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Home, Sweet Hopeless – Welcome to Troy
Jan 4th, 2016 by Blaise

Vandals #3Let me tell you about the love/hate relationship I have with Troy, my adopted hometown.

I spend a lot of time here, and I really love it. I love the people here. I love the art and nerdiness that abounds. I love the actual Victorian architecture that is just everywhere (including in my own, endlessly decaying but beautiful home). I’ve put thousands of hours into making Troy a better place over the years, working to stop the demolition of its one-of-a-kind 1914 vaudeville theater, getting dog-park legislation passed and a dog park built, going to hundreds of neighborhood and city meetings, building a makerspace, you get the idea. The people of Troy have rewarded me with actually caring about this stuff, and supporting it.

I also hate Troy, because it seems that the city regularly goes out of its way to make me want to leave. Here’s a little story as an example:

Our little family has a tradition. Every year, we drive far away for the New Year’s holiday, to spend time with close friends we rarely get to see. This year, the plan was the same. We ran into a minor (I thought) problem, in that there was to be an inch of snow the night before we left. Since I have a 4×4 truck, I pretty much ignored this issue, as even five inches is trivial to simply drive over, if we are in a rush.

Then, the morning came. Everyone on the street had an inch of snow on their property. Everyone but us, that is. We had six inches of jumbled, icy carnage covering our sidewalks and the first ten feet of our driveway, courtesy of the city’s snowplow brigade. You see, we live on a right-turn lane, meaning no cars can park in front of us, so the plows swing in to the curb, and dump an entire block’s snow on our property. Not only would this have been dangerous to drive over, it was flat-out dangerous to anyone who might have walked on our sidewalk. So I shoveled, for an hour.

I just barely had things clear enough to get moving, when the plow came by again. Since folks down the street were now awake, and had driven away, the plow collected all the previously protected snow all down the block and once again dumped all of it on our property, while traveling at about 45 miles per hour (an estimate based upon my observation and the fact that the sprayed snow made it onto our porch, 20 plus feet from the curb). This pile was nearly a foot deep, and completely covered the just cleared driveway and sidewalks, as well as most of our front walk. I was annoyed, but I got back to work, and spent yet another hour re-clearing our property.

Just as I finished, Mr Plow came by again, pushing another massive pile of snow from god-knows-where, and headed straight for us. I stood just inside our front gate, waving my shovel and yelling at him to give me a break! As he passed, and did the little jink that the plows do as they pass us and prepare to corner, which dumps all the snow in their plow right there, I realized that the driver was literally pointing and laughing at me! I was in shock, and didn’t think to get the plow’s number, but I will remember the weaselly, light-brown bearded, bespectacled face behind that windshield forever. I truly hope I never see it again, because I fear I will break my principal to never initiate violence against another person! After several minutes of fuming and fantasizing about the tortures I would devise, I got back to it, and spent another hour clearing our property.

Needless to say, with re-showering, resting, now having to make change/nap/make lunch for our toddler, etc. we were so late leaving that we had to break our trip into two days and spend an unexpected night in a motel so our little one could survive the trip!

But it gets better. When we returned tonight, we found that despite the fact that the entire block has since melted clear, our sidewalk still has massive chunks of snow sitting on it from yet another pass they must have made after we left. Even more astonishing was the snowpile that was still on the “downstream” half of our driveway, with plow lines still visible, where a plow had apparently come the wrong way down the street just to push the pile of snow that had accumulated past us at the corner up into our driveway!

But it still gets better. We also discovered that several panes of glass in our front entryway had been smashed out by the bottles of beer we found shattered across our front porch! That’s right, not only did our vacation start with hours of back-breaking labor, it ended with it too. At least an hour of cleanup, then talking to police, then papering over the broken panes, then filing an online police report because the officer they sent “couldn’t really do anything”, all while desperately trying to keep our cranky, tired-from-eight-hours-of-driving toddler awake until his bedtime!

Thanks, Troy! I hate you, but not in a metaphorical way, at the moment. Right now, I hate you with the burning rage of a thousand suns, and want you to be obliterated by an asteroid impact a week after we sell our home and get the hell out of here…

Vandals #1
Vandals #2
Vandals #3

Happy Holidays, Troy. UP YOURS!

