Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Short week

Rain rain rain in Philly. The philly airport is notoriously moisture
averse so I have no good idea when I might actually leave this burg.
Ah well.

I forgot my kindle at homethis week and discovereed the wonders of the
kindle for iPhone software. It's actually readable and convenient on
the iPhone and it connected to amazon to get my latest (trashy scifi)
book. Hooray!

After quiet weeK my friends in Jersey needed my superpowers again. I
zipcar'ed out there in a mini Cooper and got some stuff done... And
got a primo hoagie. Mmmmmm.

Things are still ramping up on the new gig. After2 weeks I still don't
have a login or email. But I got a loaner laptop that let's me see
some things. Plus I've been talking with cardiologists. Which is
always interesting.

Looking forward to getting home and then blowing outta town for a long
weekend with the reunion. There will be much playing. Much.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The runway of doom

The bad news was that my flight out was delayed and the gate changed
twice. The good news is that we caught a tailwind and landed at our
original time

The good news is that we just missed a big storm in Philly and landed
safely. The bad news is that Philly is a parking lot now with all of
the planes that were stuck trying to get out. And we're stuck on the
ground with nowhere to go.

Been sittting here for 20 min so far, a mere 100 feet from our gate
waiting on someone to pull is forward. Awesomeness.

Also, just discovered that awesomeness is in my iPhone spellchecker.

Blogged from my iPhone

A quiet house?

I came home Friday afternoon to find only one kid around... Bella has gone on a long weekend trip with her friend Jenny to Milwaukee, and we're ships passing in the night: I will not see her before I head back out to Philly later today!

In Philly, my hotel is a block from Chinatown, and I had a great bowl of Pho the other night, and went next door to the "Shanghai Bazaar" - yes, those chinatown classic stores are everywhere, but this one was actually pretty nice and frankly more than half of the merchandise seemed tuned to an actual chinese customer - books, calligraphy supplies, formal clothing... no boxes with digital chirping crickets. Anyway, one of Bella's favorite outfits from ages 3-4 was a silk pajama set from a previous chinatown trip, so I upgraded her to a biggirl set this trip, and it'll be waiting for her return. I also got a nice laquered fan for her.

So we've been a 3 person family this weekend again - and it has been fun to focus on Isaac: Yesterday, he just climbed into my lap, curled in, and said "I love you Daddy - you're the best". Isaac is being pretty nice and mushy. We took a lot of walks and read a lot of books. We also got him a haircut up at the Sports Barbershop around the corner. He got a "sporty boy" cut - short on the sides and back, with a little more on top "just like you, Daddy!". Of course, the haircut added 6 months to his age.... and I think he thought he was looking pretty darn good.

Last week, when I was calling home, I was hearing talk of "Bella's Pet Rock". Pamela had worked with Bella to make a sleeping bag for the pet rock. Pamela had sewed a set of pajamas for the pet rock. I was having trouble visualizing this, because most rocks Bella has brought home have been <2 inches in diameter: Not sure how to sew an outfit for a tiny rock. Well, I finally saw the pet rock: an 8 inch square chunk of concrete. This is what Bella lugged into the house to declare as "her pet". And so the sleeping bag and pajamas suddenly made sense.

I should mention right now, that I love this insanity.

I have a busy but compressed week coming up: I leave tonight, and work M-T-W in Philly, with a half day trip out to Jersey on Tuesday for some meetings (Finally get to see how this Zipcar thing works), then home. On Thursday we hit the road for the annual Reunion out near Madison, to see all of the cousins and chill out by the lake. I'm really looking forward to it!

Sounds like the house is starting to wake up, and there's a lot to get done today - Carpet steaming, Ikea run, Mowing... all before I take off. And that's the way it is!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ramping Up

Ok - I didn't finish the story about the Block Party: The kids were in that jumper until we pulled them out around 9 (2 hours past their bedtime, but at least an hour earlier than the other kids wound up staying up), and they both passed out quickly... The weather got colder and colder, and so in the middle of July, we had a fire pit going, passing around hot coffee and Bailey's. With the kids down, I was on house duty while Pamela hung out, rolling in after 11.

The next morning, the moonwalk was inflated at 9am (the family hosting the jumper set that time as the earliest, even though their 3 kids had been up since 7 demanding more bouncing). The whole neighborhood of kids was BACK out at 9:01 jumping again, but there was exhaustion... a little less pep to the bouncing. By 10, they were all just sitting in and on the jumper, getting on eachother's nerves, but unwilling to leave the space, because hey, it's a MOONWALK. By 11, when the men with the truck finally came to take the moonwalk, there was a brief flurry of frantic jumping, but then general relief that no more jumping would be required.

