Tips for Downsizing

DownsizingAdvice from Amy Roberts
at Out of the Box Moves

Thinking about moving out of your home and downsizing to a smaller home?  Out of the Box Moves is a company that specializes in moving and downsizing and has a few tips that will make this process flow smoother. The first step you will have to make is to decide what you want to take with you and what to do with the rest of your stuff!

The best way is to focus on one room at a time, do not try to do the whole house at once; you will get overwhelmed. Work your way around the room clockwise, or if you insist, counter-clockwise.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Do I use it?

When did I use it last?

Do I need it?

You may want to use sticky notes and label things accordingly. Some suggestions we have are to label items: keep, donate, sell, or give to family or friends.  Other items may just go right into the trash bag or recycle bin.  Once your decision is made, place items in a bin or box that is labeled appropriately.

When organizing the master bedroom, go through your clothes in your closet and bureau, and ask yourself the following questions…

When did I wear it last?

Does it still fit? 

Be sure to have a trash bag ready because it is okay to throw out old socks, nylons, or pilled sweaters.   When an item can be appreciated and worn by someone else, it can be donated. Throw out old hangers and give back the metal ones to the dry cleaners.  Look down at all of those shoes on the floor or hiding in boxes. Old sneakers, which are worn down and actually not good for your posture, can go in the trash, and dress shoes that you will never wear again, can be donated.  And do you really need four pairs of bedroom slippers and those chic expensive boots that hurt your feet? It is time to donate those!

I bet there are a lot of things you can throw out in your bathroom!  First, gather all those expired medications and dispose of them according to your community’s guidelines.  Toss the little soaps and shampoos you have collected from hotels and those ragged washcloths and stained towels.  There is probably an old hairdryer that always shorted out and a curling iron or an electric shaver that has not been used in years. Those can all be thrown out as well. A great way of getting rid of your old sheets, towels, and blankets is to donate them to your local animal shelter to help pets in need.

Now in the living room, you may have shelves full of books or maybe even some textbooks from college collecting dust.  Fill grocery bags with these books and donate them to the local library. If you have a very large amount of books, contact More Than Words, a worthy nonprofit organization in Waltham. They will come and pick up the books from your home. You may also have some decorative items in your living room that may be valuable. Have an antique dealer or auctioneer visit your home to provide you with an estimate of what they are worth. It all depends on the condition of the piece and if it is in demand.

Now onto tackling the office…what about those piles of papers, warranties, cancelled checks, and tax returns that you are determined to sort through some day? If you have a good filing system, that’s great.  If not, buy folders and sort through the papers, and then label each folder accordingly. To make this process easier, listen to music or do it while watching T.V. Create a minimal amount of files and at the same time fill the recycle bin with all the unnecessary papers. Confidential papers should always be shredded. If you do not have a shredder, you can take your papers to Staples, which only charges a small fee for shredding. You do not have to keep things for years and years anymore because so much is electronically stored today.

Photographs are an essential part of our lives and a lot of our memories live within them.  So choose a few of your favorite framed photos to bring with you to your new home.  The rest of the photos can be removed from the frames and put into photo albums.  You can also go through and sort your collection of family photos and distribute them to the appropriate family members.  I am sure they would love to have them! Another option is to scan your photos to make them digital, which would enable you to share fond memories online with family and friends and preserve your memories.

And now for the real challenge—the kitchen! When was the last time you used that George Foreman grill or the waffle iron or the electric percolator? If the small appliances are clean and in good working condition, they can be donated. If any of your mugs, plates or glasses are stained or chipped, it is time to toss them into the trash.  Start using your nicer dinnerware, why wait? If you have a collection of vases, keep just a few, recycle the chipped one, and donate the rest.

As far as your garage and attic are concerned, you may need to recruit some family members or a service to help you. Especially, if you have accumulated quite a lot of gardening equipment, paint cans, and old sports equipment over the years.

Another helpful hint is to create a schedule, put it on the fridge, and give yourself a deadline so that this whole process doesn’t drag on and drag you down. By taking this first step of de-cluttering your home, you will be able to envision your new life in your next home surrounded by the things that you chose and that make you happy!

