Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Going Back to Cali, part 2

My trip back to Cali was actually a rather nice, albeit short, visit, and I think I may be making them on a more regular basis. Of course I have mixed feelings about this but on the whole I think it's a good thing. Even though I've had a turbulent relationship with my family, I'd like to be on more convivial terms with my mom. I can't control how she behaves or how she treats me, so it's really up to me as to how I respond. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is leaving mom and the kids and the distance to get there.

As I mentioned I haven't had much contact with my mom, at least not direct contact. We don't go out there much, and she has never and would never (I know this to be true) visit Vermont. Her impression of this area is that it's just a bunch of dirt roads and hillbillies, but that's a by-product of her ultra-urban lifestyle, which she loves. In the end, it's probably not a bad thing because there is just no way she would ever understand the rustic lifestyle that we've chosen to live. The idea of getting water from a well conjures up all the wrong images for her.

Despite my reservations about the trip, there were a lot of positives about it. My mom was happy to see me, and years of being in the doghouse seemed to have dissipated as I helped her out a lot. My efforts seemed to have earned me back her good will, not that that was the goal. I really would like to help her out, and suffice it to say that things will only get busier from here.

The trip was also nice because I got my board home, but was also able to connect with some old friends that I keep in touch with but haven't seen in awhile. They also bought me lunch so it was a score on the dietary front. I ended up hanging with my friend SV who is comfortably ensconced in a partial life of leisure after making some fortuitous investments in the market. His life situation suits him and I think he's enjoying himself. Either way, we hung out all day like we always do and I got some lessons in modern technology, which he is deeply connected with. The guy is knee deep in toys and gadgets, and it was quite the learning experience, at least for an old school dinosaur like myself. We did some sort of video conferencing with our friend MO, who happened to be at home, as well.

One final note on the good vibes from our trip was that it worked out well with my flight arrangements with JetBlue, which for the record is a great airline choice. While I had to sit in middle seats both ways, which is a drag, overall I thought the service was good and I had direct flights. I had an afternoon flight there and an early morning flight home, which is a bummer but it got me home at a reasonable time, so I was all for it.

Best of all, mom and the kids saw me off when I left and came to see me when I returned. I love when that happens.

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

Marital Bliss

Winter is quiet at the Inn but not completely devoid of activity, and with that in mind, this past weekend I worked a wedding. It's a bit unusual to work a winter wedding, though I for one wouldn't mind it. I'm wondering if the rates are lower in the slow season. Either way, it was nice to be back at work because not only am I making the big bucks to support our fabulous lifestyles, but it was also nice to see the crew, which has grown since I was last employed. They've hired some new people and it's nice to see new faces, but also good to see the old crew.

On a side note, I forgot a couple of things that night, but N had a hockey game the next morning so on the way home I stopped by to pick them up. My timing was great because I was able to grab him a killer lunch, as well. My only regret was that I didn't grab more, but I wasn't hungry at the time because we had a late and substantial breakfast, not that that's a good excuse when free food is involved. Oh well, you can't get it right every time.

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

Miss Resourceful

The other day A was faced with a challenging (though not life threatening) situation and she knew what to do, which in my opinion is pretty darn cool. She had a show to perform at and her friend was coming to pick her up and give her a ride. It's been pretty cold lately and our driveway is a sheet of ice. Consequently, when said friend came over, he wasn't aware of the conditions and slid out and down a small embankment. Not a dangerous situation because the incline is slight, but a nuisance because it's a challenge getting out. We've been there, done that, so we know what to do, and clearly A learned from the experience.

First off, she knew to tell her friend to stop gunning the engine because when the tires are slipping, it only makes it worse. She then got the bucket of sand and covered the ice, got behind the wheel and had him push, and before they knew it, they had managed to get the car back on the road.

I think it's very cool that she knew how to handle the situation. I'm proud of her, but then again, I shouldn't be that surprised, she's a pretty cool kid.

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Feeling the Heat

Over two weeks without FB, I think I'm over it.

We are having issues with our heating system and believe me when I tell you it's a bummer. We normally don't use the boiler that much to heat the house, except when we go on vacation or when it gets to be below zero. Then you have to turn on the heat or the pipes will freeze. Otherwise, the wood stove does the job. Because of this, we don't always turn the heat even on, and almost never even fiddle with the thermostat upstairs. And as usual in life, when you ignore something for long enough, it comes back to haunt you. Funny how that works.

At some point the upstairs thermostat stopped working. It was an old one that uses mercury, so it was due for a change. Even still, it worked up until about a few months ago, and suddenly it no longer turned the heat on. This is not the worst thing because when we warm the downstairs, the upstairs tends to be tolerable. When we got back after our trip to Montreal, the upstairs was particularly cold, and as we crawled into bed, I decided to see if I could turn on the heat. When I adjusted the thermostat, I heard this sound of rushing water and had this awful feeling that a pipe had burst, but that was not the case. The heat actually went on, though I turned it off because I assumed something was wrong.

Well, it turns out the heat was on, but then it wouldn't go off. It's always warm in the pipes, even when we adjust the thermostat accordingly. We eventually just turned it off and still warm water was flowing through. Clearly something was amiss. I finally shut the pipe down at the source and that seems to have stopped the flow but has not solved the problem. We need to get a boiler guy here to take a look at it.

One more household issue to deal with, though I should look at it like one more opportunity to learn about owning a house. I'll tell you one thing, life sure was easier when we were renters.

