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Shoveling Snow At 56

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It’s now almost 2 hours after what I’m considering as my first real snow shoveling of the year. I’ve actually been outside twice this year, but one was definitely in 2015 and the other… kind of dicey in my mind. I guess I could have said I’ve shoveled 3 times this season… oh well.

The start

The start

In any case, those other two times were nothing compared to today. There might have been in inch of snow the first two times. This time, it was somewhere between 5 and 6 inches; I’m not quite sure. The first picture you see is what the driveway looked like before I started. It’s hard determining just how much snow there is when you first look at it because it all blends in. Because we’ve had little snow so far this season, there were no snowbanks on the side of the driveway to measure it against. The second picture shows you a bit more, and hopefully helps people appreciate how much snow I had to remove.

First, some backstory. I haven’t really shoveled snow in 3 years. I was out of town for one winter, and last winter I had paid for snow removal because I wasn’t sure if I would be home or not. I actually did shovel once both years, very minor stuff, just to keep in practice.

I’ve lived in cold and snowy conditions for 45 years. I didn’t have to move any snow when I lived in apartments, but I’ve been in the house for 15 years, and the first couple of years I shoveled, then inherited my dad’s snow blower and used that for 9 or 10 years when I sold it to Howard Triche (yes, THAT Howard Triche) for $25, along with a riding lawn mower. Then I went back to hand shoveling until the day my wife and I tried to remove 11 1/2 inches of wet snow from the driveway and failed miserably until our younger neighbor, with a monster sized blower, came over the bailed us out; whew!

This year, since I knew I would be home for the winter (I’m a consultant so sometimes I travel, sometimes I work from home), I was hesitant to pay for a snow plowing service for a few reasons.

One, I figured I could stay on top of it; I’m not a weakling after all (even though I did just remember the 11 1/2 inches above…).

Two, the price of plowing went up higher than I thought it should have, knowing that before when it went up it was to cover the rising price of gas, and now that gas is almost half what it was last winter it felt like more of a money grab.

Three, all long range weather predictions have said we’re going to get less snow than the last couple of years. To date that’s held true, as we had barely a dusting in November and had less than an inch of snow until the last couple of days of December. Even up to last night’s storm, where it had snowed every day except 2, we’d had little snow.

Snowstorm; pffbt! I’m not scared of snow! Of course I heard the warning of that woman I’m married to: “You’re getting older”; “you’re not used to that kind of physical labor anymore”; “don’t over exert yourself”; “it’s easier to pay for plowing”. Yeah, yeah…

Things have changed haven’t they? Isn’t 50 the new 30? Doesn’t that mean 56 is the new 26, which is almost physical prime? Aren’t I one of the most experienced snow shovelers in history with the time I’ve put into it over all these years?

After clearing the driveway

After clearing the driveway

Today we found out. The snow started yesterday evening and continued falling overnight. Although I ended up having to dress myself a couple of times before I was ready, eventually I was all set for the task. The main thing to remember is to dress properly for both the wetness of the snow and the long term exposure to the cold, as it was under 20° when I started. For me this meant a pair of regular and thick socks; sweats with pants worn over them; a shirt, hoodie & heavy winter jacket; hat.

Gloves were a part of this also, but there was a minor fail here. I was shoveling okay when my wife called. I took my gloves off to answer the call, which was only a few minutes. When I put my gloves back on my hands felt like they’d frozen. Thus, I had to come back into the house, grab some protective jelly to coat my hands with (major mistake not to start with that; petroleum jelly of some kind is the way to go), then put on nitrile gloves (I’m allergic to latex) and finally my regular gloves. I’ll be coming back to my hands later, but at this point, my hands felt pretty good.

When there’s a lot of snow, you’re always hoping it’s light and dry instead of wet and heavy, because it gives you a chance of pushing a lot of snow instead of having to keep lifting snow. Even if you do have to lift, which I did because of how high the snow was, its much less of an effort and exertion. Truthfully, that would have been dangerous for someone like me at any age because I’m a bulldog when it comes to snow removal. I’m going to push as hard as I can and not take any breaks, for fear that if I stop I won’t start back up again; don’t be like THAT me. lol

The best way to remove snow is to set yourself up so you can walk in small spaces and not have to deal with too much snow at once; the more snow you have to handle, the heavier it gets. You see the image of my driveway; it’s taken from inside the garage. That’s obviously where I started.

clearing space at the start

clearing space at the start

I cleared all the snow away from the garage first, making a space of about a foot so I could move around. Next, I decided to create a path from the garage to the street. That goes against the small space theory, but it’s always smart to have a way for you to reach the street or for help to reach you from the street; trust me on this one.

