Sunday, September 30, 2007

Isaac has a game

Little 1 year old Isaac has invented a game: He has a small soft ball with a bell inside. He picks it up, and throws it one way, runs to pick it up, turns around, and throws it the other direction. He's spent over a half hour running back and forth across the kitchen chasing that ball, giggling madly.

It's pretty remarkable self-entertainment, really.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A fine Birthday

My sweet Pamela turned 29L today... I gave her a full night of sleep (covering Isaac duty), and bringing in breakfast. We had a fun little evening tonight - an impromptu dinner party with 7 grownup guests and 5 kids for Bella to play with. Lots of laughter and great food (brought in from D'amico).

I gave Pamela a series of "coupons" to help her recharge given that Isaac and Bella can be quite intense: 6 coupons for "uninterrupted sleep" - putting me on full night duty. 6 coupons for "sleeping in" for 2 hours after the kiddos are up. 6 coupons to "disappear" during a weekend day or weeknight - no questions asked.

She thought those were maybe the best gifts EVER. Of course, we're still working on getting her out to Miraval too - now it'll be in December.

Anyway, just a quick update to say Happy Birthday Googy - and bring some lighthearted news to the Blog!

A crazy end to a story

You may have read about my trials and tribulations of having an office mate... from posts 4 weeks ago LINK. Well, things have finally resolved themselves, and I have my office back to myself.

Now, this person is a temp, employed by the vendor to move data from our old system to the new one. Not a great job, but not too bad. In terms of where she fit "on the team", she didn't: She had one small job to do. But she made a lot of fuss doing it.

Yesterday, we decided to move her to another office, after she made a series of frankly bizarre statements about people "looking at her funny", "criticizing her" and one person "gazing deep into her eyes". After checking in with the people identified, most had no idea who she was, and none remembered any major interactions. So we got a picture that reality was a pretty malleable object for her. But her work wasn't too bad - we were prepared to keep working with her, just give us a little space.

Well, apparently moving her wasn't going to work for her: She complained to the depatment director that it was "just for Jim's benefit - why should HE get what he wants?", and that "Jim has it in for me - he's always criticizing me", and the best "he cracks his knuckles because he knows it disgusts me".

Believe me, while I was none to happy about sharing an office, I was always civil. Where I would tune out would be after hearing a long story about, oh say, making meatballs for her ex, who still lives with her, because he's middle eastern and women take care of their men - it's what they expect, and do I think that Dr X (of Syrian descent) is a Christian? Because those middle eastern Christians are an odd bunch.... and so on. As I said in the earlier post, my monosyllabic grunts grew more noncommittal as time passed. And she never commented about my knuckles, so I really had no idea.

What sparked the whole thing was that I was checking her work and discovered a full month of missing data, and asked her about it. That was it. Suddenly she was asking people (including people who are not even in the department or on the project) about my role and why am I looking at contracts and why am I checking her work...

The problem is, of course, that I am the project manager and AM responsible for everything. So checking up IS my job. And she seemed to forget that. Over and over again. See, she had once had a class in "project management" and she KNEW that project managers don't look at contracts, and they don't look at details - they just manage timelines. So I wasn't doing my job. Right.

Between the insubordination, the theories about my personal motives, the inappropriate discussions, the nonstop blather, and many other things I can barely care to remember, it came time today for her to go.

She was walked out mid-afternoon, and I spent a good long while in my office enjoying the silence.

I have to say, it is DEEPLY disconcerting to be faced with what I believe was true mental illness - she had very deep paranoid tendencies, and every story had her as a victim of some sort... she was eternally "wronged" in life... and I'm sure I'll be a good villain in her next narratives.

So that's over. And I feel a great weight lifted: I think that being in that energy field was affecting me. So it's time to move on.

More Mark-isms.

A couple more Mark-isms that popped into my mind:

- "Can I axe you a quextion?" or "It's not set in conCREEK". These were two linguistic gaffes from previous co-workers that we kept going with for many many years.

- "Why you all up in my Kool-Aid when you don't even know what FLAVOR?" - this complete non-sequiteur came from a brief bit of time when Mark was doing training for Wells Fargo someplace in California. This was NOT a good gig, and the people he trained were prone to outbursts like the above.

