Friday, November 17, 2017

Mucho Splitting

With the winter weather right on the horizon, both literally and figuratively, I wanted to get as much splitting done with the splitter before the snow hit the ground. AM is very cool about not only letting me borrow her splitter, but not putting any time pressure on when to get it back. She said she'd done with all her wood for the year, so I could take my time. I did, however, want to get it back to her before it snowed, though I'm not sure why.

So with that in mind, I decided to get as much splitting done before the snow came, which was this week. For the record, it was only a dusting and as always I overreacted, but what else is new? Either way, I have a pretty major pile of logs that needs to be done, including a pretty significant pile that I'd determined were too difficult to split by hand. Or should I say would require too much time and effort. I sort of believe that given unlimited time, eventually I could split most pieces, but who's got the time and energy for that?

I also have a massive pile of logs that I haven't sorted through, so it includes splittable and non-splittable pieces. With time an issue, I decided I didn't have time to be picky. The plan was to split the un-splittable pile, then just start splitting everything in sight. It actually worked out pretty well. I managed to get the first pile done, and then I got started on the second massive pile. During the latter process I was able to separate out pieces that were clearly splittable, and just focused on big knotty pieces. By the end of last week I had a massive pile of split wood. Best of all, I was able to conveniently arrange transport of the splitter with none other than the other owner of the splitter. It's complicated and I won't bore you with the details.

All in all, a pretty smooth process because I split a ton of wood and borrowed and returned the splitter with minimal complications. Don't you just love when that happens?

I will say this - I think a splitter is in our future, maybe like the one in this pic... yeah, right. As much as I love to swing that maul, I'm getting old and my body can't always handle it. Total bummer, but such is life.

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Oh Deer!

I don't know if this is a rite of passage when you live in rural New England, but I recently hit a deer while driving. From what I can gather, this is a pretty common experience, except that most of my friends were driving big manly trucks and I was in our little tiny Honda Fit. For all it's worth, despite the fact that the deer was pretty big, our tiny fit sent it flying. We had body damage to the car, but the frame and lights are fine, and the impact didn't seem to have much of an effect on the forward momentum of the car.

It was a crazy weekend, to boot. N had a game down in Concord and was visiting with friends down there, so we went down early. We met up at the arena and his friend stayed to watch him play, which I thought was cool. We grabbed a bite to eat then headed home. The drive is actually not as painful as I thought it would be, and if anything, is a shorter trek than games up in Burlington or St. Albans. Plus, I wasn't as exhausted (thankfully) as I thought I'd be. Either way, we got home around 5:00PM (after being out since 9:00AM) and N immediately informed me that his buddy SMA wanted him to sleep over. A was heading over to her pals house for her own sleepover, so I dragged my sorry and tired butt off the couch and drove N over to his friend's house, which is sort of in the middle of nowhere and a fair distance away. I took the highway over there but chose the roads on the way back, and that was a mistake.

While heading home, I was doing about 45 mph when a deer ran across about 1/4 mile ahead. I turned on my brights and eased off the accelerator when another deer darted out right in front of me. I had no time to react, and I slammed into it, sending it flying. There was literally nothing I could do. I pulled over to see how bad things were - the deer was clearly gone, and the front of the Fit was a bit dented. Total bummer all around, though on a bright note, the car drives fine, and everything else is working, including the lights. Nothing is leaking, and no mysterious smells, liquids, or gasses are being emitted. Interestingly enough, when I dropped N off, SMA's dad was talking about a buck they shot while hunting, so deer were on my mind.

The front end is a bit thrashed, so that's going to cost some money, but nobody got hurt, with the exception of the deer. I feel bad for the animal, but I get a sense he or she didn't even look before jumping out onto the road, and there were cars that preceded me, which you'd think would have warned the animal that it wasn't a good time cross the road. Then again, what do I know?

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Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to frankrichter1951 for the pic.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Preparing for Winter

I don't always remember how the seasons go about changing around here, but it seems like the cold temps have been late in coming this year. I recall having snow on the ground with freezing temps on Halloween, but this year it was downright balmy. In fact, until yesterday, we had spring-like conditions, not to mention a lot of rain. Most people are stoked about the warm weather but I have to confess that I'm sort of glad that it's becoming more seasonal. At the very least I welcome a break in the rain. It's either feast or famine up here because right before the deluge of rain we had drought conditions. Can't we just get something in-between?

Either way, looking at the bright side, I was able to get more winter prep done (like a squirrel or mouse gathering nuts) with the warmer conditions, though the rain made it a bit harder. There's the perennial task of firewood, which goes on and on, but as I mentioned before, I got more painting done, and we're in good shape for kindling. I also prepped the blueberry grove (8 plants, enough for me to call it our “grove”) for the winter, which means fertilizing and replacing the mulch. The grass could probably use one more cutting, not to mention raking, but I don't think it's the end of the world. Once the snow comes we won't even see it, though I will pay the price in the spring. The main things I need to do is empty the power tools and store them for the winter. I'm not sure what to do with the surfboards and may end up putting them in the basement.

Our deck is in dire need of attention, but that's going to be a spring/summer project, and of course, I have to finish that darn barn (where are you Amazing PR Man?). One pie-in the sky project is to work on the insulation in the attic of the main house, and I need to seal the windows up there because the wasps are invading. I'm not really looking forward to that one, but stay tuned for more.

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

Shadowing

Next year N will probably be taking a class or two (or three) at the local school, and part of that process is visiting the various schools to make an informed choice. They call this process “shadowing,” whereby the prospective student follows another student around at the school, thus “shadowing” him or her. A did it when she was just starting out, and N is following suit. Now he has several friends who go to the big city school, so when it came time to shadow there, I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to shadow with one of the girls he knows, mainly because she's cute and hip and has cute and hip friends. It's not a bad thing for a guy to surround himself with girls, especially ones he feels comfortable with, and maybe finds attractive, though I can't comment on that part.