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What About the Natural Gas Pipeline in Massachusetts?

All Things SustainableBy Mark Sandeen

Mark Sandeen is the chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Q: I understand we are considering building a new natural gas pipeline in Massachusetts. Is building a new pipeline critical to our energy future?

A: A lot of folks thought so last year. We saw some natural gas price spikes when demand jumped during a couple of cold snaps. The utilities predicted more of the same this winter, but a funny thing happened. Even though we had a much colder winter, colder than we’ve seen in over three decades, we didn’t have any problems meeting demand.

How is that possible? You may have heard that Massachusetts is leading the nation in energy efficiency for 4 years in a row now. Our energy efficiency programs have reduced electricity demand by 2 million megawatt hours (MWh) in the last two years. We’ve also added another 700,000 MWh in new solar generation. That’s enough electricity for over 360,000 Massachusetts homes. And we are just getting started.

But the utilities are asking us to bet that we’ll stop investing in energy efficiency, solar power adoption will slow, and we’ll never get any wind turbines built. Who wins if we make that bet? Let’s just say the utilities like the guaranteed return on investment that comes from building a $3 billion pipeline.

What happens if we build a pipeline and no one comes? We would all end up paying for the pipeline whether it is needed or not.

Q: Would it be better to upgrade our existing pipelines? I heard that our old pipelines have a lot of leaks.

A: That is a very good idea. Nathan Phillips at BU has found that our local pipelines are leaking a huge amount of natural gas, almost 3% of our natural gas. Those leaks are mostly methane and methane is an extremely strong greenhouse gas – 86 times stronger than carbon dioxide over 20 years. Those methane leaks alone are responsible for 10% of our greenhouse gas emissions in Lexington. On top of that, plugging those leaks would provide enough natural gas to heat 150,000 homes and would reduce the need for a new pipeline. Who pays for those leaks today? We do. The utilities pass those costs on to their customers.

Q: Are there other costs associated with natural gas?

A: According to the Energy Information Agency, the US has increased the amount of energy required to transport natural gas via pipelines by 50% over the last decade.

The total amount of energy used by natural gas pipelines is now about 264 million MWh a year. To put that into perspective – that is slightly more than the total amount of electricity consumed in California and about 5 times more than all the electricity used in Massachusetts each year.

But that is small potatoes compared to the 57% to 67% of natural gas energy that is wasted once it gets to a power plant. According to the EIA, only 33% to 43% of the energy in natural gas is actually converted into electricity and makes it on to the power grid. The remaining energy goes up the cooling tower as waste heat.

Our electricity grid loses another 8% in transmission and distribution line losses along the way to our homes and businesses. This highlights a huge benefit of solar energy, every kWh of electricity produced directly at the point of consumption eliminates all those losses.

We could eliminate one California’s worth of electricity consumption, just in pipeline energy costs alone, by switching to renewable energy sources like wind, hydro, and solar. And we wouldn’t have to pay for a $3 billion dollar pipeline that won’t be needed in an increasingly energy efficient but still warming world.

 


 

Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org. THANK YOU!

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Record Setting Snowfall!

By Mark Sandeen

Q: Is anyone else wondering what the heck is going on with our weather this winter? Was our record setting snowfall related to climate change?

A: If you suspected that we have been smashing records this winter, you would be right. As I write this, we are less than 2 inches away from setting the all time annual snowfall record in Boston. We had the snowiest January in history, and the snowiest 7-day period in history, with over 40 inches of snow from January 27th – February 2nd. That is 8 inches more than the previous 7-day snowfall record. We aren’t just breaking records; we are blowing them to smithereens. So what is happening?

The NOAA image below, taken when these storms started, shows that the ocean temperature off the east coast surrounding Boston was 2 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year. And we know that warmth pumps more moisture in the air, in this case about 10% more moisture than normal. The melting arctic ice is also affecting the jet stream, which is pulling abnormally cold air down from the arctic; and that cold air lingers longer due to the weakening jet stream. So when you combine the moist warm air rising above the ocean with the cold arctic air being pulled down from the North, you get massive snowstorms that last a lot longer than they used to.

