College Tours

We’re here in Auburn Alabama doing the campus tour thing for the girl. She would be our second kid to attend Auburn should this work out. 4 more years of fall trips down here for football and hanging out. We stay in Columbus when we’re here. We stay with Mrs S’s Dad’s cousins.. actually, I’m not quite clear on the familial deets. But where the actual lines of relation are blurry to me, the sense of family is not. Which is a good thing.

We did the campus tour today. Frankly I’ve done the tour on my own about 6 times just walking around. Never the less i still managed to learn a few things about the campus. For example, undergraduates are not touch the seal in the ground of in front of Langdon Hall lest a curse will manifest on them that they will not graduate on time. The way to break curse is to swim in the fountain on the a leap year.. blah blah blah. Not sure exactly what the deal was, but apparently if you buy a class ring there’s a lovely ring ceremony where the curse if symbolically broken and some other stuff happens..

Ok so paying attention isn’t my strongest suite. However since the cost of ring is about a “yard” in gambling parlance, I’m going to suggest a nice commemorative coffee cup and skipping the ceremony.

Langdon Hall I learned is also where Alabama lawmakers debated succession back in the day. Talk about winning the argument but losing the battle.

I skipped the dorm tour. Told Mrs S I had some work to do as the group headed over the residence halls. I figure schlepping two kids worth of shit in and out of dorms the last few years entitles me to a pass. Moving the boys is where I learned that nothing has changed in the student warehousing business in 30 years. Interestingly enough the guides did talk about the new posh South Donahue Hall. That dorm is quite different. Two students share a suite. Each kid has their own bedroom with their own private bath, queen size bed, and hold on now, washer and dryer. The share a common area with a plasma TV, furniture, small kitchen with full size refrigerator, sink and granite countertops. The guide explained that these were Auburn’s most expensive housing option. She left out most of the residents there don’t actually pay for housing, they’re on athletic scholarships. And while I would like to question our countries priorities when it comes to collegiate athletes, I did pay $150 a seat to go to the game on Saturday, making me, part of the problem.

Our kids dorm, and I assume the girl will live where the boy did, feature shared bedrooms, two per room, a bathroom shared with 2 more kids, no kitchen, and a  laundry shared with the entire dorm. Amd stcked with machines that require quarters.

What they do have are toilets that have the strongest flush mechanism I’ve ever experienced. My oldest son, the geologist, after using the can came out and promptly suggestted that “that toilet will open up a sinkhole outside”. He a scienist, he would know. Being practical myself, and a survivor of four years in dorms I suggested that these things have to be able to take down a beer can, or a bag of pot that’s still in the bag in case you don’t have time to empty it as your RA is coming through the door with an axe.

All speculation on my part. All speculation.

The tour guide referred to the many healthy eating options on campus, I’ve only heard of Chic-Fil-A. I think my son eats there every day. But there are some other options. What there isn’t is a cafeteria. The closest thing is the eating area in the afore mentioned Athletics dorm where you can get steaks, made to order omelets for breakfast.. It’s more expensive but again, most kids eating there don’t pay.

The rest of the tour was cool, but my ADD kicked in and I found myself wondering about what the purple flowers were in the yard and if a Confederate Rose really does change colors during the day (it does).

So we’re done with college visit number 2 for this kid, 9 overall. I was my first and I was reminded why I haven’t been invited to these before, I’m snarky and I may have said ” helicoptering” to Mrs S when she was asking about career fairs for our kid who’s a Senior down here.

Matter of fact, I may not get asked back.

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The NeoCheap Skate

I’m taking a shot at the simple life here at the Casa del Sank-a-Ray. Said the guy with multiple cars, computers, phones, tablets, and homes.

But you know, steps. Have to do these things in steps. I’ve learned a new axiom out of this experience, simplification, ain’t simple.

There’s a couple places where we have made some real progress this year. The best one, IMHO is the in the department of Personal Transportation. Basically Mrs S needed/wanted a new car. Let me quickly hip ya to the fact that Team Sankary are not car people, at least not the older ones. Until this latest car purchase the newest vehicle in fleet was as a 2005 Scion. Mrs S has been tooling around town in a 1996 Toyota Camry that had been in family since about 1996. The Camry has a working cassette player, power windows and a security system that no one understands. The only time I’ve seen in operation is at the store when I’ve opened the trunk to load groceries.

