Monday, January 30, 2012

3 more reasons to hate Monday

Much to my immense pleasure and fleeting chagrin, three of my kids are enrolled in five different sessions of two different sports at present. Fortunately, only three of those sports, at the moment, have any sort of practice, and of those three, I am only helping to coach two. And all three of those practices are scheduled for Monday nights, every Monday night, for at least the next 6 weeks.

This poses a much bigger problem for my wife, logistically, since all I really have to do is get to the ones that I'm coaching, which are back to back and in the same location (karma's gonna make me pay for that someday), but it will be problematic for her since she'll have to leave work early to my three little ones picked up and get my 5 year old to basketball practice at the Y by 5:30*. Once that is over she'll get those three fed, then bring my 4 year old to meet me at 7:30 for soccer practice (which starts right as 5th grade basketball practice for my 11 year old, which started at 6, is ending), then take the three kids that aren't my 4 year old home (and sometimes to their dad's house), feed the ones that haven't eaten yet, make sure that they've all got any leftover homework done, and put them to bed. When soccer practice is over, I'll bring the last one home, and she'll probably put him to bed while I eat.

And you thought coaching little kids was tough. If you bump into my wife on any Tuesdays in the next month and a half or so, I'd probably be nice to her if I were you.

* And who schedules practice at 5:30? I'd guess even stay-at-home moms would have a hard time getting kids anywhere at that time, but when you work 45 minutes away from a school that is another 20 minutes away from practice, you just can't work until 5 like Dolly Parton requests.

Monday, January 23, 2012

When it freezing rains, it pours.

My grandpa passed away last week (RIP Grandpa Graham). He had been in the hospital and/or hospice for a couple of weeks, which is actually just about the perfect amount of time (you get to say your goodbyes and come to grips but it doesn't really drag on). He was comfortable and at peace when he passed. Since then, things have gone a little wonky for me.

As a bid-ness man, I already had travel plans set for the weekend (to San Antonio for a user group summit), as well as separate plans for this week (a work trip to Utah), capped off by even more plans for next weekend (skiing in Wisconsin). As Grandpa's funeral was scheduled for Saturday back in Canton, Ohio, I immediately cancelled my trip to San Antonio (the second year in a row I cancelled said trip at the last minute) so I could pack up the family truckster after school Friday and head home for the funeral.

We knew there was some bad weather, and that it would be slow-going, so we pricelined a hotel in Columbus and set out. After it took us 3 hours to get an hour outside of town, we decided to pull back. The ice was so bad I literally had to keep moving because if I came to a complete stop on the exit ramp I would start sliding. I've never seen that.

In any event we turned back and, with the kids done driving and having already been promised a night in a hotel we ended up paying for a second room not terrifically far from our house. The bright side? Hotel KFC.
Lucas was still not feeling great from the car.

So, at the end of the weekend, I've lost my Grandpa, I've missed the funeral AND a work trip, I've paid for two hotel rooms on the same night, and I've been hugely stressed about all of it.

On the bright side? Got to go swimming with my kids at the hotel and made it back just in time to see my oldest's last Pinewood Derby race ever.

That's an award winner.

Back on the not-bright side? Missed my flight to Utah this morning*. Luckily I got on a later one, but I made my travelling companions take the early flight because it made more sense (sorry Matt and Sanjay) so I feel awful (really, really sorry).

Rest in peace, Grandpa.

* No, I didn't sleep through my alarm. My phone was off**. My phone had just died when I went to bed so I plugged it in. I have done this one hundred times before, and every time my iPhone turns itself back on once it has enough juice, and I was so tired I literally fell asleep before the little thing started spinning. Not this morning. Woke up just in time to realize my flight was taking off.

** Others (including Matt) had warned me off of trusting the iPhone alarm. In my own defense, it had never let me down before, and I have a hard time learning from the misfortune of others.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Keeping Tabs on my life

I have no idea when we will ever run out of snappy post titles, but on with the show. Around Christmas I determined that I needed a Tablet-like device to make my life more simple and happy (and my inner nerd was feeling a bit depressed). So with that I went on a journey to find the perfect tablet for me and my family should I die.

As I geared up for the quest I knew 1 thing: I didn't wan't an iPad. Its not that I have anything against Apple, I just don't really like to support companies whose products don't ever go on sale. Its kind of like going to a bar from 4pm-7pm that doesn't have a happy hour. I mean if can get the same functionality (or lack thereof in the Happy Hour scenario) with a similar user experience for less cost, its a no-brainer. So with the new less expensive tablets that were hitting the market in this time-frame, I was stoked. So I went to my local Best Buy to try some out.

At first I was convinced that it would be a race between the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet. I mean they have been getting a ton of good press and they are a fraction of the cost of an iPad or Xoom. The both ruun on Android (kind of). So, after much debate on the 2, I decided for the Nook Tablet. My thought was that I liked the interface on it a little better than the Fire, the keyboard was easier to use, and if I ever started reading books on it, my mother-in-law works for B&N. So I brought it home to play with. (Oh and really quick, big props to Best Buy for having a good return policy. I was able to return the thing by January 26th if I didn't like it. It would have been like 2 months of playing and I could have returned it.)

