Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

I don't know if I've mentioned this, and excuse me if I'm being redundant, but I addressed a situation that I wasn't happy with at work and it actually worked out in my favor. Normally I never speak up because I try to be the good worker who keeps his mouth shut and does his job, especially if I'm the new guy. Work, however, was getting overwhelming since I was filling two roles, banquets and conference services (CF). It was nice getting the hours and the big bucks, but it was really hard being at work for so long, and not just for me, but for my entire family. I was at work until 1:00-2:00 in the morning, and on some nights I'd have to get up at 4:00AM to take A to hockey practice. It was brutal.

Not only that, but I much prefer doing banquets because the energy level is higher, the work is busy but constant, the work ends when the event is over, and it's a big crew that works fast and hard. CF works hard as well, but it's a smaller crew and the pace is much slower. Combine that with the fact that CF work begins when banquets end, and you're talking a very late night. Imagine an early morning of hockey and taking A to school, working as a poster boy, then taking A home for lunch. In the afternoon N would have hockey, then we'd go home and have supper, and then I'd have to head in for work, usually until about 11:00 to midnight, or later.

The CF crew is not always as warm and sunny, either. Since CF is small in numbers, we're right on top of each other and have to listen to each other whine. If it were up to me, I'd silently work as fast as possible, get the work done, and go home, but it's not up to me. I don't always know what needs to be done so I'm waiting around to obtain this information, and the clock keeps ticking. It is a bit of a downer, but again, there are plenty of hours and pay is not bad. Then again, money isn't everything, right? I can't tell you what a bummer it is getting home so late on a regular basis, not being able to eat supper with the family or see mom until I crawl into bed. It's just not a health approach to the American Dream.

So I went to my supervisors and said that I'd like to go back to focusing on banquets and do less work in CF. Truth be told, they don't really need me in CF, the guys know their stuff and are perfectly capable without me. Plus, I much prefer the work in banquets, it suits me a lot better in terms of energy and environment. I wasn't sure what was to come out of it but I spoke with some of the captains and they were supportive, so I figured it was worth a try. Over the past couple of weeks things have started to pick up, and lo and behold, my focus has shifted back to banquets. I was even told that I'm not on the CF schedule anymore. Woo-hoo. I told the supervisors that if they were in a bind I could help out, but I would be fine not doing it anymore. I felt sort of guilty bailing on the guys, and they were teasing me by calling me a traitor, but truth be told, they complained the whole time I worked with them and on a number of occasions said they were going to transfer out to another department. One of them might have even been in the process of looking for another job and seemed ready to leave, though I think it would have been a big mistake because they're not going to find a better gig than the Inn. So after all that griping and complaining, nothing changed for them.

Not that that is a bad thing because the Inn is pretty cool about flexibility and the pay is good. I'm not sure why they complained so much other than the fact that some people are just always unhappy and constantly complain. I know I do it all the time, but that doesn't mean you can't do something about it. What's nice is that I made the request months ago and patiently finished out my term in CF until the slow season, so I think the transition was smooth and didn't ruffle any feathers.

I love when that happens. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rachel for the pic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Yoga Inspired

Living with pain isn't fun, and at some point you just have to either bear down and live with it, or do something about it. I'm sort of choosing the latter, though I don't quite know what I'm doing. What else is new? My Mentor will have some thoughts on this, but since the new year I've been having some issues with pain in my neck/shoulder/back. Part of the frustration is not knowing what caused it in the first place, but mostly it's just feeling pain all the time. For all it's worth the pain has abated somewhat, and instead of hurting, it's really more of an annoyance. That's a step forward, though it would be nice to be rid of it altogether.

One of the steps I've taken to help out is stretching, and the stretches I'm employing are basically yoga stretches. I'm not a yoga person (I just play one on TV), but the stretches are not that different from the ones I did when I studied karate. Very similar, and I feel better after doing them. Some of my relief must surely stem from these stretches, though it's possible that my injury is simply healing. Whatever be the case, I'm relieved and grateful, and will continue to address the situation. At the very least stretching feels good and I think it's good for the body and soul. Plus, it forces me to get up off the couch and move around a bit, which is never a bad thing.

