Monday, January 27, 2014

Long Lost Friends

Last Monday was Martin Luther King Day, and a lot of our friends had the day off and were looking to hang. In the past, this meant parents looking for daycare, but a lot of these kids are old enough now to take care of themselves and don’t need adult supervision, at least within reason.

Having a day off school doesn’t affect our plan, but it does mean that our kids can spend the day with their school friends. This time around, we heard from our long lost friends, the H-Gs. We hadn’t seen them in ages, and kind of figured we’d all moved on in our respective directions. Sunday night we got a call asking if A&N could come over. It wasn’t a daycare situation because AH is old enough to be by herself. The kids wanted to see A&N because it had been awhile.

We were a little wary because it’s not always a good idea to leave teenagers alone in a house with an internet connection, even though we’re talking about a good group of kids, so I decided that I would hang out with them in the study while the kids had fun doing whatever it is they wanted to do, within reason. Again, as I mentioned, they are all good kids, but like all kids, benefit from a little guidance and oversight, don’t they?

It ended up being a really nice day, and AM came by with N to hang out, so we had a party. The kids even made lunch for themselves, which was pretty cool. Granted, it was Top Ramen, but the kids liked it, and a little Top Ramen now and then isn’t that bad, is it? It also gives them a little glimpse into what college eating is like, at least for me.

As some point HH showed up to take her kids somewhere, so it was nice to see her, as well. All in all it was a nice day, the kids had fun, I got some stuff done, and a good time was had by all. What more can you ask for?

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

Good Time to Ski

Is there ever a bad time to ski? Actually, yes, but that’s another story.

We did some skiing last week, and had a blast. The conditions were good, not great, but good. The weather turned out nicely, not too bitterly cold like it’s been, and it was even sunny for much of the day. Plus, it rained cats and dogs for the next two days, ruining the conditions. This is a complete bummer for a number of reasons, but at least we managed to squeak a day of skiing in. Last year we didn’t ski much at all because, as you can imagine, we were just getting initiated into the cult of hockey and couldn’t afford to jeopardize our standing with our cult leader, Mr. Hockey.

It’s all so silly in retrospect, but since we seemed to practice so much, we didn’t want to tire ourselves out before practice. This year, we are not as cultish about things, and we decided to go for it. It helps that there’s this great deal at the mountain, and our friends were organizing a day at the hill. S6 has $10 lift tickets on certain days of the week, and at that price, how can you not go? We have practice on that day, but I figure we’re old pros at this hockey thing and can afford to be a little fatigued at practice. Plus, it’s only a game, right? (yeah, right).

The plan was to meet around lunchtime and hit the hill. As usual we were late, and our friends had already been skiing for two hours. We met in the lodge, ate a quick snack, and then hit the hill. One of the boys who came is N’s age and they seemed to hit it off, which I was happy about. They are comparable in terms of skiing abilities, so it worked out beautifully. A had a contingent of girls to hang with, so the ladies took, the boys took off, and I was left to ski by myself. I love when that happens.

We skied for several hours and at some point I found myself getting weary. Granted, S6 is a tiny hill, and you can only do so many things before it gets rather familiar, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. At some point, however, I wanted to take a break. We had to be at the rink, so we called it quits about an hour before the hill closed, which in the past would have been unthinkable. We usually skied until the hill closed, but again, we were tired, and our friends were ready to roll.

I will say this, it’s an adventure in itself just getting all that gear into our car. We had skis and boots for three of us, plus hockey gear for two of us, not to mention three people. Crazy. Then again, if our lives weren’t crazy, it would just mean we never made it out the front door.

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

Positive Hockey Feedback

It’s funny how things work out. We have been doing homeschool hockey and one of the parents used to play Division 1 hockey in college and did a short stint in the professional minor leagues. He’s the real deal and plays in the adult league, I’ve seen him on the ice. The guy is pretty incredible, but truth be told, a lot of those guys on the ice are pretty incredible.

