Friday, May 26, 2017

Crash and Burn

Sorry once again for my absence but I've run into a bit of a disaster, at least as far as high-tech modern life goes - my computer hard drive (HD) crashed, which, for anyone who owns a computer, is your worst nightmare. It's one of those things that happens to “other people” but not to me! The crazy thing is that I was using it the night before and the next morning the darn thing wouldn't boot up. I could turn it on but and the booting process would stall about 75% of the way in and then the computer would just shut down.

I took it into the repair center and they did a quick diagnostic and said at first glance it seems to be a HD problem. They wouldn't know for sure until they opened it up, but in the meantime I should consider my options, which would be to try and repair the HD, replace it, or get a new computer. Replacing the HD was the cheapest and actually most desirable option because my HD was old and ran slowly. In fact, the guy at the shop said if this was the original HD on the computer than I probably got my money's worth out of it. The implication was that my computer is as old as the hills, which I can't really argue with. Buying a new computer would have cost me about $1000, which would have been painful, if not intolerable, but it would have been nice.

I decided to go with the new hard drive, and opted for a high-tech solid state drive, or SSD. More on this later. It took them a few days to get the drive, which came in last Friday, and then a few days to put the thing in. During that time I was without a computer, though I had my daughter's school laptop that they lent to her. I didn't want to get too involved with school property, and it was a PC that had been severely limited in terms of applications and web usage, for good reason. It didn't have any word processing software and instead employed Google docs, which is usable but a little more tedious. Besides, everything you do is under the auspices of Google, so instead I decided to just wait it out and get my computer back. I took it in on Tuesday and they got it back to me yesterday. Boy was I stoked.

Now my computer is back but I've lost almost everything in terms of software because of the crash. Thankfully most of my data has been backed up, albeit incorrectly (more on this later, too), but I need to go back and retrieve all the programs.

It's been quite an ordeal but as always there is a good story to go along with it. To add to the fun I had a take my car into the shop, as well, but that, like many things in my life, is a story for another time.

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Warming Up

It's finally beginning to feel like spring out there, and despite my love for winter and the snow, I'm all for it. Spring so far has been somewhat cold, damp, and gray. We even got snow in many places earlier in the week, if you can believe that. In fact, when we drove to and from M'bury on Tue there was still plenty of snow on Killington. Winter just won't let go of her firm grip. In the past couple of days the moisture has finally taken a break and the sun has been shining. In fact, we've had a couple of really beautiful days, which means it's time to mow the lawn and prep firewood, of course. I'm ready. All this down time is making me soft, especially in the places that count.

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

Spring Cleaning

In a necessary and symbolic gesture, I washed all of our hockey gear and put it away until next winter. I still find it amazing that hockey gear is washable. I've found it very effective to simply toss everything (everything that smells, that is) into a large front loading washer and let it rip. It comes out smelling fresh like a spring day, I kid you not. As I mentioned, it works for everything that smells, including shoulder and elbow pads, jerseys, shin guards, and of course, the dreaded gloves. In addition to removing the smell, washing removed a (sort of) nasty stain on my should pads, which I didn't think would go away. Boy was I relieved.

Anyway, with this being our last year in this organization, it was fitting to wash away the dirt, grime, and sins of hockey and get a fresh start. Mind you, I don't think we're going into a perfect situation, not by a long shot, but our time in Eden is done and it's time to move on. Next season should be interesting, to say the least.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Janet Ulliott for the pic.

Surf Prep Progress

We are moving along in our surf preparation, though I realize I did a big-time knucklehead move by not bringing my other surfboard back with me when I was last in LA. I have an old somewhat junkie twin fin in my mom's garage that I figured I could just leave out there because it's not that great of a board. It is, however, in decent shape, and it's a usable board that would get us further along in our quest to be New England surf giants. It would have been simple enough now that I know the drill, and since it's smaller than the other board (the nice one) that I brought back, it would have been doable. Plus, that would mean that we'd have three boards and we'd be ready to rock and roll. Oh well, maybe next time. In the mean time, I'm still formulating a plan on this front, so stay tuned for more.

In other areas, I finally got the kids wetsuits, and we're all pretty stoked about this. I ended up getting them new ones online, which is fraught with potential complications, the biggest one being the cost. For obvious reasons I was really trying to find used wetsuits online but even used suits aren't that cheap. I looked on Ebay and Craigslist, and the ones that looked semi-decent cost easily around $50, and when you add in shipping, I was looking at $60-70. There are plenty of used suits for $100-200+, but I wasn't about to go there. That's not even factoring in the state of the suit, including all the urine that's passed through it. Yes, everyone pees in their wetsuit, which is a pitfall of buying used. There's something about something wet right up against your skin that makes this fact a little less palatable.

And that's only if you can find a decent suit that would fit, which isn't easy. Another obvious problem with buying things online is finding something in the right size. I don't know what Ebay's or Craigslist's policies are on returns or exchanges are, but I'm guessing the are not as good as a retailer, if they even exist. I needed a situation where I could exchange the suit for the right size if it didn't fit. Actually, just getting the right size involved a bit of guesswork since the kids have never tried wetsuits on and the size charts don't necessarily correspond with clothing sizes. Boy, it's small miracle that I've even made it this far.

So, factoring in all these complications, I needed to find a place that carried decent wetsuits, preferably new (or at least very good) condition, and with a good selection and a good return policy. Oh yeah, did I mention it had to be reasonably priced, or should I say, cheap? Is that asking for too much? Apparently so. The reality is that I just wasn't going to fulfill all my criteria for a cheap price, which for me meant $5-10. Get real, young man.

