Hey, it’s good to be back home again

I realize that I’m writing this at the back end of my vacation, but since I haven’t posted since March, I think you, dear reader will forgive the faux pas.

I’m back home in the Hudson Valley of NY where I grew up.  I’m a little further south than where I actually lived, but that’s due to the fact that my family lives more in the Newburgh to Westchester area than the upper Valley near Kingston.

Still and all, it’s been a good trip.  With the pandemic happening last year, any trips were canceled due to health concerns, and now with the Delta variant becoming more of a problem in places, our decision to use AirBNBs to stay in, rather than hotels, ended up being the right choice.  Interaction with the public at large has been mostly at arm’s length, as everyone for the most part is still social distancing, some are wearing masks again, and others have never stopped.

This trip has mainly been one of connecting and reconnecting with my ever-enlarging family.   On the way here, we stopped in Syracuse to visit with my maternal cousins, who I haven’t seen since 1999.  While there, I was able to meet my first cousin once removed (my cousin’s daughter) whom I’d never met.  The boggling thing about that is, they only live two hours away!  Between work, responsibilities, and just life, the years have gone merrily by and we just haven’t gotten together.  Every Christmas we’d exchange cards and write in them that in the next year we needed to get together.  But we never did.  That oversight has now been rectified.

Mom, myself and brother 1967While here in the Hudson Valley, I managed to reconnect with my estranged brother and his family.  He has lived in Westchester County for the past 20 years and has a 13 yr old daughter that I’d never met.  I knew she existed, and what her name was, but I was unable (for a variety of reasons) to get there to see them.  Too, there’s been bad blood over the years, (don’t ask) and reasons why I didn’t want to go.  There was one particular reason I did need to go, and that was to collect the family photo album he’d had in his possession since we cleaned out our parent’s house.  Up to now, the only photos I had were a couple of when we were children and one or two of our parents.  I’ve had NO baby pictures at all, and that’s been a sore point of contention for me.  As I get older, I want to be able to have that family history to rely on and share with my birth mother, with whom I’ve recently been connected.Mom, myself and brother, Easter

Finally, I was able to meet and interact with my half-sister and her family.  When I was reconnected with my birth mother, I managed to meet my half-brother and his family (well, most of them) and get to know them a wee bit.  My half-brother is a workaholic and is more than a little introverted, so both meeting and getting to know him have been problematic.  My wife and I had set up a get-together for the family at our second AirBNB, but for whatever reason, my half-brother decided at the last minute to decline.  His children are older than his sister’s (college-age versus toddlers) so getting together that side of the family might have proved a bit more difficult.  Even so, it was a good time.  I got to meet my brother-in-law and my nephews are both amazing and hilarious.   Watching them play caused me to remember how my brother and I played and interacted.

I would definitely say this trip has been a success.  I have a treasure trove of memories for the future and a box full of slides to digitize and share with my birth mother, and my other family so they can see what has been obscured these many decades.

Going home will be good (the beds in these AirBNBs are murder!), but I’ve had a really good time here too.  Vacations are both tiring and awesome.

Turning Point

A friend of mine from work was terminated on Sunday.  In many ways one could have seen it coming, but the way it happened was particularly jarring, and its been bothering me since then.  Of course, I was somewhat embroiled in the action, since I had to stand in for the union steward who just happened to have the day off.

*Jack (not his real name) has been working at the store since before I started back in 2012.  He was part-time, a good worker, but he’s always had a drinking problem.  It’s not inaccurate to refer to him as an alcoholic.  His typical day involved getting up in the morning, going to work, going back home and drinking himself into a stupor, or using the alcohol to assist him in getting to sleep, then starting the whole routine over again the next day he had to work.  To say this is self-destructive would be putting it mildly.  However, it’s hard to be able to count the multitude of times his co-workers have gone to bat for him, trying to get him help, only to be turned down (always politely) and things continued down the road.

About 18 months ago he confided in myself and a couple other co-workers that he was considering committing suicide.  When someone says something like that to you, you take it seriously.  On my lunch break I called my wife and informed her of what I’d heard and asked for her advice.  She worked for the local county social services for 30 plus years, so to me that was about the best place one could go for how to proceed.  She gave me several options, one being getting the store manager involved.  Unfortunately, the store manager isn’t exactly the most approachable person, and he tends to be a bit of a hands off sort of person when it comes to issues like this.  Even so, I forged ahead, informed him of what I had heard, involved another co-worker that had acted in the past trying to help Jack and all three of us assembled in the manager’s office, informing him that we were there to help if we could, and did he in fact need help.  He very politely insisted that he wasn’t interested in assistance and that he was in fact fine.  Of course after this happened he knew enough never to mention it again.

Last week I was on vacation, and I’d heard through the grapevine that Jack was pretty out of it on Saturday.  There was supposition that he had come to work inebriated and wasn’t exactly even close to being on his game as far as getting work done.  When I saw Jack Sunday morning, he didn’t seem his chipper self, in fact it did seem like something was off.  Over the course of the morning when I talked to him, he seemed ok but not completely ok.  As if there was something wrong, but when I asked him about it, he brushed it off, and I didn’t pursue it.  I was in the midst of getting my own work done, so by the time it was getting towards the end of my shift, I had forgotten about it.

I was about 10 minutes away from being done for the day when the grocery manager came into my department and told me the assistant store manager needed me in his office for a union issue.  Well, not me particularly, but he needed someone who was A. Full time, and B. been in the union for a while, rather than one of the part timers that don’t have much (any) experience in disciplinary actions and how to go about the union side of being an advocate.

