Friday, September 30, 2016

Gravel Pit

Last Sunday we had assorted activities to attend that took us out of the house for the day. I'm forgetting what exactly these activities were, but suffice it to say that it included A's rehearsal, which meant getting over to the big city. I figured it was a good chance for N and I to go to the driving range and hit some balls, but we can't do that for 3 hours, so an expanded plan was in order. N decided to bring his RC truck with him and hit the skate park, which they had just renovated and had a big celebration the day before. Unfortunately, the celebration continued onto Sunday and the place was a zoo, and when I say a zoo, I mean full of skateboarders, who can sometimes be edgy and even venture into being hoodlums. Not necessarily the kind of scene you want young kids playing in. Plus, there just wasn't any space.

So we ditched the plan for driving his truck at the park, but didn't want to pass on the opportunity to get some RC driving in, so we drove around a bit, trying to think of where to go. Near the skatepark is the place where I purchased the concrete blocks that I used for the septic tank and as I recalled, it was a pretty big lot. It makes sense because concrete blocks require concrete, and the place was like a gravel pit. We drove up there and there was nothing in terms of a gate preventing us from entering, so we went in and looked around. Sure enough there were big piles of rocks and stones that you would expect from a gravel pit, which meant a golden opportunity to ride and RC truck. The day was beautiful so I sat in the car and read my book while he climbed up a massive hill and went crazy with his vehicle. It was actually cool to watch, and he had a blast. It was the perfect setting to drive the RC truck.

Afterward we went for supper and then the driving range, but I'm glad we didn't give up on the RC truck. It just goes to show you that it's never over until it's over... whatever that means.

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


Last weekend the kids went to something called a Steampunk Festival, and they had a good time even though it seemed to have evolved out of nowhere. I guess A had spoken to her buddy about it weeks back, but in the teenage mind, even 24 hours in the past is an eternity, so it was soon forgotten. The day before the big event A got a message outlining the details of the day, and needless to say we had to figure out the logistics of the event, especially since it was an all day affair.

Now call me clueless, my kids do it all the time, but I wasn't sure what Steampunk even was. I see signs and symbols for it now and then, but I'm still not clear what it is, despite repeated explanations from my kids. The event was sort of like Comic-Con in that there's a scene and people dress up in themed costumes and hang out, but it's not Comic-Con, which is a big deal. Even the Manga Festival that we attended in Boston was a big deal, filling a convention center, but I Steampunk was a bit of a mystery to me. I guess there are movies, some of which I may have even seen, that portray it.

Either way, Saturday morning we were scrambling to prepare. One of the complications was that it went from morning until evening, so meals had to be planned. Another problem was that we couldn't go at the same time as AG and AH, so that meant going down later and then trying to meet them. The final complication was that I had to work and couldn't help out. If I were free I would have actually gone to the thing. I find them interesting, at least the Manga festival was.

In the end it all worked out. The kids had a good time, though I'm not sure they were blown away by the whole thing. I almost think it's geared toward adults rather than young kids. AG, the dad who took them, seemed pretty into it, with elaborate costume et al. I'm glad the kids had a chance to go and also to hang with their buddy AH, whom they don't see that much because she goes to a different school. Plus, they got to be a part of the Steampunk scene, whatever that means.

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blade Runner

Even though I've been cutting wood for a reasonably long time, I seem to learn something new every year. I just found out that you're supposed to replace the blade of your saw every now and then, or something like every few years. I've had my saw for probably 6 years and never did this, but now I know. I did notice that the saw was acting strangely, and as anyone who's used a chainsaw knows, you don't want that. One of the biggest issues was that the chain would jam with wood chips on a regular basis, forcing me to dismantle it and clean it up. It's tedious work and it's a bummer when your rhythm gets broken, and I'm rhythmic kind of guy. It's enough of a pain that when it happens I usually call it a day.

When I was cleaning the blade I noticed that there was uneven wear on it, with the bottom being more warped than the top, which makes sense since that's the part that is in contact with the wood. I took the blade into Joe's and they said it was time for a new one. They also recommended flipping the blade over every time you change the chain so the top and bottom get even wear. What's amusing is that I'd seen people with upside down blades and thought it was kind of funny, but now it makes perfect sense.