I had to make that pass 6 or 7 times to clear a space that was also about a foot. The initial passes were heavy, and I had to stop to life and throw snow out of the way. Still, it gave me what I needed, which was space so I could then just push snow to the ends, only having to lift any snow when I got to the end.

That made the job easier, but certainly not any faster; after all, that was still a lot of snow. Including the time on the phone and having to go in and treat my hands before continuing, it took about 2 1/2 hours to clear the snow to the street. I was listening to the 7th Harry Potter book while doing all of that; so I’m a big kid! I left just a little bit of snow down there because I knew the big plow from the village would be coming by and burying the end pretty soon; it came 10 minutes after I was back in the house. :-)

When I was done I took that second picture and felt pretty good both mentally and physically. I came back into the house, closed the door, then took off my shoes, coat and hat, all covered with snow. I took off the hoodie in the living room and threw it over a chair; I was sweating a lot but since I had a shirt on the hoodie was somewhat spared.

My first stop was to the bathroom for my hands. The rest of my body felt fine but the tips of my fingers were numb; I hadn’t noticed it while I was shoveling. Here’s lesson two, which I’d forgotten because I’m used to my fingers being cold, not numb. Do NOT, EVER, put your hands under warm or hot water when you’ve come out of the cold and are cold or numb… unless you like pain. Whoa, the pain! I had to make the water cool to relieve the pain; how the heck do you go from numb to pain? It was about 2 minutes before I could get to warm, and both my hands were giving me more discomfort than comfort; that’s why I should have treated my hands before I started shoveling.

The rest of my body started feeling the pain after about 30 minutes. Actually, because of all the walking I do, it’s possible that I’m handling the pain better than I might have two years ago. Either that or my luck in the snow being relatively light. I’ve taken 4 200mg ibuprofen to stem the tide and, by now, 2 1/2 hours later everything is throbbing, including my fingers, but I’m not in enough pain to keep me from doing anything, which is good because my hands are throbbing as I’m writing this.

I’m trying to figure out if I hurt more now at 56 than I did when I was younger. I’m not sure there’s a real way to compare the two things. I didn’t start taking pain killers “regularly” until around the time I turned 40, which was before I bought this house and after going years without actually having to shovel much (not counting the ’93 snowstorm; everyone did some kind of shoveling then). Actually, I feel pretty good because I got it done, all by myself.

One last thing, which also makes me feel good. When I was halfway through the adventure, this young man, maybe an older teen since school was out, came walking by and asked if I needed any help. I told him I was good, but I smiled as he walked on for offering assistance like that. Maybe we will be okay as we get older after all! 😀  

Koto At Destiny; Sigh…

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Last Wednesday I had to go to the mall and decided to have lunch at Koto Japanese Restaurant. Three and a half years ago I wrote a review of their restaurant on Erie Boulevard, where my friend Josh & I had a wonderful experience. This summer I wrote a positive article about Koto’s hibachi express in the food court, and that was pretty positive also.

new salmonFor some reason, I thought that would turn into a positive experience for a lunch time meal. Unfortunately, things just don’t work that way all the time, and this time… well, let’s tell the full story.

The reason I went inside was because I was in the mood for salmon teriyaki. I was asked if I wanted to sit at a hibachi table or a regular table and I chose a regular table. Being by myself, it seemed stupid to sit at the hibachi table and watch a performance… whenever they decided to do one.

The menu showed that I could get the salmon lunch hibachi for $12. I’ve been to other restaurants, like Ichiban on Old Liverpool Road, where they say hibachi but they cook it in the back so I figured I’d get the lunch special. Only… it turns out Koto actually means you have to sit at the hibachi table to get it. Instead, I ordered the regular meal at $19, and asked for fried rice.

What I got was what you see in the picture above. Maybe that’s their full size now but look at the picture below of what I used to get at Koto downtown. Maybe the price of salmon is prohibitive enough so that sizes are smaller but it doesn’t mean they need to be overcooked, as my salmon was crunchy and hard along the edges and a bit into the fish as well.

Salmon TeriyakiThat was the first disappointment. The second was the “fried” rice, which, if it was fried, was lame and dry. Truthfully, since I wrote my review from the summer of the hibachi in the food court I’ve noticed that the quality of the fried rice has degraded drastically. Back then, that was the difference in my choosing Koto before Cajun Cafe, whose rice I’ve never liked. Since the rice quality has decreased I find myself bypassing Koto more often because I love the bourbon chicken and I don’t have to wait for my food at Cajun Cafe.

