Friday, September 22, 2017

More On Our Budding Engineer

Our budding engineer is continuing to impress yours truly with some of his exploits. Just recently he made what I believe is a Tesla coil and demonstrated it to mom and dad the other night. Now I hope I'm getting the name right, but it hooked up to a power source and then allowed him to wirelessly transmit electricity to a light bulb. Talk about too cool for words. I was impressed, and you could tell by looking at it that it took some initiative and diligence to make, not to mention patience. This pic shows the bulb lighting with no wires.

On other fronts, he has gotten in touch with one of the teachers at the local high school who has a 3D printer and is getting involved with that. The teacher, KL, is a pretty cool cat, and he is very supportive of kids who are interested in engineering projects. He has the technology and wants to share it, which I think is really cool. Best of all, this could be something cool for N to pursue in the coming years. We'll keep an eye on that one.

He has also become interested in various audio projects. He's been making amplifiers and speakers like there's no tomorrow, and they sound good. He gathers the parts from various old radios (and not so old) appliances, or he procures them from the Listen Center or the dump, and then he goes to work. It usually involves taking stuff apart for the required parts, then soldering them back together in the configuration he wants. The power needed comes from amplifiers that he is builds, usually from parts ordered online. Also, when he gets ahold of an old computer or radio, he collect various transistor and capacitors for future use. I'm not completely familiar with the whole process or the names of the parts, but suffice it to say that it's pretty cool stuff. I used to love doing stuff like this when I was a kid but I was severely limited by the access (or lack thereof) to parts and tools. This guys got the world at his fingertips.

Finally, he's been doing his drone building, and that's pretty high tech stuff. It's amazing to me how affordable and accessible technology is today. It's a different world we live in, so we might as well make the most of it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Home Improvement Warrior

In my continuing quest to be a real man, I'm still toiling away on the home improvement front and just recently I put another feather in my cap in that arena by installing a new toilet seat. Admittedly this isn't the most rigorous or manly of jobs, but suffice it to say that I wasn't passionately drawn to the task, and consequently it sat unattended for many months. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that it took me awhile before I even realized that it needed to be replaced.

I use the downstairs bathroom a lot and every now and then, contrary to what mom might say, I clean the toilet. It doesn't take much, just a dash of soap and a good scrub with the brush. Along with the inside, I also clean the rim of the bowl, which as anyone who lives with men can attest to, gets pretty nasty. Regular clean up helps one to avoid the massive super-gnarly mess that makes most men faint.

Several months back I began noticing that there was small piles of crud at specific places on the rim. I wasn't really up for inspecting them too closely so I just wiped them away, but they kept appearing. I realized that they were the result of the pads on the toilet seat disintegrating. I figured it wasn't such a big deal and I would just replace the pads. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that you can't really replace the pads, you have to replace the whole seat. Isn't that just like everything in life? You have to buy a completely new thing rather than fix a small part of it.

Whatever be the case, I finally decided to replace the thing and headed over to Home Depot. As you can imagine, they had quite the selection of toilets and toilet seats, a fact that baffles me but shouldn't surprise me. I went into standard mode and bought one of the cheaper ones. When I got it home I put it in the bathroom and wondered in the back of my mind how long it would be before I actually put the thing in. Well, as luck would have it, that was sooner than I thought - I put it in the same day that I bought it.

Best of all, it wasn't that difficult, nor was it that disgusting. Sure, it was a little nasty because anything involving that part of the body is going to get some residues of a mysterious nature, but nothing a baby wipe and paper towel couldn't handle. If anything, the harder part was laying down on the floor to screw the seat in - you just never know what's been on the floor around a toilet.

It took about 15 minutes, and I couldn't wait to try out the new seat and break it in, though that happened soon enough and I won't burden you with the details. Part of me wonders if I should have gotten a slightly higher-end seat, but this one was so cheap that replacing it wouldn't be that awful. Wasteful, yes, but not painful. Or, I'll just get over my OCD and live with a perfectly functional toilet seat. We'll see where this line of thinking goes.

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

New Hockey Frontiers

With hockey starting soon, I think it's good for me to reflect a little on the big changes that are happening this year, namely that we've left our old hockey program with completely bad vibes (on my part, N holds no grudges) and are playing in a new program over in the big city. It's a big change and one that I didn't think we'd ever make, at least not yet.

In the past, playing over in the big city always meant being more competitive and driven. It's a stronger program and churns out more high end players, which means that the parents have high expectations, i.e., they're way more intense. Then again, hockey parents are hockey parents, right? Several players from our old program moved over to the big city in the past because they wanted various things for out of it - from a bright future in the NHL of just parental bragging rights that their kids were in a kick-ass program. For full disclosure, the level of skill seems to drop off at the level that N is playing at, probably because the really high end players move on to select teams or go play at prep schools. It's still a solid program in the big city, just not at an elite level, which suits us just fine.

So given all the crap we had to endure last year at our old program, we made the decision to move over. There were many reasons for this change, most of them spiteful on my part, but it never would have happened if N didn't agree to it. His strongest motivator was the level of uncertainty in the old program. They go through this every year, never sure how certain teams are going to shape up, or if they're even going to have a team. This is the case with N's level, and as far as I can see, they are going to have a hard time putting together a team. Besides, despite all of my juvenile bad feelings for the old program, it would be nice to see N play on a team where his teammates were a little closer in skill level (at his old program, the players were all over the map), but more importantly, came out, worked hard, and gave some semblance of effort, i.e., didn't have crappy attitudes. This was rarely the case on his old team. In fact, I think it's fair to say that most kids on his team rarely, if ever, gave 100%. It was discouraging and telling at the same time.

