Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Getting Old

Quick update - the fan on the Macbook is driving me insane and I must shut it down soon.

Since I couldn't work in the room, I decided to head out. Had a terrible dinner at a Nascar-themed restaurant. Ok, I deserved that. It was fairly well reviewed on Yelp, and when I pulled up, there were a million motorcycles there, so I thought it might not be that bad. But it was that bad.

Trying to salvage the night, I headed to the movies, and the only movie that was within 45 min of when I walked up that I wanted to see was Green Zone with Matt Damon. Alas, I walked OUT of the movie after a mere 45 minutes - it was 100% super-shakey-cam work, with a whole lot of shouting for no good reason. Having recently seen Hurt Locker, I'd say this was definitely poor in comparison... just in terms of the whole "enjoying a movie about Iraq" thing.

And now the buzzing has completely driven me mad. I'm out. PEACE. (and yes, it will be fixed this weekend)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


My gorgeous Macbook Air has a problem with his fan, and it rattles and buzzes to the point of distraction.

This makes using my computer in the hotel room a non-starter. Which means I get to completely relax and unplug.

It will be fixed on Friday - the part is ordered, the fix is in. But for now, I will take the annoyance as a message to unplug.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I wrote to my brother-in-law Rich about Inglourious Basterds: He's a huge WWII buff, so I thought I'd pull his chain a little by asking:

"So... it wasn't entirely accurate, right? There were a couple of minor changes to history in there? "

His response was incredible:
"Yes you are right.

The Tiger tanks portrayed in the movie are actually Soviet T-34s. You could tell by looking at their wheels. Real Tigers had interleaved wheels. These Tigers clearly had the T-34 suspension.

Also the Model 1939 "Shoes, Service, Compositon Sole" was an ankle high shoe/boot made of tanned leather in a dark red color, originally with leather soles, changed to rubber soles after 1940. The same shoe design was modified in early 1943 (called Type III) to reverse the leather (rough side out) and add reinforcing rivets.... LOL if Tarintino thinks this is what Jews in the Nazi killing business would be sporting.

All these guys should have had on Combat M-1943 (Double Buckle) boots on.


I thought the rest of the movie was spot on however."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A media update

1) Yes, I do love me some Caprica. I'm on Episode 5 now - just three to go to get caught up. Future Soap Opera with robots, virtual worlds, monotheistic terrorists... and I think I mentioned the robots?

2) After a long week, I decided to play hooky for an evening and watch Inglourious Basterds. LOVED IT. I think it may have strayed from the historical record a little bit... ;-> But it was a rip roaring yarn, and as a language junkie, it was a pure delight to have more than half of the dialogue in the movie be in German, French, or Italian. Loved Brad Pitt 100%, especially his fluency in Italian at the end... and I must say that guy fully deserved the Oscar for his role as the Hunter. He was completely compelling in every scene - he had a way of thoroughly transfixing your attention - he made me in the audience feel exactly how he made his "conversation partners" in the movie feel - it was an incredible performance. Plus, the grotto cafe scene, in which accents and hand gestures gave up the game was an amazing turn on the whole "secret agent" conceit of war movies....

Yes, it was gorey, and a bit long, but boy, what a movie.

3) In other media - I just have to give up on Tim and Eric Awesome Show. It is Andy Kaufman-esque in its anti-comedy. There were shows in years past that had me almost peeing from laughter, but the first four episodes this year have not just been unfunny, but got me sort of mad. It's only 12 minutes, but I feel like it was 12 WASTED minutes. Sigh.

Ok. That's the media update.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ghost World

Driving through Independence OH (south of Cleveland)... Blue Sky and shining sun, but a cloud had decided to see what it's like on the ground. Driving through white fluffy fog - can't see more than a half block, but look up and it's blue. It has the feeling of a dream, or the wispy memory of real life that ghosts experience. At least I think so.

And no, I'm not blogging and driving. Had to get some espresso and write this down.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And then there are good days.

I've been working on a little side project for my company: A hospital in Indiana wanted someone to teach them about personal health records, the current state of the industry, and recommend a course of action based on their systems. As you may know, I lived Personal Health Records back in 2001-2002, in a project for Children's MN: We talked to parents, patients, doctors, and administrators and built a product that is still in use today. So when this hospital in Indiana called, I volunteered to do the work.

