Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Dream Job

I had the following dream last night. Analysis is welcome, but not required.

I have been called by one of my partners (Dan C) in my company to meet him at a large house in New Hampshire for a consulting gig. Dan and I sit down with a man, who is very concerned: His daughter is at college and he's afraid she may get herself into trouble - she needs role model and cautionary tale wrapped into one.

So my assignment is to dress up as a teenage girl, enroll in this college, and befriend his daughter. But I will also be pregnant, so that I can be a warning to her about the dangers of fast living in college. It's a 3 month gig, and when can I start?

I look to Dan and say "really, me? I don't look very good as a girl" (which is something in real life Pamela has told me more than a few times). Dan raises his eyebrows and says "look at our company - who else do we have?"

And so I start to work out the logistics - if I'm living in a girl's dorm, how will I secretly shave? When will I put on my pregnancy pillow? How will I get up to speed on the music these kids like these days? Will this work?

Fortunately I woke up before this scheme got out of the planning stages.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Back to last week...

I'm sitting at the pool while Bella gets going with Synchronized Swimming, and am thinking about where I was just one week ago...

Where we left off was a great week, leading into the weekend:
We got up early and started the 13 block walk from Canal street to the funky arts area on Frenchman Street. We met the whole gang and set out on a guided tour of New Orleans neighborhoods on cruiser bikes (single speed, fat tires, comfy seats). We visited the artsy neighborhoods, the upper ninth ward, Treme,, and skirted through part of the French Quarter too: We talked about the history and culture of the area, learned some things about Katrina, architecture, and more... In 3 hours we only rode about 8 miles total, but we snaked through areas that were beautiful and rich in culture, but off of the beaten path. We all agreed this was maybe one of the best tours we'd ever been on.

If you're ever down there, these guys are worth every penny: The Confederacy of Cruisers

Pamela and I sort of forgot that the bike tour was taking place OUTSIDE, so we didn't properly apply sunscreen. We were good and red by the end. We all set out to find lunch, and were stymied time after time to find a table for our group of nine... So after 45 min of trying, we agreed to split up and catch as catch can.

Of course within 15 minutes, we were all at the same restaurant, sitting at two tops and the counter, mere feet from one another. It was pretty amusing.

In the evening, we piled into a cab (literally - it was 10 of us in one minivan cab, sitting on laps), and headed to the Garden District. After a little walkaround, we had dinner. An aperitif on the menu I couldn't pass up: BACON INFUSED BOURBON. It was actually pretty delicious, but you don't want to think too hard about how it was done.

To close the evening, we went back up to Frenchman St to the Spotted Cat (or the "Potted Cactus" as I malaproped) jazz club, where the brass band was veering between T-Bone Burnett style "brother where art thou" country jazz numbers and wild Klezmer songs, with the crowd breaking into impromptu hora dancing.

It was a raucous end of a fun week, and it was the "perfect" New Orleans music experience to end the night on (much better than the burlesque from the night before). We stayed FAR FAR away from Bourbon Street on our walk home, to keep the good feeling going.

Sunday we slept in and had a nice late breakfast at the Stanley restaurant off of Jackson Square, then met up with Papa who had driven for two straight days to attend a conference down there plus do some pro-bono gold leaf work for a church. We wandered through some royal street antique stores, and parted ways for us to head to the airport.

We got home, with Isaac asleep and Bella waiting up for us. I got to cuddle her to sleep, and it recharged my batteries.

At least until I got up at 4am to head back to the airport for my week in hell. But that's another update.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

One of those amazing weeks

We had our company retreat in New Orleans this week, and it was incredible. Mon and Tues, I worked remote for Cleveland, and flew to NO in the afternoon... and we had our first great dinner together - the 9 principals of the company. The hotel was a funky french quarter place - not very luxurious, but functional. My room faced Decateur so I had a fair amount of traffic noise coming in the window, plus some late afternoon jazz wafting in ruining my naps.

Wednesday was an all day retreat for the Principals, where we went over all sorts of operational and strategic STUFF. In the evening, the rest of the company showed up (26 more consultants!), and we had a fine dinner at Mr B's - we had a private room that we filled with laughter and increasingly loud conversations. At the end, half of the crowd went out the door to the left (back to the hotel) and half went to the right... toward Bourbon Street.

Oh, Bourbon Street, you scalawag. It is drunk disneyland, and just depressing, but if you get a few into you, it becomes sort of fun. We finished the night at Pat O'Brien's dueling piano room, and a hurricane was purchased and no surprises a headache followed on Thursday AM. Not TOO bad, but boy, those sweet drinks are just a bad idea. BAD BAD BAD idea.