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

Bugs Spreading

There's a bug amongst us, and it's made it into our home. A got it first but she's pretty good at recovery. Then came N, with whom it tends to linger, though he's very much on the mend. Mom got it soon after, though she too is feeling much better. Next on the list is yours truly, and in the end I'm fully prepared (not excited, mind you) to confront my fate. Rather than go nuts trying to avoid it, I just accept the fact that I'm going to get sick. It was in the fine print of my job description. The question is, when? Every year we all get sick, and somehow the boys get it worse. It's always during hockey season so there's a convenient way to get a time reference. You see it plow through the hockey team and you realize that it's going to affect your kids, no question about it. Sort of a bummer, but what are you going to do?

I've been able to avoid it thus far but my time will come; mark my word, and then you'll probably hear all about it.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to zona di fotographia for the pic.

Falling Down

A few weeks (or was it months?) we were skiing the first day on the hill and the conditions were less than ideal. In fact, they were pretty poor, but it was a chance to do some early season skiing, and who were we to pass up this chance? It was actually around Christmas, now that I think about it, because it was through the Inn and we got to eat killer lodge food that was free. What a glorious day.

Either way, as I mentioned, the conditions were a little dicey, and I ended up eating it pretty badly. I'm usually in control but this time my skis went flying off in two different directions and before I knew it I was hurling backwards into the icy snow. I lost my skis and slammed the ice hard. It was reminiscent of when I fell on the ice at the Skiway, when my head slammed the ice; I fully expected to pass out but didn't. I sort of thought I'd pass out this time, but again, it didn't happen, much to my relief. I did, however, notice that my neck and shoulder were killing me, and I mean really killing me. I got to my feet and crawled back to the lodge and assess myself. The conclusion I came to: pain, and lots of it. I was really bummed because I am trying to heal my neck and shoulder and as you can imagine crashing on the ski hill didn't help. I actually thought I was back to ground zero on my recovery.

I ended up skiing for the rest of the day but it wasn't an entirely pleasant experience. N teased me on the ski lift by saying, "Nice job getting better." Thanks a lot. Kids sure are a good place to go and get abused. Now here I am about a month after the fact and the surprisingly the pain isn't too bad. My body still feels like it's falling apart, but that could just be an age thing. I was advised to give up hockey for a couple of weeks and this sort of happened with the holidays and vacation, but I don't think that's the source of the problem. I've yet to go to a chiropractor, with apologies to me Mentor but I'm sure he's not surprised.

For now I'll just keep plugging along. Just to add to the fun, I may have found a way to play even more hockey, but more on this later.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to August Allen for the pic.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Surfing Safari

One of my goals in going back to Cali was to bring my surfboard back and hopefully put it to good use this summer. Mission accomplished, but it wasn't easy. In fact, I encountered negative vibes and skepticism at pretty much every step of the way. However, if there's one thing I've learned, it's not to listen to the skeptics, who are everywhere, especially when it involves something important, like a surfboard (what else is there in life?). The thing that's a big bummer is that when you listen to the naysayers, it's so easy to give in and tell yourself that it's too much trouble, or that it's not going to work. What's ironic is that the negative feedback often has no basis, it's just this fear and anxiety of something that hasn't happened yet. I know this because I'm guilty of the same thing, but I'm getting better at it, and I'd love it if my kids didn't succumb to it. You never know until you try, right? That, and it's better to regret what you have done than what you haven't done.

So when I first brought up the idea of bringing my surfboard back, people said that it was going to be too big or that it was going to be too expensive. How the heck are you going to get that thing on the plane? How are you going to get it home from the airport? I also knew that my mom, who kept it in her garage, was going to think it was a complete waste of time and money. Believe me, these issues all weighed on my mind, not to mention the logistics of transporting something that is easily cracked, chipped, and damaged. I've transported a surfboard to Costa Rica and it wasn't a problem because I have the carrying case, but that was 20 years ago. How to get it to New England?

The first thing I did was contact the airline, JetBlue, about checking it in. On their website it says that you can check a surfboard for $50, which was actually cheaper than I thought it would be. One of the big issues was how to get it from the airport to my home. I had to take the bus from Vermont to the Boston and back, and the big worry was if I could get the thing onto the bus. The luggage compartment is huge, but so is a surfboard. I went to their main office and asked and they said I could load it if it fit. They weren't very effusive or enthusiastic, but at that point I was ready to take what I could get.

Now with all these people thinking I was nuts to bring a surfboard from LA to Vermont, I naturally tried to think of alternatives. One was to ship the thing UPS or FedEx. I contacted both and they were looking at $200, not to mention all the packaging stuff I would need. While it would have been nice to have it delivered to my front door, I decided that taking it on the plane was the most affordable way. I just had to get my board case out to LA. Since it's a soft case, though heavily padded, I was able to fold it up into a convenient bundle, about the size of a small carry on. I decided to travel as light as possible, with only one backpack and a clean shirt, socks, and a pair of underwear. Along with my laptop and a bag of snacks, that's all I had. That way I could streamline my possessions and focus on getting that board home.

Another complication was if my mom would let me put the surfboard in her car. She has a nice car, and last time I was out there she forbade me from putting my "dirty" surfboard inside of it. I decided that if this happened again, I would rent a car or find someone to give me a lift, though I had a 7:00AM flight out of LA. I didn't even think of Uber, but that might have been an option. One funny story is that my good friend said he'd be willing to take me to the airport if I could guarantee that he didn't have to see my mom, but that's a story for another time.

