Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Up up and Away

The last day has been a bit crazy. I had settled into a more involved role at the new client, doing technical management for the big rollout coming up in October, and also starting my interim CIO role at the friend's company.

But tomorrow, I was called into the CIO's office of The Client. Turns out they have had issues with the overall project manager (in charge of all aspects of the big rollout - managing 70 people), and wanted to know if I'd be able to take it on.

Take on a multimillion dollar project that has already been pushed 6 months at a cost of >$2m less than 5 months before golive? Sure! Why not?

Referencing an earlier posting of mine: He said that they had been impressed by my tendency to ask questions, take on new work, and by my personality, and that they thought the team would do well under me. So I'm not the only one noticing the B-Reay Method: Enter client, look for the "fun work", and do it, while being very Jimmy in the process.

This will make for a much busier summer than planned... but I think it'll be lucrative, fun, and it's a GREAT resume builder.

That said, it was an odd day today: For a couple of hours, I was one of 4 people who knew. And then a 5th person found out... the guy I'm replacing. And we all worked through our days... the announcement was not made until after work - 5pm. Sort of stressful. But I am looking forward to coming in bright and early tomorrow and really hitting the ground running!

I tell you, there is no blueprint for the strange things that happen in my career. I am a lucky, lucky man.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Two Quotes involving Octopi

1) We were driving along 3 days ago and Bella decided that she was a boat. What kind of boat? A SUBMARINE. I asked if she could go underwater, and she said, no, A submarine floats ON the water, not UNDER the water.... IT'S NOT AN OCTOPUS.

2) Today Bella asked why bird poop is sometimes white and sometimes brown. I said that it's probably because of what the bird eats....

"So maybe one bird eats a worm, and it has white poop, and another bird eats an octopus, and it has brown poop".

I said that was a VERY likely explanation.

Bella's Haircut

Bella has a little "tent" she has made in our living room just off of the couch. She has toys back in there, and it's her secret place to hide. We love that she's carved our this little space for herself.

Last night, however, she disappeared into the tent for a while as we got ready for a BBQ with the neighbors. She walked in and told Pamela "How do you like my shorter hair? Daddy took me to get a haircut!"

There were several large chunks of hair missing from her pristine bob... and the cut hair was trailing down her shoulders.

We didn't say anything, but she could tell from our looks that she had dome something wrong... And immediately started bawling. We tried to reassure her that she wasn't in trouble, but that only the haircut lady is supposed to give haircuts...

She was a bit quiet for the rest of the evening... and of course we found a big clump of hair and some scissors... in her tent....

Truth be told, it's not so bad - it's more of a "layered look" really.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A new nickname!

A cubemate here, Anna, who is from Mexico, has given me a new nickname.

I am El Gallo Loco.

I am the Crazy Rooster!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Forgot to mention

Thomas Dolby was fantastic the other night. There were over 150 IT Professionals on the scene, not a face under 30 guaranteed... The room was only half full truth be told. But Thomas played a good show, and had some good banter with the crowd. He promised to be back in the fall with a new album, which was news to us... there was certainly no new music in his set.

He played a lot of my favorites, and he had set it up that he made a one-man-synth-show seem as "live" as it possibly could. He was always doing something - always playing a part or singing, or both. He made little mistakes, and it was charming. He seemed like a nice guy up there.

Nick and I had tried to get him to come out for Sushi beforehand, but Thomas was deep in his "zone" playing with his gear. I heard he did this in Portland too - noodling from setup right until his warmups started. I need to respect that work ethic. Of course Nick and I had a great dinner, so in the end, it was his loss.

A telling moment from the show - lost in the groove of Europa and the Pirate Twins, I caught myself doing an air-keyboard move, keying the melody as though I was on stage. And the guy in front of me was doing it too.

A strange dream

Last night was marked by horrible insomnia - I think that these workouts are pumping my energy level up to the point that sleep seems irrelevant. Still, when I did sleep, I had the following dream:

Pamela and I are looking for an apartment to rent. We find one, and it's everything we could have wanted... high ceilings, already decorated in a very West-Elm clean-lines manner. I'm walking around... and notice that the back room seems to keep on going back.