Finally, N will more than likely do some high school work over in the big city, just like his sister, so this is the world that he will be inhabiting. It's not a bad time to get a foot in the proverbial door of this new environment. I'm not saying this is the promised land and we're going to have nothing but warm fuzzy feelings about life in the big city, but at this point, anything is better than being “over there” at the old program. I am done with that place.

This should be interesting, and like all things in our lives, will probably be filled with drama. I can't wait. At the very least, more of our lives are stationed over in the big city, including work, school, and friends. It's easier for us to get to the big city than the “other place,” (just a quick jaunt on the highway), there's way more to do in the big city (there's nothing going on “over there,” it's the epitome of dull), and a lot of these kids that are on his team will potentially be his future classmates. Coupled with my complete disdain for the old program, one could make the case that this change is a no-brainer. Then again, I could eat my words in a few weeks. You just never know.

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and make changes where you think they're needed, especially if you're unhappy with your current situation. Life's too short to endure people treating you like crap, don't you think?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Preparing for Fall Surfing

I know I've been commenting on how warm it's been, but truth be told, fall is on the horizon and the water is still a bit chilly. It really takes hot weather to make it comfortable, and that occurs in a small window of time during the same. That window has closed. Last time we surfed it was warmer than I'd expected, but with the fall weather closing in, the water only get chillier and chiller with each passing week.

With this in mind, we are doing some fall surfing prep, which boils down to doing whatever it takes to stay warm. I've been told that people surf until mid-late October, which is fine by me, but I can't fathom the idea of getting out of the water and taking off a wetsuit when it's cold and windy outside. Talk about brutal.

Either way, we have our wetsuits and booties to keep most of us warm, but one area where we really suffered when it was cold outside was our hands. It's mainly because when they're wet and in the cool breeze, they take a beating. So I got us some gloves, and they were surprisingly cheap online. We were able to get a sense of what size we would need by trying on various pairs, and then I did some bargain hunting. It wasn't a rush situation because it's still tolerable out there right now, but I'm thinking that if we want to surf in the coming weeks, we're going to need to protect those hands. For the record, I look forward to the day when our surf gear is complete and I won't need to keep buying stuff. Then again, that may never happen.

One final note, I was looking at gloves for around $40 a pop at surf shops, and I got two pairs for $30 online. I love when that happens. Now we're ready to keep hitting the waves.

Until the next time, thanks for surfing.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Passport Renewal

When we fly we often need some form of identification for all of us, but at the very least mom and dad. Now when flying in the US all we need is a driver's license, but just for good measure we bring along our passports. Well, imagine my surprise when we recently flew to LA and the TSA guy informed us that my passport had expired. Boy, it was a good thing we weren't flying international because we, or rather I, would have been in trouble. Since it was just a domestic flight he didn't make a big deal out of it, but he did inform us that we needed to take care of it.

It's strange that this passed below our radar because we are usually on top of these matters. However, since we haven't really done a lot of international travel this year, the timing could have been worse. Plus, with no big trips in the works, I had time to deal with it. This meant getting a new passport photo done, which is a bit of a hassle because camera shops, where I used to get them done, are a thing of the past.

Either way, no time like the present to get it done. Then we will be all prepped and ready for our next big trip, wherever that may be.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to John Dewar for the pic.

Big Mac

Wow, this sort of came out of nowhere, but I've managed to upgrade my computer and get a good deal at the same time, all thanks to my amazing sister in law, DR. Thanks, BTW. My current laptop is about 7 years old, which is 49 in dog years and 70 in computer years. It works fine but it is definitely starting to fall apart - my hard drive crashed and I had to replace it, the track pad is losing sensitivity, and the actual case is coming loose and is being held together with packing tape. As I mentioned, it still works, but the proverbial writing seems to be on the wall, and I've been looking around for deals on used MacBooks.

I'd heard that the Dartmouth computer store sells off old laptops that departments use and then replace. By old I mean 2-3 years, which would be a huge upgrade to my computer. The problem is, they never have computers available when I inquire, and I when I inquire, I'm talking emailing them every week. At some point my conspiracy-minded brain started to think they were yanking my chain, but one of the salespeople actually told me that faculty have priority on the MacBooks and there is a long waiting list. I.e., I'm out of luck. My friend JP actually has one of said MacBooks, which sell for around $300, which is a great deal if you can get one, but you can't get one, so it's not such a great deal.

Anyway, I'd pretty much given up and thought that at some point I'd have to look to eBay or Craigslist when the clouds parted and DR came to the rescue. Woo-hoo. I am stoked because the timing is good, and it's something the entire household can use. I don't need a high tech machine, but if I'm going to get a new computer, I might as well get something nice if I can, right?

Either way, I'm hoping that one future problem has now been addressed, and I can direct my attention (and money) to other important things, like hockey equipment, snow tires, and surfboard wax.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rocky Chen for the pic.

Splitting Like Crazy

I'd been splitting wood and trying to finish year 2 at a reasonably casual pace, but it has dawned on me that I was going to have to step up the pace because no matter how much wood I think I've split, it barely makes a dent in the wood pile. Needless to say this is incredibly frustrating because I'd like for it to just be done, but no such luck. On a bright note we do have plenty of log length wood, and I've blocked up a reasonably good-sized pile, but as I've experienced in the past, a massive pile of un-split wood is no reason to get complacent. Sometimes I'm amazed at how much wood we burn.

