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Thu
29
Dec '11

As 2011 Comes to a Close…

20111227-214057.jpg

I will dispense from the typical family blog intro of apologizing for not posting in a while and instead just tell you to deal with it. πŸ˜‰

I am excited to say that Jenn and I received an iPad for Christmas this year as a group gift from my parents, her parents and my brother and his wife. It is awesome and I am updating our blog from the iPad!

Oh, why the Bruins logo as the picture for this entry? Two reasons… One, 2011 culminated the crowning of Boston as The Powerhouse Sports City of all time! Since the Bruins are the current champions, it is only fitting to use their logo. Secondly, I got a new image editing app on the iPad and made the graphic from a picture of a tee shirt I took in Target. Pretty cool!

Since last I posted, obviously a lot has happened. Let me fill you in on the highs and lows of the last three years…

  • 2009 started great, but by the end of the summer I would be laid off by Juniper Networks (little did I know it would be almost two years to the day before I would work again…
  • I decided to try out the whole, “stay at home dad thing” for a while.
  • 2010 came and went without a journey to Europa.
  • The Winter Olympics were great, even though USA Hockey only won silver.
  • I got the Swine Flu (H1N1) and was down for weeks!
  • Jenn moved down to teach 1st grade and loved it!
  • The SJ Sharks continue to break hearts by floundering in the playoffs.
  • Casey earned the Arroe of Light and bridged from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.
  • Casey went away for a week (at different times) to 5th grade Science Camp and Boy Scout Camp.
  • Quinn became a Webelos Scout.
  • Casey played on the Red Sox in our local little league.
  • Quinn played for the Cubs which I managed and uncle Chris was an assistant coach.
  • Jenn got a Kindle (and uses it every day).
  • Jenn became a successful blogger and is a minor celebrity in her blogging world. Check out Finally in First
  • Jenn and I start a blog design business. Visit us at Dream Team Designs
  • I earned my Wood Badge beads!
  • I received the District Award of Merit!
  • I started a new blog and podcast along with Joey Hoover (on of the classic Internet sensations off decade…
  • I let my new blog and podcast languish. A victim of the folly of big dreams. Maybe one day Where Icarus Flies will live again…
  • I turned 40. Jenn turned 40 too, but I am not allowed to publish that.
  • I got a new job working for the Boy Scouts of America!

The above list is by no means a full and comprehensive list. We also had lots of fun with friends, family and innocent bystanders along with some heartbreak and tears thrown into the mix to balance things out. Life has a way of doing that.

Things are looking up for the Bates clan. I look forward to 2012. Quinn is starting basketball on Monday and little league tryouts are in a couple of weeks.

As a wise man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Bill

Posted by Bill on December 29th, 2011 at 6:38 pm

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Mon
24
Nov '08

Fall Arrives… Finally!

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It took quite some time, over a month more than usual, but Autumn arrived in the Bay Area. Until mid-November, it was basically in the 80s here. Oh, sure, there were some “cool” days but only a handful when it should have been most of them.

It may sound crazy for me to complain that the weather was clear and warm in November, but in my heart, I am still a Massachusetts boy! The Fall should be cool. Mid-November should have morning frost. Leaves should be changing and falling from the trees!

Well, at least I did get that last part. As you can see from the picture to the left, I have a couple of great trees in my front yard. They hemorrhage leaves this time of year. Later this week, the boys and I will be able to make a massive leaf pile to jump into. I am sure that my neighbors are not pleased that I have not raked up my yard yet, oh well.

I have always enjoyed the trees in my yard and the falling leaves, but when we first moved in I tired to fight the leaves. I tried to keep my yard tidy (after we finished playing in the leaves). It was a silly fight. A fight that could not be won! You just need to give in to the leaves and only when they are finished will you actually be able to get them to, well, leave!

