Saturday, June 30, 2007

No, no I didn't

Sorry to disappoint, but I did not get an iPhone. I didn't wait in line all night, I didn't place an order online. I'm just too scared: I've had crazybad cellphone mojo in my life. Phones that others rave about, I can barely hold a signal. I feel like my calls drop all the time. I sit at my desk, and a voicemail icon pops up on the phone, and it NEVER RANG. The "fast internet" features people rave about... I just get "loading..." for eternity.

I'm just not willing to open my heart to an Apple phone, when cellphones in general have let me down so often.

There is another reason I can not get an iPhone: We are in a "not spending money" phase here at the house, and Pamela knows what the iphone is, what it looks like, and is on the lookout for my weakness.

Nope. Ain't gonna do it. Not til Rev 2 at least.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

An important announcement.

Ahem. Is this thing on? Yes? Ok. Here we go.


He got so excited, he couldn't walk any more, he was too busy bouncing a victory dance as everyone hollered encouragement. He did most of the walking with Pamela, MaeMae, and Bailey (the sitter) watching, but he gave daddy a few steps in the evening just to show he can.

9 months, one week. Walking. WOW.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Some random impressions

1) Yesterday, on my way out of the house to work, Bella gave me two huge hugs, then walked me to the door, opened it for me, walked me out to the stairs, and stood waving as I drove away. I almost drove off the road with tears - she was so sweet. I was very happy to be able to help her go to bed last night reading stories and telling tales of when I was young. I might have revved her back up with a detailed story of climbing Long's Peak... she got pretty excited.

This morning, I was out of the house at 5:45 and didn't come back between the workout and going to work. Apparently Bella was a bit sad around the house.

2) Isaac remains ornery about being fed: Pamela was trying sweet potatoes, and took a 2 minute video of the refusenik in action: He was not particularly mad, he was just plain NOT HAVING ANY OF IT. Mouth locked shut, skillful parries of the spoon. More than once, he grabbed the spoon... now if you're thinking "oh, he'll feed himself then?" HAH. No, he holds the spoon with one hand, wipes all of the food off of it with the other, THEN puts it in his mouth. Spoons are for chewing, not for eating. Silly parents.

3) With Pamela better, I'm back to my 6am workouts: I had written a "top five reasons to work out a t 6am" letter which was sent to the whole health club, and since then, "my" 6am class has had 8-9 people, which is twice what we used to get... so my 6am won't be canceled, and they'll probably add back in a Thursday 6am! Hooray!

4) Some success at work: Our dress rehearsal for July 8 went very well today - no technical glitches. We have some rough edges, but we'll be able to iron them out without too much trouble. I did have a FULL SCALE REBELLION on my hands with the team on something: A different team handles reporting - they never came to my meetings, they wouldn't be managed by me, they were autonomous. Then a month before golive they asked for our help in "proofing" their work, just a final look at it.

We started looking, and realized that they were less than half done, and hadn't even mildly tested that half. And they started asking for us to help them "prioritize" their work, and let them know what wasn't working (basically to the FIRST level of testing, not the final review). I asked the team what they thought: A lot of times, they'll take a hit to make sure the product is ok for the customers... they'll do the extra work. But I wanted their input.

Well, they said no, this isn't their job, and this is too typical for that team. SO I got to tell my boss and my bosses boss that our team was too busy and this was the reason. I went to bat for them. And my team was amazed... that's not something people have done for them, and they said they're REALLY going to miss me.

Anyway, that's work geekness... but when people ask me what I do all day, I advocate for people. I represent.

5) A food post? WHAT? I was starving at lunch and ran off to Key's restaurant in Fridley... and horror of horrors, they were OUT OF CARAMEL ROLLS. Fortunately they still had some eggs, hash browns, bacon, coffee, and rye toast, so it wasn't a total loss.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sabado Gigante

Poor Isaac had a rough time settling last night - it seems he's going through more brainstorms and it's making him a tad cranky. He was up before 6 this morning, and Pamela was the on-duty who took him downstairs. I'm the on-duty tonight, so I figure tomorrow will be an early one for me.

It was a big day because Pamela is finally going without her finger splint for much of the day. Splint still goes on for labor and sleep, but for most of the day, the finger was out in the world. It looks to be recovering nicely - not drooping , but it doesn't have the same upward tilt as the other fingers, it's perhaps a little lazier. But considering the horror stories we'd heard from so many mallet finger injuries, she seems to be coming out OK. Add in that her back is practically back to "normal", and it's a good life we're living now.