- Back at ValueRx, we had a bit of a goose problem, and our route into the building was constantly littered with goose poop. Mark had a tendency to find the smeariest, most "liquid" poop, and would stop with a concerned look and say "I hope that little guy is going to be OK...". Somehow EVERY SINGLE DAY he would find another sample, and make the same grave diagnosis.

- "With my FINGERS!!!!" - we had a co-worker who was testing a program with mocked-up data. We were asking what his SOURCE was for the fake data - namely, how was he sure his fake data would represent real-world situations. He wasn't understanding our question, and in response to the query "But HOW are you getting the data?" he shouted, exasperated, "WITH MY FINGERS!!!!" with a wild eyed look and wiggling his fingers. Since then, it was our shorthand for "he is missing the point".

Those were the ones that popped to mind this AM! Boy I miss that guy. Post your own in the comments and I'll assemble them into another post if you want!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Going visiting

Allright, another Mark post...

My friends in the videogame industry have been coming through for Mark's family: My buddy at Disney sent along a dozen movies and 8 Wii games, and even a few Playstation games too... it was an amazingly generous package that the family couldn't believe. And my friend Caesar at Microsoft is putting together a package of games for the XBox 360 - including Halo3...

Well, they didn't have a 360, and I do remember Mark talking about how much he wanted to get one... and it was on his list for Christmas. So I just decided to pick one up for them - since there would be games coming... and Max SOOOOO wanted one.

I brought it by tonight, and I kept it quiet for a good 20 minutes while I played with Eve, and checked in with the rest of the kids. We had a really nice time, talking and laughing - lots of goofing around. Then I brought out the box, and Max almost fell over, so we had to hook it up immediately. I should point out that I did clear it with Samantha beforehand, so it was cool by her.

Max was fully planning to bring the manual in to school to show all of his friends. He was so crazy excited! But at the same time, he kept the conversations going too, not disappearing into the game. I found out how school is going, and related my relevant stories about German, and the horrors of Sadie Hawkins dances, which made Chloe laugh. We talked about robotics classes, and I bragged about Tyler's prowess at both programming AND making with the ladies in his genius move of writing a program to ask out a girl. (I will note: Chloe is into robots and German. And that just makes my heart glad)

It was a really nice visit, but as I got ready to leave, my heart just fell, because I realized that for just a moment, without really setting out to do so, I was being a dad, holding Eve who was getting sleepy, offering guidance to the kids, helping Samantha with computer stuff... and just being there.

It made me realize that while I did bring them a gadget that they will enjoy, the more important thing I brought was company, and laughter, and love.

As I left I suddenly wanted to stay - to keep being there for them, to fill that void in their lives. And it made me sad for Mark all over again. I had a good long hug before going out... and I'll be back again, because I love that family, and want to do whatever I can do to help.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bella Quote

Tonight, I was walking to the car with Bella. I sniffed the air and said "I smell something good: someone's frying chicken!"

Bella took a deep sniff and said "I smell something even BETTER".

"What's that?" I asked?

"A fresh summer breeze."

That girl is just too sweet.

Moving on....

I'm glad that this site has helped people remember Mark... he was a good man, and we are all missing him. That said, I need to "warn" people that this blog typically examines my normal geeky life, and so the tone will likely change back to my own ruminations about life... I hope people don't mind.

Here we go.

Last night I started reading a memory training book by Harry Lorrayne. It gives you memory tips of a few different types, creating links between items to help remember a list, and creating absurd "sounds like" tips for remembering words. One exercise is to remember the 50 states in alphabetical order... something I've never been able to do. Now after just one evening, I can do it front to back. How? I made up a story:

I was looking through a photo album (alabama) and wondered who one of the people was, so I had to ask (alaska), when the album rose up (arizona) in a tornado (arkansas). I had to call a forensic scientist (california) who colored (colorado) in the dots he had to connect (connecticut). He stood and said "I declare!" (delaware) when he saw an alligator (florida) chasing George Washington (georgia), who paused to say "Hi" (hawaii) to a hooker (Idaho) who got sick (illinois) on an indian (indiana) who was holding an IOU (Iowa) he was going to give to Dorothy (Kansas) for some (Kentucky) Whiskey she bought in New Orleans (Louisiana). Drunkenly, he shouted "Remember the Maine!", and the Virgin Mary (maryland) appeared in church mass (massachusetts). Freaked out he jumped into his american car (michigan), drove through Minnesota, across the Mississippi, and nearly missed my eye (missouri) as he pointed out the mountains (montana). On the radio was bruce springsteen (nebraska) singing about one-armed bandits (nevada) whch had presidential candidates (new hampshire) and Tony Soprano (New jersey) instead of fruits in the windows...

