Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Still Standing

No idea what was keeping Isaac going today. He was up a few times in the night, and woke up at 7:30 sharp. Then, according to Pamela, he had 3 15 minute naps before I got home at 6... And he was alternating between partying and coughing. Oh, and he was not eating either. Pamela was a wreck, and I was happy to take over.

Nerd Alert:
I helped Jeff and Rita configure their new Dell laptop - a 17" screen brute that they're sure to love. We used a 3rd party "data mover" application, which was hardly worth the $20 we spent on it, and certainly not as complete or elegant as Apple's (free with every mac) migration assistant. I also spent a few long minutes not able to connect to their wireless network, before learning that a paranoid brother-in-law had come and locked down their router to MAC addresses only - a security precaution that we don't even use on our networks at the HOSPITAL. Complete overkill and it locked out their new computer...

Fortunately, I was able to quickly defeat that security "feature" and all went well from there.

I really don't mind helping people set up Windows computers - it reminds me every single time that Apple is sooo much better and easier... But I do charge money to work on Windows. Macs, I do for love.

Nerd Alert over.

So now I'm home, Isaac is crying, and i'm off to help. Night night!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Saddest Thing

Is there anything sadder in the whole world than a little 4 month old boy coughing and sniffling, but still smiling when he sees you? It's going to be a looong night - he's been waking up coughing every hour so far.

See you on the other side of night, people. And I can't promise I won't be groggy.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Movie Report... More!

One of my favorite movies is Office Space, which was a spot-on examination of cubicle life. The maker of this movie surprised me, since he's also the maker of Beavis and Butthead, and King of the Hill - two animated ventures that I just didn't like very much. So I heard about this movie he did last year - Idiocracy. And it was well reviewed, but only opened in 7 cities and closed immediately. Word out there was that Fox tried to "kill it" somehow.

I rented it, eager to see what the fuss was about. And I was delighted.

It's a completely ridiculous movie about how mankind has gotten progressively dumber, so by 2550, a completely average slacker who was frozen in 2005 winds up being the smartest person on the planet. Luke Wilson brings his best "Aw Shucks" naivety to the role, and everyone else brings their aggressive insanity to it.

The special effects mostly consist of VERY obvious Matte paintings of the world of the future, which only adds to the charm. The only CGI is used for some unthinkably equipped monster trucks.

The only conundrum is that in many ways, it appeals to the base humor that was the target of Beavis and Butthead - and it's that ethos that is mocked in the movie (the top TV show of the future is called "Ow, My BALLS!", and consists of one blunt force injury after another. So he's mocking lowbrow, but many of his best gags ARE lowbrow. So I recommend it with the STRONG caveat that it is very crude and obvious and ridiculous... but the gags wound up creating a cascade effect of laughter, so that by the time the President is addressing the House of Representin', and is singing Gospel style about how the smart man will solve all of their problems, I was on the floor with tears.

On a different note - we tried to watch Prairie Home Companion, and were stymied. Perhaps it had been too long of a week, but we were unwilling or unable to be swept away - The characters never gelled for me - they were always Garrison and Meryl and Lily and Woody and Kevin, all having a lark. So we gave it up after 40 minutes, deeming it "too precious" for us. I know many did love it, and I begrudge them nothing. But it was not the movie for us. And no, it wasn't just before or after Idiocracy, so that didn't taint us. Really.

Finally, on a kid note (since they are so central to my life, how can I post without mentioning them?) Isaac has been experimenting with solid foods for a week now, and will take or leave oatmeal. But this afternoon, I was holding him and enjoying a meaty Wisconsin BEEF STICK (a gift from real life Wisconsin people), and he grabbed it out of my hand and popped one end into his mouth and started gnawing on it.

He did a pretty good job with it, but I had to stop him from actually biting off a piece on account of him not having any teeth and his likely choking from that. But we did switch to club crackers, and he was really enjoying holding them, bringing them to his mouth, and gumming them. I'm not sure how much was actually ingested, versus being "Cookie Monstered", but he seems to be pretty interested in "human food", so those bottles will be on the way out.