We've figured out that Isaac simply will not abide being fed unless it's a bottle (which perversely he has NO interest in holding). So we're trying to be creative about self-feeding options. He likes cheerios, goldfish, bananas, mangoes, and bread-and-butter so far. Bread and butter was my idea today, and he absolutely loved it. Carrot cubes weren't such a hit. I think he's got a sweet tooth, this kid.

We did tons of yard work today, finally weeding most of our flower and hasta beds, which really sharpened everything up. Bella spent the entire day "in the neighborhood", bouncing between neighbor's houses, in and out of pools, games of "kissing tag" (which she announced "was fun, but got boring after a while") and general mischief. By 4, she, Jenny, and Madeline landed at our house.

Madeline is 7 or 8, and left us a darling handwritten "ad" for her "mother's helper" service. We couldn't say no, so twice now she's played with Isaac while we got stuff done around the house. And she gets a couple of dollars, which she parades proudly around with. So when they came to the house, we hired Madeline for an hour to keep an eye on Isaac while we finished our chores (including a mow). Then we got some Famous Dave's for a feast!

Pamela, Bella, and Isaac were all asleep by 8:30 I think... I puttered around, not doing anything work, language, or brainready related at all: I rented a movie "The Fountain" with Hugh Jackman.

Now, I'm a huge fan of the Clooney Solaris movie, and the reviews of the Fountain were of a similar tone, so I was expecting a mishmash of musings about love, death, and life. And I got it. But it wasn't all THAT great. It was very nonlinear, and about the quest to conquer death. I was distracted, however, in that a recurring image of this star he way flying to in the future track looked a lot like the cover to Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life". and then I think of "Sir Duke", and it sort of breaks the mood. You may think I'm kidding, but I'm not here. Anyway, it was pretty OK with some interesting bits, but as a whole, a bit of a mess. Oh well.

By the way, Bella is now forbidden from whining that "She's BOOORED" when we deny her a video. She's acting so old these days! Last night, as we were lying in bed, she was wearing her favorite flannel duck pajamas. Suddenly, she sat up and said "You have got to be kidding me... these pajamas are WAY hot. They're totally too thick. I need different pajamas". So we switched to the silky monkey pajamas... while she is remarking "What were we thinking? The silky monkeys are WAY better".

And so with the family a snooze, and me getting more tired, I think it's time to say goodbye to Saturday, and welcome Sunday to the fold.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Corporate Tales of Woe Part 1

Today I went for a long walk at lunch - a good 45 minutes outside and found myself musing about my work, my life, and some of the odd places I've been... and I decided to do occasional blog postings on horrible work experiences I've had in the corporate world. Just little anecdotes. Not a horrible diatribe - don't get me wrong: I do love what I'm doing these days... but some of my early work...

Way back in 1992 when I was just getting started in IT, I took a programmer job for an outsource code shop. Looking back, I was a subcontractor working for a subcontractor, working for a contractor, working for a telephone company in southern Minnesota. I was paid $15/hr, and told to bill 40 hours a week, no matter what I was doing. With 3 subcontracting firms above me, I am guessing that the client must have been paying at least $50/hr for my work, with everyone taking betweekn $5-10/hr off the top.

We were in an office plaza in Eden Prairie, the dress was business formal (shirt, ties, slacks), there were 6 of us in this office. I shared an office with a woman just a little older than I. In the back were the "mainframe guys" who literally did nothing but play card games on the computer all day. One other guy would stare at lines of code all day. One slept. This was before the world wide web - I can only imagine what THAT would have been like.

For 4 weeks, I was given nothing to do. NOTHING. But bill 40 hours, and say I was doing "Conversion" work. Turns out, this shop was in the SLOW and LABORIOUS process of converting a system from MainFrame to Windows Server... very very very slowly. Bored, I surfed through the code library, trying to make sense of what the system did (boring billing stuff), and see what massive changes were needed.

Finally, after 4 weeks, they gave me an assignment: Take this one program, and convert it. It should take 2 weeks, they said. I took this program, and God as my witness, all I could see it needed was ONE LINE of code changed to work properly. So I did it. And my boss said "you're not done, this will take two weeks". Which I took to mean there was something else I needed to do. So i got in there and started to do some additional improvements, I reformatted the output to work on standard printers, I changed some of the input parameters to match PC keyboards better....

And after 2 weeks of puttering, my boss said "it'll take another week". So a week LATER, they sent off the code. And one week AFTER THAT, the top-level contracting firm called up and yelled at me for making all of those changes, what was I STUPID??? So I immediately backed out those changes, just did the one line of code, and shipped it off 10 minutes later.

