Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Back in San Fran

Took a red-eye to San Francisco last night and wound up feeling somewhat terrible today - mild cold, or exhaustion, or allergies, or something. I'm taking it easy (in case you're thinking I plan to do the Monterey Bay Aquarium and then nip up to Wine Country. No car this time, and a lot more work... though not MEETINGS per se.

After a morning spent wrangling text and reviewing documentation and being on a loooong conference call, it was time to get out and walk a little... No grand plans of adventure, I just thought that I'd like to see the water, so I set off for Pier 39 to see the Sea Lions.

My meandering took me straight up to the top of Telegraph Hill, where I saw the legendary parrots and wandered down the rickety wooden stairs down the sheer face of the cliff that is that hill... Once at the Pier, I was amused by the seals and horrified by just about everything else down there. I did watch a huge containership putt putt by, which was far more interesting than the legions of saxophonists jamming with portable speakers pumping out nightmarish backing tracks... they're like the new panflute peruvians, or conga guys. Spaced just far enough apart that they could be heard distinctly.

Back to the room to do more reading for my big presentation in a few weeks...

It'll be an early night tonight as I try to recover here... I need some food, and will get it close by, then perhaps some tv shows until morpheus lures me to his domain. There will be no club hopping, nor sunsets at the top of the Mark. No, I need some rest.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not Fancy Please

Today Bella went to a nature center for a field trip with Pamela. On the way home, she said "Mom, I had no idea I would like it this much". Pamela asked what her favorite part was: "The sound under my feet as I rustled through the leaves."

Tonight as I put her to bed, she told me she wanted to bring me to the nature center to show me her favorite thing: "there's a path that is covered with twigs, and as you walk, they crunch under your feet".

I actually share that love of little rustling sounds too: There was a Mister Rogers on the other day, and he was playing with a paper bag... and the light crinkling sound just warmed my heart (it actually made me a little lightheaded). It's nice that she's in touch with the quiet side of life too.

Other things from tonight:

"Dad, what do you like better - horses or unicorns?" I ventured that I like them both, but that I though Unicorns were cool because they were magical. "Dad, I don't believe in Unicorns. I don't think they're real, and I don't like them, because they're FANCY and I don't like FANCY. I don't like dressing up either. I never have. I've never liked FANCY." I asked about dressing as a dog or penguin... "Those aren't fancy. Those are fun."

(This anti-fancy thing has put things like tights completely out right now... and there are some socks that have a light lace top that she won't even consider wearing due to their fanciness.)

"Dad, what is your favorite kind of insect? Mine is, though I've never seen one up close, a tarantula." I said I don't particularly like Tarantulas, or any spiders. "Do you like the color of tarantulas?" I admitted that their colors can be nice. "Well then, if you like their color, then you like them. You DO like tarantulas, Dad!"

"What's your favorite thing in space?" I said Saturn. "My favorites are the Moon, Jupiter, and Pluto, because it's so small and cute. But if I was going to get in a battle with someone like Casey and had things from space to use, I would TOTALLY use Asteroids. BOOM!!!"

That girl was on a TEAR tonight. I had to share them before they faded from memory.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Space Needle!

From the last update, Paul and Melissa did indeed pick us up and we headed into Seattle. We started at the Pike Place Market, a huge farmer's market and shops complex on the waterfront. One of the signature sights there is the Fish Market, where they hurl fish at eachother... it really was fun to watch, and if I had any immediate use for a full Coho Salmon, I probably would have bought one. I did have some amazing fresh sausage (surprise!), and we had a good perambulation.

We then hit the Seattle Space Needle from the 1959 (Correction: 1962) World's Fair: It's over 500 feet up in the sky, with a great observation platform. It was a warm, sunny day so we hung out up there for quite a while, enjoying the sights. I was also enjoying the sounds - there was a couple speaking mandarin Chinese near me, and gol dang it I actually understood some snippets of their conversation!

Back to the Heathman for SPA appointments: Paul was in for his first massage EVER IN HIS LIFE, and he loved it. I got a manicure and pedicure and loved every second of the experience... it was just great to have such attention paid to the extremities. The spa was excellent, as was every dang thing about the Heathman.... I suspect this will not be my last visit to this temple of awesomeness.

In the evening, Paul had one more surprise: Caesar and Miho joined us for dinner at Trellis, the restaurant in the Heathman (which has been ranked in the top 10 seattle restaurants since it opened in October last year). The food, the wine, the service, and the conversation were all perfect. Paul said it was his best birthday EVER... and I was very happy to have been a part of it.

This morning, it was lazy startup, a leisurely breakfast with Paul and Melissa at Trellis again, and off to the airport. We got home to find the house still standing, Dad and Karen still in good spirits, Bella and Isaac happy and excited to see us... from what I heard, they all had a fun time: Dad took Isaac to swimming, where he continued his continual improvement... and actually participated in all of the activities... Bella got a lot of play time in with friends, and they even spent a few hours at Edinborough Park today.

So in all, it was an amazing escape. We're grateful to Melissa for the invitation, and to the grandparents for being willing to help out... and to Paul for having an occasion to celebrate!