A few of his hockey teammates also go there, as well as his best friend, though I didn't want him to hole up in a corner with said friend and talk about drones all day. I was hoping for a broader and more expansive experience, maybe even a little outside of his comfort zone. N was game for whatever came his way. So, being the neurotic and overbearing parent that I am, I texted (I'm so hip and high-tech) his female friend and asked if she'd be willing to be N's host. I did this about two weeks before the shadow day, and she never responded. I waited and even asked A and N to follow up, but got zero cooperation. With only a few days to go, I finally told the school to just assign a person for him. I didn't want to be the annoying parent who embarrasses his kids, even if I excel at it.

On the morning of the shadow day, A&N and myself headed into school. I have to say, it was an enjoyable ride, and we joked around the whole way and had fun. I even said that if he had morning classes our commute was going to be a blast, though it might not include me at that point. We left early to have some extra time because I had to check him in, and it's a good thing we did because there was a major accident on the highway, slowing traffic to a crawl. We weren't horribly late, but they did request that we get there early to meet with the host student, and of course we screwed that up. Everyone seemed to know about the accident (life in a small town), so they cut us some slack. Interestingly enough, while we were walking to school, we saw the girl in question arriving, as well. I don't think she realized that this day was N's shadow day, despite my entreaties.

We got to the office and met up with his host, and off they went. My plan was to meet up after school, so I spent the day in the big city doing poster boy work and taking care of life's necessities. When I returned to the school, I learned that N's female friend commandeered him from his assigned host and took him around with her buddy, instead. How cool is that? I was stoked to learn that the scenario that I failed to set up actually fell into place, anyway. Plus, these girls are friends with N's best buddy, so they got to hang out, as well, so a good time was had by all. I love when that happens.

I asked N how his day went and he tried to play it off with a cool detached ambivalence, but I for one was happy with the way things transpired. Then again, nobody cares what I think.

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

Learning a New State

Now that we're involved with the big city program, our focus has shifted to New Hampshire and a whole new set of ice rinks in various NH cities, many of which I have never visited. Interestingly enough, a fair number of these teams reside in the south of the state, down around where we surfed at Hampton Beach. Our NH EZ Pass, which I got for going to Hampton Beach to surf, will definitely come in handy for hockey season... don't you just love when that happens?

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

No Halloween

Just a quick reflection on Halloween this year, or in this instance, lack thereof. We didn't do much for one of my favorite holidays because the kids were all gone and it was just me and mom. I shouldn't say we didn't do much, because with just the two of us we went out to dinner and had a nice evening out, but we didn't do much in the true Halloween spirit. In years past it was a big to-do getting the kids all costumed up and hitting the streets to trick-or-treat. This year, however, N was away at camp, and A was hanging with her crew from school. Both options were much more fun for the kids, and it meant mom and dad didn't have to do much in the way of preparation, which is A-okay by me. We usually end up in the neighboring town where our old lame hockey program resides, so it meant seeing all the people we know from said lame program. Not this year.

We are definitely at that age where the kids don't want to do the same-old, same-old, and they most definitely don't want to be around their boring and embarrassing parents. I can't say I blame them.

Mom and I ended up in the big city and we tried out the local Indian restaurant, Jewel of India, that's been around for over 20 years. They promote themselves at the most popular restaurant in town, which is a bit of a stretch. I like Indian food but it always seems to me to be one step above fast good. When you're dining in NYC, this means it's cheap, but this being the heart of New England and such, it cost a lot more. Somehow I can't wrap my head around expensive Indian food that isn't any different than the cheap stuff you get in NYC or maybe Boston. Sure, if it's gourmet and they do something different with it, great, but this was not the case here. This was more like over-priced food that is a novelty so they can get away with it. It sort of gives you a sense of how provincial it actually is up here.

You see that a lot in this town, mainly because ethnically diverse food is such an anomaly that you pay for the novelty. As ironic as it may seem, eating out up here is so much more expensive than dining out in NYC. Anyway, the food was good but not life altering, and the service wasn't that great. Somehow the guys were abrupt and gave me the impression that I was cramping their style. Plus, while we were eating, the two guys working the front spent the entire time trying to swat a fly that was buzzing around, which didn't do much to fuel my appetite. I guess that's why a lot of people we saw were getting take-out.

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

First Game Back

Now that N's playing for the big city program, we spend a lot more time in the big city... funny how that works. My point is that we don't really have a need to go to the old arena, the home of the old lame program. However, since the big city program's ice rink caters to so many different teams, they have a big shortage of ice. To accommodate this enormous need, the big city program gets ice all over this area, including at the ice rink of our old lame program. This of course meant that it was just a matter of time before we found ourselves back there. This actually happened this past weekend.

First, some background. Our old lame program plays at an ice rink that doesn't get as much usage as it could. Youth hockey has a girls and a boys program, and there are girls and boys high school teams. There are also a few adult leagues that play at night, but that's about it. Consequently, they have huge amounts of ice that go unused, which is not only a waste, but it's not the most ideal financial situation for an arena. Ice rinks are enormously expensive to run, and you hope to fund these costs by selling as many sheets of ice as you can. When we were with our old lame program, there were hours upon hours of unused ice, which doesn't seem economically viable, but what do I know?

On the other hand, the big city program has one ice rink, and there is a huge demand for ice. They are home to much bigger boys and girls youth hockey programs, and they cater to two different high schools, both with a girls and a boys team. AND, in addition to numerous adult leagues, the big city high school has a JV team, unlike the other high school. I've been told some of the adult leagues play from 9:00PM until well past midnight. Is that crazy, or what? They are trying to build a second rink, which is completely justified, but until that happens, it's just the one rink. Personally, I don't know how they manage to accommodate everyone... other than sending people to other ice rinks.