We were lucky to get a brief spell of cool weather (I was sure fall was here), which made cutting and splitting more bearable, but the heat has returned, and it's been a challenge, especially for a whiner like myself. Over the past week I've been splitting whenever I can, and just when I've got this big pile for stacking, I'm floored by how much farther I still have to go. The kids have been helping me and it makes a big difference, so the only thing to do is stop whining (yeah right) and just keep chopping away. The kids don't whine when I ask them to help, so I should just keep my big mouth shut.

Meanwhile, the pile of blocks that I can't seem to split keeps growing, so at some point I'm going to have to borrow JP or AM's splitter, I'm still not clear who it belongs to. Maybe I should just get ahold of said splitter sooner than later and just finish the whole damn pile. Then again, there are a lot of things I should do.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Big City Girl

A has been quite the big city girl lately, heading down to the big city with her friends, sans mom or dad. She's so cosmopolitan. It bears mentioning that even though mom and dad are not going, parents are involved, and her friends are actually her bandmates and they are, for the most part, older and in college. I know this sounds like a potentially complicated situation, but we know and trust her friends, and as I mentioned, parents were present.

The first weekend she went down to see this band called Snarky Puppy, which is a jazz ensemble that is apparently the hot new thing. Several of them went to Boston and they later learned that other friends and bandmates were going as well. Very cool. A has begun developing an interest in jazz because her jazz band at school is encouraging it, and her bandmates are into it, as well. More on this at a later date. One of the dads, who is a music head, drove the guys down and they stayed at a relatives house in the city, which is pretty cool. They hung out in Boston, went to see the band, and had an overall really cool time. Plus, they got to see some killer live music.

The next weekend she went to Concord to do some music stuff with her band. Again, this was very cool because they are a talented bunch of musicians and they are taking their craft seriously. One of the bandmates used to live up here and now lives in Concord, so they stayed at his house and his mom prepared meals and put them all up. How cool is that?

All in all A had two amazing musical weekends in a row. It's very cool to see her so interested in music, though not just playing for fun, but taking it reasonably seriously. Who knows what will come of it but suffice it to say that she has mom and dad's support.

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

New Guitar

A got a new guitar and I'm really stoked for her because not only is it a cool guitar, but it's something she researched and picked out. First, a little background. Way back when she was first starting we got her a starter electric guitar that was reasonably cheap because let's face it, we weren't sure it was something she'd stick with (though I was hoping she would). It was recommended to us by her guitar teacher at the time, EE. He said that they were fairly well made and were a good option for a first guitar. Plus, since they were cheap (i.e., made in China), they had a wide selection of colors and body styles. She picked out one she liked, we got her a decent amp, and a rock star was born.

Well, a few years later and she's playing in several bands, if you can believe that. She's been using the same guitar and it's served her well, but it's not without it's small issues. I can't adequately explain what the problems were, but we've had the guitar guy at the Dojo do a few things with it. Nothing major but small problems that keep cropping up. At some point A inquired if she could get a new guitar, and of course she'd been doing her homework and looking into various options.

One thing that was fun about this process was that she could go to guitar stores and try them out. They are very cool about letting you try just about any guitar they have in stock, even if it's still in the package. This happened to us in LA, where we visited the Guitar Center in Hollywood. She asked about the guitar that she wanted and they unpacked the thing, tuned it up, and handed it over so she could jam. Even though we didn't buy it, they were very accommodating. For the record, I think that was the fourth Guitar Center that she'd been to.

Anyway, when we got back, she searched the internet for her guitar and found one to her liking. My mom had actually given the kids some cash as a gift and A used that towards her guitar. It came very soon after she ordered it, and she's stoked with it. I have to confess that I'm happy that she's playing with a decent quality instrument. Even though I'm a fan of cheap, I can appreciate the value of spending the money for something of good quality, especially when it involves a special item like a guitar, surfboard, skis or snowboards, or most stuff for the kids. For me, I'll generally lean towards the cheaper option. With surfboards this is not an option because you can't find cheap or used surfboards around here.

Plus, you can't deny the importance of the “cool factor” when it comes to kids. I don't mind using junk but when you're young you just can't pull it off, you need to have the good stuff, and you're usually better off in the end. Now that A has a quality guitar, she has more of the cool factor on stage, and that's important when you're a rock star.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Updating Hockey Gear

Hockey season is right around the corner and sure enough, that means updating some hockey gear. This year there were some big ones, namely skates for N. His old skates are too small, and now we have to upgrade, so off to Stateline we go. Normally I'd look for a bargain but I've learned that with certain pieces of equipment, you just can't skimp too much. I've tried and been burned. Online shopping will only get you so far, and truth be told, I like the idea of supporting a local business, especially one that knows us and cuts us a break whenever possible.

With skates, he really needs to try them on and get a good fit. He's a good player and a big boy now, so buying cheesy or used stuff isn't really an option. Plus, for something like skates, fit is important. Over at Stateline they will attempt to expand a pair of skates with some sort of machine they have, but it had limited utility in this case, so we tried on a few options. Even with the new ones they had to heat mold them and tweak them a little, but once that was done, N said they felt good. That makes me feel better, and I think his outlook on things improves when he knows he's got the right gear. It's a guy thing.

Fortunately we upgraded his sticks last year (much thanks to MB), so with the exception of a pad here or there, I think he's good to go. It's hard to really grasp that hockey season is right around the corner, but it is, despite the fact that we're still hitting the beach to catch waves. This will surely come to an end, but until it does, I think we'll straddle both worlds.