Vandals #4

Things I Never Thought I’d Hear Myself Say…
Nov 21st, 2015 by Blaise

So at twenty months of fatherhood, I’m taking a step back to review. I had planned this to be a fluffy little romp through some funny thoughts, but as it turns out, there’s a lot of much more important stuff to talk about! (And some pretty funny thoughts).

To start, I have to wonder how a situation can be simultaneously so difficult and so enjoyable. I mean, sure, everybody talks about how only things that are a challenge are worth doing, yadda yadda, but seriously, this is a whole different level! I love being a father. I love the babbling. I love the way my boy looks at me and his mother. I love his giggles. I love watching him learn to stack blocks, and hearing him put his first sentences together, and seeing him grow like a weed. I’m deliriously happy! And yet, at the same time, I feel like I’m tied to a treadmill that only ever goes faster, with lava all around, and an angry spider-monkey on my back. On a good day.

Then, there’s my recent realization that I will likely not survive my son’s childhood. I’ve been heat-butted, scratched, kicked in the proverbial family jewels, had my eyeball sliced open, and been tripped at the top of a flight of stairs, and that’s just the stuff he did by accident! Today, as a game, when I wasn’t looking he grabbed my left pinky and twisted so hard the second knuckle popped out. Also, his silly antics and interesting attempts at pronunciation make me laugh so hard at times I think I’m going to pass out!

Now for the good stuff! I started with a really big list of dopey things I’ve found myself saying, but I decided to leave off the majority, because they were sort of expectable. I’ve winnowed it down to just the most insane things fatherhood has driven me to speak out loud in the last year or so:

  • Why is there so much snot on this sandwich?
  • Daddy isn’t angry, sweet boy! His eyes just leak when you smack him in the face with that.
  • Don’t rub bread on your mother.
  • Give me that. What is that? Oh god, oh god, oh god! What is that? Get it off!
  • Don’t stand on the dog.
  • No, that won’t fit in my ear. No, it won’t fit in your ear either. No, Mama’s night-night. OK, good luck with that!
  • Don’t lick the dog!
  • You don’t want to put that racetrack in your pants…
  • No! No! No! Don’t eat that! Don’t eat that! Don’t eat that! At least chew it…
Bad Day? Things could always be worse!
Aug 16th, 2015 by Blaise

Bad DayI always stand for everyone’s right to complain. I like to complain, myself. It’s majorly cathartic!

However, on this particular day, I need to give everybody a heads-up. By all means, feel free to complain to me about something, but if whatever it is doesn’t remotely approach the pain and terror of trying not to drop your terrified, bellowing, slick toddler while simultaneously trying not to slip and fall and also to clear your eyes and ear-canal of his stomach acid, you’ll probably get an earful yourself!

Baby Pics For Your Ooohs and Aaahs!
Jun 23rd, 2015 by Blaise

It seems I have been remiss. Apparently, in my attempt not to be that Dad who’s constantly forcing people to look at pictures of my child, I’ve actually gone too far, and deprived a number of interested readers!

In order to remedy that failure (and maybe get a couple of the more aggressively interested of you off my back!), I present the following. You may now squee:

Surferdude

Chocolate Good

Tulip Fest

I Don't Hate Water???

Elton John?

Baby’s First Words
Jun 20th, 2015 by Blaise

First WordsAnd here we are, the big milestone! Our son Dashiell has begun to master the art of speech. He’s a little late, but he jump-started by starting out withe three words, rather than the usual one.

As you’d expect, two of the three are “Mama” and “Dada” (the second whispered creepily, but hey, ya pays your money, ya takes yer chances!). The third, which I actually argue was the first of the three (of course, I only know what I myself heard), was “UhOh!” I am painfully certain that he understands this word, as he shouts it gleefully every time he pulls something off a table onto the floor or breaks something!

If there had ever been any doubt, this would be the absolute clincher. He’s my son!

Judging by my own history, there is a word of which his discovery will mean a tale of woe… “Experiment!”