I walk back and find myself in an arty "food court". I turn back and see a large lobby, which I know to be the Walker Art Center. I walk out into the lobby, turn back towards the "apartment", and realize that one full wall of the apartment is actually glass, and that this apartment is actually an installation, and we're being invited to be the 'real couple" living on display.

I walk back into the apartment, and sure enough, I can see out into the lobby - strange that I couldn't before. I'm about to have a talk with Pamela, who is checking out the bookshelf/sofa combination (it really IS a great apartment), when a man I know to be the curator of the Walker comes in.

He is 9 feet tall with a caesar haircut and tiny round glasses, gay as a tangerine and German as the pope, wearing a white linen suit and saddle shoes. His partner is almost the exact same as him, only with black hair, a dark, lapel-less suit (nehru style?), and sunglasses.

The curator is effusive in his excitement, and fawns over us, declaring us an IDEAL couple for this installation, and of COURSE we're going to move in, he won't hear otherwise. For a moment, I bask in his enthusiastic energy, but in a flash, he is off to charm someone else, and I am left feeling somewhat dissatisfied.

Just before awaking, I recall perusing the rental contract - I mean if I'm going to the trouble of moving in, this had better not be a 3 month lease - I don't want to move again that soon. And they can forget about a security deposit - heck, we're doing THEM a favor!

Around that time I did wake up. Because my insane daughter woke up at 5:30.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What's the latest?

Work: I'm just digging into the enormity of the task that sits before me with the "activation manager" role: Basically, make sure the entire hospital is ready for the upcoming upgrade. Make sure there's staff. Make sure the PCs and Printers are set up. Create a "war room" with network and phones. Find out whether the vendor support people coming in for this need TB tests before working on the hospital floors. Really.

This will be a big deal. And it sounds really fun!

So it's a perfect time for me to take on a second client, right? Looks like I'll be doing a strategy assessment for a friend's business - long and short term planning for how their systems need to work... lots of up front work, plus a trickle for a while to make sure my vision is adhered to (or changed as needed).

Working OUT: I did my third "BodyPump" class today, and I've been able to up the weights each time... I loooove it.

Music: I have a FIFTH Project Manager song in the cooker. My compatriots got the sketch last night, and the verdict is... it's a keeper. The song is called "Team Building". A bit slower, like ABC's SOS from 1983.

Weekend: Looking forward to an "Incredible Scotch Night" on Saturday. Two good friends have somehow NOT seen "The Incredibles", and they also do like the single malt scotch. So why not enjoy BOTH in my home? Should be a good time. It's a continuation of the Scotch Matrix series that we did last fall...

PS: When Ryan Seacrest says "That's it for the Guest Stars" and one second later, Prince is up on the stage.... how am I supposed to TRUST Ryan Seacrest?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Workin' OUT

This morning I got up early to join the BodyPump class as my little fitness studio - this one is a weights class, with lots of curls, presses, and lunges... And I came to realize that I have literally NO strength in my shoulders and triceps. I was very shakey-armed by the end... but at the same time I was also able to do a lot of the workout as planned too.

Now I have a goal: To do both the Step and the Weights programs well. I'll approach it like my language! So just get used to "Jimmy the Jock". One interesting side effect - being more active like this, at least this first week, I have not needed much coffee at all... hmm... is this REALLY a good idea? I think my Espresso machine will be lonely.

We had a cookout with my sister today, and took a walk afterwards. In a park, Bella directed me and my sister to do tumbling moves she learned in class: She's show us the move and tell us to do it. She really loved being the teacher. I flipped her out by doing an uncalled-for front-handspring.

The front handspring is one of those things that, despite my gangly-ness, I have always been able to do (well, since college). It's like playing the spoons - a skill that you don't need to bring out often, but when i do, it's to great effect.

