Saturday, June 26, 2010

A good week at home

It was a work-from-home week, and it was wonderful... but no less busy than any other week, alas. I have over 20 hours of regularly scheduled conference calls every week, so I spent a lot of time up on the 3rd floor with the handsfree earpiece in. My cellphone bill will be atrocious: I've already hit 2300 minutes for the month and have a week left in the billing cycle.

Lots of good work done, however... Did have a bit of a blow to discover that one of the two remaining candidates for my permanent replacement out in Cleveland has taken a permanent position in New York. So we're down to either one outsider, or... I don't know. I'm still holding to my August date, however. If they can't move on their own behalf, I can't help them.

Had the boys over for scotch on Wednesday: We went light - only a 4 bottle lineup, including a very old Caol Ila, an amazing Longrow 18, and my Longmorn 30.... and to end we couldn't resist adding in my Port Ellen 27, which was cashed in the process. As to the movie, it was the horrible horrible movie 2012. We went into it with our expectations well planted in the basement, and somehow it STILL managed to disappoint us. There was just too much that didn't work, and it was just too too too terrible. It's tough when a movie has such amazing set pieces (They dropped an aircraft carrier RIGHT ON THE PRESIDENT'S FACE), and yet is so completely unsatisfying. We made due with non-stop commentary... and that only barely got us to the end. When Captain Squintyface says "there's a reason they call it the Cape of Good Hope", all three of us just groaned and threw up our hands.

I'm sure you're wondering: No I didn't get an iPhone4 yet: I'm more than happy to let the craze die down for a while and pick one up in more measured circumstances in a couple of weeks. I wouldn't mind getting the white one, which doesn't come out until late July anyway.

It's a quiet morning here in Edina: We had some storms blow through last night, and the tornado sirens went off, which had Bella in tears. But 30 min later, it was all clear. I'm Solo Dad for a couple of days: Pamela and her "free range chickens" got a line on a free cabin (with boat) for the weekend, so they piled into a minivan with margarita fixings, diet coke, and prosecco and chocolate and headed up north. So the kids and I have some fun planned, starting with Isaac's swim lesson in a few minutes.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I'll be moderating comments, such as they are. I've had some problems with religious comment spams recently - having to do more deleting than I'm happy doing.

So if you want to comment - please go ahead and do so, but be aware it'll take an hour to show up.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Father's Day Weekend

Oh Strep. On Thursday we discovered Bella is suffering from Strep, not just sunstroke from 3 full days at the pool. By Saturday, we suspected that Pamela might have it, as she passed out for a few hours then crawled off to sleep early. So today, Father's Day, we got to see a Minute Clinic... The quick test was negative, the long test will come back in a few days, and Pamela was back on the couch.

No matter - while Mother's Day is often about "making things easy for Mom", Father's Day is always all about Dad and Kid Action. And action we had: A visit to the Apple Store AND Guitar Center! Lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. And what is Father's Day without a Pixar Movie?

The original plan was flawless:
Step 1 - watch Toy Story 1 and 2 with the kids on Saturday. Watch Isaac's reactions. Can he handle it? YES HE COULD.
Step 2 - Get reserved seats for the 3:55 show at the Icon theater. That way we can walk in at the last minute after the loud scary previews and just watch the movie.
Step 3 - Pamela is on Isaac duty in case things get too scary.

What with the strep, step 3 sort of fell apart, so I left her on the couch and proceeded with the plan, bringing both kids: There were two points in the movie that were just too much for Isaac: One was the sad clown's story, the other was the incinerator scene. I spoil nothing - but these were definite dramatic peaks of the movie, and I had Isaac yelling "I WANT TO GO HOME NOW!". So I took him down to the hallway, and told him what was happening in the movie and that everything was going to be ok. REALLY. And I got him back in the theater and back on my lap. By the end he was laughing and cheering, loving how it all turned out.

I will not spoil the movie for people here: Everyone who liked 1 and 2 needs to see this. It is brilliant closure to the story, and a powerful story about growing up. Of course tears were streaming down my cheeks as the credits rolled... absolutely incredible. I do plan to see it again - but I'll leave Isaac at home. Bella was a champ by the way.

After a dinner of grilled cheeses on the back porch, it was off to bed. I got Isaac ready for bed and cuddled him until he was asleep. Then into Bella's room, where we read 1/2 of a Magic Treehouse (Earthquake!) and she was so tired she nodded off shortly thereafter. Holding both my kids as they fell into slumber was a magical way to end father's day.