To get the board ready, I needed a couple of things to prepare it for the long journey home, so I drove out to Malibu and got a board sock to cover it, and then to Target to get some bubble wrap and packing tape. I did a pretty thorough job of wrapping that thing, and once I got it into the carrying case, I couldn't completely relax because I had to deal with the next hurdle. My mom agreed to let me take it in her car, so that was one obstacle removed. The next challenge was making sure I woke up on time the day of my departure. With a 7:00AM flight, I wanted to get to the airport at least an hour, if not two, before my flight in case there were some issues with the board. I felt bad having to wake up my mom and even looked into getting a shuttle to pick me up. This would have cost about $30, which isn't bad, but my mom said she'd do it. How cool was that? I even asked mom back home in Vermont to give us a wake up call since she'd be awake at that time, but I woke up early and let her know all was well.

The question of whether the board would even fit in my mom's car came up. It's a 4 door sedan and in the case the board is about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide. The night before I did some tweaking and it fit just fine, so that was not going to be a problem. My mom, however, would have to sit in the back while I drove. Once there my mom told me to call her and let her know that it worked out while she waited in a nearby parking lot. This was very cool of her because she was prepared to come back to the airport and take my board back to her house if it didn't work out. I was pleasantly surprised because I thought she would be fine if the thing ended up in the trash.

I checked the board in no problem and boarded the plane, though it was a crowded flight. I ended up in an emergency aisle which had tons of legroom but overhead compartments. Consequently, I didn't know what to do with my backpack. I took my laptop out and was prepared to check it in when the flight attendant found some space in first class. Finally I could relax a little for the flight home. For the record, JetBlue is a great airline for the quality of the experience. Maybe my favorite airline, but more on that later.

Once we landed I had to catch a bus and was pressed for time. We landed at 3:00, and I wanted to catch a 3:50 bus. That meant getting my board and getting to the bus stop in time. Normally this would be a piece of cake but there was some delay at the baggage claim. The bags didn't start coming until about 3:30, and of course my board was one of the last things to come out. I grabbed it and hurried out to the bus stop and waited. To add to the drama, the bus was late, as well, though this isn't always a bad thing because the crowd thins out over time. All the transport buses meet in the same spot, so there are a ton of people waiting. As time passes they catch their bus and things calm down.

Once the bus pulled up, I had one more anxious hurdle to confront, and that was if my board would fit underneath, which it did, no problem. All the doubts about whether it would fit were silly because the board is not that huge. If it were a 10 foot long board then yet, it might have been a problem, but mine slid in with room to spare. I was so stoked. I found a seat and settled in for the ride. I wasn't completely sure if my board would fit in my car, but as long as it was in my home state, I wasn't too worried.

The bus was nearly empty so I had tons of room to relax, but interestingly enough, when we got to South Station, about 100 people got on board. At that point the bus was packed, with not a seat to spare. I had to gather all my stuff together to make room, but I figured it was a small price to pay to get my board home. Once we landed, I got an extra treat when mom and the kids came to meet me. They were nearby visiting friends so they decided to come to the bus stop and see me. I love when that happens.

My board fit in the car, the car started no problem, and we headed home. Overall the trip went well, and the experience reminded me that negative people often don't know what they're talking about, they just feel the need to be negative, so don't listen to them. Also, having done it, I feel less intimidated about doing it again, not that I am going to any time soon.

Best of all, we have two boards now, and once we get a third, we'll be stoked and ready to hit some east coast surfing.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to uncle bigbrown for the pic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Going Back to Cali, part 1

Excuse my absence but I was away in LA. 

I'm back from my big trip to California and as it is in all adventures, and believe me when I tell you it was an adventure, it sure is good to be home. I mentioned that I have been in greater contact with my mom since the holidays and she mentioned two things that really motivated me to go out and see her - she is having health problems, and she is in the midst of a bit of a falling out with my brother, TL. TL lives in California and though he's far away, at least he's in the same state. This makes it easier for him to visit my mom, though I can attest to the fact that this is not as easy as it sounds. Spending time with mom can be like visiting the gulag, she can be relentless in her scorn and saltiness, and my brother happens to be the perfect target for numerous reasons that I won't get into... as much as I'd like to.

Due to the fact that I can never get a straight story from either one of them and never know who to believe, I don't really know happened between them. Like they say, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. Regardless of what transpired, big brother is in the doghouse, so enter youngest son. There is an incredible amount of backstory to this that I won't bore you with but suffice it to say that my mom is getting up there in the years and needs some help now and then. She has a house that's way too big for her but she loves, and she lives in a city that is not always user friendly. In her ideal world both of her sons would live next door to her, but what kind of life would that be for both parties? Sometimes a little distance is the best thing a family can do for itself.

Either way, she has been wanting for me to come and visit for awhile, and I admit that I've dropped the ball on this one because I'm such a bad son. In my defense, it's not easy to pick up and leave my family behind being a SAHD and all. Mom can hold down the fort and then some because she's mega-capable, but I just feel that the place I belong is here with my wife and kids. It's not easy taking off and leaving all the daily stuff to them. And there is plenty of daily stuff. This week in particular was especially busy, with the kids having school, skiing, hockey, get togethers, and then more hockey. Mom was literally running around like crazy. Oh, and did I mention she has her job to go to?

