Category: sports

Intex Inflatable Kayak Review

Back at Christmas, I made a fairly significant impulse purchase to surprise the family: three inflatable kayaks. There was a pretty incredible sale going on at the time (maybe there were just too many inflatable kayaks on the market?), and I picked up all three for just over $200, total. (Checking the prices now, it would cost me $970.) Of course, my family has never owned kayaks, and we’d only been kayaking once before, when we had some at one of the vacation houses we rented. Still, that seemed like a really good price, and when it’s Christmas, Denisa can attest to how itchy my index finger gets on that buy button.

So we had the kayaks. Yay. But we still hadn’t actually used the kayaks until Saturday. There always seemed to be reasons that kept us from going out. It was too cold. Too hot. Too buggy. But really, a big part of it was that I had no clue how hard or easy it would be to set them up and use them, so that was just a mental block that made it so other reasons seemed easy to listen to.

For the Fourth, we headed to Flagstaff Lake with some friends and took the kayaks for a spin, and I’m ready now to give an overview of how they went and whether or not I’m happy with the purchase.

First, a general comment about the kayaks. They were all surprisingly easy to set up. They each come with a foot pump that puts out a ton of air very quickly. We could inflate a kayak in five minutes or less, I’d guess. There might have been instructions somewhere on how to set them up. I did it on the fly, and it wasn’t difficult. (The one trick was that on one of them, there was an extra screw to tighten to make sure the air didn’t leak out. It was frustrating until I figured that out.)

They deflated easily as well. You just open up a large gasket, and the air rushes out. There’s still some toothpaste-tube-rolling to get the air out, but it’s nothing that’s too onerous. Really, all the things I was worried about related to using an inflatable craft didn’t materialize. Easy to set up and take down, and easy to use out on the water.

All of the kayaks come with their own case (though the quality of the bags leaves much to be desired) and paddles. We used the paddles exclusively for them. They weren’t incredible, but they were totally adequate, and I really appreciated that they could break down and be transported without problems. I fit all three kayaks (deflated) into my Toyota Prius trunk, plus five life jackets. These really are small, and they’re not that heavy.

As I said, I bought three of them. Each of them has their own pros and cons. Why did I buy three different models? Well, for one thing, I needed kayaks for 5 people. So that’s two 2 person and one 1 person. At that point, why not mix it up a bit? I wasn’t sure which one would be best, so I decided to go with the pokemon route and just catch ’em all.

The single person kayak was great. It was the most nimble on the water, and I had no complaints about it at all. If I were wanting to go kayaking just with Denisa, I think I’d honestly rather have two single person kayaks instead of a double, but that has more to do with the mechanics of learning to paddle in tandem than it does with the actual crafts.

The 2 person Explorer model was fine as well. Some more storage, and the same general quality as the one person. The 2 person Excursion Pro is a step up from the other models. A better build design, more rugged material, and so it’s a bit sturdier. I didn’t see such a huge difference that made me wish I’d bought two of it instead one of each 2 person, however. Maybe if I were planning on using them all the time, then that would make a difference.

Overall, I’m very glad with the purchase, and I think we’ll definitely use them again. They all handled very well in the water, and I never felt at risk of sinking or tipping. They were sturdy and just as reliable as the solid-sided kayaks I used before. (Again, though, this is coming from a total novice.) My kids used them all as well, with 12 year old and 16 year old taking turns with the single person.

Would I want to pay almost $1,000 for all of them? Well, no. That seems like a lot to shell out for inflatable kayaks. But if they were to go on a good sale again? Definitely. If I had a truck or an easy way to transport non-inflatable kayaks, that would be one thing. I don’t, so this seems like a great substitute.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Accidental Sports Parent

It never crossed my mind that one day I might end up the parent of a high school athlete. I was about as far from an athlete in high school as I am today, and that’s saying something. Back in Council Rock, the school was enormous. My graduating class had 850 students in it. With a school that size, I suppose it’s fairly natural that there will be distinct cliques within it. Groups of students who identify primarily by their main interests. There were very fully developed, robust programs in everything from band to chorus to drama to a whole slew of sports, and then there were the typical array of classes according to difficulty level.

