Days of Pinewood Thunder

Pinewood-Derby-LogoI’m new to the Boy Scout movement, and all the activities that comes with it.  We felt it would be a great idea to join the local den, allowing my son to interact with other boys his age.  And, it has been absolutely brilliant for him.

Being born with Down Syndrome, it is sometimes not easy to fit in.  But, the boys in his den have been super.  They involve him, cheer for him and hold hands with him.  He absolutely loves it.

When the opportunity arose to participate in the cult like event, ‘Pinewood Derby‘, we simply had to sign-up.  I had no idea what it actually was.  Reality soon hit us!

All boys were given a small piece of pinewood, four nails and wheels.  Instructions were simple.  Racers had the same starting point = a piece of wood!  You cut, sand, carve, scratch, bite, kick, spit, paint, meditate to slowly shape it into a super fast and awesome pinewood racer.

One minor catch.  It can only weigh 5 ounces.  Anything above 5 will be disqualified and anything less would be slower.  The key is to get the car to weigh exactly 5 ounces … nothing more, nothing less.

There’s a huge industry behind pinewood racing with online shops, communities, competitions, tips, tricks and plenty of how to.  Here’s one site I found.

How hard could it be to build a fast pinewood racer?

monster pinweood racerWhere I took a slight detour was when I  wrongly assumed that the boys were building the cars themselves, with some minor supervision from their fathers.  Basically provide parental cover for usage of heavy machinery, saws, drills, quantum physics and a bit of NASA research.

I’m a full-time employee at a major firm, and honestly find it difficult to spend much time on this activity.  However, I sat aside time every evening to prepare the car.  Spending 30-40 minutes with my son, while trying to get it ready for the weigh-in.

I was very proud.  My son’s car looked like something he had created.  It had rough edges, one funny wheel, some strange colours and yet elegant and aerodynamic.  A masterpiece the Dodge brothers (John and Horace) would be proud of.  There was a remote chance that he could win the race.  The pinewood racer had his personal touches.

On the weigh-in, the tensions were high.  Every father in the room were anxiously looking at the competition.  Smirks, taunts and even a few “better luck next time” were thrown around the room.  In one corner, the pit crews were working to bring the car to the desired 5 ounces.

Suddenly, a scream echoed from the weigh-in area.  The master scale was off by .2 ounce, which meant some cars had to be adjusted or face the disqualification … wash-out lane was being lit up, and one boy was whimpering while holding his father’s hand.

Battle stations!!!  Distraught fathers rushed to the pit crews to add or remove weights.  Boys were screaming at their fathers to hurry up, despite having several hours before the weigh-in finished.  And of course we all made it 🙂

All race cars were securely locked away until the event, ensuring no father could apply some magic to their car.  Now it was just a matter of waiting for the day to arrive.

Technical Affair

elcoIt was an odd feeling when I drove my trusted El Camino to another mechanic.  Ever since I bought the beast, I have been seeing the same mechanic.  He knew her inside out and treated her really well.  I even got a discount on different services, and sometimes a freebie.

But, having moved 20 miles away, I felt it was difficult to commit to a long distance relationship, and had to look at alternative offerings.

Recently I was forced to going to another mechanic.  One of my tires was flat and it was clear I needed new tires.

I frantically searched for local mechanics and read all the reviews, before finally deciding to go meet the new prospective mechanic.  It was almost like a real interview during the first visit. I simply had to get a feel for the new place before trusting them with the beast.

The date was settled and I brought the El Camino to the shop.  At first I was reluctant to hand over the keys, and I suddenly burst out “change her oil too“.  Not too sure what happened, but I dropped my guards and opened up.  The mechanic smiled and I went home.

A few hours later I got the call.  I could pick her up.

It was like I had cheated on my mechanic, who probably was wondering what he had done wrong since I hadn’t been back from months.  Is it normal to feel guilty about changing mechanic?

I consider this a one-off affair and hope my trusted mechanic will take us back!  It was just an oil change and new tires on the front.  It wasn’t serious 🙂

The Mechanic 2 Resurrection Movie

Nowhere Near-Death Experince

Backyard BBQ 2The joys of being a house owner comes hundred fold when sitting on the back porch smelling the BBQ aroma of frying meats and having a glass of home (almost) brewed moonshine. All while the kids are playing yard games, wife is standing in the sunbeams gloving of utter gorgeousness and Mumford & Sons‘ tunes are streaming from the bluetooth speaker.  Weather is of course fantastic, warm, but not flesh scorching.

