Friday, May 29, 2009

Bella Quote

"I don't want to be popular. It is better to be rare."

(Bella, last night in bed to Pamela)

No comment - I love that girl.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


First week of the interim gig - and while I did fly into Philly, My trip took me 15 miles due east to the wonders of South Jersey. Here's what I gotta say:

1) So far, there are a LOT of people who do in fact talk like and look like The Sopranos. I was in a hoagie place today, while a total Bobby Bacala got into an argument with one of the sandwich guys about the health merits of sushi - "it's got oils that is good for your heart, which is very important when you're a fat guy like ME!!!" "eh - only way youse supposed to eat fish is if it's COOKED. Can't COOKED fish be good for your heart too?" Large man gives a dismissive wave and walks out with a large turkey hoagie.

2) The work I'm expected to do in the next 6 weeks is pretty fun, but it's sort of like lying on your back looking up at the sky on a cloudless night. Your eyes see the stars. And then as they adjust, you realize there are a whole LOT more stars behind those bright ones that you were looking at. And then you notice that milky band of the galaxy. The scope appears to be exploding, but then I'm also seeing areas where I can identify it, contain it, and carve it off. And I just need to remind myself - my job is to actually figure out the size of the project, then recommend how to get it done, not actually DO it.

Because by then, I'll be safely in Philly.

3) I picked a hotel that I'm alternately liking and hating. It's not quiet, it smells a bit damp, and it's located off of a breakneck turnoff of a highway, and to get anywhere I need to merge into fast traffic and make a U-Turn. BUT, instead of a tiny workout room, there's a full health club across the street which is pretty nice. Next week I'm trying a different place...

Oh, and the internet connection is terrible at this hotel. Which is why I can't iChat with my family here.

4) iChat is wonderful and will be the key to sanity as I travel: I've enjoyed checking in with the brood every day from the workplace. I can't wait to see them tomorrow!

I forgot my power cord at the client site, so I've only got a little juice left - so no more big updates... but I'll try to update at least every other day from the road going forward. Keep the lifeline going!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A beautiful weekend...

The trial is over, I have work, I love my dog, and I've got a new nephew - Magnus! Dear sister Carrie has gone and had a healthy baby boy with her fiancee Scott, and the little titan is named for great destiny. We met him this weekend, and he played the part of helpless baby VERY WELL - we suspected nothing. Carrie and Scott are in great spirits, updating the Facebook with pictures and whatnot.

It'll be fun to have yet another Boy Cousin in the family. And cousin Tiffany also had a boy this past week too (Clyde) - so Bella remains queen bee of that side of the family (the one other girl in the preteen age group, Areaya, rarely comes from Delaware so we call Bella queen bee by default)

I'm charging my batteries preparing for my trip to South Jersey this week - I expect it'll be both feet in the water right away - as it should be. I broke the news to Bella and Isaac today, and they got a little misty, but then it devolved into a wrassling match, so all is forgiven. I'll need to be VERY present when I'm here for them.

Isaac had some brainstorms this week, and has had to have a lot of timeouts: Very willful ignoring of us, headstrong marching in the opposite direction, and my favorite is on the third call for him to do something he stops, cups his ear and says "what? what did you say? WHAT?" Cute, yes, but we do want to put him in Zinsser's kennel sometimes.

Today he had a silver robot in his bed for naptime (yes, a Cylon, but the 70's model) and he did both sides of this conversation:

Isaac: Hi Mister Robot!
Robot: HI
Isaac: Say "Hello" Robot!
Robot: HELLO
Isaac: Say "Hello" Robot!
Isaac: Ok, Robot.
Isaac: Ok Robot, let's go into space together!
Robot: 3-2-1 BLAST... NO WAIT. 5-4-3-2-1 BLASTOFF! HERE WE GO!

When he was doing the robot voice, it was monotone and robotic sounding.

During Isaac's naptime, Bella and I snuck off to see Monsters vs Aliens in 3D. It was wonderful stuff - not too heavy, very amusing. And a lot less potty humor than some Dreamworks properties. And Ginormica was fantastic.

Tonight, our neighbors (who have Wyatt, who is just a little older than Isaac) had us over: Ryan had roasted some whole chickens and whipped up some homemade BBQ sauce for sandwiches. I made tacos for the kids, and only lost 3 of them when I walked smack into a screen door. No I had not been drinking. Thank you for your support. The kids all played well, Zinsser was in the middle of it all too.