The blade was a little expensive, but you can't be too cheap when it comes to things like chainsaws, which scare the heck out of me. Besides, not only do we get a lot of use out of the saw, but it fulfills an important role in helping me to be a real man, or at least act like one. Oh yeah, it also helps keep us warm over the winter.

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

Online Glasses

I updated my look and got new glasses online through Zenni Optical, and I have to say that I'm quite pleased by the whole experience. First off, I like the glasses. I've worn wire frames for years and decided to go with thicker plastic ones so as to look fabulous, hip, and contemporary, which I'm sure my kids will agree, I am the embodiment of. The problem is that glasses are so darn expensive. Even when I go to the bargain bin, they still set me back around $125, and believe me, that's cheap. Frames alone will cost you around $250, and that doesn't include lenses, which I think is crazy. When you buy the cheaper frames, however, you have to take what you can get, and it's not always ideal, to say the least.

Enter online glasses. What a great idea, though it's not without it's limitations, especially for someone with a big head like me. Granted, it's not perfect, and I've sent back glasses because they didn't look right, but it worked out in the end. There are several online glass retailers, and I went with Zenni because they had good prices and the selection wasn't half bad. The pioneer in this field is Warby Parker, but their prices are much higher.

This is how it worked: I measured my pupillary distance PD (you can figure out what this is) and from there chose some frames. They have tons of frames designed for different sized faces, and the key is to pay attention to the PD. I uploaded a pic of my face onto their site and when you choose a frame it super-imposes it onto your image. Again, it's not perfect, and it's not the same as actually trying on the frame, but it's pretty darn good, and so much cheaper. I've spent hours trying on frames at the optometrist's office and gotten nowhere, so I was ready for something different. Plus, Zenni will give you 100% credit for returned glasses, or some percentage for a cash refund.

I purchased a couple of frames and returned them before finally finding ones that I liked. What's crazy is that for a pair of standard no-frills glasses, the lenses are free. I paid about $30 for mine, and they include a scratch proof coating. You can get different add-ons like glare reduction or even a tint (I bought sunglasses, too), for around $3-4. Bifocals, which I think are a complete waste of time, cost more.

In the end, I am all for online glasses. A few months back I forgot my glasses and had to use my backup pair that I keep in the car, but the prescription was old and I could barely see. I ended up driving without glasses, which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was then that I decided to get backups, but to put new lenses on the old frames would cost about $100. If figured for backups, why not just buy them online for $30? Here's another crazy thing - a screw came off one of the arms of my new glasses so I contacted Zenni to request one and they offered to send me a completely new frame. I declined and ended up going to the optician in town, who gave me a screw for free, but that's pretty good customer service, even if it's wasteful.

This is so much fun I may have to get another pair... then again, maybe not. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to mixture-photographique for the pic.


Among N's various projects, and believe me he's got a few, is making a longboard skateboard. This is a pretty ambitious project but I think it is very cool and one he should pursue, and I'll help him in any way I can. I'm actually curious to see where it goes because he literally wants to make it from scratch. This entails making the deck, which is akin to manufacturing his own plywood sheets, which is something I personally have never done and didn't even know was possible by the general public, but possible it is.

The first order of business was obtaining the wood, which was not as straightforward as you might think. If you've ever seen a longboard it's not a flat piece of wood but has bends in various places. I think the material of choice is plywood, but to get that distinctive shape it needs to be tweaked, and it seems like the best way to do that is with thin pieces laid over one another during the bending process. This, in my opinion, is a seemingly industrial process, but apparently it can be done. There are YouTube videos explaining how.

Whatever be the case, we are in search of the wood. The plan is to find sheets of wood as thin as possible, which means about 1/8 of an inch, and we found some at Home Depot but like much of the wood you get there, it's not the best quality. I've been told 1/8 Baltic Birch is the stuff to get, so the search continues. We may have to pay a visit to Baker Lumber, which specializes in hardwoods, though it's not always cheap. Then again, nobody said this process was going to be cheap.

