Sunday, January 28, 2018

Rockscaping Project

So you may recall from a previous blog entry that I have this one side of the house that has a big weed problem, and not the fun kind of weeds.  The weeds on this side of the house grow fiercely, especially during the monsoon season.  At least once a year they'd get so tall that I'd get a letter from the homeowners association and have to hire landscapers to come out and clean it all up.
While hiring landscapers is the easy way out, it adds up in costs over time.  Plus it does look pretty yucky out there when all the weeds are fully grown.  So for a while, I've been thinking about laying some tarp down and covering the area up, to help with the weed prevention.  After the section was free of weeds, I laid down the same tarp that I've used in my backyard, which for years has worked very effectively.  I also made sure to do this project during the winter time so that it wouldn't be too hot outside.
Took me about 4 hours across two days to shovel up gravel and lay the tarp down.  After that, it was time to order me some rock and I had my eye on the "rip-rap" type.  I went to two locations in town: Acme Sand & Gravel and D & D Materials.  I started with Acme and they quoted me at needing 6 tons to cover the 220 square feet I wanted to cover.  At about $40 a ton and $60 for delivery, that would've easily run me over $300.  I then went to D & D and they quoted me at 3.5 tons for the same type of rock.  They also let me buy a bag of rock (about 40lbs worth) for $2.50, so I took that home to lay on the yard so I could get a better estimate of how much I actually needed.  In the end, I decided I only needed to order 2.5 tons of their 3-6" Coronado Brown.  At $40 a ton, this ran me about $100 + $60 for delivery.  Not bad.
The rock was delivered on Friday and was a daunting pile to say the least.  I had inquired how much my landscapers wanted to do the job, but they quoted me at $450. :(  That seemed like a lot, so I decided to move it myself and just ask one of my friends to help out.  On Friday, I took a half-day off to start moving the pile with Anthony coming on Saturday to help me finish the rest.  It was challenging on my own since I didn't have a wheelbarrow.  Instead, I used a bin on a dolly to move the rock back and forth from the street to my yard.  Over 3.5 hours, I was able to move a 3rd of the pile.  *phew*  Exhausting work!
On Saturday morning, my legs and back were already sore from moving rock the previous day and there was still a lot left to move.  Anthony arrived at noon and fortunately brought a wheelbarrow with him, although the tire was flat.  We overcame the flat tire and used it anyway, alternating between the barrow and the bin.  Anthony had some experience moving rock and the barrow sped up the process.  After just 2 hours we had moved almost all of the rock over!  After we had covered the entire section of the yard, I still had rock left over that I had to remove from the street and sprinkle over the area.  After about another hour of solo work, I was finally finished.  Exhausting work and in hindsight, probably should've ordered just 2 tons at most (who knows, maybe they even gave me 3 tons).  Regardless, the project is done!
We'll have to see how it holds up, but hopefully it'll be just as effective as the area in the backyard.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Vegas Trifecta

Back in the day, I found myself traveling to Las Vegas at least 2-3 times a year.  It was a popular destination when I was younger, for parties and random trips of excitement.  Over the last few years, I have not traveled there as often, only to play in APA pool tournaments on at best an annual basis.  However, this year is different, as I will be traveling to Las Vegas three times in a 6 week period:
  • Jan 12-14: Mike's 30th Birthday
  • Feb 3-5: Christina's 30th Birthday & Superbowl
  • Feb 17-20: Tyler's Bachelor Party
At first, I was on the fence about doing the birthdays, since I knew I'd be going in mid February for Tyler's bachelor party.  But 30th birthdays are important milestones to people, so I figured I'd just Make It Happen and do all three.  It'll be a lot of Vegas, which I don't care for the city as much anymore, but at least each time will be a different experience with a different group of friends.  And fortunately, living in Tucson, I'm only an hour flight away for a couple hundred bucks round-trip each time.

Sooooooooooooooo, yeah, hopefully I don't get burnt out.  Recaps of the trips to come next month!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Rest In Peace...

A forewarning for my readers today: this is a sad post upcoming.  If you're not in the mood to read about tragedy, then I ask that you come back another time, or later when I'm back to posting about positive content.

My parents moved our family from Paradise Valley to Scottsdale in 1995. At first, it was a rough transition for me because I had a nice circle of friends I had grown up with in PV.  We would ride our bikes through ditches and washes around our neighborhood, many nights of playing street hockey in front of our yard, and having friends over for slumber parties where we'd play video games and trade basketball cards.

When my parents moved to Scottsdale, I was forced to make new friends at Mountainside Middle School.  I can still remember not fitting in at first.  The school had a lot of students who dressed and acted more preppy, wearing clothes like Tommy Hilfiger that was a little more expensive than my No Fear t-shirts.  I found myself having to change my look to fit in: new wardrobe, got rid of the bowl cut with my hair parted down the middle and cut it all short.  I was simply the new kid who hadn't found his place yet.