2 days at home for me, then BACK to the Bay Area for 3 days... I'm filling up that schedule with meetings, and I'll have a lot less free time than this past week... which is fine: In a sense I had really wanted to get a lot of "San Fran Things" DONE and out of the way, so that next time I visit, I won't be as distracted.... ;->

I will also be looking at some extra work: We have some top secret cross team initiatives being explored (building a new line of business for the BIG company) that I'm doing legwork on, PLUS I'm building a new business area in our company, and somehow have got roped into making a presentation to several dozen CIOs in 3 weeks on a product I haven't designed yet. Nothing like a deadline to get the juices flowing, eh? This is the thrilling stuff.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Birthday Surprise in Seattle

Now it can be told: I came home Thursday night, and by Friday afternoon, Pamela and I were on an airplane out to Seattle: Bella and Isaac are in the capable hands of Grandma and Grandpa with a full fridge of food and a weekend of activities ahead for them.

The goal of this visit: To surprise my friend Paul on his 40th birthday. This was craftily arranged by his wife Melissa (no, the OTHER Paul and Melissa, the Seattle ones, not the St Louis Park ones). So we landed, got our rental, got stuck in traffic for a while, got to the Hotel and checked in. We're staying at the Heathman Hotel in Kirkland, with a view of the lake, a block from a marina, in a fabulous room. We got a suite with a feather bed, which was insanely comfy. But back to the surprise:

We headed over to Paul's house when we got word he had arrived home and was taking a shower. We snuck in and parked ourselves on the living room couch, got scotch (me) and champagne (the ladies), and patiently waited for Paul as he took the longest shower ever known to humanity. The surprise was just the two of us, not a big party. When he came down (dressed, yes) he stood in the threshold completely stunned, and it took him over 10 minutes to figure out it was not a hallucination.

We had a great dinner with the family (Madeline 11 and Mia 9 were in the mix, and they were VERY proud of themselves for having kept the secret). Paul grilled Ribeyes and opened a treasured wine which he graciously shared. Madeline brought out her guitar and played us a few songs - she's been playing 3 months now, and has a true love for the instrument. She is also a horse rider, so we promised to get her in touch with Lilli....

This AM we slept in, and are just now waiting for the call - we'll be going into Seattle with P+M for a touristy day, then back to the Heathman for more adventures... more as it develops. It's a gorgeous day here - already in the 60s with blue skies. I can see the mountains in the distance!

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Home safe. Yes.

One of the things I got in San Francisco was a reissue of the Miroslav Sasek "This is London" book from 1959. Beautiful pictures and it really makes you think about how much has changed in the last 49 years over there... and over here.

Anyway, as I was reading it to Bella tonight, I pointed at a picture and said "That's a Beefeater - he's a kind of a guard at the Tower of London".

A page later, Bella stopped me, flipped the page back, and asked "Why do they feed bees there?"

Beef Eater = Bee Feeder?

The other thing from tonight: Bella has adopted a new pet: A small watermelon on which she has drawn a happy face, on a blanket in a basket. This "pet" is a bit cuter, I think, than her other "pets", which are cotton balls in mason jars filled with water.

She is nothing if not creative.

Jimmy's Busy Busy Day

Well, the night ended well - I had a very good italian meal at a place recommended by Caesar. The moment I sat down, I realized... I've been here before! I think Pamela and I had eaten here not at the 6 years ago visit, but at the one before that (when we were visiting Al and Patrick and the traveling couch). Then, as I ate the entree, I realized I was having the exact same MEAL as well - the flavor was quite distinctive (and delicious). So it was like a crazy timewarp in my head.

Wednesday it was up and at'em: Using my Central Timezone Superpowers, I was in the gym by 5:45am PST, had a full breakfast, and had left myself PLENTY of time to get to Oakland for my 9am meeting. One problem as I got dressed: I forgot cufflinks. And just try buying cufflinks before 9am people... they're not something starbucks and walgreens carry. So I improvised with some little bits of tin foil - rolled and crimped. Once the jacket was on, providing basic structural integrity to the cuff, the tinfoil link worked admirably.

The 9am was at a classic older hospital in Oakland which has been used as the set for several movies - classic architecture with arched windows and beautiful stonework. The guy I was meeting with, despite having exchanged emails with me 2 days earlier, did not have me on his calendar, and so we rescheduled for later in the day. And I headed down to Palo Alto for my next meeting, plus a Target for Cufflinks, plus some starbucks to kill some time.

Alas my NEXT meeting also had a hitch: The person I was meeting with was at the hospital with her 2 year old kid: Her 5 year old, 2 year old, and the dad were roughhousing and the 5 year old fell down on the 2 year old just wrong, and the 2 year old's legs got BROKEN!!! Oh the horror. So I met with a surrogate and got the info I needed, and it was a valuable trip (I was also dropping off champagne that they had requested at our trade show booth - a VIP perk!)

Back up to Oakland following the inevitable In-N-Out visit (Double, no cheese, animal style - DELICIOUS), where the meeting took all of 10 minutes.... Man, if he wanted to stiffarm, he could have done that much earlier in the day.

Mildly frustrated with the way the day turned out, I decided I needed a tonic of some sort. So I punched the coordinates into the GPS, and 40 minutes later I was standing amid giant redwoods in the John Muir Park. The smell was intoxicating and everything was shining: It had been raining all morning and had just cleared up for my arrival. A bubbling brook provided the soundtrack and I felt all tension floating up into the leafy canopy.

