Thursday, December 30, 2004

Minor Leagues?

Even though the NHL lockout is only about three months old, I have been locked out of the league by the owners for years by exorbinantly-priced tickets combined with absurd parking prices and $7 Pepsi bottles. Even so, I almost miss hockey, and my eight-year-old son doesn't know why they bother printing a newspaper every day if there is no hockey season.

It was his vacation, so and he is always so well behaved, so I took him to an OHL game. We tried to go see the Plymouth Whalers, but they were sold out. Insteada, we went across the border, to see the Windsor Spitfires play the Owen Sound Attack.

The building was small by NHL standards, seating only about 3,000, but our seats were right on top of the ice, and we got to watch a game in the land where ice was born. Over 2,500 people got to watch future stars like Bobby Ryan and Robin Big Snake make a name for themselves. We saw great fights, the kind the NHL stopped providing for its fans when they decided they wanted soccer moms in Nashville and Miami to watch their game. We saw some spectacular goaltending by a kid named Brown, as he shut out the hometown Spitfires. We saw powerplay goals, penalty kills, injuries, slick passing, and heart and blood and fire all over the ice.

We also saw the misplays. Overskated pucks, immature reactions, stupid penalties, and poor decision mnaking.

But in the end, this is what won out. After the game, we stood outside the visitors locker room for five minutes. The team trainer came out, and we asked him if he could get Bobby Ryan to sign my son's Bobby Ryan OHL card. (If you're surprised they have OHL cards, ask yourself what you would do if you owned a card company and a large portion of your business was in a labor dispute.)

We gave him a pen and the card. A few minutes later he returned, looking for a Sharpie that would show up on the card. He found the Sharpie, and came back to us with the autographed card. We talked hockey with the trainer for a few minutes, and found out that Owen Sound is about four hours north of Windsor. That their best player was playing for his native team in the Junior World Championships right now. And that they beat a tremendous London 30-2-2-0 team last night, the only team with a better record than the Attacks' 24-7-3-1.

As we were ready to go, the trainer told us to wait a minute. He went back into the locker room, and came out with a Owen Sound Attack puck, and gave it to my son.

The whole ride home, my boy glowed. He had just been to a hockey game, and was coming home with an autographed card, a puck, and sweet memories that may last a lifetime.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Home Alone

My wife and daughter elected to stay in New Jersey for a few extra days, while the boys and I drove home. It was the first time I drove from New jersey without my wife since we got married, and there were some thnigs I didn't expect.

Normally, when driving home, if the kids are sleeping and we arrive at a rest stop or service station, my wife or I will wait in the car, let the other one go to the bathroom or get a drink, and then switch places. That way, there is always an adult in the car with the kids. But things change when there is only one adult. And it gets more complex when you have to factor in the weather.

When I got to the rest stop my eight year old was sleeping, but my five year old was awake. I asked him if he needed to use the bathroom, and he didn't so I left both boys in the car, locked the door, and went inside for a few minutes. After using the bathroom and buying a Coke, I got back to the car, and drove ovwer to the gas station to fill up the car.

Once the car was filled up, my five year old told me he needed to use the bathroom. Now, the whole parking lot was a slush pool, and I could no longer drive to an area where I could enter the rest stop easily. I drove around the station until I could park, and then woke up my eight year old to see if he wanted to come out as well.

Of course, he didn't so i left him in the car, and went out with my five year ol;d and took him to the bathroom. He didn't wear a jacket inside, and as we got back to car he was freezing cold. He was about to get in the car when my eight year old popped his head out and said to too needed to use the bathroom.

I couldn't allow my five year old to wait in the car alone, but he was crying about being cold, so i gave him my jacket to help him stay warm. My eight year old put on his shoes without his socks, jumped out of the car, and immediately felt the slush freeze his little feet as it went into his shoes. He jumped straight up into the air, and ran inside.

My five year old, meanwhile, was running very slowly, and I had to try to speed him up while slowing down my eight year old. Finally, we got inside, my eight year old went to the bathroom, and we went back outside. We got to the car, but now they were cold and awake. I found a blanket in the back of the car for one of them to use, along with a sweatshirt to use as a pillow.

To my other son I gave my sweatpants for him to use as a blanket/pillow, and a T-shirt of mine that he tucked his feet into to try and warm them up.

Eventually they fell back asleep, and I was able to listen to the football game. The only problem was, I didn't really want to listen to a football game. I wanted to listen to talk radio where people call up and complain about their relationships.

My wife hates talk radio, so we never listen on long trips. I didn't know how much talk radio had changed since the days I used to listen to people calling up about their relationship and social problems. Call it a guilty pleasure, but when I was a kid I loved listening to shows like Sally Jessie Raphael. My (and my classmates at school) favorite calls, of course, were from young girls trying to decide whether or not to lose their virginity.

