Saturday, April 29, 2017

Enter Sandman - Mariano Rivera Day

A funny thing happened on the way to Julia's Challenger League baseball game today. The greatest relief pitcher in baseball history showed up and pitched an inning. OK, it wasn't a surprise...
Rivera addresses the crowd

Apparently Mariano has a connection to some local charitable organizations through his Mariano Rivera Foundation. Earlier in the day there was a 1st annual Mariano Rivera 5k run, after which he would hang out and pitch at the special needs Challenger game.
Rivera and Julia's Challenger team

Honestly, I don't think any of these kids had any idea who this guy was, but many of the parents did. Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the game, and a sure future Hall of Famer. He has the most Saves in MLB history, the most games finished, the lowest ERA in post-season history, and the most Saves in post-season history. Pretty much all you could ask for in a relief pitcher (even if he did play for the hated Yankees).
Julia and Rivera

He was a really nice guy, and the event was very low key. I can't imagine him doing a similar thing in the New York city area and not being mobbed. As it was, there weren't many people at the event that didn't have a reason to be there, and there was nobody I saw asking for autographs. He chatted with various people, and took a lot of pictures, but it was all very respectful and laid back.

For me, I can chalk this up as a random brush with greatness. Based on this act of kindness alone, I now like the guy. Even if he was a Yankee...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

End of an Era

Growing up, we spent countless summer weekends at my grandparents' summer place on the Sassafras River on the upper eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. It is safe to say that I have more happy memories tied to this place than to any other on earth. And that is saying something, given that I have had the great good fortune to be one of those lucky people to have had a happy childhood, youth, young adulthood (and adulthood for that matter).

Brother Dave and I, and many of our friends over the years, swam like fish. Boated. Fished. Learned to water ski. Stayed up way too late and got up way too early. Got stitches. Threw baseballs. Played with those big metal lawn darts that are illegal now. Played badminton. And volleyball. Flashlight tag at night. Searched for indian arrow heads (finding some). Got fish hooks stuck in places where fish hooks shouldn't get stuck. Wandered off in a row boat for hours on end. Snuck a few beers when we were older. In short, we had a childhood. And a pretty wonderful one at that.
Kids fishing on the pier

As for the house itself, it was built in the 19-teens as a two family fishing and hunting lodge. My grandfather bought it in the late 1950's. He added a second story, and a bulkhead along the waterline where there had been beach before. Over the years a series of renovations were done. These were well-intentioned but not particularly well-planned or well-executed. The floor plan got...odd. The plumbing and electrical systems were overmatched. Of greater concern was the fact that the house was built on a foundation of nothing very substantial. We used to laugh that if you went down into the little basement area and looked out through the crawl spaces, you would see that the only thing holding up the house was a few cinder blocks, a couple of stumps and a few little posts. Sadly, this was not really an exaggeration.
Fishing off the bulkhead at dusk

All of which led to periodic discussions of rebuilding the house. As in knocking it down and starting over. My grandparents passed in 1984 and 1999, and my mom has been the owner of the house since then. For a long time, the idea of demolishing the old house was mentioned from time to time, but not seriously considered. Dad didn't see the value in the cost (understandable), and Mom couldn't bear the thought of knocking down the house that had been so important to all of us (also understandable).

As is the case with the passing of time, things change, and to skip ahead, the house that my grandfather referred to as the Triangle Lodge (due to the triangle shaped lot that the house sat on), is no more.  After the better part of a year of studies, applications, public hearings and finally permits, demolition began a week or so ago.
Beginning the tear-down

A few days later, nothing was left but the last few remnants of rubble from the tear-down. As excited as I am about the prospect of a nice new modern house that will be a pleasure to stay in, and that will more readily allow my kids to have many of the great experiences that I had here, there is also a sadness. A very deep sadness.
Where a special house used to be

The old house, for all its increasingly hard to live with limitations, is (was) the summer house of my childhood. The original sections of the house, made of hand-fitted tongue and groove pine planking, cannot be replaced. Nor can the fact that it was the house where Grandpop grew tomatoes and cucumbers in the garden beyond the carport. Where Grandmom and Aunt Sandy made weekend dinners. Where hand-washing the dishes was a group family ritual because there wasn't a dishwasher in the original tiny kitchen. The refrigerator on the porch. Where Uncle Dick would sometimes come down and spend time with the rest of us. Where Dad taught me to fish, and played catch with Dave and I. They are all gone and now so is the house; an all-too-visceral reminder of the passing of time.
Sunset west/northwest beyond Ordinary Point

