A Car Seat Conundrum

Good news, astoundingly enough Delta actually located my Kindle… Actually, the fact they located it is not what’s astounding; what is astounding is more that someone else did not located it first and decide to appropriate it as their own or if they did locate it the decision was made to turn it in. This was truly a fortunate turn of events as it means that I will not be forced to use the gift certificates I received for Christmas to purchase a replacement Kindle; I consider this this fortunate because I have been forced to use my own spending money to purchase my books for the past six months. Usually I am able to string out the gift certificates I get during the holidays and my birthday and make them last most of the year… this past year has not been a kind one, both in terms of cost and quantity of literature consumed, this was largely due to the combination of ditching the PS4 and traveling (on my own) a lot more during the course of the year.

How does one know they probably consume too much Worcestershire sauce in a given period of time? When one finds themselves buying it by the gallon for a family of two. Worcestershire sauce does not have an expiration date that I am aware of, nevertheless, I cannot imagine most people go through enough in their entire lives to warrant buying a gallon of it. Welcome to my parent’s home.IMG_4136

Monday we gathered up all of our family and made the trip (flew) down to Atlanta. There is really something to be said about not having to make a connecting flight when travelling with small children. Our trip was short and uneventful… just how I like them, and probably long overdue after last week’s travel complications. During check in Jack began to cry as the desk agent took away his car seat and placed it on the baggage carousel. We got him calmed down and took him through security where he began to get excited about his upcoming ride on a plane. After we boarded the plane Jack was excitedly sitting in the window seat pointing out all of the activity going on around the plane. Suddenly he burst into tears again crying “seat, seat!” Concerned about his sudden distress, Leslie and I tried to determine exactly what the source of his concern was. Upon looking out the window Leslie discovered that Jack had seen the baggage handlers loading his car seat onto the aircraft. I’m still not certain why he has such an emotional attachment to his car seat, but we were able to eventually get him calmed down by assuring him that his car seat was coming on the trip with us.

Side note: If you have no desire to hear me get on my soap box concerning security issues and the TSA please skip the next two paragraphs. It is no secret that I do not hold the TSA in very high regard; I have bumped up against the ridiculous TSA “security” policies a number of times, I’ve had confiscated everything from peanut butter, maple syrup, a 1.5” file on a pair of nail clippers, and a socket wrench that was 0.5” too long (but which had previously made it through other TSA checkpoints). Our encounter with TSA on Monday epitomized the lip service TSA officials are forced to pay in effort to comply with policies that have little to do with actual security. The diaper bag had a number of items in it which are not normally allowed past security, but for families travelling with small children, exceptions are made. Large quantities of unlabeled liquids (juice), strange white powders (formula), and questionable pouches of gel-like substances (yogurt and applesauce) are all granted temporary exceptions. Only one restriction is placed upon those desiring to carry such items through security (outside the obvious one of having children actually travelling with you), this restriction is that one member of the party has to go through a pat down search. Since Leslie is normally the one carrying the diaper bag she is typically the one that endures this screening. This time was a little different. I had already made my way through security and was waiting on the other side with the kids and our baggage. The gentleman running the security station told Leslie that they were short of female staffers and she was going to have to wait a while until one was freed up so she could be searched. He mentioned that I could come back into the security area and undergo an enhanced pat down while Leslie went and sat with the kids. Of course this is exactly what we did, but I vocally protested the how ridiculous the policy was. The gentleman performing the pat down was perfectly polite and happened to agree with me.

Clearly the personnel running security were not concerned that Leslie, myself, or our children were trying to sneak contraband through security (otherwise we would have all had to undergo pat downs), but the fact that they were still forced to abide by policies that give them no ability to make any kind of judgment calls is preposterous, useless, and an absolute disgrace to an agency that has suffered more than its fair share of disgraces (even considering it is a government agency). I probably ought to be a little more careful, otherwise I might find myself on the no-fly list. Ok, diatribe over.