But that type of show doesn't exist. Or if it does, they don't play it on Sunday nights anywhere from New Jersey to Michigan. It's all sports talk and politics. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is not what I wanted to hear.

So now I am home. My wife is in New Jersey. My boys are asleep. And I am wondering whatever happened to good old fashioned I'm not sure if I'm ready to lose my virginity talk radio.

Friday, December 24, 2004

What The Hell Happened

At 6:00 AM yesterday morning we were awakened by the phone ringing. The call was somewhat expected, and the voice on the other end said that school was cancelled due to the snow. Suddenly, my wife and children had an extra day tagged onto their ten day winter vacation.

We had no plans for there vacation, other than some vague plan to go see a Plymouth Whalers hockey game and possibly a trip to Wheels Inn outside of Windsor. My wife hung up the phone, and we went back to sleep.

When the kids woke up, we told them to go away, and we were left unbothered until they needed breakfast around 8:30.

But here is what happens when the wife has extra time to sit around and plot. Her mother had some surgery two weeks earlier, and although my wife didn't want to visit her mother for the entire time she was off, she did want to get away, and she did want to visit her mother for a short trip. The problem was, we couldn't leave on Friday, and expect to get there in time for Shabbos.

But now that we had an extra day, suddenly there was time to go for Shabbos without killing ourselves and without missing any real time from work. Nevermind that the reason there was no scholl was a snow storm had dropped 8 inches of powder on our community, and the road to New Jersey runs straight through Ohio, wher mother nature had treated the Bush Stronghold state to 20 inches of snow.

We bought some food, got in the car, and off we went. It took an hour and a half to drive the length of Sout hfield freeway, a trip that normally takes 20 minutes. We saw spun out cars, a jack-knifed tractor trailer, and other assorted car accidents along the way.

Once we got on I-75, I assumed we would have more of the same. But the weather had cleared, and the plows had done their job, and the rest of the trip, from Michigan to New Jersey only took another 8 hours.

I am proud to say I sat in the passenger seat, shoes and socks off, for the entire ride. I didn't have to drive at all, and the only completely objectional music I was subjected to was Michael Jackson's Thriller CD. With the wife and kids in the car, I couldn't listen to any Eminem, but the kids didn't even ask for any of there CDs to be played. The read, and when the sun went down at 5 PM, they talked, fought, and finally, fell asleep.

So now we are in New Jersey. I don't know how long we will be here for. My mother-in-law was surprised. I was concerned she might have a heart attack when we surprised her on her way to the bathroom at 1 AM, as she hobbled along on her surgically-repaired leg, but she survived the shock of seeing us all.

And now we have a few days before we have to get back into the car and head west towrd home.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Surpise Surprise

Someone read my Blog. Not just P-Dudi, who convinced (read - begged) me to put up this blog. Not just my wife, scratch that, she hasn't read this yet. I think she is afraid about what might find its way here.

An actual person surfing the web somehow ended up on my blog and posted a comment. And that blows my mind. It's one thing that people read my Air Time newsletter. It's sent out to people I know who want to read about people they know. I keep them laughing and reading, and they keep asking for more issues.

But now a total stranger read something, and posted.

I am still not sold on this blogging. The posts aren't coming out the way I would like them to, and it is going to take a bit more writing to get used to the medium. Although the blog is only four posts old, I have already considered getting rid of it.

Still, I got a reader.

So maybe I'll go on for a few more days. Test this out some more and see how it works for me.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Training Days

You know that moment that you wait for all your life. That one time where you are at the bottom of the stairway or escalator and you look up. And their, before your very eyes, is a woman in a skirt. And nothing on underneath.

Maybe you don't have that dream, but I do. And when it finally happened, I was reminded to be careful for what I wish for. My 2 year old daughter in the middle of toilet training was not what I had in mind when I the dream.

Yes, it is that time again. Time to get off the diapers. Time to get into underwear. And of course, time to fight with kids about pishes and stinkies and where they go and hope they don't pee on the carpet.

I don't know if it is easier with boys or girls. My boys trained quite easily. At least I think they did. I was working 14 hour days when they were trained. Now with my daughter, I am home much more often, and it seems like it is a fight that never ends, and almost not even worth it.

My wife and I both know that when she starts high school, she won't be wearing a diaper. Hell, she will probably be done with them soon. But a diaper is both a crutch and an inconvenient expense. When we are in the car, or at a store, we are grateful for the diaper that hugs her tush and keeps the mess in. When we run out of yet another box of diapers, we are frustrated that we need to go buy another box of the damn diapers that all she is going to do is pee and crap all over.