First Tantrum
Jun 14th, 2015 by Blaise

I suppose it had to happen eventually…

Yesterday afternoon, our fifteen month old toddler reached yet another milestone! He lost his shit for the very first time. It seems that he had developed and implemented an intricate plan whose pivotal component involved placing a large piece of his ‘Mum Mum’ cracker in a specific spot on the kitchen floor and keeping it there for some unspecified amount of time. Immediately afterward, our bull mastiff developed and implemented his own, somewhat less intricate, plan that involved removing that cracker from the specific spot and depositing it in his own stomach.

This thwarting of his plan displeased young Dashiell no end, and he began a campaign of screaming, stomping, and penultimately, throwing said bull mastiff’s full water bowl across the room and onto Daddy’s shoes. It was all very dramatic. And messy.

I’m so… proud?

My Application to the Terrible Fathers’ Club
Apr 16th, 2015 by Blaise

Well… I suppose it had to happen eventually.

As I mentioned in my last post on the topic, our son Dashiell started walking. This is great, but also scary. REALLY. FREAKING. SCARY! It took him ten days to go from a few halting steps to this astonishing fall-recover-fall-recover process (frunning? toddle-jogging? toggling? this must have a name…) that approximates running at least well enough to make him impossible to catch if you’re more than two feet away when he starts doing it!

This milestone arrived while my wife was on her first solo trip since the first trimester of her pregnancy. Her retaking of her self-actualized ways is another wonderful thing, but it meant that my son and I were flying solo for about 8 days, so I was alone when we achieved warp-speed.

We were in the living room when he first did it. I was amazed, and immediately scrambled for the camera to get some video. As I turned back, he gave me a mischievous look, and took off in the opposite direction, directly into the sub-woofer of our speaker system! Needless to say, the speaker was unmoved. The toddler, on the other hand, came out a bit worse for wear!

He bounced off and hit the floor in a split second, at which time he immediately rolled over and started screaming. His right eye was completely obscured with blood, and it was running down his face (the blood, not the eye, you sickos!). I almost literally blacked out from the fear-response this inspired in me. I was quite certain my child had, due to my clearly incompetent supervision, lost his sight. Until he blinked the blood out, and I saw the eye was quite intact, that is…

Still in shock, but no longer quite in a panic, I managed with one hand to simultaneously carry him and apply pressure to the gouge on the orbital bone just to the outside of his right eye, while one-handedly rummaging through first-aid supplies. I got him cleaned and sterilized, with bleeding mostly stopped, in about ten minutes. The screaming (oh god, the screaming!) continued for another thirty, while I anxiously waited for a call-back from the pediatrician’s office. Amazingly, after all that wailing, all at once he just stopped, smiled up at me, and fell asleep!

After seeing a picture and giving me instructions for how to periodically wake him and check for concussion just in case ( a sleep-full nigh did not follow these events), the doctor pronounced this “nothing to worry about, just the first of many minor injuries.”

I want that to make me feel better. I really do…

First Boo Boo

OUCH!!!

[The shiner lasted four days, and at nine, the scar is almost invisible]

Baby-chievements!
Mar 29th, 2015 by Blaise

First Birthday

Yay, I’m One!

It’s been a good long while since I last posted about our son, Dashiell. Partly, this is because around the first of the year I took a contract building control systems for Volvo on behalf of GE, and partly this is because the amazing, big changes slowed down for a bit!

It seems that once you get past 8 months or so, the rate of new “Holy crap! What just happened?” moments slacks off considerably, settling in to slow, incremental change for a while. That’s a good thing, by the way! You don’t realize how much a little routine means to you until you have none at all for the better part of a year, believe me… However, it seems things have “hotted up” on the baby front again, so it’s time for another installment!

For a number of reasons, Sabrina had to start weaning Dash in January, and it was a fairly quick and easy process, probably because he’d already started eating real food with the arrival of eight teeth. Our doctor told us that given all the food he was eating, we should switch from formula to whole milk, which was also a painless process, so that by the end of February, he was fully transitioned from breast-feeding to all real foods and gaining weight!

Then March came, and all the interesting stuff started happening. Of course, there was the first birthday party, and Dash’s discovery of his love for swimming in frosting; exploring the house in a walker; first year shots (we’re finally somewhat protected from measles, so I’m much less likely to feel compelled to murder any anti-vaxxers now!); and standing up on his own without support.