8 weeks, and only one program modified, and only one LINE of code modified. And I had made almost $5000. And it felt TERRIBLE. I talked to others in the office, and they all said "kid, relax, this is an easy gig - enjoy it! The next one won't be like this and you'll remember this fondly". Really.

The boss called me into his office and said that "the clients wanted me fired, but he talked them into giving me another chance". I said thank you for the opportunity, but I don't think this is right for me. I walked out. Actually I'd like to say I walked out, but I gave two weeks notice, did nothing but show up for 80 more hours, made another grand. Sigh.

Two gigs later, I ran into one of the Mainframe Guys in the shop: He had taken ill and there was some code that NEEDED to get done. I filled in, and the work that was supposed to be 80% done hadn't been started, but that was ok because the two weeks he had said he needed turned out to have been only about 30 minutes of code on my part. I didn't make a big deal out of it... but I did learn some lessons about trusting people: there are a lot of people in this business who are not interested in working very hard, and are not above deception to keep themselves comfortable.

I am not one of those people.

9 Months

Today Isaac is 9 months old. What a blur the last 9 months have been!!!

That's all I have to say at the moment... gotta go work!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day!!!!

As I wrote, my hopes for father's day were a little sleep, some cuddles, and the crossword. As of 9:45 tonight, the first one was achieved, and the crossword is not far from done. But cuddles? The kids were just too hyper today to pull that off... well there were a few, I guess!

The house woke up at 7, and let me sleep til 8:30. Already things were getting crazy - Bella was VERY excited about the day and was literally running in circles over and over, jumping over Isaac, jumping on Mommy... she got so hot she stripped down to undies to keep running around. This much energy couldn't be contained, so I got showered and dressed and dragged her out of the house to see the Penguins Surfing movie, which was really a LOT of fun. (no violence other than a comic whack or two, no physical peril, no big villains, no crude jokes, just a good comedy about surfing penguins, and Zooey Deschanel was the voice of a googly eyed girl penguin... gotta love that).

Then it was straight over to Grandma and Grandpa's house - where they had put up an advanced slip and slide for Bella... and a tiny pool for Isaac. I was told to go put my feet up and chat with Dad, while Grandma wrangled the kids... which was heavenly. The puzzle got around half done, I had a great chat with dad, and I even caught a little nap in there. Bella and Isaac went through 3 outfits each, being drawn like moths to the flame of the water.... (malformed analogy: Acknowledged, but somehow relevant)

Carrie and Scott showed up and the party kept going - a crab and shrimp feast was concocted (along with salad and bread, natch) and finished with Key Lime Pie from Turtle Bread (a wonderfully tart pie, a Bella ate a full slice!) Got everyone home by 7:30, Isaac and Bella were zonked by 8, which was good because I needed to go get MaeMae and Jenny from the airport - they had been visiting Randy in DC.

So now I'm home, everyone's asleep (including Pamela, whose back finally conked out after ALL of that great activity this weekend) and I'm updating the world...

It was a busy day - busier than I had perhaps anticipated, but that's what being a dad of an 8month old hercules and a 4.5 year old busybody will do: It's just a busy life, and that's what I signed off for: I wouldn't want a father's day without doing any dad stuff!!! (I even changed the one poopy diaper of the day - hey... wait a minute... I got ripped off!!!)

Odd Encounter...

A few days ago, I was going into a sandwich shop and spotted an old acquaintance. He hadn't noticed me, and honestly, I would have been ok if he never did, but as i crept closer to the sandwich pickup spot, I passed within inches of his table, and our eyes met.

It was Matt, the saxophonist from my high school rock band PG13. Ok - it was 1984-1986. We loved INXS. We played half covers, half originals, and weren't half bad... but we did have a saxophonist, and he loved to play. He played on and over every single song we wrote - no matter if we were singing, a guitar solo, whatever, there was this honking going on at all times. And he was WAY more serious about "The Band" than any of the rest of us combined - he really wanted to go to the top.

He was also a very mean person in some ways: his screamed phone conversations with his mother during band practices were equal parts hilarious and chilling - we weren't sure if both would survive. He also had some very non-sequiteur expressions: Talking about a family that was "Old World", he said "Old world? Third world! Probably squeezing out babies right now". This was about a polish maestro and his son our good friend. Bizarre.

Things with Matt after the band got strange(r) - he got into fast motorcycles, went off to a music college, tried to get my mom to co-sign on a loan for a soprano saxophone. I saw him every few years after that - suddenly he was a bouncer at William's pub? I heard second hand that he had created a combination Bass and Sax, which made no sense, because during a sax solo, wouldn't you still need the bass going?