That said, I was curious to get see what his thoughts were about youth hockey and maybe even get some feedback on N, but it’s an awkward situation, and I couldn’t work up the nerve to really approach him. Plus, you can’t ask that sort of question, it’s just too weird. I just left it at that. One day, however, we were playing on the ice and N was on a bit of a tear. One of the adult players saw him and commented on how good he was. Then, after the game, as we were leaving the bench, the hockey pro dad complimented N on his play, and then asked me if he was my son. I said yes, and he said, “He’s a great little hockey player.”

Music to my ears... at least partly. For the record, I never know what to say in these situations, even though it’s exactly what I like to hear. Usually I just say he loves hockey. Even though my mind is racing with questions to ask, how do you ask them without seeming like a nut? Simple, you don’t.

Besides, does it really matter in the end? No, but that won’t stop me from obsessing over it. One day I might work up the nerve to talk to this guy, but in the meantime, we’ll just focus on having fun. I’ll keep my neurosis in my head, were it’s right at home.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I Fought the Law

This time, the law didn’t win. There was the annual Cops vs Coaches hockey game last night, and I was asked if I wanted to play way back when I declined, sort of. As usual I didn’t come outright and say it, but I didn’t really think I would play because it’s on a weekend night and we spend so much time at the arena as it is. When EC asked me, I told him I didn’t think so, but left it at that.

There was a Dartmouth women’s hockey game that night, as well, and we had tickets, so I figured we’d go to that. However, we had a very busy day that day, with several doctor’s appointments, not to mention homeschool hockey. At some point I decided that I didn’t want to go the Dartmouth game because we had too much going on. Plus, it’s a total bummer going to a game at night and then having to exit the arena outside into sub-zero temperatures and return to a frigid house that hasn’t been heated all day, then slip into a cold bed. Yikes.

I was looking forward to a quiet evening at home with some hot soup and bread, when I got a message from the Standard asking if mom could take some pictures of the Cops vs Coaches game. She has been taking pics of the kid’s games, and they love her work. I figured this was an exciting development, so I got her on the phone and she came straight home.

Well, I figured we couldn’t go to the game and have me just sit and watch, so I contacted EC and asked if the roster had already been set, thinking I could slip in, and he said he’d put my name on it already. You see, I wasn’t paying attention when I spoke with him and as it turns out, he put on the roster anyway and figured if I showed up, great, if not, no big deal.

Now our previously quiet evening was turning into a big party. I couldn’t believe it. I made the kids a quick supper and we headed over. The crowd wasn’t great, but there were plenty of the kid’s friends, a lot of their dads were playing in the game. It was fun, though those cops were darn good hockey players, and they were most definitely playing to win. We, the coaches, however, won the game because we have a couple of superstars.

I was in way over my head, but it was fun, and best of all, the kids had a blast and mom had a great time taking pics. She may be warming up to hockey after all. Could it be so? I hope so. For the record, I also got an assist. Yay for me.

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Brother and Sisters

A&N played each other’s team this weekend, and it worked out beautifully because it ended in a tie. There are few sets of siblings that play on both teams, including A&N, so they were eager to play. There was an opportunity so we seized the moment, as the saying goes.

Now this partly came about because I was talking to one of the parents who is prone to tactlessness (this is putting it lightly) and is always crossing the line of offensiveness. “Tactless Teddy” (not his real name) said the girls (A’s team, not to mention said person’s daughter’s team) would crush the boys (N’s team, both boys and girls, but for the sake of distinction, I’ll call them boys), and that it wouldn’t even be close. Now granted, I have kids on both teams, but when you put it like that, it naturally makes me defensive.

Of course, I bit. I tried to reason that the boys weren’t that bad. Sure, they were younger, but they played the girls in the beginning of the season and beat them. The girls had improved, no doubt, but so had the boys. This served to egg said person on, and at some point, I figured this game was going to have to happen. That time was this past weekend.

We had a cancellation and a sheet of ice opened up. I tried to find a replacement game with no luck, and it just so happened that the squirts were playing beforehand. I asked around and it worked out perfectly - the boys and girls were going to play. The boys had a game right before, so they were going to be a little tired, but also pumped up. The girls would be fresh. There were multiple sets of siblings involved, so it was going to be fun.