I ended up going to a site called LeisurePro, which is actually a scuba shop. They carry a wetsuit brand called Hyperflex, which I'd never heard of, but I'm old and out of touch, so it's not a big deal. The suits got good reviews on the site as well as Amazon, and best of all, they were reasonably priced. The prices wasn't amazing, but was pretty darn good for a new suit (one that got decent reviews on Amazon). In addition to the price, there were other positives that literally sucked me into the purchasing vortex, including free shipping and a good return policy.

I really struggled with this because having never surfed I wasn't sure how much of a commitment to make with the kids, even though I really want them to love the sport. I know I did when I was younger and will surely love it again even though I'm old and falling apart.

Okay, I'm carrying on too much. There is one final piece in this drama that sealed the deal, and it came during my trip to LA. My mom said she would buy the kids new wetsuits as long as I didn't get too crazy with it. I couldn't believe it because she always hated the fact that I surfed since only losers and drug addicts surf... which is kind of true, but not exactly. I was stoked when she said this, and she seemed happy with it, as well. I ordered them that very day.

There was some guesswork in terms of sizing, but the suits arrived and the kids tried them on and they fit. They look like surfers, I am so stoked. Now we just have to wait until the water gets above 50 degrees to hit the waves. We are currently too busy to make the trip the coast, but in about a month things will calm down and warm up, which means surf's up, dude.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sundown Ski and Surf Shop for the pic.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ready for Wood

It's been a cool, if not cold, spring and as a result, we have yet to really stop burning wood. Consequently, the wood pile is diminishing and as it does, my heart aches. Why are we burning so much wood this winter? I have no clue, but I do know that I'm fired up (no pun intended) to start cutting, splitting, and stacking wood to rebuild the pile. We have a fair number of logs left over from last winter which I'm ready to start blocking up, and I'm ready to take delivery on our next load. I think it would be best if I could cut up the remaining logs and leave some space for the next delivery, but that would mean getting the chainsaw up and running and for it to stop raining. I can take care of the former, but the latter is beyond my control.

I am in touch with my logger and he said he could take care of me some time this month, so we'll see. He happens to be a friend and neighbor, so that eases my mind a bit... but only a bit. In the meantime I am going to be laser focused on getting this year's pile back in order. Once that's done, I can give some thought to year 2, but one thing at a time, right?

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

LAX Begins

We're in the midst of our usual spring rite of passage where we stow away the hockey equipment and gear up for lacrosse. This year N is playing with the school and it's a little busy but the season is short. Fast and furious, as the saying goes. He has practice and games every day, which is kind of a pain, but I guess they try to cram it all in over a short period because the season lasts about a month. Seems kind of crazy to go so short, but what are you going to do?

This year they are combining two grades because the simple reality is not as many kids are playing the game. The numbers get diluted out as kids gravitate to other sports like track and baseball, but somehow lax still has that macho mystique that a lot of guys want to be a part of. There is huge crossover with hockey. I tried to talk N into playing for another program, maybe one that's more relevant to his school and hockey future, but he wanted to stick with his old program. It actually worked out because most of his friends are in the grade above him and since they are combining grades, he gets to play with them. This has not always been the case in years past.

They've been doing well, putting away the competition with some level of ease. I've noticed that many youth lax programs are not very strong, but somehow once these kids reach high school, the teams suddenly become good. Conversely, N's team kicks butt in youth lax but the high school competition is much stronger and there they no longer dominate. I find this fact very interesting.

On a bright note, though they are combining the two grades, not all the younger kids get to play with the older kids, just a few that the coaches pick out, and N happens to be one of them. That means he gets to not only play with his friends from hockey, all of whom are older than he is, but he also gets to play in both games, thus doubling the fun.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finally Some Sun

The weather has been a bit of drag lately because it seems like we haven't had any sun... that is, of course, until today. Thank goodness for that. This past week, maybe even two weeks, it's been cold, cloudy, and rainy. It's crazy, especially when I was just in 90 degree temps in Cali. I've been wanting to mow the lawn and cut wood but haven't been able to, though for full disclosure it took me awhile to get the lawnmower and chainsaw prepped and ready. I know that if the weather had been nicer, I would have surely had them ready to roll much sooner... yeah, right.

Either way, to compound my angst, we've been burning wood regularly, thus depleting the pile that I need to replenish yet can't because the weather is too miserable. Will my suffering ever end? On a bright note, the cool weather (versus the heat) makes outdoor activities more pleasant, including sports like lax, at least for the players. At the past couple of games the fans, i.e., the parents, were freezing their YKWs out there. It was pretty miserable.

And to further promote my boundless optimism, the weather has been good to the flora - things are very green and flowery. It's actually a lovely day, and a testament to what a little sunlight can do to you disposition. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Daphne Correa dos Reis for the pic.

Life on the Road

Boy, it's a good thing we have fuel efficient cars. We have been doing so much driving I don't even know where to begin. Between school, driver's ed, and lacrosse, things have been hectic, to say the least. Throw in dance classes, ortho appointments, and various meetings on campus and it's downright insane.

I figured lax would be easier this time around because it's through the school and it's a more regular schedule, but that hasn't really turned out to be the case because they play or practice every afternoon, though the season is much shorter. We've had afternoon appointments for A so that means I'm bouncing around all over the place. On certain days I'm literally making 2 to 3 round trips back home. The distances aren't too bad, it's just the constant driving. When we get back from school we have a couple of hours, max, and then it's off to the races once again. It makes it tough to make supper, and forget about mowing the lawn or cutting/splitting wood, both of which need to be done.

I'm looking forward to when things calm down, which I know will be never. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to EunSurk Lee for the pic.

Beach Time

We went on vacation a week or two back and decided on going to New Jersey. I know how strange this may sound to many people who have never spent much time there, which includes pretty much everyone I know, but there's more to Jersey than meets the eye. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still not a huge fan of the state, especially after living in New York. You just grow to feel disdain for the Garden State when you're in the Big Apple, whether it's fair or not. However, there are many people who are very loyal to it, and people don't realize that there are a lot nice beaches. The only problems are that they are very developed, and the entire easter seaboard visits them during the summer.

