Monday, June 27, 2016

Denied at the DMV

Before I get too far into this I just wanted to mention that I think bad service is a universal condition when it comes to the DMV. Clearly I'm not alone in this thought process because it's the butt of many jokes. I grew up in LA and you always hated going to the DMV because the service was terrible, the people working there were complete jerks, and they just seemed to enjoy making your life miserable. Since they were government workers, or something along those lines, they had job security and didn't seem to answer to anyone. Because of this fact, they could treat you any way they pleased with impunity, and somehow they relished this role.

Since we moved to New England my experiences with the DMV have improved. They seem a little more cordial, though things can still move at a snail's pace. Then again, what's the big hurry? What's been really nice up here is that mom and I have been able to renew our licenses through the mail, sparing us from having to spend the day at the DMV waiting in lines. I love it. Just recently, however, we had to visit the DMV once again to address some situations with our own children, and were denied. The cycle begins again.

In all fairness we handled the situation poorly, so the fault lay with us. We paid for our ignorance, but like everything in life, the lessons you learn the hard way are the ones you never forget. We (N and I) were to meet mom and A at the DMV after his camp, and then mom would head off to work while we dealt with DMV stuff. They went earlier and the lines were so long that they had about a 2 hour wait, so instead of sitting there wasting time, they went to get lunch and that's where we met up. Mom went to work and I took the kids to the DMV, hoping that the lines were smaller, which they were. Their number was long past so we took a new one and sat and waited. A helpful woman overheard us talking and said that if you were taking the driving exam you didn't need a number but instead needed to stand in the permit line. Sure enough, the said on the wall said as much. Our number was about 30 minutes away, so we thanked her and stood in line.

Interestingly, while there several of A's friends showed up, which makes sense because they are all of that age. After speaking with them it suddenly dawned on us that we might have had to have made an appointment, which we didn't. Oh well, we thought, let's just wing it. Unfortunately, when we got to the front of the line, which for the record was slow, he told us that we did in fact need an appointment, but there was a chance that they could squeeze us in if they had time at the end. We figured we were there so we might as well wait. Meanwhile, our number came up and A had the brilliant idea of using that opportunity to make an appointment in the near future. What a great plan.

Originally mom and A had tried to make an appointment but they couldn't get through, so they figured they'd just come in and deal with it. This, it turns out, was a bad idea, but we didn't learn this until it was too late. I had thought that we should wait and see if they could squeeze us in, but that meant about 1.5 hours of waiting. A's plan was much better: let's take advantage of the fact that we could make an appointment in person, and then get the heck out of there. The guy who was helping us also indicated that there was a slim chance, if any, that we'd get squeezed in. That's all we needed to hear.

So we made an appointment. It was a little tricky because we didn't have our calendar with us to choose the optimal day, and for whatever reason the schedule for the DMV satellite office changes from week to week. How crazy is that? I actually had to call mom to check if certain days would work, and I could see the guy behind the desk just wanted me out of his life. Finally, with an appointment in hand, we got out of there and went home.

All things considered it wasn't as painful as my experiences with the DMV in LA, but it was still an incredibly inefficient process. Unfortunately it's something we all have to deal with so you have to simply live and learn, usually the hard way.

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

Doing It Backwards

After all my boasting and pride about getting the clapboards done, I've realized that I did things out of sequence and am paying the price for it. As you may have heard I was feeling good about myself (such a rare thing) having painted the bottom half of the house. It really needed it in certain sections, and I was actually relieved to have finally gotten it done. It didn't take long, however, to realize that what I should have done was paint the windows and trim first, then gone back and painted the clapboards.

What I'm finding, and I found this the first time around but foolishly forgot, is that when you paint the windows and trim, inevitably you get some splatter and mess nearby, i.e., the clapboards. Since the trim is in white, you can imagine how much it shows up on dark purple paint. I was cursing myself with each "splattery" mess. I decided to shelve any more plans to paint the siding and focus on the windows and trim, then go back and do the siding. If I'm feeling inspired, and I do tend to the anal-retentive in this department, I will go back and clean the mess I've made of things, but sometimes you just say "whatever" and leave it be.

On a bright note, at least the wood is now protected from the weather, which is the most important thing. It may look a little sloppy, but from a distance you can't tell the difference. The same is true in the evening.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Good Timing

Just a quick and boring side note about work; a week or two back I had to work two consecutive weddings, which can be a marathon of endurance, especially when guests linger long after the fact. For the record, they almost always linger long after the fact, and who can blame them? It's a wedding, the happiest day of the young people's lives, and mom and dad shelled out the big bucks to celebrate the day. Who's going to rush them along?