Suddenly a ufo flew overhead (New Mexico) driven by the Statue of Liberty (New York) who shouted GO NORTH and find Caroline! (North carolina), and our friend's dog Dakota barked (North Dakota). We got to starbucks filled with Japanese people shouting "Ohio Gozarimas!", and on the TV was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, where Ruprecht shouted "Oklahoma!!!". Then Ruprecht turned to a computer and played Oregon Trail, but the wagon train turned into a real train leaving from Penn Station (Pennsylvania), but it couldn't reach the Island (rhode island), so we had to take the UFO, and the statue yelled "GO SOUTH and find CAROLINE!" (south carolina), and Dakota barked again (south dakota).

A truck rolled by that said "Follow me to Tennessee, dolly dolly dolly", and it was as big as Texas. It was driven by a mormon with 8 wives (Utah) and filled with Maple syrup (Vermont). One of the wives was still a virgin (Virginia), and that lecherous George Washington showed up again and chased that virgin west (west virginia) across Wisconsin to Wyoming.

OK - that's just crazy, and what's important is that each idea links to the next... and you don't need to say the story, just have a quick image, and it brings up the linkage. And of course, there are tons of personal references (the dolly dolly dolly was a toy truck my dad got from a transportation client in the 1980s, for example) And it WORKS.

I'm pretty excited to see how this develops. I did start using a similar technique to remember some harder Russian words last week: I couldn't remember "From Here", and built up "I bought my Matsuda sunglasses here" - "atsuda". Others are easier - "prichitat" is to read - and I read Terry Pratchett, so that association was automatic.

Ok - that's my geek update for the day. Welcome back to JimVentions.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Quite the Vigil

Some of Mark's friends and neighbors decided that the senselessness of his passing demanded a vigil of sorts - something so that the community can register their support and outrage at what happened. Catherine, a very organized person, decided to get the ball rolling, and came up with the general idea: Walk from near Mark's house, across the freeway, to the spot he died, and have a candlelight vigil.

Catherine asked if I could help, but in the middle of everything, I felt as though the organization wasn't something I could take on. So she turned to the neighborhood watch, and the city council, and the media... In truth, she got the ball started, and then it took on its own velocity, well beyond Catherine's designing... but she deserves all of the credit for pulling it together.

As we approached the park today, we were overwhelmed - a full city block full of people ready to show support. As we started walking, the procession was at least 4 full city blocks of people walking right down the street... I'm guessing a thousand people participated, but I'm a lousy estimator. Could have been 500. Could have been 750. It was well over a dozen, I tell you.

At the yard where Mark was found, people piled flowers, and someone had set up lawn chairs for the family to sit on. Samantha was still not ready to emerge, but Chloe, Annabel, and most of the extended family were all there... and as the sun set, we all stood with candles. Well, many did. I was chasing Isaac through some yards for a while. Bella helped out by chasing him like a border collie. She was such a trouper...

The family was still not ready to talk to the press, so the family asked me to speak to the press for them. I was plopped in front of some TV cameras and asked some questions:

Why do I think so many people came out? Some came because they're angry at the senselessness of this crime and want to show that they won't take it. Many more came because they knew and loved Mark - so many of his friends and colleagues.

Do I think it's important that they catch who did this? If they had asked a week ago, I would have said no because I all I cared about was the loss of my friend. But today, I don't have a thirst for vengeance, but I want whoever did this to know how much he has hurt all of us, and I want him to be accountable.

We'll see how I come across...

Unfortunately while being interviewed, I missed the councilmembers and the mayor's speeches from a half block up (the speaker truck couldn't make it up the street, so they stayed at the end of the block). Actually, that was ok: I preferred to be in that yard, with that simple memorial, with the family.

On my way back to the car, I stopped into the house, and gave Samantha a big hug: Max was engrossed in a zombie game, Annabel had a friend over, Chloe had run out with some pals, and Eve was asleep... Life almost looked normal for a moment.