There were widespread reports of rubberlegs, aches, and general grumpiness. Our whole house took a NAP. Even Bella. It was good. We had the semiannual neighborhood progressive dinner on Sunday night (ramped back from quarterly - I love my neighbors, but my time is ever more precious at home), and had a good evening of catching up... Rita and Jeff are seeing an increase in business, which means they've weathered the downturn well: We've been so concerned and hopeful for their design-build operation...

Now I'm in Philly, and will be for quite a while. Last week out in Jersey was frankly so stunningly taxing that I had a hard time getting my head on straight Monday, which was fine, since the first few days of a gig are always just ramp up time. My boss Ken handed me a thick manilla folder filled with notes to get caught up on, and I've read the whole stack thrice now - once each day. By today, it was all making sense, and I was hitting the internet to get more info on some of the esoteric things they're doing....

This is a cardiology project, but a very very different one than I did a couple of years ago: In a traditional cardiology unit, you're dealing with arterial plaque and coronary blockages, mostly older people, and 95% of the time, you can clear things up with some drugs, angioplasty, or inserting stents. Maybe 5% of the time you're dealing with something genetic. In PEDIATRIC Cardiology, it's 95% genetic anomalies.

So the needs of the doctors are very very different, and you get to realize that these tools have all been built around the 95% adult cardio model. My job is to help figure out a solution that will actually work for the Pediatric world. And it may not actually exist yet. It's very exciting.

Today I was doing research on the most common heart defects and the sorts of procedures that are used to treat them. Also, I did some deep diving into some of the procedures that I hadn't really seen much of in the past. Today I learned about Electrophysiology - the study of the electrical system that works the heart. Seems some people have overactive nerve clusters in there which lead to the heart twitching rapidly and being inefficient in its job as a pump.

There's a procedure called Ablation where you guide a wire up into the heart, and literally zap tissue in the overactive regions to disrupt the electrical feedback loops. There's a a surgery called "The Maze Procedure" which is more invasive - they actually go in and cut patterns into the heart with a scalpel and then sew it back together, and that scar tissue is less likely to have the electrical storms. And finally, if a person has an out of control arrhythmia they do a "Cardioversion" which is basically using the Defibrillator paddles to shock the heart back into sync.

This is all very cool and interesting stuff. It's not really very common to think of yourself as an electrical being, but every muscle twitch is an electric process.

Can you tell I'm happy to be back in the clinical world, learning about things again? Much more fun than trying to figure out how to get the assistant of the CIO of that one health system to pass a message along about how we have the best consultants if only they'll give us a chance. Much more fun.

Anyway, the point is that after a few days of drinking from the firehose, I'm starting to feel like I might just know what I'll be doing, and am having the pieces fall into place. Add to this that I am totally loving this city (more on that in posts to come, but you can be assured food probably factors in to this), and this will be a very good gig for me. VERY good.

And now I'm going to switch gears and do some work for the Jersey client... a promise is a promise.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A New Home

Philly. Phil-LAY. Here I am.

Running off to a meeting in a few minutes but so far so good. Got an office (better than the communal picnic table I had at the South Jersey place), got things to get revved up with, and most importantly, I'm working in a hospital, which has a great energy.

Nothing to report yet, except that I'm here, and happy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Safe and Sound

Sorry about that last post: I was tired, my brain was completely full from the week's work, and I was READY FOR HOME.

I wound up only being delayed by 2 hours, and things were ok. The crew was very polite and kept us informed. It was fine.

Had good family time upon arrival, cuddles at bedtime, and then Pamela and I snuggled in to watch So You Think You Can Dance, which is just my favorite show in the world. Man those kids can HOOF it!

Off to the Block Party now: The moonwalk has been set up across the street since 10am, and yes the kids have been in it all day. Isaac is still napping (he got 90 min of moonwalk in before naptime), and now it's the big neighborhood bbq and party into the evening. I think that Bella might actually get 10 full hours of moonwalk in today.

Friday, July 17, 2009

8 weeks

Eight stinking weeks going to south jersey. Last day on the job and I have a mechanical problem on the airplane. Yay.

At least they deplaned us and gave us snack vouchers (free food is good).

Final presentation went very well today by the way. It felt goooooood.

But I'm very ready for home.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

PS - Final in Jersey

1) Had to change hotels from the one I'd been at for two months... worse internet connection, but better blackout shades (overslept one day!) Somebody has a puppy that's yipping and it makes me miss Zinsser.