Election Night 2008

Yes, yes, Election Night 2008 was momentous on many levels. However, I am not going to write about the historic night as you may suspect. Election Night 2008 marked a new level of awareness for the Bates Family. Election Night 2008, Casey and Quinn were glued to CNN.com and the TV watching the “drama” unfold. I put the silly quote marks around “drama” above because you cannot see my air quotes. πŸ˜‰ Okay, there was some drama in he beginning, but it seemed clear to me that Obama would roll. When Ohio fell, the game was over. The Networks did not even wait for West Coast results to come in. They called the election as the bell tolled 8pm in the Pacific Time Zone.

Casey and Quinn, as did scores of young adults and children, watched the election unfold before their eyes C_Q_Election_Night3.pngas never before seen. The amount of data that CNN (and every other news team) could pull up at a moments notice was incredible! The Internet was certainly a big part of Election Night 2000 and 2004, but not like it was in 2008. Casey and Quinn were enthralled by the vote tallies as they came in. I explained (as much as you can) the Electoral College. They understood the “points” that both McCain and Obama earned as the winner was crowned for each state. It was amazing to see. They even knew the sound CNN would play when they were about to call a state or make a big announcement. If they were not in the room, they ran in to hear! If we can just keep them as interested for the rest of their lives. Only time will tell how this will stick with them.

Final Thoughts…

I know it has been a while since I last posted. I used to say things like, “I’ll be better at posting” or “I’ll try to post at least once a month.” I meant it when I said it (or typed it). It turns out that life is just too busy right now. I am caught up in my own Life Vortex and it is not possible to break free from its clutches. It is not just blogging that falls to the wayside, there are plenty of other things. The Life Vortex is strong. There is ebb and flow to it. I think life is easing up right now. It may even slow down enough that I can enjoy the unfolding of December this year.

We decided to take the winter sports season off. Normally the kids play basketball and I coach Quinn’s team. Not this year. As I said, we need the break. Also, my basketball coaching partner and his family moved to Singapore for a couple of years. Was I that bad to hang around with? Dave, I am just kidding. I miss you and your family, but we still needed a break.

We have never taken the kids up to Tahoe. Maybe this is the year. I really want to take them sledding. Let’s hope the Life Vortex stays clam long enough for us to get up there. We’ll see. πŸ˜‰

Posted by Bill on November 24th, 2008 at 12:04 am

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Thu
26
Jun '08

Summer Boston Visit

celtics_snoopy.pngThe Bates Family made our yearly summer trek to visit the East Coast Bates’ at the end of June. The beginning of the trip was an adventure that no one counted on!

Before I get to that, I have to take my hat off to the Celtics! I’ll be very honest. I have not given the NBA much of a thought since Jordan retired (no, not the FIRST time or the Third time, I mean his REAL retirement from the Bulls in 1999… I strongly believe that both his time with the White Sox and Washington Wizards was all just a strange dream… kind of like Paul McCartney’s time with Wings). Anyway, like I was saying, I did not pay much attention to the NBA since 1999, despite some decent Celtic teams from 2001-2003. Regardless, the Celtics of this season deserved attention. They were fun to watch and not just because they were winning. How could you not watch a Celtics/Lakers finals, no matter who you were rooting for? Paul Pierce vs. King James? Wow! One of the best NBA playoff games of all time and to have that in a Game 7? If we could have the NBA back to the Celtics/Cavs or Celtics/Lakers series, the NBA would be back in the spotlight again!

Our Trip to Boston…

Well, as I said above, our trip to Boston this summer was an adventure all on its own! Let me set the stage by saying that my family are seasoned travelers. I have averaged 4-6 long plane trips a year since 1992. My family travels from coast-to-coast at least 2-3 times a year. My two sons were on a plane from California to Massachusetts mere months after they were born (Casey 6 months old and Quinn 3 months old). We have had delays, missed connections and more. With all of those trips behind us, the trip to Boston this summer was the WORST trip we have ever been involved in.

– More set-up:

It started the day before we were supposed to fly to Boston… Jenn went back to work this year. She is teaching 4th grade. Jenn is a veteran teacher who spent 8 years teaching Jr. High at Pinewood School (the private school in Northern California, where we met). She earned her teaching degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is credentialed in Illinois.