And in a few days when things start getting even quieter... that's when it's going to get unbearable for them. And we're going to have to make an extra effort to be there for them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A fine send off.

Today was Mark's memorial service... and it was a wonderful affair: We arrived over an hour early to help set things up, and by a half-hour prior to the service, the chapel had already filled up and people were relegated to waiting outside. There were hundreds of well wishers... Mark was so well liked in the world. The chapel was small, and done is a glorious mosaic on all surfaces - a true jewelbox in the city.

The service itself was perhaps the best I've ever seen: everything in it was a tribute to Mark - the pastor worked with the family on an appropriate sermon, and a lot of time was given to friends and family to stand and remember Mark. One of his best friends from age 16, Joe, gave a lengthy and incredible overview of Mark's life, which left us all laughing and crying at the same time: He truly captured it.

Mark's friend Gene read us poetry Mark wrote when he was 10, and outlined some of the crazier inventions and movie ideas they had imagined... a fitting tribute to his wit and humor. Mark's eldest daughter shared two of his old jokes: "You can't spell Funeral without FUN!!!", and his habit of whenever hearing someone blow their nose loudly, to say "Mmmm, makes me hungry for a cheeseburger". Mark's dad stood up to tell a little about the philosophical side of Mark, about the seeker who read obsessively about religion and the meaning of existence...

In all the service really captured so much of Mark - the clown and jokester, but even more the wonderful father and friend he was. Joe said it best when he made an analogy that a conversation with Mark was like jazz - you'd riff, and he's riff right back, and you'd feel like you were creating something unique and musical with your conversation, and all the while, you're both appreciating the moment... Mark was truly gifted.

Afterward, we went to the graveside, a nice spot by the lake under a tree, and a gentle rain fell. Then it was off to the family home for the reception, and lots and lots of stories. Everyone just made their way around and traded their favorite Mark stories. We wound up staying good and late, but left just a few minutes after my megamix (4.5 hours) completed.

Wednesday, we're having a candlelight vigil, where we're walking from near Mark's house to the place he was found... it looks like a lot of people are coming together for this one.

But perhaps most importantly, we're looking at this weekend and into next week. Once the family starts to go home, and the noise settles down, that family is going to need a lot of support. And I want to be able to give it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Life does go on

Yesterday, we did a lot of running around to help the Loesch family with preparations. Today, we did our work more quietly over here: We're helping arrange the music for the service, as well as loading up an ipod for the reception afterward. For the service, it's two not-too-well known songs, so I had to scramble to find sheet music and cue audio for the talent, but thanks to Schmitt Music and the Internet, it was all findable.

For the reception, I've been asked to put together a few hours of "Very Mark Music" - so Prefab Sprout, Thomas Dolby, Depeche Mode, The Blue Nile, and even Fatboy Slim will be in there: It's what he loved, so we'll respect him with his favorite music. But i can't promise it'll be somber. It won't be. I'm loving listening to these songs and thinking of Mark at my side, giving the thumbs up or thumbs down.

One of our great moments together was at the Stardust Lanes many years ago: I ripped out a karaoke version of "The Reflex" by duranduran, which left Mark gasping for air. I've been asked to bring that back to the reception if possible. Thanks again to the internet, I now have Karaoke software on this little Mac of mine, and the appropriate music and graphics files. I kept looking for stuff, and I'm afraid I might need to have a karaoke party, now that I have everything we need...

Now, in the Life Goes On category:

Today, I needed a date with Bella, so we went off to the Burrito Store, and then off to Guitar Center. She is still loving the 3/4 size acoustic guitar the most... but seems unwilling to acknowledge that the frets exist, so I think it'll be another year before she starts guitar lessons... or maybe not. Who knows. She does get such a happy look on her face when she strums.

On the way out, she let loose with this:
- What if I had a hundred million eyes? Like my entire body was eyes?
- I'd sure be doing a lot of blinking.
- I bet even my brain would be blinking.
- I'd need to have eyeballs on my clothes too. To match.

This morning when she woke up, before anything else she insisted on getting out her paints and did three very intense paintings - one blue one was all whorls and it was a choppy ocean. An all green one had three distinct brush textures at play in it. The third was a series of colored bands and boxes - an abstract. Once those were painted, THEN she'd consider eating something. She's got quite a brain on her, this girl.