Just 20 hours of work, on top of the rest of what I do. No biggie. But I was told that the client is also very demanding and hard to please, so I was steeled for a tough run. I delivered my final report last night (21 slides, 7 custom diagrams showing options, leading products and recommendations), after two review drafts, and got back the following: "Thanks very much for the effort Jim. Appreciate the quick turn on everything and the QUALITY deliverable! Nice job on all fronts!"

Getting a little kudos like that made all the difference.

Things are going well on the main project too: I have a team, we have goals, and I don't feel like I'm spinning my wheels quite as much. I switched hotels, and got a handwritten note from the manager of the new hotel thanking me for switching, with coupons for free Naked Juice. Not bad at all.

Beth left a comment on my previous note about white noise machines: I of course downloaded the application and am thrilled. It reminded me of a rather serious "sound machine" phase Pamela and I went through back in the late 1990s: We got this machine that had 4 different "sounds" that were I think 30-45 second loops. You could totally hear the looping, but it was relaxing nonetheless. Over time, it broke and we tried to replace it, but the model we bought had shorter loops (15 seconds) and I wasn't able to enjoy it in the least. We didn't go for a third model. But now, you get an iPhone app with 20 multi-minute loops of ambient noise, and it's delightful.

Between working and sleeping, I've decided to jump in and watch "Caprica": Two episodes in and it's amazingly cool. I'll give it 2 more episodes before I decide if it's actually awesome, but boy, those first two really grabbed me. And you know I love a giant robot, even if it has the brain of a 16 year old girl in it. I mean ESPECIALLY since it has the brain of a 16 year old girl in it.

In other, more serious news, the retrial for Mark's killer started this week: I can't be at the trial, but Pamela has been representing us. It was hard to hear about the mistrial last year, and It's hard to be going through all of this again... if there's a positive, it's that all of the new information we got last time is now old information - we won't be shocked by the details (and they were hard to absorb last year). It doesn't make it better, but it somehow allows me to focus more on the procedure - making sure that if this guy is guilty, that he's convicted cleanly.

It feels like barely a day goes by without some reminder of Mark popping up. Some joke, or turn of phrase, or visual memory. It happens so often it's not painful anymore - I feel like somehow Mark's out there saying "hey - this stuff really was funny - we really did have a good time together. Go ahead and laugh, ok? You'd be doing ME the favor!"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back again...

Today was actually a beautiful day in Cleveland - blue skies, warm sun. On a day like this I could grow to tolerate a place like that. So far I've written a fair amount about the blighted areas I've driven through and work in daily. What I didn't really know until today is that the blight goes eastward from downtown, getting progressively worse until you hit our office building... There are entire blocks boarded up, with dark factories looming behind. Dead patches of city.

But a mere 8 blocks later on, the blight abruptly ceases and it turns into a blue collar industrial area, with some large, still functioning factory campuses (sporting some awesome 1960s architecture, I might add) and many blocks of well kept houses and shops. It was actually kind of nice. But it was a true timewarp - between the architecture, the wide boulevard roadway, and the blue sky, I felt like I was driving through a corporate brochure of the past. It really did not feel like the present day. Wonder if I actually fell through a time portal? My Nissan rental magically transforms to a Packard, and a stylish fedora appears on my head. As I type this on my trusty underwood....

Work was particularly busy this week - I had triple intensity: Three new team members to bring up to speed and manage, plus organizing a parallel project (coordinating 20 people who aren't on my project), PLUS doing a quick "extra" project for the company - a brain dump/writeup of what I know about web-based personal health records, which is a lot... So it was up at 6, work til 5, quick dinner, catnap, work til midnight. Repeat. I'm ready for a rest. It doesn't help that one of the team is, I'm going to go ahead and say it, a total spaz. Very attention hungry, very eager to show his knowledge, very loud in every way (ringtones, jokes). On Monday I wanted to kill him. On Wednesday I just wanted to ignore him. By today, I was coping with his energy. But he will be an exhausting one. And no, I didn't hire him.

With all of the things to keep straight, my brain had a hard time shutting down, so even that 6 hours of sleep was somewhat less in the end. Plus there was a mysterious noise - a metallic skrriitt skritt from somewhere - it reminded me of a hard drive accessing memory. It was constant, so not a critter. I had my head mashed between pillows.