The kicker was when I got the bill and realized they had charged me an extra $2 for the “upgrade” to fried rice; that irked me a bit more and fully ruined my lunch experience. I paid the bill, and I still tipped the waiter my standard 25% or so, but I’m vowing that I will never go back to Koto in the mall again, at least the restaurant part. The food court… well, the chicken with teriyaki will still pull me here and there and, at only $7, is still relatively inexpensive.

Slow Moving Elderly People… I’m One Now…

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I’ve always been a fast walker. When I wanted to get somewhere and it involved walking, I wanted to be there “now”. I enjoyed walking fast, enjoyed catching up to and passing people when I could. I’d get irritated if people slowed me down by taking up space I wanted to be in, not paying attention to staying where they should, or suddenly stopping without any regard for people behind them.

BreakfastCreative Commons License Linds Panther via Compfight

Even now, with all the walking I do, I like being a fast walker. Only, it turns out I’m not all that fast anymore. I think I am when I’m walking at the lake for exercise, even walking in the mall.

But I’m not. I regularly get passed by all sorts of people these days. Some of them look like they’re not even trying. I don’t mind it so much when I’m doing a long walk and I’m on my way back towards the car because by that time I know I’ve been walking at least 40 minutes already. However, when it’s within the first 20 minutes… man, that’s depressing.

At the mall… I have little kids passing me, and that never happened before. The 20-somethings… well, I don’t like it but I can deal with it. But children? Sigh…

Strangely enough, this look at age and walking wasn’t something that I initially started thinking about because of people passing me. Instead, it originated by my visiting my mother and taking her to the stores when I go there.

Mom has had an interesting physical history. The entire time I was growing up Mom was a large lady; short but heavy. When my dad got sick and started having problems eating Mom stopped eating. When he passed away she and I both stopped eating for a while, but she stopped eating for far longer than I did.

Once she started eating again she ate a lot less than she previously did. She’s lost more than half her previous weight; she also lost a lot of her strength. She got a handicapped sticker to put on her car because her legs started to hurt and she couldn’t move all that well.

At some point my grandmother moved back in with her, but then she fell, had surgery and never fully recovered from it. Suddenly, Mom was all alone in her house, since we live in different cities. At that point, Mom almost never went anywhere. One day while visiting and seeing how hard it was for her to walk I actually put her on a walking regimen because I said that if she couldn’t walk I was going to have the doctor recommend that she never drive again; I didn’t want to have that worry.

IMAG0137Mom started following what I recommended to her. Frankly I was shocked because, like most mothers, she’d never listened to anything else I had ever said to her. It was a pretty easy regimen that, lucky for me, she was not only able to do but increased on her own as time went on. She’s regained strength enough to get around okay now; whew!

However, she’s still a very slow walker. This means that when I’m with her I’m a very slow walker. Because of this, I’ve noticed that there are a heck of a lot of slow walkers, mainly older people.

I notice this when I’m at the stores with her, because during the day there are a lot of older people shopping at the grocery store because everyone else is at work. There are also a lot of, I assume, sons and daughters walking the same steps I am with our parents. We’re all moving slow, getting in the way of fast walking people like my former self, but seeing things that, frankly, we never would have noticed had we been walking fast.

For instance, even when I’m home, I love going to Wegmans and walking around at a much slower pace than in my past, going up and down aisles I’d have never thought about perusing in the past, just to see what’s there. Not only that, but I end up getting a lot of steps in, which my Fitbit calculates for me. Not every time of course, because sometimes I just need one thing and then I’m out, but way more often than in the past.

What this means is that I’ve crossed over to the other side. Now I’m of the opinion that sometimes life is moving way too fast and that I need to find ways of slowing it down. Gravity seems to be helping in that regard unfortunately, but it might not be a totally bad thing.

Even though I’m not doing it, I understand how some people can decide to just “hang” and do things like watch TV all day, seemingly doing nothing but vegging out. Instead, I realize it’s a way of not only decompressing but slowing down life, bringing it to a speed that offers comfort.

I’m not going to give up trying to keep my pace up during my walks at the lake. I’m not going to slow down intentionally on any of the other things I like or need to do either. However, I will accept when things are feeling like they’re going along slower than in the past. I will accept that people slow down as they age, or get heavier, or start having way too many things on their mind.

I accept it; I don’t necessarily have to like it all though. :-)  

We Need Clocks & Bookstores At Destiny USA!

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The video below recounts a full tale of my latest escapade at Destiny USA mall that involved trying to get my smartphone repaired. Since that’s what the video is about I thought I’d flesh out two other things that were quite a bit irksome.