Jenn is now teaching for the California public school system. She needs to be credentialed in California. Now, I could spend an entire post (or more) railing on the dumb-ass hoops that teachers in California need to jump through to get their credential… NONE of the hoops, despite what “they” tell you, are designed to make teachers better or help our students, by the way. Anyway… Jenn was given an emergency credential last August. Since then she has been working VERY hard at not only educating her students, but dillegently jumping through the hoops to get her credential. Knowing what you need to do to get the credential may seem a simple question, but it is not an easy answer. Jenn is close to completing all of the requirements, but again, I am tempted to digress… moving back to the topic at hand…

So, Jenn has been working at getting her credential (Professional Clear Teaching Credential). She forgot all about her emergency credential. It is only good for a year. She was not notified, as she was supposed to be, nor is there anyone to help you with the process. So, she found out that the only way to extend the emergency credential is to either take 6-semester units of some approved college classes or pass a test. California changes the college course requirements this past January and none of the colleges have updated their courses yet (most launch their new classes this fall), so Jenn could not try for the course credits even if she wanted to. That left her with the test… She found out that the test is only given twice a year. Once in December and once in July (three days after we were supposed to be in Massachusetts)!

Jenn confirmed with her school district that if she did not complete the requirements that she would not be allowed to teach in the fall! We had only one choice, Jenn had to stay and take the test. So, not only did we have to change vacation plans, but Jenn had three days to study! The “test” she has to take is really three tests. She has to pass all three sections in order to get her credential, she just didn’t realize she needed to take it this soon! She only needs to take and pass two sections in order to extend her emergency credential.

We found this out and made the decision at 4:30pm on Tuesday. the deadline to register for the emergency late registration was 5pm that same day! We were scheduled to fly to Boston at 7:40am the next morning! We decided that I should take the kids and we would reschedule Jenn’s flight for the morning after the test. Jenn was worried about the cost of changing her ticket, but I said whatever it may be it is far, far less than losing your paycheck next year! πŸ˜‰

– The Actual Trip:

Now, I said earlier I have flown a lot. I used to be an American airlines Platinum Member with an average of 150,000 miles at any given moment for a few years. I have flown as far as Korea, Japan and Australia. All that being said, I am no longer a good flier. Since Casey was born in 2000, I do not do well on plane flights. I went through a particularly bad spell in 2003-2004. I am much better now, but still not a good flier. So, at the 11th hour, having Jenn bail on our flight and leaving me to take the kids myself was not a happy moment for me!

Before I give the details, let me sum it up and say that a trip that usually take 8 hours (including airport and travel to/from time) took 17hours 35 minutes!

1. Leaving the house:

I was up at 5:20am and we left the house at 6:09am. I tried to check us in online, but I could not. My company paid for my ticket since part of our trip is a business trip. Jenn and the kids were on a seperate itinerary that I paid for on Expedia. Jenn dropped off of the itinerary with the kids and was now on her own. Since the kids had no adult on their itinerary, I could not check them in online. πŸ™ Other than that, leaving the house was uneventful.

2. Checking in

The line at United was long and VERY disorganized. Our flight was San Jose to Denver and then Denver to Boston. We were due in at 6:15pm Boston time. Now, I learned long ago to avoid changing planes in Denver like the plague (along with Houston). It could not be helped this time. My family had just taken the same flights to Boston (then on to Nantucket via Cape Air) at the beginning of June for Jenn’s sister’s (Jackie) wedding and we had no flight delays.

I finally managed to check in, but my seat was not with the boys. I was told that they could fix it at the gate.

3. Security

The best part of the trip… a breeze to check through security! I only mention it here because it is not normally the case!

4. Getting seats together

The gate agent was very nice, but ultimately he did not actually care if we sat together. If I hadn’t been such a pain in the ass, we would not have had seats together! Casey and Quinn were put in the United Economy Plus section in an isle and middle. I was given an Economy Plus middle “near” them. I kept on the agent until I finally convinced him to give me an Economy Plus window seat (it didn’t matter to me where). When we got on the plane I took the row with the kids. When the person came who had that window seat I told him that he could have my window seat a few rows back and I would sit with my kids. He was more than happy to take the switch, since he didn’t lose out on anything!I had already spoken to the flight attendants and they were on my side in case the person I needed to switch made a stink.