2) Perhaps ashamed of the stinky car from last week (I kept it all week, but didn't hold back when I returned it and in the subsequent internet survey), they gave me a sweet ride this week: Ford Mustang (not convertible) with Sirius Radio. I've been listening to Sirius 22 First Wave non-stop (80's alternative) and barreling down the road.

3) I've been doing my "Jersey's Greatest Hits" restaurants this week: Primo's Hoagies, Ariana Afghani food, La Posata Italian... Still need to hit Joe Palumbo's Mirabella Cafe one more time for that Rigatoni Bolognaise (Which they call "Rigatone Bah-Loyne") Oh what will I ever eat in Philly? Oh no, did you say I'm staying across from the Reading Terminal Market? DID YOU SAY THAT?

The Brain Fry

This is the big week at work: It's my last full week at the Jersey client before moving to the Philly client, and I'm building my final deliverables... which are major presentations to large groups. I did my first one today, which I think was the harder one, all told: This was the project that a predecessor had thoroughly flubbed and I parachuted in to do it right in half the time. In the end, I identified 10 major workflow gaps that needed addressing, and spots for 38 workstations they hadn't considered across their 4 hospitals.

It's the sort of thing that I seem very good at doing: Synthesizing hundreds of data points across a dozen subjects, holding the whole picture in my mind to absorb the problem and craft the solution(s), and THEN somehow relate everything I've learned to a large group of people in a cohesive manner. In truth, the statement of work didn't say this is what they wanted, but I delivered exactly what they NEEDED.

I'll always wonder if I missed anything, but dang I uncovered a lot of stuff. So then the harder challenge is how to take 10 big problems and present them in an hour. Once the structure finally came to me, it practically wrote itself (though it did undergo 3 huge revisions). I whipped up some fun graphics (representing all 10 projects on a timeline with interdependencies), and ran the meeting with a steel grip - we actually finished on time with concrete to-dos... and everybody was happy.

Shifting gears to the other project has been hard. I tried before lunch, but it didn't take. I played hooky in the afternoon to watch Harry Potter (having already worked 24 hours in the previous 48, I felt entitled to a little break). Loved the movie! Hermione's moods were practically breaking my heart... and nobody but nobody gives icy stares like Snape. Alan Rickman is wonderful.

Anyway, the night is still somewhat young, and I've got all 24 hours of Thursday before presenting on Friday, and I know this project even better than the other one, so I'm not terribly worried. I'm seriously considering packing it in for the night and letting my neurons rest for a spell, since the last 2 days were pretty darn intense.

I'm pretty psyched to be starting the new gig, but I'll be on retainer to my Jersey friends to help see some of my more mad schemes to fruition.

On the home front, we're a bit alarmed that Isaac has been skipping his nap more and more... first because we need the break in the day, but second because we still remember well our trials when Bella lost her nap. We had to end her naps because with them she was staying up to 10 pm. But for 3 months, she had horrible night terrors from her lack of sleep, screaming bloody murder. They were some of the hardest parenting days we had. Hopefully Isaac will either keep napping (for a long time), or make a clean break and go to bed early nightly... I'm not sure which would be better.

Bella is really enjoying doing Synchronized Swimming, and has asked to keep on doing it into the school year. It's a "sport" but it's based on cooperation, not direct competition, which I think works for Bella. Plus she loves to swim. Oh, and that tooth has NOT fallen out yet. She may be waiting for my return...

No wacky Jersey stories, alas, mostly because I've been so busy I'm lost inside my skull. I think that the people at Dunkin will miss me. They know my doubleshot espresso order from the moment I walk in, and they're always so nice. I think the store is family owned, because the same multigenerational east indian characters are there anytime I show up - morning, noon, evening.

Well, I gotta do something. Something....

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Turned the corner...

Woke up refreshed and ready to make up for lost time this morning... No insomnia, no headaches. I had a great day at work: I had good meetings, got great information, uncovered more messes to clean up (my job), and even got some good quality time in with the project sponsor (who has been AWOL for a week).

I think the Febreze was even starting to work on my stinky car.

I felt like a guy who was on top of everything, until about 4pm, when I discovered I had lost my wallet at my previous meeting (in a hospital. Totally safe place, right?). Fortunately, a panicked trip back and the nice guy in security not only recognized me, but had the wallet, all contents intact. I was so happy I skipped off to the car.... then walked BACK IN when I realized I had forgotten my KEYs on the security desk. On the way out (to the laughter of the guard) I made sure my phone, wallet, keys, ID badge, suitcoat, shoes, glasses, and pants were all intact.

That's a little signal from the world that I needed a little break, so off to dinner. Now I'm back to the hotel for more catchup work... but hopefully not TOO late of a night. Got plenty of meetings tomorrow.