I’m proud to say that when the time came for a new car she decided on a used model. That’s kinda new for us, buying used. On my list of reasons the country is not worth saving, the 72 month car loan. I make a pretty good salary, but even with my take home I can’t/won’t afford a $40,000 car. People do it by taking out the 72 month loan at the dealer with 7% interest. That makes no financial sense. At the end of the day, what happened to saying “I can’t afford this”.

We said that, and we let someone else take the hit on the depreciation and Mrs S wound up with a decent car and no car payments. We’ve cut the cord on cable this week. That was a huge paradigm shift for us. We’ve been talking about it for months but since it required that I get up on roof… I don’t like ladders and I certainly don’t like being up the roof. But I put on my big boy pants, hauled my fat ass up there and installed a new antenna. Ironically, right on the pole where the Dish was. Thanks Dish. Rolled the coax off roof and hooked it up to the cable box that Charter installed. How about that? Free TV on the “mans” infrastructure. That’s how I spell awesome.

Cable cutting BTW- dropped my $180 monthly bill down to $49.00. More than enough room to add a few streaming services to the mix.

The deal breaker on that one, being able to stream ESPN and SEC Network. Of course after watching Auburn football on Saturday, I may be able to cut back on the SEC network too.

Stopped by Aldi for the first time on Sunday. I’d been told they were inexpensive (cheap if you will) but how cheap? Typical week I spend about $150.00 on groceries, mostly at Target because it’s convenient, and it’s been my habit. Adding the Aldi stop to my shopping trip.. followed by a Target run, my total shopping trip this week $75.00. In-freaking-credible. Biggest shocker- Organic milk, the half gallon I pay $5.25 or so at Target, at Aldi less than $2.50. That’s serious. Greek yogurt… Greek yogurt is single handedly taking down General Mills as their flagship brand Yoplait continues to fall. Good riddance too, the stuff is basically ice cream with all the sugar and fake flavoring they add. Chobani and Fage took them down. Granted I paid more for theirs, but being cheap isn’t just about price, it’s about value. Value in my book equals the relationship between quality and price. Fage doesn’t add sugar, doesn’t add coloring or flavoring. It’s what they call better. Aldi greek yogurt, ½ the price.

The “Consumer” brands have to be getting nervous. I know the folks at Gillette are certainly concerned. I’m at fault for that too thanks to Harry’s Shave Club. $1.00 a blade. That’s vs. $4.50 for one of their blades.

At the end of the day everywhere I look I’m seeing consumer empowerment. There’s quite consumer revolution going on and as it takes hold there’s a lot of companies that today we take for granted, that aren’t going to be around. And in some cases that’s a good thing.

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Guard Calling

National Guard called the house this evening looking for the girl. Apparently they want to talk to here about how a stint in the military could pay for her college.
The National Guard is a little behind the times. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has already passed on her. They require candidates be able to do more than one pushup. A year ago their was a contingent of IDF folks in the Twin Cities.. They did some fitness stuff at the local JCC. Laura’s Hebrew class went down for session. We heard all about the pushup. She complained about it for three days afterward.
She’s not very physical.
Last one. The empty nest is so close I can taste it!

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Weekends were not made for 80’s music