I really don't know why doing this particularly difficult move doesn't cause me harm. I just know how to do it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Few Notes

First vision:
My daughter wearing a black leotard, violet sweatshirt, violet socks pulled up over the calves, and a pink sun visor, standing with Jenny waiting for Pamela to find worms in the garden. When a worm is found, Pamela hands it to Jenny, who hands it to Bella, who marches off and finds a new home for it. No "Yuck" or anything - the girls are Worm Relocation Specialists and take this job seriously.

Second vision:
I went to a Step Aerobics class yesterday. Actually, I liked it a lot - I didn't get too messed up on the steps, and was able to participate fully. I just might need to attend regularly! (If you must have the visual, I was wearing puma black nylon sweats, and my black Aquateen Hungerforce teeshirt. A funky vision in black.

I was verrrrrry tired. But I am not in pain, and am looking forward to another class!

Third vision:
I am going to see Thomas Dolby this weekend. He has taken on a sort of sci-fi James Carville look these days. Working the retro-steampunk look pretty well. I did meet him years ago (1997? 99?) in the heady days of the DotComs, my buddy Paul went to work for a start up of his, which did... um... I'm still not sure. I think they had something to allow webpages to play cool music (before bandwidth was so cheap and compression so good that you could stream real music).

I'll post a report.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Crazy Language Workplace

So one of my new co-workers is pretty good with Japanese... as is my old buddy Jode who is also here. So when I get back into Nihongo, I'll have some people to try it out with.

I also was speaking Spanish to a coworker and a lady a cube over has kids in Spanish Immersion, and started speaking with me. It was megacool.

Nobody seems to speak or want to speak German, however.

So in the midst of it all, somebody asked me what languages I do speak.
- French pretty well.
- Spanish getting better
- German passable but fading (I need to refresh and practice!)
- Japanese - 4 phrases max. But will learn.
- Russian - two years of college, some things don't leave.

At which point a coworker piped over a cube wall "are you a musician?". I had to fess up, yes. So now I am officially "fascinating" in the words of a cubemate.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tattoos and Computers

When the new super sleek MacBook was announced yesterday, my first second and eighteenth reaction was to get one. It's small, it's good looking, it's a fast Mac, and it's relatively inexpensive. I even went out to the Applestore to look at it. I proudly announced my intention to purchase.

But in the cold light of the next day, I need to realize: It's just a computer, and yes it's small, yes it's fast, but I am NOT taxing my current machines at all - there has been no moment in the past year when I've smacked ANY of my machines and said "Dang it, if only you were faster, if only you were smaller". If anything, I must say that the new machine is so fast, it could replace ALL of my other computers at no performance penalty.... but not really at any performance GAIN either.

I need to take the same rigor with technology purchases as I do with Tattoos. If you really want a tattoo, draw it on your arm in a sharpie. If after a week you still think that's a good idea, go ahead and tattoo it. For me, no image or concept has been cool enough for me to keep it on for a week, much less a full day.

So for computers (and other techy things) I make the following pledge: I will declare my intent/interest in an item and write it down, make my best case for it, sell both myself AND my wife on the concept. And then wait for 7 days before acting on it. And if after those 7 days, the need is still so start, so brilliantly clear, then yes, I can do it.

In all honesty, it only took 12 hours for my completely undeniable need for the Macbook to pass. Every time I see a Dave Smith Evolver keyboard (a synth with MANY blue lights and a biiiig sound) it takes me a good 4 hours after fully convincing myself this will change my life before the Evolver has passed into "just cool" territory.

What I am concerned about, however, is whether the economy can handle this newly frugal Jimmy. Whether Apple and a host of software vendors can in fact keep their doors OPEN without my continual early adoption...?

I am sure that sometime, somehow, there will be an item that I need SO badly that I still REALLY need it a week later.

Got to admit...

It's getting better. I think that the more I'm busy, the happier I am. So I'm getting busy. Today I was again invited to another meeting well outside of my "job", and wound up really contributing heavily.. to the point that I think there's a good chance they'll give me that project "on the side". Just a little project to figure out how to interface patient monitoring equipment with the electronic health record.