NOAA Ocean Temp anomaly-638x507Scientists suggest that only about half of the ocean temperature rise this year can be attributed to climate change. So that record breaking 40-inch storm, might have only been 20 inches without climate change.

If you’ve been thinking these storms are coming more frequently, you’d be correct. We’ve broken the all time extreme winter weather snowfall record 4 times in the last 10 years. And if you feel like we’ve been singled out for special treatment, you would be right. New England is seeing the largest increase in extreme weather events in the country; with a 71% increase in extreme weather events.

How many once in a hundred year events can we have in 5 years? I count 6. The spring floods of 2010, Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy, Snow October, the Blizzard of 2013 and now the 2015 blizzard – that made the Blizzard of 2013 look small…

Q: I understand that the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved moving forward with the Hartwell Solar project. What are the details of that project?

A: The Board of Selectmen approved a 2.25 MW solar project, which will provide about 31% of the Town’s electricity and reduce our CO2 emissions by 68 million pounds over the life of the project. That is enough solar electricity to supply 375 average homes or the equivalent emissions reduction of eliminating 86 million miles of driving.

On top of that, we expect the solar energy system to generate $14.7 million in revenue for the Town, while allowing the Town to continue all existing operations at the site. When combined with our rooftop solar project that went live in December, we expect our solar arrays will be generating 45% of the Town’s electricity and earning the Town $20 million over the next 25 years.

This is a large project that will require significant changes in the operations of the site and probably take close to a year before it is generating power.

I want to express my thanks to everyone involved, and especially to Bill Hadley and the Department of Public Works staff who worked so hard to make this possible.

 

Mark Sandeen is the chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Sustainable Lexington is a Town committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen
to enhance Lexington’s long-term sustainability and resilience
in response to environmental resource and energy challenges.
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All Things Sustainable

Mark Sandeen is the chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

 

All Things Sustainable

 

 

 

 

 

By Mark Sandeen

Question

Over 400,000 people marched in New York City demanding action on climate change. What is next?

Answer

An amazingly diverse group of people walked in the People’s Climate March in New York City because we are just beginning to realize as a society how urgent it is that we take rapid action to protect the future of our civilization and human life on this planet.

Recent studies show that if we want to maintain a livable climate, there is a limit to the amount of fossil fuels we can burn. And at our current pace, we will hit that limit in just 30 years. That is a pretty sobering thought. The implications are clear – we will need to transition to a 100% clean energy, zero emissions economy in the next 30 years.

Emissions will need to peak soon and begin falling rapidly if we are to avoid catastrophic and irreversible consequences. The investments we make over the next 15 years will determine the future of the world’s climate.

The good news is that this transition is not only technically feasible, but will save us money, strengthen our economy, and provide tremendous health benefits. We have an aging fleet of power plants that were put in place in the 50’s and 60’s and now need to be replaced. We can choose to replace them with more fossil fuel plants and lock our emissions in for the next 50 or 60 years. Or we can make the choice to switch to clean energy power systems – now, today. We have excellent and viable alternatives.

We can put solar panels on our rooftops, parking lots, and landfills. And start driving electric cars. We can build wind turbines and use hydro to fill in the gaps. We can design our new buildings so they use far less energy and unlock the energy savings in our existing buildings. Every dollar invested in energy efficiency yields $4 in energy savings – up to $2 trillion dollars in savings from our commercial buildings alone.

If we choose to replace our aging fossil fuel power plants with renewable replacements and energy efficiency investments, the slightly higher upfront costs will be more than offset by the savings from our reduced fuel costs. And every dollar we spend on a clean energy future is a dollar that stays in our local economy.

We marched in New York City because we are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last generation that can do anything about it. It is time to get to work.

Question

My electric rates are skyrocketing. What can I do?

Answer

Our electricity rates have become increasingly volatile due to our over dependence on natural gas. We saw our electricity rates rise 24% last winter and the trend is accelerating with the Mass DPU approving generation rate hikes of almost 100% for the coming winter. It is clearly time to diversify our energy portfolio.

The increased volatility of our electricity rates makes switching to solar and wind power increasingly attractive. In fact, solar has reached “rate parity” in Massachusetts. Many Solarize Lexington homeowners with good sunny roofs were able to save up to 75% on their electricity bills by locking in a fixed rate for their solar electricity for next 20 years.