Finally, little Zinsser update: He's still adorable, and getting a bit bigger every day. He's been kinder to us at night - last night he went 7 hours without barking OR messing his kennel. Of course earlier in the day, he messed in his kennel twice, so it's a wash. We finally got a small wire pen for the yard which is his "poo and pee place", and so far it's working pretty well. We'll see tonight.

I still love that dog, and he is finally warming to the rest of the family: He's really attaching to Bella well - to the point that he will stay on her lap if I'm in the room. And it thrills Bella's heart every day to have a dog. In fact the other night as she was falling asleep, she said "it's just like a dream, having a dog... only better".

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Puppy Papa

I love this dog, and this dog loves me. We've spent a lot of time together these past days, especially with Bella at school, Isaac up and about (but with a good nap in the day), and Pamela downtown attending the trial... yes it's been Jimmy and Zinsser in the house, and the dog stalks me at every moment. And I love it.

It's been very hot these past two days, and while I do have the AC on (yes, 90 degrees is pushing it), having a dog on your chest at all times is not the most refreshing thing. I can tell by the way he's panting that it's a bit warm for him too, so I move him off, and he climbs back on... the things he does for love.

On to other things:

The trial is now in the jury's hands, and Pamela spent most of the day with the family waiting for a verdict, which hadn't come by 8pm when they all went home. Hopefully by 9am tomorrow they'll have their verdict.

I'm not getting any more of a vacation this summer: One of my contacts in the business found out I have 6 weeks before starting my next gig and decided to put me to work for them doing strategic planning work. I'll be headed out to Philly/South Jersey on Tuesday to start the work.

It's actually fun work: I'll be figuring out the overall strategy a new hospital will be using for identification: Patients, Staff, Physicians - how do we know who a person is - for security, for access, for patient safety. I do the strategy and get the docs and management to sign off on it, then we hand off the project to someone else to DO. It'll get my brain all warmed up for the new job in July!

And since my new work is in Philly too, it's possible I could do fill-in work out there ongoing, upping the hours.... I mean, if I'm out there, there's no reason not to be working.

This is going to be hard on the family - this travel - and I am prepared to work extra hard on the Friday/Weekend home stretches to make my time count. But as I've been watching things continue to devolve at the old place, this is the right thing for me to do. The sales pipeline is bone dry. Morale is rock bottom, and the knives are regularly being unsheathed and sharpened. While I'd love to have work locally, right now my unique skills are in need in a different city, and I can help actually make a difference. And when the TC market warms up next year, I can be here to help with even more great experience under my belt.

In the meantime, I'll have iChat to keep in touch, and the family has my dear friend Zinsser to keep them company.

Oh yes: Zinsser has been sleeping a bit better: Going for 3-4 hour stretches before yipping to be let out. And he's getting to know his crate and it's not QUITE the insult it seemed the first few nights. We're still working on his biological processes. Twice now, we've gone outside for potty breaks, sat out there for 10 minutes, and then he came back in to poop on the floor. But tonight I got him out there and waited it out...

So that it that!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The first night....

To add chaos on top of excitement, we had Jenny for a sleepover last night, as well as it being Zinsser's first night in our home. So the energy level meter was pretty much peaked all evening.

We had Zinsser in his crate for bedtime, but not before some long cuddles and a final potty break. He was NOT happy to be in that crate, and there was a lot of howling and whining... but we put his crate into bed with us, so he could look at us and hear our breathing... and that calmed him down.

Twice in the night, we heard him whine and bark with some "intent". 2am and 4:15am. He seemed pretty agitated, so we took it to mean "potty time"... anyone driving through the neighborhood would have found bleary eyed bathrobe people standing over a tiny puppy in our front yard.

But the end result: No pee or poo in his kennel... so far. We've heard that if the puppy keeps his kennel clean, he's easier to potty train, so we're encouraged.

This morning, Bella and Jenny woke up at 6 and wanted to get Zinsser... but he was still sleeping, so I put them off. At 6:15 Bella wanted me to know she REALLY wanted Zinsser. I told her to wait. At 6:30, Zinsser and Isaac both woke up, so the house got going. I made pancakes and bacon, and we took the little guy out for his morning potty break.

By 8, we had a houseful of neighbor kids who all wanted to meet the puppy. by 8:45 everyone was gone (including Jenny), and we were having some quiet time with the dog.

Pamela and Bella are headed off to Church in an hour, and I'm looking forward to my 2 hours with Zinsser too... ;->

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Puppy Love

I've got a snoozing puppy across my belly as I type this... and I couldn't be happier. Ok, the details.