So time marches on, and things improve in their way, but it is also not a bad thing to pause and reflect on the past, and what it means to us. In this case, it means more than I can say, and I sincerely hope that the ghosts of the past will take up residence in the new house that will be built on this spot. I can't imagine the River without them...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Brown Tone Dungeon Tiles

When I feel the urge to do some crafting these days, and I don't have the energy to come up with something totally new to do, I add a few more pieces to my ever-expanding set of modular terrain pieces for our Dungeons and Dragons games. In this particular case. I decided to add some "brown tone" dungeon tiles.

Instead of base coating the pieces in a dark gray and then highlighting them with two shades of medium and light gray, I decided that these would represent chambers carved out of sandstone, and thus would be dark brown, highlighted with two shades of medium and light brown, and then spot highlighted with the usual medium and light gray.

For these tiles, the base coat was a Behr flat latex house paint called "Swiss Brown"

The first sponged highlight was Folk Art "Honeycomb", a warm medium brown. The dark brown base coat can be seen showing through.
First highlight - Honeycomb

The second highlight was a sponged Folk Art "Camel", a light tan.
Second highlight - Camel

A third spot-highlight was Folk Art's "Medium Gray".
Third highlight - Medium Gray

Lastly, a fourth and final random dabbing of Folk Art "Dove Gray".
Fourth/Final highlight - Dove Gray

The colors are a little stark in the pictures, but blend very well on the table. The total addition to the inventory for this little project was maybe 8 or 9 room tiles, 5 or 6 sections of 10 foot wide passageway, and 5 or 6 sections of five foot wide passageway. (In this scale, each "square" is 5 feet).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Training Day

Ryder is still adorable, but the boy needs some work. Boundless enthusiasm is a good thing. To a point. For first time dog owners, harnessing this boundless energy is going to require some help.

To that end, a well-recommended in-home dog trainer came to the house this morning and spent two and a half hours with us, and with Ryder. We discussed our perception of his issues, what end result we were looking for, and were given guidance on what steps we would be taking to get him to that end point.
Saturday morning, before gymnastics

It's clear that our trainer will be training us as much as he will be training the dog, but the progress we were able to make in one session was remarkable. That being said, we have homework. Lots of homework. And training the dog will be work, there is no mistaking that. Some will be easy. Some won't. But if we truly want the end result that we say we want, we will stick to the plan, and do what we need to do.
Lazy Sunday morning, 8:30am

What I like about this trainer and this approach is that it is not about strong negative reinforcement. I don't want to get the dog "trained" by breaking his spirit. This method is not about that.

So we will keep our fingers crossed. And take comfort in the fact that Julia and Grace were each able to take turns walking Ryder this afternoon with no pulling/dragging issues. Remarkable...

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hollywood Stars Meet

Grace wrapped up her first season of competition meets today at the Star Bound gym in Bridgeton New Jersey, the same place that held the Lucky Leprechaun meet back on March 19 (Dog Day!).

In summary, the competition was stiffer, the judging was tougher, and Grace did great.

She placed fourth on vault (9.1) and floor (8.9), sixth on bars (8.8) and seventh on beam (8.75). This was good for sixth in the all around at 35.55. Out of 14 or 15 competitors in her class rating.
Representing Crosspoint Gymnastics well (4th vault)

Vault tied her personal best, but it was clear from the start that the judging was harder than in previous meets. And that the competition was much tougher (and more numerous) than the first two meets. More than the scores and the ribbons, Grace came away feeling good that she had knew she had done very well, and that she had represented her team well, scoring highest in three of the four events, and in the all around. In an admitted bit of total hypocrisy (just between us), we tell her that she is only competing against herself. Which is true. But it still gives a dad a lot of pride every time that her name is called and she takes her place on the podium. So forgive me...

More importantly, she continues to learn what it means to be a part of a team. And if there were one thing I would like her to take away from this whole experience, that would be it.