And that's what happened to us. N's team had a game over “there” and I knew it was going to be a little weird seeing some of the people I loathe. Actually, just one person, but he seems to live there. Sure enough, as soon as I walked into the arena, a bunch of the guys were standing there. I said hi to most of them, but when I came to said individual, I said, “Why don't you lie down in front of the Zamboni when they're making ice?” I didn't actually say that, but I sure as heck wanted to.

Truth be told, I did see several people who are still good friends, which means most everyone, and it was nice catching up. Plus, I got to hang out with N's old head coach, AL, who is a very cool guy. We chatted about the state of our old lame program and it reminded me of another good reason why we're not there anymore. I'll leave it at that.

All in all it was fairly uneventful, and N's team won, which is always a good thing. I'm sure we'll end up back at our old rink more than a few times this season, but that's beyond my control and if anything, more fodder for this blog.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sanghyun Lee for the pic.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Relax but Keep Moving

This may simply be an artifact of getting old, along with poor grooming and an embarrassing lack of a fashion sense, but my bodily pain seems to continually cycle in and out of my life. Just when I think I'm better and home free, something happens to make it crop back up again. As you can imagine, it's a bummer for me, who has to live with it, and a bummer for my family, who have to endure my whining. Then again, it's sort of amusing (at least for them), as well.

I had been pain free for about a year when I went back on the ice and sure enough, I twisted just the wrong way and hurt it again. I couldn't believe it, though I have to shoulder (or back) much of the blame because I have not been as diligent about stretching as I should be. It's a funny thing about getting hurt, you tend to go back to taking your health for granted once you're healthy again.

Well, I'm determined to not take my health for granted, and in the process of enduring more pain, I've learned a couple of things which in retrospect should have been obvious to me. First off, I'll do my stretching, even if it means looking like a big dork in the locker room. Fortunately for me, this will not be out of character. Second thing is to keep moving. I think the impulse is to rest and keep an injury stationary, and on some level this makes perfect sense, but I think it's also important to keep moving. The body has the ability to heal itself but somehow you can't just curl up in your bed and think things will be fine. I've found that moving around, even though it can be painful, aids the healing process.

And finally, I've found that relaxing helps to mitigate the pain in my back. I discovered this while getting into my car - I'm usually very tense in anticipation of the pain. I found, however, that if I just relax and ease up on the tension, the pain is much less, if not gone altogether. It takes some serious mind control to do this, but it makes sense in light of all that we're learning about mindfulness. I'm a believer.

Now I'm sure playing hockey and splitting wood, and eventually skiing, are all potential areas to aggravate my bodily pain, but a real man in training's gotta have a little fun now and then, doesn't he?

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

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Painful Oil Change

We've been having some crazy weather, and I have to say, it's not all to my liking. Case in point, two days ago the rain finally let up and it looked like a nice morning. I figured it would be a good day to change the oil, but as soon as I got the car propped up and oil draining, the wind kicked up and it started to rain. Total bummer. The tarp I lie on and the various funnels and rags got blow all over the place, and needless to say I had a few choice words of angst regarding my situation, though I'll spare you the details. Looking at the bright side, the rain was just a drizzle, though everything did get wet. I managed to change the oil, nonetheless, and brought everything inside the house and set it by the fire to dry.

I still need to change the oil on mom's car, but this weather just won't seem to let up. I'm looking forward to two consecutive days of dry weather. It doesn't even have to be warm, I'd just like some sunshine and less humidity. Clearly this is asking too much.

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Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to william3345 for the pic.

A Very Big Storm

I'm not sure where this storm came from, but we got slammed earlier in the week with a big one. I know people who are still without power, which is a complete bummer. I think the storm arrived on Sunday night, and I had no idea it was going to be so serious. In fact, I slept right through it. Both mom and A said they were up all night because the wind was so loud and menacing, and couldn't believe it didn't wake me up. Mom even said she could hear trees being knocked over by the wind. Those are some serious conditions when that happens.

I actually woke up around 4:00AM because the lights were flickering, and then the power died. This made getting ready for the day a bit of a challenge, to say the least. Not being able to flush the toilet can have serious ramifications, especially if you're a morning person like me. A and I had to get ready for school with no electricity, though we were well prepared with fresh water and plenty of flashlights (and lanterns). In fact, all things considered, things went reasonably smoothly. I was even able to make fruit salad.

By the time we got to school, power was restored at the college, and when I called mom around 9:00, she said the power was back on at home. We really lucked out on this one because our power was only out for a few hours. As I mentioned, there are people who still don't have power, and I'm grateful that ours came back on. The drive to school was an interesting one, as well, because there was plenty of debris on the roads, and traffic lights were out all over town. Throw in the incessant driving winds and stormy conditions, and it was surreal, to say the least. I don't think we got an inordinate amount of rain, but I'd read that some towns were flooded, so it was some serious stuff, not unlike a hurricane.

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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Switching Hands

Cementing his genius status, N had a brilliant idea that had me scratching my head and asking the age-old question, why didn't I think of that? I recently had a bout with what I believe was poison ivy on my left wrist - boy, there's always something wrong with me, isn't there? I have no clue where I contracted it, but it was probably from lifting the firewood blocks just before splitting them, and you just never know what's growing on that wood. The situation wasn't horrible, just annoying, and what made it worse was that it was on my watch hand. Every time I wore it, it would rub on the irritated skin and make it itch. It was driving me crazy.

Of course, not being one to suffer in silence, I was complaining about my malady to my kids when N said to just wear my watch on my other hand. Whaaat? I practically knocked myself out slapping my forehead and saying, “Why didn't I think of that?”