This would work!

This would work!

The first is… where can you find the time in Destiny? I’m serious! I thought that it might come up on those computerized marquees that are scattered all throughout the mall; nope, or at least I didn’t see it. There’s no large clock in the food court. There’s nothing in the new section. And no, it turns out you can’t trust the timepieces in the displays in the middle of the mall or any of the jewelry stores, though I knew that wasn’t happening.

Why did I need a timepiece? First, I don’t wear a watch; haven’t worn one for years. Second, I usually have my smartphone with me but, as I was trying to have it repaired, I didn’t have that as an option. Third, because these repair people kept telling me to come back in so many minutes, but that’s not helpful when you have no way to track the minutes.

This brings me to point #2. You know who would have had a clock somewhere? A bookstore! Well, at least I’m guessing a bookstore would have the time somewhere.

That’s not the point though. It’s a shame that a mall as big as Destiny doesn’t have a bookstore or magazine store of some kind. When did reading become so passe that neither one counts in this country anymore?

I know the stats show that bookstores have been on the decline. However, something I’ve advocated on this blog was setting aside spaces for local businesses to participate in malls in this area, and there are lots of small, local owned bookstores that might enjoy having the ability to have a presence in Destiny, Great Northern, etc.

If I’d had a bookstore I could have gone into… man, life would have been pretty sweet. Maybe I should have thought to just start carrying around my Nook so I can break out the electronic library I have there for some entertainment. However, in this case, since the mall wasn’t my primary destination it never occurred to me.

Oh well… that’s enough preamble… here’s the video:  

https://youtu.be/VRnNKnepbdc

I Won’t Miss Tim Horton’s One Bit

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By now everyone in central New York realizes that Tim Horton’s for this area is history. For whatever reason, which I’m sure we’ll hear about at some point, they have pulled out of the area, costing a lot of people their jobs, and a few people their favorite coffee.

IMG_20151120_114706_resizedFrankly, I’m not a fan; never have been. The only reason I went to one particular location was because they had a Cold Stone Creamery attached to it that was closer and easier than having to go to the mall. Other than that, they were never on my radar, especially after the very first time I went to one.

A few years ago, the grand opening of a Tim Horton’s was being held at the location on Route 11 in North Syracuse. I had no intention of going, but my wife and I had gotten our hands on coupons for some kind of free chicken sandwich. We decided to head over there to grab one and try it out. Since I knew nothing about them, I was also intrigued to see what it was all about.

We got there about 11:15, and though it wasn’t out the door, there was a long line. I figured that was standard for the opening of a new place, so it wasn’t all that big a deal. At least it wasn’t a big deal until it was finally my turn to order something.

I ordered the chicken sandwich. The guy behind the counter said “We’ve run out of chicken.”

I stared at him for a minute, and then I said “How can you run out of chicken on your very first day when it’s the special?” Of course I knew he wouldn’t have an answer and it wasn’t his fault, but it was something that needed to be said. At that point my wife put her coupon away because she wasn’t interested anymore. However, I was hungry so I decided to order a ham sandwich instead. I also bought one of their cinnamon buns, which looked pretty inviting.

We decided to just take our food and leave. For once my wife was driving instead of me, which I saw as a good sign because it meant I would be able to just open my sandwich and enjoy it.

Imagine my surprise when I bit into the sandwich and found that the ham was totally frozen. Of all things, they had toasted the bread but left the ham alone.

I couldn’t believe it! What kind of customer service was this? What kind of lousy leadership was it to not prepare for things like running out of supplies for lunch, before noon, and not making sure that other things were prepared just in case?

So much for the sandwich. I still had the cinnamon bun, which I pulled out of the bag and bit into. Nothing. I couldn’t taste a thing. I didn’t taste any cinnamon, and I couldn’t even taste the icing on the bun.

It’s possible that the soda tasted okay since I have no memory of that, but come on. As far as an opening goes, they had failed miserably. I stuck to my resolve that I would never again buy anything from Tim Horton’s, and it’s my belief that going into one so I can get ice cream from their counterparts doesn’t mean I broke my word.

What it does mean is that I’m not sorry to see them go. In actuality, I don’t have much of a reaction about their not being in central New York anymore except for the fact that a lot of people lost their jobs because they didn’t see it coming. In another stroke of bad leadership, people lost their jobs immediately as we head into the holidays with no notification ahead of time.

I hope this spells the death toll for the chain across the country because whoever is running it, and it just might be the Burger King people, not only deserves to lose their job but they never be hired by anyone else ever again.  

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