The flight home was fast, uneventful, and pulled up early - and even better, there was a gate ready for us. Nothing worse than sitting on the tarmac, waiting... waiting... So I got home early!

Speaking of waiting: Bella was waiting up for me full of stories. Tonight she wanted to tell me about something she learned about but couldn't remember the name of. "Ok. There are rules. The first rule, all parts are straight lines. A circle is NOT one. Nor is a moon shape. Second rule is the lines are all connected - there are no gaps". "Are you talking about a Polygon, Bella?" "YES! POLYGON! Say, that would be a great name for a bird. I'm going to draw a polygon bird tomorrow."

Isaac was asleep when I got home, but has been up 4 times unsettled and needing extra cuddles. Pamela reports that he's been very cuddly this week, and I can't wait to see that this weekend. And right now I'm sitting in bed next to Pamela - she's reading, I'm writing, and we're just enjoying being together. I'm looking forward to a good recharge this weekend with my googy. Maybe we'll even watch Star Trek!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It is getting better

My week in the imperial suite was pretty good for the nerves: Baths have a way of completely draining my energy to the point that I require a full 8 hours to recharge. So naturally I used the Jacuzzi two of the three nights to make sure I was well rested. Work actually went pretty well this week - a couple of minor things which had been nagging at me got resolved and by the end of the week, we (the team) were feeling pretty good about things. Well, pretty good only in that we now know that we're on target and even a little ahead of the game, but are now concerned that the other teams are behind and will begin impacting us.

It's beautiful.

In a relaxed state, I decided to check out the Oscar Winner: The Hurt Locker. Two hours later, I realized my life really isn't that bad. The scene where a character realizes that he loves the action more than his wife and son was just heartbreaking... and after a nanosecond's reflection, I confirmed that I do indeed love my family a lot more than I love my work in Cleveland. Not even CLOSE on that one. ;->

Friday work-from-home was chockablock with activity - conference calls, trainer appointments, haircut. My man Warren went and ordered his iPad at 7:30am. Me? I'm actually waiting a little - not for "rev 2" necessarily, but just "wave 2" of the current crop: I can live without this thing until June, and by then Warren will be telling me all of the things I can do with it that Apple says you can't do... he's sort of a rainman with hacking devices... he had a ring of neighbors sharing satellite TV, he's the first to find the pirated movies and TV shows, he uses his iPhone to get his laptop connected to the internet (which isn't officially supported), and goes on GPS treasure hunts... and yet he cuts hair for a living.

Friday night was the Highlands School Carnival: This year we got a sitter for Isaac and stayed late. Pamela helped organize a bit, and it was a fun affair - mostly games rooms, some crafts/makeup rooms. I had some kids wrap me with gauze and paint on blood in the "Shark Attack" room: I believe I was the only adult to submit to this treatment. And yes, for the third year in a row, Bella did win something in the raffle: Not a big basket this time, but the opportunity to make a ceramic bowl with the art teacher in a one-on-one session.

So now a "going way back" thing: In the past on this blog (and my old Language one) I made some somewhat disparaging statements about Rosetta Stone. Well, I've revisited the program, and I must say that in the past 2 years, their new V3 release changed the game: Its a much better product now. Same method, same slow pace, but the tools and class pacing are much better. In a couple of weeks I'll be starting at level zero with Arabic, a language I haven't done ANY work in in any way, to see how the Rosetta method works when you've got nothing - not even an alphabet - to start with.

I had a dream last night that was disturbingly work-relevant: I was meeting with a contact at the Washington Mall, and was passed the intel that "two major hospitals are ditching Cerner (EMR software) and going to Epic at the same time - it'll be a death blow to Cerner... the project is called 'BLUE HAMMER'." It was just a dream, but... "Blue Hammer?"

Last word: As I was driving Bella to the Carnival last night, she noticed a big crowd of cars at a Holiday station.
B: "Dad, why are all those people at Holiday?"
Me: "Probably they need gas in their cars."
B: "Well, THAT'S not the most important thing in life."

Me: "Bella, what IS the most important thing in life?"
B: "Well, being ALIVE, for one."
Me: "What else?"
B: "You know, air, food, water, space".
Me: "What about love?"
B: "Pfffft."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Living like a Player

Checking in to my hotel in Cleveland, they recognized me and welcomed me back. "Three nights?" "Yes, in the Imperial Suite, if you please - the one with the waterfall" in my best "Grey Poupon" voice.