Then I decided I needed a snack and a view of the ocean, so I hit the GPS again, and 40 minutes later was relaxing on the porch of the Mill Beach Distillery just north of Half Moon Bay. The waves were crashing in (a windy day), and the ocean just kept on going and going off into the horizon. The sky was blue without a cloud, and I had a light snack of mini-burgers: 3 small burgers with different toppings: Bacon Cheddar, Swiss with Aoli, and roasted pepper and avocado.

While the visuals were amazing, the temperature was around 10 degrees off for maximum comfort, and so I decided to return to the city. Since I had been doing such a day of journeys, I had a plan of action for the rest of the night.

It began with a drink while watching the sunset at the Top of the Mark: This is 19 floors up on Nob Hill, and was a big landmark in the 1940s - troops coming home would meet loved ones up there and look out on the bay. Time hasn't been too kind to this landmark, which now feels quite like any other hotel bar: Pictures from the 1940s identify a large round bar in the middle of the room... but the middle is now given over to a dance floor, and a standards band was playing... which was ok I guess, but the actual BAR was relegated to a corner. Still, the view was amazing, the music sounded nice.... It sort of reminded me of my time in Tokyo having a drink on the 49th floor bar... looking out over a city.

Then down to Tonga, the polynesian tiki bar in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel: It was just as great as remembered. It's hard to describe - it's dark, giant tiki idols are everywhere, and there is ropy ship rigging all over the place, and thatched roof huts. There's a pool in the middle of the room, on which there's a boat with a live band. Before they play, there's a "thunderstorm", complete with rain falling. I had appetizers and a "zombie" while the band played horrible horrible horrible 1970s and 1980s covers - they opened with "More than a woman" by the BeeGees. The place was packed with conference attendees all wearing leis, and they were in a dancing mood, so the atmosphere WORKED.

Finally some sushi at a place I had been to way way back... and it was good, not great. The restaurant was pretty empty, and even though the staff was chatting in Japanese, they refused to speak Japanese to me, despite me starting in Japanese a few times... they just switched to "YES SIR, HERE YOU GO SIR" mode. Checking the reviews after the fact, people said the wait staff were terrible (confirmed), sushi was ok (confirmed), and lamented the fact that since changing owners 3 years ago it had gone downhill (AHA!!! So my memory from way back wasn't completely off!)

Back down the hill and into bed... and up this morning at 5:45. No workout needed: Running up Nob Hill to make sunset at the Top of the Mark was enough heart pounding for 24 hours, and I'm about to head off to breakfast up in that area. I considered trying to get an earlier flight today, but I couldn't get a confirmed seat... and I was already booked in an aisle... and after the pain of the flight out in that window seat, I didn't want to risk personal injury again. Also, I got up 30 min too late to make an earlier flight anyway!

So I have a couple of hours in SF left. I have done SO much here, it's sort of mind boggling. Now, some may say I am doing TOO much: I'd just say that if I was here with Pamela, we'd be spending more time on each thing - we'd have made a whole night of the Mill Beach Distillery for example... but it's just me and my hyperactive brain here.

So - off to breakfast, then some WORK (yes, I actually have been doing that as well - it's just not as interesting to blog about!) then home to see my wonderful family.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

San Francisco Part 1

Sometimes life just gives you something for free. I had 2 big meetings set up in San Fran, one for Tuesday, and one for Wednesday. As I was leaving work Monday, I learned my Tuesday meeting needed to move to Wednesday, so I'd be in San Fran without any responsibilities for an afternoon and evening... Whoo HOO!

The flight out was on time and efficient, but painful as I was in a non-exit window seat for the 4 hour flight. I almost needed the wheelchair assistance to get out. I didn't even nap because I'd been up to step aerobics first thing in the AM, so my blood was good and pumping. So I did a few sudokus and caught up on my reading. I didn't even have room to unpack the laptop actually - somehow it was just the worst seat possible.

I got in, rented my car, and found my hotel without a fuss, and decided to grab lunch. My friend Paul in Seattle recommended Yank Sing - a Dim Sum extravaganza. Big, clean place, with a huge staff of people wheeling around carts with food, offering it all to you. I went completely nuts and had I think 8 dishes (Grilled Sea Bass, Fried Scallop and Mushroom balls, Pork Dumplings, Shanghai Dumplings, BBQ Pork Bao, Steamed Scallop dumpling (the only thing I didn't really like) and custard pies). I almost rolled out of there... and went for a walk in town.

I marched up Sacramento Street toward the Fairmont and the Top of the Mark... detoured into Chinatown, where I snapped a picture of the "American Institute of Nose Disease", but managed to not buy any horrible tacky merch at the "Old Shanghai" type places... At the top of the hill I saw that Tonga is still open, as is the Top of the Mark, though both open much later in the day, so I'll have to go back.

I was pleased to discover that my favorite eurosnob store Karikter is still around, and picked up some Tintin merch... but didn't go overboard. I stopped almost by habit into the Virgin Megastore, but found nothing interesting to me. Sigh, I'm getting old or something.

On my way back to the hotel, I spied a shop tucked away: Beard Papa!!! This is a creampuff bakery chain from Japan that caused me much giggling when we saw their store and sign in Shibuya back when we visited. To actually see them here was sort of crazy: A trip to their website shows that they have huge expansion plans in the USA.... is worth the visit for their "about us" movie, which pretty much sums up the whole Japanese/Anglophilia thing better than several books could.