Zinsser is a Schnoodle, which is a well established poodle/schnauzer hybrid which is very good for allergies and doesn't shed. The breeder we used provided another schnoodle on our block - Otto - who is a year old and a handsome devil. As a breed, they're hypoallergenic, smart, and playful. Great with kids, and easy to train (though their poodle brains make them crafty)... he'll get to be around 15 lbs fully grown.

Bella has wanted a dog almost since birth, and we have promised for years that she could have one on her golden birthday (10/7/09), but who wants to train a dog in the fall with the cold weather? We decided that springtime is the right time for puppies, so we put our deposit down for a puppy.

About that deposit: The breeder we used has a great reputation and we're very happy with everything they've done... but it's not cheap. Fortunately, I did a bunch of e-baying recently, and my proceeds from Star Trek toys, Depeche Mode t-shirts, and old computer interfaces paid for the dog outright.

Anyway, Bella and Isaac were off at swimming with Grandma and Grandpa while we drove out to Isanti to pick up the little devil. We made it back before they did, so when Bella walked in, she got to meet the dog. She was very reserved with a nervous giggle and a big smile... and carried the dog like a ticking timebomb for a while... but by the end of the day she was palling around like a pro.

As to the name: Bella has heard Papa talk about "Zinsser" for years - especially whenever discussing painting projects - he's a big fan of proper wall preparation. Zinsser is a wall primer. But Bella liked the sound of the word, and Papa sure says it enough that she remembered it... and she decided that would be a good name for a dog. She's had that as her dog name for at least a year now... So when she met the puppy, she named him Zinsser right away... "Z" for short.

So just how hypoallergenic is he? I've had him up close to my face for much of the day, and haven't had even a tickle of allergies. I've had worse reactions to Merino wool. This little guy is ok with my body, which makes me very happy. Because for as much as Bella has wanted a dog, I confess to having wanted one pretty badly for the past year too, so I'm happy to have him in the house.

I do hear that the first night for a puppy in his kennel is a noisy affair, so I'm expecting a bad night of sleep... bring it on.

Meet Zinsser

Mister Zinsser (or "Z") is the newest member of the family. He's an 8 week old Schnauzer/Poodle mix (called a "Schnoodle". He's smart, sweet, and very cuddly.

He also loves climbing on my head.

Bella, as you can expect believes she has died and gone to heaven. Pamela and I decided to keep this a secret, so when she came home from swimming, she found a new friend.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Two more things:
1) Watch for big news in our household tomorrow. BIG news.

2) I'm nursing a burnt tongue: I was served a PIPING HOT Creme Brulee this evening. I do not believe that is how they are meant to be served.

Latest Updates

Such a busy week - ups and downs for sure! Here's what we're tracking in Jimmy Central:

1) The trial was very tough on us this week: Pamela went most days, as did I, but I took off early to pick up Isaac, so Pamela wins the attendance award, except for Wednesday when a migraine flattened her for the entire day. The details are depressing and I alternate between feeling angry and sad at all parties... every moment is a reminder to treat our lives with care. There are a lot of broken people out there.

I'm not going to post any details - it'll all come out in the end. We ARE very frustrated with the press, however: They really think it's important to keep blaming the victim and question WHY Mark was in the neighborhood in the first place. IT DOESN'T MATTER. Even if it was for an unsavory reason, it doesn't mitigate or justify murder. So let it GO. At least one colleague has terminated his Star Trib subscription in protest.

2) In GOOD news, I now have solid confirmation on my next gig - I'll be headed east to do good work for a Pediatric Cardiology group, flexing my geek AND my management muscles. The guys I'll be working for/with are great and I can't wait to get started.

I'll begin right after the 4th of July holiday, so I'm actually taking a few weeks off, which has been handy while covering this Trial this week, but will also be needed as the kids finish school (Isaac was done this week, Bella in 2-3 more weeks) and I can engage in all sorts of summer fun with them. Of course, my name is in the hat for some short term work too, so I may be posting about heading to New Jersey for a quick gig, but in the meantime, we're planning on WEEKS of me hanging around.

3) After trying for 5 months, we're finally killing my 6am BodyAttack class. I never got more than 5-6 people to attend, and the break-even point is 8. There were many weeks where I was teaching to 2 or 3 people. I'm not sure why we never got the numbers up: People who did show, tended to come again so it's probably NOT me. probably.

I'm still planning to get up early and head to the studio to DO Bodyattack twice a week so that I stay in shape... (why? sprung wooden floor and high ceilings at the studio let me really run and jump instead of duck and crouch as I do in our basement....) At least until July when I will need to move to an entirely new routine...