And even better was knowing I'll be in town all week - no sneaking off on Monday morning with them asleep. This will be a good week.

1) Last night before bed, Isaac and Bella both had me pushing them on the swingset. Bella challenged me to push Isaac's swing ONE HUNDRED TIMES. I accepted the challenge, and she counted every swing, but by the end, she had adopted a crazy opera singer voice and was singing each number with a little vibrato trill at the end. I almost didn't make it to 100 I was laughing so hard. Isaac was just in the swing zone. Silent, serious, happy.

2) An image I love: When I do one of my absurd jokes with Bella, she does a fabulous "straight man" reaction: Her face gets stony, her mouth turns down in a slight frown, and she fixes me with a look and narrows her eyes.

3) Isaac has picked up an interesting vocal tweak recently. He's extending vowels into extra syllables: The word "eat" has become "ee-yut", "Please" become "Plee-yus", "good" is "guh-wood"... I'm not sure where it's coming from, but it's cute as all get out. He's also experimenting with big words: "suppose", "eventually", and "probably" are inserted into just about any sentence.

4) Bella with her iPod: She's got to the point now of asking me to add songs to it: Last week she asked for the Spice Girls "Wannabe" - she's been singing it around the house. This weekend, it was "Owl City" who makes very earnest synthpop with kid-friendly lyrics. She goes to a happy place when she's listening to music.

I just want to have in the internet record: My kids are very cute.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's an ok week...

Those big meetings with lots of people in the room... I haven't spent that much time in them. I've been interviewing people to join the team, and doing planning work, but when you get right down to it, the subjects they're discussing are really low-level "once you're done doing X, do you want to do Y or Z?" sort of design questions. And my job is to make sure there's a team in place who can deliver on those decisions, but not to participate in the making of those decisions.

So in a strange way, the week has been a good one for just getting REAL work done - all of the people I need to be managing have things to be doing.

I started "the conversation" with my boss today, too. I let him know that while I'm happy to be helping out, this isn't the work I prefer, and that I'm looking to transition. It was pretty bold. And we're working on our plan. He had always planned to replace me, but he admitted he was getting complacent because I was actually doing a good job... so we're back on track with the replace-me project.

And just in time - the other, more fun opportunities are popping up all over the place - Data Warehouse, PACS, Cardiovascular.... I'm looking forward to a work-at-home week next week: I'm getting all bold with my demands now that I know that a) I'll be outta there soon-ish, and b) there are other opportunities.

On the home front... Bella has been going to swim camp in the mornings, and Pamela and Isaac have been bringing lunch to the pool for afternoons of splashy fun. We have memberships at the Edina Pool which has both a regular pool (with diving boards AND a ZipLine), and a kiddy splashy area. Isaac and Bella love both areas. I'll be going with them this weekend I hope, should the weather hold. Maybe I'll sneak out there with them during the week next week too... Shhhhhh don't tell anyone.

Got a report from Pamela that Isaac was "adopted" by 4 5th grade boys at the playground today, and the 5 of them played for over an hour. Apparently, they treated Isaac well and there was no teasing - and at the end, they all gave Isaac a hug. The Mayor in full effect.

Media Update:
"Check it Out with Dr Steve Brule" is an a strange fake cable-access show starring John C Reilly as a frizzy haired idiot. These 11 minute shows are simply ridiculous, and I love them. Watch them HERE

Buffy: I'm 3/4 of the way through Season 3, and am in complete awe. Just watched two classic episodes - The Zeppo and Doppelgangerland. This is high art. If you're curious about Buffy, you can pretty much start with Season 2... just get some background details from someone in the know. Season 1 was uneven and while sometimes fun, it wasn't great. But hoo boy, by Season 3, it is just SMOKING. Also, I may need to re-evaluate my calling Isaac "The Mayor" based on what is happening on the show...

So You Think You Can Dance: Not sure about the big re-structuring of the show format, but the past two seasons there were so many issues with "dud partners" - the whole "Mollee and Nathan" thing - how she really blossomed once she got a new partner, and the whole "Evan" thing... So I think the superstars concept is great, especially since Kathryn and Mark are back...

Time to rest. I will NOT Watch one more Buffy before bed. REALLY.

