A tribute to a ranch, and a dad

Image result for stone cold steve austin

I have always been a fan of pro wrestling and in recent years I have become a fan of podcasts. And one of the podcasts that I listen to regularly fits into both of those interests it's The Steve Austin Show (both regular and unleashed). I was never the hugest Steve Austin fan but I really like how he tells a story and conducts an interview. I'm much more of a fan of his podcast than I was as a sports entertainer.

In a recent episode Steve was talking about selling his ranch in South Texas, the so-called Broken Skull Ranch. It soon evolved into the story of the man he calls dad. Ken Williams.

Steve Austin, was born Steve Anderson. But his parents split up and he and his brothers moved with their mom to a small town in Texas, where she met and eventually married an country western guitar playing insurance salesman named Ken Williams. He adopted her sons and they went on to have two more kids. Mr.Williams was (and still is) an avid hunter and outdoorsman. He found himself with three sons so he passed his love for the outdoors onto them. Because as Steve said that is what a dad does shares his passions with his kids.

The four Williams boys are all outdoorsy, not all of them hunt but that is only a part of what Mr.Williams past along. His daughter (and her kids) are talented singers and musicians. Another thing he passed along.

I was really taken aback, a big portion of this tribute to this ranch, was really a tribute to his dad. You could hear the pride in his voice when he spoke about his dads hunts on the ranch and the same routine he followed every day.

That ranch was not just a place for Stone Cold Steve Austin to hang out, do some hunting, drink some Broken Skull margaritas and drive around on his off road vehicles. It was about following a tradition that his dad gave to him. It was about a legacy.

Not a lot of men would step up and marry a divorced telephone operator with three kids. But Ken Williams was the kind of man who did. And that's why to this day he is so loved and revered by one of the most famous professional wrestlers of all time.


Putting a New USB Charger into my Home with the DIYZ® app

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with the DIYZ® app. All opinions of apps and companies that help me complete DIY projects are my own.

If you are like me and my family, your home is filled with all sorts of gadgets, tablets, phones, speakers and portable video game systems (just to a name a few.) And all those gadgets need a place to charge. But, there are only so many ports on the cable box and I know I can never find enough charging cubes. So with the help of the DIYZ app, I did something about it.

My plan was to install a new electrical outlet that has two USB ports, which would add to our capabilities to keep all of our devices charged. I read the step-by-step instructions, watched the video several times, picked up my supplies, drank a large caffeinated beverage and was ready to go. Confession time; I am not handy. Not handy at all. Doing repairs around the house gives me anxiety. I worry I will mess things up beyond my own abilities and then I have to make a call to a friend, or worse, a professional. Also, working with electricity scares me. I could burn down my house or electrocute myself, or both! These options seemed pretty likely, but I liked the idea of charging my iPhone from an outlet in the wall, so I gave it my best shot.

I went into the basement and flipped off the circuit that corresponded with where I was going to do the install. Since all the lights were out, I used a battery powered lantern to show me the way. The step-by-step instructions were spot on, until I came to an instruction that looked nothing like my project. There weren't three wires and the outlet fixture wouldn't come out. I decided to use the video-chat feature and speak with one of the DIYZ Pro Advisors. He was super honest with me and suggested I use another outlet, since from how I described it, the outlet fixture was very old and may be difficult to remove. The last thing I wanted was difficult. So I cleaned up my work area and moved on to a spot with much better light and went to work. Once again, I cut the circuit and used the voltage tester. This was much better.

Sweat was rolling down my brow as I twisted the wires around new fixture. The white wire, which should not have been dangerous, was still making me worry. When I came to the black wire, I called my wife and put her on speaker, just in case something bad happened. Within a few minutes, everything was secured. I got the power back up and checked it out. My tablet started charging instantly. Wahoo! Nothing makes you feel more accomplished than conquering a fear.

In addition to being inept at home repairs, I don't really know my way under the hood of my car. Sure, I can add wiper fluid, or jump start a battery, but anything more advanced than that…not so much. Recently, one of my headlights burnt out, which is dangerous – especially when you have to drive at night to work. Luckily, the DIYZ app also shows you how to do minor car maintenance too! So, after buying a ten-dollar light bulb, it only took me five minutes to install it. Good as new. Without the app, I wouldn't have had the courage to do it myself.

I never felt talked down to watching the instructional videos. I also really liked that you could order recommended tools and materials through Amazon.

The DIYZ app really empowered me to do these simple DIY projects for myself. In the past I would hire a professional or let it go and pray that it wouldn't get any worse. During the process, I discovered that I can change an outlet, or a car headlight, but there are things that I can’t just fix. For example, the very old electrical system that is powering our home. I’ll still be saving that job for a professional!