The manager nudged the clerk and they did something to the computer... And now I have a room with a Jacuzzi. I can't say I even knew such a room existed in this hotel... I was sure to plead with them I was only joking, but they insisted on being nice to me.

This is just ridiculous. But I do love it.

It has been a busy day already, and I have a dinner meeting ahead. The week is stacked with meetings, but also I have a little "side" project I'll be doing in the next 2 weeks to add around 20 hours to my income, which will be nice. Lots of research and decision matrix-ing.

More as it happens, people.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cleveland's Finest

Good food day: Tried another small, Cleveland-only sub shop called GRUM'S, where almost all sandwiches include the word Grum. Like the Grum. The Grumster. The GrumSTEER, the SeaGrum, and Grumizza. We all liked it, but are more fans of Dave's Cosmic Subs a few doors down. Plus, the people weren't that friendly. Sort of just stared us down as we walked in. That's Cleveland Style, though, as our visit to the small italian deli a few weeks back showed.

Speaking of Cleveland Style, I couldn't resist a visit to Cleveland's finest pizza tonight. It was good as I remembered. I took a nap upon returning to the hotel room... though it was short and followed with 3 more hours of work. YES.

At work today, I felt great leaps forward in a few meetings, only to have a frustrating bit at the end: I was engaged in something of a dance with two parties - one who was asking for a date to be moved, one who was directly affected by the date moving. I was trying to get the date asker to qualify the request, so that I didn't have to bug the affected party unduly, and this was NOT critical - I had a few days to get this resolved.

Halfway through the exchange, one of the parties (who was actually only copied on the email, not an active participant) decided this is an "issue" and escalated it to my boss and my boss' boss. Who then called around that made everyone just do that damn thing.

Which means I now have one less card to play with the affected party (I was trying to keep his team's workload low and build some credit), and the asking party now knows they can holler for what they want without justification. I spent the afternoon cleaning that mess up.

People. I had this under control. TRUST THE JIMMY.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Up in the Air

Travel travel travel. After 10 wonderful days at home, I'm back in the Land of Cleve. The flight out was typical, the rental was ready, the hotel had a room on my favorite floor.

My office was dark and quiet... But as I've described in the past - there's a front door that is locked, and a back way in through a kitchen and an unused office into our workspace. So I barged on through, to find a woman practicing yoga in the unused office. With a TV and DVD player. I murmured an apology and hustled past, actually stepping around her. It was a little awkward. These quiet corners of the gigantic facility we're in - I think everyone has a place they like to hide out in. Another day a woman had her head down on the desk and was blasting music on headphones. Obviously a chill out space. I feel like I should put a sign on the door - "Go ahead and use this space to chill - just don't mind us".

My first room at the hotel tonight was one of those "adjoining" ones with a door between rooms. This is never a problem, unless one person in the arrangement happens to like television. Then that thin door is no match for the audio waves, and we're both enjoying Cleveland's Number One News Team. Fortunately they have a few open rooms here, so they moved me without a fuss (no point in bugging mister TV guy - it's not his fault - in a normal room, nobody would have heard anything).

Bella had another set of Synchro meets this weekend, and did quite well: Her team placed second, and she got 8th place out of 22 girls in her compulsory figures, so good going Bella!!! Isaac, Zinsser, and I held down the fort while that was going on... thought we did go see her performance on Sunday at the hottest (temperature wise) pool in the twin cities. It was muggy, steamy, and unreasonable. But the girls in suits were probably comfortable. Us spectators, trapped in PANTS were left to simmer.

Oh, a followup point on an earlier post: I was able to find the Radio Edit of Boom Boom Pow, in which they don't say "S**t" a dozen times. Which was a good find, though you can't buy it like that from iTunes, Amazon, or anywhere else. So I just say "thank you internet" for my sources for finding a hit song without the cusswords. The kids are happy (and none the wiser).

Allright, off to creative ventures: I'm trying to take at least a half hour of every day and be creative in some way (Blogging sort of counts) - I'm back to Languages for a little, and some music too... no big expectations. Just something to stir the grey matter around a bit. It's good.