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

Still Surfing

Even though I don't like the heat, I was a little bummed to see summer coming to an end, and naturally, summer (to me) means being hot, discomfort and whining included. Heat, however, can be a welcome thing when you're diving into the water. In fact, if it's not at least 80 degrees outside, I'm not that inspired to go swimming. Sure, a wetsuit helps, but nothing beats going into the water on a nice hot day.

With that in mind, after a brief cool spell, which for the record was very nice, the heat returned just as we were hitting the surf again after a short break. Traveling to see my mom and various other commitments took us away from the waves, but now we're back and ready to surf. We've been going at a pretty good rate, shooting for a couple times a week, even though it's a trek to get there. The trip is not as bad since we've done it so much, and now we have a killer routine where we paddle into the lineup, surf for at least an hour, ideally two, and then pick up killer burritos at Las Olas. The surf was small on Thursday but this past Sunday there were some head-high sets coming in. It was fun and our surfing is definitely progressing nicely. It would be nice to get a few more trips in before it's too cold, but we'll see.

One complication is that I'm pretty darn tired for the drive home, and eating a fat burrito doesn't help because I get so sleepy. I've found that the best thing is to eat only about 1/3 of the burrito and then sip an ice coffee all the way home. It's the only way I can keep my head clear, and even that doesn't work every time. I almost need to pull over and take a phat nap, but sometimes that's asking too much. Then again, do what you have to do, right?

For now I'm pretty stoked with how surfing has gone. N is into it, A is sort-of psyched but somewhat ambivalent, and I'm stoked. It has completely changed my POV about summer - I used to dread the heat but now it just means that it's time to hit the beach. I love when that happens.

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

Playing in the Band

A has been brought into the fold of a band that her friends formed, and it's a pretty cool thing, mainly because they are all really cool (i.e., nice) kids who are talented, motivated, and dedicated to writing their own music. I think it's a great experience and a nice addition to what she's doing with the Dojo, which is a great experience but I like the idea of them writing their own stuff.

The band is called Plum Loco and they were formed prior to when A arrived at the scene, so hopefully she'll be able to seamlessly transition in. For what it's worth, she is not the only new member, which I think is helpful. I like the other band members and they are all friends, at least for now. Somehow it seems like a little conflict drives bands to creative genius (think the Stones and Beatles), but that's not always the case. I think Steely Dan got along, but I could be wrong.

Whatever be the case, I love that they've welcomed her into the fold, and I hope that it will be an enriching experience. I think it will.

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

Driver Test Prep

I know this is old news but I just want to re-iterate how proud we are of A passing her driving test in a stick-shift car. I felt terribly guilty making her take the test in a manual, but she had no qualms about it. Truth be told she's been driving a stick from day one, and she's comfortable and confident in it, but even still, taking the test is another thing altogether.

And, getting our acts together for her to take the test was not without it's own set of drama. Kind of like everything in our lives. The problems we faced were that both of our cars had slight issues that were not a big deal in the actual performance or safety of the vehicles, but were going to be an issue for sticklers who do everything by the book. I can't say I blame them, and rules are rules. For full disclosure I didn't know for a fact that these issues would be a problem, I just assumed they would based on what I'd heard from other people.

The first issue was with mom's car, which has a crack in the windshield. Total bummer, but not anybody's fault. It happened when she was on the highway and a truck flung a rock at her. It hit her window leaving a crack that was about a foot long. The window is perfectly intact, though we are pretty sure that it won't pass inspection. It is going to cost a few hundred dollars to fix, so we decided to sit on it until inspection time, at which point we'll replace it. We assumed that the DMV wouldn't allow A to take her driving test with said windshield, which left my car.

Now my car, of course, had a minor issue, as well. Modern cars have these crazy tire pressure sensors, which make sense, except that (at least on my car) they seem to break down. I've replace three so far, and for good measure the fourth one finally bit the dust. What happens is when the sensor dies the entire pressure sensing system dies and an indicator light comes on. Technically it's not the end of the world because you can just check the pressure regularly without the sensors. The problem is that the indicator light on the dash will raise red flags, and it won't pass inspection, which I assumed meant it wouldn't be allowed for her test. The reality is, did we want to take the chance of driving all the way over there only to find out we couldn't use that car?

These revelations really came to light a day before her driving test, so I had to scramble to fix the situation. I actually had a new sensor still in the package that I had sitting around. As I mentioned three of them had gone down, so I had one on the ready, and it's a good thing I did. It was late afternoon so we were pushing our luck, but I called our friends at Tip Top Tire and they said they could fit us in. I hurried over there, they put the new sensor in, and lo and behold, we were good to go.

I'm not a big fan of last minute drama before a big event, but we managed to weather this storm. And A passed her test, despite the slew of setbacks that threatened her driving independence. Kudos to her for that. Now she's a driver, and me and mom have a whole new set of things to worry about, but for now we're just happy that she passed.

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chainsaw Enlightenment

Cutting wood seems to be a constant project at our house, and because of this you can't mess around with your chainsaw. Unlike most tools I've purchased, I didn't go cheap with my chainsaw. I bought a good brand with a reasonable amount of power, which will meet with the approval of my Mentor and the Amazing PR Man. It was a little painful on the wallet, but the things scare me, so it's worth the piece of mind.

Like all fine machinery, however, they can be a little temperamental if you don't care for them properly. I learned this the hard way, and now go to great lengths to make sure I'm careful when running it and maintaining it. Even then, there's so much to learn.

Just recently I was having problems with the chain overheating. I didn't know this at the time, but if the oil isn't lubricating the chain properly, it can lead to some serious issues, and if there's one thing you don't to have with a chainsaw, it's issues. I can tell when the problems crop up because the chain seems to lock up when I let up on the throttle. I can feel the tension is way too high and it looks dry. When lubed properly, the chain looks greased, and it seems to flow more smoothly. It turns out that my blade was not properly lubricating the chain, and not only did it make the blade hot, but it stretched out the chain.

