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.

Be My Valentine

My Dear Wife

We have been together since 1997, and it has been a fantastic adventure.  I’m just as madly in love today, as when we first met.  Perhaps even more.

You are the mother of our beautiful children, and an awesome friend.

Happy Valentine’s Day


The Unwanted Visit of Jon-Ass

gingergrizzlyIt has been a very unusually mild winter on the East coast so far, with Christmas day hitting 70 Fahrenheit (21 Celsius).  Most days in December had blue skies and we didn’t even start the oil furnace.

I seriously considered preparing the Christmas feast on the BBQ, light the fire pit and then do some insane Marshmallow rice pudding creation for dessert.  In the end I opt’d for the traditional dinner in the oven.

People really enjoyed the mild winter and I was careful not to jinx it.  But, deep inside I knew we would get snow, and it would be back to snow clearing the ridiculous long driveway.

The news started to report about strange weather behaviours and snow was falling in Nashville.  Our local weather-guy forecasted the arrival of a Nor-Eastern storm, bringing a lot of snow.

Stage is set for the arrival of Jonas (aka Jon-Ass)

Not sure who comes up with these storm names, but Jonas Brothers were indeed an annoying phenomenon … they came, stayed for a brief moment and left us with annoying songs.  And, the equally Jonas Berggren who gave us Ace of Base.  You get the point, Jonas is annoying!

Girls at Work

Late Friday evening the first flurries were dropping, and by the time we woke up we had about an inch.  Not much, but the sky was only getting started, and the intensity grew.

By 1 pm we had about 8 inches and the girls braved the blizzard to go hit the slopes (i.e. our silly long and steep driveway.

I stepped outside a few times, but each time my beard was filled with icicles, bringing back memories of my viking days sailing around the fjords of Alaska.  Back then, we only went to shore to pillage and sleep with the locals.

By Sunday morning, the snow had stopped falling, and the total accumulation was closer to 16-18 inches.

It looked absolutely stunning.  The white landscape, the silence and the powdery snow was only disturbed by the local wild life.

BUT, looks can be very deceiving, especially as we have a stupid long driveway.  It’s paved, but that does not make it any easier to clear.  Thankfully I have it almost down to a science.

Here’s the snow clearing recipe:

  • clear 95% with snow-blower; this will cause you to be covered with snow all over, resembling the abominable snowman.  It’s rather painless exercise, but wrists may become sore as you push engine forward.
  • scrape the remaining layer manually, to see black tarmac; this is a painful activity, which will keep on giving for several hours after you are done. However, if the sun is out, this will result in quicker melting
  • sprinkle the magic; by far the easiest job, and one you will have to compete for with the rest of the family.  You simply sprinkle some snow/ice melting salt over the areas, to remove the remaining snow.

Although, it also make you feel like a retired WWII veteran.  You back is killing you.  Muscles you did not know you had will ache. Some exposed body parts will be numb due to cold and limited blood circulation.

Two hours of hypothermia, white knuckles, icicles in beard and eyebrows, can’t-feel’my-knees sensation and frostbitten eyeballs.  It’s worth it man!

My driveway is now spotless.  Pride of the neighbourhood.  I’m the driveway-snowclearing-hulk … or just the ginger grizzly 🙂

AFTER (and I found three cars)
AFTER (and I found three cars)

Me, Panic & Chagall

auction-hammer2016 was kicked off with a liquidation sale, hoping to get our hands on some nice rugs for the house and perhaps a few other impressive pieces.  We were expecting good deals.

We drove 2 hours to the auction house and were greeted by a large room filled with art, rugs and furniture.  Not too sure where this loot came from, but the auction was sponsored by US Treasury.  I can only suspect that the goods were seized from bankruptcies, illicit activities and perhaps even Joaquín Guzmán‘s lavish warehouse.

Either way, we walked around and inspected all the goods carefully, to prepare ourselves for the auction.  We spotted a few nice rugs and took our seats in the audience.

Impressive art pieces were sold off which included original sketches and paintings from Chagall, Picasso, Dali, Miro and many other famous artist (living and dead).  It was a fairly intimidating to sit among a small group of people who had no problems forking out $3-15 thousand for these pieces.  Many were a steal for these buyers as they would go for 10 times more in art auctions.

My wife and I glanced at each other throughout the first hour and were both amazed with the bidding and purchases.  With these prices, we would not be able to buy anything, but we stayed for a bit longer.

Suddenly a line of art pieces were presented by Chagall, whom my wife really like.  It weren’t the originals, but limited lithographs of the original.  I could tell my wife was impressed with these pieces.

The liquidator offered the line (4 paintings) and the person winning the bid would get first choice.

Without having control of my right arm, I suddenly raised my pad to indicate I wanted to buy a piece.  I identified the piece and it was accepted.  And, according to auction rules, there was no backing out.

Me and My Chagall

I had no idea what came over me. I vaguely remember having minor panic attack when it went down. I must have been possessed by the Dark Lord, or some X-Men mind control.

My wife was utterly surprised (not as much as I) and had witnessed the whole event in slow-motion.  She wasn’t mad. Phew!!

At first I thought I had bought a poster in a frame, and was extremely pissed at myself for trying to impress my wife of 14 years.  What the hell was I thinking?  We came to buy rugs and now I was the happy owner of a Chagall lithography.  Very limited edition with a certification of authenticity.

This was insane, but yet a cool feeling.  It was by no means as expensive as the other pieces.  My wife was impressed and gave me a sexy wink. AND, a strict warning followed by a sucker punch not to do it again 🙂

This was our first and probably last auction.

However, I have now joined the art collector group, although this piece will be able to fund my kids’ college tuition.  Might cover the books for year 1.

Homemade Beer Brewer

braumeister… or Braumeister as we call them in Germanic language, given the old beer making skill was kicked off at a larger scale in Germany in the 13th century.

“But from whichever it is made, whether from oats, barley or wheat, it harms the head and the stomach, it causes bad breath and ruins the teeth, it fills the stomach with bad fumes, and as a result anyone who drinks it along with wine becomes drunk quickly; but it does have the property of facilitating urination and makes one’s flesh white and smooth.”  – Scully, Terence. 1995. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages

viking drinking hornAs part of my native viking roots, I always had the urge to make the God’s nectar myself.  Drinking with Thor himself from a traditional viking drinking horn.

That day was realised when my lovely Inca flower (wife) presented me with a beer making kit for Christmas.  It wasn’t mjød (mead), but awesome black Irish stout mix.

I rarely consider the skill and patience required to make beer.  It’s just something that I enjoy drinking.  Pop a few cold bottles or cans on the BBQ table, and they quell your thirst.  It goes well with most dishes, expect deserts 🙂

Hear ye! Hear ye!  Making beer is not that simple.  I can testify to that after having kicked off a batch of the Irish stout in my kitchen.  Thankfully the kit comes with all the necessary gear and instructions for making a gallon of Irish stout.

Personally, I prefer to dress like duck dynasty to make it more authentic, or just because I had not showered for a week. Any little ingredient makes it more personal 🙂

My photos only show until the fermentation phase, which takes 2-3 weeks.  Once that has completed, I will share the verdict.