So we try to train her. Sometimes she wants to be trained and runs to the toilet, but most of the time she would just rather pee on the floor.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Treifing up the Kitchen

Like every kosher home, we occasionally traif up a fork or spoon, sticking a dairy spoon into hot soup or a meat spoon into cereal. And we have a pretty good system for getting it kosher. We put it to the side, and eventually it gets mixed back into the rest of the silverware.

It might not be the best system out there, but it works.

But then came the crispy American Choice fries. Most of their fries are kosher, but this package was inadvertantly bought. By me. And served twice.

The first time went by without incident. The fries weren't ready on time for dinner, and by the time I rechecked them, they had been burnt. And then came the events of Sunday night.

The fries were ready a bit late, but we were still at the table when they were ready, and I served them as kind of a post-steak snack. We both ate them, and Aviva commented that they were so good, they must not be kosher. Eager to defend the fries, I jumped up, got the package, and showed her the OU. Which, as you have probably guessed, was not on the package.

The Rabbi said we had to separate anything that touched the fries while they were hot, which meant the baking sheet, plates, a serving bowl, and silverware.

Then we began to investigate. We called the company, but they wouldn't say whether the oil in the fries was animal or vegetable based. Local rabbis didn't know, and neith did the OU.

Finally, we got the ruling. We didn't have to toss out the Corelle dishes or the silverware and baking pan. But we do have to do some complicated boiling process.

Anyway, last night, as we sat down to eat, I pulled a sheet of spicy fries out from the oven.

"Are these kosher?" my wife asked.

"of course they are," I told her. "If they weren't I would have used the triaf baking sheet."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Beware Digital Camcorders

For years we had one of those old VHS camcorders. And I'm not just talking about the ones with the mini tapes that went into the big tape so you could watch it on TV. I'm talking about the big one that held an entire VHS tape. We got it when my oldest child was born, and used it extensively when he was a baby. Which is to say we filled up almost one tape. When our second kid was born, we didn't bother taping him. And when our third child was born (yes, we are breeders), the camcorder continued to sit on the shelf.

So after almost nine years with the camcorder, we decided to go digital. We got a very nice, very small Canon ZR85, which was supposed to make it easy to record. And the truth is, recording is easy. It's watching the tape after you record that is difficult.

Not to worry, I thought. I can hook the camcorder up to my Mac, download the tape, and burn it onto a DVD. So I uploaded the tape onto the Mac, which went into the computer in real time (1 hour) and used up 14 gig of my hard drive, which wouldn't have been a problem if I had more than 16 gig of space left.

This is my blog, so I get to tell the long the story.

I ran it through i-movie, so I could edit the tape, throw in some titles, delete scenes, and add some music. So far, so good. The computer was running slow, but I figured I would dump the file onto a DVD and erase it from the hard drive in no time.

I tried to send it from i-movie to i-DVD, and that's when the real problems started. I had upgraded i-movie, which was free, but had never bothered to upgrade i-DVD, which was not free. All that meant was the programs couldn't talk very easily to one another, and the version of i-DVD that i had really sucked.

So it was on to ebay to find a cheap i-DVD, and after a week I finally won the program. Next came waiting in the mail, and thanks to christmas, the mail ran slow, which added another week of my computer running at half speed.

Finally, the program arrived. I put it on the computer, which burned up the rest of my hard drive space, leaving me with 500 meg. I bought recordable DVDs, put them into the drive, and it didn't work.

Who was genius who thought of making DVD+R and DVD-R? And why didn't anyone bother mentioning that little fact.

So it was back to the store to exchange DVDs, and finally, I had everything I needed. I put the Recordable DVD into the drive. And then the computer spit it out. It seems that in order to burn something onto a disk, you need to have that same amount of space on your hard drive, so that the computer can make a copy of what you are copying, and put it all on the disk.

The DVD holds 4.3 gig, so i had to go through my computer and delete 4.3 gig worth of files and programs.

Do you have any idea how many things you need to delete when you are trying to find 4.3 gig of space.

Finally, I got rid of enough junk from my computer that I could get the DVD into the machine.

I click burn, and it is finally happening. Soon, I will be able to delete the files from my machine and have my hard drive back.

It takes hours to burn though, and finally, at 11:30, after coming home from hockey, I put the DVD into my DVD player to see how it came out.

The results - Terrible.

When it burned, all the audio went into the disk, but not all the video went in. So you can hear people talking, and it has no relation to the picture on the screen.

So here I am. My hard drive is still hijacked by my home video. My DVD is crappy, and its back to square one to create a working DVD.

Should you buy a digital camcorder?

Absolutely. But only if you aren't interested in watching your video.