For the workers at the Inn, however, all we want to do is go home. This fact is exacerbated by the knowledge that even after the last guest has departed, our work is not even close to being done. That's why we want the guests to take their time and enjoy, but it sure can be painful when they stick around for another hour or so.

Which brings me to the past weddings we worked. In both cases the guests left right at the anointed hour, which is unheard of. There were circumstances the encouraged a timely departure. In one wedding, the bride and groom were fitness buffs and the final act of the wedding ceremony was a bike ride around lawn. To view this activity all of the guests got up and stood around the grass to watch and exhort the happy young couple, which was fun to watch. Since they were all standing and the wedding was basically over, the guests decided to leave the premises and either go to their rooms or hit the town for more drinks. This, as you can imagine, was A-okay by us.

In the other wedding, there were several young children in attendance, and as the reception wound down they all decided to join in the fun and help us break down the room. To accomplish this they went around to all of the tables and started gathering together glasses, silverware, and napkins. The parents were all happy that they were entertaining themselves, and we were more than amenable to the fact that they were moving things along. A win-win situation.

There was still a lot of work to be done, but all in all we got out a lot earlier than usual, and I sure do love when that happens.

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

First Year Done

This may not seem like a huge deal, but for us it's memorable and worth noting.

This past week was the final week for A and school and while she didn't actually graduate, she finished her first year, which is worthy of some mention. I think that it was an overall positive experience. She enjoyed her classes, got along well with her teachers, discovered some new interests, found a crew to hang out with, and adjusted well to "civilian life." Of course we had the usual concerns about entering into a conventional public school, especially one that is as high-powered and high-performing as hers. On the other hand we had a sense that she could do well in whatever environment she went into. The key was that she could pursue her interests and discover new ones, and I think that's what pretty much happened. Also, the part-time gig seemed to work out for her, so as of now we'll stay the course.

Now that school is out I think we can spend a little time over the summer tying up loose ends and gearing up for the next year. It never really ends, does it?

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

Finishing Early

It's that magical time of year where once again we've managed to finish the wood pile for this coming winter, and this time we've managed to get the wood done early. This allows us to focus our attention on other things, including finishing the barn, yard work, and of course, the wood for year 2. The situation is particularly satisfying when we have wood all stacked and ready to burn while also having a massive pile of logs and blocks just waiting to be attended to. We can now operate at a leisurely pace as far as the wood goes, though I think the work will continue consistently until the first snow. This makes it all the more enjoyable when you don't have a deadline bearing down on you.

This year the work was helped considerably by the assistance of A&N. It works beautifully because they enjoy helping out and they do an excellent job. I do the cutting and splitting, and they stack. I think a day will come when they can actually do the splitting, though it might more of a thing for N than A. Then again, you just never know. For now, I welcome their assistance, and it's good for them to have some responsibility, especially when it involves something as important as keeping us warm in the winter.

I'm still expecting a small truck load from DS, though I indicated that it's not urgent and I'm not sure what sort to time frame he's looking at. For now I'll just keep working on the wood we have, and believe me, there's plenty of it. I love when that happens.

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fly Robin Fly

Chalk it up to being a compassionate nature lover, but recently we had a robin nesting in the eaves of the barn, and in order not to distress the mother while she was attending to her eggs I put off mowing the lawn in that area. I don't now what the time frame is for the eggs to hatch and the babies to fly away, but the grass got pretty unruly during this period. I mowed the lawn once at a distance I deemed to be safe, but sure enough it scared the mother away and I worried that she might not come back (she did). We also avoided the door that was near the nest, again so as not to scare her away.

Interestingly enough we've noticed some odd behavior in a robin around the main house. For whatever reason this bird has been flying into the window, repeatedly. It also does it around the barn and I figured it was losing it's mind or something along those lines. Seems like flying into a window is not a good survival strategy. Our cats were itching to get their paws on it. I heard later that it was a way that birds, robins included, mark their territory. I guess it's letting the neighbors know that you've arrived. Either way, we took heed of the message and stayed away.

Just recently I noticed that the nest seemed quiet, and after repeated trips with no bird in sight, I decided to finally mow the lawn. Boy, talk about a relief. The grass was up to my knees at that point. There's just something about unkempt lawns that get under my skin, don't ask me why. I'm not sure if I should leave the nest as it is, which could open up the door for the robin to return and set up her home once again. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though it means an un-coiffed lawn for a few weeks. I guess there are worse things in life.