It just goes to show you, you're never too old to learn, or in my case, when you're at the bottom of the intellectual ladder, you got nowhere else to go but up.

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

Surfing Reflections

I hate to admit this but I think we're done with surfing this year. It's just getting too cold, and being the softie that I am, the idea of getting out of the cold ocean water into the colder air just has no appeal to me. Maybe one day I'll be tougher, but I seriously doubt that. I know plenty of people who surf year-round, but clearly they are more of a man (or woman) than me.

Despite the disappointment of the surfing season coming to an end, I have to say that it was a good year, simply by virtue of the fact that we went and did it. As was meticulously described in this blog, this was no easy feat because it required getting wetsuits, booties, and eventually gloves, and of course, surfboards... for three people. Then, the hardest part, was just motivating to get into the car and hitting the beach. I'm happy to say that we not only did it, but weren't completely discouraged and are on our way to the surfing life. I give the kids credit for sticking with it, because it ain't easy. Then again, with greater challenge comes greater reward.

I think we all have a ways to go before we shred, but we are definitely on that path. As I've mentioned in the past, it makes for a more enjoyable summer, and dare I say that I'm actually looking forward to what was in the past my least favorite season.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Bengt Holm for the pic.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Squeezing It In

This year fall was more than a little crazy with the warm weather that extended well into October. In fact, I would say that it wasn't until a day or two ago that the temps dropped into what I would consider seasonal fall weather. For the past couple of months we've had incredibly warm weather, even hot days when we should be putting on sweaters. While I like cooler weather, it has been nice to have the warm sunny days to get stuff done around the house, though when it's warm and damp, things start to get moldy, including our firewood, but that's another story.

Either way, with the warm weather I was able to squeeze in a few more days of painting, which is kind of a weird thing to get excited about but makes perfect sense when you're training to be a real man. I had spent a fair amount of the summer painting the gable end of the house, and pretty much got it done and was prepared to hang up the paintbrushes. However, with the warm weather, I felt like I had to get more done, so I dusted off the brushes and painted the front of the house. Now this wasn't the location with the greatest need, but my reasoning was that it was the most accessible (i.e., easiest), not to mention most visible for anyone who is visiting. Coming from LA, I can appreciate being vain. Also, the front faces North and gets very little sunlight, so the clapboards tend to get a little moldy over time. Factor in the splashing from the rain coming off the roof, and it is in need of regular maintenance. Otherwise, you have a rot problem, as I've learned firsthand.

So I painted it. This section had been painted in the last 3-4 years because me and JH actually extended the entire front wall forward, which was a miracle if there ever was one. During that time, new clapboards and paint were applied, so it was in decent shape, albeit a little abused by the damp weather. No rot as far as I could see, but I think the goal is to avoid it in the first place, right? Once you see rot, it's too late.

Now that the western gable and front are done, I can focus on the one section that needs it the most, the eastern gable, which seems to take the least abuse weather-wise. From there, the backside comes next, though it's been done once, several years ago (again, by yours truly). Sometimes I think back and am floored that I've actually done some of these things. Who would've thought it possible? Now that it's thankfully cool, I think it's time to shelve the painting gear and get ready for some snow.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to NYC Pintura Pintar for the pic.

Captain N

I have to impose upon you a moment of shameless parental pride, but N was named as one of the captains of his team. In the past his teams have usually passed on naming a captain for whatever reason, and I think it had probably been for the best. As was told to me by IC, hockey player extraordinaire, most teammates choose the best player to be captain, when in fact the captain really needs to be a leader and not just a skilled player.

Whatever be the case, N's coaches, who again are hockey real-deal studs (and more importantly, not dads), told the team that they would choose captains, and I wasn't sure how N felt about that. He did mention it, and he also mentioned it again on the day that they were going to announce it, so I think it was on his mind. From my own (completely unbiased and objective) perspective, I think he would make a good captain because he is unselfish and a true team player. He goes out there and always works hard and tries to encourage his teammates to work hard, as well. This didn't seem to work out on his team last year with our old lame program because most of the guys had crappy attitudes and only cared about their own personal glory, i.e., scoring goals. As a defenseman, N tends not to lean this way, In fact, in my once again objective and unbiased opinion, he is a leader on the ice, he's just not as magnetic and “larger than life” personality off the ice. He lets his abilities do the talking.

In support of this, this year his coaches saw it fit to make him an alternate captain. When you watch a hockey game in the NHL, one player has a “C” on his jersey, and as you all know, he's the captain. Two other players have an “A” on their jersey, and they're the alternate, or co-captains. That's N.

I'm not sure what the point of it all is, but I think it's a bit of an honor that N is rightfully proud of. At the very least it indicates that the coaches recognize some level of skill and leadership in our boy, and that's good enough for me.

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

Walking Tall

The funny thing about kids is that you feed them and they grow. At least that's the way it works in theory, and in our case, in real life. N has just surpassed me in the height department, and I have to confess, even though it means updating all of this clothes and sports equipment, I'm happy about this development. No more step stools needed for this boy. I think the reason it's somehow more striking with N is that for a long time, he was often on the short side compared to his friends and teammates (and sister). While he was incredibly cute during this period, I think he's okay with being amongst the taller kids. At the very least he's catching up and passing many of the girls he knows, many of whom towered over him at one point. Again, this is not a bad thing.

I'm guessing he's got some more growing to do, but for now, I'll just have to be content relinquishing the crown for tallest man in the house.

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

Changing My Tune

Sorry for my absence, no excuses other than life and laziness. I've been thinking a lot about work and not that I would ever take for granted flexible hours, decent pay, and a paycheck, but recently I've been thinking the work is pretty hard and I'm not as thrilled about doing it. Again, I'm not in a position to whine, I've got a lot to be grateful for, but for the past several weeks work has been a bit of a downer.