Thursday we started the formal "retreat" for all of the associates - going over the company goals and getting into some educational sessions. We had a great keynote speaker - the CIO of the Cayman Islands Health System. The guy is a visionary who has been in a lot of leading practice places (including building one of the first successful healthcare data warehouses), and he shared his time generously.

Thursday night was another dinner out at Maximo's Italian Grill on Decateur (1 block from our hotel). We were hanging out on the gallery overlooking the street, and had a nice long dinner... but I needed to duck out early, because I had a very important visitor... GOOGY!!!

Pamela flew in Thursday evening, and so I raced to the hotel to see her. It was nice to have her here.

Friday AM, we woke up early and schlepped our stuff down the street (ok, 10 blocks) to the JW Marriott, stopping briefly for some chicory coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde. The JW was accommodating, letting us check in at 8am (!!!) and upgrading our room... which I was paying for with points anyway - FREE ROOM! Then I was back to the meeting, while Pamela had a nap, then some spa appointments, then some antiquing.

The session on Friday was again wonderful: We had a panel of 3 CIOs for whom we do work come and talk about their challenges and how people like us are ideally helpful. It was one hour of structured Q&A, and then they hung out for another hour for chatting - and that was just amazing access for us to have. BTW - Not by plan, but they were Cerner and Siemens site CIOs, not Epic...

Friday night the consultants were on their own, and leadership went to dinner at Bayona... but and afterwards went to a formal hotel ballroom on Bourbon Street where some very average Jazz was being served up... we were sort of checking our watches, but the owner of our company seemed happy there, so we were willing to give a little time... and then things took an unexpected turn: The show turned into a burlesque - dancers on boxes throughout the room, with the band playing blues stomps while the ladies slowly did striptease... the end result was a g-string and pasties, so it was strictly PG13, but it was just funny, because the ladies were totally hamming it up and bringing a lot of character. It was a situation where we were all at first confused, then annoyed (we don't as a rule like going to strip clubs) and then amused.

Saturday was another day, but I need to post later - it's time for breakfast.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Walking in Philly

Last night, out with some buddies in Philly, I passed an "Edible Arrangements" store and was stopped dead in my tracks by the poster in the window:


Now don't be scared to click that link: Edible Arrangements just does fruit - they're not some sort of erotic edible clothing company or anything. But do be scared of the link because somehow they are selling fruit arrangements with a NASCAR theme.

I don't have language to tell you about how strange that is. Also, I'm not really the biggest Nascar guy, but I'm pretty sure that when you're trying to feature cars with different drivers, they're not all the same black and white checkered car with a number sticker on the door: The whole thing with Nascar is the bright unique colors of the cars. I know this because I have watched the movie CARS 86 times.

Oh god, I just pulled the number 86 out of my head, and yes, it's the car number for "bad guy" car Chick Hicks from the movie. The movie CARS.

I am ready for bed now.


Somehow my last post passed by without my realizing it was number 800. That's quite a bit of Blog, people.

I'm in Philly right now waiting to get on the plane home: I was out here revisiting with the team I did work for last year in the Cardiac Center: It turns out that they are looking for some help getting my recommendations from last year moving: There were some management changes, a few other projects were delayed, and the bottom line is that things are ALMOST exactly where they were when I left. But I think we can get them back on track.

I had 4 hours of meetings, and will be preparing some statements of work (with the plan being I manage and direct the work remotely with some controllable hands on site). But I just felt ENERGIZED and excited - talking about clinical projects again... and imaging technology, it fired off all my geek neurons and I've been giddy all day.

I'm also a little giddy because I can't wait to get home and cuddle the family AND watch On the Road with Austin and Santino, which is my "happy place" show. I really want to be Austin when I grow up. Also on the media, Fringe continues to not-disappoint - it just keeps being amazing. If you're not watching it, I got nothing to say to you. Just watch it.

So in sort of an anti-Jimmy thing: You'll recall that I got "caught" saying NICE things about a company, and mild embarrassment ensued, but it was all nice (though I haven't heard back on any possible "next steps"... Epic....). Anyway, I got an email from a friend who wanted to know what he should do: A contractor on HIS project has left a series of frankly immature comments on his Facebook page about the project and the client. It's not even "abstracted" the way I do with my posts.

I don't have any good advice, but I need to share the awesome quote from my friend: "(D)on't live your life out loud and then wonder what went wrong when somebody pays attention to it." Good words in this public age. From now on, I'm going to even substitute the CITY NAME in my updates.