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

Dealing With the Heat

A week or two back we had a hot spell that stretched over a few days, which I took to portend a long, hot and brutal summer. To help make the summer heat more tolerable I have this whole routine whereby I put window fans in the upstair windows and blow the hot air out while opening the downstair windows to let in the cooler air. I also go for the "tomb effect" whereby I close the blinds upstairs, which faces south and gets sun all day long, thus minimizing the scorching effects of direct sunlight. The key is air circulation, and we have a ceiling fan the can reverse direction and draw air upstairs. It actually works pretty well, and once the sun goes down and the temperatures cool, I simply reverse all the fans.

We have two window fans that wedge perfectly into the window creating a fairly good seal that minimizes the amount of turbulence, thereby maximizing the efficiency of airflow. One of the fans, however, has frayed wires and seems like a bit of a fire hazard, so I'm reluctant to use it. I went out and got two new ones on sale at Walmart and now we are all set for summer. As an added bonus, they were even on sale. I gave the old fan to N to play with and he proceeded to dismantle it and toy with the wires.

Oddly enough, now that we're set for the heat, the weather has changed and now it's cooling off. The days are pleasant, if not downright cold. Mind you, I'm not complaining, I like the cooler weather, it's just a little odd to be burning wood this far into June. During N's LAX tournament this past weekend, it was rain and cold and I froze my buns off. Crazy.

Oh well, what are you going to do? It's going to get hot, no question, so at least we're prepared for when that heat comes. For now I'll just enjoy the pleasant temperatures and stare at our new fans collecting dust.

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

Photography Girl

Following in the footsteps of her mother, A has recently taken up photography in school and I think she's really enjoying it. She does a very nice job (must be an inherited thing) and I think developing a good eye with a camera can extend into other arenas, including filmmaking. She already has a fair amount of experience with video making and I think taking still pictures is a good complement. The class also allows her to continue taking classes with one of her favorite teachers, KW. I think that's her name.

Either way, she's doing a nice job of taking pics, and I think she has a good eye, just like her mom. She's also learning the lost art of film developing, which nobody does anymore because now everything is digital. This makes it hard to find a facility where she can develop and print pics, but finding the actual film is a challenge, as well. Fortunately the school has a dark room and print film available to the students. The downside is that she can only do the work during school time, which is coming to an end with summer on the horizon. What's also nice about it is that she has inherited my old film camera, which was a pretty nice camera when I got it about 15 years ago. Now it's obsolete, but for her purposes it works just fine. Plus, she can call it her own.

Of course she's also doing a lot of work with digital cameras, taking the pics and tweaking them with various editing programs. It's pretty cool stuff, and I think it's something she can do for years to come, either as a hobby or something more, whatever that may be.

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Driving and More Driving

The things that parents do, though it's really a situation of self-imposed suffering because as parents we have the right, and if anything the duty, to say no. Then again, it's not always easy to say no to your kids, especially in this age of indulgence that we live in. This past weekend mom and I had to do some major driving all over the area so that the kids could enjoy themselves. N had a LAX tournament in M'bury, for which we made the commute both Sat and Sun. A went to visit friends down in Connecticut and mom drove her down to that. It's a good thing I changed the oil and rotated the tires on both cars.

A has a fairly big social circle and several of her friends via camp live down around Boston, some as far as Connecticut. Many live around us but she only gets to see her camp friends once, maybe twice, a year. They seem to like to have social gatherings with each other down there, and they always invite her but the distance makes it difficult. We've driven her down in the past to the southern parts of New England but this was the farthest. We probably should have just said no but we set things in motion and she was really excited about it. As always, we'll be sure to be more firm the next time around... yeah, right. To add to the fun, A had band practice on Sunday afternoon so mom had to take her to that upon returning from Conn. Talk about a long day.

For N, his team has an annual tournament in M'bury and while it's not as far as Conn, it's still a bit of a jaunt. We thought about staying overnight but it's alumni weekend at M'bury College so it's hard to find a room. Plus, there's the issue of cost. So we drove back and forth both days. It's a lot or road time and can be exhausting, but in the end you just stop complaining (sort of) and just do it. The tournament was fun, though on the last day several of the key players did not show up, which I thought was surprising, especially since two of them are the coaches.