So of course I had to try one: And it was... a tad disappointing. Let me say that it's sort of like everything western in Japan: It's good in a Japanese Way, but not in a "comparing it to the real deal" way. It is like eating the essence of a cream puff - all of the proper components are there, but it lacks something. It wasn't too sweet (which is good), but ultimately not THAT satisfying. AH WELL.

So it's after 5 now here, so I'm off to the city to find more interesting things to do. I'll update later if there are more adventures... It'll be an early night due to the timezone and my need to be fresh for two good meetings tomorrow!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Le fin du weekend

Saturday night we had a long delayed dinner out with Uncle Ant and his wife Candy. Candy has been living a monastic life for a few years working on her Clinical Psych degree, and we went out to celebrate the end of her actual schooling. Her next step is a 1 year internship, which is thankfully close to home, after which point I can only hope she can actually begin to practice. Ant has been supporting her through this by working full time and freelancing as well, so I imagine that once DOCTOR Candy enters the workforce, he'll be rolling in rare single malts... oh wait, he already does. ;->

We went out to a fantastic restaurant in St Paul called Luci: Every single mouthful of everything I had was divine. Now, funny story: Back in 1990, I worked at a coffee roaster, and the owner of Luci would come in a few times a week for fresh coffee for the restaurant. I thought we had a semi-friendly interaction... so one night I decided to check out the restaurant. Midway through the meal the owner stopped at my table, sat down, and demanded to see my ID for the wine I was enjoying (just a glass, not getting loopy here, and I was 21 at the time). I showed it happily, but he really worked me over: He held it up to the night, checked the embossing, and told me that IF it was fake he could lose his license. In short, he spent a few good minutes making me feel very unwelcome in his restaurant.

I confess that I held a grudge these intervening 18 years - sure it's a great restaurant, but the owner was a total jerk to me.

Well, last night, I decided that all is forgiven. I'm a different person now, and I'm sure he is too (if he's still involved - I didn't see him around). So I'm definitely planning a return visit. I should also mention that the evening was just great: the conversation flowed and the time flew by. In a strange bit of coincidence, Pamela had actually seen Candy sing on stage back in 1988, 3 years before we met, and 5 years before Ant and Candy met...

Today was a heavenly day: We slept in a bit, then went off to my mom's house for a couple of hours: Bella and Isaac had a wonderful time playing with all of Grann's bells, puppets, dolls, drums, and furniture... and she had worked up a light bit of brunchsnack which we devoured. Mini pancakes, sausages, mango, strawberries, cream puffs. It was a great visit.

Back home, the sun finally broke through the clouds, so we worked on the front porch, taking everything out, sweeping and hosing it down, and putting it all in with cushions and pillows. The porch is open for business. The kids were playing in the back yard for hours, building sand castles, climbing the castle, playing in the "RV". Isaac loves being outside and kicks and screams when it's time to come in.

Isaac is a huge fan of airplanes by the way: All afternoon, anytime he heard the sound of a jet, he'd stop, scan the skies, find the plane, point, and announce "AIRPLANE!!!!" (which is actually EH-PANE). He'd point until the jet passed from sight, and then continued with his playing. Now, we do live in a flight path, so around 4-5pm, he spent a lot more time pointing than doing anything else.

His vocabulary is growing, and his play is getting more engaged: up to last week, a classic game for him was running in circles around the dining room table giggling. Now the game is called "RUN!!!", and we stand until he yells RUN, and go until he stops, and then he points which direction to go next, and yells "RUN" again. He's also pointing at cars (DAR) and squirrels (DURL) with almost as much vigor as Airplanes (but jets are his first love).

One more Isaac moment: He was flipping through a magazine and found an ad featuring a woman walking with two large wolfhounds. He pointed at them and said "WOOF!!!" smiling. His smile broke for a moment, he furrowed his brow, and said "NEIGH????" In his mind, he was reevaluating whether these beasts were dogs or horses. It was a great moment of reflection to have caught.

Not to leave Bella out of the picture - she was an active player all weekend, and she got some rosy cheeks from the sun. She's still not 100% sure about this whole "Riding a Bicycle" thing, preferring instead to sit on the sidewalk watching her friends ride. But we know she's a watcher, and she's figuring it all out, and will hop on that bike with confidence once she feels she's figured it out from her observations.

On her way to sleep tonight, she said "You know, we've never seen Roo's dad, have we?" Not really sure where that came from (though it's true, Kanga's backstory is never really explained. I'd like to think it had to do with something noble - Perhaps Gallipoli (working the Australian angle here)).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Le Weekend

I made it home safely from Bos-shu-don... and spent the rest of the week in tooth-grinding frustration as we moved to the new "network" at work. I was without email for hours, unable to access even basic information, and nobody seemed able to figure out why. Fast forward to the end of the day Friday and it all got sorted out.

The one big issue for me is that we've lost the ability to access our work email via the web (as far as I can tell) - so it's either on the blackberry, or on the giant ancient windows brick they've given me... with a security system that rivals most hospital systems I've worked for. But I adjust. I move on. This too shall pass.