About a year later, I remember a kid name Mike approach me in the halls at Mountainside.  He mentioned to me how his parents were buying a new home in the Carino Canyon complex where I was now living.  I didn't think much of it at the time, but I figured it'd be nice to have another kid to play with in the neighborhood.  Little did I know this was the creation of what would become one of my longest and best friendships in life.

Over the years, I grew much closer to Mike and the Band family.  Being a 30 second walk down the street really helped, as we were only separated by 2 houses.  Mike would come over to play basketball and video games, I would go over to his house and do the same.  Even as we got older and attended different colleges and now living in different cities (Tucson for me, D.C. for him), it was easy to keep in touch because we'd coordinate being back at our parents' houses at the same time over the breaks.  The Band family would even invite me over for Thanksgiving dinner, holiday drinks, and just casual get-togethers.  I honestly felt like an adopted son at times.

Today I am writing to honor Mike's dad, Alan Band.  He passed away two weeks ago as he was fighting a battle with cancer and unfortunately did not win.  His funeral and burial were last week on the 12th and 13th of December, 2017.  Mr. Band - as I called him no matter how much older I got - was a very friendly man to me.  He always made me feel welcome, providing me with more food than I could eat and giving me sage advice over the years as if I were his own son.  I finally realized how much he cared for me when one night, as he was having friends over for dinner, in his drunken stupor he couldn't stop telling them "how much he loved this kid" with a huge smile on his face.

I knew Mr. Band for 20 years.  I still remember how happy he was at Mike's wedding a couple years ago and I'm really glad he got to see his only son get married.  He was very humored about the speech I gave when I was best man at Mike's wedding, mostly about how I wasn't  going to let Mike into the "Asian club" even though half of his friends are Asian.  I only have fun and fond memories of Mr. Band and I believe he lived a very good life.  He went a little early, but I think he can rest peacefully knowing how much he achieved and accomplished.

My condolences to Mike and his mother Mary, as it's obviously been a rough time for them this past year.  They are doing well though, all things considered, and the family still remains strong and positive of the future to come.

Rest in peace Mr. Band, you've earned it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

An East Cost Tri-Visit

At the end of October, I ventured out to the east coast to visit 3 of my friends from high school: Chris, Nate, and Mike.  Nate had just moved from Phoenix to Connecticut in August and was looking for visitors, and since I'm always down for traveling efficiency, I figured it'd also be a good opportunity to see Chris and Mike while I'm out there.

New Jersey / New York (Oct 27-31):
I got into Newark late on Friday night and stayed with Chris the first weekend of the 10-day trip.  I apparently picked a good time to visit Chris since he just announced when I arrived that him and Priya are expecting in April of next year.  Congrats to them!  You know that I mostly enjoy hanging out when I travel for friend-seeing, but this was also a perfect weekend for sports!  The World Series between the Astros and Dodgers was excellent, and I made sure to catch and stay up for each game (including the amazing back-and-forth game 5 that didn't end until 1:30am on the east coast).

Sunday was a fun day where Chris and I traveled to Brooklyn and Nate met up with us for both the NFL games all day and the Nuggets @ Nets game later that evening.  I was a little disappointed with the set up at Barclays Center.  It was raining and they only had two entrances where tons of fans had to wait in line for almost 30 minutes.  We didn't get into our seats until the end of the 1st quarter...
Regardless, I love attending sporting events when I travel to different cities, so I was glad to attend the Nets game.  It also helped make the game more exciting when I picked up Spencer Dinwiddie in fantasy basketball for just that weekend and he matched his career high that night with 22 points. :D

On Tuesday, Chris and I ventured out to Hoboken for Halloween, figuring it'd be a better scene than the parade in New York City.  Plus, some idiot decided to mow down bicyclists along the streets in New York just a mile away from where Chris lives, so we figured it'd be a good idea to avoid a crowded area that night.  Hoboken was alright, but the scene is just too young for me now...

Trumbull (Nov 1-3):
On Wednesday, I used the train from Grand Central Station to go to Trumbull, CT where Nate now lives.  Trumbull was pretty much what I expected.  Beautiful green atmosphere with lots of trees and grass, typical of an east coast suburban city, but lacking of nightlife and things for tourists to do.  I don't think Nate will argue with me on my assessment here. :)

I did get to see Elizabeth and Nate's two kids Ainsley and Beckett in their cozy new home (see picture below).  Took a while for Ainsley to warm up to me, but we had some fun playing peek-a-boo the whole time I was there, and then I watched Beckett fall and hurt himself over and over again.  Nate notified me of Deshaun Watson being out for the season, then proceeded to beat me in a basketball game of HORSE, making for one of the worst afternoons of the year. :P  I also really enjoyed taking their dog Casey out for a run, which showed me how fun it could be to own a dog of my own.  Don't worry Duncan, not until I meet someone who could help me out with a dog around the house, which will probably be never, so you're safe. :)
We did make it out for some touristy stuff by visiting the PEZ factory.  There's a visitor center that highlights a scavenger hunt where you have to match up-close photos with the character PEZ dispensers within the cases.  Unfortunately, you can't go into the factory itself, but you can see enough from the visitor center.  At the end, you can redeem a few free bucks towards the gift store.  I can't believe I used to eat PEZ as a kid, it's just pure sugar and I could only eat one roll, lol.