Since I have kids on both sides, and coach both teams, I felt like I couldn’t take sides, so I opted out of coaching either bench and worked the scoring booth. It’s a little complicated and people are terrified of using the thing because the whole world is watching while the clock ticks, no pun intended. I had done it before years ago, but needed a refresher. This also took me out of any biased situation.

The game was a lot of fun, both sides played great, and counter to what Tactless Teddy said, it wasn’t uneven. They tied, though it warrants mentioning that the girls are 11-12, while the boys are 9-10. I got a bird’s eye view from the scoring booth, and it was nice not having to be a coach because it makes it hard to watch and enjoy the game, there’s way too much responsibility.

Tactless Teddy had nothing to say afterward, though a rescinding of previous comments was in order, but that’s never going to happen. I’m just happy it worked out and the kids had fun. It was nice they tied so no siblings felt too disappointed, though I’m guessing the girls really thought they’d dominate. Give the boys credit, they fought hard.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Flip Flop Weather

No, not that kind of flip flop.

This weather is the pits. It seems to flip flop from rain to snow to warm rain to freezing rain. It wrecks havoc on our lives because the conditions get precarious. If it was just consistently warm or cold, that would be fine. It’s the fickle nature of it all that drives me crazy, but I guess that’s life in New England.

We had this beautiful snowfall a week or two back, and we were all stoked. The kids loved it and had friends over to play in it. N especially loves it, he’s such an engineer, building tunnels and forts. Granted, it’s a pain to shovel, and it costs us to have the driveway plowed, but we love it, nonetheless. It just changes the spirit and atmosphere of winter, for the better.

And then it rained. It warmed up to the 40s and poured for two days. Bye-bye snow. This was a bummer, to say the least, but then it had to drop back down to arctic cold temperatures, whereby the melted snow turned to a sheet of ice, making driving and overall locomotion precarious. This was followed by freezing rain, which really made things crazy. In fact, we got stuck in our driveway because I was moving too slowly and simply slid back down into a snow bank. I was ready to call a neighbor with a tractor when we finally managed to wiggle our way out. It was a little frustrating.

Things seem to have calmed a bit, but it’s still icy everywhere you go. Then two nights ago we had cold temperatures followed by snow, and we once again got stuck on a hill. We were taking A to her sleepover party, and NP’s house is up on a hill. R was driving and we got about 80% up and then the wheels starting slipping. We ended up sliding backward, which is a total bummer. Part of the problem is that the car has traction control, which sort of malfunctions in icy conditions because it somehow over-compensates. We were told to turn it off under these conditions, but we forgot how.

In the end, it’s nice and pretty once again after the snow came. I’d love get some more skiing in, but we’ll how the weather goes.

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

Homeschool Bard

I recall last year that the homeschool group that we used to be very involved with did some sort of Shakespeare production and people were raving about it. Of course my first thought was how do I get my kids into this, and then I forgot about it. This time around, I got the notice and enrolled A. I think N would be great at it, he’s a good actor, he just never wants to do it. Oh well, you can’t force inspiration.

A does well on stage, and when I see her during school performances, my completely objective and unbiased opinion tells me that she play a lead, and do a great job at it, but that’s another story. It’s hard when you’re away all the time with hockey, you just can’t make the rehearsals.

Either way, when the homeschool opportunity came up, A was into it, so I jumped at it. Her name is on the list, so we’ll see where this goes. It should be interesting, at the very least.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sleepy Hollow for the pic.

Lost (and found) Red Jacket

Chalk it up to being too busy or just plain scatter-brained, but I left my red jacket up in Montpelier two weeks ago. We had a doubleheader with N’s team, and I left it in the locker room of the second game. This is not the first time this has happened, though I either realize my mistake before leaving, or it’s during practice and close to home. The reason this happens is because I change coats before a game and then change back when I leave the arena.

Life would be simpler if I just wore my coaches jacket in and out, but it’s not that warm, and I feel a little pretentious walking around in a coat that announces to everyone that I’m a coach. I get a sense some guys wear their coaches jackets like badges of honor, but I’m an anomaly in that sense.

Either way, the other parents in the locker rooms usually pick up anything left behind, but not this time. I sent out a mass email asking if anyone had picked it up, and heard several responses from people who saw the coat but were told it was there when we arrived, so they left it. Bummer.