In the end we survived, and since things are winding down on several fronts we were able to sit down to supper together Sunday evening, which is always nice. Sundays seem to be these crazy days where we're pulled in several different directions, which was the case this Sunday though things seemed to finally calm down at the end of the day. I'll take it. Now LAX is over, A's band practice schedule is shifting, school is winding down, and we are ready to tackle summer. The fun just never stops.

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

Filling The Hole

After all that I've been through with this septic tank (poor little me), the story continues. I mentioned that it was a complete nightmare trying to find the septic hatch while digging up the backyard, and that I had decided to take the septic guy's advice and modify the access hatch by installing chimney blocks that elevate the opening, which for the record scared me. I had no clue what I was doing. I went and purchased the chimney blocks, which were surprisingly cheap ($5/each), and cleaned up the area around the opening in anticipation of the septic guy's arrival. The plan was for him to pump the tank and then help me put the blocks over the opening.

Well, in typical fashion as to how my life seems to transpire, it turns out that I ended up digging to the wrong opening. How can that possibly be? The septic guy, who was the same guy who came last time (6 years ago), said that there were three openings on the tank and that I need to put the blocks over the first opening. I ended up accessing the second, or middle, opening, though I couldn't quite understand why we couldn't just use that one. Not feeling like I was in any sort of position to argue, I begrudgingly went in search of the proper door. At that point I felt that if it was too hard to find I was going to give up on the whole endeavor and simply fill in the hole like I did last time. I figured it would be another 5 years before I had to deal with it again, and by then, the bad memories would have dissolved.

As it turns out it wasn't that hard to find, and it was easy to open, to boot. In fact, I realized that when the septic guy came last time we had in fact used the first opening. This time around I dug up the second opening, not realizing what was going on. I think this time I'll keep some notes. Either way, I opened the hatch, placed the blocks over it, and then positioned the lid on top. Then, with the assistance of N, we proceeded to fill the hole back in. Let me tell you, it wasn't easy. There was a lot of dirt and a lot of rocks, and by the end of it both he and I were pretty much over all that shoveling. You realize how much machines have changed how hard labor gets done.

Now the hole is filled, much to the delight of mom, and after I clear out all the rocks, I'm hoping (really hoping) that I won't have to deal with it for another 5 years. One thing I will say about all this is that when you have a septic system, you put a lot more thought into what you flush down your toilet, not to mention how often you do it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fresh Start

I have to admit that I was a little concerned about having our septic pumped because I waited a little longer than usual this time around, though I don't quite know what "usual" actually is. I still don't have a definitive answer as to the proper interval between septic evacuations, with some people saying every few years and others preaching longer intervals. I get a sense the previous owners had long in-betweens, though I can't say for sure. I know the last time we did it we waited 3 years and it seemed fine. This time around it was more like 6 years, and I was expecting a scolding from the septic guy. I was even a little pensive of seeing what was going on inside that tank.

As usual, my concerns were unfounded, and even Mr. Septic said it looked fine, whatever fine means for a septic tank. As long as there were no problems, that's fine with me. He pumped the tank and sealed the lid and was off. I'm much relieved to have a fresh start, and can stop thinking about it for another few years. I'm thinking that 5 years might be a good interval, but we'll see how it goes.

The big question is, will I take the long view and modify the latch to make it easier to find and open the next time, or will I take the short-sighted approach and simply fill the darn hole back in and be done with it? We shall see.

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

Art Show

There was an end of the year art show at A's school and it was cool to see her work in the flesh, not to mention meet her art teacher (finally), who A has a really good relationship with. The art show displayed what the students had worked on throughout the year and A had several things out there. The pieces covered several genres, including drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography. It was cool to see all the stuff that she is doing because I for one don't always get to see it in real time. A lot of it seems to stay at the school, and kids tend to keep to themselves when it comes to school work, or at least they don't share it with their boring old dad.

Either way, it was nice to see her work, and the timing worked out well because N had a LAX game in the neighboring town so we were literally 5 minutes away. In fact, A and mom met us at the game and we headed over together, grabbing a bite to eat along the way. As I mentioned A had a few pieces of her stuff out there, including her sculpture, pottery, photographs, and drawings. I think she got a kick out of us seeing her work, and it was a nice way to showcase what the students had done over the year.