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

Wrestling with Siding

With the weather warming up but not quite hot, it's the perfect time to get things done outside, not that there's a shortage of things that need to be done. One issue that's been eating at me for the past two years are the clapboards on the backside of the house. The house gets southern exposure back there and subsequently, a lot of sun. You don't realize how much damage the sun does, but in combination with the brutal winters, it can really take a toll on wood. About 4 years ago I re-painted the siding and it looked pretty good at the time, but truth be told, I took the easy way and paid the price. I hand my head to my Mentor and the Amazing PR Man who would never take shortcuts and would do it right the first time.

The problem I ran into was that the boards back there were on the older side and the paint was chipping off of them. Rather than do things right, which would include replacing the warped boards and scraping off the old paint, I took the lazy man's approach and simply painted over them. At first glance it looked okay, but over time my laziness caught up to me and began to haunt me. Now I didn't realize this, being a real-man in training and all, but when you paint over paint that's peeling off, it simply peels off some more. Sure enough, over the last few years, the fresh paint that I put on was simply peeling off with the old. It looked terrible and was bugging the heck out of me, and we all know the sure fire way to address things that bug you is to simply deal with it. I guess I have a high tolerance for things that bug me because it took a few years.

Also, the old boards that I tried to ignore were simply getting older (funny how that works) and more warped, to the point where they weren't really serving their purpose anymore. Several of the boards were cracking and bending and really needed replacing. They, too, looked terrible.

So, I decided to take action and work on them. The funny thing about clapboards, at least when I'm working with them, is that when you try to replace one or two, it ends up being at least twice that many because others crack and break. It's incredibly frustrating, and I found myself replacing more than I anticipated. In fact, I created my own clapboard hell because after I'd finished with my initial project, I went ahead and tried to replace some others and ended up cracking several rows above it. So many, in fact, that I ran out of clapboards and had to make a run to LaValley's to get more. Total bummer.

In the end it's a good thing that these boards are being replaced, it's just a pain having to actually do the work. Then again, what should one expect when one's a real man in training? Truth be told I don't mind doing siding, and I would even go as far as to say that I like it, it's just hard finding the time, although a real man in training never whines about these sort of things.

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

First Grilling

We love to barbecue and believe it or not, last year we didn't grill at all. Not once. Kind of a bummer, but we were pretty swamped with all sorts of activities, especially the farmer's market and me being a working class stiff. It just seemed like we never had time to sit down and fire up our tiny grill.

With the crazy weather we're having, it seems like we've been going back forth on the warm and cool temps, though in my opinion, spring has arrived. A few days back we had a stretch of warm days and I figured it was as good time a time as any to break out the grill and cook up some vittles. We were having fish, and grilling is a great way to cook it, albeit a challenging way. The problem with fish is that once it cooks, it becomes very fragile and crumbly. We grilled fish in Grand Turk and I screwed it up by putting it on the grill too soon and turning it too many times. It just doesn't work that way.

At home, we actually have a fish grilling apparatus that makes it all possible. You basically sandwich the fish between two metal grates that have a handle. With the fish enclosed, you can flip the thing as many times as you like, and believe me, when it comes to grilling, I'm a flipper. I can't help but tinker with the food. Either way, we cooked the fish and it came out fantastic, slightly charred and crispy and tender and juicy on the inside. It was also nice to break in the grill since we didn't use it once last year. Hopefully we'll get a chance to use it often this summer.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Stefan Moget for the pic.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Down and Out

A has been without her computer for about 3 weeks, which is 3 months in teen years, and she has been functional and okay, though you realize how important computers are for the young and hip. To her credit, she's adapted and hasn't complained, she never does, though I'm sure she's been bummed. Fortunately her school provides all the kids with laptops so she has something, but it's not the same as having your own computer at your disposal, especially when you're talking Macs vs. PCs.

A few weeks back her computer went on the blink when her logic board went out, at least that's the explanation I got. The screen just went berserk, and she couldn't do anything with the machine. Her biggest concern was losing all of her data, including writing, drawings, and videos, not to mention music. We took it over to the computer service center at the college and they said it sounded like the logic board, which is apparently a common problem. Replacing the board was going to cost about $450, and they said the best solution was to send it to Apple and they would do whatever repairs it needed for a set fee of $300. I didn't quite get how it all worked, but I was all for it. Apparently Apple has a policy of fixing every aspect that is faulty when you send it in, even if it involves multiple aspects. I wasn't in a position to question it too much, A needed her computer.