I took it in to see what the problem was and they said right off the bat that the chain was stretched out and was probably done. They checked the machine and said it seemed to be oiling properly, but that I was probably using the wrong oil. I buy the eco-friendly stuff that is basically vegetable oil and they said they've had problems with that stuff. They recommended going back to the petroleum stuff and sure enough my chainsaw was back to normal. Whew, I didn't want to have to buy a new chainsaw or pay for expensive maintenance.

It turns out that the eco-stuff is mainly used when cutting in or around water, and that most people use the conventional oil. I will say this - the conventional stuff is about half the price, so I didn't need too much prodding. Now that the saw is running better, I can turn my attention to that log pile and get some blocks cut up for splitting. I figure I still have a couple of months to split before the snow comes, and that year 2 pile is only about 10% done, so I've got some work to do.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dan Funderburgh for the pic.

Stoked on Wetsuits

Before we left for Cali we had a problem with N's wetsuit in that it tore at the knees. Total bummer. I was going to try to fix it but wasn't sure how much I could really do. Stitching and gluing neoprene is not the same as sewing a pair of jeans. I was a little bummed because I figured since I got the wetsuits at such a good price, I was sacrificing customer service, which is often the case. Since the wetsuit tore while we were using it, they had ample grounds to deny fixing or replacing it since it wasn't necessarily a defect in the manufacturing... or was it?
Hard to say, but truth be told, the wetsuit was only about 3 months old and hardly used. I figured that I had nothing to lose in trying, and lo and behold, my efforts paid off.

I first contacted the company that sold me the suit, SwimWear Outlet, which has good customer service. They said the suit should be covered by the warranty, but that was covered by the manufacturer. I then contacted Hyperflex, and they told me to send it in and if they couldn't fix it they'd give me a new one. Wow, I suddenly went from bummed to stoked, though it meant that N would be without his suit for a couple of weeks. He actually got around this by wearing A's suit, since she's been too busy to make it to the waves.

I packed up the suit and sent it off, not really know what to expect, and within two weeks they sent it back, all fixed up and ready to go. I love when that happens. It just goes to show you that good customer service still exists, you just have to make a little effort to find it. I'm stoked on Hyperflex and SwimWear Outlet, both have been good experiences for us.

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bringing Mom Home

My mom's recovery from surgery went smoothly and more quickly than they'd anticipated, so she was able to come home earlier than usual. We brought her home this Saturday and now she's here back at her house, which she loves. It's a fine house in an upscale neighborhood but I think it's too isolated for her. When you live out here you realize how challenging life is when you have to drive for 20 minutes just to get to the just about anything. It is close to UCLA, I'll give you that.

Either way, up to that point our stay had been pretty free-wheeling and relaxing. The weather was perfect, with mildly warm days and cool nights, so we really made the most of it. With my mom's return, however, it really started to get hot, more in line with what I remember Cali weather to be.

All in all it was pretty manageable with all five of us under one roof. I was a little concerned because my mom camps out in the living room, which is understandable, but it makes it harder for the rest of us because we can't really just go about our lives without inconveniencing her. This meant hanging out in our rooms for extended periods, which is fine except that there is no WiFi or TV. So I went to Target and got a router and hooked it up to her modem. She plugs into her firewire cable, so it's single usage at her house. With the router, we could get WiFi in any room. My biggest concern was somehow affecting her internet experience, but it was a seamless transition and she didn't even know it was there. Perfect.

With mom comfortable in her place, we did what we could to help her and then went out for most of the day, which meant being stuck in LA traffic all day. It was fine, we got to see a lot of things but we also felt like we had to be there to help out, so we limited our sojourns to a few hours and then checked back in.

The trip was fine, I think it went well, and I'm glad that we spent some time with my mom. I'm also glad that she got to see how nicely the kids are growing, and that they got to meet their (other) grandmother, who was for the most part very civil except for tossing out a few barbs now and then. Thankfully, most of them were directed at me.

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

Unhappy Molar

This is a big time bummer, but I'm having dental issues during our vacation. Boy, talk about bad timing, though I have to confess, I may have some issues to bring up with my previous dentist. I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that I am to blame, as well. A few years back my dentist retired and I simply continued going to his replacement. He is a really cool guy, and I liked him, but he did two fillings on my molars and both molars have suffered some negative consequences. With the first one I experienced incredible pain for a couple of days and then it went away. I figured that was the end of it when a few weeks later I was eating tortilla chips and the tooth cracked. I couldn't believe it, but what was even more amazing was that it didn't hurt. Not one bit. I deduced that when I was feeling the incredible pain, and believe me when I tell you it was excruciating, my tooth was in the process of dying. Once the pain subsided, I think the tooth was finished, so it didn't hurt when it cracked.

Now, the other tooth is going through some serious pain. The kind that feels like your head is in a vice, just non-stop throbbing. It's been bothering me off and on for a couple of weeks, and for full disclosure, my current dentist, TS, has been telling me that the filling needs to be redone for upwards of a year. I put it off for two visits and now I guess I'm paying the price for it. Foolish me.
At the beginning of our trip it was hurting pretty bad and then it went away. I emailed TS and he said as long as it's not bleeding, swelling, or hurting, then wait until I go in to see him, which will be next week. Since I'm in LA I figured that in an emergency I could find a good dentist, but would prefer to go to my hometown guy.