A plus to this is that with real food in his gullet, he's sleeping a little better - after a few 2-3 wake nights, we're back to one wake up, and it's closer to 1, which means that both of us can help out. I can start to see a time when I will not be entirely exhausted. It's still a ways away, but I can see it. With a telescope.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

How are the kids?

Isaac is suffering from a pain trifecta right now: He seems to be growing massively (as evidenced by his now THRICE nightly feedings of full bottles), we're seeing his first tooth starting to surface, AND he caught a cold.

In spite of it all, and between jags of crying with rage at a cruel world, he somehow manages to smile and coo and cuddle all the same. But Daddy is a bit bleary eyed at the extra feedings.

Bella has started coughing like Sparky the seal last night, and had to be cajoled into taking cough medicine: It started with a promise of extra videos is she just took the dang medicine, and I think where we left it is that she gets a Miata on her 16th birthday and a Pony and two golden retrievers. There is nothing like the bargaining power of a sick child against sleepy parents.

One quick "making it all worth it" quote: Two nights ago, I was putting Bella to bed, having a cuddle and some jokes, and I asked her to tell me something nice about her day. She thought for a little bit, and she turned to me and said:

"This is my favorite part of the day. Right now."

I had to tell her it was mine too.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Heckuva Weekend!

With four grownups and five kids under 5, the Balamo was a packed house indeed this weekend. It was of course for the 6th annual posthumous birthday party for my dear Grandmother, held at the Lexington in St Paul. The meal was great as always, as was the selection of scotch (started with a little Highland Park, ended with a little Talisker).

There was a LOT of good laughter, much of it this year courtesy of sister Carrie's attempt to sing "Little Jeannie" by Elton John. There is video, and there will be blackmail.

On Sunday, a few of us went off to Hub Hobby, which has been cleaned up pretty well in the past year - and it was kid and dad heaven. Bella came home with many small plastic animals, and a sack of agates that she spent a loooong time selecting.

Yesterday was back to work: I skipped the AM workout because I wanted to help with the full house (the relatives were leaving in the AM), but alas, my help was not needed - everybody snoozed in, and I was out before anyone woke up. I made up the session at 6pm, and wore my "ROFL" workout shirt: It's puff blue and says "You can't buy these Pythons in a Pet Shop" with arrows pointing to my biceps. The 6pm crew is a bit bigger than the 6am (30 vs 5), so it got a bigger laugh. I didn't cry... too much...

With the guests gone, we're always faced with the task of recovering the house. This time, it started coming together well, BUT we were faced with a load of laundry that makes the Augean Stables task of Hercules seem like a minor tidying. What to do?

Well, Tuesdays ARE our date night, and Justin was on his way over. We decided that perhaps it would be romantic to get some stuff DONE - so we packed 10 laundry baskets over to a coin laundry and got the whole mess done in 2 hours and $45 in quarters. We brought in sandwiches for dinner over the Ms PacMan machine, and finished the evening at Starbucks for a cuppa to relax.

And with my bones a bit tired from standing and hauling and folding (it's a workout in itself), I close my laptop and dream good dreams.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


She says "Accidentally" as "Ann-si-dentally". And it's a word she likes to say. And I love to hear her say it.

Depressingly Authentic

Alert to all fans: It's a Jimmy FOOD POSTING.

Going out to lunch today, I had a feeling for something new. There's an indian place near where I work that has garnered very good reviews for it's authenticity. My own favorite Indian place is somewhat scoffed at by afficianados as "good, but not Indian". So I went to this place. And it was packed with real live east indians... and it was a bigger buffet that my favorite place, so I'm thinking "hey now, this is SOMETHING".

Except the meat.. it was a bit fatty. And more dark meat, and skin on. And the sauces were more savory than spicy. And one of the trays contained "Goat Curry". So I politely loaded my plate, once, ate the food and hightailed it out of there. The words "Depressingly Authentic" entered my mind as I walked out. I'll stick with my Fake Indian, alas.

On a more authentic note, I met Uncle Chicken for lunch yesterday at what appears to be the current "best Pho Joint in Town" - Pho Tau Bay. Pho, as I know you know, is a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Pho Tai has sliced beef, cellophane noodles, onions in broth, with a side plate of Bean sprouts, basil leaves, lime wedges, and peppers. There are other variants with tripe, flank, meatballs, and god knows whatelse, but I stick with Tai, since it's pretty lean meat.