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

Winter Prep

I know it's still barely fall but the weather has gotten cooler fairly abruptly and it's a strong reminder that preparations are in order for the coming winter. This of course means staying warm during the frigid winter months, and as much as I like the cold, it does take some getting used to after summer. I'm not completely ready to give up on wearing shorts, though it's about that time.

Though I'm not sure why I'm so OCD about this, especially since there are plenty of other projects that deserve my attention, but my goal is to get the year 2 wood pile done, and I'd say I'm about 65% done. We have a pretty good sized pile of uncut logs leftover and I thought I would just leave them as is over the winter but it's looking like I'm going to have to cut a fair number of them to reach my goal. The other day I split what I thought to be a massive pile of wood but when I stacked said pile it barely made a dent in our supply. What a bummer.

On a brighter note, I cleaned the chimney so we're good to go with burning, and we are all set with kindling, which I powered through when mom was away. It makes an incredible mess in the basement so it's best to get it done before she can witness the chaos. We have a healthy pile of fat logs going, and I even managed to stack a couple of small loads of emergency wood which comes in handy on those miserable stormy nights when the wood box is empty and the last thing you want to do is go out to the woodpile, in the dark, and fill it up.

So all in all things aren't looking too bad considering that it's late September. I'm hoping to finish year 2 so I can direct my OCD at something else, but for now I'll keep attacking that pile of logs.

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

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

To torment me, of course. I was heading off to work the other day and had to swerve to avoid this fairly large turtle crossing the road, or should I say standing in the middle of the road, not really moving. Being the good samaritan that I am, I naturally stopped to help the thing along. This is not the first time this has happened, we've stopped to help turtles get out of dangers way in the past, except previously the turtles were small. This one was big, and for whatever reason was just standing there.

I went to pick the thing up and that only seemed to piss him off, because he started rearing his head and jerking his body, hissing all the time while clearly trying to bite me. Needless to say all my real-man training went out the window and I dropped the beast, though I'd only managed to lift him a couple of inches off the ground so his fall wasn't that bad. Gathering up my courage and wanting to help out, I tried again with the same result; the thing was vicious and clearly wanted to be left alone. I tried to encourage him along the road but seeing me as a threat he wasn't going anywhere, so I decided that the best action was no action and left him alone.

As I was driving off, however, I couldn't really bear the thought of a crushed turtle sitting on the road, so I went back for one last try and saw that he had disappeared. I was relieved on many levels, but mostly that he was (hopefully) out of harm's way. I was also relieved that I was out of harm's way and didn't have to deal with the thing.

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Another Busy Week

As some of you may already know, last week was about as crazy as can be with us burning the candle at both ends with mom away on her big excursion. Left alone to hold down the fort, I was saved by the fact that the kids chipped in to help in a big way. In the end, it's a good thing for them to help out around the house, but they do it willingly and never make a stink about helping out. You gotta love that.

Anyway, it was a particularly busy week with field trips, sleepovers, school, and a very busy work schedule. Now mom is back safe and sound, which we are extremely happy about, but she's feeling a bit under the weather from all that travel, so once again I'm sort of riding solo while mom recuperates. Things are still busy, especially with winter on the horizon and the need to get all the firewood ready. On that note, things aren't looking so bad, though there's always work that needs to be done. Then again, what else is new?

For now we keep plugging along and doing what we know how to do. At some point things will become a little more sane, but I may be too old to appreciate it by then.

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


Last week I let A have some friends over for a sleepover and I think she had a lot of fun, though she didn't get a wink of sleep. This is what happens when kids get together for a night of fun and gossip. Originally there was a dance at school which she would have gone to but was somewhat ambivalent about. Then she and N went to a social group on Friday night and a few of the older girls were having a sleepover at their friends house which is about 45 minutes north of us. I said she couldn't because I had some things to do and was not able to transport her. She was bummed and spent the next hour ruminating on how we could make it work, so I told her that if they could make it over to our house they were welcome to sleepover here.