Well, last night the pain came back, and it was a total bummer. I'm almost ready to go to a dentist and just have the thing pulled, but we don't want to be too brash about something like our teeth, right?

We'll see how this goes. As long as it doesn't hurt I think I can deal, though I'm not sure how much more of whining my family can take.

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

Gable Down

On the home front back in New England, I finally got the gable painted on the west end, and it was about time. I hadn't painted it since we moved in (shame on me), and it gets a fair amount of sun. I'd actually painted the bottom half a few years ago, but hadn't gotten to the upper half until now because it requires using the 30 foot ladder, which sort of sketches me out. I don't like working when I'm high up, and extension ladders get a little wobbly when you get to the top. Add in hot weather and a constant stream of hornets and it's a recipe for disaster.

I still have to the apex of the gable, which I'm putting off until the fall because it's hornet city right now and just not worth the risk. I'm still not sure how I'll pull this off, but like everything in my life, it's sure to be an adventure.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Birthday Eclipse

This warrants a quick note because personally I think it's kind of cool, but this week our birthdays (both R and me) landed on the same day as the eclipse of the century (at least that's how they seemed to be selling it). It seems like there must be some sort of cool cosmic energy that is associated with this coincidence.

We didn't really do too much to celebrate but we did manage to view the eclipse with our amazing homemade viewing devices - one for each of us. It was fun to see though here in Cali it was only a partial, maybe about 50%. It was still fun to see and I'm glad we did at least something.

Even my mom wished us a happy birthday, which is more than she's done in the past, and we went out for dinner that evening. A nice mellow day without much fanfare, which is just the way we like it. I was impressed, however, with all the FB well-wishers because I'm not really an FB person... I just play one on TV.

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

The Golden State

Sorry for my absence but we've been hanging out in sunny SoCal for the past week, and believe it or not, we've been enjoying it. This is especially surprising given that the main reason we came out was to spend time and help out my mom. It has been very pleasant, and I think my mom gets a huge kick out of R and the kids, as well she should. It's definitely a refreshing change from dealing with her rotten son, as she would say.

We were originally concerned that the kids (and parents) would be bored with nothing to do all day, but that hasn't been the case... sort of. We even planned on going up to NoCal to visit friends and maybe even look at colleges, but we nixed that plan because it's been fun just hanging out in LA and checking out the sights, which the kids had never seen. For R and I it's been nice because it's very relaxing and the weather has been pretty darn nice - low 80s and sunny all the time. At night it cools down to the low 60s so sleep comes easy.

It's been fun showing the kids places I used to go when I was growing up, and it's been a fun experience for them to see what life is like on the west coast. Definitely a different beast. My mom has been fairly tactful and cordial, and again, I think she really enjoys seeing her grandkids. Who wouldn't? She gets to make up for lost time by showering them with gifts, which is not how we live but if it makes her happy then we'll go along with it.

All in all it's been a nice trip. I've been stuck in traffic a few times and it reminds me of what a soul-draining experience this city can be. Plus, the distances you have to travel just to get to where you want to be is a pain in the neck, but people don't blink an eye having to drive an hour just to get a meal or go to the gym. Let's forget all that traffic, as well. Not for me, thank you, but okay for just a visit.

More details to come. For now, thanks for reading, and thanks to MissMae for the pic.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Kingdom Come

Last weekend we were up in the fabled Northeast Kingdom and did some mountain biking, and came away with a few important tidbits of wisdom. First off, it's a pretty killer setup they have going on up there, like a surf town but with bikes, instead. Secondly, it was very clear that we were significantly under-equipped. And finally, that we need to become better equipped.

We camped in the town of Brighton but the area where it's all happening is Burke. Best of all, it's not that far from us, and what a cool town. I didn't quite make the connection at first, but many of the shops have bikes hanging from the signs, and you see that all the cars have racks with killer MTBs on them. And of course, you have the hip, good looking, outdoorsy biking crowds milling about. It was actually a cool town, reminiscent of something like Stowe but on a smaller scale, with crunchy restaurants and outdoor shops. Plenty of bike shops, as well.

We went riding at Burke, and it was all about downhill riding. We got lift tickets, which for the record were cheap; a lot cheaper than Killington, which set us back $60 when we went way back when. It was pretty cool and as usual I was holding N back. He was zipping down the trails, which were a little precarious for an old man like me. We took the easiest runs, which were like ski hills with green dots, blue squares, and black diamonds. We didn't even go near the black diamonds, which require full body armor (a fancy name for padding) and a full helmet, neither of which we had. This was fine by me, because I for one found the green dots challenging enough. N stuck with the blue dots, and eventually came to the green dots to keep his old dad company. For all it's worth, he had about a 5 minute wait time until I hit the bottom. As I've gotten older I just can't handle too much speed, and definitely can't keep up with him, so he's on his own.

As the day progressed the crowds starting showing up, and it was at that point that it became painfully clear that we were under-equipped. First off, every kid N's age was fully suited up, with trunk pads (i.e., body armor), knee pads, and full helmet. We had out dinky street bike helmets, so we stood out as rank amateurs. We were also amongst the handful of riders (maybe 5-6) who did not have dual suspension bikes. Everyone else had high-end, or at least what looked like high-end, bikes. One kid even asked me what kind of bike I was riding, which was sort of embarrassing. In the end out bikes are not archaic, they are just not the optimal bikes to have to do this sort of hardcore downhill riding, which is a sub-culture in and of itself. Plus, N was probably under-protected, which leads up to the injury part of this story.