And finally, a factoid:
Tarantulas were thought to be rare, but it turns out they're just nocturnal so people don't see them so much. In the Amazonian rainforest, there is one tarantula every square yard. So basically every step you make, there's another tarantula nearby. I am so NEVER going to the rainforest. (This fact courtesy of the DiscoveryHD show "Insectia" which I completely love, despite my fear of bugs).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An important detail...

The police called the family this morning: A key detail has been misreported up to this point: Mark was not alive when found in the morning... he was most likely down shortly after the attack.

It's a grim detail, but it puts us more at ease about whether he suffered through that night alone. We're thankful for the information.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One final detail

As Pamela and I went to sleep on Thursday night, our minds racing thinking about our friend.... the grandmother clock on our first floor chimed once, clearly. We both sat bolt upright.

It hasn't been wound for over 3 years.

It was nice of Mark to drop by.

My friend Mark

Here's mark from our 10th wedding anniversary 2 years ago... Looking dapper, reflective.

Here he is with me on our first wig night: Now, he was borrowing my wig at the time, since he was the surprised one. I was a German film director.

And here he is with his best friend Gene... in full Goombah mode. It was Gene who he was on his way to visit on Wednesday.

And finally, at my notorious 30th birthday party, Pamela turned our apartment into a space station... and everyone was encouraged to be in costume. (that's Yoshi in the middle, Mark on the right... I don't know who that is on the left.)

There are a lot of pictures of Mark the father in the media right now... I want people to be able to remember Mark the silly man as well.

Missing Mark Loesch

Wednesday night, my good friend Mark was attacked while riding his single-speed bike through a rough neighborhood on his way to pay a surprise visit to a friend. Unfortunately, the friend didn't know he was coming, and his wife had gone to bed, so nobody was expecting Mark... until the morning came and he was nowhere to be found.

When he was found at 7am Thursday in a yard, he was still alive, but he didn't last long enough to the arrival of the paramedics. We're haunted by the thought of him gravely injured, lying alone for hours. (UPDATE: Turns out this was misreported to us all: He was in fact dead in the morning, and probably had expired shortly after his attack.)

We've been spending a lot of time over with the family - he has four kids aged 15 to 3, and a wonderful wife. We're all in shock over this. Some have questioned what he was doing in that neighborhood... the fact is he rode through there a few times a week on his way to his friend's house... rarely calling before showing up for a late night laugh, or even a ride for a few miles to a favorite pub. He was doing something he had done dozens of times before, but this time somebody was waiting for him.

So I've been thinking about Mark a lot these past days. And I want to tell people about him.

Mark was one of the funniest people I've ever met, and with my gang of comedians, that is saying something. His wit was razor sharp, but he had a true gift for physical comedy: His robot impersonations were legendary: Every move made with a servo or pneumatic sound, with mechanical gestures to match. His "old prospector" persona could appear at any time, with him whistling his esses through his teeth... (actually sounding maybe more like the gopher in Winnie the Pooh...)

Walking toward him in a hall was always an adventure: If he didn't run right into you, he'd take a sudden detour down a row of cubes, and come back up behind you... or duck under a desk to hide... he was unafraid to pull any gag in the office, unafraid of what it might make people think.

I used to speak German with him... with full, rich accents... which would devolve into us speaking English with German accents, at full volume, right in the middle of the cube farm.

I met him 12 years ago at an insurance company; I was a contractor, he was an employee. A manager casually mentioned to me that "this guy Mark really likes music, like you. You should go say hi". So I dropped by, and we hit it off immediately: the awesome production skills of Trevor Horn was our first conversation.

We were work pals for a while, but worked on very different projects, and then he went off to something new. A few months later, he called me up with a fascinating new opportunity: He was part of a team moving a Prescription Benefits company from Detroit to the Twin Cities, and they needed to build a team FAST: Did I want to help?

So I joined him, and we worked very closely, at which point he invited me over for a party... so Pamela and I showed up. One week early! But he invited us in, and we had a great time for hours... maybe more fun than the "real party"... at least I remember our pre-party more. We carpooled for a year, and grew very close. He notoriously mixed me the "killer" eighth martini at my 30th birthday bash. I of course blamed it on him making it with Gin... not the obvious issue of it being the EIGHTH.