Anyway, since the arena is over an hour away, I wasn’t sure what to do. Was it worth driving up there to get it? I use that coat a lot, and am somewhat attached to it, but replacing it would probably not be that hard. I see coats like it all the time at the Listen Center, it’s pretty generic.

Well, as luck would have it, the next weekend, we had a game in Northfield, which is about 15-20 mins south of Montpelier. I called the rink and the manager said he had it and would leave it hanging in the office. I then had to come up with a plan, and this is how it went: N had a game on Sunday in Northfield, and A had a game in Hanover. A&N also had games on Saturday, and A had a big girl’s bash all day with her team, followed by a sleepover that night at NP’s. I arranged for N to spend the night at CG’s house, whereby he would go with GG to the game in Northfield. I would drive up solo to Montpelier, get my coat, then head down to Northfield to game, work the bench, then take N down to Hanover for A’s game.

I figured I’d get to A’s game late and couldn’t work the bench, but I arrived with 5 mins to spare, so I coached. For the record, they were both good games, with wins for A&N’s teams. I got my coat, the kids had fun, and all is well. Don’t you love when that happens?

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

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weekend Planning

Once again, please pardon my absence.

We have a busy weekend planned, but what else is new? Although, this weekend we do have a lot going on, and we could have had more, but in my old age, I’ve found that my idea of a good evening is kicking back at home with a movie and a bag of pistachios. You can’t beat it.

We didn’t have homeschool hockey this week, so that opened things up a bit. The kids went to story hour, which they haven’t been to in months and it was nice to see our old friends, who were all surprised to see us because they never see us. There was a Dartmouth Men’s Hockey game but we opted out because it meant a late night and we had the kid’s hockey games to attend.

Now A also had a sleepover birthday to attend, which N wasn’t invited to because they’re at that age where they want to do girl things that don’t include boys. I completely understand, but I still feel bad for N, who kind of gets left out. He just doesn’t have the social calendar that his sister has. Now this is where things get sort of interesting.

On Saturday the kids had a game against each other, and then the girls were spending the day together and then going to the high school hockey game that night. At the game, I was going to pick up A and take her over to the sleepover party. Meanwhile, N went home with his buddy, CG, with whom he was having a sleepover. The reason this worked out was because they had a game the next morning in Northfield (about an hour north) and N was hitching a ride with them. I was going to meet them up there but beforehand had to drive to Montpelier (about 20 mins from Northfield) to retrieve my jacket, which I had foolishly left at the ice rink last weekend. Talk about stupid. On a bright note, when I called the arena, the rink manager said he had it and would leave it in the office for me. Good vibes on that one.

Anyway, the weekend took a bit of juggling, and it’s not even over. I’m going to one game, then I have to transport us to the other game later in the day, and then it’s finally over. Then again, it’s never really over, is it?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tomie Kourai Aminoacido for the pic.

Please Excuse Me...

Sorry about my absence, trying to get it together on this end. I’ve been writing more on the money end and making some progress, but it’s still slow going when you have to stop to make breakfast, lunch, and a casserole for dinner. Nonetheless, progress is being made.

We’ve been busy on the hockey front, even though the season is winding down, if you can believe it. I can’t. We are probably over 2/3 done, and this next month will get a little crazy.

We actually got some skiing done, and our timing was good because the snow was decent and the next two days it rained incessantly, which is a complete bummer. Oh well, that’s life in New England.

All in all, not much to complain about but I’m sure I’ll find a way. Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Arena Party

The day before we embarked on our big Canadian adventure there was a big soiree at the arena marking the 10th anniversary. They were offering free food and skating (say no more!), so naturally we were going to check it out. Plus, now that we’re hockey obsessed, it’s not often that we skate just for the fun of it. The kids enjoy it mainly when other kids are around and they can get crazy and show off, and even I get weary of just going in circles. I need to be more Zen about it, don’t I?

The party was on a Friday night, so getting people to come was going to be a bit of a challenge. They advertised it and I sent out some messages, and in the end, the crowd was pretty good. We saw lots of people we knew, and there was a huge contingent of hockey players, many of whom are in the teenage boy/girl range, so there was a surplus of energy trying to impress each other out there.