N is a good rider but the trails are a little precarious, not to mention in the middle of the woods. During his last ride he lost it a little and crashed. He was hurt but not so bad that he couldn't finish the ride down. He thankfully didn't hit his head, but he scraped and probably bruised parts of this trunk. We took him to the doctor they determined that nothing was cracked, broken, or bleeding, so recovery was just time and rest. I was really bummed and felt like I screwed up by not preparing N enough for the ride. It was a learning experience.

So, with that in mind, we now know what we need to do, or rather dad has another thing to feed his OCD - getting proper downhill gear for N.

This will not occur until next year, and it's not going to be cheap, but with some legwork, patience, and diligence, I'll hopefully find some killer deals. It helps that time is (sort of) on our side.

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

License to Thrill

So A went out and got her driver's license, on a stick shift car, no less. Kudos to her for that one. I was nervous for her but she was fine, as I knew she would be. She's been driving for awhile and is a good driver, it's just that it's a jungle out there. We had a bit of last minute drama getting the cars ready because we'd heard they're sticklers for details, i.e., if you're car is not up to snuff, they might refuse to let you use it for the test. I assumed that this included various “idiot lights” on the dashboard, or whatever would prevent you from passing inspection.

Unfortunately, these conditions applied to us, but more on this later. This is really about congratulating A on her big milestone. We are very proud of her, though this gives me one more thing to neurotically obsess over.

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

School, Paint, and Wood

I am currently focusing on those three areas in my life, in that order... and of course, in addition to the daily demands of parenting and catching waves. Somehow, oddly enough, summer is not really about relaxing and enjoying my free time, of which I have none, but is instead rather busy. Busier, in fact, than other times of the year. Funny how that works.

School always comes up this time of year, as some of you know all too well, because we have to end the previous year and initiate the coming year. Normally all this entails is getting your kids new clothes and books and sending them to the bus stop, but we don't do things the normal way over here. I have been going over what we've done and summarizing it for our teacher friend, BF, in order for her to conduct her evaluation. It's always a chore and something I put off until the last minute, though this year I'm a bit ahead of the curve, which just goes to show you, miracles do happen. I've completed A's stuff and will hopefully finish N's in the coming week. Then it's party time... for everyone but me.

I'm also trying to get the painting of the house done, and that, too, is something I like to put off. I have to make it as seamless as possible before I can even begin, which I've accomplished so there's really no excuse. I'm targeting the western gable end, and the key is getting the trim and windows done. The clapboards look fine, just a little weathered, but I figure if I'm up there I might as well get the siding done, as well. What makes it a pain is having to climb up high on the ladder, which is always sketchy, but even more so holding paint in one hand and fending off the wasps with the other, and believe me, there are tons of wasps up there. They love it right under the eaves, and it's not enough to simply leave them alone, they don't like it when you even get close to them. Such a bummer.

And finally, there's the issue of firewood, which for the record I enjoy, if only I had more time. We scored our log pile a month or two back so we are good to go, it's really just finding time to cut and split. Things are moving along, though. I blocked up a fair amount and am in the process of splitting it. On a bright note, this year is done and we are working toward finishing year two, which is about 5% complete. It is very satisfying to watch that pile grow and gradually fill up over time. I figure we have August, September, and probably October to get it done, so we are not in dire straits by any stretch of the imagination. Plus, now that I've gotten the end towers complete, my anal-retentive self can lighten up and let the kids complete the rest while I sit in a hammock and drink beer... yeah right. One last note, work has been painfully slow, so while I can't make the income to support our fabulous lifestyle, I do have more free time, which as you get older becomes way more important than money.

Overall we are decent shape. Not quite where we want to be, but a lot further along than we were a month ago. The weather has been very fickle so it's hard to get a grasp on what is in store, but I figure as long as I can squeak an hour or two in for each project ever day, we'll get to the promised land.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Surfing Regulars

This is difficult for even me to believe, but we have been surfing fairly regularly this summer - these are our boards. I would never have believed that we'd be surfing at all living in New England, but it's happening, and I, for one, am completely stoked about it. We have hit a bit of a lull in the past week or so because of various obligations, including family camping trips and mountain biking. However, before that, we were hitting the beach a couple of times a week, and it's not an easy trip. This is all the more amazing when you consider that during my last years in LA, when I lived in Santa Monica and Venice Beach, less than a mile from the sand, I never went surfing. It takes about two hours to get to Hampton Beach, but the trip gets easier with time. I recall driving for two hours to find waves when I lived in California. This time around we aren't looking for waves because we don't really have the luxury to be picky, but it's worked out pretty well so far.

The kids have thus far been willing to go along with it, but I'm not sure if both of them will maintain their enthusiasm, at least not one of them. The other, however, seems willing to ride this out until completion, which means actually shredding the waves. I see the potential is there, it's really just a question of time and practice, and I think we have a couple of months left in our surfing season, more if we decide to get really hardcore - headgear, gloves, and surfing in 45-50 degree water. I'm not sure if that's going to happen.

Hampton Beach (HB) has turned out to be a good place to surf, as well. The waves are tiny, almost non-existent, but big enough to go out and practice catching them and standing. When I surfed a lot in my youth I probably wouldn't have even bothered with them, but I have no room for such snobbery in my life today. We are in the nascent phase of our surfing careers (I'm basically starting over again, it's been 15 years) so tiny is big enough for us. In fact, one day the swell picked up and was breaking about shoulder/head high, and it felt like we were at the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii; we were paddling like crazy, but what a workout.

HB is good also because the sandbar extends out pretty far, so the water isn't too deep. In fact, many of the people out there stand while waiting for the waves. Another bonus is that while the waves are small, they are pretty reliable on a day to day basis. So while many surfers wait anxiously for a big hurricane swell to hit, we can get some semblance of a wave on any given day. If anything, when the hurricane swell hits, we'll probably be watching from the beach.