Monday, June 14, 2010


It was a short weekend: Thursday I took off from Cleveland to Philly, where I caught the Phillies get beat by the Marlins while we schmoozed clients in a skybox. Friday was an all day strategy session followed by a marathon dinner at Alma de Cuba.

The hotel in Philly was a cute boutique place in center city, with some of the most punishingly hard beds I've ever been on. I think there have been floors that have been more comfortable. All day at our Friday session, people took turns stretching and groaning. It was good bonding, however.

By the time the alarm went off to head home on Saturday, I was well ready to get back to my life... I was able to walk into the house by 11 on Saturday, and spent a whirlwind weekend with the family. Bella had two parties to go to: A dog-themed birthday party on Saturday, and a going away party for her 1st grade friend Minori whose family is moving back to Japan. I asked if Bella would like to be Minori's pen pal.. Bella was concerned that once in Japan, she would only speak Japanese.

I think it would be fun to teach Bella Japanese.

Somewhere in there, Pamela and I got caught up on So You Think You Can Dance (staying up WAY too late to do so), and Isaac and I spent some time at Edinborough Park as well. Also, lots of cuddles, and I even mowed the lawn.

This morning, Isaac was up and at'em at 4:15... even before I was supposed to be up to get to Cleveland. So we had breakfast together and played with some cars. We picked out a couple of cars for me to take to work. A kiss and I was off to the airport. Pamela later reported that Isaac did NOT go back to sleep - but he did get a little nap in the afternoon.

A mechanical issue had us switching planes and getting into Cleveland 90 minutes late. I hopped into a Hyundai at National Car Rental and was thrilled with the radio selection.

I'm a guy who reprograms every rental car I get into: I set the NPR station first on the FM band, and if it has Sirius Radio, I have my favorites: First Wave (80s alternative), Area (trance), BPM (house), Chill (ambient). So imagine my joy at getting into a rental to find all of the above ALREADY PROGRAMMED (and no, I had not been in this car before). So there was one more program button.... what had my mystery benefactor left for me? Sirius Q Gay Talk.

Somehow I felt... categorized. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

Anyway, I have a usual busy week ahead here - more of those long meetings in rooms with dozens of people. But I have a sense of peacefulness: One of the things that came out of the strategy sessions in Philly was full backup from my whole team that we're getting me out of Cleveland. So I don't feel quite as trapped, and it's making me feel ok.

Making me feel even better: Got a call from one of the partners this afternoon asking if I had experience with a specific area of geekitude: And yes, I have that experience in spades. Looks like a gig in New Orleans of the type I like: 2-3 days of interviews down there, then 2-3 weeks of work at home to deliver a design. Just knowing that they're finding the sort of thing that would allow me to flex my geek muscles AND be at home more has already made me feel less panicky.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Three Images

1) Bella on Sunday night: She thinks that when you die you stand on God's shoulders and try to reach the stars. All of the dead people are up there and the pile is REALLY high. And Grant is up on the top reaching.

2) Isaac in the car on Monday: I was flipping past radio stations and stopped on one that was playing some classic 1950s rock and roll. Isaac said "I love this music! Do you know this music? What is it called?" I said "It's Rock and Roll".

He said "Oh yes. I used to LOVE this music, back when I was a different big kid. And you were a different Daddy, and Mom was a different Mommy. And I was black."

Obviously, he was channeling SOMETHING... I'm not sure what to make of that one. The barriers between realities are pretty soft for the young, and I think there's a window in there where they have language but the door starts closing. I think we should listen more to 3 year olds... bearing in mind that a lot of it will also have to do with Lightning McQueen and Chick Hicks. You need to listen for the gems. This was the age at which Bella was mystically referring to "Tree is coming" as well...

3) Today Pamela was in the back yard with Bella and Zinsser and Isaac went back into the house. After a while Pamela asked Bella to check on Isaac, and ran back out sputtering.

Yes, Isaac had pulled a chair up to the kitchen sink, taken out the sprayer, and had turned our counter into a waterfall, with a big grin. There was a sloshable amount of water on the floor, and at least one phone was soaked... Good to know that in addition to being a potentially wise old soul, Isaac is also still a rambunctious kid.

I promised cute...

Last weekend was quite the adventure: I flew home on Thursday afternoon and was greeted at the airport by Mister Marshmallow with the whole family and Zinsser inside. I jumped in and it was road trip time - Chicagoland, here we come! The kids were in a good mood, mollified by the DVD player, and Zinsser proved himself to be a stupendous road trip dog, sitting quietly in our laps the whole trip.