Well, can't wait to head back to AKRON.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The I in Interim

Ok. A Cleveland Post. FINE.

My position is interim - a full time employee is the budgeted resource, but they've had trouble finding someone qualified. You need to want to live in Cleveland, and right now the skillset they want is VERY in demand across the country - a person who is not already living here with the right skills can really have their pick of cities to move to if they want to be an FTE. Or if they want to consult, it's even better.

So when you have a resource who actually lives in town, and has the right skills, AND wants to work for you, you move on them. And so it was that I was sitting in an interview this morning with this candidate, who is a bright, dynamic, and very very qualified person. My thought is, ask some questions, but definitely also SELL the position a bit.

I didn't get much of a chance to because the two other people in the interview (my boss, and a peer) dominated the discussion, even preventing the candidate from answering questions at times. And at two separate points, the two actually sidetracked into several minutes of arguments about technical details, while I watched in dismay. My attempts to redirect were brushed off, and I gave the candidate the old "raised eyebrows" meaning "I tried".

At least the candidate got a full show of what to expect from the environment. I left the interview both happy that a good candidate was found, and worried that she'd never come back again.

I am hopeful, however. Because there's so much I want to do in the world, and I really want them to find their permanent person - they need it so much!


Somehow it's Tuesday and I'm back in Cleveland, comme d'habitude. It was such a busy weekend I can scarcely recall it all, but there was Circus School, the Children's Museum, a celebration of a friend's Doctorate (with a bit of good whisky), a neighborhood BBQ (with the kids running around late again), a few hours at a laundromat washing I believe everything we own, mowing, raking, and two celebrations for Bella's B-Day. Plus Bella got to go see the 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

It was a crazy 48 hours. I fear more detail is beyond my scope right now... but I will offer some images:

1) Bella got a whoopee cushion for her Birthday and she basically thought it was the funniest thing she had ever encountered ever. She was making EVERYTHING fart, and I was game too - until she slipped it under me with the flap tucked under, and I POPPED it. It made her laugh even harder, but I was about to cry. We got her another one.

1a) The cushion I broke was the old school flat one, but we replaced it with a "self inflating" one. Now, I'm not sure these new fangled whoopee cushions are capable of the same level of juicy flatus and the old school, but we'll see. I think the quality of the toot can be offset by the rapid reset and ability to generate MORE toots per minute.

2) Bella got Yahtzee for her B-Day. We rocked a game, and it was awesome. I love that game.

3) She also got the BOOK for Bartholomew Cubbins, and I read it a couple of times. I'm still trying to work out if there's a good message in this book... yes, there's the basic "stuff happens" premise about how bad things can happen for no reason. There's also an endorsement of the unreasonable behavior of the king - he's never called out for being wrong about the hats, and in the end he is rewarded for his persistent unreasonableness with a beautiful treasure. And I guess the lesson for Bartholomew is if you just quietly submit to power, eventually there's a reward for you.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

4) In spite of it all, we did take some breaks. Some naps were taken, hugs were given and received. Love was all around.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Ready for home!

Bella turns EIGHT tomorrow, and I'm catching an early flight home to meet her at the bus and have Taco Night... and maybe just maybe start Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It has been a busy busy week: I was at the office for 12 hours - 7:30 to 7:30, and I was neither the first person there, nor the last to leave. People are just killing themselves on this project, and there's 9 months to go before our first golive. That said, I'm still hoping to be in a "reduced role" by Thanksgiving.

I also had a kickoff meeting for the work in Allentown today: A bit of a rough start to the call: I thought it was an executive steering committee and I'd field a few questions. It wound up being a clinical work team and they were right out the gate with tough questions, and my "high level presentation" was useless. This was SUPPOSED to be for coordination for the actual project start in 3 weeks. Sigh. Add to this, my project sponsor was on PTO today, so I had no backup in the room. By the end, it was all smiles, however. At least I think they were smiling - I was on the phone.

For lunch, I made Mother Earth cry: I got a peanut butter sandwich from the deli downstairs. The bread was wrapped in cellophane. The peanut butter and jelly were in small plastic containers. There was a plastic knife for spreading, and the whole thing was in a plastic clamshell container. Seriously, a ghost pelican swooped down on me.

Actually - if you remember my story about my pet Turkey Vulture outside my window... there a new visitor: A blue jay likes to drop by and peck on the window until I notice, then cock his head and fly away. He's done it for a few days now. I think he's trying to tell me something.