In 1998, when we bought our first house, Mark and Samantha were the first people we had over to warm the place up. At that crazy evening, Mark introduced us to "Flash Bazbo, Space Explorer", a National Lampoon radio skit with Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest that still makes my sides hurt with laughter. Not long after, we had our first "Wig Night" - for his benefit: It was a surprise party for him, and 8 of us were to meet him at a restaurant. We decided to take it one further: We all bought wigs and fake moustaches, and strange new outfits... and were in disguise at the table. He walked right past us... and when Samantha turned him around to see us, he was just slack jawed with amazement. We had a few more wig night outings in the years that followed.

Around 1999, things started to go south at the Prescriptions company: We were bought out by another company filled with horrible horrible people. Everybody bailed out for different places. I started up a consulting company focusing on data warehousing. Mark went to a Lutheran-focused life insurance company. We stayed in touch... but admittedly we drifted a bit in the early 2000s.

Finally last year I was able to bring him in to work with me at the big Hospital - and for the last 5 months of that project, we sat next to eachother. It was just a wonderful thing to be back together with him, and we had laughs every day. I got caught back up in his life and he with mine. After I left for my new Cardiology gig, we stayed in touch, chatting almost daily, keeping the friendship going. I had only just had a 10 minute message chat with him earlier on Wednesday.

There are so many things in life that were running gags with Mark, that will choke me up to even think about them (and forgive me, but these probably won't be funny out of context, but they mean something to me).

- Taking a restaruant name like "La Casita" and saying "You may not know this, but 'La Casita' is actually Mexican for 'The Casita'"

- Seeing a mattress by the side of the freeway and asking the driver to stop so you can pick it up "there's a perfectly good mattress back there". This got to the point where we would actually call eachother to report perfectly good mattresses.

- When describing the ingredients of any drink or dish, adding at the very end "and with just a HINT of urine". (or Goat urine, or Yak urine).

- Long detailed discussion of men's room urinal etiquette.

- The following two jokes told in sequence:
- Pete and Repeat were in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?
- Pete and 'smash me in the face with a broken beer bottle' were in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?

- When offered something, making a big show of saying "Oh no I couldn't", but before even finishing the word "couldn't" switching over to eagerly lunging forward saying "Well OK if you insist". Sort of like a light switch change.

- When getting a tour of someone's home, patting on the master bedroom bed and saying "aha, the old workbench, eh?"

Mark's passing leaves a huge hole in my heart, and I will miss him. He was a great father to his 4 kids, and a good friend to so many of us. Thanks for letting me share a little about my friend.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


First Pamela's phone is awol. Now, my Laptop just died. The hard drive made an ominous "click". And now it is dead.

Fortunately, even though I've been lax on the backups, my actual data loss is looking to be very minimal - one spreadsheet, really, which can be easily recreated. My blog is hosted out here, my email is at Google, my work files are on the work PC, my music is on the ipod and Pamela's computer...

I swear, with my phone mojo, and with my way of killing computers, I think I emit some sort of rays. Perhaps I have a superpower.

And it had been such a nice weekend up to that point. I was reading The Week magazine and there was a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala that leapt out at me... I felt compelled to spend the afternoon cooking it. My house smells like a tandoori joint, and that's a wonderful thing. And the recipe was SPOT ON - it was delicious. Pamela was out most of the day, as was Bella, so it was us MEN cooking. Or, it was me cooking, trying to keep Isaac from hanging on the oven door to pull it open, or reach up to the stove top (still too short thankfully).

Bella has been full of quotes recently: She was talking about plants and said "but don't water them too much - you can kill them with kindness". We have no idea where that one came from. Yesterday morning, she sang a tender song to Isaac: "Penis boy, penis boy... you're my little penis boy!" Repeat around 40 times.

Well, I'll get off of Pamela's computer now and skulk upstairs and read analog books. Whoo hoo!!!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

For the record

Even though the iPhone has dropped in price, all of my previous reasons for not iPhoning are all still in effect. I have terrible terrible phone mojo. As if we needed more proof: Pamela's phone went missing earlier in the week... now, with Bella's still-present tendency to pack things away, I set about calling her phone with the goal of listening for the ring...