To be absolutely honest, being a home owner can certainly suck at times.  There’s always something that has to be fixed and staff in the local Home Depot are becoming your only social life.  Water leakage, door handles sticking, shower head breaking off, toilet clogged due to excessive toilet paper usage by 5-year-old, shower door dropping off ledge and not to forget the outdoor areas.

You know you are in trouble socially when Home Depot staff are befriending you on Facebook, and greeting you at the local ShopRite.

The latter can be an adventure, especially if you own a small forest like we do.  We never know what we might find and if it is from an unsolved crime scene.

A few days ago I decided to put on my responsible house owner and father hats on, and do some manly stuff around the house – literally around the house, as I needed to cut the grass, blow some leaves, pull some weeds and pick up dog poop.

Two dogs equals a large amount of natural fertilizer kids step in!

The cool thing about this was that I got to play with all my man toys; lawn mower, weed wacker and backpack blower … all my favorite power tools that makes me feel masculine.

sweatingThis was the first time I was attempting to cut our lawn, and something that had not been done since last fall, when the previous owner vacated the premises.  It had grown a little wild to say the least, to a point where I had to empty the grass cutting collector after 2-3 runs.  The grass for thick and moist, blocking the flow at times, and it was physical labor my body was not use to, and I was sweating profoundly.

Suffering from acute dehydration, I knew I had to stay hydrated and emptied a few gallons of cold water, but it was still very hot out.

After my lawn adventures, I moved on to weed trimming, followed by clearing leaves and grass cuttings with my power backpack blower.

It was an awesome 3 hours of solid work, enjoying the great outdoors, and I was proud of my achievements as I sat on my deck look (and smelling) the newly cut lawn.

However, something was slightly off.  My body was tingling and I was a little dizzy.  It was a very strange feeling and something I haven’t felt since Shaun T hammered my body to smithereens.  Not a very pleasant feeling.

But, I got a deserved shower and we headed off for dinner out with the family.  Thankfully my wife insisted on driving and as we went on driving my poor body started to show further signs of exhaustion.

heatstrokeIt was probably a combination of exhaustion, dehydration and lack of food that caused my body to react this way.  Or, just the fact that I’m getting older and perhaps this was a near-death experience.  I was seeking comfort in my family, but at the same time attempting to hold up a strong appearance for my kids.  Dad is doing just fine!!

Knowing my body fairly well, which I should after 40+ years, I simply needed to replenish my batteries.  What better way than eating spicy Mexican food, flushing it down with full blown non-diet Coke?

Gradually my body was recovering, although it took much longer than anticipated and I have come to the realization that I’m not a a young man anymore.  It was pretty obvious that I had a nowhere near-death experience.  Any man in my age would suffer from 3 hours of heavy gardening work, despite a good friend of mine completed the Spartan Race as #10 in his (our) age group, which is a lot more demanding than gardening.

Gotta go!  Shaun T is calling me on my cell!

Failing to connect to work

cisco-logoNothing worse than working from home and not being able to connect to the company network using Cisco AnyConnect.

I was recently working from home, but encountered really annoying error when launching Cisco AnyConnect “Failed to initialize connection subsystem”.  And, the help section in the Cisco desktop application is not helping – it’s actually slightly ridiculous.

Thanks for the internet I found the solution … thanks to one of the awesome tech dudes.

Here are the steps that were suggested and which resolved my connectivity challenge:

  1. Close the Cisco AnyConnect Window and the taskbar mini-icon
  2. Right click vpnui.exe in the “Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client” folder. (I have it in “C:\Program Files (x86)\Cisco\Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client\”
  3. Click on the “Run compatibility troubleshooter” button
  4. Choose “Try recommended settings”.
  5. The wizard suggests Windows 8 compatibility.
  6. Click “Test Program”.  This will open the program.
  7. Close
  8. Some people may need to repeat the above steps for vpnagent.exe. That is the local service that supports the client user interface.

To be honest, this only took a few minutes and I was able to work again.  And, I believe this is now added to Windows 8.1 patch.