I've decided to take the job offer, by the way. I looked at it very very hard, and it appears to be all upside, with no visible downside. I get to do the work I wanted to do in the first place (making the money I was hoping to make), there's a pathway back to the Twin Cities after my non-compete finishes, and I'm already being given some commission opportunities. Plus, HEALTH INSURANCE, and somebody else handles all of the billing and taxes muckymuck. Works for me.

Looking forward to some wonderful family time this weekend!!!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Stinky Car

Well, I've definitely had better weeks than this one.

1) My rental car has a musty smell somewhere between fat man sweat and swamp. I have febrezed it repeatedly, but it's just not pleasant. And there's a good gallon of water loose somewhere in the body panels, because it slooooshes when I turn. Ordinarily I'd have turned it in, but due to the next two points I haven't had time, and I might as well ride it out.

2) I got in late on Monday, got checked in (after a frustrating incident with the credit card people who couldn't be bothered to post my payment when I made it on their website last week), having driven the stinky car into Jersey... and then I sat awake until 3:30 am with horrible horrible insomnia. So I was a partial zombie for some of Tuesday.

3) Tuesday evening I joined my co-workers for dinner, and had a glass of red wine. Now, 4 times out of 5, I'm ok with a glass of red wine. This time, not so much. I didn't feel particularly good (which didn't make for a productive evening), then halfway through the night I realized I had the signs of a migraine. I was a complete wreck, heaves and all. I pulled into work around 10, took a nap at lunch (drove to the hotel - can't nap in the stinky car!), and only really got back into the swing mid-afternoon.

Well, I've turned the corner - I'm going to have a productive evening and get caught up tonight. No coffee, no antihistamines, no wine, no nothing. Just going to have a quiet evening with spreadsheets and project plans and have a better day tomorrow.

On the plus side, I've started to arrange for my transition to the new client in downtown Philly. I have my public transport maps ready, AND since I will be keeping some hours at the current client, I've enrolled in which is a car sharing service. My friend Al in San Fran uses Zipcar and swears by it. I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully, no stinky cars.

It's been a strange week at home too - Zinsser has had the doggy trots and has got Pamela up several times a night for potty breaks (at least he is asking - better than just pooping). Looking forward to a quiet weekend with the family - less craziness than the past weekend, ok? OK?

Monday, July 06, 2009


I'm at the airport preparing to board, but thought I'd dash off a few quick ones:

1) This morning Bella was running very late to her morning nature camp... she wasn't dressed, she was sleepy, and she hadn't eaten, and we only had 10 min to get it going. I asked her what she wanted to eat, and she asked for my trademark fried egg and ham on toast sandwich with habanero pepper sauce. I said that I didn't think I had TIME to make it for her. She thought for a moment, then suggested "what about HALF of a ham and egg sandwich then?"

Can't argue with that. I wound up making the sandwich and she wound up missing camp... but after the crazy weekend, she was a wreck and really needed a down day.

2) This afternoon, Isaac had been refusing all food but popsicles (AND he blew off his nap too), but was complaining he was "Hun-ga-ree". When I suggested a run to Five Guys ("The Hamburger Store!!!") he was game, dancing around. We had a quick stop at the post office, and he managed to tell four different people that "I'm going to the HAMBURGER STORE WITH MY DADDY!!!"

On the way he mused "The hamburger store will be Wonderful!" He saw a block party in progress on the way and shouted out "Look! It's a CELEBRATION!" When we finally got there, he was dancing and charming the patrons, and exclaimed that "This place makes me hun-ga-ree". When the food actually came, he was more talk than action, but had a half dozen bites of his burger and around 20 fries.... which was good enough.

3) Pamela and I decided that it's probably better when I leave in the early AM - walking around all day knowing I'm leaving is just a bit tough.

4) On the way here, I drove behind a white Town Car with open back windows, and a small arm kept dangling a teddy bear out the window on the freeway. My knuckles were white on the steering wheel with tension.... I could only imagine what would have happened if Didda or Doggie the Dog were lost in transit.

Eventually I pulled alongside, and found the grownups paying no attention (very wasp-y), the kids not in boosters looking horribly bored... a lost cause. The teddy bear was a cry for help of some sort (not literally), but those issues will need to get worked out in therapy in years to come.

Time to get on the plane!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Boom Boom FirePower

I now know what that is: She saw it in a TRAILER for Night at the Museum 2. And there was some Darth in that. Now it makes sense.

Glad to know there isn't some bootleg starwars movie out there Bella has seen that I haven't.

Mercy Me

My apologies to those of you for whom this is a regular source of Jimmy News - things were busy this past week, so I'm trying to catch up.