Labor Day Weekend. It sucks. At the end of Labor Day is what I call “big Monday”. Ironically, big Monday is actually a Tuesday. The actual Monday is just a requiem for Summer. I like fall a lot, don’t get me wrong, but it ain’t summer. It’s prettier than summer, and the weather is better, but someway, somehow, it ain’t summer.
This summer, to be totally honest, sucked ass. Any summer where you drive your family to the airport to send them off on a fabulous Summer vacation, sucks ass. That’s the nature of work these days though. Feels like as soon as summer stared, here we are at the holiday commemorating it’s death. Sad.
Still Summer is Dead weekend was OK.
Saturday  we did manage to make it out the fair. We didn’t go last year. That was the first time in our 20 years in Minnesota that we didn’t go to the State Fair. This year Mrs S bought the tickets ahead of time to make sure we’d go. Odd, since by my memory it was she who didn’t want to go last year. Personally, the Fair is the Fair. Money suck and crowd sourced diseases. We went in planning to spend about $30.00 on stuff and only over overshot that by about $270.00. I guess that’s a win? We did meet Tony Oliva, that was cool. Made the whole day actually.
$300.00, holy shit. We bought a Minnesota United soccer jersey for the middle kid, that was $90.00. American. American money for an un-American transplanted euro-sport. Quelle Hell!
I don’t get how come he gets all these not-so-cheap jerseys and I get grief for a small purchase of some overpriced coffee. So what if my Starbucks reloaded itself every month at $50 a crack. Whose counting? You are? Uh Huh, $50.00? Well beans aren’t cheap. And yes I so what if I make a pot of coffee in the morning AND stop off for a dark roast with an extra shot on my way to work.
Addiction you say? You can intervene all ya want dear, addicts have to want to change and I.. don’t. Lack of trust? For 10 years I thought your trips to the hair place for a cut and color were $12.00. I thought Heidi was a kid I couldn’t remember but was putting through college, I had no idea she was the hair chic. Frankly I was afraid to even ask given feedback that I never listen or remember anything.
You see where this is going- he said, she said and then we all said we’re broke and had the nerve to wonder why.
Back to the fair, we may or may not have spent $300, BTW $100 was on hunting licenses. I really wish Mrs S wasn’t standing right next me when the nice girl was ringing me up. Typically that’s a solitary experience. But now that we don’t have any kids with us she didn’t have anywhere else to go. So needless to say that didn’t go quite as planned. She’s MAY have been told over the years, that licenses are about $10.00.
So now we’re even in the “Marital Misleads” category.
For the first time ever the Fair was just the two of us. That was nice. A little preview of full on empty nesting which starts for Mrs S in 11 short months. Started for me 3 years ago when my Daughter become a teenager and I didn’t see her come out of room for 5 months. But I digress. The last couple months we’ve doing more things together as a couple, which has been really fun. Makes one wonder why we ever had kids to begin with, seems like we could have been having fun like this for last 30 years.
After the fair we went to our local Auburn Fan Club watering hole to watch the opening game.
It sucked. Not the bar, the game. The Bar, Bent Brewstillery was fantastic as always. Our friend Bartley Blume over there is making some kick ass beers and spirits. In particular a “Navy Strength” gin. Booze trivia- Navy strength gin is at least 57% alcohol. Why? If you spill it on gun powder, the powder will still fire. BTW, Navy Gin is what Sir Thomas Desmond Gimlette mixed with lime juice on Royal Navy vessels to keep Scurvy at bay. And it’s what British Officers mixed with their quinine tonic in India to keep Malaria under control. Who knew how useful gin could be. Am thinking Dr Bombay Sapphire and Mrs Charles Tanqueray, that’s who.
Anyway, after the fair and the game we finally headed up to the lake. 8:00 pm departure. It’s dark these days at 8:00 pm. That means Daddy has to stay awake whilst driving the car after a long day of recreating. I did, but…
We have a “driver picks the listening experience” rule when I dive anywhere with Mrs S and Mrs S JR. My rule. The chicks don’t respect my a-tor-ri-tay when it comes to music. I was chill’n the to new-to-me David Gilmore album when we started our journey. That got me to from my drive way to Gardenview. I distance of about 1/3 of a mile. “You have to change this”, “why” “it sounds like Pink Floyd”. Um.. David Gilmore was in Pink Floyd.
After 30 years I should know that she hates Floyd. Ok..
“What the hell is this?” “The new Iron Maiden, cool huh, these guys are older than me and they sound like…

Wifeacus Interrupts- “They sound like 55 year old men trying sound like they’re 25 again”.
“How dare you… “ “Dude. seriously, they sound like 55 year old dudes getting a colonscopy with no anesthesia. Change it”.
“Put on some 80’s music”. That’s her default. BTW, this entire exchange has occurred in the first .75 miles of the trip. She should have just asked for Donny Iris when we got in the car.
I tried 80’s and the first thing that came up was Chicago. Post good Chicago, aka the Peter Cetera years.
Me: “I can not stay awake listening to Peter Cetera, he blows..”
Her: “if the chicks like Peter Cetera, you like Peter Cetera”.. clever quote for Geico ad I think.