Now I've forgotten where I left off so my apologies if I'm repeating myself, but we were originally thinking of going to the Cape but we didn't have the time. We also wanted to go someplace warmer and figured going south might accomplish this, which it didn't, but it sounded good in theory. Finally, we didn't want to go to far away. We looked into Georgia and North Carolina, which were too far this trip, and then thought of Delaware, which is supposed to be nice but not practical. Florida was too expensive during school break, probably because everyone has the same thing in mind.

Mom finally decided on New Jersey, specifically Cape May, which is at the southern tip of the state. Now I'd been to Cape May before nearly 20 years ago and didn't get the greatest vibe. It struck me as a bit stiff, but I didn't want to make waves (no pun intended) with our plans, and truth be told, it was actually very nice. We all enjoyed it a lot, and our place was pretty cool.

Mom found a room through AirBnB and the rate was pretty reasonable. We were across the street from the beach and there were plenty of places to eat. Cape May is actually a fairly nice town, though it was early in the season and many places were closed. The drive down was a bit rough because it's long, and I don't think we really planned it properly because we stopped too soon on the first day, such that the second day was a long haul. However, as I mentioned, our time in Cape May was nice.

First off, the beaches are nice and spacious, and not too developed. I could imagine surfing down there, though the waves were tiny. We rented bikes and as always, they were key to having a nice family vacation. Once you have bikes you can just cruise around and check out the sights and go out for a meal. The weather was cool-ish, which made for good riding, and because it was early in the season, it wasn't too crowded and the traffic wasn't too bad.

We hung out around Cape May on our bikes exploring all the different places, and then made some day trips up to Wildwood and Ocean City, both of which are very interesting. They are majorly developed, with massive boardwalks with food stands and carnival rides (see pic). It was like Coney Island on steroids, I couldn't believe the scale of the place. What made it extra eery was that there were no people; the place was completely deserted save for one or two people (locals I guess) walking around. It reminded me of a Steven King horror story.

All in all it was a nice time, and I would go back, though I could imagine it would be nutty in the high season. On the way home we stopped in Mawah NJ to rest for the night, and it wasn't easy getting around. At least in the sections we were in NJ seemed like on big strip mall, with big roads and even bigger stores, not unlike LA, mind you. The traffic was amazing, and even getting to our hotel was a logistical nightmare. We decided to head over to New York, which was very close, to get some supper, and even that excursion required getting on a massive interstate highway just to go a few miles. We ended up in Suffern NY for supper, which was interesting, as well. For a small town there seemed to be a lot of ethnic diversity. I wonder if the people there took the train down to NYC for work, it's a doable commute.

The final leg of the trip was a bit of a trek, but we made it just fine, stopping in a small town for lunch before getting home. I have to say that I enjoyed Cape May, it was nicer than I expected. I'm not sure if we'll ever go back again, but it's reasonably close, fairly affordable, and has nice beaches. What more can you ask for?

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Airline Adventures

With all the news and drama about problems with airlines, I was curious as to how my flight to LA was going to be, especially since I was flying with a ticket that was on the cheaper end. At first I was sure that I was flying on United, which has generated a lot of bad publicity recently when the beat up one of their passengers. I was hoping to see a similar scenario play out on my flight... just kidding. In the end, I was on American, not United.

Anyway, in the quest to save money (the more the better), I went for a bargain fare and had to accept what I was given, which meant traveling at less than convenient hours. I was landed in LA at midnight, and I caught the red-eye back home, neither of which are ideal, which is putting it lightly. The reason I went this route was because leaving later to LA meant I could have more time at home with my family (an extra day), and taking the red-eye meant I could have a full, or something close to that, once I got home. I was supposed to land at 7:00AM, whereby I could then catch the 9:00AM bus and be back by 11:00AM, giving me the rest of the day to deal with life. Then again, things don't always turn out the way you plan them, do they?

First off, the flight to LA had a layover in Dallas, and the second leg was ahead of schedule. The crew made a point of telling us how early we were, and at first I was stoked because it meant getting to my mom's house a little earlier, perhaps. What was really lame, and I've heard this is not uncommon on American Airlines, is that even though they land early, they couldn't taxi to the gate until their allotted time. So while we landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule, we sat on the tarmac for at least 45 minutes, I kid you not. Our scheduled time to the gate was midnight and we ended up getting there around 12:30. It was such a drag sitting on that plane because I knew my friend GF was waiting to pick me up. I got to my mom's house well after 1:00AM. Total bummer.

On the flight back things weren't much better. I was scheduled to leave on a 10:00PM flight, landing in Boston at 7:00AM. There was a massive equipment delay and we didn't get on the plane until 12:30AM; that's a 2.5 hour delay, I couldn't believe it. We landed around 9:30AM, so I missed the 9:00AM bus and had to wait for the 11:00AM. I finally got home around 1:30, which was later than I had hoped, but at least the sun was still out and it was a nice day.

It was a bummer being delayed but there were some bright notes. First off, I scored a window seat on my first leg to LA, and then on my trip home, I initially had a middle seat but was able to change it to a window on the day of the flight. I was stoked because it was an overnight and it helps to have a window or aisle to sleep.

One last sour note, me and the guy next to me thought we had an empty seat between us when at the very last second some people came on and of course the guy sat between us. Not only was he on the big side, but he was also a bit odiferous... is that even a word?