And it was wonderful, and it was great to see the Chicken in daylight. And it was the best Pho in town to my knowledge. After 9 months of being at my current client, I finally broke down and asked the Hmong workers where to get some Pho, and they pointed me there, as well as to a few less excellent but closer to work places.

Finally, I should add that I stopped in for some coffee on the way from Lunch today. The Caribou corporate headquarters is one freeway exit from my work exit, so I popped over: It's a big factory building, with a store popped right in front of it. I went in and sat down with a cuppa. Sitting by me were two "Management Trainees" who were killing a few minutes before going back into class for a final test.

Listening to the conversation was just surreal - one woman was free associating about her brother stealing her socks, and her remedial high school where this teacher from "Manhattan" was yelling at ESL students. She just sounded Cray-Zay. But the key was that both women were confessing their difficulty in understanding these coffee terms - "I can't tell French Roast from French Press". Neither were coffee drinkers.

I was just imagining back when I was managing a Dunn Bros coffee in the early 1990s. At that time, you hired people who were hanging out enough to become fixtures in the store - it was sort of an upgrade from customer to server. And the leader of the store, Ed Dunn, was a true coffee evangelist. "There is no such thing as a large cappuccino - it's a double shot of espresso with light foam - that's IT - HOW CAN YOU MAKE THAT LARGE????". He would have his friends come in and try the coffee and quiz you, and you needed to KNOW your coffee. He instilled in me a snobbery and discernment that I hold to this day.

I am trying to think of him having to interact with these two management trainees, watching him get redder and redder, until he would abruptly stand up and declare "Thanks for coming in - we're done here".

Of course back then, there weren't as many coffee shops, and you could afford to hold out for and cultivate mavens. With shops on every corner, you need to take what you can get, and try to train them up I guess. Crazy.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


My beloved Pamela has a very unique singing style - she really has a sweet and powerful voice, but suffers from what I like to call DPD, or Disassociative Pitch Disorder. What this means is that she starts on a certain pitch, and does a phrase pretty much in key... but then starts the next phrase in an entirely different key, and then sings THAT phrase pretty much perfectly, then the next phrase is in a different key again...

It makes singing along with her quite an exercise. Make no mistake, I love to hear her sing, and she can attack a song with quite a bit of gusto... but the DPD is there.

We were watching American Idol tonight (out on a date, at Big Bowl, sitting at the bar), and I discovered that DPD is pretty common actually - along with GWP (General wobbly pitch) and LF (Lyric Forgetfulness). I can't imagine wanting to watch the show in a non-tryout context - watching warblers go at standards is a bit much...

Now I'm going to go on a tangent...

I can't help but think that my old friend Mike from my musical adventures could walk in there and blow them all away. And he'd make it to the final round, and I'd see them ask him to do some country or something, and he'd just walk away... He could win it - no doubt (especially after I saw him last month - he keeps sounding better and better), but there's no question, the man would not want to win - it would just be a compromise.

I sometimes think the same about my songwriting - more than once, I've had a perfect pop song written, ready to make a demo and have it sent off to my friends in "the business"... but when I sit down to start to put it to tape... well... just about everything in the world seems more interesting - organizing my taxes, anything.

My friend Paul and I have almost started a dozen companies, and we have watched as a year later, somebody with the same idea gets millions in venture capital. But each time we're able to say "that wasn't what we wanted to do". Heck, we're smart - if it was just about the money, we could go to law school and learn real estate law. We want to make it... on our terms.

So just like Mike could probably win American Idol if he wanted to, I know I could have made a venture or two fly too... but it's not what we wanted to do. That's why I'm pretty excited about BrainReady: It's something Paul and I just enjoy doing - we have no grand scheme, no prospectus, no plan for venture capital. Just a website and some creative things we've made.

And we got over 100,000 visits in December, and our mail list grows by a hundred a day, and we have a book for sale, and 2 more products in the hopper, and guest bloggers starting up... and this just might take off, in it's own sweet time. And it's FUN, and it's what we want to do right now.