Add to this, there's a public "recognition" board at this place, and I have got two public "kudos" for my help. And I was asked to stay on for a while beyond June. They want me to manage the "Activation" of the project, which really means make sure I know what needs to happen in what order across the entire hospital and manage the "hit list".

Both of these "little" projects are actually pretty massive, and I'm excited to take them on. Add to this there are new people being added to the project who are interesting and smart, and the I can feel the culture of lethargy at that site beginning to turn around. I could start to like this.

Of course even the first thing I was brought in to do (which I am doing well, mind you) was something I hadn't actually DONE before. This whole gig, while it moves frustratingly slow at times, is just a KILLER skill builder. Perhaps the skill it is really teaching me is that I can learn to be patient too...

On a related note, my separation from long-term-client 2 has been sloooow. Finally last week I had to tell them I had no intention of billing them further, and that they need to take me off of the email distribution lists. After a WEEK, I finally got an email back from my old boss, who admitted she didn't want to acknowledge that I was really done with the gig... so we're getting together next week to reminisce.

Amusingly, I'm actually offering free side-advice to another consultant pal who is doing another assessment for them - Sort of a Cyrano de Bergerac situation. ;->

And that's the work update.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I, Consultant

On Friday I had an odd day at the Client: I was involved in 4 meetings, none of which were directly related to my stated "job", but all of which I wound up having a major role in. Each invite was the result of me asking "why".

In one case, my project was tangentially affected by an infrastructure issue from the night before. I read and reread the explanation of the outage, and wrote up a series of questions to get to the truth - what they were saying was not complete. Not that it really affected me, and getting the answer was NOT my job, but I didn't like the fact that the answers weren't being provided in a straightforward manner.

So I asked the questions, and it led to a full scale "lessons learned" meeting, in which all the geeks came together and hey, figured out that there really WAS a problem that needed to be addressed, and gosh, why hadn't they seen that? And maybe they would have done it anyway, but I felt like I had a part in helping them get to the root of their issue.

In the other meetings, it was a case where I was a participant in a larger meeting and a parallel team raised an issue. Again, completely outside of what my job is, but I had some ideas, and I offered them up. And suddenly, I've been invited to a work session to hammer out the problem.

I'm beginning to remember that THIS is some of the extra value I tend to bring to a client - I don't stay in my role - I always ask questions, I'm always curious about the big picture. This is how I rose from managing one hospital's rollout to leading the enterprise project at the last client. This is how I became the "consultant at large" for 4 years at the other last client. This is how I went from business analyst to department director at the insurance company years ago.

And as I sit with other people I realize that many of my peers as "consultants" do NOT have this tendency. The example I saw on Thursday - I was in a group of 5, one turned to me to tell me more details about a Japanese website I had shown him. We spoke about it for 2-3 minutes, and the other 3 people just sat there and waited for us to be done. None asked for background or details on what we were discussing. It's not the first time. I don't think I'm a buttinsky or terribly nosy, but if people are talking about something and I'm at the table, I usually want to know what they're talking about. To not be curious is just alien to me.

As you're aware, I've had some issues finding my "ground" at this client, and I'm still not sure that it's going to be a long lasting gig, but this week, I really started feeling myself "connecting" at the level that makes me most comfortable - getting involved with the larger picture, sharing my thoughts outside of what I'm "supposed" to be responsible for... Though to be perfectly clear, I am also focused on my "job", and am executing on it very well.

It was a strange moment of clarity on Friday, as if I was looking at myself and my behavior from the outside and I got a glimpse at one of my driving mechanisms - like seeing a pocket watch with the back off of it. And perhaps I'm describing something totally obvious to those who know me...

But I wanted to write it down.

Always backing it up...

So indulge a geeky post: Pamela's iMac was more or less fully recovered. The backup drive that finally gave up the ghost, I reformatted again, and tried to start using it to back up. It cacked out and disappeared AGAIN, and I tossed it. I got online and bought a pair of new backup drives - one for upstairs, one for the iMac. Big, new, cool machines.