For those of you that are curious, yes I have already seen “The Force Awakens.” No, I was not there on opening night, but I did see it on the first showing on opening day. And no, I did not show up in costume, although I do have one that would have worked really well. Unfortunately I find myself on the cusp of an awkward time in my life; a time where I now have children and no longer have the freedom to spend late nights out on the town watching movies with my fellow nerd-kind, at the same time, neither one of my children are old enough to fully appreciate the Star Wars movies nor to drag along to a late night premier of the next movie in said series. Oh well, I doubt Jack will be old enough by the time Episode VIII comes out either, guess that means I will be looking forward to the release of Episode IX in the meantime.


Divine Appointment

Whew, what an interesting and long week and at times, frustrating week. Monday I flew to Cleveland via Detroit after work. As I sat on the plane as everyone else boarded a little girl caught my eye. “I know her,” I thought. Sure enough, she was immediately followed by her dad, a guy I used to work with (in Schenectady). I found out they were flying to Tampa and we decided to catch up during our layovers in Detroit. After the flight I waited around at the gate for them to see where and when their connecting flight was. As it turns out they did not have a whole lot of time so we traversed the terminal from gate A63 down to A18. For those of you who have flown through Detroit you know that was not a short walk. Along the way they grabbed some dinner and I escorted them to their gate talking with my buddy as we went.

After they boarded I asked around to find out if there was a Chickfila in the airport. As it turns out, there was, but it was all the way back by the gate I came in at. Nevertheless, I was determined to quench my Chickfila cravings. I was not running late exactly, but I did not have a lot of time to spare so I hustled back and grabbed some dinner. From there I made the trek all the way over to B11 where I arrived at the gate just in time to discover my flight had been delayed. No problem, I decided to sit down and finish my meal in peace. It was at this point that I opened my bag and realized I had left my Kindle on my previous flight.

Frantic, I rushed over to the desk and asked the agent to call my arrival gate; she did and no one answered. She told me, “Your flight is delayed so you have time to go back to your gate, if there isn’t anyone there and the aircraft is still there, ask one of the other gate agents, they should be able to get back on the plane and retrieve your Kindle. At this point I sprinted back to my original gate… ok, I did not sprint the whole way, it was a really long way back to my gate and I’ve never really been in great running shape.

Out of breath, I arrived at the gate only to discover that the airplane was merrily on its way to Green Bay. Dejected I made the trek back to my departure gate. Once I arrived I discovered that my flight had been delayed again and was possibly going to be canceled. Wonderful. After about another 45 minutes of delay they announced they had found another aircraft (oh look, there one is, it was parked behind that tree the whole time!) and our flight would now be departing from gate A23. Exhausted, I made my final trip back to the A terminal where I finally made it out of that purgatory called Detroit. If my phone is anywhere close to accurate my trip total to and from all those gates wound up being over 6 miles of walking, in dress shoes and carrying my luggage. Fortunately my flight back to Albany was much less eventful, perhaps even dull because at this point I was sans Kindle. As you can imagine, it was with great trepidation that I was connecting through Detroit on my flight to Raleigh on Friday.

After I landed in Detroit for the second time this week I got a phone call from a buddy of mine. We were talking about a number of things and I jokingly referred to the great wisdom I had to bestow on all those around me. Keeping the joke going my buddy took it one step further and made the comment that they would be calling me up to first class to share my wisdom with all those in the premium cabin. As we closed out our conversation with prayer my name was called out over the PA. As it turns out I had been upgraded to first class. If that wasn’t a challenge/calling to share the gospel with my seat mate I don’t know what else could have been. So all the way from Detroit to Raleigh I spoke with a gentleman named Jeff. I did not get a chance to make a full gospel presentation but I did have the opportunity to share with him what my relationship with Christ was like.IMG_4113

Last week while Leslie was out shopping with Jack he happened to be riding in the cart. This was a little bit abnormal since he usually prefers to be out and walking/running about. Shopping with Jack is always an entertaining prospect as he loves to run around the store and while he does not usually pay attention to where he is going he is always very polite about it, often yelling “Oh, sorry!” as he comes screeching to a stop right in front of people or their carts. This particular trip was no different even though he did not have the freedom to run around careening down the aisles. As Leslie pulled up alongside the checkout line Jack got this curious look on his face. Leslie turned away to talk to the cashier and Jack took the opportunity to leap onto the moving belt, lay down on his belly, all the while shouting, “Ride! Ride!” It was made all the more hysterical by the mortified looks the two older ladies next to the register shared with each other.