The situation was compounded by the fact that I knew what I was in store for when I went back home. I know this because I've endured a lifetime of it, and while my mom has mellowed out a bit with age, she's still pretty aggressive when it comes to pointing our my shortcomings and faults, or rather my perceived shortcomings and faults (same thing). At some point in a person's life one has to ask oneself if it's really worth putting up with it, especially when there is so much malice behind it. However, my mom is getting up there in the years, and I've experienced a similar life trajectory with my dad, where I swallowed my pride, which was not easy, but am happy I did because I was able to bridge some huge chasms and achieve reconciliation. This is in marked contrast with my brother, who refused to make the effort and missed out when my dad passed away. That, as the saying goes, is a story for another time.

In the end, my mom asked me to make a trip out there, and I just did it. My wife and kids gave me a big nudge and I just jumped in a did it. In the past I didn't make the trip because there was never a perfect time. This was not the perfect time (not even close), but at some point you just have to do it.

On a bright note, I managed to find a good price on a ticket around a reasonable time of the year, mainly because A was in the midst of exams and didn't have to go to school every day. This meant mom (not "my mom") had to take her to the exam early one day, which is usually my job since I'm the morning person, but otherwise nobody had early morning classes. The flight was non-stop from Boston to LA, and on a good airline, JetBlue, which for the record is one of my favorites. I traveled alone so the process was somewhat streamlined, and I went to help my mom but figured since I was there I might as well pick up my surfboard, as well. I don't think I would have attempted this with my wife and kids in tow.

All in all the trip wasn't too bad. It was a little depressing being back in LA, which I have no love for, and it rained the entire time I was there, which is unusual but badly needed in that part of the country. I got to see some friends, eat In and Out Burger, and of course, I managed to get my surfboard home. This warrants more details but for now suffice it to say that all is well and it was a good trip in terms of seeing my mom and getting a sense of what she needs. In this regard, this story is just beginning. Stay tuned for more.

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

More Hockey?

As if I needed more hockey in my life, I just learned that one of the local rinks has adult learn to play in the morning, at the same time as when I'm in the big city while A is at school. The timing is perfect for me if I was interested because she's in school for most of the early part of the day. I could easily slip over there, play some hockey, and then go and pick her up. What makes this potentially appealing is that I think the level of play might be more along the lines of how I play, and the person who runs the rink is apparently out there giving pointers and tips. I'm not even sure what the format is but I get a sense they play a game. Said person is also the high school hockey coach, so he definitely knows what he's talking about.

If anyone could use some coaching and practice on the ice, it's yours truly. The question is, will I be able to motivate enough to show up and play? I like the idea of it, but you never know how these sort of things work out. If it did, I could potentially be playing hockey 4 days a week. Is that crazy, or what?

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


FYI, 5 days now without FB.

We are quickly becoming one of those over-scheduled families with too many things going on, and I have to confess, I'm a big part of the problem. I thought with all the hockey drama that maybe it was time to expend some energy pursuing some of the other things we enjoy in life, so I enrolled N in a ski instructor apprentice program over at one of the ski hills. Of course, that doesn't mean that hockey has suddenly come to halt, it hasn't, along with all the other crazy stuff going on in our lives.

On ski apprentice day, we happen to have a lot going on, and it just so happens to be the day that I have adult hockey, as well. So this past week was particularly grueling because I was taking A to the hill, as well, to do some boarding, which turned out to be prescient because the weather got really crappy and the skiing has suffered accordingly. The day we went happened to be the best day that week, and henceforth.

Either way, I took A to school with all our ski gear in the back. Mom brought N with her and we met up for lunch, after which we skied a half-day until it was time for us to do the after ski program, which starts, uh, after school. A was able to keep boarding on her own while N went with the ski instructors and I volunteered. After it was all done, we packed up the car, stopped in the big city to pick up some supper, then headed back home. We unloaded the ski gear and loaded up the hockey gear for both N and I, then headed to the arena. N had practice and afterward mom picked him while I went and got ready for my game. I played and then got home around 9:30, and believe me, I was beat. I still had to eat some supper, as well, so I chowed down a bit and watched a movie with mom, but I was pretty much done for the night and climbed into bed.

I'm not sure how we're going to navigate these Wednesdays, but something tells me I need to come up with a different plan. We'll see where this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Aprilia Dwi Lestari for the pic.

Friday, January 13, 2017

3 Days

Three days without FB. Feeling good, thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


This is a strange turn of events but I have recently been talking more to my mom and if you can believe this, am traveling out to see her. I have had a turbulent relationship with my mom, and for that matter with my whole family, but I do think it's pretty sad when family members don't get along. This is especially true because my mom is getting old and has health problems. Now don't get me wrong, my mom is a difficult person who has alienated every single person in her social circle, including her family, and throughout it all she will never, EVER even consider the fact that she has some role in this dynamic. It is always "I didn't do anything wrong," even though the reality is that in any conflict everyone has to have some blood on their hands, especially if you're such a difficult person. How can someone not see this?

Whatever be the case, I have kept in touch with my mom but have kept her at arm's length. Living 3000 miles away helps, and the fact that she would never consider visiting Vermont, which she genuinely considers to be a hillbilly state. I let her know how the kids are doing and send her cards, letters, and pictures throughout the year, but we don't visit her that often.

My brother, on the other hand, has been a very dedicated son for the past several years. I won't go into the specifics or the sordid past (and believe me, it's sordid), but recently he has been a presence in her life. He lives in Cali so it's easier for him, though I'm sure he takes his share of abuse when he's down there. Now for whatever reason there seems to be a rift. I called my mom at Christmas to say happy holidays and that's when I learned that this was going on. Apparently they had a big falling out and things have not been mended. I'm not sure what exactly happened because everyone's got a different story, and believe me when I tell you that when you're talking to my family, you almost never get the whole story, or for that matter, the complete truth. I really don't know who to believe, it's always the "other person's" fault.