Why can't you cut and paste?

When I brought it home I really liked how small & light it was. It switched between apps really quickly all that good stuff. However, to get an app on the thing is a bit difficult. What I mean by that is this. The app store has a limited amount of apps, but the ones you would want to use all cost money. It really boasted a good app store but in actuality it sucked and everything had a price tag attached to it. That was annoying but the browser was nice and fast so I could accommodate on that. That was until I tried to cut and paste a link to share on Twitter. There was no damn Cut/Paste functionality on the thing. I even Googled it to make sure I wasn't an idiot. I was not an idiot. No. Cut. No. Paste. Its like a the Happy Hour mentioned above not having beer. Its basic functionality. Dumb.

I can cut AND paste.
The next day, I went back to Best Buy and checked out a couple more Tablets. There were enough things about the Fire I didn't like that I knew I didn't want that. So, after even more debate, I ended up with the Toshiba Thrive. It was running a newer version of Android (which 5 days later I was able to upgrade to the most recent 3.2 Honeycomb). The App Store is waaay better because its actually Google's. You can just do more with the device... LIKE CUT & PASTE.

After about a week with both devices at home, I decided to bite the $150 Cut & Paste Bullet and I kept the Thrive. Since I have been using it for the past couple months I have been really putting it to the test and it along with its Apps are doing quite well.

One of the biggest pros of the device is the presence of a USB, Firewire, & HDMI out. It also boasts being the only tablet (that I am aware of) that the end user can actually swap out the battery. Pretty crazy when you think about it that none of these Tablet devices actually have these features.

Not everything is a shiny bag of bacon with this Tablet though. Mostly it is how a few apps perform on it (like Google+). I am not sure it is the OS or the App itself though. Maybe I will research that instead of work... hmm.

OK so speaking of work, I have to get back and do my job that pays me money. Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions about the devices seen here or life in general.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Y can't everyone get customer service right?

After a relatively frustrating experience signing my two younger boys for basketball at the local YMCA, I was forced to send in the following email.

I just signed two of my boys up for basketball at your Shady Springs, St. Peters Y. The staff was extremely helpful, but I was really caught off guard when they told me how much it would be. 
 I am not a member of your Y (the RecPlex is literally at the end of my street), but I love your basketball programs. I was going to sign my 5 year old, but on your website ( it said, in effect, that the Rookies program, that my 4 year old could do, would basically be an extra $25. I asked him if he wanted to play, he said yes, so I told him I would. 
When I called in to register, I was told that I would be charged the full $99 for my second child. for 6 hours of basketball clinics which I wouldn't have paid for except I already told him that it I would because your website told me it would only be $25. 
I'm very displeased.
Honestly, I didn't expect much of a response. And if got one at all I wouldn't expect that I'd be very satisfied by it. This is, after all, an enormous non-profit organization, which means it will be pretty bureaucratic, which usually means no one is really enabled to help. Also, I didn't have a problem with their pricing (hey, it's their business) but the website was completely unclear. 

I am very pleased to report that I was wrong.

Less than 24 hours after sending in that email, I received a call from someone that sounded genuinely sorry about the mix-up. He said that the website had already been updated to be far more clear about this policy (and I checked the site while on the phone with him -- it was definitely now clear that the $25 second kid was only for members) and he went ahead and changed my total payment to be $124, which is what the website had previously led me to believe (this was, in my opinion, really above and beyond). 

In the end, the YMCA was really able to turn this situation around for me, and I wanted to make sure to broadcast that as message as far as I could. Don't forget that your local YMCA is a great place to get started on belated resolutions and to help make your community a stronger place

Friday, January 6, 2012

We hereby resolve

Seems like this is the time of year where everyone makes fun of people who make New Year's Resolutions. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but New Year's resolutions make a heck of a lot of sense.

Why? Because they happen during the post-holiday lull. I can barely remember to dress myself during the holidays. And I'm not the only one. You think these were planned?
OK, maybe this was not the best example.
In any event, it makes sense to try to make life changes during a lull. You don't want to try a new diet during Thanksgiving and Christmas, when as a parent you basically run on the neighbor's rum cake, the cookie crumbs  your kids leave behind, and whatever popcorn tin a vendor drops off at your office water cooler. Your best chance of success is during a period relatively unencumbered with other demands, when you can change your normal behaviors, not your egg-nog inspired abnormal behaviors. 

One thing I don't agree with is starting them on January 1st. Trying to start working out at 5 am and eating nothing but bran while you are nursing the biggest hangover of the year just doesn't make good sense. Top yourself off with biscuits and gravy, slide on into a soul food stupor, and try to change your life on the 2nd. 

Next year, anyway. I'm sure you've already blown this year.