Monday, June 26, 2017

Rock and Roll Weekend

I wish I did cool things like this when I was her age, but A attended a bit rock and roll festival this past weekend down south, and she had an amazing time. I mean, who wouldn't? They have a big music festival call the Solid Sound Festival down in Massachusetts that spotlights the band Wilco. It's held in conjunction with Mass MOCA so there is a big art scene included in the mix. Now being old and boring I'd never heard of the festival, and didn't know much about the band Wilco, who have been around a long time. Oddly enough I actually have one of their CDs and didn't really put two and two together, though I think this makes me unconsciously and retroactively cool. My kids might disagree with this assessment.

Either way, a bunch of her friends were going, including bandmates and fellow musicians, and one set of parents was going to be on hand, as well. This made it more plausible because I don't know if I'm comfortable without some adult supervision. The concert is a big deal, spanning Fri, Sat, and Sun, and the entire area rallies around it. Hotels in the area were booked solid a good 6 months in advance. We couldn't find a room, so we ended up camping about 45 minutes away. A got to camp with her friends at the venue, which is a must in these situations. You don't want to be near your parents, and you want to be with your young and cool friends. It was a camping situation so she had to have all her gear packed, and they even brought guitars and had on-site jam sessions.

Mom, N, and myself camped a little farther away and left A to her own devices, just like she wanted. She had an amazing time, and I'm so glad she had fun. We also had a blast despite the fact that I had reservations going into it. I mean really, who wants to go away for a weekend just so your kid can go to a concert? I guess we do.

More on this later but suffice it to say it was an amazing weekend enjoyed by all, even though we got slammed by a massive thunderstorm and we lost the keys to our car. All happy endings... in the end.

Here's an cool link about the festival, which is pretty cool.

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

Budding Engineer

With mom and dad's blessing (like we have a choice?), N has become quite the little (or not so little) electrical engineer, though it requires using pretty much all of my tools (like I need them for anything?) and dismantling assorted clocks, radios, and other electrical appliances. As far as I'm concerned I think he should go to town with the stuff.

His latest endeavor was to make a few sets of speakers, and it was pretty cool how he pulled it off. He wanted to amp up the music from his iPod (do people still use those things?) so he took apart some old radios and boom boxes, then obtained some small amplifiers and wired the stuff together. His first set was set in some sort of matrix that he manufactured by hand, and then he built a more traditional set in a wooden frame. It's pretty cool, and they work and sound good. How cool is that?

He's still building things in his mad scientist workshop, and I know he's got his sights set on various things for his drone flying. We have some old power tools that I've gathered from the dump in the garage, so there is a lot of room to expand his ambitions. This may require spending some more time with his uncle, the Amazing PR Man, but let's take it one step at a time.

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Until then, thanks for reading.

Dad the Excavator

Since nothing is ever easy in my life, I figured I might as well instill some drama into something as simple as buying a bucket of gravel. Several years back we had a new driveway put in and it's been working out beautifully, but like all things in life, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky. While our driveway has been holding up nicely, there are patches that have either started disintegrating or have been dug up from our plow guy. For the record, it's not his fault, it happens to everyone who plows in the fall or spring.

The biggest issue is that these damaged areas become really muddy when the snow thaws, or they fill with water and become small ponds. In an ideal world we'd just have the driveway redone every 10 years, but that's not very practical, and the way it is now, I get to practice my real-man in training exercises, which of course come with a neurotic story.

Last year I contacted one of the big driveway install/repair guys in town, the one whom everyone uses, and asked if I could just buy a bucket or two of hard-pack. He was agreeable to this and said to just leave the money at an agree upon location. He has piles of hard pack on his property because that's what he does. I never ended up getting the hard pack, so I didn't end up leaving the money, which didn't seem like a big deal.

This year the situation didn't improve (oddly enough this is the end result when you don't take any action) and I decided to actually do what I had said I would. I was going to contact said individual to get hard pack when I worried a little if he thinks I scammed him. After all, I never left the money, and even though I didn't take any hard pack, he doesn't really have any way of knowing this. A bucket or two is a drop in the bucket (no pun intended) when you have massive piles of the stuff like he has.