I was in all the most difficult classes. That was my first priority. Second was band. Almost all of my friends were in band or orchestra, though I was tangentially involved in drama. I was in a play, and I had a number of friends in drama, but it wasn’t what I identified most with. There were smaller connections as well (the school paper, for example), and I had a few friends outside those spheres, but that was almost always because they were in the other honors classes with me. I had one very close friend on cross country, but I never paid any attention to what he did when he was competing. It simply didn’t interest me at all, so it remained a mystery.

Denisa and I never enrolled the kids in any sports programs. No youth football. No little league. No soccer. They’re all active skiers, but they never expressed much of an interest in trying for the ski teams. They’ve gotten into music, and they’ve done some summer activities like tennis and rock climbing, but they’ve generally been focused elsewhere. (DC and MC both expressed fleeting interest in dance. That didn’t happen for a litany of reasons.)

His freshman year, Tomas was very active in school activities. Math club, the Franklin County Fiddlers, and Robotics dominated his afternoons. That seemed like more than enough to keep him occupied. But what I didn’t realize was that in a school with just around 150 in a graduating class, there can be a whole lot more bleed through between cliques than there seemed to be in my school. A ton of kids who are in Fiddlers are also on Cross Country, for example, including many of his close friends.

So when he expressed interest in joining the team, Denisa and I were perhaps a bit surprised, but definitely encouraging. What was one more after school activity, more or less? What I failed to realize was just how all encompassing a sport can be. Denisa went to the first big meeting, and . . . wow. Practice after school every day. Meets most weekends. Team dinners the night before meets. Fundraisers. Practices in the summer. For the first two and a half months of the year, he’s going to be living the Cross Country life.

And I still don’t know where I fit into all of that as a parent. Do I go to the team dinners? Do I go to all the different meets? What do I do there? Can you even see anything at a cross country event? Maybe I should have been paying better attention back in high school. Do I go to away meets? Home meets? I just don’t know where I fit into all of this. On the one hand, I want to be supportive. On the other, I recognize and remember that not all parents are involved to the same extent. My parents were never really “band parents” the way some of my friends’ parents were, and I was fine with that. They came to a number of events, but by no means all of the many marching band competitions.

This isn’t a high level of stress for me or anything. I know it’ll all iron itself out, and Tomas isn’t worried about it either. But it’s still interesting to find myself in a wholly new situation that kind of sprang out at me out of the blue. Certainly much more respect for all the school athletes and their dedication to their sport. I had no idea.

Go Cougars! (Lucky for me the high school and BYU share the same mascot, so at least that all lines up nicely.) 🙂

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Adventures in Cooking: Super Bowl Time

I watch very little professional football, but I do watch the Super Bowl each year. Why? Because I like all the stuff around it. The ads. The halftime show. Sometimes the game. Yesterday’s game left a fair bit to be desired, unless you love a great defensive showdown, which I don’t. I was rooting for the Patriots, because there are two teams almost everyone in this area loves. The Red Sox and the Patriots. And since there’s no way I could ever love the Red Sox, I choose to root for the Patriots. (Which makes me an extremely unusual combination: A Yankee/Patriots fan. Yes, somehow I’ve become a mixture of two of the most-hated fan bases in the country. FWIW, I like the Eagles more than the Patriots, so there’s that.)

But I digress.

One of the other things I love about the Super Bowl is the excuse for a good party. I’ve been going to Super Bowl parties for years and years. Even when there isn’t one to go to, I try to make the event special at home. This year we’d just done Groundhog Day, so the Super Bowl turned into a family affair. I had plans, however. Chili, corn bread, brownies, chips and dips. It was going to be great.