This morning we went to swim class with Isaac again, and this time went much better: First off, I didn't make the same mistakes (leaving the clothes where they might get wet, leaving things in a stall rather than in a cubby, getting dressed in the wrong order) I learned, and I was far more efficient. Secondly, Isaac was much more comfortable this time, and only screamed and cried at a FEW of the exercises, and even seemed game to trying a few things out. I can see that his familiarity is growing by the minute, and by next week, he'll probably be laughing and playing.

One thing we made it through this week: Pamela did a metabolism reset program - going low glycemic, fixed calorie for 5 days. It was perhaps lucky that I was out of town for two of those days, because it was hard hard hard for my east-European bread lover to come down... but by last night we were toasting her success. Add to this we're both exercising with regularity now, and you're looking at a healthy household.

We saw a great movie last night - Juno. It is a cheeky, irreverent, but sweet movie about adoption, and we found ourselves identifying with things all throughout... even if the story isn't exactly reflectve of either Isabella or Isaac's history... A good date night.

So it's just a quick update while the house naps on a chilly Saturday afternoon - Bella's out with Casey, Isaac and Pamela are having a late nap, and I just got up from mine. Perhaps it's time for some Swedish?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


So I did the pay-per-view and decided to watch Cloverfield - the Blair Witch meets Godzilla movie that came out in January.

It's basically one guy holding a camcorder while a giant monster attacks manhattan.

Verdict: A great movie for a TV. I cannot even begin to comprehend the headache I would have suffered in a movie theater with all that camera shakiness... I probably would have upchucked.

But on the small screen, it's totally excellent.

And now, to bed.


Well I'm in Boston, for the first time in 6 years. I'm here on bidness of course, but that meeting took all of an hour, leaving me a full afternoon, evening, and tomorrow AM until I return.

The flight was uncrowded, smooth, and on-time. When I arrived, I discovered that the "big dig" is indeed complete: most of my travels from the airport to my hotel in Brookline was underground in new tunnels. It was a bit disconcerting to be in a tunnel that goes DOWN and UP, but I'm not the engineer here. Anyway, I got to my room and had an hour until my meeting. I decided to hoof it, since on the map it looked pretty close.

Alas, my hand-held GPS sent me the wrong direction - I had inadvertently plugged the wrong, very similar sounding name in for the street, and took a good 1 mile detour. I figured out my problem and was able to double back and get to the appointment just on time. Then I strolled into the Back Bay for a lunch at my favorite place - Sonsie (where we had brunch way back in 1997 on our first visit to Boston, and we learned about Lady Di's passing at hands of concrete and paparazzi.) A carrot soup, a cubano sandwich, and an iced tea set everything right. A visit to Triton booksellers, Newbury Comix, Fluevog shoes, and it was old home week.

By this point, I was starting to feel a bit tired - I'd been up traveling since 5am CST after all. So I cabbed it back to the hotel and took a little nap. Then I set back off to Boston by foot. My goal was something, anything Italian in the north side, which Google now tells me was a good 5 mile walk... took over an hour, during which time I worked on some Mandarin on Pimsleur (where interestingly they were teaching me how to say "Boston" in Mandarin: Boh-Shu-Don". The walk was up Beacon street, through Brookline, the Back Bay, through the Commons, through downtown, past Faneuil Hall. I saw the North side, and was shocked: The big dig again: The giant green bridge that used to be the gateway you peeked through to the north side has gone underground, and now there's a big park you walk across! It was a bit freaky actually.

I finally made it to the north side, and wandered up the street looking for the right restaurant... I found the one we did 6 years ago, but it was empty, and I didn't want to be the only diner in a place... nearby was a place with a gaudy giant neon sign depicting a bottle of chianti emptying on the sidewalk. I looked at the menu and realized I was home.

I walked in to find the place bustling with normal (not fancy) people, was seated next to a table with 6 kids, and the septuagenarian accordion player was wandering around... I had found a real place. And the menu item that drew me in: Bombalotti with sausage and goat cheese. bombalotti is some hybrid between Ziti, cannoli, and wagon wheel pasta - huge sectioned elbows of chewy pasta, with sausage, marinara, and sprinkled with goat cheese, then baked. It was perfect for me.

After dinner, wine, and espresso, I hit the street and decided that walking home was a sucker's game: Cab time. Somehow I got a chatty cabby, and I was chatty right back: We talked about morocco, language, the islamic influence in southern spain, and how you really need to know spanish to survive these days as a cabby.

Tomorrow I'll probably stay in the Brookline area until I need to leave: It's a bit arty up here, with Trader Joe's and several coffee shops close by (including a Peet's!)

In my travels, sometimes it feels like I'm seeing a town through cab windows and hotel windows. It's nice to have been able to spend a day with feet on the ground, to see the actual city and be in a place. I'm going to try to do this more!

An early night tonight - perhaps I'll see what fine films are on pay-per-view.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Boiling Rage

At work, as you know we were acquired by a larger concern shortly before I joined. As a part of the integration, they're combining computer networks and we're all getting new laptops. Big, horrible windows machines that are noisy, ugly, and lack couth. I will be using mine for the absolute minimum required, keeping the Mac as my machine of love.

Anyway, the process of getting set up should have been easy: Open the laptop, enter your login, and there you go.