ME: “The ONLY way I’m going stay away listening to shit like “Baby what a big suprise” is because I’m hoping you’re getting all romantically inclined and as soon as we get to the lake you’re gonna..” She interrupted yet again.
“Change it”.

The Cars- good

Foghat- not the 80’s Me- let me show you on Wikipedia while I’m driving at 80MPH on a county road in deer infested countryside.

Nazareth- Yes you are messing with a son of bitch.. She didn’t remember the band or the song because.. wait for it. “THIS SUCKS”.

And so it went. 90 minutes of arguing about music which meant before we knew it we were at the lake. Where it was 175 degrees in the house making me wonder why we ever bothered to go up there in the first place.
BTW, I hate Steely Dan and as I learned, so does she. Common ground, made the whole trip a success.


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First World Problem #1204 The Busted Nespresso

On the list of first world problems having a busted Nespresso ranks right up there with Starbucks running out of cup sleeves and my frustration with high speed internet at the cabin.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Nespresso brand of fine products, it’s Nestle’s answer to the Kuerig single cup coffee maker. Or as I now say, thanks to a friend of mine,, the “one hitter”.

Pun intended.

One hitters as I’ve mentioned before are yet more evidence that this country is not worth saving.

Apparently putting coffee in a filter and running water through it is now so onerous a chore that we’ve decided as a nation, we need a single shot machine that dispenses coffee for us, and allows us to pay coffee shop prices for that cup, right in the privacy of our own home.

And, I’m certainly part of the problem, I own two of the things. At home we have our Nespresso machine. That machine BTW, did the unthinkable and hooked my wife on a solid caffene addiction at the age of 49, well past the age when the rest of us were jonzing for caffeine every morning, She used to report that she didn’t like coffee, and then discovered her Mother’s Nespresso and it’s sexy accompanying milk frothing gadget. That did it. Now she needs a latte every morning or she’s cranky. Or crankier? Leave it Sank.. L e a v e   i t…

The cool thing about Nespresso is that while the machines are sold everywhere you can only get the pods from Nespresso. It’s the same distribution model crack dealers used to use in the 90’s.

My other machine is the Starbucks Verismo. We have that one at the cabin. Basically it’s the same thing as the Nespresso only the machine’s counter footprint is intentionally huge in order to force you to remove any competing coffee makers. They’re strategic those Starbucks folks. Good news is the Starbucks machine actually makes an excellent cup of coffee. The Sumatra in particular is one of the very best cups I’ve ever had. Quite the contradiction to the Keurig which in my experience makes one of the worst cups of coffee I’ve ever had. Ironically, even the Starbucks pods aren’t very good when put through a Keurig. Weak coffee and Coors light, a country of cud chewers.

Back to my Nespresso machine. She be broke. She’s squirting coffee and hot water everywhere except into a cup placed under the dispenser nozzle. When you call Nespresso people with a problem the first answer from support is always “descale it”. That’s the CTRL-ALT-DEL of the single hitter coffee world. Starbucks and Keurig BTW, offer the same advice.

I was 100% sure descaling wasn’t the problem, this felt more like a plumbing problem but I’m game to play. Descaling a Nespresso involves mixing up stinky solution and running it through the machine about 10 times. Which given the problem I had, squirting 210 degree water everywhere, presents a little bit of an issue. My solution- I put the machine in the bathtub and ran an extension cord from the hallway. I sat on the can (lid down please) reading a book and ran water through the machine. Which is how my daughter found me, making the whole exercise worthwhile. as I was able to explaine that I was trying to figure out how to refill my coffee cup whilst being indisposed in the can.

Brilliant eh?

Sneer , “Gross” ,  turn and exit stage left.

Made the whole day worthwhile.

But didn’t fix my Nespresso.