A and N got to hang with their hockey buddies and skate their hearts out, and R and I got to get free pizza and do some leisurely skating, which is not something we do very often. It was fun, and they had some cake and a good time was had by all. Best of all, I didn’t have to cook supper. Say no more.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Choo Yut Shing for the pic.

Getting it Done

I really wavered on this one, but in the end, I buckled down and just did it. Like everything in life, I sure am glad I did, because it’s better to get it done rather than ruminate and torture yourself over something. I should know, I spent my whole life doing it (or rather, not doing it).

We took a big trip last week up to Quebec, and we drove the blue Fit. It was due for an oil change and there were three options. I could change the oil beforehand, but this meant dealing with it. I could change the oil afterward, which meant putting it off and dealing with it later (my favorite option), or I could have waited until we returned and taken it to our mechanic, which is the easiest but most expensive option.

We left for Canada on a Sunday, and on Thu the weather was cold and there was snow all over, but it was at least sunny. I figured it was now or never, and changing oil isn’t that hard and takes about 40 minutes. It’s just hard to motivate, especially when the ground is covered in snow.

I had the oil and the filter, and changing it myself saves me about $30, which when you’re broke is a fortune. Plus, the manufacturer recommends changing the oil every 7000 miles, and I tend to do it every 3500. I’m just hung up on the 3000 mile thing that we all grew up with.

Now I’d been told by the Amazing PR Man that you don’t want to change your oil right before a big trip because if something goes wrong, it’s tough when you’re far from home. I figured if I changed it on Thu, I had all day Friday and Saturday to make sure things were okay. We headed up to Canada on Sunday.

So I went for it. I warmed up the car, jacked it up, drained the old and added the new, and changed the filter. As much as it’s a pain, I find it satisfying doing it myself. It makes me feel like a real man... in training. Plus our trip went fine with no problems, and since we’ve been back, it’s been either snowing, dangerously frigid, or raining, which makes changing the oil a challenge.

As usual, I sure am glad I just did it and got it done. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Susanne Manley for the pic.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cruising Into 2014, part 1

Happy new year to everyone. We had a nice one, and for the first time as a family we partied it up. I used to go to parties all the time on New Year’s Eve, 99% of which were a disappointment. I’m just not that into parties, and the ones I have enjoyed were ones I hosted, though it was usually not my idea. Otherwise, I’m all for a quiet night at home.

Since we haven’t done much traveling, R wanted to have a few days off, and it worked out beautifully having a hockey game in Burlington. We spent the night prior to the game in Burlington, then after the game drove over the border and into Quebec. It was a bit of a trek, and since we got a late start, we were driving in the dark, which made conditions less than optimal. In fact, they were downright daunting, with gale force winds, poor visibility, and slick and icy roads. The locals up in Canada seemed unfazed by the conditions and drove amazingly fast, so much so that a few of them ended up on the side of the road.

I was glad to arrive at our hotel, and that night we ventured out into the old section, where we were going to spend New Year’s Eve. The hotel itself was actually really nice for a Holiday Inn (Express, no less). Now I’m biased in favor of the Euro experience, but I do think when you get out of the U.S., the low budget motels/hotels still have a little more style and panache than what you get here. One of the most obvious is the breakfast, one of my favorite aspects of staying in a hotel, and that alone can make or break an experience for me. The Holiday Inn in Quebec had a simple breakfast, but it was nicer than what you usually get, with more choices and less of the pre-fab, synthetic stuff. I could be deluding myself, it’s been known to happen, but I liked it better.

After breakfast, with the sun shining and balmy weather hovering around 5 degrees, we decided to explore. The first thing I noticed about Quebec is that it’s a really cool town, so very Euro, and they speak French. There is a strong nationalist spirit in this part of Canada, and you can feel it. I think most of them can speak English but they won’t go out of their way to accomodate you. Don’t get me wrong, they were very friendly, and we had no problems, but for the most part, they size you up and realize you’re not from around there.