Now we don't do a lot of sleepovers, which I think is a bit of a bummer because I personally don't mind the kids having friends over. This time around I was riding solo so I could make the executive decision and make that decision I did. After some discussions on social media A arranged for the friends to come over and suddenly it was a party. They are good kids so things were very mellow, but suffice it to say that they didn't get much rest, and for the next couple of days someone was a walking around like a sleep deprived zombie. No regrets, just a need for sleep. Besides, who needs sleep when you're filled with youthful vigor?

I scrambled to make breakfast for the crew the next morning which was complicated by the fact that one of them was a vegan, but I managed to get lots of fruit and even managed to whip up a vegan quesadilla, which took with her for lunch. I'm glad A got to have her buddies over and if it were up to me, they could do it more often. This, however, is not the case, so never mind.

Oh well, glad we could do it when we could. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to mcholley1 for the pic.

Playing With Fire

With summer waning I realized that there is firewood that needs to be attended to before the snow (hopefully) comes. We've already got this year's wood all split and stacked. It's been seasoning for over a year, and we had a dry summer, so hopefully it's ready to burn. I still needed to get all the kindling split so I spent a couple of days in the basement working on it, dreading it in fact, though like all things in life, it wasn't as bad as I thought. I just kept working on it and before I knew it I had all five bins filled. I can check that off the list.

I also brought down the fat logs and backup kindling blocks, as well as a couple of loads of dry wood for emergencies when the wood box is empty and I just can't bring myself to brave the weather to fill it. In a pinch we have a stack of kindling blocks that would work as firewood as well since they are all hardwood. I love when planning works out well.

That leaves firewood pile #2 for 2017-18. My goal is to get it cut, split, and stacked, but it's definitely taking longer than I thought it would. I've been splitting like mad man and generating these massive piles of split wood, but when I stack them, they barely make a dent. Total bummer. On a bright note, the weather is getting cooler so splitting and hauling are not as painful. Also, we have plenty of wood, so I can keep chipping away at the stone, as the saying goes.

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

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mom's Back

We are happy to report that mom is back home and we are extremely pleased to have her. It's been a grueling week holding down the fort on my own, for all the obvious reasons as well as some extraneous ones. Anyone who has done the domestic thing will tell you that being at home is hard work, but toss in part-time employment at night, extracurricular activities, and a never-ending chain of real-man duties, and it gets pretty crazy. Sometimes I don't know how I get it done, but get it done I must. It's not as if we as parents have an option, which is a good thing because it forces us to just do it.

Either way, mom's back, so we can return to some semblance of normalcy. She had quite the journey home from Africa, and needless to say she's tired and jet-lagged, but at least she's safe and back with us. I worked on Thu, Fri, and Sat, and they had me slated to work on Sun, but I just couldn't pull it off. I had to be at home to pick up mom and get the kids to their various activities. I was able to track mom's flight online and it all went pretty smoothly, I think. She didn't have her phone because it wouldn't work in Africa, anyway, so the plan was for her to email us en route. I got updates and when she finally landed at Logan, I had a good sense of when she'd arrive back in New England.

We drove over to meet and the it was awesome to see her again. A week is a pretty long time without seeing or hearing from her. She was in a small village with no electricity so email and phone service were not options.

She had much to tell but that's a story for another time. For now we're just glad she's home and getting some much needed rest, not to mention some good home-cooked food.

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

Friday, September 16, 2016

Back To The DMV, Again

Third time's the charm, right?

Despite all my rantings about how much I dislike the DMV, it hasn't been that bad thus far. In fact, I had to go back for a third time, if you can believe it, because I had to renew my driver's license. In years past they let me do it through the mail, but this time around they needed a new picture so I had to go in. They don't take appointments so we (R and I both needed to do it) both had to take a number and sit and wait. It worked out because I had to take A to her morning rehearsal and then went and took a number, then mom came later with N and waited with me. Once we were called it went smoothly. In fact, the young guy who helped me was incredibly chipper and in good spirits, which made it more enjoyable. Much more so than anything I'd ever experience in LA, where the DMV is a complete hell hole.