And heard a rather strange sound: A hip hop clip followed by a voice not Pamela's saying "you know what to do" BEEP.

So I guess her phone actually got STOLEN, and I got it deactivated... but now I need to buy another phone.

It's just more evidence that Phones and the B-Reays have a strained relationship.

I'm more interested in the new iPod Touch - the iPhone without the Phone that'll be out at the end of the month. Then I get all the cool iPhone stuff without the phone mojo curse. But even that is a LONG SHOT - there is no real need there for me, so I probably will NOT be getting it... No, the technology profile around here doesn't need to be changed right now.

Allright, I'll have more updates in the coming day... there's a potentially very cool work opportunity cooking, but it's very early, and there's no offer on the table yet, so nothing to share just yet.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Here's that dog. (Click the picture to see it bigger!)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ah, the Fair.

An annual tradition is the Minnesota State Fair. Usually we go at some off hour, a Thursday evening perhaps, to avoid the crowds. Alas, with two kids, you work on kid time. That means morning into afternoon, and for daddy working, that means the weekend.

We had fully intended to get an early start to the day. I did not set an alarm, expecting that Isaac would wake up at his usual early time and we could be at the fair before 8... so naturally we all slept in until 7:30. We didn't get to the fair until 9, but that was still early enough to avoid all traffic and get a decent parking spot.

We started with the "Miracle of Birth" building, and saw calfs, lambs, ducklings, chicks, piglets, the works. My favorite was a "ball of ducklings" - around 2 dozen tiny ducklings piled up under a heat lamp. That building is always very crowded, however, so we had to escape the crush quickly.

We did our thorough tour of the animal barns, somehow taking a wrong turn and walking into a show ring... The Roosters were all crowing in the poultry barn again. Isaac loved the crowing and laughed every time he heard one go. We also saw a goat competition being judged. Bella parked herself and watched the whole proceedings intently. Afterwards, she milked a goat and got a good squirt off... She was all business about it - as though she was doing them the favor.

We met up with Jenny and family after getting two beef tacos into our increasingly grumpy Bella... a little protein and the prospect of Jenny re-invigorated our girl! We stopped in for face painting, and were pleased/amazed to see that the painter was Lulu, who does face painting and balloon animals at Byerlys weekly: She is a true artist of the face paint, and turned Bella into a very cute dog, and Jenny into a silver cat.

The girls went on a few rides on the "Kidway". One of them was a Pirate ride, which seemed a bit scary for Bella, but hey if Jenny was going on, so was Bella. They both emerged looking very serious - they would not be going on that ride again. They stuck to the more silly rides - spinning monkeys, floating boats, you know the drill.

This evening we asked Bella about the Pirate ride, and she said "Jenny said it was pretty scary - good thing I kept my eyes shut the whole time!"

Back to the Fair: We didn't quite enter the same state of food frenzy we have in years past: Something about 9am doesn't sound right for Pronto Pups (though that didn't stop me from having a Pronto pup at 10am). Also, Isaac was a bit of a handful: With the crowds and the litter and the animals, we had to either have him in the stroller, or carry him. And he's in a very "live free" mode now, so the restrictions were chafing him. So instead of running up to every food stand, I had to think "how will I eat this without him knocking it out of my hand?" More often than not, I passed.

Anyway, here's the score:
Jim: Egg+bacon Sandwich, Waffle with Strawberries, Pronto Pup, Strawberries and Cream, Beef Burrito (Tejas).
Pamela: Egg Scramble, Caramel Roll, Cheesy Hashbrowns, Deep fried pickles (which she loved, and would eat every single day if available).
Bella: TWO beef, cheese, and sourcream tacos. One brownie.
Isaac: 2 bottles. Almost a cigarette butt, but I was fast enough.

In the end, we did make it through 5 hours of the fair, and hightailed it home around 2. Isaac, having refused to nap at the Fair, dropped off JUST as we wheeled the stroller into the parking lot. Fortunately, he got a good 3 hours (30 min on the drive, and after a successful "transfer", another 150 minutes at home).

Into the evening, I mowed the lawn (and was eaten alive by the mosquitos), and Pamela good a good nap in, too. The kids all went to bed around the proper time, so we should have a good night of rest!

And that was the fair. Next year, Bella will want to do more things, and Isaac will be unstoppable. You may be reading about our visit on