Mrs S, knows about my indecisive nature and general malaise about fixing shit and facing a morning of coffee DTs took matters into her own hands and called Nespresso, She let them know in no uncertain terms that a $200 appliance should last more than a year. (Three years I said under my breath, but hey, she was on a roll) Nespresso is used to dealing with angry 1%ers and really did a nice job calming her down. Matter of fact I intend to call them back to find out what they did.

Options are:

  1. Send the machine and a check for $149 to Nespresso World Headquarters. They’ll either fix our machine or send us a refurbished one, either way we’ll have coffee when we’re done.
  2. Take $100 off their high end $300 machine for being a loyal customer.
  3. Take $40 off a machine like the one we have, bringing the price down to $150.

Basically you could sum this up as buy a new one. We’ll give you Amazon pricing.

She went for it. I kept my mouth shut. And we all drove to Starbucks for an infusion.

Like I said at the start, first world problems.


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Check’n In

Hey there.

Hope ya’ll are fine, been a while since I’ve written anything. LONG while.

Not without good reason mind you. My Nesspresso machine busted a few months ago and I’ve been really busy trying to remember to get it fixed. Then my MacBook Pro crashed, very unprofessional of the thing. Then the backup computer crashed. Finally my SurfacePro 2 got tired of just working and decided to upgrade itself to Windows 10 which made it crash. After all that I had some anger issues to deal with coupled with a bout if irregularity and well…. guess my creative spark just got all up and snuffed out.

I’ve apparently reached that stage in life where literally everything has become a pain in the ass. Or as I like to say, nothings easy anymore.

Here’s a great example. New windows. Mrs S decided that we needed new windows on the four season porch. The windows there are about 20 years old and are leaking so bad that the whole room is more of a 3 season porch these days. Matter of fact the ultimatum laid down was new windows or seal the room off with a sliding door. Since my office and all my musical instruments are out there I pushed for the new windows. Besides, sealing of a great space in the house feels like going we’d be doing the equivalent of property amputation. I like sitting out there. She, does not. Because it’s cold. And there’s your full circle.

Don’t know if you’ve bought windows before,  it’s an interesting process. First you research. I like the internet for research. Nearly everything you ever wanted to know about anything is up on the internets. Except for some reason some high school girlfriends I want to stalk now that I’m old.

Anyway there’s a local contractor search site where you can review contractors and ideas. Now, when a website requires a phone number and email to continue, my alarm bells go off. Luckily I know better than to give these sites real info, so they get my junk email and my google phone number that I never check. Good thing too I received no less than 20 calls from a couple national companies sales folks urging me to call back at once. Fun to listen to these folks get desperate; “This is the 10th time I’ve called you, please return my call”. Even when I change the message to “If you’re hearing this message rest assured I’m never calling you back”. Cudchewers.

Long story short we had some local guys come to the house to do sales pitches. I’m in sales, I don’t want to hear no pitches. And when you set up a heat gun and window pane and ask me to feel the insulating properties of glass,  my response “I’ll take your word for it, I’m not touching your mini window”. Mrs S- not amused. She touched the glass. Shameful.

Now, if you need a demo of tiny windows and heat guns to make a home improvement decision you might need someone to chew your food as well.

So we selected a contractor, wrote a big ol’check for 7 new windows and waited for installation day. All went pretty well except for one set of windows in the Master Bedroom. Mrs S’s room if you will. Turns out yellow jackets can nest inside walls. News to me, but not news to the installers. The installers did their thing, installed the windows where they should and as an additional service, let us know we had a bees nest in the wall, just in case we were interested. Mrs S wasn’t interested at all because she’s not allergic to bees and she was off to Tahoe for two weeks of summer vacation.

I was slightly interested because I’ve had some bad experiences with bees, but you know, what the hell am I going to do about a nest in the wall? Call someone I suppose, a process that can take me up to a year. Tell you what, you know what’s motivating?  A bedroom full of yellow jackets! Imagine how damned interested I became one fine morning I came out of the shower  only to find about 20 bees in the room, buzzing the walls and windows. Ya, apparently yellow jackets chew through wood, (also news to me) which is what they did to get out the wall because the window dudes had sealed them in.