4) There's a new burger place in town called Five Guys - it's a chain from DC, and it's incredible... I took Isaac there earlier this week and we split an order of fries, and each had a burger. Isaac has toyed with the concept of hamburgers in the past, but never really committed. FiveGuys has turned him into a convert, and he EATS the burger. I'm so proud. We went again today. Ooooof.

5) Yesterday, Bella said "Dad, I made you a card in class today". She handed me a folded piece of paper with a big red heart on the front. She's been writing us nice love notes, so I expected the same. I opened the card, and inside was a drawing of a tarantula and the word "BOO" written about 50 times. It was the best prank yet, and I was paralyzed with laughter. Bella was pretty proud of "getting me".

Earlier that day, I met her for lunch in her cafeteria, and was proud to be the "silly dad" who insisted on having a phone conversation with a banana. The entire table of kindergartners were rolling in the aisles. The best part was when I pulled out my phone and tried to eat it. That sent them to sheer bliss.

I have been rehearsing for "silly dad" for many years, and resolve to enjoy these moments BEFORE I am an abject embarrassment to my children... which will be quite soon I'm sure.

6) One more Bella thing: The other morning she leaped out of bed and ran downstairs, insisting she had something she NEEDED to draw. Minutes later, she had sketched a duck by a pond... but instead of the standard duck-in-profile, she was working on perspective, with the duck at a 3/4 turn, and the head facing the viewer. I didn't quite work (it looked like an italian wine sac with a clown face), but I was amazed that she had a vision of how the duck would look in that position and wanted to try to draw it. She really is very creative.

7) Wow. Seven things? Number seven is simply this: STAR TREK IS AMAZING. I've seen it twice, and it's like going to church. I haven't been this completely satisfied by a movie since The Matrix (which I saw 5 times in the theater). SEE THE MOVIE. You don't need to be a Trekker to enjoy it. The Onion had it right.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A hard day...

Today was the beginning of the trial for the second suspect in Mark's murder back in Sept 2007. Jury selection was last week, and today was the beginning of the proper trial, with opening arguments and the defendant in the courtroom. Of course I took off work and joined Pamela to be supportive on this first day... Samantha was due to testify later in the afternoon, so we wanted to make sure she saw a sea of friendly faces.

The opening arguments were interesting in that the prosecution acknowledged that the evidence is based on statements by the defendant and informers and no physical evidence... and the defense telegraphing that everyone who passed on that information are liars and cheats. The defense was all over the map, kind of trying to paint the defendant as pulling his life together, a family man, a musician, and a patsy victim of others who would see him fall.

Forgetting for a moment that the defendant has a prior assault convictions where he beat someone in the head with a metal bar just as Mark had done to him. Otherwise, I'm sure a nice fellow.

We heard testimony from both the veteran cop and the rookie who were first on the scene, and from a member of the forensics team (brief aside: The forensics guy had a distinguished east-indian look with a shock of white hair, and when he opened his mouth, the nasal and slightly effeminate northern Minnesota accent was shockingly mismatched with his look... It was bracingly distracting).

During testimony, we were shown pictures of Mark lying in the yard next to his bike which were both shocking and strangely comforting - to finally see him in his final resting place - it made it feel strangely real. Of course, this affected us all pretty deeply, and the judge paused the proceedings to let us know that overt emotion in the gallery could be seen as an attempt to influence the jury, and could lead to a mistrial, so we need to keep that in check. RIGHT.

Sam's testimony came later in the day, and it was hard to watch: She was just delivering a chronology of the evening... and the hardest thing to watch was her explaining that at 1:30 when she awoke and didn't find Mark in bed (but Eve was), how she assumed he was on the couch downstairs... And how she figured out he was gone in the AM, but needed to get the kids off to school without alarming them.

I must say that in the past year, Isaac has been the kind of kid who wants to be in bed with you, and once there is NOT a good neighbor. I have fled to the couch more than once, as has Pamela. I can completely understand waking up with a kid in bed but not your spouse and not really wondering what the problem is.

Sam made it through with just a few breaks to collect herself, and the cross-examination was mercifully short - I think that no matter what your defensive strategy is, it scores no points with a jury to belittle or harass a grieving widow.

On our way out, there were TV cameras set up, but we weren't approached for comment. All the same, I was apparently on several news channels this evening.

As the trial goes this week, Pamela and I will be there as we can to support Sam and the family... It'll be good to have this closure.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Tech Support

This weekend, I helped three people with computer stuff:

Two people got new computers and needed their old stuff transferred across. One was moving from a 6 year old PC to a new Laptop. The other was from a 4 year old PC to another desktop, plus a new printer/scan/copier. In the end, I spent over 8 hours of my weekend doing this work - and one is for money (yay), the other for babysitting time (YAY!!!!). It's actually pretty fun work for me but there are... frustrations...