After trying for 6 hours across 4 different days with multiple calls to multiple help desks, I only just today got my system up and running. And I am not a non-technical person: This was simply the worst managed transition I've ever seen... AND what's even better is that this was JUST for getting my login: The files and emails all move this weekend, and there is no assurance that it will come across cleanly - especially if it's as well planned as the simple act of giving a person a laptop and making sure they can log into it.

Several of us were so frustrated on Friday that we almost ran to the roof to throw our new laptops off: But that would have likely damaged the sidewalk.

Ok. That's off my chest.

On a different subject: You know that I recently had my office redecorated (again, kudos to Pamela). The other Veeps are stepping up and starting to personalize their spaces... but my boss hadn't been in for a few days, and I was thinking he needed some sprucing up. A trip to the party store held the answer.

When Mike came in this morning, there was a giant Oktoberfest banner across his wall, with colorful dancing Germans in hosen everywhere holding steins of beer, and large pictures of plates of sausages, breads, cakes, and more more more sausages. I had an ipod playing german drinking songs at full volume as well.

It set a good tone for the day...

The Auction

Saturday Night was the big Church Auction: Pamela had worked for days as the visionary for the decorations, and the results were stunning: The signs, the banners, the vases, the streamers, the giant undulating waves coming from the ceilings, it all came together splendidly, and people were coming up to Pamela all night fawning over her work. It was great validation of her talent!

The Auction itself was slightly smaller than last year: They got rid of the "garage sale" elements and only did donated items, which made for more space on the floor, and more intense bidding on the good stuff. Of course the highlight of the night was the live auction, which was led by George, one of the congregation, who employed a combination of good natured humor and flat out shaming tactics to not only get people to up their bids, but in two cases, the donors actually contributed extra stuff so that the top two bids were winners. That alone added over $1000 to the coffers.

I played it cool, but there was one thing I wanted, and let's just say I did what I needed to do to win it. I'm not exactly sure WHAT I'll be doing with 4 hours of a fine jazz combo with vocalist (the same as played at our 10th anniversary party), but it may just be a very silly afternoon I'm spending.

Mae was a saint and put the kids to bed so that we could attend the auction... and Sunday Pamela had all of the energy of a limp noodle, realizing just what an effort she had put into the whole deal.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Already up and running

Within 2 hours of getting this new machine home, I had all of my files in and working perfectly. I'm back to a Macbook Pro (the silver thing) but I did NOT get the Macbook AIR: I had over 140 gig of miscellaneous stuff on my hard drive (music files, videos, samples for music making, pictures, a few DVD images, a full MS Windows instance....) To have to pare that down by 50% to fit on the tiny Macbook Air hard drive was unthinkable. So I got the big brother, and I moved it all across, and still have 100 gig to spare!!! YES.

So I'm back, and hopefully THIS mac won't give me any guff. Not sure what I'll do with the old one: I'd have a hard time selling it to someone with the caveat "it eats hard drives every 8 months or so"... so I think it'll get recycled. Maybe.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

8 Months

The MacBook has died again. To recap, it was bought in May 2006. First HD died October 2006. Second HD died September 2007. The third HD has now died April 2008. Of course, these HDs were not factory equipment (I put them in myself), so Apple can (and did) say it's not their problem...

This time, I've got good backups. REALLY good ones. I just took a fresh one last night actually.

This is strike three, however, and the Macbook is now leaving my home. A new Mac will be in place before the weekend is out. That is my pledge.

But seriously... WHAT on earth am I doing to these computers?

Swimming with Isaac

Well, Isaac is 18 months, so we figured we'd take him to the Foss Swim School. This is a father-son deal, so even though we work up a bit late this morning, we made it work: Isaac and I had fun hanging out in the pool together, BUT he was NOT very interested in any of the "how to actually swim" things: In fact he cried a LOT the more we got into the class...

The teacher - a nice Aussie - told me that it can take several classes before the kids start doing any of the exercises... but it was just surprising to me that mister daredevil got so scared in the water! We'll see how he does in subsequent weeks!

Bella came along, and surprise - her best friend Jenny was taking a class at the same time (though it had started 15 min earlier... so it got out 15 min early) - so Bella joined Jenny for breakfast next door at Panera while Scream-o-Tron and I finished our class and got dried off and changed.

Since we got home, I've barely heard from Bella: She's been playing with friends here, there, and everywhere for the last 6 hours and counting... she'll sleep well tonight! Much better than yesterday, when she only played with friends for 2 hours before "differences of opinion" led to the group breaking up and Bella crying. She's such a sensitive girl, but sometimes her stubbornness gets in the way too. These kids with their willpower!

Tonight is the big Church Auction: Last year I wound up going to a Spanish-only dinner as a result... we'll see what goodies are on offer! I have not seen Pamela much for the past 2 days - this is her big thing she does for church - the setup and decoration. She loves it!

So this week coming up, it's a quick jaunt off to Boston for me! Newbury Comix, here I come!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dodging Denver

I was supposed to be in Denver tonight, to attend a meeting tomorrow... but something about the weather just made me question whether I HAD to do it, and it turns out there was some wiggle room. I literally stepped out of the security line at the airport and turned around. Between the weather and all those poor American Airlines souls, there's unquestionably bad airport karma right now. So while the world gets coated in ice out there, I sit by my fire and blog.