5. The FIRST delay

Sitting next to the boys was the easy part. Getting to Denver was the tricky bit! Our 7:40am flight was delayed. Apparently we had a broken altimeter! A slightly important piece of equipment! Now, it is part of a redundant system, meaning that there are two altimeters. However, we were still not allowed to take off without both working. Now, I have no problem at all with that decision. What I take issue with is that they did not have a spare in stock in San Jose! They had to drive one down from San Francisco!

So, we did not finally take off until 10:30am!

6. Re-booking my connection

Of course the delay meant that we would miss our connecting flight in Denver. So, I got us confirmed on a 6:30pm flight from Denver to Boston, but if we were lucky I could get us on via standby for an earlier flight.

7. Anyone for a visit to Colorado Springs?

I have never been overly impressed with United Airlines, but I do like that they let you listen to the pilot talk to Air Traffic Control on one of the audio channels. About 30 minutes outside of Denver ATC was telling our pilot that Denver International was closed due to high wind shear. They told him that he needed to circle Denver for a while (the next update was due in 30 minutes) and he responded, β€œAh, we’re pretty low on fuel, we’re not going to be able to do that. Requesting a diversion to Colorado Springs.” That is not a conversation you would like to hear! The entire time we headed for Colorado Springs, I kept looking out the window thinking, β€œthere is a long empty looking road.. We could land there…”

Colorado Springs did not have the facilities to handle a plane our size, but they did roll out some stairs for those who wanted to get off. They said, β€œYou can get off, but if you do yo are on your own. We also have no way of getting your luggage, so it will end up at your final destination.” I was VERY tempted to get off of the plane and rent a car and take a road trip with the boys!

8. Finally made it to Denver!

A two hour flight turned into an 8+ hour ordeal! In Denver I tried to get on an earlier flight, but it couldn’t happen. So, although we were confirmed on the 6:30pm, we were not sitting together. I had to go through two gate agent shifts before they finally sat us all together. The airlines just do not care about people any more.

9. The flight to Boston

Well, 6:30pm came and went, but our plane stayed put on the tarmac. In fact, we hadn’t even boarded! Yes, our flight from Denver to Boston was delayed! The fourth member fo the flight crew was late and we could not fly without the fourth member of the crew. So as we waited, we watched a severe looking storm front move towards the airport! The gate crew said a front like that would close down the airport.

Luckily, we got off the ground 20 minutes before the Denver airport was clsed due to a major storm front!

10. Finally in Boston!

Well, the flight from Denver to Boston was mostly uneventful. We had to fly around storms and there were bumps “Light to Medium Chop” as the pilot would say. We actually landed a bit past 1:30am.

At the end of this ordeal, I was ready for our luggage to be lost. Amazingly, it was there!

11. One last glitch…

Ah, the karma of the trip had one last jab to give… My parents were late picking us up. How could this be at almst 2am? The normal roads and exits to the airport were closed! As you may have suspected, it also took us longer to get home than normal! Ugh!!!

12. Made It!!!!!

Well, we finally made it to my parent’s house. It was after 2am. Casey and Quinn were AWESOME the entire time!

Jenn flew in on the following Sunday. Oh yes, she was delayed twice as well. That is a story for another time. πŸ˜‰

Phew, it probably took you as long to read all of that as it took us to get to Boston!

Bill

Posted by Bill on June 26th, 2008 at 10:43 pm
Sun
27
Jan '08

Is It 2008 Already?

