matrix and toward the end of the trip, we noticed a dashboard light went on and we had no clue what it meant. I hate when that happens. It turns out that it meant we had low tire pressure, and when we pulled into Kansas City, we discovered that we had a low tire pressure. It was actually a punctured tire that was slowly leaking. Needless to say, this complicated our trip, but we dealt with it, and from then on realized what it meant.

When we bought our current car, it too had the TPMS light, and for the most part, I think it's a cool thing. How often do we check our tire pressure? If you're like me, I'm guessing not much. This TPMS will give you a head's up when the pressure is low, and the mechanic can even measure it with a handheld computer, which is sort of cool.

The problem is that with all new technology comes more complications in our lives, and do we really need more complications in our lives? I don't, that's for sure. I was surprised when I went to put our snow tires on and they charged me an extra $8/tire to re-calibrate the sensors. Apparently they have to do this every time they change the tires, and believe me, when you're dropping $80 to put on snow tires (not buying, installing), you feel the pain of an extra $32. I complained and the guy over at Wilson Tire explained where the cost came from, but it's literally no sweat off their nose. All they do is plug in some wires and push some buttons. His reasoning is that they have to make-up the cost of the new equipment they had to purchase to deal with TPMS systems, but I felt like it was a scam. Bad PR in my opinion, and when I complained, he offered to not charge me for the TPMS stuff when I put the summer tires on. Fat chance I'll be going back to Wilson Tire, who for the record, have left me with a bad taste in my mouth a couple of times.

In all fairness, I think Interstate Tires charges the same thing, which kills me. You just can't beat the system, though our mechanic RM is cool and doesn't charge. I love that guy. On the subject of mechanics scamming you, I'd like to relay two incidences that in my opinion were nothing short of ridiculous. In Providence, I was having the oil changed and bought new windshield wipers. I asked the guy to put them on, and he charged me for 15 mins of labor. They usually charge about $75/hr, so you do the math. This happened again at Midas in W. Leb, the guy put an air filter in, without my consent, and charged me for labor. I asked him to take it out, and was spared the cost, but not everyone pays attention to these things. It's such a scam, and really gives mechanics a bad reputation. It really pays to have a mechanic you can trust, and I really trust Meunier Towing.

Anyway, in addition to the hassle of technology, it also has a finite life. At some point you have to replace all this stuff, and this was the case with our TPMS. When your tires are low, an exclamation point light goes on, but when the system has a problem, a "TPMS" light goes on. Apparently one of the sensors died and needed to be replaced. They are said to last about 5 years, and then the batteries die. How surprising, another occasion to spend your money.

I checked around and almost without fail, every place I talked to was asking over $65 for the sensor. The car was past warranty, but Shearer Honda offered to replace the thing for half price, which still came out to over $100. They have to remove the tire and rotate and balance it. Plus, Shearer is over in Rutland, which is a bear of a drive. I finally went online (Amazon) and found one for $29. I couldn't believe it, and shipping was $2. I ordered it and RM installed it when he put my snow tires in. He said nobody should charge that much for a sensor, and even when I called Gerrish, they quoted me $65. I was disappointed, to say the least.

Anyway, after RM installed the sensor, another one died, so I had to go through all this again, but I figured I was in no hurry. I ordered it, and RM put it in when he put in the summer tires. Now there are no "dummy lights" on the dash, which is A-okay with me.

Sometimes I think technology is so overrated, but that's because I'm old and boring.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to WORK Wheels USA for the pic.