If I was a newspaper columnist or a preacher, I'd find some way to bring this back around to DPD, and I probably could if I worked real hard at it... but I think I'm happy with this post as it is, so let's just leave it there.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Lair goes BOOM

Did a volume test tonight in The Lair - was CRANKING the 5.1 remaster of Depeche Mode's "Some Great Reward" (Track 7 - Master and Servant), full subwoofer. Bella was dancing, as was squirmy (horizontally). I ran up to the second floor to check, and I had to really strain to hear anything... the soundproofed lair is fantabulous.

It will be excellent for the movies with the booms and whatnot.

Also, to the question "is a 5.1 remaster of a 22 year old album any great shakes?" The answer is OH YES IT IS.

The Brainready Book: Monitoring our progress, it appears we have SOLD ONE BOOK. YES. AWWWW YEAH!!!! Big money, baby.

Tomorrow AM will come early - and I'm excited: It's a new workout tomorrow! We're moving on to BodyPump 60. We'll see if any tracks are standouts... I know I'll be a little sore. But hey, I've been schlepping furniture like nobody's business (getting the Lair ready).

Quick Update

1) So that night Bella decided she's a big girl and doesn't need us for bedtime... it was all talk. She's welcomed us back to night-night land every night since. HA!

2) The Basement is finally together (with some tweaking necessary). Surround sound and subwoofer set up, couch and chairs, comfyland made for movies and socializing. I call it "The Lair". The other 2/3 of the basement is bella's playland, with a curtain dividing it between bella's "house" with a kitchen, table, and doll stuff, and the creative/building area with a table, legos, blocks, and little people toys.

I was amazed at how it all came together. When I went to bed at 11, it all seemed so far away, but Pamela got her groove on and made it happen.

3) Headaches: Pamela was sidelined yesterday with a headache and exhaustion, so I tended the kids and tried to keep things moving along (with limited success). She took a good long nap and we finally got going again around 6pm. We chalked it up to exhaustion or something... but today I woke up a bit groggy, and here we are at noon, and I have a raging headache. UGH. Must be some sort of short-term ick. (and yet, I update FOR YOU, my friends).

4) Despite me saying it's almost ready how many times... the book is actually published and ready for ordering HERE. We are also revamping our site - the ads weren't working so we took them down (except for one that we're keeping because we have a direct reciprocity thing with them), and we have guest writers starting up - starting with the guy who wrote the FISH series of motivational books... we're pretty lucky!

5) My favorite defunct synthesizer company Waldorf has been reborn, and I'm excited to see their new products. Their first two new synths are named after Bond Villains - the Blofeld and the Stromberg. How cool is THAT? Beats calling things "JX30" or "Alpha". They'll be showing them in 1 week at that trade show in Anaheim that I've done twice but not this year... Perhaps next year.

6) Bella has been running around the house saying "Yippee Kai Yay.... FLOCK!!!" I don't know where this came from, since I have not watched Die Hard for a few years... You may remember that key line from that movie - and "Flock" is not far off from the explicative at the end of that line. She is not fessing up to where this came from either. But she's been replacing the "Flock" with "Rainbow" and "Flower" - which she seems to think enhances things.

But she is a sponge: Yesterday I was testing the surround sound and subwoofer in "The Lair" with The Incredibles, and she picked up on Mr Incredible's tagline "It's Showtime". She's been using it a lot in the past day.

7) Heck YES I'm getting an iPhone. As if.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Yet another weekend!

Friday night was another scotch night with Rich and Uncle Chicken (or Tio Pollo, as we are now calling him). This time, there were SIX on tap, which was sort of ridiculous - we were tasting for a good 90 min before we made it to the end and could start the movie... Superman Returns, which was just fantastic. But the star of the evening was a Laphroaig 15, which was good and smoky neat, but add a spash of water, and it opened up into something else entirely - very delicious. We tried the splash of water with our previous favorite - the Lagavulin 16, and it just made it taste weak and watery. So water - use it sparingly. As is our rule, even with 6 bottles on tap, pacing and portions are the watchword - nobody gets loopy, and there's never a hangover...

Yesterday we went to Bella's Birthfamily for a late Xmas - it was a great time as always and we actually got to see her birthfather too, who we haven't seen for a couple of years. Isaac and his little birthcousin (who is 5 days younger) had a lot of fun checking eachother out and squawking... and of course there was food. Bella has learned to be very polite with presents now, and gave a good thank you on each, and was even pretty methodical in opening them.