For those of you without good sunny roofs, like your lucky neighbors, ask your elected representatives to support community shared solar projects, which will allow you to buy solar power from a nearby solar farm.

 


Sustainable Lexington Committee

Sustainable Lexington is a Town committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen to enhance Lexington’s long-term sustainability and resilience in response to environmental resource and energy challenges.

Email: sustainablelexcmte@lexingtonma.gov

http://www.lexingtonma.gov/committees/sustainablelex.cfm

 

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Tree Talk with Matt Foti

Matt Foti
Matt Foti

Fall Maintenance Reminder

 

We experienced severe winter kill on evergreens last winter primarily because plants went into the winter followed by drought conditions late last summer and into the fall. Evergreens need lots of water at the end of the summer and through the fall to make it through the winter because they never go completely dormant. When sunlight is cast on the foliage the roots cannot draw moisture from the ground when it is frozen solid, winter kill is caused by desiccation.

The best advice I can give now is water, water, water and water some more right up until the ground freezes, as we are experiencing a very dry fall much the same as last year.  Evergreens can store moisture to make it through the winter but if they start the winter dry followed by hard frost we will see just as much winter kill this winter as we did last.

Anti-desiccant sprays are liquefied wax that close up the pores of evergreens and help prevent transpiration of stored moisture. The wax on the foliage of evergreens actually puts them into an artificial dormancy, it is best to spray one time early in the winter and another when the temperature goes above freezing mid to late winter.

Most winter kill occurs in the late winter or very early spring when there is a large variation in temperature in a short period of time when the sap starts to flow again. We can all remember daytime temperatures in late February or early March that go as high as 80° and evenings well below the freezing mark. 60 to 70° variation in temperature within a 24-hour period is even harsher on plants that it is on us because plants can’t turn the thermostat up!

Extra mulch on the roots of evergreens in the fall will also help retain moisture and insulate the ground so that frost cannot penetrate as deeply. If you do put on extra mulch in the fall always remember to remove it in the spring because too much mulch on the roots can suffocate a plant.

Spider mites are another side effect of dry conditions.  When plants become stressed due to lack of moisture they become susceptible to being attacked by spider mites.  Mites are opportunistic little creatures that suck the chlorophyll out of leaves and needles further reducing plant vigor.

Winter moth and canker worm continued to be serious defoliators this year and every indication suggests that they will be here for several years to come.

 

Another harmful insect that has come on the scene is viburnum leaf beetle. I have been warned about its arrival for several years and now it is quite prevalent. Viburnums can be treated systemically with a soil drench insecticide in the fall to prevent next year’s outbreak or sprayed with insecticidal soap in early to mid-June.

Always consult a trained and licensed professional when you have questions regarding recognition, diagnosis and control of both insects and plant diseases.  Call our office today for a free consultation and estimate.

Autumn is also a good time for tree evaluations to help prevent downed power lines and potentially hazardous trees during winter months.

 


 

 

Foti Round LogoMatthew R. Foti is the owner of Foti Landscape and Tree Service. Matt is a 1977 graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds degrees in social science and general business. Matt became a Massachusetts Certified Arborist in 1979 and served as president of the Massachusetts Arborists Association from 1993 to 1995. Matt currently employs six Massachusetts Certified Arborists.

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The Danger of Ticks In Your Landscape

By Matt Foti

Tick Ad ImageAfter recently completing a three-week regiment of Doxycycline antibiotic for Lyme Disease (for the second time) I feel obligated to inform my customers of this current epidemic and let you know how we can help. Two of my employees have been treated for Lyme Disease in the past six weeks and several others have received treatment over the past three or four years and we are coming into contact with deer ticks on your very own properties.
Lyme disease has emerged as the second most commonly reported infectious disease in New England, currently described as a public health crisis. I feel that the biggest problem with deer ticks is that they are very difficult to detect given their small size. Unlike mosquitoes deer ticks don’t warn you with a buzzing noise and you never feel them bite you.
If you are an avid outdoors person it is very important to take preventative measures and be diligent about inspecting yourself and your children after being outdoors. Grade school aged children are most commonly affected by Lyme disease and contact can occur during all 12 months of the year, most cases are reported during May, June and July. Your pets can also get Lyme.