Indoor Volleyball… Sort Of

I think I may have jinxed our chances of seeing any snow this year. Either that or it is going to snow tomorrow. As you are probably aware I spent the beginning part of this year and the end of last year shoveling foot after foot of snow off of my driveway. It did not even take me one season to determine that shoveling snow is for the birds. I waited until snow blowers went on sale this year and bought a fairly heavy duty one. Of course, we have yet to see any accumulation whatsoever this year… we haven’t even seen what would qualify as a dusting. What’s worse (depending on how you look at it) is that it is supposed to be in the 50’s this week and will probably be so until after we leave to go see family for Christmas. With that in mind I went ahead and added fuel stabilizer to my snow blower gas tank as I was winterizing all of my gas powered lawn instruments. Which brings me back to my original point, I’ve either jinxed us by buying a snow blower and we aren’t going to see any snow this winter or by adding fuel stabilizer to the gas tank I have ensured that it will snow 3’ tomorrow morning… and probably again on June 6th.

I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express during my visit to Durham last week. I like the Holiday Inn there, I’ve always gotten great customer service and it’s a nice hotel that has been renovated sometime in the past 4 years. This time there was something a little different about my room, it was almost like they were trying to cross the barrier from a 3 star hotel to a 4 start. When I walked into my room I discovered that they had placed mints on my pillow. It was a kind but ultimately pathetic gesture. Thank you Holiday Inn, you get an ‘A’ for the thought but your execution is a bit flawed, I am certain that when someone talks about leaving a mint on the pillow this is not the kind of mint they are talking about. Perhaps your money would be better spent on an extra ply or two on the toilet paper, do that and I might consider granting you another half star.IMG_4084

We have lived in our current home for more than a year now and this probably now qualifies Schenectady, NY as the place we have lived the longest without moving, at least during our married lives. There have been a lot of things that have been different about this move, the primary one being its sense of permanency; but what has been interesting is how quickly it has gone by and how impermanent it still feels. I cannot tell you whether this is a good or bad thing merely that there is still a feeling of transience to the whole situation. One of the other things that has been markedly different is our decision to restrict our usage of electronic media, primarily television (we’re still working on the phones). The decision to ditch the TV, or at least the satellite, has limited our screen time to about one movie a week as a family; Leslie will let Jack watch Curious George or something similar once or twice a week during the day. This means we have had to find other ways to fill our time and it has required us to get a little creative. Our decision to play ball in the house was a direct result of this decision, and probably proof that I never really grew up. Let me clarify, by playing ball in the house I mean Leslie and I will sit on opposite ends of the living room and hit a large (i.e. approximately 2’ in diameter) at each other with reckless abandon. Our games get a little wild as we try to see how many hits we can get back and forth without the ball touching the ground; all surfaces (except the ground) are in play, including, but not limited to toys, the mantle, and our children’s heads. It’s not that we don’t have anything in the living room (or surrounding areas) that is breakable, we do; everything from pictures on the wall, the TV precariously balanced on the mantle, my diploma frame in the hallway. We’ve simply taken the attitude that “it’s only money, no use in having it if you don’t spend it on replacing items you’ve broken while bouncing a big blue ball around the house.” These games could get really interesting when the kids get old enough to join in.

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, one filled with friends, family, and good food; although not necessarily in that order. In the absence of family, we decided to fill our holiday with friends and good food… lots of good food. Fortunately this year it was more than just Leslie, Jack, and myself so the amount of leftovers we had to go through was not nearly as obscene. We did wind up making the decision that we will not be making not-quite-Christmas punch AND homemade ice cream on the same day again; the two combined simply promoted a level of overindulgence that left everyone feeling very uncomfortable. It is worth noting that last year I had to shovel two foot of snow off of my back porch before I was able to deep fry the turkey, this year I deep fried the turkey while wearing a t-shirt and enjoying temperatures that are very prohibitive to snow. I am mildly disappointed in this turn of events as it means that I have not had the chance to exercise my new snow blower.