Except a key player in that plan was Denisa. I could do the brownies no problem. Dips? Sure. In a pinch, I could probably even do corn bread, though I’ve never done it before. But chili that doesn’t involve just opening a can and putting it in the microwave? Chili that involves . . . cutting onions AND celery AND carrots? And even mincing garlic?

That is decidedly in the Denisa Realm, a land of mystery and wonder, where magically delicious things originate, though we’re not quite sure how.

And Denisa, even though she doesn’t like football, was up for it. Until she got sick. It was at that point that I had to decide how much I wanted this to be a real party event. Just how committed was I to the cause?

I made my first chili-from-scratch yesterday. I also made brownies and corn bread. In the end, it all turned out well. Denisa wanted to make a vegetarian chili, which I stuck with. I burned the vegetables some, and I almost burned the chili to the bottom of the pot. I also discovered we were out of chili powder, but I called an audible and stuck some taco seasoning in, instead. I was fairly worried that instead of chili, we’d be eating taco flavored water, but in the end it all turned out fine.

Did I develop a love for cooking in the process? Reader, I did not. But I was proud in the end that it all turned out okay, even if I was kind of grumpy and pessimistic in the middle of the adventure.

Would I do it again if Denisa got sick and couldn’t cook? Sure. Maybe next time I won’t even burn the vegetables . . .

As for the game and party itself, it was all just kind of okay. The game was kind of boring, the ads were mostly meh, and I really didn’t like the halftime show. The food was good, though. So there’s that.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Cord Cutting and the Olympics

First, a disclaimer. This might just be me. I’m basing my conclusions here on my own personal experiences, and there’s always a good chance that the slice of life I’m seeing is different from what’s happening across the country as a whole. But I’ve had enough discussions with friends around me that I’m at least reasonably sure of my observations.

As I’ve said before, I’m a bit of an Olympics junkie. I have always loved watching them each year, and I look forward to seeing what new cool things happen as the Games roll around. I remember talking about them with my friends in high school and in college. Everybody seemed to have been watching them along with me.

But not this year. This year, when I ask people if they’re watching the Olympics, a lot of them aren’t. For many of them, they can’t figure out a way to see them. They’ve cut cable or satellite from their homes, and the streaming options leave them scratching their heads about how exactly they can watch this thing they’ve always enjoyed. I don’t blame them. Watching live television in the more remote parts of the country is not for the faint of heart, if you don’t pay for a television subscription. You need to navigate sign ins, download the right apps, and make sure the Internet Gods are smiling on you.

Even then, the experience leaves some to be desired. The ads they play on the streaming  platforms are just plain exhausting. I know you’ll get a couple repeat ads when you watch over the air, but streaming shows you the same ads, time after time after time. It’s annoying when you’re watching something for an evening, but when you’re watching for two weeks in a row? I literally want to not buy whatever is being sold, just out of spite. It’s making me actively hate Coke, that DNA test, and Ritz crackers. DC has memorized the ads and can recite them with all the correct timing.

Of course, there are some things I really like about streaming. I love being able to watch whatever I want on demand. There’s a huge breadth of events available to me, and that’s wonderful. We watched many of the complete biathlon events where Slovakia medaled, and I’ve discovered I really love that sport. It’s a ton of fun to watch. NBC typically reduces cross country to a few overview snippets.

But I’m able to do all that because my internet-fu is strong. It’s not like that for everyone, and that means the Olympics aren’t getting the buzz they always have before. True, social media lets me connect with others who are watching, but it doesn’t feel like one of those “The World is Watching” events, and that makes me sad and nostalgic for how it was before.

This seems like a problem that can and should be fixed. If it were up to me, each of the main broadcasting networks would carry their live programming over the internet for free, without any logins. They could identify where you’re watching based on IP address, and then show you the same commercials you’d see locally. Or at the least they could show you the same local news. This is programming that’s broadcast over the air for free anyway. It’s just in the hinterlands that you can’t get it. Am I missing some vital reason that invalidates this plan?