Things I love right now:
1) Lagavulin Distillers Edition: Smoky Lagavulin with a smooth sherry front end. A fine evening by the fire dram.
2) The new Madonna/Justin Timberlake song: 4 Minutes. The song is RELENTLESS.
3) The song Konnichiwa B*tches by Robyn: "I'll be knocking you down like I was in demolition, I'll be counting you out like a mathematician"
in the intro to the album, the following claim is made about her:
"She's listed in section 202 of the United Nations Security Act of 1979
as being too hot to wear tight sweaters on international airspace"

Poor Isaac didn't sleep enough last night and took a really long nap this afternoon, so I figured he wouldn't get tired for a while... and yet he totally collapsed right on time tonight. All the while he was babbling all sorts of new words and sounds - I think he literally overloaded his brain today and crashed.

Bella on the other hand was out playing at Casey's tonight: They called around dinnertime and said "Bella said she loves steak, so we invited her to stay for dinner". So I guess she eats steak now. I asked her about it tonight, whether she would eat it again, and she said "Yes, but not from an oven again. I'd eat it if a CHEF made it".

Well, time for more Swedish! I can't start on Arabic until this Swedish Monkey is off my back. Ah the fickle life of the language addict.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

More Amazinger

1) Bella in the car this afternoon on the way to the party store:

"You know we did an ABC song today in school, but the SONG was Jingle Bells
But you know what's even more amazinger? I just saw TWO DUCKS!!!!"

This was one of those great parent moments when everything gels in a second:
- She's learned to decouple music from words, so she got that the melody was one thing and the words were different.
- But she's still my nature loving observant girl
- And she uses words like Amazinger.

Pamela will be decorating church for the big auction this weekend, and brought a budget to Litin Paper. Bella was a very helpful and serious assistant. Isaac ran and ran and ran and ran and ran. I was happy because I found some very cheesy Ockoberfest pictures (huge stacks of sausage, smiling people in lederhosen) that will be decorating my bosses office tomorrow.

2) Bella's current favorite instrument to play at Guitar Center is the Acoustic Guitar - they have 3/4 size ones for kids, but she's still WAY too small, and those big steel strings are impossible for her delicate hands to fret. So my good music geek buddy Jeff H recommended the Ukelele. But how to get Bella interested?

Thank goodness for America Idol - tonight one of our favorite guys was out there playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with the Ukelele (the Israel Kam...kamika...big hawaiian guy version) and Bella loved the Uke. So I think we're primed. UKES AWAY!

3) Rosetta Stone Swedish: Level 1, Unit 5, Lesson 11: The first person has finally arrived. So it's around the 50th lesson, you learn how to say "I". "We" showed up in Lesson 9 actually.... Oh, and here's how they do it (since it's all pictures) - pictures with word balloons. Brilliant.

Pamela is STRONGLY encouraging me that once I'm done with this Swedish course (probably in 3 weeks) that I consider Arabic. I previewed some materials, and it seems like a good bet. Of course I'll also keep on with my Mandarin refresh. Because that's how I roll.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Harebrained Ideas

1) Open a music store called BLIP.

- A narrow downtown space - high ceilings, one door - maybe 15 feet wide. In an old tailor's shop maybe.

- White walls, severe white lighting.

- One long metal table down the middle of the store with German Synthesizers only.
- Waldorf and Access

- Two computer stations with German software only:
- Ableton, Native Instruments, Melodyne

- Hours 12-8pm Thurs and Sat only, or by appointment.

You KNOW it would rock.

2) The superpower: Ability to mildly increase the humidity of a room.
- Could help keep cigars fresh.
- Mortal enemy to comic book collectors, however.

3) The SweIdaGolNew Potato:
- A Yam stuffed with an Idaho Potato stuffed with a Golden potato, stuffed with a red New potato.
- Perfect compliment to TurDukEn
- Or OsTurDukEnaDee (Ostrich-Turkey-Duck-Chicken-Chickadee)

Letting Go...

Once upon a time I had a website. Actually a few websites. There was the old picture site on DotMac. And the new picture site on DotMac. There was the "Roamfi" site - a legacy from a startup that we ALMOST made happen... and there was my PPGWAVE site.

Of all of them, my PPG site was the oldest - it was never more than a parking spot on the web for one of my beloved aliases, named after the blue german synths used by Propaganda, Frankie, Alphaville, Depeche Mode, and others. I had no actual info on those synths (though there was a link to some info)... no, it was just my spot on the web with a picture and a few sub-pages of MP3 files of my music (most recently updated in 2003 I believe).

Sometime 2+ years ago, I lost all of the files pertaining to the maintenance of that site, and never got around to rebuilding it, so it was just not being updated. I know I could have re-loaded it, but it never seemed to be a priority. There were a few email boxes out on that site that I hadn't checked for several years either... so I can only imagine what amazing offers of replica watches and cialis await me in there.

Well, I've let the site expire finally. A visit to will not net you a happy result. I decided that if anything, THIS is my true footprint on the web: People who know me will come here, and I'll let you know what is what. The only reason I bring it up is that I had linked to that site's picture for my picture, and for a few days it's been a "?" instead. So I reloaded a picture (not the exact same one, but from the same 5 minute session).