The app is free to download for both Android and Apple iOS devices. Better yet, the video-chat feature is also free, but only for a limited time.


Dear administrators of my kids school ...

Today was the hottest day of the year so far. But for some reason my 8-year-old daughter had to wear her jacket all day long. Why? Because on this dress down day she wore a dress whose straps were too thin. Actually she was also wearing a tank top under that dress for "modesty", she was also wearing bike shorts underneath. Spaghetti straps are out of dress code. Really we are talking about an 8-year-old.

Are the spaghetti straps so distracting to a room full of 3rd graders? No. If she was dressed like a fidget spinner, the boys wouldn't be able to take their eyes off her, but rest assured she is not causing a distraction. It is utter nonsense. Guess what if what a little child is wearing is so distracting to the boys in her class well that is a problem with the way they were raised. And it's a problem that school's feel the need to legislate what kids can wear, well mostly legislate what girls are allowed to wear, there are pretty much no regulations for what a boy is not allowed to wear to school that doesn't apply to girls.

You have never met as nice and sweet little girl as my daughter. She  shares her snacks at lunch time to a fault. But she gets singled out because a puritanical rule that was written to prevent 13-year-old 8th graders from "distracting" their male classmates.

It's funny when people complain about the bullying problem at the school, it takes weeks and weeks for it to be addressed. When an entire class of kindergartens are not allowed to run around at recess it takes dozens of letters to the principal and teacher, and a near civil war amongst the parents in the class for anything to be done about it. But the seductiveness of a child must be stopped immediately.

The school is a Catholic school, so there are rules I get that. But this rule is terrible and the enforcement is terrible. It would have been cruel to make a child walk around in his socks because he was wearing purple sneakers instead of white or black ones. It was cruel to subject my daughter to this enforcement, a note home from the teacher would have sufficed.

My daughter is prone to overheating and had she passed out because she was forced to wear a jacket in school all day. My guess would be an attorney would be writing something about this incident not me.


Buying cups and a Major League Baseball preview

A few weeks ago we signed our son up for this season of little league. It will be his third season, first was t-ball, then last year was coach pitch and now player pitch. The league commissioner guy, told me he needed to wear grey baseball pants and wear cleats. He asked if we had our own bat or helmet. We had a bat (which I hope is Little League approved) and were looking at helmets. Then I asked "does he need to wear a cup?" And the guy looked at me like I was asking "do fish like water". So yes he needed a cup.

I drive back home wondering who sells cups for 6 year olds. Apparently everyone does. From the old sumo styled ones, to boxer briefs with a pouch to pocketed briefs there were a world of options. My best friend who has a 9 year old (a true grizzled veteran of little league) gave me some sage advice as to what to get, and another piece of invaluable advice, buy which ever cleats are cheapest (since they are going to grow out of them quickly).

After a few sick days, the little guy was ready to head out of the house. So we went to the local sporting goods store and searched. The baseball pants were right there and then we went searching for the right cup. I told them that a cup was there to protect his penis, he replied just like the helmet protects my head. Sure. He picked out a blue one. It was for adults 135-170 pounds. I said that might be too big. I found the peewee sizes and showed him some options. He eventually went with a brief (probably because he's used to wearing briefs). I worried, would they be comfortable. Would it hurt when he ran in them. Mostly I just wanted to make sure he's well protected.

As we walked over to the shoe section. He asked if it would hurt to get hit with a baseball in the cup area. I was honest and said yes, a little, but a lot less than without a cup. He was ok with that. And seemed ready to take the field with his teammates.

Oh right since it's right before opening day here is my official and totally unbiased MLB preview.

New York Mets make it back to the World Series, and regular season MVP Yoenis Cespedes and the aces lead the Mets to their third World Championship.


the old home away from home

I first walked into the Scout Office at St. Matthias in 1981 as a 7 year old Cub Scout. This past week I may have walked out of it for the last time. It was sad. But my son was there and he got to see the basement where until this past week Troop 327 stored its gear.

The building we were told was in the process of being sold and we were being given a new storage space down the block. Accidentally we found out that it had been sold and spent a Friday meeting cleaning out the basement. With four adults, 6 Boy Scouts and a Tiger Cub, we made pretty quick work of it. And our new space is not ideal but it will work and it's still tidy (at least for right now).

For the past several years we were just using the basement of the corner building on Woodward and Catalpa, and we had most of our meetings in the school itself. We had grown too large for that room to be an effective place to have meetings. But as we cleaned I remembered a lot of good times in that building.