I called my brother to get his version and sure enough neither of them will budge. My mom does have some health problems, and there is all sorts of drama surrounding her life. She asked if I would come out and I said yes. The truth is she wanted my brother and I to come out for the past couple of years so we could all be together, and I, being the bad son, dropped the ball every time. I understand they are both mad at me, so I need to make a little more effort to team player. That's why I'm flying out.

There is never an ideal time to fly out to LA because it costs money and time, neither of which I have much of. Then again, I also think I've been too much of a flake to put this off, so I'm going. I'm not looking forward to any potential fireworks between me and my mom, which always seems to be a part of our interactions, but I'd also like for all three of us to get along. I've been harboring bitterness and resentment for decades, maybe it's time to let it all go and get over it.

I guess this is the first step. We'll see how it goes.

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

The Bell Centre

Just a quick note about our trip to Montreal, we got to finally go inside of the famous Bell Center, which was actually more famous as the Forum when the Canadiens were completely dominating hockey, but as it got older even the Forum was not immune to progress. They tore it down and replaced it with the Bell Center, so it was a close to legend as we were going to get.

The reason we were there was because the guys needed something to do while the girls were off at the art museum. I like art museums but N was not as thrilled, so as we looked for other options, the World Junior Hockey Championships came up. Junior teams from all over the world were there to compete, and at our desired time slot was Sweden vs the Czech Republic, both solid hockey countries. We looked for tickets online but they seemed to be in demand and really expensive. We decided to walk to the arena and see for ourselves, and sure enough they had plenty of tickets available. We paid $33 Canadian, which worked out to about $25 US. If you charge things you really benefit from the exchange rate. It was also a good lesson in not believing everything you learn online and making sure for yourself because the internet made it seem like tickets were outrageously expensive and impossible to get.

Anyway, the Bell Center was cool, and it's always fun to get the live hockey experience, or any live sporting event for that matter. I know it's nice to sit at home and watch the big game on TV, where we can sit in their underwear and eat potato chips and see instant replay. But it really makes a difference seeing it live. Plus it gets you out of the house and off your big butt. The arena was probably only about 2/3 full, so there were plenty of seats. In fact, we didn't even bother sitting in our assigned seats because so many were available, we just grabbed the first ones we could find. It was also fun because the fans from the host countries get into it and like to rib each other. Plus, they tend to paint themselves in the colors of their country, which makes it fun to see.

The game was fun, too. These guys are the real deal, and the quality of play was high. I thought they seemed slower than a Dartmouth game, but N pointed out that they were more skilled and polished. It takes a real hockey player to see this. We also got to eat nachos and hot dogs, which were a little pricey but less so with the exchange rate. We were rooting for Sweden and they won, 5-2... or maybe it was 5-3. I can't remember, it was so long ago.

After the game we braved the arctic tundra and walked back to our hotel. I'm glad I was with N because I had no clue how to get there. We warmed up and chilled in the room until the girls returned, and then it was time to ring in the new year.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kwong Yee Cheng for the pic.

2 Days w/out FB

I don't know about you, but I tend to check FB fairly frequently. Whenever I get back on my computer and check my email or do some work, I go to FB and do a quick browse, and without fail I come away from it with a poor POV of humanity. There is a huge entertainment component to FB, not unlike channel surfing on a TV - you're just looking for something to capture your attention, and in all fairness, there is plenty. Like TV or smart phones (which I don't own), it can be addicting and can easily suck you in. I've found, however, that I have a limited amount of patience for FB, and don't spend long periods on it. I check it fairly frequently, but only in short bursts, maybe 10-15 minutes at the most. Even in that short time, however, I find plenty of annoying stuff.

There are a couple of things, however, that I find distasteful. One of them is the constant showcasing of people's lives, or should I say bragging? And it almost always involves how awesome their kids are. In all fairness, some of their kids are pretty awesome, but I won't get into that. People are often shameless when it comes to even the smallest things in their kid's life, and like all social media shortcomings, showcasing the highlights ignores the other 99% of their lives that aren't so glamorous. Not even close.

The other thing that I really find hard to stomach are the news stories and highly opinionated posts that people dump onto you. This became glaringly apparent during the presidential run, but it doesn't take an election to get the extremist, close minded, and even lunatic fringe to plaster their opinions on the airwaves. I find myself reading it and just scratching my head wondering what planet do these people live on?

While I read the posts on FB, I rarely write or post stuff anymore, save for the occasional birthday greeting, or if my daughter or wife wants me to promote something. I generally just read and stew.

Which got me to thinking, why do I bother? If I find FB stuff so offensive, why do I keep coming back for more then whine about it? Maybe for the same reason I work at jobs surrounded by people I can't stand or develop acquaintances with toxic people. It doesn't make sense, it just happens.

Well, I decided that rather than gripe and moan about it, I'm just going to go without. Today is currently day 2 without looking at FB. This may not seem like a lot, but if you're a FB junkie, it is. And I'm not even that much of a FB junkie. For the record, I know plenty of people who say they hate FB and yet post stuff all the time, so their actions speak louder than their words.

I'm going to try to let my actions speak for themselves, or should I say, my un-actions?