We pulled in to the Residence Inn Schaumburg just after 10, and Bam was there to meet us. I cashed in a few Marriott points (well, 90,000 of them to be fair) to pay for two rooms for three nights. Zinsser is a welcome guest at this hotel, and promptly marked his territory in the park behind the inn. Isaac was overtired, and needed some extra comfort, so Dad was with Bella on the hide-a-bed, while Mom and Isaac got the "real bed". This was to be the case for the rest of the trip, by the way.

Friday was mostly for fun - a lazy morning, a Portillos lunch, a visit to Grandma, and 3 hours at a Toyota dealership. Ok, maybe that last part wasn't fun. Last year, we had some "dead battery" issues with Mister Marshmallow, and you know, you don't want a dead battery in an electric car. At the time, they recharged it and tested it, and it was good to go. So when we popped into the car at the Senior Home, I was a bit surprised to find electrical problems.

The funny thing is that in this car, a dying battery looks a lot like a hollywood movie where "the hacker" is bringing down the network: Dashboard lights pulsing on and off, the displays (mileage and navigation) powering on and off, with lines of static, and rebooting rapidly... I was waiting for Isaac to morph into Agent Smith, really. Then it all went dead. So I had to call for help, while the rest of the family grabbed a ride back to the hotel with other relatives and swam the afternoon away.

Long story short - I got a new battery, and had to wait quite a while for it, because they needed to reprogram a bunch of stuff as a result. Do not mess with the hybrid. NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE. I got it.

Lilli and Rich and Bridget came by for pizza and chatting: Bridget was talking about her job as an Apple Store Turnaround Specialist. She gets moved to underperforming Apple stores and gets them back in shape. What a cool job... and of course she has an iPad that she loves.

Oh - sidebar - that "problem" you read about with the iPad and the security: It's not the iPad - it's ATT. And because I use my iPad with a Sprint hotspot, I'm not at risk. Not that there was much at risk really - just an email address and the knowledge that this person with this email address owns an iPad. So the next person who tries to say "the iPad got hacked" goes to Jimmy Jail. At&T got hacked, not Apple. THE END.

I was exhausted from the day and asked nicely for a little nap at 5. Sometime around 6, Isaac came in to say hi... and I didn't hear from him again. At 6:15 I got up and discovered him flat on the ground with a didda - he literally just fell down and went to sleep in the middle of the hotel floor. OF COURSE we picked him up and put him into our bed.

Saturday was the big day (and yes, the hide-a-bed WAS comfortable, thanks for asking). In the AM, Bella got to go with Lilli to the stable and watch her ride AND she got to ride a pony too. Isaac and I swam for an hour, then went to Five Guys: He is now a huge fan of peanuts - I crack the shells, and he opens them up to remove "The Babies" which he lines up and then eats.

In the afternoon: The big event: Bailey and Ty, my friends I've known since they were 3 months old, graduated from High School and are off to college. So we crashed their Graduation Party.

They were completely shocked to see us, in a good way. We had sent decoy cards and gifts, and Ty's first words on seeing us were "but you sent a card! We thought you weren't coming!!!" Of course, we were dressed as pirates (Palatine Pirates!), with eyepatches, hats (I had a combo hat/wig), and red-black pirate clothes. Bella had a parrot, and we all had big inflatable swords. And in a move that could best be described as "awesome" - there was a moonwalk at the party.

I repeat: There was a moonwalk at Ty and Bailey's graduation party.

Isaac spent the next three hours in that jumper, emerging only to take in fluids. 3 solid hours of nonstop jumping. He was the happiest guy in the world. Bella was jumping too, but she was also off with some kids her age talking about things first graders talk about... I have no idea. When we got home, Isaac still took a little time to get to sleep. IN OUR BED, did I mention? But we were able to transfer him to the hideabed, at least until he woke up at 3 and kicked me back to the hide-a-bed. But those were some nice hours I had.

Bella went to bed a little later because at 9pm who should show up finally but Papa! He was on a business trip to Indiana, and got back Saturday night. When he came in, Bella walked up to him without saying a word and held him for a solid minute with her eyes shut. She loves her Papa, and Papa loves her.