Now I'm all set for the next 4 years, which is a very good thing, despite the fact that I had a good experience this time around.

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

Boat Maker

I think N has a bit of his uncle and granddad in him (this makes sense, it's in the blood). He's been working furiously on building assorted remote control (RC) vehicles and it's pretty cool to see. This current project is to build an RC boat, which I think would speak to his uncle, the Amazing PR Man. He built the hull out of cardboard and then water-sealed it with paint, varnish, and caulking. He then installed a RC motor from assorted parts from old RC vehicles in addition to special parts that he ordered online. Once the pieces were all in place, he would take it out for a test run in a nearby stream and then come home to tweak the construction to make it work. I'm not sure where he's at with it, but it's cool to see him so engrossed and focused. His work bench looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, and I've given him free reign over my tool set, so he's on auto-pilot. What's cool is that the boat is fun but it also involves some fairly sophisticated electronic components. I'll say this, it's way over my head.

Hope he sticks with it because it's pretty cool stuff. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Steven Oldak for the pic.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Riding Solo

Okay, we are about halfway into this sojourn without mom, and it hasn't been too bad except for having to drive all over the area to feed people's pets and chickens. It's a fair amount of work and I am ready to relinquish responsibility to their respective owners. It's also tough because we miss mom for a countless number of reasons, the biggest of which is that we love her and enjoy her company. The logistical help with home and life stuff definitely makes the top ten list.

Life is complicated by the fact that the kids are both taking classes, so I have to get them to school and then bring them home. The pet care stuff adds another dimension but there is light at the end of that tunnel. Meals and cleaning add to the challenge but the kids have become very helpful in this regard.

All in all we're holding it together with scotch tape and band aids, but life is definitely better when mom's around.

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

Two Down...

One to go. We have been busy as heck with cat/chicken care and life in general, and believe me when I tell you, it's a fair amount of work. You don't think of pet-sitting as that demanding but it's really about the time, getting to and fro and all that good stuff. At one point we were watching 3 sets of cats and one set of chickens, multiple times throughout the day. I know of people who make a living doing pet care and can appreciate the time and travel involved. If it's the only thing going on it's a different story, but that is not the case with us. We have many things going on, not to mention the absence of one of our critical team members, namely mom.

Either way, this past week has been crazy. By Sunday we were breathing a huge sigh of relief because people were returning from their trips and that meant we were done feeding animals. At this point we have one more to go, and that's more of a long term deal so we'll be doing that for a bit more. One household is fine with us. I was thinking that with pet-sitting with N, the more the merrier, but I've subsequently learned that we have enough. No mas, por favor.

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

Friday, September 9, 2016

School, continued

I finally managed to complete the enrollment of the kids for school this year, and it was complicated by the fact that our usual assessor has stopped doing assessments. Total bummer on a number of levels, the first of which is that he knew the kids well and had done a stellar job on the assessments for the past few years. Another good reason that I was bummed was because I had to find a licensed teacher who would be willing to step in and do the assessments. Finally, they moved the deadline up a bit, asking for stuff in early summer, though when I contacted them they showed me some mercy and let me submit the stuff at a later date. Thanks to them for that.

In the end I found someone willing to do it, and she did a wonderful job. Hopefully she'll be willing to do it again next year, but let's see how that one goes. I think I need to get the info to her sooner because she's got a real job and doesn't have time to sit around and attend to my needs, though if you ask me, I think everyone should drop everything and attend to my needs. Nobody cares what I think.

Now that the assessments are in, we can look forward and focus on the new year, which should be interesting because A's schedule is looking pretty busy, and this year N will be taking a class, as well. Since things are just getting started there is much to plan and implement, but for now we're easing into the first two weeks. In the next month or two we'll need to solidify our home schedule and cover the things we need to cover. Never a dull moment on this end.