First off, the hours are long, though only for one or two days a week, so I shouldn't complain, right? The general feeling at work is sort of grim because the shifts start early and go so late into the evening. On the one hand this means more money, but on the other, it means an extremely long day. When I speak with other people they all share in my discontent, but like me, are slaves to our paychecks. Somebody's got to fund our fabulous lifestyles.

The work atmosphere has changed a bit, as well. Sometimes it seems like we're being pulled in all these different directions, covering multiple events, dealing with the consequences of maybe our employers biting off more than they can chew. I understand the desire to put the guest's wishes first, but maybe saying “no” is just as important. Either way, the past couple of weekends it seems like there's too much going on, and staffing seems a bit down.

Finally, the work has changed. There's a lot more heavy lifting and preparing for the next day. I used to do that for conference services and I completely understand the need to share in the workload, but it's just a drag when you've served guests for 6-8 hours and then, after they leave, you have two more hours of work ahead of you. Somehow, something needs to change. Then again, I guess it has, and this is the end result.

On this note, I have to say that I think it's not as worth it as it used to be. I'm not saying I'm going to quit, not even close, but I think the other catering gigs are looking a little more appealing. I used to think it was more worth it to work at the Inn because the shifts were longer and I could make more money, but I'm beginning to wonder if it's that's still the case. Private catering shifts are about half as long, so you make half as much money. However, you start later and end earlier, so you can salvage some of your weekend nights. It's way more relaxed, and all you do is food - you set up, serve, clear, and you're done. We don't move tables or set up for the next day. Generally speaking I'm out of there by 9:00-10:00PM, versus 12:00-1:00AM for the Inn. The privater catering folks are much cooler, as well, about taking any leftover food.

I'm not sure what will become of this, but I'm guessing something's going to happen. It always does.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Stephen Geraghty for the pic.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Resourceful Kids

Okay, not to be the shameless and obnoxious (well, maybe a little) parent who spouts on about their kids, but I have to relay a small moment that made me very proud of them. To be clear, I think A&N do things on a continual basis that make mom and dad incredibly proud, we just choose not to parade them on social media to everyone on the planet. I still find this sort of boasting a bit distasteful, but clearly I'm in the minority on this one.

This past weekend was crazy and since I was working and mom had to take N to his game over an hour south of here and A to her evening activities. For the record, I originally asked for that night off, but they asked me to come in because the schedule was crazy. I was well within my rights to say I needed it off, but I decided to help them out. Because of this, I missed my son's first game and put mom through the ringer, so it's a bummer on a lot of levels. I felt guilty and in certain ways regretted it, but such is life.

Either way, good things can come out of bad, or should I say “less than ideal” circumstances, right? Mom and the kids were scrambling out the door and, for reasons that are a mystery to me, her car battery was dead. Mom was a little rushed because they had time constraints (1.5 hours to the ice rink with a stop in the big city), but A&N knew just what to do.

Now the simplest thing would have been to call AAA, but who's got time for that, especially when you have two resourceful kids that watched a lot of MacGyver growing up? They were calm, cool and collected and told mom that they could just bump start the car, and all three of them proceeded to do just that. Sure enough, they got the car started within a few minutes and were on their way. When mom relayed this story I thought, “Wow, what cool kids.” How many people their age, much less a majority of adults out there, know how to bump start a car with a dead battery? As for kids, I would say zero.

Okay, that's enough of my carrying on. I thought it was a cool story, and it highlights one of the life skills that is going the way of the dinosaurs.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Seduced by Tech

I used to pride myself in using old fashioned tech, especially when it came to phones. It's sort of silly in retrospect, but at the time I didn't think it was necessary. I mean really, who needs a smartphone? 

I do, that's who.

This became apparent to me only after I went out and upgraded my flip phone to a smartphone. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not about to spend a load of money on a phone ($1000 on an iPhone, get real), but I did upgrade and my smartphone has been incredibly handy. I text frequently, and Google maps has saved my butt more than a few times. Plus, when I'm at work at the Inn, I can check my emails on the phone. I have to admit, an upgrade in this department really has paid off. Best of all, it didn't cost me an arm and a leg, and I can keep my Tracfone account, so no locking into long term contracts with steep penalties for just breathing.

Well, if you can believe this, I'm toying with the idea of upgrading once again. Nothing extravagant, just something with a little more storage. The big reason for this is that I have to constantly offload apps because the phone tells me I need to open up storage, and what kills me about this is that I don't download a lot of apps. Sure, I've downloaded a few, but not enough to warrant these alerts. I installed a 32 gig SD card but through some completely lame and ridiculous twist of fate, I can't put apps on the card, mainly just photos. If I could put more apps on the card I'd be golden, but since I can't, I'm looking into more space.

Not a lot, just a little more. To give you some perspective, my phone is an archaic model that only has about 2 gigs of storage. In the phone world this is basically what the cavemen used to use, and I know most of you are laughing at me right now. To help clarify this point, A's phone has 128 gigs of storage. The difference is staggering. All I really need is a few more gigs, which an upgrade to an 8 gig phone would accomplish, or even a 4 gig. Now 8 gigs is still tiny by today's standards, but light years better than what I have. Best of all, I can probably upgrade to an 8 gig phone for about $35-40, and still keep my Tracfone plan.

I'm not a big fan of constantly upgrading my tech, but since everyone else is, new technology that is more than adequate for my needs can be obtained for an incredibly low price. It's a shame in a way that we're so wasteful, but it does open the door to some good bargains.

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We'll see where this one goes. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Hamza Butt for the pic.