They backed up Pamela's imac happily... but then after 3 days, refused to back up! Oh no - more haunted computers? No - it turns out this time that the actual interface on the iMac is flakey. Fortunately, I switched to a different port and it's working fine again, but dang it, it's just one more thing. But it's so esoteric, I don't know if bringing it back to Apple will get it fixed (or me a new computer) because it'll work for a while, and then flip out.

Anyway, so we all know, I'm backing up everything nightly now. The only problem is that one of the things I LOST in the crash was our new Mac website template, and I'll have to recreate the whole thing. SIGH.

And so I tell you: Back it up, people, back it up. I shall be the faded old man in the supermarket at 90 telling you to back up your data as you attempt to ascertain the fresheness of the vegetables. I will be the ghostly whisper from a malfunctioning am radio warning you... back up that data.

I was lucky - 105 gig of music (27000 tracks) and 30 gig of pictures (17,000 pics and movies) is not an inconsequential amount of data to lose. I was lucky to get it all back.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bella in the morning

This morning, Bella woke up with me and we shared peanut butter toast while enjoying the newspaper funnies... which is in itself an interesting job just because not a single "funny" could be considered funny to a 3 year old... So I just have to make stuff up.

I asked her about her tumbling class - if she learned how to do anything new. Excitedly she said "You've never seen me walk on the wobbly bridge before! It's very hard, but I don't fall. Well, I do hold onto something so I don't fall I guess."

I asked what she held onto... "I don't know the word... It's like a piece of salt, but really hard."

Then as I was getting some coffee, she hollered "Dad, come here! You are NOT going to want to miss THIS!!!!" I was rewarded with a small picture of a poodle in a furniture advertisement.

My daughter is completely nuts.

Monday, May 08, 2006


I have said it before, I will say it again. When Bella gets a nap, it is a bad thing for us... On no-nap days, she is down by 8 usually, and up at 7, which is a good 11 hours of sleep, and she's in a great mood.

But if she falls asleep, even for an hour... she's up til 11. She's still upstairs, glassy eyed, half asleep, and yelling about wanting lights on and reading more books... She just can't turn off!

And tomorrow, she will still be up at 7. That is not changeable for some unknowable reason. She could be in a windowless, soundproofed room, in a spaceship traveling at near relativistic speeds, and still at 7am Central Standard Time, she'll be up.

Which means we will have zombie child tomorrow, as we desperately try to avoid giving her the nap she will so much need, to break the cycle of insanity.

Poor thing!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Neighborhood Weekend

From Friday to today it has been a very neighborhood weekend. Friday night, Bella had an overnight with Grampette, so we could go to a surprise birthday party for Steve down at the bottom of the block! We had all planned on a big, kick up your heels party, and we definitely started well, but boy, we're all parents, and it was the end of the week, and by 11, that party was done.

So we took our Saturday AM as a good sleep-in. Well, Pamela did (resting in is just one of her favorite treats in the world, so when I can, I like to let her snooooze in!) - i was up at 7:15, knocking around... Once Pamela was up (10-ish), we went off to Zumbro for breakfast, and we got a lawnmower.

We had been using a service for the past few years, and we got to thinking that it was a bit expensive, and they didn't do THAT good of a job. My big thing is that I really really don't understand two-stroke engines, so the very idea of maintaining a mower is just nervousmaking. Add to this, our last mower was a total lemon - taking $100 a year in maintenance costs (not even including sharpening).

So we splurged on a rechargeable battery powered mower. I used it today - it was quiet, and did the job. It was stress free mowing at last.

Last night, we called an impromptu "taligating party" and had some neighbors over for hot dogs, beer in the can, and fritos. It wound up going late into the evening, which was just a blast.

Today, we had a "neighborhood art show" - we put up art by all of the kids in the neighborhood (from ages 1.5 -> 7), and had everyone over for snacks - it was the opening of the "Froggy Gallery" (Bella named it of course). The kids were just amazed to see their work up on the wall with labels (no prices - this stuff is NOT for sale!). I'll post a website of the event soon...