Well, well, well… 2008 already. I haven’t written or posted any pictures in a while. My New Years Resolution is to post once a month! Even with my schedule, I can do that… right? πŸ™‚

So let me sum up July-December 2007…

Waves-to-Wine Bike Ride

Amazingly, I made it! 155 miles in two days with about 10,000 feet of climbing! I had a big plan to blog my training experience as well as the race weekend. Oh well… πŸ™‚ Here are my scattered thoughts and tales regarding my training and the 155 mile ride…

  • My first bike (a hybrid not a light road bike) almost killed me!
  • It has been 4 months since the ride and my ass still hurts! πŸ˜‰
  • On my first training ride with the team, my bike chain snapped 4 miles into a 40 mile ride! Luckily I was 6 blocks away from a bike repair shop!
  • On four of the first five training rides, I got lost! The worst part of that is that I rode an extra 5-8 miles each time (after 40-50 miles, that makes a big deal)!
  • I LOVE the camel pack (water in a backpack)! Combine that with my iPod and I cold ride all day!
  • A real road bike with all the accouterments makes ALL the difference in the world!

Some tidbits from the ride weekend…

  • We started at around 7:30am from PacBell Park (alright, it is really AT&T Park now, but I can’t cal it that).
  • The first 30 miles had the most climbing, but I was fresh and powered through it.
  • I only got 4 hours of sleep the night before the race (we had a pack meeting and couldn’t sleep because I was still wired and had to get up at 4am). Around mile 34 it began to hit me.
  • It was a great party, going from rest stop to rest stop every 15-2o miles until… MILE 56!
  • FYI there was a woman that rode the ENTIRE 155 miles on a unicycle!

At the rest stop at mile 56, I really didn’t think I was going to make it. I was out of gas. Completely out of gas. I still had 24 miles to go! I sat at the rest stop at mile 56 for 45 minutes. I drank my fortified water, ate oranges and GU (basically sugar with electrolytes and such) and peanut butter on bread. Then, suddenly, I got a second wind! I jumped on my bike and plowed through the rest of the first day!

  • The end of the first day was a rush. I had a tent set up for me by some volunteers form Bank of America. They were awesome!
  • I ate a good dinner, drank 5 pints of Blue Paddle (the Pislener from the makers of Fat Tire, New Belgium Brewery) and racked out about 8:30pm

The second day was a lot better. It was freaking freezing in the morning. By the afternoon it was warm. Ah, California! πŸ™‚ The second day was not a bad ride. I was with a friend that was slower than me (if you can believe it). I stayed with him most of the day. That coupled with the fact that there was not too much of a climb made it a fairly “easy” 80 miles. πŸ˜‰

  • It was not until bout 45 miles into the second day that we finally saw grape vines (Waves-to-WINE, remember).
  • Over the HUNDREDS of miles I rode when I trained, I got ONE flat tire and that was because I was careless and hit a curb.
  • Between mile 55 and 66 on the second day, I blew my tire THREE times (and I only had two spares).
  • I was on the side of the road all alone until a few people rode by and gave me spare tires and tire patch kits!
  • My buddies came back and I rode my ass off the last 15 or so miles and finished strong! Although, I had been going so slow most of the day riding my another friend of mine, I missed most of the end party!

Jenn, Casey and Quinn were at the end waiting for me! The guy that talked me into it all (John Connolly, an AWESOME guy) stayed with me most of the day. He was an inspiration to me the entire time we trained. Thanks John!

It was a LONG hard ride, but it was worth it. Not only to me personally, but I also raised money for a very worthy cause. Finding a cure for MS is no joke. If I can be part of that it was all worth it.

Finally, thank you to all of my AWESOME donors. Without you, I could not have done it!

Bill Got an iPhone!

Yes, I got an iPhone!!! It could be the greatest piece of personal technology EVER! One of these days I will create a blog post just about the iPhone. I setup a special website that I can send pictures to directly from my iPhone. Check out the link on the left side of this page!

Jenn Goes Back to Work!

Jenn started teaching again. She was hired less than a week before school started!! She is teaching 4th grade at the school Casey and Quinn attend. It has been an adjustment for all of us, but I think we are finally starting to settle into a routine. More importantly, Jenn is finally feeling like she is getting a handle on 4th grade.

Quinn Starts Kindergarten and Casey Starts 2nd Grade

It was a big school year for us. Quinn started kindergarten. It was an emotional day for me. Seeing my little guys growing up. Jenn had to get her own class started, so I took the fellas to their classes. I put pictures in the gallery, if you haven’t seen them yet. They are some really cute ones!