D.C. (Nov 3-6):

The stay in Trumbull was for a couple days and on Friday I took the train back to Jersey City where Chris drove us down to Alexandria for the remainder of the trip.  The drive through Baltimore was a rough one.  Apparently there was an armed robbery in Baltimore, which ended in a fatal collision along one of the interstates, forcing everyone to either sit through a 30-minute slow down or take longer routes that went around the crash.  We finally made it to DC and headed to Theismann's for some food and drinks, where I also watched LeBron go off for 57 points against the Wizards. :D

Most of the weekend, I just hung out with Mike and friends.  Little to no sightseeing, drinking and watching football, an impromptu poker game, eating great food and getting sick from it, watching gorgeous professional women walking around Crystal City.  But by the end of the weekend I was pretty much exhausted and ready to go home.  It had been a long trip.  It may be a while before I make it out to the east coast to visit these 3 again, so I'm glad I did it now.

Oh and I will miss that neighborhood cat roaming around Mike's house...
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Have a safe and fun holiday!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pattern...NOT Broken!?

It was recently pointed out to me that I failed to post a blog in October of this year.

Well thanks to Blogger, I can make it so that my pattern of "one post a month" didn't get broken after all! :P

I know it's cheating, but it too bugs me when I don't meet my monthly goal, so this will have to do for now.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The LA Fitness App (Re: A New Era...)

Last month, I posted about how I was changing gyms and starting a 1-year membership at LA Fitness.  It's been going well so far and I find myself mostly between two locations.  During weekdays, I'll go to the LA Fitness in the middle of town off 1st Ave and Limberlost, since they're one of their gyms that's open until midnight.  On the weekends, I have been going to the southwest location I signed up at, mostly because it's the closest for me and the least crowded, although it's also the smallest.  I've been to a third location off Cortaro and the I-10, and while this is the farthest, I actually think it might be the nicest in terms of both equipment and busyness.

Average Time to Travel to LA Fitness Location:
Central, 1st Ave & Limberlost: 15 minutes
Southwest, Irvington: 10-15 minutes
Northwest, Cortaro & I-10: 15-20 minutes

I later learned that there is an LA Fitness App where you can view your past check-ins!  Here are my check-ins for the month of September.

As you can see, on average I hit the gym once every 3 days.  I would typically like to go 4 times a week, but it gets challenging when I have pool league on Mondays and Tuesdays and bowling league on Thursdays.  I don't like going to the gym before pool league because it's not overly convenient, and in fact if I have to force myself to go, I'll either take a shower there or just go to pool league in my gym attire, lol.  As you can see, I ain't doing shit on Thursdays except bowling. :P Weekend attendance can vary, since sometimes I like to play a round a golf or just do a "P-Andy-X" workout at home.

Another cool feature of the app is that you can view a detailed check-in history that shows exactly what time you checked in and at what location.  Overall, I've been happy with the amount I use their facilities, and don't think I'll have any problem keeping it up.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A New Era...

About a week ago, on Monday August 21st, I tried to go to the gym after work around 4pm to get in a quick workout before pool league.  I've been going to the U of A Rec Center for 15+ years, for over a decade since I graduated and basically ever since I've been living in Tucson.

That Monday, I couldn't even find a place to park.  There's only a handful of metered parking spaces (30 or so) and everything else is restricted parking without a parking permit before 5pm.  My annual membership was also up for renewal that day, and so I started to question why I still go to the U of A Rec Center.  Honestly, during the school year it is just way too crowded.  Even my go-to time of 10pm to close was crowded.  A lot of the kids are obnoxious and impolite.  Several times I'd ask to work in with somebody and they'd actually refuse to let me, suggesting I use a different machine.  I'd hold doors for the girls and they'd walk right by without even acknowledging the small favor.  It got to a point where I was like, "I'm 34 now, I just deserve better than this lifestyle."

So I recently explored options around Tucson.  I ended up going with LA Fitness since they have several gyms around town that I can access (including gyms in Phoenix and Scottsdale).  I've been going for a week now, and while it's different, it's definitely more relaxed and I don't have to deal with the immaturity I got while going to a University gym.  Oh and hey, look at that, tons of free parking!  While I'll miss the pick-up basketball at the U of A, LA Fitness still has a court that I can get my game on whenever I'm feeling it.

And so ends an era of working out at the U of A.  Crazy I lasted 15 years there, but I guess times change and you need to adapt accordingly.  We'll see how long I stay at LA Fitness, but for now, I'm there for the next year.