The Week At Work was good - My client has nicknamed me "Columbo" for rooting out the actual core issues that were supposed to have been found by my predecessor... so now I'm planning how to fix the problems. On my original project, my "neat and tidy' solution once we got into it was almost a million dollars in software and hardware upgrades AND two new positions needed in HR for the new workflow. So I've got a good "Plan B" on the table that will cost a heckuva lot less and get the job done. They still like what I've pulled together, thankfully - the high price tag was the result of a number of Directors saying "sure!" and a bunch of Managers saying "but it'll be this much..." Disconnects like this are the whole reason I'm there, actually.

No good animal stories this week - it was a pretty heads down week, and the Canada Geese seem to have moved on someplace else. The giant snapping turtles (Gameras) have kept a low profile as well, no doubt because of all the tourists sent there by this incredibly influential blog.

It was a very busy weekend, of course. Friday was a lot of yard work, then we saw some old friends for dinner at the Chatterbox (which I still like, but am starting to think that the inept service is actually BY DESIGN, and not some sort of growing pains), then an evening of scotch tasting with my boys. It was an evening of strong, "different" tasting scotches - not much smoke and peat, but rather lots of fruit on the palate. We watched the French spy spoof "OSS 117" which I would recommend to just about anyone - it was delightfully wacky, while never dropping "character" - unlike Austin Powers, where Myers spends the movie mugging at the camera, these people really tried to make a pitch perfect 1960s spy movie, only a completely insane and daft one.

Saturday was the 4th, and Pamela got up at 6am to meet with some neighborhood gals, and they pushed the Scott Terrace Mobile Recreation Unit (MRU) down about a mile to the parade route. The MRU is a garishly recovered couch that we mounted on casters for mobility. Pushing it down the street over 10 blocks was definitely work. After the parade, I helped push it BACK. The parade was great as usual... it always seems like too many military vehicles - I mean this isn't Soviet MayDay here, plus those diesel antiques belch a lot of fumes. Isaac was somewhat controllable this year, though during gaps in the parade, he ran in wide circles around the middle of the street in sheer joy at being able to. The clouds and mild drizzle kept us cool and unburnt.

Playtime in the afternoon, with a comically interrupted nap (no fewer than 5 separate kid-based wakeups.... I did not get much rest). Then more friends over for a 4th of July grill, lots of kids playing in our back yard, many popsicles, and cheap fireworks on the driveway to the oohs and ahs of the assembled kids. It was a late night to bed.... And an early morning for me as my east coast system snapped awake at 6 and denied all attempts at a snooze button.

Coffee in the late AM with Grandma and Grandpa, and then Bella was whisked away to the Edina Pool with the neighbor kids, while Isaac and I tried again for naps. I got some sort of wakeful shuteye, and Isaac got a good recharge in. Zinsser was also quite the snoozer. Tonight we were over celebrating JeMae's birthday with the neighborhood, and the kids were again nowhere to be seen, playing complex games (with modified rules for the younguns like Isaac).

At bedtime, Isaac was shouting "Boom Boom FIREPOWER!" over and over. I asked Bella and she admitted and she and Jenny had taught him it. She said

"It's from Star Wars - there's this little guy inside of a self destruct and Darth Vader is trying to do a choking thing on him, but he's too small and inside the self destruct, and I think he says "Boom Boom Firepower" - but maybe not at that exact moment - maybe later"

Having watched Star Wars a few times myself, this particular scene wasn't known to me. I have no idea what she could be talking about. Changing the subject, she brought up the Battle of Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, with the "GIANT ROBOTS TRYING TO STEP ON PEOPLE". Then "if you like Star Wars, why don't you watch it more often?" Why indeed.

Finally a few details: Isaac is obsessed with Popsicles. It is the first thing he asks for in the morning, and he likes to march over to the fridge, throw open the door, stroke his chin, and say "hmmmmmm.... how about.... POPSICLES!!!" pointing triumphantly up at them. (We make fruit juice freezes, so it's not THAT bad).

Bella woke up today in a reflective mood and asked to look at her keepsake box. She flipped through early pictures, her school work, her art, and re-organized it all and put it away. She was in a very happy place reviewing her progress to this point.

And finally, since I've left the old job, I'm not on their Blackberry network, so there's really no purpose at all to me having a blackberry - they don't sync well with Macs, they aren't very cool. So I up and sold a bunch of old gear again (ipods and cellphones) and had enough to get the newest iPhone. And I'm in LOOOOVE. It's just great to have an iPhone again.

Hopefully South Jersey will have some good stories for me this week: I'm leaving Monday AFTERNOON for a long week, so send good energy to the homestead.