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

Lead Guitar

Being the totally objective dad that I am, I think it's pretty cool that A is not only playing in the school jazz band, but she auditioned to play guitar and she won the part. Bear in mind that several kids (I assume) auditioned for the one guitar spot in the band and she nailed it. I wasn't sure how this was going to play out because she'd never auditioned for a musical part and I figured there are all sorts of rock stars at her school. In fact, one of the guys in the jazz band plays another instrument and is a shredding guitar player, but for some reason he doesn't play guitar in the band. Not quite sure why but I'm not going to question it.

I think she's pretty excited about it, and coupled with her rock Dojo stuff and her lessons with Tuck, she's getting pretty into the musical thing. I think her lessons are pretty theory oriented and that's exactly where she wants to be. She was explaining to me some of the theoretical stuff and it made my head spin, in a good way of course. It's really cool stuff and I think it makes it more interesting, even if it's way over my head.

One of the conditions of her playing in jazz band is that she has to be in the school orchestra as well. This was originally a bit of a thorn in her side because she doesn't really play an orchestra instrument, and I think she might have felt a little anxious about it all. However, the music teacher, MP, is very cool and managed to work her into the big band. I think she even likes it, which is what it's all about.

The nice thing about being in jazz band (actually there are a lot of nice things) is that she is learning about other genres of music that she might not have examined before, and it's a different experience from being in a rock band. Furthermore, it gives her a group of like-minded kids that she can jive with at school. We'll see how it goes but for the most part I see many positives. Then again, that's what every parent does, even though most of us are completely clueless as to what's going on in our kid's lives. Oh well, can't let that stop us, can we?

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

Pet Sitters, Inc.

Not that I'm complaining (and I'm always complaining), but N's pet sitting gig has been going pretty well, albeit a bit busy with all that's going on. This is especially true now that dad is riding solo. Currently there are three households that are away and N is in charge of feeding and watering. This includes chickens, which sort of ups the ante a little because there's more work and they are a source of worry, at least for me. This stems from previous bad experiences which I won't bore you with.

Either way, it's been busy for all of us because it requires transport to and from the various locations in addition to school, work, home life, and household duties. In other words, life is a little crazy. I'm glad N is the go to guy for these jobs and he takes it seriously and does a good job, but it still requires that mom and I drive him over, and one of the houses is not that close. He can ride his bike to some but for the most part it's a family affair.

Oh well, nobody said chasing the American Dream was easy. Then again, neither is chasing the American Nightmare.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Wiley Coyote

When you live in the wilds of New England you see all sorts of wildlife, from birds to woodchucks to deer, and even bears. However, one thing you don't see as much are coyotes, even though we know they're out there because we can hear them. The other day we were all sitting at the table having lunch when one popped out of the woods and stood in our backyard. We all agreed that it was clearly a coyote, which I thought was pretty cool. I have a lot of respect for coyotes, they're incredibly smart survivors, though they do a number of pets and livestock. Fortunately we keep our cats inside.

I do seem to notice that there has been a marked decrease in the number of sightings of the woodchucks that live under our shed. They used to be such pests when they raided our garden, but once we stopped gardening, I didn't really care that they were there. In fact, they were sort of cute and we saw them pretty frequently. Now I never see them and wonder if the coyote may have did them in. I've also noticed fewer squirrel sightings at the bird feeder, though I find it hard to imagine that a coyote could catch a squirrel. Then again, stranger things have happened.

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

Back On My Feet

We landed back in the States on Friday evening and the next day, Saturday, I was back to work at the Inn doing a long night shift. I was majorly jet-lagged and tired as heck, but that's usually not a big problem when you're doing physical work, though being on my feet for 10 hours can be physically taxing. My mind shuts off when I'm tired (if it ever turns on in the first place) but my body can keep moving. Just don't ask me to say anything remotely intelligible or use my memory.

Anyway, I worked late into the night on Saturday and Sunday, had a break on Monday, then did more of the same on Tuesday and Wednesday. Work has been fine, it's busy but that's the price you pay when you live such a fabulously luxurious life as we do. The biggest challenge is going to be so late because I have to wake up so early. No more late nights for me, unless of course I have to work. Fortunately working banquets often involves evening work, most of the time.