Well shit I don’t claim to be handy. The whole reason we’d even talked to windows guys was because I didn’t want to seal off a room of the house. But frankly I don’t really spend too much time in the master bedroom, I’m happy to shower in the guest bath if needed, so you know, if we have to seal one off, better that room then the porch. Which is what I did. For about three days until guilt or the curiosity got the better of me and I went to check out the room.

Talk about a beephobiamaniac kind of experience. Literally a shit ton (however many that is) of bees on the walls, windows, crawling all over the bed..

Quietly back out and shut the door.

Now what? Options include-

  • Ignore – My usual approach.
  • Search YouTube for creative solutions.
  • Call the exterminator.

Exterminator came the next day               , For my trouble and $100 I got me a 30 minute lecture on the lifecycle of wasps, what not to do about bees nests inside walls. The encore was about how chemicals that kill bees from 30 feet are perfectly safe for people. He also spent about 1 minute actually applying said chemicals. I wonder if it would have been cheaper if I wasn’t there for the lecture part of the deal?

Turns out, it takes several days to kill bees his way, he put some insecticide powder around the openings and let the bees do his work for him, they drag it back in the hive with them. On YouTube there was one guy who used a shopvac to suck out an entire nest of the things. That was pretty cool. My personal favorites are the guys who put the bug zappers in front of the hive and let the bees attack it. Very cathartic. Powder? Not so much.

BTW, we had to add one more window for a future installation to cover the bee nest damage. So, total cost for discovering and eliminating bees from the house? About $17,000.

One more thing, apparently you have to have the house inspected before and after any window installation. The inspection called out that we are short of smoke detectors and the dog’s not licensed. Well, we had a smoke detector in the hallway that was hardwired, but I knocked it down with tennis racket at about 3:00 am one morning when it went off and wouldn’t stop beeping. It was kinda hard to see through the smoke. The dog hasn’t ever been officially licensed and he’s 11. So if ya’ll want, come and take him. He a mean little shit, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now we have about 20 smoke detectors that go off every time my daughter takes a 30 minute shower or when Mrs S even glances at the stove. They won’t last.

There was also some emotional damage from telling Mrs S on her return from Tahoe not to “jump right into bed” until she does a shake down for bee corpses. “And no I didn’t clean’m up, if I had, you’d never believe what I went through while you were vacationing away”.

So there.


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A Long Overdue Weekend Update

I haven’t checked in here with personal details in a long time.

Work and life balance. Haven’t achieved the later yet, haven’t figured out the former so I’m sort of out of mental bandwidth at the end of the day to be very poignant here. No sense in sharing things poorly, if you know what I mean. (And if you’ve read this space, you do)

I’ve made it a point to get to the lake more this year. Last year I was up here about four times all summer. Am determined to do better than this year, and as of this weekend, I officially have. Most of the time I’m up here alone or with my middle son. He’s home from Auburn for the summer as of this morning, still unemployed. Which selfishly is good for me because I get company up at the lake.

This weekend was one of those weekends where the weather forecasting professionals could have been better served using Amish radar instead of their electronics. Amish radar? The window, look out the window because for a day that was supposed to be the “better day” of the weekend, it rained. Nearly all day. Vacillated between heavy rain and heavy mist all day. Sunday I woke up to fog. Really thick fog. And as a guy who grew up in Stockton California, home of the world famous Tule Fog, I know my fog like my Minnesota natives know snow. This, was legit. Thick enough that I delayed the Sunday drive home because I was pretty sure I’d hit something on the way, mostly likely a deer.

Overall a fine weekend right up to the time I turned funny to grab the dock and pulled a muscle in my back. This is one I’ve pulled before, by Sunday morning wasn’t exactly ambulatory. Sent a text off to Mrs S, letting her know “back went out- not good”. She’s been through this before with me. “can you make it home if Eric drives?” Problem was how to get the boat out of the water when you can’t bend or life more then 11 oz without shooting pains down my left leg.

But I’m old, which means I persevere. Go the boat out, Eric was super helpful, although next time we’re up there, we’re going to have to do some boat driving lessons, specifically driving onto a trailer. I’d like to load the boat without having to wade up to my knees to help out. Oh well, growing pains.




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