For detailed information please consult the following report “Lyme Disease in Massachusetts, a Public Health Crisis”
https://malegislature.gov/Document/Committee/188/House/H46/CommitteeAttachment/LymeDiseaseReport.pdf .
You will find a 36 page report put together by citizens from Acton, Bedford, Carlisle, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Waltham, Wayland and Weston that have adopted the title Middlesex Tick Task Force.

After a great deal of research I am offering both chemical and organic sprays to help reduce the risks of contracting Lyme disease on your property. Please call our office for a free consultation and estimate.
On a much happier note, spring flowers have just gone by and this year’s new growth is tapering off, which means it’s time to prune landscape shrubs.

Flowering plants need to be pruned now to maximize next year’s flowers and non-flowering plants need to be pruned now to maintain shape and form. Many landscape plants are destroyed not only by poor pruning techniques but also by pruning at the wrong time of the year. Some plants have experienced winter injury from extreme low temperatures this past winter. Right now is a good time to determine if damaged plants need to be replaced or if they are salvageable with good pruning.
Timing is the key to proper maintenance, contact the professionals today.

 

Matthew R. Foti is the owner of Foti Landscape and Tree Service. Matt is a 1977 graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds degrees in social science and general business. Matt became a Massachusetts Certified Arborist in 1979 and served as president of the Massachusetts Arborists Association from 1993 to 1995. Matt currently employs six Massachusetts Certified Arborists.
Foti Landscape and Tree Service 30 Fairbanks Rd.
Lexington, Ma 02421, Ph: 781.861.0505,
E-mail: mrftree@aol.com

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A Personal Connection~Learning About Life Through Little League

Coaches

Little League Coaches

By Hank Manz

Even with some of the fields still brown and even with the nights still cold, it is now a very important time of year. Spring? Well, sure, but more important than that. I am speaking of something that surpasses everything else because it is time to start playing baseball.

I don’t mean just watching baseball. Sure, that can be important, too, but not as important as actually playing the game.

There are other sports that people might like, but there is nothing quite like a warm summer night, a well-oiled glove, a hat that fits perfectly, and a bunch of players who can’t hit my knuckleball. OK—that last is getting harder to come by, but even with three out of four, there is nothing with which to compare it.

I was a very small kid with no arm, but one summer in Police Athletic League baseball I ran into a coach who had a couple of the fingers on his throwing hand in a recent war. All he could throw was a knuckleball which was perfect for a player who would never be able to throw faster than 65 mph, even in college.

That knuckleball, along with an ability to scratch out singles with men on base, and a Vern Law signature model glove earned me a spot on several teams over the years. More than 50 years later I still have the glove. Oh, there have been love affairs with flashier models now and again, but I have always returned to that Law Trap-Eze glove. I once buried an almost new glove at a field in Cambridge after committing five errors including one that lost the game for my team.

The non-wood bats gave me a boost about the time my hitting was starting to really sag, but my first home run would not come until I was just past my 40th birthday when the perfect pitch and the best swing ever came together in my first round-tripper. It broke a window in a passing T-bus, but the driver just shrugged it off as did the police officer whose cruiser windshield I cracked when I fouled one off later in the game.

So it was inevitable that one day I would take my then only eligible child to Little League registration. After signing up we waited for the coach to call to tell us what team she was going to be on, but instead a smooth-talking league organizer came by to tell me that an awful lot of kids were going to be disappointed if I couldn’t sign up as a manager, the baseball equivalent of a head coach. It seems they were short of volunteers and really needed someone with my experience, etc., etc. Later, when I became a league organizer, I would use that line more times than I care to count.

I stuck with Little League, eventually joined the board of directors, and ended up as a league organizer. But I also stuck with coaching.

That somehow led to running for Town Meeting although I still do not fully understand exactly how that came about. And that led to running for Selectman.

I finally gave up Little League, but then concentrated on youth hockey and Boy Scouts. About four years into the transition I realized that what I had learned as a Little League organizer fit right into both hockey and Scouts. Hmmmmm.

