Friday, May 26, 2017

Crash and Burn

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Warming Up

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

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

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

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

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

Surf Prep Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ready for Wood

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

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

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

LAX Begins

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finally Some Sun

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

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

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

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

Life on the Road

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

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

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

Beach Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Airline Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

Traveling Man

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

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

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

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

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