We'll see how long this lasts. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mariana Moyses for the pic.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Life of a Volunteer

I signed N up to do some apprentice ski instructing over at the ski hill, though I kind of set it up first and then told him what I had gotten him into. Sometimes you just have to do things this way with kids, otherwise they just decline all options that come their way. The instructor apprenticeship is part of the "bigger" big city ski program that introduces big city kids to the sport. They also have a racing program, Nordic program, and freestyle program. I thought N might like the freestyle stuff but he said no thank you. Maybe I should have just enrolled him in that, anyway.

Either way, the program is not expensive, but it doesn't cost nothing, either. This got me to thinking that it's kind of odd that they make you pay to have your kid volunteer. On top of that, if it's your child's first year with the program (it is), one parent is required to volunteer - guess who gets to do that. I guess for N it's not all volunteering because they are training him in the ways of being an instructor. I think he'll oversee little kids, which doesn't seem to intimidate him, unlike his cowardly dad. He'll also be working with a bunch of kids from the school, so hopefully he'll be surrounded by and endless number of hot ski babes. That of course is not the reason we're doing this, but it doesn't hurt, does it?

We'll see how this one goes. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Thomas Doggett-Williams for the pic.

A Day of Hockey

We were a bit "hockey-ed" out last week when we had multiple occasions to play, and play we did. First off we had homeschool hockey, which is very casual and low key, making it fun and enjoyable. Most people don't take it too seriously so it's really just a good time and a chance to skate. Even though it's casual in nature, however, it's still a good workout for an old man like me. I'm usually wheezing between shifts and work up a good sweat. The kids both play and enjoy it thoroughly when they either make me look bad by burning me or stealing my puck, which happens all the time; or when I make a fool of myself by falling or losing puck, which also happens all the time. Throughout it all I still manage to have a good time.

After homeschool hockey we had to go home, eat a quick bite, and then head out for N's game that evening. While evening games are unusual, it's a nice break from morning games, especially if we have nowhere to be, though everyone's a little fatigued at the end of a long day (nobody more so than yours truly). N's game ended and mom came to pick him up because afterward, if you can believe it, I actually had an adult league game. Not only was I tired, but I didn't have much time to get ready because it was right after N's game and I couldn't just bail out and go change... or I guess I could have, but I opted to stay until the bitter end.

Our game was fun, I was tired as heck, but it was a nice end to a busy hockey day, the kind we love. It was also nice because the next day was Saturday and we had nowhere to be (N had a doubleheader on Sunday), which meant we could all sleep in. I love when that happens.

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

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Happy New Year - Montreal Day 2

Once again, happy belated new year. I have to say that traveling to Montreal was more enjoyable than going to Quebec City, for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the drive - 3 hours through familiar territory. Going to QC requires 6 hours of driving through no-man's land, whereas Montreal is fairly close to the Vermont border. The biggest issue we had was crossing back into the US, which was horribly inefficient, but what are you going to do?

Either way, our second day in Montreal was new year's eve, and we had an entire day and evening to fill before the big end of year send-off. We ate a killer breakfast at the hotel, which was very nice, and we were good to go for the day. As far as entertainment, there were countless options but in many areas our interest's diverged. The girls wanted to go to an art museum, which I wouldn't have minded but N was not thrilled. It just so happened, however, that there was a big hockey tournament going on at the Bell Center, which is where the Candadiens play. It was the World Junior Hockey Championship, which I hadn't really heard about but I think it's a big deal. It involves the young players who are on the cusp of making it into the NHL, so these guys are good. One step away from being pro. The game we were seeing was Sweden vs. Czech Republic, and we ended up getting decent tickets, though they weren't that cheap.

I realize that NHL games cost a fortune, but do you really want to drop the same kind of cash on an international tournament of junior players? I'd almost see a college game instead for a fraction of the price. I think Dartmouth games are $8, whereas online these tickets were going for $70-80. Ridiculous, if you ask me. We walked to the arena and got $35 tickets, which is still high but a lot less than what we saw on the website. This is also a good lesson in investigating all your options and not just accepting what is initially handed to you as your only option. That is, of course, if your goal is to save money. For me it's a not brainer.

Anyway, N and I went to the game and it was fun, though the arena was not full by any means. I would say it was about 2/3 full, and the upper decks were completely empty. We didn't even sit in our assigned seats because with so many vacancies we just grabbed some empty chairs. Even if the rightful owners showed up, all we had to do was move a few rows up or down. The game was fun, these guys were good. I think they mentioned 17 of 25 of them were heading for NHL teams, so it's the real deal. More importantly, we got to eat hot dogs and nachos, which is always a treat.

After the game we headed back outside into the tundra and went back to the hotel. One thing I notice about being in the city is that the wind seems to be unrelenting; I experienced this in New York, as well. Throw in frigid temperatures and icy snow and it can be pretty brutal. We trudged back to the hotel and relaxed a little until mom and A showed up, which was about an hour later. It was nice relaxing in the room. By the time we all reunited it was getting close to supper time and we had to make a decision. Midnight was still 6-7 hours away, and we had to plan wisely in order to make it to the golden hour. We chilled out until around 7:00PM and then did some research and found a couple of restaurants that got good reviews. The only problem was that one of them was closed and the other was booked solid. We sort of forgot that it was New Year's Eve.

We wandered around a bit in search of vittles but it was difficult due to the crowds. Places were either closed, too crowded, or had special New Year's Eve specials going. We could have eaten pizza (fine by me) but that wasn't really an option. Finally we landed in a Chinese restaurant, of all places. It was more of a noodle shop and we all got big bowls of steaming hot noodle soup, which was nice on a cold winter evening. The food was good but not great, sort of like all Chinese food, in my opinion.