On the way home, we stopped in to Dad and Karen's place (Grandma and Grandpa, of course), where they had a gift for us - a Blue Meanie rug (from Yellow Submarine), and a pot of ham and bean soup they were willing to share, and a roaring fire too...

Between the birthfamily (two terriers) and Dad's (two cats), I continued my "no allergic reaction" string - though by the end of Dad's I was a little wheezy, but probably more from the fire smoke backing into the house (the fire alarm went off and everything...) So it's really starting to look like the allergies MIGHT be in the past? Who knows.

Today was nothin' but work. WORK. Around the house that is. Around 10 loads of laundry. And LOTS of work on the basement: We're re-orging the whole works, moving the exercise equipment up near our bedroom, and turning half of the basement into a surround sound video "Lair" (no new gear here, just better use of our existing stuff), and a better organized play area for Bella. We're imagining we'll be living in the basement a lot more with two kids now.... Justin was watching the kids while we were hauling and hauling... but it'll be great when it's done. We just need to find someone who can move huge equipment around... time to call the movers.

And now it's off to bed - the morning will come quite soon, and I need to be at the gym by 6 to keep fit!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Big Girl

One nice way we end our days is to cuddle up with Bella until she falls asleep. Pamela and I trade off nights. We do back scratches and foot rubs and scalp massages, it's just a nice night. It's also a nice excuse to close my eyes for a few minutes before doing nighttime things.

Tonight, after I finished reading our bedtime story, Bella told me "I think I'm ready to be a big girl and go to sleep without anyone else in my bed tonight".

I told her I'd be right outside if she needed me. "Sure, if I need a back scratch, or a foot rub, I'll call you. Good night Daddy!".

I walked outside and felt a little sad. Happily, Isaac woke up and distracted me for 15 minutes while I got him back to sleep. I poked my head in and saw that Bella was fast asleep, with a sweet smile on her face.

I came downstairs and I needed a hug. Bella's getting too big. Awww I got something in my eye.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back to work you lot.

First day of "work" since the 22nd... and I realized that it was the longest I had gone without holding my kids. I went through a little withdrawal. The kids were so cumulatively exhausted that Bella slept from 4pm-9pm, then 11-8am. Isaac went down at 10, and slept through to 7am. Pamela's so wiped she went to sleep with Bella at 8:30 tonight. I was supposed to be working, but Uncle Chicken had to come celebrate the new year with me, and we were surfing insane Youtube videos (the Infomercial for Quintron, Miss Pussycat and the DrumBuddy is the best ever)... now I'm ready to go sleepy.

Fortunately to get me through the day, Pamela was emailing with some commentary from Bella. They were watching President Ford's funeral. Here are the quotes:

"Is that him with the silly haircut?"
About the hearse..."Is that a taxi?"

And when told they were going to bring the casket into the church... she asked"What are they going to do in there" Pamela said "People are going to talk about his life and say prayers and sing special songs" Bella said " You mean like Itsy Bitsy Spider and stuff?"

I got a vision of a church choir doing a very solemn "itsy bitsy spider" as the pallbearers (or "The Bears" as Bella called them) did the processional....

Did I forget to mention that I did get a Wii-related injury last week? As I was doing the bowling game, I lept up with excitement at a strike, and banged my hand into a ceiling fan. It left a good welt. I was reminded of the time in college when I lept up in my room at the French House in an overenthusiastic reaction to The Human League's soporific version of "you've lost that loving feeling", and sliced my hand open shattering the overhead light. I tend to have injurious reactions. Still, better to hurt me than hurt Pamela with a poorly placed elbow or knee...

At BodyJam yesterday, I was up near a mirror as I was dancing, and came to the realization that I'm basically the tin man, or a collection of rulers and rubberbands. I can not be as funky as a stocky little guy (Isaac), but I can perhaps use my lankyness to some advantage.

Two final points: The test printing of our book arrives tomorrow, so we get to see what it's all about. Secondly, I really don't know why I had to tell you all my theories about clock selling. But it IS called "JimVentions".