Lively junior leader meetings after scout Sunday, when an adult voice was never heard. Building a robot that "marched" with us in the Memorial Day parade. As a staging area for massive Scouting for Food Drives. Hanging out with the other junior leaders in the back room while Mr. Dowd took the little kids on his famous leaf identification hike around the block. 

The place that was a staging area for camping trips all over the tri-state area, for trips to Washington DC, Boston, Gettysburg and beyond. Was not ours anymore. The place where a future naval officer and future army national guard recruiter would go crashing through the plate glass window as we were packing to go to the University of Connecticut. That place is still there, but its only ours in our memories.

As we cleared, me and our current scoutmaster reminisced in vague terms about being scouts in that building. The thoughts of the time when we were senior enough to be the crew gathering the equipment out of the basement before camping. We moved some of our artifacts, the giant sign said Troop 327 and has an image of a lone scout starting a small fire at a campsite in the shadows of an idyllic mountain. And of course our Worlds Fair totem pole, which one day will become part of a collection of Boy Scout memorabilia.

That room was home every Friday night for years and years. And now it will be something else. Might it be an artisan mayonnaise place? Or another coffee shop? Who knows, but it won't be the scout office anymore, it won't be home.


My reading journal - Monday 3/27

Norse Mythology
  Neil Gaiman

 One of the interesting characters in this book is Thor. He is the god of Thunder and son of the main God Odin. He is impetuous and not very mature. While he is a great and powerful warrior his father is not sure that he is ready to lead Asgard as king.

Mario Knows Sports

On of the great joys of being a parent is watching as your kids enjoy things you loved as a child.

My daughter was obsessed with Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends when she was younger. She went so far as having us make her a Firestar costume. Both of my kids love Star Wars and the Mets (I think they might just be humoring me). And in the last year or so my son has become obsessed with video games. You can't find a tablet or smartphone in our home without a bunch of games he has downloaded from the App Store. He was beyond thrilled when they released a Mario game for IOS devices, so was I. Despite having never played Mario Brothers, he knows all the charters from MarioCart.

So when I asked him if he wanted to play the new Mario Sports Superstars game. He was extremely excited. The game is five full fledged sports games; baseball, tennis, golf, soccer and for the first time in a Mario game, horseback riding.
The players are all characters from the Mario universe, like Mario, Princess Peach, Luigi, Donkey Kong, and a dozen or so others. My little guy likes playing as Baby Luigi while I'm more of a Bowser guy.

Each of the characters have different attributes which make them better at individual sports. Obviously Mario is the most well rounded character and is really good at pretty much everything. The tutorials are pretty good and thorough, though I had to read a lot of it to my six year old.

My favorite game so far is baseball. The game play is fun and the graphics look great. The pitching controls are really good. Once I got used to looking at both screens to track the ball, field was really intuitive and I was able to turn double plays with ease. The batting is not easy, at times it seems pretty random. The larger characters (Donkey Kong and Bowser) have a a huge back swing, so getting around on a pitch is pretty hard. But when you do make contact, BOOM.
While my son likes the golf game. Mostly because he likes how easy it is to see where your ball is going.

On the other hand the tennis is easy, but filled with too many bonuses and special shots that really take away from the game. 

Overall the game is fun and you can link multiple 3ds' together for multi-player action. I've never played a sports game on the 3ds but I was really impressed with the game play (for the most part) and the graphics.

Mario Sports Superstars Box Art

Mario Sports Superstars which is only available on the 3ds, is available wherever games are sold and is also available as a download through the 3ds. The game also features amiibo integration, including new Mario Sports Superstars collectible amiibo cards. The physical version of the game even has an amiibo card packed in, for a limited time!

Note: A copy of the game was given to us for review, but the opinions are all my own.


My reading journal - Wednesday

My daughter's teacher took making sure they  are reading to the next level. She makes they do a reading journal where you have to write about what you are reading. I love it. So this week I will do it to. 

Wednesday: compare two characters and describe their differences and similarities. 

Norse Mythology
By Neil Gaiman

This book so far has really been about three characters Odin, Thor and Loki. I have decided to compare Thor and Loki. Thor is serious and physically powerful. While Loki is mischievous and while having a physical presence does his battles with his mind and mouth rather than his fists like Thor does. Loki is portrayed as smart and cunning while  Thor is seen as a powerful dullard. 

On the other hand both are gods in the mythology of the Norse people. Both are beloved by Odin, Thor as his son and Loki as his blood brother. And they have a bond in so much Thor allowed Loki to renege on his deal with the dwarfs.