By 3pm, the PBJ was not holding the hunger back, and strangely, a coworker started sending a series of emails talking about wanting/needing a Whopper. After 30 minutes of these strange messages (including google maps of the closest BK), he burst in and declared he needed a Whopper RIGHT NOW and did I want him to bring me one? Swept up in the madness, I shouted YES YES YES I want a Whopper!!!

20 minutes later I halfheartedly choked down a Whopper. Damn, those are terrible sandwiches.

Final note for the night: Rick and Kari, parents of Bailey and Ty are empty nesting in the most wonderful way: They now have a new iMac and TWO iPads. They're emailing me from coffee shops and talking about App Store apps. The kids going to college has, in their words "turned their brains and wallets to mush". I think they should just keep on having fun. I just think "wow, that's me and Pamela in 14 years!"

And it's off to bed - early morning tomorrow - want to get a lot done at "the office" before heading home to see the family I love.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

So much...

There are some weekends where I feel like I'm cramming a whole week of parenting into two days, and boy is that getting old. I love this time, and I love every second I'm spending with the family, but I leave on Monday AM just SPENT. So what did we do this weekend?

Friday night, Pamela and I got to go out and have a date for her Birthday. We had fish and chips at The Cooper, then passed a romantic hour meandering through Costco. It was actually sort of dreamy... lingering in the office supplies comparing bulk packages of sharpies, without wondering where Isaac had run off to. Grandma had the kids, and by the time we came home, there was a good leaf pile raked on the lawn, and the kids were red cheeked and happy. And pelting us with handfuls of leaves, giggling...

On Saturday AM, I went with Isaac to Circus Juventas classes: this is a full hour class for 16 kids between 3-4 years old. It's structured 15 minutes of warmup, then 3 "stations" rotating for 10-12 minutes each, then 5 minute cooldown. The stations vary by week: This week, it was a balance beam obstacle course, a tumbling trampoline, and the trapeze. Last week it was silk loops (swinging), the german wheel, and a somersault run. First week it was a balance ball, iron hoops (hanging, sitting inside), and basic juggling. Isaac is a very happy boy at these classes, and they do a great job with the kids, keeping a 1:4 student ratio at the stations.

Isaac's favorite thing so far? The silks, actually - he hung in a cocoon for a while and he loved it.

After school, we spent some time walking around the neighborhood, and then Bella and I sat down to to enjoy the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. We finished the book last week, and I promised we'd watch the movie... and we loved it. But where last time, Bella suggested we just watch the movies, this time, she acknowledged that without having read the book, that movie would have been WAY too scary for her. As it was, I got some good cuddles during the Basilisk scenes. Isaac was having NONE of it: He is a movie sissy and doesn't like many surprises in his media. He kept hollering from the top of the stairs "IS THE MOVIE STILL ON? WHEN WILL IT BE OVER???" Bella and I agreed to start Book 3 next week... and no we won't be watching "The Prisoner of Azkaban" until we're done with the book, which will probably be sometime in January.

After the movie, we had dinner at our new favorite - Pizza Luce in Hopkins. Then the whole neighborhood came together for a bonfire and desserts. The kids were running around with flashlights in the dark and whooping it up in the cool evening, and we all came home smelling of wood smoke. Of course our neighbor Ryan tried some new food experiments on us - we gladly overstuffed ourselves with his BBQ Empenadas. The whole evening was wonderful.

Today Pamela and Bella were off to church, and Isaac and I went to his swim lesson. After a short afternoon home, we were BACK to the Foss Swim School for his "friends and neighbors" birthday party. Two hours - one in the pool, one with the presents and the cake. Isaac was pretty tired actually, and I had to jump in the water to make him comfortable... but it was all fun. We finished the night at "The Nexus" - which is my name for a building that has both a Chipotle (for Bella) and a Smashburger (for the rest of us). Isaac was possessed by some maniac urge, and took my onion rings and plowed them into his mouth by the handful, with a wild look in his eye. It was a little disturbing.

After a bath, those kids were out FAST. It was a long weekend. And I'm just holding on... doing my best to blog.

Onto other things:
1) I love numbering my posts.
2) Angry Birds for the iPhone and iPad is a terrible terrible wonderful addictive thing. I have been playing with every free moment I get.
3) Fringe WAS that good. Dang it, that's a wonderful show.
4) I have an idea of how I might be able to work with those nice people at Epic, and will be sending a note along tomorrow. Watch this space.

And with that, I'm off to bed (maybe one more taste of that Caol Ila 12). Cleveland, I'll be seeing YOU in the AM as well.