Then, last night, it finally happened. Dash stood up and took his first steps! And we caught it on video!!! It was only six steps, but it really happened. And we laughed. And cried. Dash was a little confused…

Then, this morning, for the very first time, we were treated to the simultaneously hilarious and frightening sight of a one-year-old in a walker terrorizing a 120 pound bull mastiff by chasing him around the dining room trying to pet him!

 

So long, Leonard!
Feb 27th, 2015 by Blaise

SpockI’m having an emotional afternoon. Leonard Nimoy has passed, and it’s hitting me unexpectedly hard! Generally speaking, I’m no fan-boy, but Leonard Nimoy has always been something special for me, and now he’s gone…

I was never the most rabid of Star Trek fans. Like many of my trekkie compatriots, I came to my fandom for Star Trek via syndication. I wasn’t even born yet when Star Trek was cancelled! I was too young to go to the early conventions, and by the time I was old enough, they were massive events I could rarely afford to go to. I don’t have the fanatic chops of many, but I watched those shows over and over, and dreamed. When I was six or seven, my mother, who was also a fan, at least of the (at the time) very pretty William Shatner, asked me who my favorite character on the show was. I immediately answered “Spock”.

She argued with me. “But Captain Kirk is so brave and cool!”
I answered, “Yeah but Spock is smart.”
“But isn’t Spock kind of boring? He doesn’t really do anything.”
“He wins with his brain. And anyway, he doesn’t run around doing dumb things that need to be fixed, he just fixes other people’s dumb things.”

It’s one of my clearest early memories. Of course, I liked Captain Kirk too, I just connected more with Spock. He meant more to me.

You see, he looked like my Dad. Not the pointy ears or the makeup, of course (although that would have been really cool, in retrospect), but the man underneath. Leonard Nimoy could have been my uncle. Also like my dad, Spock was always the smartest person in the room, but never seemed to fully connect with those around him, even when he was the center of attention. They were born less than a year apart (and strangely, have died less than a year apart, of diseases caused by their long, regular use of tobacco), wore similar styles of clothing (my Dad was a fairly stylish man for his day), and both had powerful, riveting baritone voices when they spoke, voices that could quiet a room and get everyone’s attention without being raised.

Why this mattered was that unlike the controlled, unflappable Spock, my dad was an alcoholic. I didn’t know that, and wouldn’t have known what the word even meant at the time. In fact, I was well into my twenties before I really realized that both my parents had been alcoholics for most of my childhood. In the Seventies and Eighties, everybody’s parents came home after work and had a few drinks. It was a cultural thing, a sign of affluence. In my parents’ case, it just extended well beyond that first couple, a slow, quiet dissolution as the evening progressed, something that was just “normal”. What it meant, however, I knew all too well. It was an inability to control emotions when things changed unexpectedly. It was a helplessness when it came it identifying and fixing problems. It was watching my Dad, to this day the smartest person I’ve ever known personally, squander that intelligence sitting alone in his office or at the kitchen table, either staring into space or starting discussions about very deep topics with my mother or me that were seemingly designed to turn into fights where really mean things were said, and self-images were crushed.

In my mind, I suppose Spock/Nimoy came to represent a sort of ideal version of my Dad. All the good without the bad. Of course that was completely unrealistic! Spock the character was deeply flawed, and Nimoy the person was just a nice seeming actor of apparently normal intelligence who came across in writing and interviews as quiet, humorous, and relatively pleasant. But in the mind of a child, all the best parts got rolled together into that ideal, and I kinda loved him.

Today he passed away, just like my father did last year. One of the first pictures I saw of him once it was announced showed him, gaunt and wearing an oxygen tube, looking almost exactly like my father the last time I saw him sitting up and lucid.

At that moment, I realized everything I just wrote, and it all just crashed into me like a tidal wave.

So long Leonard! I never really knew you, but I’ll miss you desperately anyway…

The Cord is Cut; or How Time Warner Killed TV
Nov 22nd, 2014 by Blaise

cutting-cable-tvOur family is officially un-cabled. After a year with only basic cable television service, we’ve finally gone all the way.