Well, as it turns out, her computer is too old to qualify for the repair, so Apple sent it back un-fixed. The guys at the service center recommended replacing the computer with a used one that you can occasionally get through the store for about $300, which is a great deal. The only problem is that you never know when they'll get them in, and it could be months. I asked them if we could just replace the logic board even though it cost a bit more, and he said it should be fine with the added benefit of having a new board. If we'd bought a used computer, it would have an old logic board. Plus, I had purchased a memory upgrade for A last Christmas and was going to have them install it (free with the purchase) when they repaired her computer, and if we had bought a "new" used one, that memory would have gone to waste. With this in mind, we decided to move forward with plan B, thus repairing the computer and installing the new memory.

As of today, I'm still not sure if this plan is going to work, but at least the guys at the service center said that if it doesn't work, they can simply return the logic board and all we have to pay is the $8 shipping fee. The computer will still not work, but at least we're not stuck with a $450 bill for nothing. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to AZ Laptop Medic for the pic.

Back From the Islands

Sorry for my absence, we just returned from our big vacation in Turks and Caicos, arriving late last night. We traveled for about 12 hours on our return, leaving Grand Turk in the early AM and pulling into our driveway in the evening, though I can't complain because it was light out for most of the journey and it's nice driving the last leg out of Boston with some daylight. While you can find internet pretty much everywhere in this world, the bungalow that we were staying at had internet problems that started on Monday (we arrived on Sunday) and was not resolved until Thursday. This was mostly our fault because all it took was a call to the local contact, who came the same day and fixed the problem; the router/modem had to be rebooted. It's something that we could have easily done but for whatever reason the devices are kept in a locked closet that only the local contact can access. Plus, we felt that we were on vacation and shouldn't be so locked into the internet. At least that's the idea, right?

We had a great time in Grand Turk, and I have to say, it's a beautiful island. It gets socked in with the "cruise ship" crowd, but looking at the bright side, it brings in a lot of income to the locals and allows for a lot of stuff, food included, to be affordable. When I say food, I don't mean restaurants, which are all expensive, but more so food in the store, which was reasonably priced. We lucked out on the weather, which was beautiful at 80 degrees and breezy, and the beaches were incredible. The locals were super friendly and the overall island vibe was great, even when the "cruise-ship" crowd invaded, but more on this later.

For now, it was an amazing week and the trip went smoothly, for which I am grateful. And as always, it's nice to be home.

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

More Gear

We love Stateline Sports because it's just an awesome and unique store and the guys that work there are super cool, and I'm getting a sense that they love us, too, because we sure drop a lotta dough over there. This year has been exceptional with A&N both needing a bunch of new hockey gear, and I figured that once hockey season ended we'd be done, but no such luck. LAX season has arrived and I can't really complain because N got a lot of mileage out of the second hand gear we got for next to nothing from DE, which included everything N needed to play, i.e., helmet, gloves and pads. It was a great way for him to try the sport without having to commit the big bucks for gear, and for whatever reason, LAX gear is expensive. More so than hockey, even the guys at Stateline will admit to this.

Over time, much of the gear is either getting small or is too old and "not cool." We've upgraded several pieces, the helmet was the most painful (albeit the most important), and now N has gotten into the finer aspects of the game, namely stringing his own LAX heads. Apparently the really hardcore guys like to string the mesh baskets (or pockets) on their LAX heads, and there are many different patterns that you can employ. The easiest way is to buy the heads pre-strung, which I have always done, but I have been encouraging N to try doing it himself. Many, though not all, of his friends do it, and I figured it would speak to his penchant for working with his hands. My encouragement, however, has been met with ambivalence on his part... until now, that is.

This is partly due to some recent rule changes for high school LAX. Some of the hardcore dads have informed me that certain aspects of LAX pocket design are going to be outlawed, and it just so happens that his LAX head has them. The rules don't affect youth LAX players, but hardcore dads believe that if it applies to HS, then the time to get used to it is now. I doubt if N gives the rules too much thought, but if it means doing something fun and creative with his hands, then it piques his interest, and I'm more than willing to help him, especially when it involves cool gear.

Like in hockey, as the season winds down you can find all sorts of clearance deals on LAX equipment, which as I mentioned, is inordinately expensive. I got him some gloves, which he's already outgrown, and a LAX head, thinking he'd maybe try tying the pocket himself. At the time, he wasn't interested. This season we had to replace his gloves (again) and shoulder pads. I lucked out on the gloves because they had a pre-season clearance at Stateline and I got a good price, but the shoulders I had to pay regular price, which was a little more painful. As the kids grow, they can't wear kid's sizes anymore, and once you make the jump to adult sized gear, the price goes up. To be fair, the pads weren't as expensive as I'd thought they'd be, but they still cost a bit of dough. I'll just have to work more weddings this summer.