One day, a light dawned. What I had learned in Little League also fit into town government and a lot of other endeavors. Everything I had learned about life appears to have been learned in Little League. Wow!

One of the first things I learned was that you can make all the rules you want, but if they fail to pass by a huge majority, nobody will follow them.

Use all your players. The day will come when you will be thankful that you spent all your time on that kid who just couldn’t seem to catch the ball because he will make a brilliant catch late in a tournament game which will more than make up for all the ones he dropped.

While we are on that subject, you will spend 75% of your time coaching 25% of your players. If you are a good coach, it will be the lowest 25% and not the highest 25%. The highest 25% are probably better players than you were anyway.

Of course you shouldn’t cheat, but don’t even cut corners. You may be following the letter of the law, but someday the fact that you didn’t pay attention to the spirit of the rules will come back to haunt you.

Try not to relive your past glories through your team. Most of the kids are just looking to have some fun while they figure out that they don’t really want to play ball for their life work. To be honest, your past glories probably weren’t perfect, either. No need for your players to know that.

Keep in mind that there will be failures. With a lifetime batting average of .210 that means I failed close to 4 out of every 5 times at bat. You are surprised I know my lifetime batting average? It doesn’t hurt to keep track so long as you don’t beat anybody else over the head with it.

Winning it all can be exciting, but pizza after you have spent the season in the cellar, but then knocked off the #1 seed in the tournament tastes really good … even when you get knocked out by the #12 seed two nights later. Live for the moment and don’t always concentrate on the big picture.

Try to see the humor in what is going on. My Little League team once won a game when the opposing coach yelled at his pitcher “Just throw strikes.” The pitcher looked over at me and smiled, then started to laugh so hard that he couldn’t get anything even close to the plate. That pitcher is now 28 years old and we both still chuckle about that game. I mean what did his coach think he was trying to do?

Don’t take advantage. It is, after all, only a game. With three players on base, the opposing catcher was hit so hard by a pitch that he fell down in front of the plate screaming. Technically, the team at bat could have sent all the runners home and won the game, but both coaches immediately called time and instructed the spectators to stop yelling. As one coach put it “Winning by stepping over a screaming child is not my style.”

There is so much more, but I will leave you with this thought. We all know healthy snacks are good for you, but while players may like them, nobody really adores them so now and then break out the licorice ropes and Hershey bars. The players will sing your praises and who knows—the resulting sugar high may win you a game.

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Putting Sports in Perspective

Commissioner Hanksmall

Commissioner Hank

I woke up the morning after the Super Bowl realizing I had to deal with a real crisis.

The new, probably large, house going up in my neighborhood which I wrote about earlier? No, I was just a bit saddened when more than 60 years of history disappeared in under 45 minutes, leaving only an empty lot where once a house had stood, but I had written about the inevitability of change and here it was happening right in front of me.

The fact that Tom Terrific had not been able to lead the Patriots to another NFL championship? Really, I am over that and am already looking forward to next season.

This was a real crisis because when the Super Bowl ran long because of the power outage (obviously they should have had a muni supplying electricity to the stadium), I lost any chance to see Downton Abbey that night. Sure, I could talk with the best of them around the water cooler about the football game, but not only was I going to be lost when the subject of Downton Abbey came up, it was very likely that before I could find another way to see the episode, most of the secrets would have been revealed. Did Bates get out of jail? Would Ethel manage to prepare lunch without embarrassing her employer or herself? Would Lady Mary stop being irritating and actually do something productive besides looking gorgeous and wearing clothes really well?

Of course, like many Lexingtonians, I am interested in sports, especially youth sports. The day before the Super Bowl I had spent five hours being the Commissioner of LBYH In-House Hockey, an 11-team, 187 player, inclusive league for kids between the ages of 5 and 11. Everybody gets equal playing time and coaches are evaluated mostly on how well they can bond with players and parents rather than their won-lost record.

I followed that with a short nap and then headed off for four hours of announcing at the LHS varsity hockey games. “Good evening hockey fans …” I once figured that I sit through something like 140 hockey games each year.