The Holidays Were A Whirlwind…

Halloween came and before I knew it, we were watching the ball drop in Times Square! What the heck happened with the time?

  • We had a great Pumpkin Palooza 2007! I took al lot of Halloween pictures with my iPhone. You can see them in my iPhone link.
  • Thanksgiving was a good time. Jenn’s parents came up from Palm Desert. We watched football, ate Turkey and played games!
  • Christmas was a great time! Jackie and Jonah came out, Jenn’s parents came up and we had a really good time! The only bummer was that Matt and Sanne couldn’t make it out. πŸ™
  • New Years was spent in Massachusetts with my family. It was so awesome to see everyone!

Other Tidbits

Of course there was way more that happened than I have written about. I am having a great time as Cubmaster of Pack 374. I am coaching Quinn’s basketball team and baseball starts in a few weeks, I’ll be coaching Casey’s team.

Well, that is a quick summary of events since July. πŸ™‚

Bill

Posted by Bill on January 27th, 2008 at 9:49 pm
Sun
6
May '07

What is Going On Around Here?

Well, it has been an eventful 2007. There has been a lot that has happened since I wrote my last post (which was much too long ago). I wish that I could say I will post some pictures soon, but to be honest, I do not have a lot of free time these days. I’ll do what I can, when I can. So, let’s see if I can catch you up…

Cub Scouts

Snoopy_Scouts.png

Casey has been involved in Cub Scouts for almost a year now. He really enjoys it. I was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout when I was young. My brother Tom and I both attained the Eagle Scout rank. In fact, I was very involved with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program for many years as an Assistant Scoutmaster in my troop and on camp staff. So I was VERY happy πŸ™‚ when Casey showed interest in scouting.

I joined the Cub Scout Pack with Casey last summer. The big leader in a Cub Scout Pack is the Cubmaster. As of last month, I took over as Cubmaster for our pack. It is a lot of responsibility, but I really enjoy doing it!

Sports: Basketball to Baseball

January and February both Casey and Quinn played basketball. I coached both teams. It was a lot of fun and I had great co-coaches and parents on the teams. The people who ran the league were also excellent! I look forward to coaching basketball again next year.

As for baseball, we are now in full swing. I am coaching Quinn’s T-Ball team through the YMCA and Casey’s baseball team in our local Little League affiliate. On top of Cub Scouts, it is a lot of time and effort. Some days I barely have time to eat dinner! It is worth it though. I enjoy working with the kids and being with Casey and Quinn as much as I can. Again, I have excellent parent help and assistant coaches or I would not be able to do it.

Quinn likes T-Ball, but I think he likes basketball more. Casey loves all of the sports he has played, but baseball seems to be his favorite. Well, that is, his favorite next to golf! As much sports knowledge as I can bring my boys, golf is not a sport I can help them with. That one we will have to leave up to Jenn and her side of the family.

New Video Technology

I am playing with new video technology. Windows Media sucks and I’ll only use an .avi if absolutely necessary. For most video I use QuickTime and .mov files. When I post videos on the web, I also use QT. That has worked very well for me, but it does require you to have QT installed. With the spread of the iPod and iTunes in the Windows world, that is not to much to ask. Still, I am always on the lookout for new technology.

I have been playing with converting my videos into .flv the Flash Video format. You can embed these videos quite easily and 99% of web browses have flash installed (especially now that everyone is going YouTube crazy). I have not made any new videos for a while (no time and my seven year old Macintosh is showing its age). I did convert a movie I made of the kids in 2005 just to see how well it works. My movie is not the highest quality video, but that is not a reflection on the FLV format, but on the source quality of the web video that I used. I embedded it right into this post. Let me know what you think.

Wrap Up

I have a lot more to post, but I think I better publish this and add more soon. Tom, Colleen and Christian were in Cali visiting us at Easter and I have great pictures and some video clips of their visit. Until then, enjoy!

Bill πŸ™‚

Posted by Bill on May 6th, 2007 at 12:18 am