With all the new gear and a practice or two under his belt, N is ready to move on from hockey and into LAX, and with that, his interest in stringing his own pocket started to grow. I'm all for it. We picked up all the supplies to get this done and he went to work and as usual, he did a stand up job. He's very meticulous and thorough in this way, and he takes it very seriously as I thought he would. He even went ahead and re-strung my head, which is a junker but was in need of serious repair (it cracked). I buy my LAX sticks at the Listen Center, so they're not high end pieces of gear, but I've learned that having decent equipment can make a big difference, even for someone like me. After N re-strung my pocket, it definitely functions better.

So now we're ready for LAX, or rather, he's ready. Granted, the weather has been terrible, and school break is coming up, but once all that is done and over and the weather is warmer, we'll be ready to spend some time in the great outdoors playing LAX, or in my case, watching it.

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

Brown Landscape

This weather is crazy, and I have to say I'm not a fan. Not that what I think matters a bit, but I need something to whine about. Not only was winter beyond disappointing, but it won't let go, and we are all ready for spring. We've had brief glimpses of spring but within a couple of days winter returns. It hovered around 60 degrees in the past couple of days, and now I'm hearing that the temps are going to drop below 20 degrees. That's crazy.

The combination of a mild and short winter means that there is no snow left on the ground, and since it's still early spring, the green stuff hasn't shown itself and probably won't for awhile so it's all brown. Consequently, the landscape looks a bit bleak, which is something I'm not used to. Usually by the time the snow is all gone, things are looking pretty green, but not this year.

At least the trees are starting to bud, and once the grass comes up, things will be green again, so it's really just a matter of time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ben Carlisle for the pic.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Budding Engineer

For Christmas N got an remote controlled (RC) truck and I while I'm a bit cynical about RC vehicles, even I have to admit that this one is pretty cool. I completely understand why kids, and adults for that matter, enjoy playing with RC vehicles - they're cool and interesting. I guess I'm just a boring and dull person, but at some point I start experiencing diminishing returns on the entertainment value. Then again, it could be rooted in the fact that I just haven't played with the right RC vehicles.

N has an assortment of RC planes, helicopters, cars, and even boats. Most of them seem to languish, but he's really taken to this new truck. It's a Traxxas Stampede, and even by my cynical standards, it has a lot going on. It looks cool and has a lot of power. It has these killer knobby tires for going off-road so he can go pretty much anywhere, and it can climb hills like they were nothing. We went to the skate park to drive it and it was pretty amazing. Not only does it go really fast, apparently in excess of 35 mph, but it was cool watching it launch off of jumps, and it landed on it's feet almost every time. I think it has a strong battery because he drove that thing for nearly an hour and it could have kept going.

Now what I find really cool about this truck is that you can actually modify it, just like a real car. All the components are replaceable, and there is some pretty interesting stuff. You can swap out the frame for different designs, and you can modify the engine to make it stronger or faster, as well as make changes to the suspension. There is an entire industry geared toward customizing these trucks, and I have to admit, it's pretty darn cool. N is completely hooked, and I can't say I blame him.

What's nice about it all is that it speaks to his creative and technical side. Not only can he do cool things to his vehicle, but it helps to understand how the engine works and how different modifications affect the performance of his car. I, for one, am stoked that he's passionate about it. Like his grandad and uncle (the Amazing PR Man), that boy is an engineer at heart. We'll have to indulge this one for as long as it lasts.

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


Not wanting to pass up a chance to work with his hands, N has recently become interested in fiddling with his LAX head, which is analogous to taping your hockey stick but is much more involved and has greater opportunities for creativity. He's been playing LAX for about 3 years and I think it takes second fiddle to hockey, though he does enjoy it. The two sports complement each other nicely, though I think LAX takes more skill and endurance. It's just harder to throw and handle a ball in three dimensions versus a puck sliding on the ice. Plus, running is a lot less efficient than skating.

As I mentioned, N likes the game and he's a solid player, which is not just my opinion because irrespective of what I think, he was chosen to play on the select travel team last year and was asked by the coach to come play for the even more select select team. They are totally hardcore and practice throughout the year, sometimes driving as far as Burlington or even Boston to practice. Talk about dedication, I don't think we had the wherewithal to pull it off, nor the financial resources - it's pretty expensive.