Of course there is baseball in the spring and summer, but here I stick with T-Ball age players. In fact, I spend most of my time with Pre-Ball which is for players between the ages of 4 and 6. And let’s not forget football in the fall.

So with all of that, I must be nuts about sports, right? Well, sort of, but not in the way you might expect.

Sports does touch kids’ lives and it can teach valuable lessons. But all too often I see things I would rather not see. Coaches who act out. Parents screaming about just about everything.

I forget who won and who lost almost as soon as the game is over. What I remember are the good plays, the flashes of brilliance, the displays of sportsmanship. The player who scores the first goal ever. My son slept with his trophy for weeks after he scored his first. A tiny goalie realizing that the pucks do not hurt because of all the padding and that she can stop them. Matt in his wheelchair propelling himself around the bases will be with me always. I wake up sometimes thinking “What if I had been so stupid that I denied Matt his chance just because he was in a wheelchair?” And then I remember that it all came out all right and I smile.

A few seasons ago, the LHS varsity hockey coach pulled up to the varsity for the last game of the season, a player who had spent his high school career on the junior varsity. The player would get to be a varsity hockey player even if only for one game. Then his teammates combined to feed him the puck so that he could score his first varsity goal.

I have no memory of how many games the team won that year. But that bit of magic told me all I needed to know about the coach and the team. They were all superstars as far as I was concerned.

The funny thing is that the kids care mostly about playing rather than about the score. Years ago a team I coached won a hockey tournament. The coaches were feeling pretty good about themselves. Obviously we were just about the best human beings around. Then I felt a tug on the hem of my jacket and looked down to find a tiny third liner with tears in her eyes. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “Do we have to stop playing hockey now? she demanded.” That little third liner didn’t care about the trophy in her hand. She didn’t understand won or lost. What she cared about was playing the game and now the season was over.

The fact is that no matter how good a Lexington player is, there is a nearly 100% chance that they will make a living doing something besides playing professional sports. So take it easy, enjoy the game, forget the mistakes and the bad games, and remember the good times.

Years ago I was the starting pitcher in a baseball game. We were mercy-ruled after the other team scored 21 runs in a single inning. While it was true I had struck out nobody, neither had I walked anybody nor had I made any errors or thrown a wild pitch. Even better I had made no fielding errors and my ERA was still zero because there had been no hits. All runs were scored on errors. And it was only the first inning.

The funny thing is that while I have played on some good teams over the years, that is the team I remember best. I still see the guys I played with. And we are still kidding each other about just how awful we were that day and just about every other day.

So most of my job has become figuring out how to let kids just play the game. I want everybody to have a chance to play the game, no matter what game it is, and I hope all of us can join in to make that happen. Not just with sports, either.

 

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e-Life Advisor: Choosing a Tablet

Charlie Hoover

 

Helpful information regarding your Electronic life- all the computers, smartphones, tablets, home entertainment and internet tools you rely on to be productive and entertained.

Stephen from Lexington asks, “I’m thinking of getting a small tablet of some kind but I don’t know which one to get. My wife loves her iPad but I’m not sure I need one that big or that expensive. I really just want to have a good screen to read books, check email etc. I’ve been looking at either the Kindle Fire or the iPad Mini. If I go for the cheaper one will I regret it?”

Well Stephen this is a great question! It’s also pretty subjective but I’ll start off by saying that you wouldn’t regret getting the Kindle Fire. As smaller tablets go it’s a very well designed device. You’ll have access to pretty much every major app you could want as well as a direct link to Amazons catalogue of books, movies, TV shows and physical goods. If you’re mostly focused on the books though, I would recommend looking at the standard Kindle Paperwhite. It won’t run apps but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better reading experience anywhere.

On the Apple side of things we have the new iPad Mini which is their first foray into the smaller tablet arena. As such while it’s a very beautiful device, it doesn’t completely fit into the existing lineup yet, mostly due to its lack of what Apple calls ‘Retina’ resolution for the screen. If you’re already deep in the Apple ecosystem then it may be worth considering though, especially if you’ve purchased a ton of apps or content through iTunes already. In general you’re better off spending the extra money for the full sized iPad Retina since you’ll be getting more for your money and a better reading experience.