I went back and forth over whether I should call him and just ended up putting it off like all things in my life. In the meantime, I also needed some gravel and went over to West Leb to the big gravel pit. I've bought rocks there before, and it cost something like $5-10 for as much as I could carry away. They sell the stuff by the ton so a guy like me coming to get a few buckets is probably a bit of a joke. Then again, what else is new?

Well, as luck would have it, the gravel pit also sells hard pack. They have a $15 minimum charge, but for that price, I could fill as many buckets at I could fit in the back of my car, which isn't many. The first time I went I had two buckets, which was a bit of a waste. The next time I filled 6 buckets and realized that it probably weighed about 300 pounds. I don't know how many more buckets I could transport and figured 6 was enough. That's still pretty good for $15.

With those six buckets I was able to do some marginal driveway repair. At least enough to temper the mud and puddle problem, and more importantly to feel like a real man... or at least a real man in training.

I could probably use another 6-10 buckets, but for now I'm satisfied because I took care of the most egregious problems. From here on in it's just extra stuff.

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Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to benjiman750 for the pic.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Day at the Races

N had the opportunity to go to a drone race a week back, and initially he wanted to actually race in the thing but a few things prevented that. First off, he was too late to register. This race sort of came up at the last minute and by the time he had decided to go, registration was closed. His buddy who invited him is a big-time racer, and I think at the time even he got shut out of participating.

The second problem was the intimidation factor. Having never raced his drone before, he wasn't sure how it would all play out, and I totally get that. It's hard enough doing something for the first time, but it's even harder when you've never seen or experienced it in real life. There are plenty of YouTube clips about racing, but it's just never the same.

Finally, the race was a fair distance away and in the early morning, so he would sleep over and then wake up early to go. N is not a morning person, though he's getting much better at it. At one point he just decided to skip the whole thing because while he would have enjoyed the sleepover, they wouldn't do much because of the early morning.

I have to confess, I thought it would be a good experience for him to just go and watch. It's something he's interested in, and he could hang with his buddy. Plus, he could go over to his friend's house early Saturday and hang out all day, then sleep over and wake up early for the race. Apparently said friend was going either way, even if just to watch (I think he ended up slipping into the race, but he's a pro).

So N decided to go for it, and I'm glad he did. I took him over early in the day so they could do all the crazy things he and his friends like to do, and then they went to the race early the next day. I had to work that evening so it worked out beautifully. I went to pick them him the next afternoon, meeting them en route back to their house, and he said he had a good time. In addition to enjoying the race, he told me that he thought he could hang with some of the racers. He didn't make any claims that he could win the race, but that's not the point. At least he saw what sort of skills are involved and how good (or bad) some of the other racers were, and that's a huge confidence boost. Plus, he got to see what the race course is like and can design a home practice plan accordingly.

Now he's interested, and may work towards actually entering a race, all because he changed his mind and decided to check it out. I'm not sure how this will all play out, but needless to say his old dad is very excited (and supportive) about the possibilities. Then again, it may entail more driving on my part, but what else is new?

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Phone?

Okay, the time may have arrived for dad to get a new phone. I know I've been saying this for some time now, but with each passing week I feel the tug of tech's seductive pull. How much longer can I resist? Not much, I think. There are several factors that make this increasingly difficult.

First off, there's peer pressure (PP), and I'm an absolute sucker for PP. Almost everyone around me has a smartphone, and I've been pretty good about not really caring about having an old phone. If anything it's become a small source of pride having an old junker phone, which for the record cost me $5.00. You couldn't give this thing away, though I am surprised by how many people I meet who still have old school flip phones. The reality is that I only use my phone to make phone calls, and I don't need an expensive phone for that.

One of the biggest draws for me to have a more modern phone is texting. I don't text much, partly because I think it's sort of a joke, but also because with my phone being so old it makes it very impractical, dare I say impossible, to text. The problem I run into is that most people today, especially young people, text. They don't take phone calls, and almost never return messages. Everything is done by texting. Now that A is connected to the modern digital age, texting is the preferred mode of contact, so I need to get onto that bandwagon.

I've also found that having a smartphone can come in handy when traveling, mainly to get directions or information when a laptop computer is not very practical. There was a moment recently when we were out and about and I needed to know something and thought, “Wow, I could sure use a smartphone right now.” Then again, this is something our kids are continually reminding us about.