Oh well, what are you going to do? Traveling is an adventure and when things go awry, it always makes for a good story. All in all I thought the trip went well and despite my complaining, the flights were all good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kyle1194 for the (amazing) pic.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Traveling Man

Pardon my absence but I've been on the road for the past couple of weeks. We had a nice family vacation in New Jersey (of all places) and then I had to fly out to LA to help out my mom, if you can believe that. All in all it made for a busy and more than crazy couple of weeks, especially my time in LA.

We wanted to have a break together as a family and mom wanted to do something warm. We originally wanted to rent a house on the Cape but we were hoping for something a little warmer and we didn't have time to go the whole week because I had to head out to LA, so we shifted our plans and ended up going to New Jersey for a few days. We figured it wasn't too far away but a little more south and hopefully warmer. Believe it or not, Jersey has some nice beaches, though it has some ugly ones, too. More on this later.

We had a nice time, a lot nicer than I anticipated, and we came home and then I had to pack up and fly to LA to help my mom, who was having knee replacement surgery. The timing wasn't great but I felt I had to go. I hated leaving mom and the kids at this busy time, but they managed just fine without me. My trip to California went well, saw my mom and brother and helped out a lot. I also saw some old friends and was reminded how much I don't like LA, but that's just me.

The trip to and from LA was fraught with complications and challenges, but I won't get too much into that right now (later, on the other hand... ), but suffice it to say that I sure am glad to be home, where I feel I belong. I missed my family and feel totally out of place when I'm not there for them. Now that I'm back things are busy as ever, but all in a good way. More on my trips later.

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Oh Brother

Our Brother printer took a dive recently and while it's not a vital part of our lives, it sure does come in handy on a regular basis. With that in mind, we decided to replace it rather than go without. Naturally my OCD kicked in and I did some reasonably thorough research on new printers. What I learned is that you can get a decent printer for a reasonable price, and interestingly enough, they often come with free shipping.

Our old printer was pretty old, though in this crazy tech world that we live in, things get old within a year. It's completely ridiculous, if you ask me, but nobody's asking me. Either way, our printer was well over 15 years old, and it was on the nicer end when we first got it. It had a fax and a phone and a few other things. I have to say that it served us well, which is a testament to Brother products, and we probably could have fixed it if we had any clue as to what we were doing, but we don't, so we didn't.

Shopping around you begin to realize that printers have definitely progressed, at least in terms of size and cost. We ended up getting a decent printer, another Brother, and we got free shipping from Best Buy. The printer itself was pretty basic with little in the way of bells and whistles, though I would not have minded a copier/scanner. We have a scanner and accomplish the same goal with an extra step, so we went bare bones. The printer cost less than $50, and it came with the drum and toner, which will set you back another $50. Plus, it's compact and works very nicely.

All in all we're once again happy with our tech purchase because we got a great deal, free shipping, and a reliable product. Don't you just love when that happens?

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

Fruit Salad OCD

My latest exercise in OCD happens to have a healthy edge to it - fruit salad. If you can believe this one, I've been making fruit salad (not unlike this one in the pic) for everyone and have been really into it. It takes a bit of effort and thought and it requires some legwork to get all the fruit, but the end result is a tasty, healthy, and fun way to start the day. Plus, I get to indulge my OCD about getting the fruit, which isn't always easy to find.

This all started several months back when I wanted to make sure the kids start their day with some fruit. Truth be told, they eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially when we do vegetarian days. Even when we don't, we eat a pretty healthy serving of veggies every day, more than your average person, and definitely more than you'll get at any restaurant. They also eat fruit with their lunch, usually an apple or pear, or some grapes.

I started giving the fruit in the morning, usually some cantaloupe or some strawberries, and it worked out fine. We started getting some really crappy melons, however, and I started to ponder how to liven things up. Now I like melons but am for the most part fairly ambivalent about them. The problem is, when you get fruit salad in any restaurant or breakfast bar, it's practically all melon, either cantaloupe or honeydew. Consequently, I avoid it.

I decided to make fruit salad with stuff I like, which basically meant no melons. I started with pineapple, strawberries, grapes, and clementines, but over time it has morphed into its current incarnation of grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, clementines, and mango... and sometimes kiwi. When I can find them cheap I'll add raspberries, but they're expensive. I've removed pineapple from the equation, though I still like it.

What's crazy is that I'm totally into it. Except for peeling the mango it's pretty easy and boils down to washing the fruit, but by the time I've finished making it, I'm stoked with the end result. It looks beautiful with all the colors, especially the dark berries contrasting with the yellows (mango and clementine) and reds (strawberry). And, everyone loves eating it. No problems on this end getting the kids to start their day off with a big bowl of fruit. Plus, I get to placate the Martha Stewart side of me, so everyone is happy.

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Good Shopping Vibes at Dick's

I'm a fan of online shopping because in addition to the fact that you don't have to drive to the store and deal with crowds or people in general, you also tend to get better prices and you can't beat the selection. In fact, in most stores around us, the selection is fairly paltry compared to what's on any given website. You can't even compare. That doesn't mean that the online shopping experience is perfect. The one huge disadvantage with shopping online is that you can't try things on or examine them closely. This isn't a problem if you know exactly what you want, especially for me when I buy jeans or a book, or something along those lines.

However, it can be a significant problem when buying stuff for the kids. I've run into this problem trying to get them a wetsuit, and just recently N needed a new pair of cleats for LAX. I'm still trying to sort out the wetsuit dilemma (more on this later), but LAX is happening now, so something had to be done. In the past we've gone to Stateline and while they're super helpful and I love to shop there, most of the cleats they carry don't fit N that well. He benefits from a slightly wider shoe, which is not always easy to find, at least when you're trying not to drop a big load of cash.