Beyond that, I’ve noticed one other thing I’d like to comment on. People online seem to love to gripe about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. “They won’t shut up during important times!” “They’re boring.” “They make it too much about Americans.”

I get it. There are times I’m frustrated by the same things. But I’ve watched the Olympics without the commentary, and I’m here to say that I believe that commentary is vital for the Games to be captivating. It loses a lot of the impact when you don’t know about who is competing. Last night is an excellent example. The duel between the two Russian skaters (sorry, Olympic athletes from Russia) was very well introduced. Because of all the promos and spotlights they did on those two girls, I was much more heavily invested in the outcome. When I watch the streams that just have basic “this is what they’re doing” commentary, I lose that connection. “Huh. Look. Some guy just did some move that has a strange name. I wonder if that’s difficult. I wonder if I should be impressed.”

If I were to watch one of those ice skating events live? I’d be completely lost, and (I think) bored out of my mind. I have no idea who did a double or a triple or a quad or an axel or a whatever. I need the commentary to make sense of it. Yes, I get that if you’re a big fan of the sport already, then you probably don’t need it, but let’s face it: the majority of the US don’t care about skiing, skating, curling, and all that jazz when it’s not the Olympics. We need the context.

And the Opening Ceremonies? Even that needs context, I believe. Sure, they skip some of it. But they let you watch the whole thing after the fact if you want, without or without commentary. How many people actually go back to do that? The Opening Ceremonies allow the broadcasters to set the stage. Let us know some interesting story lines to follow. And true, there are times I wish they’d branch out beyond American story lines more. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want stories.

So while I get some criticism of NBC, I think a fair bit of it is unwarranted groupthink, as people band together online to complain about something and then carry the complaints they’ve read out into the real world, repeating them as if they’re now experts in sports broadcasting. It gets a bit old.

Anyway. The Olympics are almost over, and I’ve really had a good time watching them. I’ll miss them when they’re gone, but I’m looking forward to being able to get more sleep at night. There’s always that . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $8/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

It’s Often Not about the Performance. It’s about the Competition.

I’ve been watching the Olympics since they started last week, and I was very excited to see Shaun White’s gold medal run last night in the half pipe, as I was to see Chloe Kim’s gold. We let Tomas and DC stay up late last night to see the final runs, and it was pretty riveting stuff.

As I was watching, I compared my investment in the event with the amount I was invested in the female halfpipe a couple of days ago. It was markedly different, and I wondered why that was. Kim and White both have compelling stories. There were strong reasons to root for both of them, but for Kim’s runs, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, eyes glued to see what would happen.

The difference, of course, is the competition. In Kim’s event, she was in the lead the whole time. She seemed like she had the rest of the field simply outclassed. Her first run was a 93.75, which put her in first place by almost eight points. The second round, someone came within four points of her, but by the third round, everyone knew she’d already won.

With White, his first run was a 94.25, only a bit above Kim’s. But there was someone in second place with a 92. Already, he seemed more vulnerable. That score didn’t feel as ironclad. Like Kim, White fell during his second run. But for White, someone stepped up and took first place. Suddenly, he was losing by a point. So when he went down for his final run, everyone knew he’d have to do better. Everything was on the line. Kim ended up with the higher score, but White ended up with the better story.

In writing, this is something that can be easy to forget at times. I’ll be working on a novel and trying to get the main character just right. I want them to be relatable and realistic. I want my readers to be invested in what happens to them. But often the solution to unlocking that isn’t found in the character at all. It’s found in the circumstances around that character. Who he or she is up against. The odds they’re facing.

Generally speaking, if you want the climax to be memorable, you don’t do it by adding more pyrotechnics to the scene. You don’t get it by having the main character be even more awesome. You do it by raising the stakes. Making the opponents stronger and more fearsome. Increasing the odds. The Miracle on Ice isn’t remembered because the favorites won. It’s remembered because the underdogs pulled off the upset.

And there’s your bit of writing advice for the day.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $7/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

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