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

One Thing Leads To Another

What started out as simple maintenance, albeit long overdue maintenance, has become quite a production in our lives. Then again, what else is new when it comes to house upkeep? I had put off painting the house for years and in fact didn't do it right the first time way back when and paid for my insolence. This time around I needed to re-paint the back section of the house, hopefully doing it right, and ended up replacing a bunch of clapboards. This has led me tot he decision to paint the entire house, which is a pretty ambitious task when you really get down to it. Plus, as I make my around the house, I find plenty of other clapboards that need replacing, and as we all know, fixing one clapboard means fixing three.

This is a job that is long overdue. When we first bought the house, the inspector said to paint the two sides that get the most sun every two years and the other two sides every four years. That's a lot of painting, and being the lazy slob that I am, I didn't follow his advice. Over the years I ended up painting the north and south faces, neglecting the gable ends, which present some significant challenges because they go up so high. Now that I'm finally doing it, it has become very clear to me how much a fresh coat of paint not only makes the house look nice, but it protects the wood from the elements, as well. The two sort of go hand in hand, don't you think?

My plan is to paint the bottom half of the house first, then when I've gone all the around, make my way up. Part of the reason for this is because the bottom half is in greater need of repair being closer to the ground. It's also more accessible and doesn't require the use of our massive 30 foot ladder, which is scary to use. Finally, as you go higher up on the house, you run into more and more hornets' nests, which are a complete bummer, especially when you're balancing precariously on a ladder holding a can of paint.

Needless to say, this should be interesting. As of now the improvement in the appearance of the house is marked, and it's always nice to get immediate results from your work.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Chimney Blocks

We are finally getting around to pumping our septic tank and it was a complete nightmare trying to find that darn access hatch. After all the blood, sweat, and tears in finding it, I decided that it was time to do things differently, as per the recommendations of the septic guy. Now I'm not sure why the previous owners didn't do this, but since they really knew what they were doing I mindlessly followed in line with their M.O., leaving me to scratch my head and wonder why. The access hatch is about 2 feet down in the ground and the biggest issue was locating it. Foolishly I didn't mark the location properly and started in the wrong place, forcing me to search for it with a shovel. The situation was compounded by the enormous number of sizable rocks that litter the soil, not to mention the hot sun beating down on me. Boy, it's a wonder I make it through the day.

Last time he came the septic guy urged me to get these chimney blocks and use them to elevate the access hatch. The way it works is you stack the blocks, which are hollow, on top of the opening, thus raising it and making it easier to get to the next time you dig. I disregarded his suggestion at the time because I didn't know what the heck chimney blocks were and figured it would just mean more money. Plus, the previous owners didn't do it, why should I?

This time around I realize the folly of my ways and decided to get the darn blocks. When I called to schedule the pumping I inquired about said blocks and they told me to go to this place in West Leb to get them. It wasn't easy to find but I managed to locate it and get the blocks, which weigh about 75 lbs each. I now have them out back and awaiting the septic guy to pump the tank and then revise the access point. Somehow I get the feeling that it won't be as straightforward as I hope it will be, but what else is new in the life of a RMIT (real man in training - I just came up with that acronym, isn't that clever?)?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Family Hike

Last week there was a lot on our schedule, including work, LAX practice, and domestic duties, but for various reasons things started to drop off the map. For whatever reason his LAX practice was canceled, and I was off the hook for work. That left making supper, but when mom learned that LAX was canceled, she suggested a family hike and picnic supper at the summit. We were all for it, and instead of cooking supper, I ran to the store and got picnic supplies.

It turned out to be a beautiful day and the hike was awesome. A brought her camera along and she and mom stopped along the way to take pics while N and I walked ahead of them. It was a really nice impromptu hike and we made the most of our time off. I love when that happens. For the record, the kids are incredibly fast walkers and usually leave the slower old people in their wake. I don't even try to keep up, but this time around A was slower because she was stopping for photo ops with mom. I had the task of trying to keep up with N, which basically meant he was not only going slow, but was taking intermittent stops to let me catch up. So thoughtful.

Once at the summit, it was time to unpack our picnic and chow down. I was hungry and we had quite a nice feast. Somehow context can change everything when it comes to a meal. Food that taste awesome in one location might not be as appealing in another. When we picnic on the hill, we eat simple foods like bread, hummus, olives, tomatoes, sausage, and cheese. Normally I probably wouldn't consider this a meal, but when we're hiking/picnicking, it's just right. Funny how that works.

On the way down the young folks were once again united and took off ahead of the geriatric crowd, which suited mom and dad just fine. When we arrived back at the car, the kids were sitting on the rocks with a look in their eyes that screamed, "What took you so long?" The crazy thing is, it didn't seem that long to me.

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