I had a similar thing happen when I sold off over 5 years ago: It was an admission that I'm really not doing this jingle music thing full time, that my calling lies elsewhere... It's funny how the web is so temporary sometimes. I need to remember to take this blog's entries and cache them offline somewhere so that Bella and Isaac have some other record of my life should Google decide one day to completely pack up and disappear...!

Back from the dream

Saturday found us wandering around Stillwater in beautiful sunny weather, visiting the shops, doing a little antiquing. We found one place (Pulp Fashion) that was a huge stationary shop, with an amazing sale room (you'll be seeing some new textures on our paper correspondence), and a "Man Room" with a big couch, TV, magazines, and the paper ("You may be here for a while" the sign warns).

The economics of Stillwater are still hard to watch in action: For a time it was all antiques all the time, but that has changed in the ebay world, and for my own part, I just don't need tchochkes either! Many shops are floundering, but many new ones are coming in - the more high-end babygear and educational toys, as well as frou-frou Patina/Red Envelope style places. The restaurant scene is moving upscale as well, with some great wine bars, while the older bars seem a bit quieter... though to be fair I'm not sure we know if those bars are doing well since we don't go there at night....

We came back to the room after a huuuuge lunch and Pamela napped for a few more hours while I puttered (working on Swedish and Mandarin - staying focused until I finish the full level of Rosetta Stone and Fluenz) Dinner out at a wine bar where the starter was great but the soup we both chose was WAY too salty, so we skipped right to dessert.

Sleep was not QUITE as deep, since we'd had a pretty relaxing day, plus naps... but it worked nonetheless. Breakfast in the AM, and we made it home by 1pm to relieve Miss Tara, who had done a great job handling the kiddos for the weekend. Sunday is a rainy day, so we're huddled around the fire, playing go fish, napping, etc.

It was a great weekend away, and I wouldn't change a thing about it.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Update from the B&B

We escaped the cities around 3:30 the Isaac in the capable hands of Miss Tara and Bella already on her way to a waterpark for a playing overnight with the whole neighborhood.

Our room at the Rivertown Inn is the Oscar Wilde Suite - over in the carriage house, it's large, beautiful, and quiet. There's a huge tub, and a steam/rainfall shower as well. The bed... it is like some sort of awakeness-sucking plush amoeba.

Within 10 min of being here, I was already conked out on the bed for a short nap. The bed was just that comfortable. We got down to the hotel for the wine and cheese and sausage reception.... a great start to the trip.

We walked down the hill to Stillwater and had dinner at "the" hopping wine bar called MarX - They were pouring Lagavulin, so I was happy (though the price on that pour was a bit high), and the food was fantastic. But by 7:30 we were ready to be back in our own space.

Fast forward to the morning, when we discovered that we were almost late to breakfast: We slept 11 hours in that amazing bed. I haven't slept like that since... I don't even know when. Pamela last had a crash out like that when she went to Miraval. I can only say that this parenting thing must be somewhat tiring.

A wonderful breakfast today at a big communal table - Fresh baked muffins (Blueberry or Chocolate), a Baked Apple with filo pastry and creme anglaise, a crepe filled with orange pastry cream (and candied kumquats), and a egg souffle with canadian bacon, arugula and bellavitano cheese with a mixed herb sauce. It was amazing.

The sun is shining and the birds are singing, so we'll be off to walk downtown now... nothing at all on our planner. This is the break we have so desperately needed.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In Town

I have two weeks ahead with no planned travel, aside from a nice weekend away coming up with my sweetie pie - two glorious nights at the Rivertown Inn in Stillwater - in the Oscar Wilde suite, out in the carriage house, so very quiet and BIG. It'll be good to have some time away just us two to catch our breath after all of the craziness of our lives. The 7 inches of snow that fell as an insult to all last night are already melting away, and by the weekend it should be spring again.

Isaac tantalized us with a few nights of sleeping all the way through, but since then has at least reduced to one wakeup a night only: Until very recently, he had a 1am and a 4am. Now we seem to have just a 2-3am... and maybe just maybe he'll remember what he was thinking about with those "all the way through" nights... boy that was some good sleeping. He has another tooth coming through which may be affecting his sleep somewhat (it's no doubt affecting his mood - he's been a crabby cus today!)

My experiment with The Rosetta Stone continues: I'm now halfway through Level 1 (which is all there is for Swedish) and I can comfortably say "The boy in the red shirt and his sister with the white dress are in the airplane without their parents" (Pojken i den röd tröjan och hans syster med den vitt klänning är i flygplanet utan sina föräldrar) and "he can't talk now, because he is drinking milk" (Han kan inte tala nu, för han dricker mjölk)

But I have not yet learned how to say "hello", "goodbye", or "I would like a cup of coffee". 44 lessons in, and the first and second person are yet to be found, as are any TACTICAL phrases of any sort. (I'm not looking ahead, so maybe they're right around the corner...) BUT I do feel like a good foundation is being built. So bottom line, I feel like Rosetta Stone is definitely WORKING, but I could caution against anyone using it as a cram prior to a trip: For anyone who has <30 days to pick some stuff up, you've got to do Pimsleur. But if you want to LEARN the language, I'm pretty impressed with Rosetta so far - the lessons are sticking pretty well, and you do learn how to string concepts together, not just learn phrases.

That's the update for now...