Dental Woes on Top of My Dental Woes

This is pretty lame and sort of emblematic of the problems with the healthcare system, but it turns out my dental problems were not resolvable this past week and I have to go in for yet another procedure. Bust first, a little background. Now I'm not proud of this but several years back I went to the dentist for the first time in about 15 years, I kid you not. Throughout college and afterward I didn't go a dentist, and I had good dental insurance when I lived in NYC. It had just been so long and I have to confess that I was a little scared to actually see a dentist because of the scathing rebuke that awaited me. So I waited.

15 years later I finally went to see one up her in New England, and if you can believe it, I didn't have any cavities. The dentist, whom I really liked, jokingly said, “See you in another 15 years.” Boy was I stoked, and I felt like I was given a second chance by the dental gods. My dentist, however, ended up retiring the next year, so I went to his replacement, and it turns out the happy story wasn't so happy after all. There were a couple of cavities lurking in the back molars, which he filled, and that's when the problems started.

I have to take responsibility for my actions, or lack thereof, in having cavities, but before I had an intervention I was problem free. Now I had two filings in my back molars, both of which cracked, albeit not at the same time. The first one cracked a couple of years ago, chronicled in excruciating detail in this blog (I think), and just recently the second one cracked. This time around the pain was bad, but nothing like last time. My dentist thought they might be able to salvage the tooth so he sent me to an endodontist for a root canal. As it turns out, the tooth was beyond repair, so now they're sending me to an oral surgeon.

My point is, why can't my dentist just pull the thing out? That's what I (sort of) wanted in the first place, mainly because the thought of a root canal made me miserable. This, I learned, was unfounded because the procedure was actually painless. Now, however, I have to wait a few weeks to see the oral surgeon for a consult, after which he will then remove the tooth. My question is, why all this specialization? I don't think endodontists even existed when I was growing up, and you only went to oral surgeons to have wisdom teeth removed.

It wouldn't be so bad except that my tooth kind of hurts, and eating on that side is a bit of a challenge. While I'm not thrilled about losing yet another molar, since it needs to be done, why no just do it? So much time gets wasted on filling in paperwork and consultations.

Oh well, my whining and complaining isn't going to accomplish anything, which in my opinion is all the more reason to keep whining and complaining.

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

Dress Code

One thing that's kind of interesting about N's new hockey team is that the coaches, who are young academic hipsters and hockey fanatics (i.e., they've both played at a high level), are implementing a dress code. Nothing too crazy, but the players are being asked to wear khaki pants and an oxford shirt to games; ties and coats are optional. I think it's cool since it makes the kids embrace a certain degree of respect for the game, and by extension, themselves. As I mentioned the coaches are young (compared to me) and played real deal hockey. The head coach played junior hockey in Canada, which I think is one step away from the pros, while the other coach played college hockey at Rensselaer, which RR might appreciate.

Whatever be the case, I think N is into it because not only is he respectful of the game and the coaches, but he likes wearing ties. Lord knows he's got enough of them, including all of mine. Plus, he looks good when he dresses up.

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tables Turning

Recently A has become interested in old school forms of music, i.e., vinyl records, if you can believe that. I know it's been a bit fringe trendy for a long time, and I didn't really give it much thought until now. I figured it would just be a blip on the screen and then fade away, but somehow vinyl is still popular in certain circles. Since A is a music officionado, she's mentioned now and then the interest in getting a turntable, though it's not a priority at this point. Nonetheless, the mere mention has put the idea on dad's radar, and over the past few months I've kept my eye out for one at the Listen Center or through the town listserve.

A few have showed up at the Listen, some of them pretty nice, though not as cheap as I'd like. Ideally I wanted to get one for free, because let's face it, I was not about to drop a lot of money on a record player. Plus, there was the added threat of facing mom's scorn at procuring yet another piece of equipment to take up space. If it collects dust and isn't used, we're talking a double whammy of angst. Plus, who buys vinyl anymore? We don't even own any, though I used to have plenty when I was younger.

As I mentioned a few showed up at the Listen but I was reluctant because they were on the pricier side. I felt bad, but A said it wasn't a big deal, and she was sympathetic to my domestic concerns, especially since she's been in my shoes. Well, as luck would have it, our friend and neighbor, CF, was trying to get rid of his old turntable and I said I was interested. In fact, he was looking for an old bike for a friend, which I happened to have, so we worked out a swap.

The turntable was kind of cool, though I know nothing about them in this day and age. Clearly this was an older model, and it had a custom made case that CF made himself. It was heavy, however. I got it home and wasn't sure how mom would react, though A and N thought it was pretty cool. I even bought some vinyl at Listen for $2. They have stacks of old records, some of them so cheesy that you wouldn't believe it.

Either way, this is where the story gets good. As it turns out, the turntable didn't work (oh great). I plugged it in and the thing didn't turn. What good is that? I was sort of bummed but figured I could just tell CF it was broken, then deal with it. However, N said he'd like to take a look at it. He got out his tools, the same ones he uses build drones, and went to work. He literally worked for a few hours on that thing, cutting, snipping, and soldering, and by the end he got the darn thing to work. I was so impressed, not to mention stoked because now the machine had legitimacy in mom's eyes since it had become N's project. Don't you just love when that happens?

What was also cool was that he fixed it and tested it with an amp and speaker that he created from scratch. He builds these things, so maybe that's why he wasn't too intimidated about fixing it. We hooked it up to our stereo, which we rarely use, and lo and behold, the thing works. We cleared out some space in the stereo cabinet to make it as incognito as possible, though mom found it immediately. I think the kids explained the situation and she was very agreeable about the whole thing, probably because her “budding engineer” of a son brought it back to life.

Of course, this means we'll have to start keeping our eyes out for vinyl, but it's not a rush. That turntable is not going anywhere soon.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

State of Retail

They say that traditional retail is in jeopardy of disappearing because of the internet, and I can kind of see this happening from firsthand experience. I'm a bit skeptical about the demise of brick and mortar stores, but stats tell a different story as more and more people are buying online. I know I prefer just getting something online, not only because it removes the hassle of shopping and driving, but also because it's often cheaper. However, I also think that people like the shopping experience, and maybe it's good to get out of the house now and then rather than sitting on one's computer all day. Plus, even though this seems like the next wave, I really can't imagine buying groceries online. Amazon thinks differently.