Heading up to the office I figured it was going to be a quick affair, probably it was a cashier that either had too much money in their till, or too little.  It would be something along the lines of a verbal or written disciplinary action, I’d have to do my part and be done for the day.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case.  When I got to the office, not only was the ASM (Assistant Store Manager) there, the night ops manager was too…and….Jack.

Apparently, someone had observed him and determined he was acting strangely.  At this point I’m still not sure if it was a customer or co-worker, but at this juncture it really doesn’t matter.  It was brought to the attention of the ASM and once that happened he was duty bound to investigate.  Whatever he either observed himself or through someone else was brought to the attention of Human Resources (which is never a good thing, HR in my company is pretty much a forgone conclusion, never positive) and at that point the ASM was given 2 choices.  Either Jack had to submit to a breathalyzer test from the local Police, or he had to be taken to a medical facility to be blood tested and determined what sort of substance he might be on.  It was put to Jack and he was the one that had to agree to one or the other.  Of course I’m sitting there as his union advocate, and I know he’s in a pickle.  He has to agree to one or the other, OR he can be terminated for refusing either.  After 20 minutes of back and forth, it’s agreed he’ll go with the breathalyzer.  And at this point, even for just his sake I’m dying inside.

Long story short, it was determined he was drunk on the job.  Not just a little drunk, if the breathalyzer was accurate, it’s a miracle he was even upright.  That bad.  The ASM went back to the manager’s office, called HR and they lowered the boom then and there.  All the while, Jack was insisting that he hadn’t been drinking, that he was fine, but clearly there was something amiss.  After the ASM did his thing, I made sure Jack got a ride home, and promised him that I’d make contact with both the union steward and our union rep so he could hopefully get into the process of getting his job back.  But even as I was telling him that, I couldn’t see that happening.  Having a union is a good thing in my experience, but there are some things that can’t be fixed.

Perhaps 20-30 years ago it might have, but unions are way different than they were back then.  There’s only so much advocacy, only so much that union reps can do when it comes to members that are terminated for serious allegations like being drunk on the job.  This much was related to me on Tuesday through the steward, who said that the union wasn’t going to be able to help Jack, because there aren’t any programs that the union has to combat alcoholism.  Even if Jack could prove that he was in the process of turning his life around, going to AA, or rehab or something of that nature, he himself would have to contact the company HR department and plead for his job back.  Just him.  So in that respect the union really failed him.  He paid his dues, and didn’t get the support in return.  Just a cold shoulder.

I hope Jack finds the help that he needs.  And gets back on his feet.  I wish him the best, but I’m not exactly confident that all is going to work on for the best for him.

 

Technically speaking Part III

Now that I have the router up and running, it’s now time to decide where the best place to put it.  Since we moved into the house, the router and modem have been in close proximity to the main computers here.  That is, in the addition off the main house in the back of the property.  For whatever reason, it’s really been the place that we spend the majority of our time, year in and out.  Which is weird sometimes, considering it’s a 3 1/2 bedroom house, on two stories.  We don’t have children, so 2 1/2 of the bedrooms have become de-facto storage space.

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D-Link DIR-868L router

Getting back to the issue though, our WiFi setup has been incredibly wrong since the beginning.  If you consider how WiFi works through a router, the antennas send out a signal in all directions, as long as you have them pointed in the correct configuration.  The old D-Link router I had for the past 6 years had an omni-directional antenna, in that it was encased inside the housing and wasn’t visible. 

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TP-Link Archer A8 router

 

Most routers have the ubiquitous 3-4 (or nowadays more) antennas and most people (me included…yes guilty) leave them in the standard up position without even considering that they can be directed where you want your WiFi signals to go.  By all that I understand, generally you want your router to be in the middle of the action, where you spend the majority of your time, so that you can get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of WiFi coverage.  Otherwise, you’re going to have to invest in things like Access Points, repeaters, even possibly a second router to adequately cover your house and property.  Of course, it’s not as simple as that (it never is, right?) because in most instances you don’t just have a router, you have to consider where your modem is, whether it’s fiber, cable or even DSL (I’m guessing satellite is probably similar, but I’ve never had a satellite Internet downlink).

In my case, the modem sits next to the router.  When we upgraded to fiber 4-5 years ago, the installer asked where to put the modem.  At the time, I had thought probably it would have been a better option to put it in the middle of the house, near the west facing exit door, but our computers are here in the addition, where the router would be.  The house was built in the 19th century (1838), so it wasn’t designed with electricity in mind, let alone hi-speed Internet connections.  Consequently, when the house was wired sometime in the 1950’s (I’m guessing based on the age of some of the outlets) there wasn’t a lot of thought put in to where those outlets needed to go.  So it was very haphazard.  Over the last 20 years we’ve been upgrading outlets as needed, because the very idea of re-wiring this house might end up costing us more than the property is valued at.  Too, to do a proper re-wiring, one needs full access to walls and such, to pull wire.  So we’d have to basically demo the interior to a degree that makes my eyes water.  Most people’s houses it wouldn’t be an issue because drywall isn’t all that expensive.  Plaster on the other hand?  Double your price estimate.  Or triple it.  There aren’t many qualified plasterers these days.  Believe me, I know.

As of right now, my plan is to put the modem and router more central to the middle of the house and run either Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable back to the addition to a switch so both of the desktops can be hardwired to the router.  Hopefully that will assist with the remainder of the house being covered by both the low speed WiFi (2.4 ghz) and the higher 5 ghz connection.  After I’ve had it connected and running for awhile, I’ll give another update.