Of course, we all were having so much fun, we just morphed into a dinner, I ran out to grab take our burgers, onion rings, and malts for people! It was all done by 7, and people went home... and we enjoyed the West Wing once Bella was down.

It was really a great weekend! We have such a fun neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Movie Idea

Post Removed.... I'm actually going to write up a spec script on this and see what happens. No point in leaving it on the interweb.

See you at the movies!

Three details on a Wed AM

1) As she fell asleep last night, Bella was telling me about her day... she was playing with Jenny (of course) and "We did all KINDs of things. Like, we tested Porcupines." I asked for details: "We put our hands down on the porcupine, and then we brought it back up... and looked to see if any spines came up!"

I don't believe that we actually had a porcupine available for testing... but it's nice to know that if one shows up, she has a battery of experiments at the ready.

2) No gig on the 21st. Apparently it's a small stage and Thomas is unwilling to give up his "ring of synths" for a full warm up band. But the thought is now free and out there, and there's nothing keeping us from making this happen in the future!

3) I had a very surreal online chat last night with Paul S: We were play acting an infomercial. The product on offer was a web-enabled chicken roaster with e-banking functionality - the Chickenbankweb. No money needed, we've already put one in every house in america. Just go to your downstairs bathroom - in the toilet tank you'll find a gold key. This opens the door you've never noticed before behind the toy chest. Bring provisions for a 10 day journey (hard tack, livestock).... It just kept going. Paul was playing the part of the over-the-hill TV personality feeding questions to me, the inventor.

The strange thing is, this morning - there it was, the Chickenbankweb... on my counter.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Yeeeowch - A Geeky Post.

So I moved to a PC laptop a few weeks ago so that I could better support my new client... and I did a TON of work with it... but really no MORE work than I have done on my Mac laptops at any other gig in the world.

Turns out that some combination of the mini trackpad, the stiffer keyboard, and the higher desk at the new gig has caused me some rather major wrist discomfort. Yes, my body is rebelling from having to use a PC product.

I'm trying not to take a big "message" from this. Instead I'm moving to a trackball (same as my office - rest your hand on it, work the ball with your thumb...) and working on my posture. But it is a chilling thought - that a person who has worked on these laptop things every day for 5 years can be brought to the point of pain in a mere MONTH of un-ergonomic life.

In other news, the "recovery" process is slow and painful on Pamela's iMac. Her iPhoto library (16,000 pictures) got a corrupt index, and so I'm re-importing all of the pictures. This is causing me to lose the rotation, but may make things a little faster, not having had the library upgraded from version 1->6. We got all 100 gig of itunes music loaded on the big G5 upstairs, where it will stay.

And this being the 3rd time it's been called upon to do restoration services, the external hard drive has hung up it's gloves and decided not to speak to us anymore.

And finally, a quick update. I LOVE MY MINI. It is maybe the most fun thing to drive ever. And it makes me smile as I walk up to it. Best car decision EVER. The hard part will be not getting a second one when Car2 comes off lease in 9 months.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Monday Morning

We're at 5 solid days of rain and counting... man, this is getting depressing. I feel like we're living in Seattle or something!

But the slick roads were no trouble for the Mini going into work. The Mini was a champ all weekend... It even served well for a trip to Costco! (the seats flipped down easily for the massive units of paper towels and TP... Also, I got the AUX jack working, so this morning I was back on the Spanish lessons for the trip to work. Though my trip is so short, I'll have to do only a half lesson each way!

That's right, I'm getting back on the Language Horse after a few months away - Spanish is back in vogue!

Pamela's Imac came back... freshly formatted AGAIN, with a promise that there was no underlying hardware issue. Lesson learned for me: I'm keeping all of the music and photos on my big bruiser G5 upstairs now. And backing them up weekly.

Finally, I spent time yesterday reading news reports of (and watching videos of) Stephen Colbert's SCATHING appearance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner - oh man, he pulled no punches. I cannot WAIT to see how he spins it on his show tonight!!!