Finally, and this is important, unlike learning to surf in California, where a lot of the surfers and punks, most of the surfers out there at HB are at the same level as us and pretty friendly. I've found even the shredders are nice. Most of the people out there are longboarders who are just learning, and though when I was surfing in California I loathed longboards, out there in HB they are pretty cool, so I'm in no position to cop an attitude.

All in all things have fallen into place and I for one and ready to hit the beach again. We are all geared up and ready to go, so let's go. One last note, it's a long drive for us, but we have met a few surfers that come to HB from Burlington. We've seen them there twice. How cool is that? That's another couple hours of driving for them - talk about hardcore, you gotta love it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Painting Prep

I can't let this summer go by without making a dent in the painting that needs to be done on the house. It's really hard just to get started, so I've found it to be a good idea to do as much prep ahead of time so when I have some free time, which is never, I can hit the ground running. That way the 15 minutes of preparation that discourages me from doing something in the first place is already taken care of. No more excuses, dad.

With this in mind, I need to paint the western gable end of the house, including the trim. One of the problems I face (because I'm such a wimp) is that at some point I either have the sun directly in my face or blasting 100 degree temps on my head. The best time is the early morning, before the sun can peek over the roof, and late afternoon, when the sun is a lot cooler. Morning is tough because two of the bedrooms have windows facing the west, and I don't want to wake anybody up. By about noon the sun is hitting its stride, so I have from about 10:00AM to 12:00 for optimal performance. Once high noon hits, it's pretty miserable out there. This does not make it impossible, it's just that I don't have a huge slab of time, so I have to make the most of it.

This means having all the paint, brushes, and ladders at the ready. I think I've achieved this, so it's really just a question of going out there and doing it, which as we all know is much harder than it sounds. We'll see how this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rebecca Siegel for the pic.


Sorry (again) for my absence, been a bit swamped with school stuff (end of year), painting the house (moving along nicely), splitting firewood (ditto), and family vacations. The end of school year stuff is what kills me the most, but there's no room to whine and I simply have to get it done. Lots going on so stay tuned for more. Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Can We All Get Along?

After all the effort and time, I'm beginning to lean towards letting the squirrels have their way with the bird feeders. It bugs me to no end, but short of annihilating them, I don't really know what to do. They are crafty, resourceful, and relentless, and whatever method I've tried to discourage them has failed. The only thing that really worked was when we let the cats out, and then we'd end up with dead critters all over the yard. It was a little too much of a solution.

I guess in the end we have plenty of seeds and if they eat their share, it's not the end of the world. Part of the problem is that squirrels are hoarders and will take every seed that is offered to them. They'll find some place to bury them. Plus, when they're getting their fill, it denies the birds their chance. Oh well, survival of the fittest, right? That's why mammals rule the world.

I'm still not a fan of them, but maybe it's time to just get along. We'll see how long that lasts.

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

Surfing for Surfing

Believe it or not, I've been surfing the web for surfing tutorials for the kids, and not only am I finding them, but they are helping me, as well. You wouldn't think watching a video could teach you how to surf, but there's a trove of information out there. I figured the kids would respond more to expert advice online versus something their old dad would tell them, and I think they're responding. We'll soon see.

I've always been a bit cynical about things like surf lesson videos touting the ability to teach you to do something like surf or ride a bike. I've also been down on things like taking surf lessons or going to surf camp, or paying someone to teach you how to surf or ride a bike. I'm so old school; when we were young we just went out and did it. It was a long and painful process, but that's what separated the men from the boys, and when you came out the other end, you were either a surfer or you weren't. Nobody held our hands, especially not for money. As for the internet, how could you possibly learn to surf while watching YouTube?

Well, I have to confess that I've softened by stand. Not only do I think surf camp would be a cool way for a kid to learn, but I've learned a thing or two about surfing online, and it turns out that I've been doing it wrong all these years. I won't go into the details but I've noticed that as I'm re-entering the surfing world, I'm having trouble in a few key areas. Maybe because I was younger at the time, but when I first started out my poor techniques didn't seem to matter. Now that I'm older, slower, creakier and fatter, they are having an impact. Funny how that works.

Time will tell if it makes a huge difference, but the changes seem to be helping, so I have to tip my hat to technology. I still think it's lame for hyper-educated professionals pay people to teach their kids to tie their shoes (because they worry they won't do it right, I'm told), but don't get me started. For now, with the help of the internet, I'll be there working with the kids on our surfing. It's good because I can amend bad habits and they can learn good habits in the first place. I love when that happens.

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Long Journey Home

Speaking of homecomings, when M&A went to NYC, they were slated to fly back on Monday afternoon, and N and I decided to meet them at the Lebanon airport. They were supposed to land around 6:00PM, so N and I went to grab a bite to eat, hit some golf balls at Fore-U, and then meet up. However, as we were hitting balls, I couldn't help but notice dark clouds rolling in, which naturally made me worry about their flight home. It's a small prop plane, so bad weather is very significant.

Well, as it turns out, the airline, Cape Air, cancelled the flight home and offered a bus ride home. The storm was affecting all of the eastern seaboard, so flights were being cancelled all over. Since they were taking the bus, they were going to get home late, so N and I finished our basket of balls and headed home. M&A ended up getting home after 11:00PM, and though they were tired, it was relief to have them home safely. They ate a quick bite and went to bed, and our crazy weekend came to end. Now our lives are back to normal, whatever that means.

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