It started with HBO. Six years ago, Time Warner raised the price for HBO yet again, so I got rid of it. It felt good. Then came four years of fighting them over constantly increasing prices for the rest of cable. Virtually every month, the price would increase, or a new fee would appear or get bigger. One by one, we dropped all the extra packages, ’til we were down to just “standard”.

At that point, the war over data service began. Service would drop or be severely degraded for hours at a time. Their service folks told us repeatedly that everything was fine on their end, and that I must have my router (or, ya know, something) misconfigured. If I wanted a house call, it would cost me dearly. I pointed out to them that not only was I a professional who’d been working with networking equipment since before there was a RoadRunner service, but that I had beta tested their own service for them (paying for the privilege), during which time I helped the techs at their local office learn how to program their own hardware! I had tested everything on my end extensively, and was quite sure it wasn’t my problem, but they weren’t going to help unless I paid them $100!

This phase finally ended when, after months of complaints and long conversations, I finally convinced one of their support guys to walk through everything I’d done on my end with me in a two-hour marathon, before he finally said, “Huh, it sure sounds like everything’s fine on your end, let me just check something real quick.” Turns out, my cable modem was the one I’d originally used with them while beta-testing their service some fourteen years earlier, and just before the trouble started, they had made changes on their end that were incompatible with the old hardware. Their hardware. I replaced it myself the next day, physically making the round trip to their office and installing and configuring it myself. After that, I spent a year trying to get them to refund me for the lost service (early on, I’d written a script that logged whenever my network could contact the cable modem but not any of a list of internet sites, so I could track downtime), and pretty much failed.

Needless to say, my opinion of Time Warner has not been sterling since these travails, but since the government saw fit a) to allow only one TV/data service via cable, and b) to allow Time Warner to sign a monopolistic agreement with Verizon that they would no longer install new service in areas where the other already held a monopoly, we’ve been stuck with them. Between 2010 and 2012, we fought a dozen battles with TW over increasing prices and decreasing services, by the end of which I was just done. I issued them an ultimatum, “fix it, or I’ll cancel cable altogether”. Amazingly, this worked, for a while. They dropped our monthly costs by almost 20 dollars, and refunded me some money (not much, maybe $50, but still). We were happy as clams for about six months, until the bills started increasing again.

So last year, once again, I raised hell with them, made more threats, and when they wouldn’t budge, we cancelled “standard cable”, shaving $30 a month off our bill to compensate for increased prices and fees. I even returned our cable box, relying on the “Clear QAM” signals for the digital channels we wanted, saving another five dollars a month. Once again, everything was great, until…

This last round of disservice started with a new charge, specifically a monthly rental fee for our cable modem. It was annoying, more than expensive, but after it all, it pissed me off pretty good. Then, prices for our data service started going up, while the digital channels we were paying for were replaced with digital signals that only carried standard-def channels in a little box in the middle of the screen, with either black bars or advertising wrapped around the outside. Nine months ago, I called to issue another ultimatum. Amazingly, TW actually responded well this time, and offered to reduce our monthly payment by ten dollars, while adding on their “turbo” service (an extra 5 megabits on our data service) for free. I took it, and things were great again (at this point, we really weren’t watching TV at all, anyway).

Things were great until three months ago, that is, when we started getting charged an extra $10 a month for turbo service. It took us a couple of months to notice, and when I called last month, I was told “Oh, well, that was a promotional price that has now ended!”

SB6141So, in a final purging, I found a clearance sale on the best cable modem on TW’s approved list, the SB6141, and bought it. It arrived Wednesday, I installed it and got it registered with TW Thursday, and yesterday, I took the old modem to TW’s office, made sure we wouldn’t be charged rent on it any more, gave everyone in the office an ear full approximating this very rant, and turned off cable TV forever.

We will now pay $17 less per month, until the next battle begins. We are cable TV free, and realize that we haven’t watched any in nearly a year, so it really doesn’t matter (Hulu and Netflix pretty much cover it). Time Warner made this happen. If there were another true broadband service available, we’d have dropped that too.

It’s a hell of a way to run a business…

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