I'm back to being poster boy and it's been working out because the kids are in school and I can get the work done during this time. When there are no posters I can head over the library and write or read or take a fat nap. All good things. Suffice it to say that the new schedule will take some adjustment but that seems to be the story of my life; at least every few months.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to nwdcguy1 for the pic.

Time for School

Now that we're back from our vacation, we've had to jump right into the fray and get ready for school. No rest for the weary, or for that matter, the jet-lagged. This year is compounded by the fact that N will also take a class, so we have two schools to attend. With A we sort of know the drill because she went last year and she is pretty comfortable in her environment. Plus, her school really has it together, so things just fall into place seamlessly. For N, we are venturing into new territory, but he's only taking one class, and it's a shop class, so not only is it low stress, but it involves stuff that he likes to do. He's a pretty cool kid (in my opinion), so it should be okay. We'll see.

That does mean, however, that there are things to prepare. A needed all sorts of stuff for school so we were running around gathering various academic implements. She is taking an early class so that means dad has to wake up early to get her to school. Normally this is not a problem but I've been sleeping later than usual so now that has to end. It doesn't help working late nights, but I'm not going to start whining. As for N, it's really just about mentally preparing for a new experience. I think mom and dad have more anxiety than he does, or at least that's what we hope. He doesn't seem too concerned, so we'll go with it.

He had orientation for school and I took him over figuring we'd sit in a big room and listen to what they had to offer, but it turned out that parents were not invited. What? We got there and the instructor said, "kids only." I was going to try to ease N's mind but he was already down the hall before I realized what was going on. Like I said, I don't think it's weighing too heavily on his mind, and that's just fine by us. With some time on my hands I was able to get into poster boy mode and get some work done before picking him up. Of course afterward I grilled him as to how it went and he was his usual vague and elusive self. This, mind you, is a good thing because it means all systems are fine and there's nothing weighing too heavily on his mind. At least that's what I think it means.

In the end we'll just have to wait and see how it goes. We're not talking about a life sentence here... or are we?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Paradox 56 for the pic.

Rental Car Fear-Mongering

I just wanted to mention that sometimes renting a car is a really crappy experience, and I sort of resent what they put you through. I realize, like everything in life, it's all about fleecing the customer and making more money, but it really stinks when you're experiencing it firsthand. We recently rented a car from Enterprise in Spain, though they collaborate with Hertz so I guess we were dealing with Hertz, and they really pushed hard on us to get the full insurance coverage on the car. I've experienced this before, maybe it was Hertz, I can't recall, but when we were in Arizona they did the same thing to us and we bit hard. This time around we resisted but it still made it a crappy experience.

Our credit card has this policy of covering any rental car for damages up to a certain amount, which is pretty high. Way more than the car we rented was worth. Naturally the rental car companies don't seem too happy about this because you aren't paying them for the insurance. Thankfully we've never had to find out how the process works, but once you indicate that you don't want the insurance, the rental company, Hertz in this case, does everything it can to scare you into regretting your decision. It didn't help that we had a big language barrier, but they kept saying you'll be responsible for $15K for damages, but if you get full coverage, you pay nothing. The problem was, the full coverage tripled the cost of the rental. It went from about $180 for a week, which is a good deal, to over $600 for the same time period. Just ridiculous.

When we went to check out the car, we had to find any prior damage that we wouldn't be responsible for, and the things that they identified as damage were so minimal, some of the scratches I could barely even see. It was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever seen. We had to be equally hardball and point out every scratch and smudge, all the while thinking that it was totally lame. I was bummed and though I'm never renting from Hertz again.

During the week that we had the car I was so bummed and stressed about even driving the thing, I just wanted to park it somewhere safe and isolated. When we drove in the big cities, it was like driving through a war zone, the traffic was insane, and parking it was a logistical nightmare. In the end we ended up okay, and when we finally turned the car in and he gave us a clean assessment, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was done with Hertz, that's for sure.

While you can view it as an "all's well that ends well" situation, I still think it's lame how they scare you into giving them more money. I realize that's what the world has come to, but I don't think it makes it right. Then again, who really cares what I think?

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