The first day after our arrival, the storm seemed to have passed and it was sunny and beautiful. In fact, you wouldn’t have even had a sense of how cold it was outside, but you became painfully aware of that fact the minute you walked outside. It’s really the wind that kills you. We were, however, pretty well prepared for the cold, which meant snow pants, snow boots, and many layers. I have to say, we did okay, but even when you’re bundled up, standing around in -10 wind chill will get to anyone. I couldn’t believe some of the stylish people walking around in form fitting pants and nice shoes. Being fashionable sure comes at a price.

We checked out the local ice rink and we were tempted to go for a skate. We’d even brought hockey sticks if the occasion allowed for it, but this never came to pass. We did do a fair amount of skating, however, but later in our trip. We headed back over to the old section because that seemed to be where everything was happening.

There is a big park near the old section that was really nice, I think it’s called the “something” of Abraham. I can’t recall, but it was huge, and they had these amazing groomed XC-ski trails and a beautiful skating loop. The park is just outside the walls of the city, and we had a lot of fun. The kids just got a huge kick out of playing in the snow, and there was plenty of that. Some of the snow drifts were over 10 feet high, I kid you not.

After some fun in the snow, we looked for some food and piled back into our car and searched for our next hotel, the Saint Pierre, which is right on the edge of the old town. It’s a beautiful hotel, again so very Euro and stylish, but most importantly, they had a wonderful breakfast that came with the room. Say no more.

More on our trip later. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sofica for the pic.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Injury Report

As if I needed something else to whine about, I have to go and injure my finger. Not just any injury, mind you, but a deep infection, I learned. It even has a name, paronychia. I’d never heard of it before, but I’m too familiar with injuring my fingers. In the winter time, and having worked in the lab, I’m all too familiar with dry cracked skin, especially on the tips of my fingers. JR can relate to my pain and suffering, we’re fellow cooks/dishwashers. Now most guys don’t make a big deal about a little cut or hang-nail, but the ones I get are amazing painful.

I try to avoid it by using lotion or Vaseline, or even Chapstick on the skin, but no matter how diligent you are, dry skin catches up to you. I’ve found what aggravates the situation is coaching youth hockey and having to tie the kids’ skates, which are wet, moldy and disgusting. In fact, I’m convinced that’s where I got this infection. Since I’m familiar with these cuts happening, I didn’t think much of it at first, I just applied the grease and waited for it to abate, but abate it did not. In fact, it really started to hurt. Not just some small stinging sensation, but at some point it really started to throb, so much so that it profoundly affected my quality of life. I couldn’t sleep, it hurt so bad.

A hematoma also formed, which made me think perhaps I’d injured it through trauma, but for the life of me, I couldn’t recall hitting it on anything. These sort of things happen all the time in hockey, but again, I couldn’t remember, even in light of the fact that I’m getting old and my brain is falling apart. The problem with this sort of injury is that it affects a part of your body that is used constantly, and usually without much thought. Normally when you open a door or pick something up, you lead with your fingers, and when they make contact, your hand goes into action. This becomes complicated when your finger is killing you, because even the slightest contact hurts like crazy. I know, I’m being a big baby, but you should be used to that by now.

At some point the bruise started to spread, and the pain wasn’t going away. R and the kids were fed up with my whining, so I went to see the doctor, who told me I had an infection and prescribed antibiotics. Same old song and dance. I didn’t want to take antibiotics, but I also wanted to preserve my finger, which I’ve grown quite fond of. I figured I’d wait a day and see what happened, but the pain was intolerable, so I went on them. I also tried to relieve some of the pressure (my finger was like a sausage) by lancing the tip with a needle, which was brutal. I failed because the pressure was deeper than I was man enough to bury the needle.

Within a day or so, my finger actually did start to drain. It was completely disgusting and the kids were totally grossed out, but it sure did feel better. My finger is ugly, no doubt, but I can move it, and best of all, there’s no pain, sort of. It still hurts on contact, but nothing like before.

Was it the antibiotics, or just the natural course of healing? Hard to say, but I guess I’m glad it’s over, because pain is not a fun thing, even if it’s something as little as a finger. Hopefully my Mentor isn’t judging me too harshly.

Happy new year and thanks for reading, and thanks to Vicious Bits for the pic.