Then I went to Dick's Sporting Goods online store, and there were so many cleats, I didn't know where to start. I benefited from starting on the early side, but even still, they have more cleats (and shoes, for that matter) than I could even fathom. The prices were good because they were having a sale, and I broadened my search to include football cleats, which widened my options and brought prices down. Anyone who is involved with LAX will know that LAX equipment is way over-priced. What made the shopping experience truly worthwhile, however, is that Dick's offers free shipping, and free return shipping if need be.

I definitely "needed be" because my first order was too small, so I ordered up. The cleats arrived and most importantly he likes them. So he's happy with a cool pair of new cleats, and I'm happy because I got a good deal and free shipping. I love when that happens.

I always figured that the high cost of sports equipment would abate once hockey ended, but that's clearly not the case. Then there's the issue of outfitting everyone for surfing, but let's not go there.

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

Wetsuit Search

I've been looking at wetsuits for the kids and I found some pretty good deals on new wetsuits. My original plan was to go used, but most used suits are not that cheap, especially when you factor in shipping. Plus, when you buy a used suit, you can never be too sure how it was cared for, and there's the issue of other people's urine. Like they say, there are two types of surfers - those that pee in their wetsuits and those that lie about it. Having worn wetsuits for years I'm not so squeamish about it, but the kids might think differently.

Either way, it really boils down to cost, and if I can get a new suit for near the price of a used one, I would definitely go that route. I may have found just that, but am still not sure how to proceed. I've found plenty of used suits on Ebay but some are outrageously expensive, and I wonder who the heck would buy them. There are cheap ones around $20, but some are complete junk, and a more realistic price point for a used suit is around $45-50. This is a good price if a suit retails at around $200, but nobody in their right mind would buy a beginning surfer a suit for that much. Plus, once you factor in shipping at around $10-15, you're looking at about $60-70, which is still a good price for a wetsuit, albeit a used one.

However, if I could find a new suit for around the price, wouldn't that be a better way to go? Sure, I'm not going to find a top of the line O'Neill or Rip Curl, but for the first go around, maybe an entry level suit would be a good way to go. I'm sort of leaning toward this, though it may not win me points on the home front, but what else is new?

We'll see where this one goes, but for now, at least the goal is in sight. As of now we still need one more board and two wetsuits. If time and finances permit, I'll get them both some booties, as well, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Game Night

We headed over to homeschool game night the other night and despite our (my?) reservations, we had a great time. One of the reasons that I'm reluctant for the kids to go to some of these evening get-togethers is that they require that parents attend, as well. They discourage drop-offs and make you feel guilty if you do. Now I sort of understand where they are coming from because they work hard and do a good job organizing these events, but I don't think it's necessary to make the parents stay for the night. Mind you, I like all these parents, I just don't want to spend an entire evening sitting there while the kids play. Plus, the kids are at the age where they probably don't want the parents hovering, anyway. I would be more than happy to help set up and then come back at the end of the evening and help clean up. I have no problem with that, but I'm not sure that's allowed.

Well, another event was coming up and I told A I would take her but I wasn't going to stay. She would have to work out the logistics. It just so happened that on this evening N was sleeping over at a buddies house, so mom said she would stay and maybe it would be more fun if the two of us were there. I agreed, so the three of us went. A has a blast at these things because she's a social kid and it's a bunch of her buddies hanging out and being kids. It happened to be game night, so I guess they play games, though I can't say for sure.

We were sitting around the living room chatting, which really boiled down to listening to one guy talk the whole time, when someone suggested we play a game. I wasn't sure if they were being serious but figured I'd go along with it, so we sat around the table and played a game the name of which I've forgotten. Basically you choose a phrase from a book, draw a picture of what you think the phrase looks like, and then the person next to you has to try to identify your drawing. It goes on and on around the table and the result were amazingly entertaining.

Yes, I confess, it was a lot of fun, and we ended up having a blast. So much so that we had no clue what the kids were up to, though I'm sure that's just the way they like it. I'm not sure if I'll be jumping for joy for the next event, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had at game night.

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

Unwelcome Passenger

I was beginning to suspect that there was an unwelcome passenger in my car, and the reason for my suspicion was because I noticed pieces of snack mix on the floor or in cup holders. I even found a hole in one of the bags. My kids were skeptical and thought I'd probably accidentally poked a hole and it spilled out, but I had my doubts. I eventually found a hole in the garbage bag we keep in the car, and sure enough, snack mix was on the floor.

I couldn't really figure out how a critter might have gotten in, and there was no smell or traces of its presence, i.e., critter poop. For the record, I'm happy about this. I finally decided to get to the bottom of this situation and try and catch the thing, so I broke out the Have a Heart trap. I set it up in the evening and the next morning lo and behold, a mouse. I was not surprised, though mom and the kids were a little shocked. I jokingly said I was going to catch the mouse and feed it to our cats - they were not amused. I released the critter down the road and am hoping that's the end of it, but you never know. I'm thinking I should set another trap and see what happens. Hopefully he wasn't in the car too long and didn't establish a cozy home, or even worse, a family. I'm guessing we'll find out soon enough as the weather warms up.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mark Tizard Getty Artist for the pic.

Friday, April 7, 2017

LAX Preparation

Now that hockey is over, it's time to start thinking about spring sports, and that of course means lacrosse (LAX). There is significant crossover between hockey and LAX, so we'll be seeing a lot of the same families well into summer. In light of this, I tried to convince N to play for another program, maybe one with closer ties to where he might go to school one day, or at the very least not so closely linked to the bad hockey vibes, but he said he wanted to play for the same team. Who am I to argue? They are a good team, no question, but my feelings are that it's time to move on. Clearly I'm alone in this thinking.