After dinner we still had several hours to go, and it was way too cold to spend it all outside, so we went back to the hotel and chilled out. We realized that once we settled in there was the distinct possibility that we were not going to make it back out, which would have been A-okay by me, but that wouldn't have been fair to the kids... I think. I know A was itching to be the thick of the festivities but I'm not completely sure how N feels about it. Either way, around 10:30 we put on multiple layers of warm clothes and made the final trek of 2016 outside.

The city was definitely alive, and there were thousands of people out by the river. Way more people than in Quebec City, but somehow not as festive. Maybe because there is so much going on in Montreal, or they're more cosmopolitan and jaded, but in Quebec City it seems more lively. People in QC are all out in full force as if this was the only game in town, dancing and having a good old time, while in Montreal people were hanging but more subdued. In Montreal I definitely smelled more pot being smoked.

Our timing was good because within about 30 minutes it hit midnight. Everyone was happy, the fireworks were nice (though again, not as nice as QC), and then we headed home. That was it. This could me totally misinterpreting things but I think A was a little disappointed. She's at the age where parents are boring and spoil the festivities, and she would probably have much preferred to be with her friends. I totally get that and I think next year we might do things differently. For now, it's nice to still be able to do things as a family, a situation that is slowly becoming harder to do as the kids get older.

One nice vibe I got was as we were leaving we took a short cut and had to climb a railing that was sort of high. I was all bundled up and it was icy and slippery so I had trouble climbing up the wall. Some stranger reached over and helped me up, and believe me when I tell you he really had to put some muscle into getting me up that wall. I sure was grateful for a little assistance to ring in the new year. For the record, mom and both the kids had no trouble scaling it.

Oh well, nobody said aging is kind to the old. Happy new year to everyone and best wishes for 2017.

And thanks for reading, and thanks to GrrrLZilla for the pic.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

No More Hockey?

My back pain has returned and the concept of quitting hockey was broached by one of mom's friend. Said friend suffers from a similar affliction as myself, and she has been in rehab and physical therapy for months. She even missed a big chunk of work to get better. When she heard about what I was going through, her first thought was that I should quit hockey for a few weeks and see if the pain goes away.

I have to confess that the pain has gotten worse since hockey started. I don't know if it's the time of year or the weather, but it is an unfortunate consequence. I've also noticed that it hurts during games, which doesn't bode well for the sport.

I guess I'll have to wait and see. The holidays will offer a week or two of respite from our grueling hockey schedule, and then I can see how I feel. I'm not happy at the idea of removing hockey from my life, but pain has a way of affecting your POV. Plus, hockey has lost a bit of its luster for me, anyway, but that's a story for another time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jerry Bowley for the pic.

Knitting Hands

In what I think is an interesting and cool development, A has started to show an interest in knitting. This came out of nowhere and was a little surprising. She slept over at a friend's house the other night and they spent the night learning to knit, of all things. I didn't know she was interested but I guess you don't know you're interested unless you try. It could simply be something new and novel and will be forsaken at a later date, but for now she's enjoying it. It's also something she can bond over with her mom and grandmother, which is pretty cool. It strikes me as relaxing and meditative, requiring patience a bit of free time, away from screens. As we all know, this is not an easy thing to do in the modern era of high-tech, but who said high-tech was all that great anyway? Not me, that's for sure.

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Car Care

What a good way to start the new year, by getting the cars all up to date and squared away. The deadline for the annual inspection for both cars is in December, though they are usually give you some leeway in terms of when you can get it done. Along these lines I know people that have waited as long as 6 months past the deadline. The risk you take in these situations is that if a cop pulls you over for an expired tag, then he can technically impound your car right then and there.

With just a week to spare before the end of the month, I decided to take it into Tip Top and get it done. Normally we go to Meunier but they usually have a waiting time of at least a week. Tip Top will usually take you the same day if you get there early enough. There were other car matters that needed attending to, as well, including changing the oil on both cars. So, I took some initiative and changed the oil on both cars, then took my car in for an inspection and then went to the car wash. The next day I took moms car for inspection, had it washed, then replaced the wiper blades, which were due for a change. I also topped off the wiper fluid and had her tires rotated.

It was a lot of little things that add up when you take care of them all at once. At least now we're good to go for a few months, which is good because we are heading into heavy snow season and changing the oil in frigid snowy weather is never a fun thing. I'm toying with the idea of getting an under-coating done on at least one of the cars, maybe both, but it's expensive. I'll have to ruminate on this one.

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

Kind of a Scam

We have this new camera that was given to us by a friend, which for the record was very generous, but it needs a new battery. Trying to take some initiative I went online and found a camera site called thephotoland.com that had the battery I needed for the best price. Feeling excited and invincible, I went for it and ordered one, then sat back with smug self-satisfaction waiting for my order to come. In retrospect, I should have been alerted by the name, which is a little sketchy in and of itself.

Well, something clearly smelled afoul in Denmark, because I get a call a few days later from thephotoland.com and they informed me that the battery that I ordered was on back order 6-8 weeks and they could offer me a more powerful battery for $10 more. My gut instinct in these situations is to abort the mission. I'm a cynic when it comes to money, especially when you're a bargain shopper like me - you're just not always dealing with the most savory group of people when you're trying to save the big bucks. Or rather, they seek bargain hunters out because we're all a bunch of suckers for a good deal.