Mostly it's in accessing/finding the right data in the old system to move: Stuff in 2004 was put in different places than they do now, so I need to get creative - lots of sleuthing. Also, the older systems have slower communications ports, so I spend a LOT of time waiting for data to copy over.

Then there's the "remove all of the crap" stage: PC vendors love to load up their machines with trial versions of software which pop up right and left with reminders to try and buy. It is my personal vendetta to eliminate all of these useless things and get them a working system right out of the gate.

All told, I wound up 98% successful: Turns out that one old program simply will NOT move to the new system and my client needs to shell out for an upgrade, which'll cost her over $700... and we're still trying to configure her email so that her contacts will show up (and I know they're in there....).

And I actually sort of enjoyed working with the new Windows machines - Vista isn't THAT bad, and the new computers were pretty snappy and responsive. The frustrations were with the older machines in both cases... but as I was in there moving things, realizing that the underpinnings are pretty much the same, I realized - I can enjoy Vista, but it's still Windows... it's still going to bite me someday. Still, I can't argue that there's some value: The laptop was under $700. The new CPU was $450. You just can't buy Macs for that price.

My third tech support call for the weekend was from the neighbor with a Mac: All of his pictures had disappeared, his backups weren't running, and a launch icon was missing. I had it fixed in 10 minutes and was home to tuck Bella in for bed.

I do love me some Macintosh... They may be a bit more expensive, but you save a lot of time.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


1) No sooner do I post my "poor communication skills" diatribe, but then Fringe went and did me proud: Scientist who knows a lot says "I'll tell you what I know, but first you must help me do X"... nobody's sure if we can trust him, he's trickling out little bits, and then things turn and the scientist dies before he can tell what he knows.

Classic poor communication setup, right? WRONG - he left behind a videotape where he says "I promised to tell, and if you're seeing this I must be dead, but a deal is a deal". It was great.

2) I've been watching Tropic Thunder again: This time with the actor's commentary track turned on: Yes, Robert Downey Jr does the entire commentary track as Kirk Lazarus in character, with that deep 70's blacksploitation rumble. And poor Ben Stiller and Jack Black just can barely keep up. A highlight is Jack Black getting an In-n-Out 4X4 to the recording studio.

3) Ooooooh Dollhouse, you are living up to your potential. This was a good show this week. DARK.

4) Heroes knocked it outta the park with a great finale this week too.

And that's the media update.

Quick Update

Today was a swimming day with Isaac, and he's really becoming part fish - he loves to dunk his head under water and keep it there for a count of 5. After swimming, he insisted that we stop at a playground to look for "Some kids, some BIG kids" to play with. We parked and he marched to the playground exclaiming "Playground, HERE I COME!" Alas, there were no kids there, but there was a group of middle-tweeners playing softball across the park, so he ran off that direction shouting "KIDS!!! KIDS!!!!"

That guy just loves people.

In the meantime, we're working on big sister management strategies: The more Isaac does cute stuff, we get the uncomfortable "bella echoes the behavior" for attention. We're finding we need to give her big girl jobs - a LOT of them - to keep her busy and getting positive attention. Now if only she had something to take care of... a pet... hmm... Watch this space.

Work: Well, since the last update and now, I had a plan that was supported by my managers, but it got shot down by HR... but then they came up with a different plan which appears to be acceptable to HR. I'm going to digress here - I simply don't like HR departments in general: My main interactions with them have been them not hiring people I wanted them to hire, not firing people I wanted them to fire, and hiring and firing people I didn't want them to hire or fire. Oh, and periodically making my benefits slightly worse. They truly are well represented by the Catbert character in Dilbert - a more malevolent department does not exist in any organization.

If you are a member of the HR world (or as my employer puts it: "Human Capital"), feel free to defend yourself in the comments. And on a personal level, I have known many NICE HR people. But as a collective group - the worst bureaucratic nightmare organization possible.

Anyway, digression over. The SF gig may not happen - one of the people who interviewed me decided that in the process of telling me about it, it sounded so cool he decided HE wants to take the job. Plus, in a miscommunication of legenday proportions, it was the wrong San: Diego, not Francisco. That is very different. So that one's on the lower tier of possibility. But something new in Seattle popped up... lots of plates spinning and the vortex of potential is swirling.

Now it's time to get caught up on Dollhouse!!!