Either way, we had to dust off the LAX gear and check the sizes on various pieces of equipment. As would be expected, several things need an upgrade, so that's our current mission. Nothing major, so that means it's not so painful in terms of cost. Fortunately the big items, like helmet and pads, still fit. New shoes are in order, but there are numerous options when you look outside the LAX box, i.e., many sports use cleats, and buying specialized LAX cleats bumps up the price significantly while also severely limiting the availability. It's all marketing in the end because cleats are pretty standard across the different sports, so a soccer or football cleat will do just fine. Baseball maybe not so much.

So with this in mind, we did some online shopping and found a nice pair of brand name cleats for a great price. I got the wrong size at first, which would have been a serious bummer if not for Dick's Sporting Goods, which offers free shipping as well as free return shipping. How cool is that? I returned the small shoes and got a bigger size, though it was still a bit of a crap shoot because without trying them on you just don't know. As luck would have it, however, they fit great (I took a chance and got a size bigger - whew!), though if they hadn't, we could have returned them again, for free.

Now he's set. I have to say, as much as I love hockey, it's nice to get a break from the rink and all the drama. Looking forward to warmer weather and the activities that go with it.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Fred Backhaus for the pic.

Different Perspectives

We are toying with the possibility of changing hockey associations after all the BS and drama that we experienced with WYH. This, as you might imagine, is not easy because we've spent our entire hockey lives over at WYH, dedicating countless amounts of time and effort to the program. With all that time and dedication you'd think they'd at least throw us a bone but that is wishful thinking when you're dealing with shortsighted egos. Either way, perhaps it's just a sign that it's time to move on.

With that in mind, there are a couple of possibilities, and which one is better is all a question of perspective. I was over at the other rink and saw a WYH compadre who jokingly (or not) commented that I was coming over to the "dark side." Ironically I now see WYH as the dark side, but it should be noted that I am alone in this thinking. My issues with WYH are mine and mine alone. I was also speaking with a parent from said association and he asked me what our situation was. I mentioned that we were looking at other options and his take on it was that we were seeking out "greener pastures."

So it just goes to show you that it's all about perspective, and one man's trash is another man's treasure, or something like that. Yet another adventure, so stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ronald Rigdon for the pic.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Smoothing Things Out

I'm in no position to complain about this (so I won't), but I scored some incredible hockey sticks for N, but they weren't exactly what we were looking for. We are stoked on them in almost every respect - they are high end sticks that retail for more than I am willing/able to spend, though we got them for a fraction of that (they are discontinued models); they are super light, and they have the blade curve we were looking for. My friend gets them for his players but when they move on or change teams he has all these overstocks left over. Occasionally they make them available to the public, but timing is everything. We connected just in time. The only caveat is that they have "grip" shafts, which seem to be the sticks that people want today. When I go to Stateline almost every stick they sell has a grip shaft, and when you look online, grips seem to be the most prevalent. I'm not sure what most of N's teammates use, but I'm guessing they have grips, as well.

Grip sticks, as you can imagine, have this thin film of rubber over the finish that gives them... you guessed it, grip. I guess in certain ways this helps with puck handling and even your shot, but I'm not a fan of them. If N liked them, then we'd be all set, but he's lukewarm on them, as well. When I went to meet my friend to get the sticks, he handed them to me and I felt the grip but couldn't say anything. He was doing me a big favor, one which I would never take for granted, so I bought the sticks. As I mentioned, they are awesome in every other way

Anyway, I was talking to the guys at Stateline and one of them mentioned that you could simply put a light layer of clear coat over the grip, and it should work. I wasn't even sure what clear coat was, so I did a little investigating and decided to give it a try. You can get the stuff at any auto parts store, and it's basically clear spray paint. I took N's new stick out the barn, sprayed a couple of coats, and voila, goodbye to the grip. It was pretty cool, and there was absolutely no effect on the weight of the stick.

So N went from having one undersized intermediate stick to having two new sticks in the correct size. Plus, they're nice sticks, and he's stoked on them. I love when that happens.

Now we're ready for hockey season, except that it's all over until October. Oh well, at least we'll be prepared.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Leilani and Jade for the pic.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Senior Citizen's Discount

I guess I kind of figured this would happen at some point, but maybe not this soon. I was at the local small Coop nearby, which refer to affectionately as the "Hippie Coop," and was standing in line at the register when my turn came up. I didn't have a lot of purchases and when the cashier, who was a young woman, rang me up, she asked if I might be eligible for a specific type of discount and pointed a sign by the register. I wasn't sure what she was talking about but my eyes followed her finger and saw the sign she was pointing at: Senior Citizens discount, age 55 and up.

I told her no, not quite yet, but one day. Now I know I'm getting old, but I guess I'm starting to look the part, as well. Maybe if I changed my clothes more often I might look younger... or cut my hair.

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

Burning Like Crazy

As is usually the case, we've burned through all of this year's wood, which is en par for the course except that it happened much earlier than usual. As a result, we've been dipping into next year's wood for some time now, and it pains me to see how that pile is dwindling. To compound my suffering, it's only April and we will probably burn wood for another two months. I could see burning through at least 1/3 of next year's wood, which is crazy when you think about it. How could this happen? This winter wasn't even that severe, and we had some stretches of really warm weather, and when I say warm, I'm talking crazy warm.

Either way, no sense in whining about it... yeah, right. I have a theory or two about what happened, and on a bright note, it is fixable. I made a conscious effort this past summer to split the wood thicker. I did this because the bigger pieces burn longer, but it makes my life easier - for any given block of wood, there is less splitting to do. Big pieces take longer to dry, but I figured since it was year two, it had plenty of time to dry. Now my biggest issue with big pieces is that they take up a lot of space, so when you stack it, you get less bang for your buck. I know it's all supposed to be the same in the end, but I do think smaller pieces stack more densely and subsequently, there is more wood to burn for a pile of the same size. At least that's how it feels.