Either way, some retail stores seem like they are having trouble, especially some of these big chains, not to mention malls. I'm not a fan of malls, anyway, but when you into them and they are empty, I find them completely depressing. We experienced this back in LA, and I see it whenever I go into the retail district up here. The one tiny mall we have is always empty, and certain big chain stores like Kmart and JCP have 3-4 customers max. Walmart still seems to draw them in.

My original point that has gotten lost in my rambling is that I was attempting to buy some jeans at JCP online, and it kept failing on me. Like many stores, you get free shipping if you pick them up at the store, but more importantly, I can easily return the clothes if they don't fit. The pitfalls (and there are many) of online shopping is that obviously you can't try them on, and you have to pay for return shipping. Once you find something that fits, it's easy, but it takes a little legwork to get to that point. Buying online from a store that's in the vicinity (I'm reluctant to use the word “local”) means that you often get the free shipping, and if it doesn't fit, you can easily return it for free.

Anyway, this didn't seem to work out with JCP. Every time I ordered a pair, they canceled it because they didn't have the jeans in stock. I tried about three times, slightly varying each time, and I kept getting cancelation notices. Talk about a pain, why not just say they are out of stock before I go through the whole ordering process? I finally gave up and looked to Amazon, which happened to have free shipping and free return shipping. Say no more.

While I have some issues with big internet companies taking over the world, you have to give Amazon some credit, they sure do have their act together. The older more traditional stores seem a bit behind the curve, but I guess that's why their all going out of business. I'm not sure what the future holds but I'm guessing there is both good and bad on the horizon.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to tim putala for the pic.
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Meet the Parents

It's interesting for both N and I (and eventually mom, I'm sure) playing in a new organization. Our old place was chock full of people we knew very well. In a way we were one of the older established families because we had been there so long. Now we're over in the big city and it's a whole new set of parents to mingle with. The difference is that since we're in the big city, it's a lot more hip and happening parents who are basically doctors, lawyers, and Dartmouth professors. We're talking a whole new set of interests, and for that matter, values. I'm finding that I have to re-learn the art of conversation.

I think N is fine because he really just wants to play hockey, and while these are more of the guys he'll probably see if he takes classes at the school, I'm not sure how many long term friendships will come of it. I can say that after 5 years over at our old program, not too many connections have been maintained, at least not for him.

Boy, life sure is complicated. In the beginning I was pretty anti-social, just hanging out in the corner and watching practice, but I'm opening up a little more to the big city parents, trying to get to know them, and they've been very nice. Their kids are all high hockey performers so that's a big topic of discussion, but slowly I'm getting to know more about them.

This should be interesting. Yet another topic to fuel my neurosis as the season progresses. I will say this - joining the big city program has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone and forced me to confront new and sometimes terrifying situations, like meeting highly successful parents who are hip and attractive. Not too many SAHDs in this group.

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

Split Decision

Summer is over and now that we are in the midst of fall and winter is knocking at the door, I decided the time to cut wood has ended and the time to split has arrived. While I like to pretend that I'm a real man by splitting it all by hand, the truth of the matter is that I have a fairly substantial pile of blocks that are too hard to split. I probably could do it with a lot of effort, I just don't want to spend 30 minutes with each one, so I've made a request to our good friend AM to borrow her splitter. She is so cool about letting us use it, I can't even begin to express how I much I appreciate it. I just have to arrange transportation, which isn't the easiest thing, but a drop in the bucket compared to the benefits.

Once we get the splitter, A&N (probably mostly N) can assist, and then we can set our sights on getting the wood pile done. Then again, it's never really done, is it?

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Finally Getting It Done

Okay, like other important maintenance projects that I've put off, I finally went out and got an undercoating put on the Mighty Fit, in the hopes of preventing it from turning out like this. Undercoating is something you would never dream of doing if you lived in California. In fact, you've probably never even heard of it, I know I never had. But when you live in New England, the frame and chassis of your car take a beating from the brutal winters. Our last car, the Mazda, was running fine when part of the frame rusted out and the back wheel essentially broke off. I was driving around town, thankfully going slowly, when the back wheel disconnected from the frame. It was a bit of a bummer.

It did, however, highlight the fact that cars are vulnerable to the elements, especially corrosion and rust from all the salt on the roads. Granted, up here they don't salt as heavily as they do in the bigger cities, and I think the Mazda suffered from our time in Providence. Also, we didn't care for it as well as we could have, which meant regular and frequent car washes with particular attention paid to the undercarriage. This is key.

Since we've owned the Fit we've washed it regularly and I think (hope) that it is in decent condition. Undercarriage washes are a regular part of any car wash, so it gets done fairly frequently. Even still, I've been told by several people in the know, including the Amazing PR Man, that an undercoating is a good idea up here. For those of you who don't know what it is, an undercoating is basically spraying a protective film over the metal on the bottom of your car. In the past they've used petroleum products, which is essentially oil, but are now moving more toward wax/paraffin based undercoats. That's what I got.

Since it's wax based, I've been told that they don't apply it in the summer, and usually wait until fall. That way you get the protection before the winter comes. Winter is too late, and in the spring it's not as critical because you don't have road salt. So I guess fall is pretty much the only time they do it. Hey, I'm new at this, too.

Next came deciding where to go, which is never a simple thing when neurotic dad is involved. As with everything in life, there are too many choices, coupled with the fact that every business that has anything to do with automotive repair is jumping on this procedure. It's becoming fairly regular when you live up here, and more and more people in the know are recommending it. From first hand experience I can see why.