If it’s a matter of getting the most for your money, I’ll recommend something you might not have heard about: The Google Nexus 7. It’s a 7” Android tablet that’s a fantastic compromise between the Kindle Fire and the iPad Mini. It’s fast, cheap, and can run almost any of the 700,000 apps in the Google Play store. It’s only real down side is the lack of a decent camera but if that’s not your priority it’s going to be your best value. Whatever you decide to go with let me know if you’re enjoying it!

 

Charlie Hoover is a Senior e-Life Technologist at Geek Housecalls of Lexington.

If  you have an e-Life problem or concern of your own, you can contact me via email (elife@geekhousecalls.com ), Facebook or Twitter (@elifeadvisor). I look forward to helping you! For those of you, who want more information about windows 8 or new tablets, visit our blog

http://www.geekhousecalls.com/Blog.aspx

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e-life Advisor~Back to School

Charlie Hoover of Geek Housecalls

Helpful information regarding your Electronic life- all the computers, smartphones, tablets, home entertainment and internet tools you rely on to be productive and entertained.

mer is rapidly coming to an end and that means it’s time for families to turn their attention towards preparing for school. Every year, back-to-school preparation seems to become an increasingly more complicated process and technology is an important, yet stressful, part of the back-to-school checklist. To help relieve some of this stress, I’ve chosen a couple of questions this month that focus on back-to-school issues.  

John from Lexington asks: “I just bought a couple of cheap netbooks for my two teens for school. I discovered that they don’t seem to have any software for them to do homework (write papers, etc). I’d prefer to not spend much money, if possible. Any ideas?”

Yes, there are actually several great services available. I’ll be focusing on Googles’ product here, but there are other options like LibreOffice that I’ll go into detail about on our Blog [http://geekhousecalls.com/Blog/tabid/82/entryid/200/eLifeAdvisorAugust2012.aspx] I also recommend checking with the school(s) regarding software requirements or purchasing deals with companies like Microsoft. There are often discounted rates for students that make software more affordable. 

My favorite recommendation is a service called Google Docs (drive.google.com). It’s a suite of Internet-based applications that lets you create documents, spreadsheets and presentations from any web browser. The service is free so all they’ll need is a Google account. Because it’s based in the ‘Cloud’, data isn’t stored on their computer directly and everything is automatically backed up as they work. This means that if their computer dies (even in mid-sentence), they simply log onto their account from any machine to finish their work without losing any data. Files can also be shared with others for live collaboration, making it a great solution for big projects. You can use this feature to track their progress and even help them with their homework remotely. It’s a perfect solution for busy families! 

Beth from Lexington asks; “My son is starting high school and I’m thinking about getting him an iPad to help with his school work but I’m on the fence about the expense. Do you think its worth investing in one at his age? Is there a good cheap alternative?”

You aren’t alone in asking this question Beth. It comes up a lot and to be honest it’s a very personal decision so giving a solid answer is tricky. Many schools are adopting iPads as an alternative to laptops, so you may want to check with the school on what their plans (if any) might entail. The iPad is a powerful and flexible tool for doing everything from homework and reading to playing games and watching movies. It’s also possible to enable parental controls to limit what it can do, which is one of the reasons schools are loving them so much .

If your main concern is the expense, there are numerous lower-cost alternatives. The ‘Nexus 7’ is my current favorite non-Apple tablet; it’s less than half the price (roughly $200), very powerful, more portable (its physically smaller which is great for smaller hands) and has access to a similar collection of apps. It’s an amazing deal for the price .

In the end there has never been a better time to be a curious kid and the specific device isn’t as important as what they get out of it. After all, the tools available to them are the stuff of science fiction! Both devices will give them access to reference material from around the world, interactive learning, productivity tools, and yes even games. Whichever you choose though, I also recommend buying a hardened case for it like the ‘Otterbox’ to protect your investment. Even the best intentioned kid can have an accident and gravity is very unforgiving to mobile devices. 

Thanks John & Beth for sending in your questions. If you have an e-Life problem or concern of your own, you can contact me via email (elife@geekhousecalls.com), Facebook (facebook.com/geekhousecalls) or Twitter (@elifeadvisor). I look forward to helping you!

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