Friday we got up late and made a light breakfast of pumpkin pie and not-quite-Christmas punch, after putting Ayla down for her morning nap we told Jack that after his sister woke up from her nap we would go to the park to enjoy the 60F degree temperatures. He was very excited about this proposition and talked about nearly non-stop until Ayla woke up. As we were getting everyone ready he kept running around the house yelling, “Park! Park!” After putting Ayla in the car seat he kept getting in her face and hollering, “Park sissy, park!” As Leslie began to put on her shoes Jack got a puzzled look on his face. Leslie looked at him and said, “Mommy’s going to the park with you, Jack.” All of a sudden he burst into a mournful wail and said, “Noooooooo. All done!” Needless to say I got a kick out of that.

Saturday I spent the morning teaching myself how to rebuild the carburetor on my dirt bike. I understand the general principle of how the carburetor works but I am absolutely floored by the precision with which this relatively simple piece of equipment is manufactured. It is truly a remarkable device that performs a very simple task. I think Leslie was more impressed with the fact that I was able to put it all back together without consulting any diagrams. My carburetor did not seem to be in particularly rough shape as I broke it open but I was impressed by how much this simple cleaning boosted the performance on my bike.

I made the decision to rebuild the carburetor because of some issues I was experiencing with the bike… namely that it wouldn’t start. I rebuilt the carburetor, replaced the spark plug, reinstalled the carburetor, reassembled the parts of the bike I had to dismantle simply to get to the carburetor, and filled the bike up with new gas. My heart sank as I hit the starter switch and encountered the exact same problem that I had before I did all this work. I wheeled the bike out of the garage to give myself a little more room to work where I noticed that I had forgotten to do one very important task during my reassembly… I had forgotten to reconnect the fuel line. Chagrined, I slid the fuel hose back onto the carburetor and hit the starter switch; to my great pleasure the bike started up on the first try.

Saturday night we decided to go out for dinner since we had not left the house all day and we were all getting a little bit of cabin fever. I have not hidden the fact that I have a strong appreciation for Sam’s Club food, primarily because it is good and I can feed my entire family for $8. I’ve even gone as far as to say it is one of my favorite places to eat in Albany. I did not realize how much my feelings had rubbed off on my son until we got into the Sam’s parking lot. No sooner had I turned into the lot and afforded Jack the view of the Sam’s sign then he started exclaiming in a very excited tone, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” Yea… I’m not sure how proud I should be that my son’s initial reaction to driving into the parking lot of a bulk retailer is to start telling me how enthusiastic he is about their pizza.IMG_4108

On Sunday morning Leslie and I finished our joint task of building a clock for our church. We were very pleased with the final outcome and several people commented on it as I hung it on the wall after church. One guy even went as far to say that I should quit my day job and take up woodworking. Nice try, I am fairly confident that my skills are not nearly good enough to support a living for a family of four off of a simple hobby. This would appear to be evidenced by the fact that the bench I built several months ago has warped enough to make it very uneven. In the meantime I will stick to making crooked work benches, benches, and tables only in my free time.IMG_4109

Second Annual Christmas Before Christmas, Christmas Party

I’m short on material this week… that’s not true, it’s Sunday evening and I still haven’t written anything and I am flying out tomorrow so I don’t really want to stay up too late writing a newsletter so today you get a sanitized version of the invite to our Christmas Party… I thought it was pretty funny.  All that to say, I’m not really short on material.


I was seriously tempted to just re-use my text from last year considering how clever I felt it was at the time.  That said, doing so would rob you of the ability to enjoy my wit in a different way each year and it would deprive me of the opportunity to engage in careful wordsmithing for comedic enjoyment.  Having said all that, Leslie and I want to invite you to our Second Annual Christmas Slightly Before Christmas, Christmas Party.  This year we are going to be gone for pretty much half of the month of December so that really limited the amount of available Saturdays we had to schedule this party.  This year we are hosting our party on a Saturday.

We had a great turnout last year and I think the time frame was pretty convenient for all those involved so we’re going to try and keep that aspect of it the same.  I distinctly remember this party happening at night last year, yet our invite clearly said 3pm.  It was then that I remembered that I am in NY and nighttime starts around 4pm in December, so long story short, we’re hosting a party on the second Tuesday of next week at 12:63pm and you are invited.