I ended up asking our local Honda dealer, and they pointed me to two places, one of which I ended up choosing - Kidder. It's funny because I've driven past them countless times and didn't really give them much thought, until now. I washed the car the day before and then took it over to the shop, where it took about 30 minutes. It's been something I've been meaning to do, and now that I've started it, I feel much better. It was explained to me that you should do it for a couple of years and then go every other, so that's something to keep in mind. Also, don't do any hot undercarriage washes, which is kind of a drag because what else is there?

Too much to think about, for now I can rest a little easier when that first snow comes. Then again, that just means I'll have to start shoveling, right?


Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Stephan Ridgway for the pic.

Dental Woes

This is a bummer, to say the least, but it appears that I'll be needing some rather involved dental work done, namely a root canal. I can't think of too many things in life that elicit the dread that a root canal does, and for good reason. I had a root canal done when I was a little kid. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old, I can't even recall, but it was a pretty miserable experience. In retrospect, I'm not even sure why you'd have a root canal done on a primary tooth, but times were different back then, right?

Needless to say I'm not jumping for joy to move ahead, but move ahead I must. I've been assigned an expert in root canal procedures, better known as an endodontist. I was under the assumption that your dentist just went in and drilled out the nerve, but clearly I was wrong. Personally I figured they could just pull the darn tooth out, it's in reasonably poor shape, but the goal here is to save as many teeth as possible, right? This becomes more relevant as you get older, when everything starts either falling out or falling apart.


Oh well, we'll see where this one goes. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Joel S for the pic.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Still Time

It sure seemed like we were on the cusp of fall about a week back when the weather suddenly turned cool. Suddenly seems a bit oxymoron because let's face it, it's time for cooler weather, so we shouldn't be surprised. However, right before the temps cooled down, we had a crazy stretch of really warm weather, almost hotter than any stretch we'd seen all summer, if you can believe that. It was good for hitting the beach, but not so much for everything else. Either way, it was hot, and then the temps suddenly dropped overnight by about 25 degrees, I kid you not. It was a bit jarring, and suddenly we were burning wood every morning, which is more like it is supposed to be.

Then, out of nowhere, we have gotten another stretch of warm weather. Yesterday it was about 80 degrees with high humidity, and it sure felt like summer. I was talking to our neighbor at the farm and he said we really need some rain. I guess you don't really think about drought conditions at any other time besides summer, but it can happen in the fall and spring. Winter not so much.

The weather hasn't been miserably hot, so I can deal with it, and another silver lining, if you can call it that, is that I can continue doing some outdoor projects that I didn't get to over the summer, namely painting the house (for the record, I totally feel this guy's pain). I can split and stack wood in the snow, if need be, but painting is a trickier project. You really need moderate temperatures for the paint to dry properly and withstand the brutal New England winters. I've been told that the days need to get above 50 degrees to paint, and I'm hoping that gives me another couple of weeks, at least. Maybe more.

I'm aiming to paint the other gable end of the house and finish the front. Last year I started on the bottom half and for whatever reason, and there are many, didn't do the top half. You can see the line of demarcation where the new paint ends. This time around I'm hoping to paint the trim and finish the clapboards. I'll hit the front first because it faces north and doesn't benefit as much from warm sunny weather. It's also the most accessible since it's not as high as the gable end, which require a 30 foot extension ladder, which I am not a fan of. Plus, on the gable end, I'm dealing with wasps galore. Like the other gable end, I'll work up to a certain point and then stop to avoid clashing with the little buggers.

We'll see how my master painting plan works. I'm hoping to avoid relegating this project into the realm of pipe dreams, because let's face it, I can't make my way to being a real man by just splitting firewood and making casseroles, can I?

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

Back Again (literally)

Getting old and growing wiser are clearly not always in unison with one another, especially when you're talking about yours truly. I brilliantly went out and re-injured my back playing hockey (beautifully depicted in this pic), and let me tell you, it's a complete bummer. The best part about this tale of woe is that I actually hurt it while tying my skates in the locker room - it's almost too crazy to even believe. I was lacing up my skates and started to tighten them when I twisted around in a strange manner, at least I think it was strange, and tweaked my back. I felt it immediately, and let me tell you, I was so bummed. The familiar throb of pain was emanating from the usual location on my lower back. I stopped what I was going and tried to stand up and stretch, which helped a little, but didn't alleviate the problem. The other guys were probably tripping out on me if they even noticed me, which is probably more accurate.

I was able to lace up my skates and even played hockey, which in retrospect was probably not the best idea. Stupid is as stupid does, right? It did dawn on me, however, that if I went down on the ice, I might have a hard time getting back up. I didn't get too crazy and if you can believe this, my back didn't really hurt as long as I was standing upright, or in this case, skating upright. Sitting doesn't hurt too bad, either. It's really the transition from sitting to standing where it hurts the most.

Whatever the case, I'm suffering now. I hurt my back on Monday and played hockey again on Thursday, so clearly it's not as bad as I'm making it out to be, but it's a bummer nonetheless. The kids and mom were teasing me by indicating that I needed to come up with a more dramatic story about how I hurt my back - tying my skates just wasn't cool enough, though it's funny for the dork/klutz factor.

Being hurt puts a bit of a damper on splitting wood and doing my condition workout, though skating twice a week is pretty hard work in and of itself. The pain is not as excruciating as what I've experienced in the past, but it is a challenge to stand completely upright. I have a major stoop. Could this be my destiny?

I also worked on Saturday night and I think that exacerbated things a bit. Then again, just about everything exacerbates it, so I might was well stop whining about it (too late) and just deal. I have noticed one thing - it's important to keep moving as opposed to lying on the couch and feeling sorry for myself, even though I would like to do the latter more than anything.

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