His buddies on the hockey team are all accomplished LAX players and one thing they really get into is tying the pockets on their sticks. One of his friends even paints custom designs on the heads and makes his own shafts out of wood. Pretty cool stuff. Up to this point N never really showed interest in doing any of this, he just went out and played. I encouraged him to try tying his own pockets figuring it would speak to his constructive leanings, but he was ambivalent. I even got him a new head to tie, and obtained a few "junkers" at Listen to practice on.

Well, that moment seems to have arrived because he's been tying and lacing his own heads, and his interest is growing. Much like hockey, I don't know much about LAX, but I'm learning at warp speed. I didn't realize how much the shape of the pocket and the design of the laces affects the trajectory of the ball out of the head, but it does, and in a big way. This really came to light last year when right before a game SS re-tied N's head and it completely ruined his game. Every time he threw the ball, it went straight into the ground. The coaches did a quick, on the spot re-adjustment, but it highlighted the importance of your pocket.

This year N was complaining that his throws felt a bit off, and we asked coach DW his thoughts. Right away he pointed out some of the problems, and N took it all to heart. He never listens to me, but when it comes from a person who knows what he's talking about, which of course excludes yours truly, he's a good learner. Right after that N began toying with his heads and pockets, and he got pretty creative with it, using different colored strings and modifying the pattern. He wants to do more and wants to employ his new head. I'm excited for him, though it means a trip to Stateline, our favorite store, and thus, more $$. I just recently had to replace his LAX shoulder pads, and nothing involving LAX is cheap, which is baffling but nonetheless the reality of the sport. What are you going to do?

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

Getting to the Gym

N has started LAX and it's sort of like jumping from one thing to the next, especially since hockey is technically still going on. LAX is nice because it's a little (just a bit) more relaxed than hockey and it's played outside in the warm weather, making it a pleasant experience. The only problem is that his practices are on the long side, and most parents live nearby so they just drop off and head home to get on with their lives. Yours truly lives a bit farther so it's not really practical to go all the way back home.

In the past I brought a book or my laptop and worked in the car, or even sat and watched the entire practice, which I enjoy doing but it's a lot of down time. I toyed with the idea of bringing my bike or a jump rope and getting some exercise when it dawned on me that I could head over to the gym, which is right down the road. Thanks again to the Inn, which owns the gym, I get to work out for free, so it's not a big deal if I only do a quickie. I don't need much time. I realized that despite my busy schedule, I don't get much in the way of serious exercise. Plus, I used to really enjoy working out and was at one time fairly dedicated to it. It's a winner of a situation because not only does it help to fill the time, but I get to break out into a sweat and burn off all those calories I can't seem to stop consuming. Plus, building muscles will go a long way toward my real-man training. Finally, I don't have to be that solitary parent who is sitting all by himself watching the practice. It gets sort of lonely.

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

Friday, April 1, 2016

Liking Books?

I don't want to read too much into this or be overly optimistic (nor do I want to be too cynical), but it appears that N may have become a fan of reading. Don't get me wrong, you have to take that expression with a grain of salt, because he's not quite a book lover, at least not yet. There are plenty of other things that he'd rather be doing, like everything else, but at least he's reading fairly regularly. Granted, we sort of force the issue; we tell him every day to go up and read for about 30 minutes, and we take him regularly to the library where he can choose some books.

Now he could be simply going through the motions and humoring his clueless parents (what kid doesn't?), but there are some positive notes to take from all of this. First off, he's at least reading, and we ask him to write short book reports about the books, so he has to get something out of them to pull this off. Secondly, he's going up and reading on his own, without our prodding, which is huge; I can't tell you how cool we think this is. And finally, he's showing interest in certain books and has even gone to the library and chosen ones by certain authors.

This last part got a nudge from his grandmom, JR. She recently sent him a book that he really liked by a prolific author, James Patterson. I'm guessing he liked the book because he actually asked to go the library to get more of his books, and came home with an armful of them. How cool is that?

In the end we can't predict how much of a book lover he will grow to be, you just can't force the issue, sort of. However, in lieu of TV and video games, I think he's definitely made it an option for his down times, and the great hope is that eventually he'll want to do it for enjoyment... maybe even get lost in a book and lose track of time. Is that too much to ask?

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