Anyway, as I tell the guy that I'd like to just cancel the order get my money back, and that's when red flag #2 comes along and he gives me the hard sell. If there's one thing I've learned it's that when a salesperson won't take no for an answer, it's best to take your money and walk away. He was a little pushy and I took the bait, finally agreeing to what I was being told was a better product and what the professionals use.

When the battery finally arrived, I was excited at first but then hugely disappointed when it wasn't exactly what I was told I'd be getting. I have a fair amount of experience using after-market products (a by-product of being a bargain hunter) and while you can get good deals, after market stuff does not always perform as well as brand name products. It's tough because brand name stuff, especially Apple/Mac products, are expensive, but you generally get what you pay for. Now I wanted to get a genuine Nikon battery for this camera, and I thought I'd found a good deal, but when they called to do the upgrade, I naively thought I'd get an upgraded Nikon battery, which was not the case.

I opened the package and there was some unfamiliar brand of battery. I did a little online research and found I could get the same battery for under $10 on Amazon, with free shipping. I paid $30, which is not the end of the world, but I still felt scammed. I did some further research on the company and found that they got terrible reviews from customers, with the common complaint being exactly what I went through - the classic bait and switch; you order one thing, they get you to upgrade, and it's not what you expect. Then, when you try to return it, they are impossible to get ahold of.

Naturally I tried contacting them and the call went straight to voicemail while my emails went unanswered. Boy did I feel duped, not to mention stupid. It is a good lesson in researching your bargains because they're not always what they seem to be. I was bummed but figured at least I had a battery and for all intents and purposes it should work, though I couldn't help but feel bummed that I'd spent 3X what I could have. I decided to contact my credit card and see if I could stop the payment. They first tried contacting the camera store and if you can believe this go them to answer on the first try. Unbelievable.

The guy at the store was affable enough and said I could try the battery for a couple of weeks and then return it, but I figured I had him on the line and wanted to deal with it while I could. I asked to return it and he said it was fine, then explained what I needed to do. On the website they explicitly say that you need to follow a certain protocol in order to do a return, but in the end, that was not was I was told on the phone. I sent the battery back and the credit card guy said he is a witness to the call because he was also on the line, so I have some backup. I am curious to see what happens. I did my part but have not received any indication that a return has been completed, but I'm hopeful.

One last note - it was a little tricky mailing this battery. It's of the lithium ion variety, the same kind in Samsung phones that explode and catch fire on airplanes. The thing is small, about the size of a piece of candy, so shipping is cheap, but when I went to the post office they told me you can't ship this type of battery. I had a few options, which included lying and just dropping it in the mail, or trying UPS, which can be a bit of a pain and I didn't know how much it would cost. Just more hassles with this battery. I went to our local PO and talked to them and since they're a small town PO they said they would investigate it more and call me, which they did. It turns out that if a lithium battery is rechargeable, which this is, then you can send it by the US Mail. It it's not, then you can't. Good thing to know.

Whatever happens, I'm sort of glad to just be rid of the thing. I want to believe that I'll get my money back but until that happens I'll keep hoping.

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

Happy New Year - Montreal Day 1

Wow, happy 2017! Hope you all had a good new year's eve celebration, can't believe it's already over. In years past we took the long trek up to Quebec City to ring in the new year but this year opted for the shorter trek to Montreal. I for one vetoed the idea of Quebec City because being the driver of said excursion I can tell you right now it's a brutal trip, compounded by the fact that we always, and I mean always get hit with a really bad storm en route.

Plus, Montreal is a cool city, more cosmopolitan and eclectic if you ask me. We headed up on the 30th to give us some time to get a lay of the land, though this process can be a challenge at night and when it's freezing cold outside. Then again, when you're in Canada, you don't let a little thing like the polar vortex hold you back. On the drive up around the capital we also got his with a storm, and we all couldn't help but think that we just can't get a break when it comes to traveling up to Canada. It was a complete white-out snowstorm, and I was bummed, to say the least. The snow, however, was short lived, and by the time we were near Burlington it had cleared up. Thank goodness for that.

After a bit of a pause at the border, we landed in Montreal around 5:00PM. Finding the hotel was smoother than I thought it would be, and there was parking underneath the building, so we parked the car and forgot about it until the new year. Then we unloaded (exploded?) in our room, took a moment to catch our breath, and then began the search for something to eat. As I mentioned, Montreal is a much more diverse city than QC, in large part due to the college, McGill. The crowds tend to be younger, more hip and modern, and definitely more multi-cultural. Our goal was to eat something tasty and unique, and we found a really nice Egyptian restaurant where the crowd was interesting the proprietors were very friendly. They took the time to chat with us and explain what was in the dishes and how they were uniquely Egyptian. We ended up chowing down and enjoyed the meal immensely.

Afterward we headed out into the city to walk off our meal and take in the local flavor. The weather was cold and a little raw, with snow and wind, but there were crowds of people out and about. Our hotel was closer to the old section, which is in turn closer to the river where the New Year's Eve festivities were going on. When you walk further inland toward the college the crowds get thicker and more lively. It was fun to see, and you get a sense of vitality with so many young people around.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was well past 10:00PM, so we chilled for a bit, the kids had some late night screen time (bad parents), and we hit the sack hard. I for one was exhausted, but what else is new?

Stay tuned for more about day 2 of our Canadian New Year adventure. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Eva Blue for the pic.