So now I see him again, and he's looking like a Gym Rat, with a shockingly young miss thang with a bare midriff, improbable chest, and "Diva" printed across her bum. He gives me a very mild "hey" and asks "so are you still doing that thing you were doing last time we met?" - possibly the most effective way of saying "I don't remember, nor do I care what your life is". So I said yes, gave him the 10 second update. He shared that he owns a Gym not far away... and that's it.

So we parted ways... in truth, we were never friends, just co-workers in a band, and without that context, there just isn't much to relate. I refused to ask the question "do you still do music". That feels like I'd be trying to connect, and this is a guy I don't need to connect with.

No big lesson here, and not a hilarious story - just an odd encounter with the past.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Further Pleasantness

Friday, she was a nutty day. Big meetings at OldClient, then hustling across town to a full day of vendor demos for NewClient, complete with recap documentation sent out by 5pm. Grabbed some Thai at King and I, and met Pamela at home, where Uncle Ant was waiting. Yes, that means another Scotch Tasting was on offer. But Ant has become more than an evening pal - he loves Bella and Isaac and plays with them (while also making good conversation with us) for over an hour before we get to business... So the whole family actually looks forward to our Scotch nights.

The tasting was narrower this time (and Nick/Chicken was still in Seattle) - vertical tasting of 3 years of Highland Park, and a lateral tasting of two Dalwhinnies - one double matured. It was a highland Scotland party. but then we did a "pretasting" of a dram that will be formally tasted in 2 weeks when Nick rejoins us: A Laphroaig Quarter Cask. And shock and surprise, the Lap showed amazing character and overshadowed our Highland party.

The movie was X2, which still brought a tear to my eye... though even MORE so when I consider how badly they had screwed up X3 - such DRECK that movie.

In the night, I had more of those crazy hallucinations where I think Isaac has been left in bed with us and I need to get him out or we might roll over him accidentally (I'm very afraid of the "Family Bed" concept, I guess). And of course it was Pamela who woke me up demanding to know why I was trying to lift her knee out of bed (I had a pretty good grip and was pulling hard). An hour later, the dream returned, but in a strange moment of lucidity, I put aside the possible imminent danger of Isaac rolling out of bed, and crept into his room to see if he was really THERE. He was, and Pamela's body parts were safe again.

An early morning - Isaac woke at 6:15, Bella at 6:30. Bella played in the AM with Casey, then we all ran off to the Arboretum - the "Big Room". We were there for 4 hours, going through hedge mazes, looking at art, eating, and generally loving the world. It's amazing to watch Bella there: She was all rolleyes and bored in the car, until she figured out where we were going - then she perked up "I LOVE THIS PLACE!"

And she is truly at peace in the Arboretum - she meanders, looking at plants, at sculpture, doing activities - she has such a peaceful look on her face, true contentment. I had a flash of her as a botanist or some such thing in the future. Isaac, on the other hand, was experimenting to see just HOW MANY TIMES we would discourage him from eating bark chips: After a certain point, you just need to let him have a taste... he figured it out more or less.

That's that latest - Isaac is asleep, Bella is not far from bedtime... not sure what the night brings us, but I'm hoping that Father's Day brings me a nice crossword, a sudoku, a little sleeping in, and a cuddle or two from the family.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A great weekend...

Friday afternoon, we packed the kids up and went down to Lanesboro MN - mere miles from Iowa and Wisconsin, this little town amidst rolling hills and glacier-cut rock faces has experienced a rebirth thanks to over 60 miles of old railroad bed being turned into paved trails: In the summer it's a biker's haven, in the winter, X-Country skiers rejoice.

We stayed at a converted grain mill in a two room suite... cards on the table, we were not HUGE fans of this room: It was below ground, one of the two rooms had no AC, and there was a dehumidifier running at all times. And there were no windows. And there was a mustiness that had our children coughing at night. But we lasted two nights there... surprisingly. The third nights, we DID move to a new suite, which was much brighter and more airy.

Though a cycling mecca, we were bipedal tourists: Pamela's back isn't back up to snuff yet, so we padded around, visited amish stuff, and spent a LOT of time in Sylvan Park, a big open area with a great playground.