Just like last year, children are more than welcome to attend.  Also like last year, Leslie and I will provide the main course and a large batch of the Filippo family Holiday punch*.  Please do not feel pressured to bring anything but if you would like to do so we are asking that people bring sides, desserts, and drinks.  I would ask that if you plan on bringing something that you would let me know in advance so that we do not wind up with 27 loaves of fruitcake.

The guest list for this party is pretty exclusive (as was evidenced by the fact that last year’s attendees included my Realtor, my mortgage broker, the guy I bought my truck from, my neighbors from across the street, the pastor of a church we visited once, and someone I met in North Carolina) and we’re expecting people to start lining up at the door around noon, so please bring a copy of this email to gain VIP access through our back door.  Your VIP access code is #thesarcasmisstrongwiththisone

We ask that if you plan on attending you please RSVP by Monday, December 7th.  You may RSVP by phone, email, text, telegraph, carrier pigeon, or candy-gram.  Thanks and we look forward to seeing you!

Derrik Filippo

*It used to be called Christmas punch but once I took on the role of making it for the family I started looking for other reasons to make it and Thanksgiving and Groundhog’s Day seemed as good as any so now it’s just holiday punch, and yes, I could tell you what’s in it but then I would have to kill you and I really want all of you to be at the Christmas party so it’s better if you just don’t ask.

That’s One Big Pile of Leaves

Another week has gone by and I have lived another episode of “How It’s Made,” this time my unofficial tour took place inside one of the manufacturing plants of largest privately owned corrugated board (trust me, they get a little upset at you if you say cardboard) manufacturer in the United States. I swear, there cannot be all that many jobs that allow someone to see as many cool places as I have seen since I started working with GE and the fact that I have one of them is awesome! As a side note, I am now convinced that nearly every mobster movie in existence that has a scene where a guy is dragged into a manufacturing plant from some “persuasive conversation” takes place in a corrugated board manufacturing plant. Nearly every single piece of equipment in this place was specifically designed for flattening, smashing, cutting, stapling, or imprinting… it would probably make an excellent place to “convince” someone to talk.

It is that time of year again where every single leaf in the state of New York falls off of the trees and somehow gets deposited directly onto my lawn. I don’t remember if I tossed around this idea last year, but right now I’m seriously wondering how much trouble I would get into if I just burned my yard… it rained the other day, the ground is still reasonably wet. Last year when I started raking leaf piles Jack was still young enough that when we put him in the leaf piles he did not really enjoy the sensation of all those things touching him; actually, I remember him screaming pretty intensely after I set him down and started backing up so I could take a picture. This year was a different story entirely. Now he cannot wait to play in the leaf pile. I raked a pile that was about twice as tall as he was and he just dove right in trying to scale the pile. Of course, all that really got him was being buried under a mound of leaves, at which point all I could see was the vague outline of movement as he wormed his way through the pile and burst out the opposite side roaring at me like some mutated leaf monster.

Yesterday I went in to Jack’s room to get him up from his “nap.” I say nap in quotation marks because he was supposed to be napping but, in fact, had spent the last couple of hours playing in his room. First just playing with his drill while lying on his bed and talking to himself, but eventually getting up and finding other ways to amuse himself. Anyway, I walk into his room and found him playing with Mickey Mouse, but what he had done to Mickey Mouse may my heart swell with pride. He had arranged Mickey as shown in the picture below and in a deep growling voice kept alternating between saying “Mickey Mouse” and “Batman.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X00djifIj9s12208419_10101512484735389_3157641652721876081_n

Winter is coming and I am grateful to say that this year you should not have to endure my complaints about having to shovel snow as I am now the proud owner of a tool most of you Southern people probably had no idea even existed, a snow blower. I was able to get a good deal on a 179 cubic inch 2-stage gas powered snow blower, a machine that is worthy of a manly grunt in its own right. But now I have beefed up the engine and made a couple of aftermarket modifications this baby should, be throwing snow clear onto the neighbor’s driveway. https://youtu.be/0V9YZ7C88iU?t=13