The take home message is that I'm either going to have to split the wood smaller again, or stack the pile higher, or both. This dipping into year two is a drag, but dipping this much into year two is completely unacceptable. I was so stoked this fall because I had two killer piles going and I was ready, but having burned through so much wood I'm beginning to reassess my feelings of pride. I'm not so bitchen, after all, am I?

Plus, with spring's arrival, I get to stress about obtaining another truckload of logs, which is never a simple matter. We'll see how this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to hans.emtenas for the pic.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


In a break from past behaviors, I have been talking to my mom on an amazingly regular basis. I'm talking 4-5 times a week, which is more than I talked to them when I lived at home. My mom has been having health issues, and she's alone out in LA. This is a complicated situation because she's a very difficult person to be around and she alienates every single person she is close to. She has even pushed her kids to the breaking point, but being her kids, we always come back for more. I went for years without contact, and I don't deny that I was not an ideal son, but it was an intolerable situation and I did what I felt I had to do.

Now, with her health on the fringe, I feel like I have to suck it up and be more of a presence. For all it's worth, my mom had mellowed out and is not as vindictive, though she still enjoys sticking the knife in now and then. I guess I have to just lose a little blood because she's getting up there in the years and as I mentioned, she doesn't really have a lot of help out there. My brother was being pretty helpful and attentive, but even he got fed up with her abuse.

Speaking of my brother, I've re-connected with him, as well. It's been a little awkward but on the whole pleasant, so I just have to go with it. It makes my mom happy that we're talking, and I think that as my mom deals with her health issues, it's better if her two loser sons are there to help out. It's the right thing to do, and I feel better that we are somehow coming together as a family.

So I'm going back out there to help out, and I think my brother is coming down, as well, with his fiance, no less. It's hard for me to make this trip because there is always so much going on, but it's time to be a man, right? We'll see how this one goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Keith A D for the pic.

Reflections on Hockey

Well, the season is over and I have to say that it's a bit of relief on a number of levels. I think most parents experience a little burnout by the end of the season because it's such a marathon getting kids to practices, games, and team parties. Then there are the emotional ups and downs of winning, losing, and other assorted disappointments. I didn't talk about this much during the season but I definitely felt a profound sense of betrayal by DW and the WYH program, but I'm also aware that I'm not in a position to whine... not that this will stop me.

I will make this as short and sweet as I can, but this year they brought in a slew of players to bring up the numbers of the program and make a super team that could win it all. For the record, they did win it all. My gripe is that N should have been on that team, but I'm not in charge so it's not my decision. While the case could be made that I'm just a whiny parent who wants their kid on the A team (I am), several parents from the "other" team came up to me and said N should have been on that team. One person in the know even said not a single person he knows isn't scratching their heads as to why he's not on this team. Same person even said before the season started that N was a shoe-in, so I'm not just deluding myself.

Either way, besides being qualified in terms of skill, N has been a loyal WYH person for years, and we as a family have been involved with this program from the get go, doing more than our share of helping out. Even in lieu of all that, N was good enough to make that team, and better than some of those clowns they brought in, who for the record bailed out on WYH for greener pastures. How's that for loyalty?

Clearly DW and various parents had an agenda that meant bringing this outside group in, keeping them together, at the expense of kids who were more deserving. It was really a crappy situation and made me lose all respect for everyone involved, some of whom I didn't respect in the first place. They got what they wanted, but I have zero love for WYH.

On a bright note, N had fun and I really think he grew as a player. Playing on the B team was probably a better introduction to full contact hockey, and I think he really embraced the roll. It was hard at times having players who were total slackers or had crap attitudes, but I'm proud of N in that it didn't stop him from going out and working his hardest. He really grew as a player and got a lot out of it. At times he had to do the work of two players, which may have strengthened his mojo.

Regardless of the positives, however, I feel our time at WYH may be over. This is not solely because I'm bitter, but there are several issues at play. I won't go into them, but suffice it to say that changes may be on the horizon, for better or worse. We'll see how this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mika Kylmaniemi for the pic.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Getting Some Booties

Not that kind of booty, surf booties, like the ones in the pic. I am gearing up for our big surfing summer and part of that is getting cold water gear for me and the kids. I'm pretty much set up with wetsuits, but I still need to find them for the kids. I have my sites set on a few options, but have not moved forward just yet. In the meantime, I needed to get some foot protection for myself. When I surfed in my youth I was not a fan of wearing booties, but you can pull that off when you live in Southern California. Even then, during winter months, the water was so cold that it felt like your feet were being crushed by a vice. Also, I'd surfed more than my fair share of rocky beaches where walking out to the waves was like walking on broken glass. Totally brutal.

As a consequence, I never really adjusted to the feel of wearing booties. I can't say I'm such a big fan. Now that we are on the east coast, I don't think I can avoid them. In New York and New Jersey the water gets very warm in the summer, but I've swam in Maine in August the water was freezing. I think for the second phase of my surfing life I'm going to have to get used to wearing booties, so naturally I set off on a mission to find myself a pair. Oddly enough it wasn't as straightforward as I thought it would be. Finding the right pair in a size that might fit me took some legwork. I would have loved it if there was a surf shop nearby, but we are landlocked, and most shops don't have a huge selection.

This meant looking online, where there is more variety and probably better pricing. The only problem is, you can't try them on before you buy them. Plus, you start to get overwhelmed with the possibilities. I had an idea of what I wanted but couldn't find a pair that fulfilled all my expectations, which is odd for the internet - it seems like you can find anything and everything. In retrospect, I could have found the perfect pair if money was no object, but as you know well enough, money is a huge object for me.

With this in mind, one important requirement was ease and cost-effectiveness of doing a return. I could estimate what size bootie to get, but if it didn't fit, I would have to exchange it for a pair that did. At some point it's just not worth it. I figured that if need be, one return would still make it cost effective.