The first two days, at the park, there was a green dinosaur that Bella just insisted on sitting on: She would spend 10-15 minutes on that dino, lost in thought. She wouldn't touch the rest of the gear. But you know our girl, she's the observer. She was planted there figuring out the whole park. So by Sunday morning, she barely said a hello to the dino, before hitting the equipment with gusto and making friends. On Sunday AM, she chatted up a 7 year old boy, and they were fast friends for over 2 hours. In the evening, she and a 3 year old got to be partners in crime. In both cases, she sort of hung out doing something on the gym, waiting to be noticed. She's cunning that way.

Food was pretty decent: There are some haute cuisine places we simply did not visit due to the kiddles. But bar/diner/cafe food was all done well: Some of the best onion rings of my life were at the Pedal Pusher cafe. Breakfast at the "Chat n Chew" didn't disappoint either visit... Bella subsisted on Cheerios, Buttered Toast, Pizza, and Ensure somehow. Isaac insisted on teething biscuits for every meal... or he'd make our lives challenging. The biscuits kept coming, so the peace was kept. And boy, he would get filthy as a result!!!!

Pamela took a few hours out to do an Amish tour, which sadly wasn't quite up to her expectations... but there were other real life ones she chatted up (and bought goods from), so it was a wash.

The only downside to the trip was that the kids just plain did NOT sleep well, and as a result we didn't sleep well either. So it was a lot of wrangling, and playing, and pushing strollers, and playing, and eating and managing them in restaurants, and comforting them as they woke... So mom and dad are pretty much cashed. It didn't help matters that I got completely overtired and went on a Quixotic crusade against whirring, buzzing, and clicking sounds in our room last night, not falling asleep until well after 3am. Old man B-Reay was in FULL EFFECT, and Pamela was a kind kind woman not to have murdered me.

One nice thing was to have been totally disconnected for the weekend: No cellphone coverage in that valley. There were Wifi hotspots everywhere, but the computer had been left at home (WHAT???). When we hit Rochester on the trip home, my phone filled up with messages and emails, and fortunately the world did NOT end during my absence... though one email ALMOST TOLD ME ABOUT THE SOPRANOS FINALE WHICH I HAVE NOT YET SEEN!!!!!!

On the ride home, Isaac mercifully napped for 2 hours, and was easy to keep under wraps the remaining 45 minutes. Bella made good use of the Ipod, watching the NEW Pooh adventures (Purists beware - it's CGI, and CR is a girl... And they go on "detective adventures"... but Bella seems to love it).

And now Bella's playing in the basement with Casey from the hood, and I'm hoping it's an early bedtime for the kids so that the Sopranos CAN be seen, because I almost ruined last week's episode for one of my coworkers, and I'm POSITIVE he's waiting to return the favor... ;->

Good to be back!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What's happening?

1) Pamela's back continues to improve: She is almost back to full fighting strength, and is capable of caring for the kiddos on her own for good stretches. She hasn't needed much pain killer, so we're optimistic that her back is definitely on the mend.

Her finger was looked at by the docs today, and they'll start doing exercises with the finger this weekend: Which means they're optimistic that it's healing. So I'm hoping to have a fully functional googy in the near future. Whew!

2) Isaac Isaac Isaac. He is now pulling up to stand, and then raising his hands, standing free. He is so proud of himself... he gives such a big smile when he stands! It's only a matter of time before he's marching around the house. I wonder how Bella will take it?

3) Bella Bella Bella. The other morning, I was sleeping in, Pamela had Isaac downstairs. Bella came downstairs and told Pamela "I was in my room and I heard a sound, so I went out into the hall to see what it was, and then I went into your room, and I realized the sound was coming out of daddy's nose".

She has a soccer ball now, and loves to carry it around and do a LITTLE kicking work. Perhaps more than kicking, she likes to have the ball rolled to her so she can STOP it with her foot, and tap it back. Again, she likes activities where CONTROL is the object, not distance of kicking....

4) ME AMO CRAIGSLIST. Oh my goodness. We're getting rid of a few things (including one of the big TVs). I put postings on Craigslist, and I had two of the things gone the same night, paid for by cash, no muss no fuss. Item 3 will be picked up tomorrow. It's amazing - people really read these ads and come get stuff. And there are no fees, and you're not bombarded by people asking for shipping costs and will I return the balance from a cashier's check that you always get with Ebay. CRAIGSLIST UBER ALLES.

And yes, we're down to one TV now, and our living room has no TV: We're changing the lifestyle - TV is a destination (basement) if we want to see something we make an effort. We're also reverting to basic cable and losing the DVR. We have books to read, languages to learn, and children to play with. Who needs it?

That's the update for now... Now that things are getting less crazy at the house with Pamela back in action, I'm hoping to update with more regularity again!