Finally, there are now cheap smartphone options. I know people go crazy over the newest iPhones and are willing to pay through the nose for them, but not me. I couldn't care less about current technology, I just need some basic functions. This may change with time, or as I get sucked into the irresistible vacuum of technology, but for now, I can't really see that happening. And as I mentioned, with tech changing so rapidly, phones that are a year or two old are now obsolete; a fact I find completely ludicrous, but might be able to use to my advantage. I've found that you can get reasonably decent smartphones through my current pay-as-you-go program. I am talking around $25-40. More than my $5 phone, for sure, but not too shabby. I can simply transfer my plan over and suddenly I'll be in the 21st century. Scary thought.

This is all conjecture at this time, but I'm thinking it's going to be a reality sooner than you think. Once that happens I'll have to grow a goatee and start eating avocado toast at Starbucks.

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

Busy Girl

A has been quite the busy girl this year, and with school winding down it seems to have stepped up a notch. Funny how that works. On top of all the work at school, she is taking a summer class outside of school that overlapped a bit with regular classes, so she is doing double academic duty. She has driver's ed, exercise class with mom, and school band, which requires her to be at 7:00AM practices (winding down) as well as an evening performance or two arranged by the teacher at assorted venues about town. She is also in two rock bands - one is a regular gig with Tucks, but somehow she got involved with another extraneous band that was put together by some of the moms of other band members. And as we all know, once parents get involved, everything falls to pieces. I sort of get the intensity in wanting to do a good job, but it seems more serious than it needs to be, and it involves even more rehearsal time. Like we need more time commitments?

Needless to say, we're running around town at all hours of the day. Having drivers ed up in Sharon is a complete pain in the YKW, and I regret doing it but we were a little short on options when the time came to arrange it. I'll be glad when that one is done. The extra band practices are hard because most, if not all, of the other kids live in that area, so getting together on a random weeknight is no big deal. We, on the other hand, have to trek out there, and we have other things going on in our lives so it's a bit disruptive.

On the whole we are managing just fine, it's just hard being a parent in the modern, driven area. The steps it takes to “succeed” are numerous, and while I didn't think we would succumb to the drive to over-schedule our kids, we are most certainly falling into that trap. For the record, the kids have not objected (i.e., these are things they wanted), and if anything, they have played an integral role in said over-scheduling... not that I'm pointing any fingers.

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Nice Rack

I was ruminating on the logistics of transporting the boards, which is getting a little ahead of myself considering the fact that I don't have all them yet. Then again, why wait to stress out over something when I can stress out about it today? It's pretty obvious that I'm going to have to get some sort of racking system for my car. I have a soft rack that I've used in the past, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted when I got it in the first place. Basically there are two types of soft racks - doubles and singles. A double can hold two boards on each side, while a single holds 2-3 boards in the middle. When I got my rack years ago in California, I wanted a single, but all they had was a double, so I bought it. I was sort of bummed but it may work out in my favor. More on this later.

The reason I like the single is because it holds the boards in the center and doesn't “bow-up” when you tighten it. A double tends to lift up in the center, which doesn't seem to affect it's utility (maybe it does) but is a bit unnerving. I haven't had any problems with it, but it's still not exactly what I wanted in the first place.

Now that we are on the verge of becoming New England surfers, I know I'll need a rack. A soft rack will run around $35-40, while a nice hard rack could cost hundreds. The nice thing about a hard rack, however, is that not only is it safer and more secure, but it can be used year-round for skis and probably even hockey gear - can you see the gears turning in my head?

Either way, I was toying with the idea of getting a single-soft rack (which I wanted in the first place) when it dawned on me that it probably won't work with my car. The reason for this is that I have an antennae that is smack in the middle of the roof of the car. Since a soft rack sits low, a board on a single rack will probably hit it. Sure, I could tweak things around and make it work, but I think the problem will be alleviated using a double since the boards will flank said antennae. This could be simple case of me trying to find a little sunshine in a dark world, but why not?

This makes me sort of stoked that I have the rack I actually need when this wasn't the case when I bought it. Don't you just love when that happens? We'll see how this goes, but needless to say, the road to becoming hip New England surfers is fraught with preparation. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you have OCD Dad putting it all together.

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