I managed to find a pair online that I liked, and they offered free shipping and $5 return shipping. I think that's about as good as it was going to get, so I bought them. They arrived just the other day and they fit perfectly. I am so stoked, and might look to these booties as options for the kids, but I don't want to get too ahead of myself. Not yet, at least.

I think surfing is still a couple of months away, so I have some time to find the right gear at the right price, which sometimes seems like it never happens but that can't stop you from trying, right?

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

Finding New Sticks

As I mentioned before, N broke his stick in the penultimate game of the year, which is actually a fitting end to a crazy and tumultuous season, the reason being that we now have to start with a clean slate. This is symbolic to me on a number of levels which I won't go into. The stick was fairly new but I in fact thought it was time to upgrade him into an adult stick. He's been using older kid sticks (intermediate) and they've worked fine, but he's growing and in his last game he borrowed an adult stick from a teammate and liked it. They tend to be longer (though not as long as the one in this pic) and stiffer, both of which compliment his style of playing. They also come in a range of stiffnesses (is that a word?) and you can find a good balance in there.

Naturally my OCD kicked in and I went on a search. One could argue that it was a waste to drop that sort of cash this late in the season. After all, he played his last game, so what's the point? Well, there are a few points, one of which is that the season is not completely over. Sure, games are done, but there always seems to something happening on the ice. Furthermore, I like shopping for gear for the kids, especially when I can find a good deal on things they need. This of course includes surfboards and wetsuits, but that's a story for another time.

I went online and found some decent deals on sticks that are last year's models. I even got the thumbs up from mom to pursue this, so say no more. I ordered one and it came in a week, and he is stoked with it. The story gets more interesting, however, because we happen to be friends with someone who is an equipment manager for a major sports program in this area. What a cool job. He has procured sticks for other people we know for great prices, so I contacted him at the same time that I was shopping around for sticks. He was very cool about it, I think he feels a little sorry for me regarding how things transpired this season (our kids orbit similar circles), but that could easily be me reading too much into things. Either way, he pulled it off and scored a couple of killer sticks at an amazing price.

Now N already had a new stick because I had set things in motion at the same time and by the time my friend contacted me, I had already bought a stick. However, I felt like I couldn't pass up this opportunity because he had gone to all the trouble to locate the sticks, even took into account my requests about length, flex and curvature of the blade - those of you who buy hockey sticks will understand this. It was also a great deal; the sticks were last year's models purchased for players in his program who were no longer there, so they were excess stock. Since it's a top notch program, the sticks are top notch quality - we are talking prices in excess of $250 brand new. I would never drop that kind of cash on a hockey stick, but I would love to get one for a fraction of that price (we are talking about 1/5 the cost), which is how it worked. Finally, getting the sticks catered to my OCD about getting gear for the kids, especially when it involves a good deal. Besides, as we've witnessed, N needs two sticks.

There was one issue with the new sticks that was not ideal, but we were able to attend to it to make them exactly what we were looking for. Don't you just love when that happens? I won't get into it now but the guys at Stateline gave me some advice on how to fix things and it worked out beautifully, but more on this later.

For now, we are all set with sticks, and I can look forward to my next obsession, which will probably involve wetsuits, but you never know.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Breaking Sticks

During one of the last games of the season N broke his stick, which was less than a year old. While it's a bummer to break your stick, especially a fairly new one, I'm glad that he had a backup, and I was not completely enamored with either stick (not that my opinion means anything). Unlike his dad, N is not a complainer and was fine with his main stick, saying as much on many occasions. It did, however, have a few shortcomings that naturally tweaked at his dad's OCD. First, a little background.

N was using a killer Easton stick that I got on clearance (of course) online and it worked really well for him. It was an intermediate stick that was a little long way back when so a friend cut it down to size, though in my opinion he cut too much, being a believer in short sticks. N used it last season but this season it was a little short for him, so we put an extension on it and also got him a new one. I didn't have a lot of time and it's good to hold the stick and get a feel for it, so I went to Stateline, whose selection can be limited at times, and bought one that was mid-range in terms of price. I cannot for the life of me spend over $200 on a hockey stick, despite my OCD for the sport and the gear. The one I got him was good but not great, and I think many other people felt the same way because everywhere I looked people were using the same stick - a few of his teammates, and the guys in my adult league. Clearly we all had the same thing in mind, which is sort of embarrassing, but what are you going to do? I was willing to get him yet another stick and then he could use the new/old stick as a backup. I would then take his old/old backup stick and use it, since my stick is a complete piece of junk. I realize how confusing and neurotic this all sounds, but N slammed on the brakes and told me to lighten up - his stick was fine, despite my misgivings. What a sensible kid.

He was fine was his new stick and I have to say he did well with it, despite my neurotic reservations. He used it for most of his games and in the penultimate game of the year, he broke it. It got caught in a crack in the boards and snapped. Now for the reasons I mentioned earlier, I was not heartbroken about this development. Besides, sports equipment breaks, it's part of playing the game. AND, he said he thought the stick was getting a little short for him... why didn't he say something earlier? Probably better that he didn't because if I'd heard that earlier in the year I would have definitely gotten him a new stick. He still had his backup stick for the final game of the year, though that one was even shorter, even with the extension.

Now at his final game one of his teammates let him use his backup, which is an adult sized stick, which is longer and has a higher flex, i.e., it's stiffer. These are all good things, and he looked good shooting with it. He also said he liked the feel of the adult stick, and it had the extra length he was looking for. Well, you can imagine how happy this made dad, because it meant a new project for his OCD - find your son a new stick.

I have the criteria, I just need to find something that is within a reasonable price range. I have a few leads and I hope at least one or two will work out. We shall see.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to N. Kreger for the pic.