I had the opportunity to preach a full sermon this morning. It’s the first time I have had the opportunity to speak a full message to an adult congregation and I had a lot of fun. I had intended to post the link to the audio but our church is having issues with our website and it is not available for your listening pleasure at this point in time. I’ll post the link once things are back up and operational. For those of you who would prefer the text version, send me an email and I’ll give you a copy, but I do so with a warning; somehow there must be quite a bit more content on the audio version because every time I practiced this message it ran between 23 and 25 minutes, my actual message this morning lasted much closer to 40. As it turns out my jokes about being long winded had more than a grain of truth to them. I’m not quite sure what those extra 15 minutes contain but it will likely be as much of a surprise to me as it is to you.


When You’re Here, You’re Family

This past week I spent a significant portion of my time on the phone with various customers and vendors. During this time I learned several things about my family, myself, and how I conduct business.

  1. It would appear that the most simple and straightforward way to get my business is to set your hold music as the theme song to “the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Hello Abraxas Energy, it would appear that we will have a long and prosperous future together.
  2. Leslie does not appreciate the fact that when I give my name over the phone I say “that is Filippo, F-I-L-I-P-P-O, and that is P as in pterodactyl.” She paid no mind to the fact that the guy on the phone never skipped a beat; he spelled it back to me correctly.
  3. In reference to item number two, neither is Leslie a fan when I use the reference “P as in phone.”
  4. Some companies are big enough that when I call a phone number I got online I am genuinely surprised when I actually get a human being to answer… surprised enough that I have trouble actually believing I am talking to a real human and I have to stop myself from taking the first few steps in initiating the Turing test.

While talking to my father about recent events in our foster care process the concept of physical discipline came up. Nonchalantly and [I hope] unintentionally he made the following statement, “Capital punishment is Scriptural.” Yes dad, yes it is, but that seems a little excessive to me. I’m fairly confident that if capital punishment were to be [legally] administered to children that most of us would never have survived until adulthood. Corporal punishment on the other hand is, in my humble opinion, perfectly reasonable alternative for children.

Monday and Tuesday I was in a town just north of Boston visiting a site while one of my subcontractors performed some work for a geotechnical survey. Since I was staying overnight on Monday I decided to see what good food the city of Boston had to offer, particularly since the standard fare in Albany is nothing to write home about. It was in my quest for a decent meal that, aside from my family’s penchant for olive oil, it would also appear that we also own an Italian restaurant just a few blocks from the MIT campus that serves some pretty amazing Italian food. All I could think as I walked in was, “Because when you’re here, you’re family… in my case, perhaps literally.”IMG_4015 12190123_10101502054856949_601213507628198115_n

Of course, my visit to Filippo’s was merely the pinnacle of a culinary crusade that began with a visit to a mom and pop donut shop located right across the street from my site and came to a fitting conclusion with an appointment at the Chick Fila in Springfield on the way home. I consider myself fortunate that the food was so good on this trip because the rest of the trip was a disaster and I would hate to think that my time there was completely wasted.

It was while I was in Boston that I learned that striking oil when digging a hole in the ground is not always a good thing… particularly when this hole is being dug on an industrial and manufacturing property that has been active for over 100 years and the source of this oil is not, in fact, crude springing from the depths of the earth but rather a filmy skim that covers the top layer of the water table that finds its origins from the thousands of gallons of oil, gasoline, and grease that was just dumped into the ground and drains for years prior to the discovery that, “hey, this stuff probably isn’t good for the environment,” and the creation of a little government program we now call the Environmental Protection Agency. So yea… you shouldn’t start calling me Jed Clampett just yet.

While I was gone Leslie texted me the picture below with the following story. I put him down for a nap but he kept getting out of bed and playing with his toys. After going into his room a number of times and putting him back into his bed I finally told him that if he didn’t stay in his bed he was going to get in big trouble. After about ten minutes I could hear him straining against something but it did not sound like he was out of bed; curious I checked the webcam, this is what I found. He spent another 15 minutes in this position trying to reach one of his toys or books… poor kid; his arms aren’t quite as long as his brain is clever. You have to give him credit, he didn’t get out of bed.IMG_4020