Sunday had the kids up early to play with Papa, some more swimming in the AM, then packing up. I went to get Burritos from Chipotle and Burgers from Portillos to fuel us up. We hit the road just after 1, and got home around 8-ish. Again, the car DVD player was a good good thing. We got word about Grant on the drive home... but waited until bedtime to have the talk.

In all it was a wonderful weekend capped with a sad coda... but a wonderful weekend nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

This Post...

This was going to be about the amazing weekend we just came away from, and about cute things Isaac and Bella have said recently, and maybe a little kvetching about Cleveland... but instead it's an update to this post from last year.

I haven't written much about Grant in the intervening months - he had been going to school for much of the year, in Bella's class. His family did their best to make it an incredible year for him: He went to the Olympics, to Disneyworld, and he got to meet a lot of his sports heroes as well. And then he had a whole lot of medical treatments.

As typically happens, the first round of chemo shrank the tumor and gave Grant some of his life back. The drugs weakened his body so he was put on massive steroids... He bulked up to twice his weight, but it gave him the ability to be with his friends and family. But a couple of months ago, the tumor started growing again: A month ago, Grant decided not to go back to school. And on Sunday at 3pm, he died.

His classmates made him a video a couple of weeks ago: In it, Bella read a poem with her friend Miles. On Monday morning, the whole school found out about Grant's passing, and social workers were all over the place. Bella's class watched their video to him to remember... and in typical 7 year old style, they were giggling at and with their friends... The gravity of this can't really sink in for most of them: Bella was more of an acquaintance than close friend (Grant was a very Boy-boy, and loved sports - I suspect he and Isaac would have been a better match), and by the end of Monday, she was tired of all of the fuss and just wanted to play.

(Update: I should clarify - Bella was and is very sad about this - but I just wanted to show that for a first grader, life moves on pretty quickly... I suspect we'll have echoes of sadness for quite a while to come. While Bella declared herself "tired" of talking about it by last night, she also was on a hair trigger with Isaac, and stayed up until 10 talking... so we all process in our own ways)

It's hard as a dad to even imagine what Grant's parents and family went through: On Sunday night, I spent a long time just staring at Isaac and Bella as they slept. I looked at pictures of Grant's progression, and read his parents brave updates on Caringbridge, and was just overwhelmed with sadness. I don't know how someone could ever get over something that sad... but I know people do.

Anyway, I just wanted to have this post out there... and I'll get around to telling you about the amazing weekend we had before we found out, and about the funny things the kids said, and yes, I'll even tell you about Cleveland some more. But not right this minute.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

How they live

While in Cleveland I like to experience the full range of delights at the rental agencies have to offer. I have recently enjoyed the 'driving a cube' life with both the Kia Soul and the Nissan Cube. I have done the USA MUSCLE CAR route with a Mustang and a Dodge Charger. I've done the small car thing with the Escort, the Mazda 3, and the Toyota Echo. but aside from one stinky car in Philly i have not HATED a car until today.

Today i decided to try a Jeep Wrangler. The moment i hit the highway I knew this would be a challenge. Crosswinds buffeted me like a semitrailer. The engine roared but accelerated weakly. The seat was both too low to see properly and too high in that my knees bumped the wheel. The stereo was tinny and harsh. And i think i blew a quarter tank before i made it to the job site. I exaggerate of course for semi comic effect but nonetheless, i was put out: why does this car exist? Why do people BUY these? I want to stand outside of a Jeep dealership and pass out pamphlets. Offer hugs to those lost souls looking to buy one of these monsters.

I think a Hummer actually makes more sense as a vehicle. How sad is that? ANYWAY.

The weekend is over and it was a wonderful long break from work. I didn't touch work for 3 days, and i realized today that I didn't get behind as a result either. Interesting.

I spent a half hour on my outdoor couch yesterday, enjoying the breeze and sunshine while my dog raced about happliy. There was yet another neighborhood BBQ and the kids played and played. Isaac fought bedtime tooth and nail until his head actually hit the pillow, at which point he zonked peacefully. Bella and I had great reading time and cuddles, and she too was out pretty quickly.

I snuck out this morning at the unreasonable hour of 5:20. I told the cab company 5:30, but i guess they were just all up and early. Allowed me to chill at the airport a bit i suppose,

I'm staying at a 'real' marriott this week - not the traveler budget ones (courtyard, residence inn) but the real capital M Marriott. And it is very nice. VERY NICE, A guy could get used to this.