Saturday, December 31, 2011
"What's for dinner Dad?"
"I don't like Pork."
You do like Pork. You like Bacon and Ham, it's the same thing.
"No, Pork comes from a different part of the pig, and pigs roll around in mud".
They clean the pig before...
"Before they stick the pig? Before they kill it?"
"We shouldn't do that to animals, do you understand?"
I hear you...
"But I asked do you UNDERSTAND?"
Yes, I understand.
"Dad, Pork is OFF THE MENU. FOREVER!" (with a dramatic wave of his hands)
"Pigs.... they just need to SURVIVE".
45 minutes later, Isaac was happily munching on a big strip of bacon.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
First a full confession, it took me until 1983 until I started getting into synth pop at all...
Speak and Spell (their first album, 1981)
Sitting at camp in Colorado in summer 1983. A kid from LA was telling me all about "synth pop", and let me hear a tape on my walkman... side 1 was Depeche Mode Speak and Spell, side 2 was something by OMD. To my virgin ears (and the low quality tape player) it sounded too tinny and awful. It wasn't until 1985 that I truly revisited that album.
A Broken Frame (their second album, 1982):
It took until 1987 - second half of freshman year, at a party. The record was on, and I barely recognized it - I had leapfrogged over that album back in the early 1980s, since I started with Construction Time Again. I remember telling the host that it was "cool that he was into Depeche, but man this is their worst album, isn't it?" The host took it as a bit of an insult, and was right to. In the months that followed, I finally went back and listened to the album, and realized that while not perfect, it really had some great tunes.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Quote 1: With Mom at Breakfast (Reprinted from Pamela's Facebook Post)
Breakfast at Perkins with Isaac before school this week.
His order came. Pancakes with whipped cream and sprinkles and a side of bacon. His "usual".
He looked down and asked "Mom, who chased down this pig?"
"Mom, I'm serious. Who in here chased down this pig. Was it hard to catch him? Was it HER? (points to waitress) Was it hard to get it in here? Who killed it?
Quote 2: In the Car with Dad
I was driving with Isaac the other day and he announced "Dad, I know of a way to take off a penis"
"Actually I know of TWO WAYS to take off a penis".
Ok, what are they?
"Scissors, or a sharp knife"
ISAAC, WE WILL NEVER TALK OF THIS AGAIN.
Quote 3: in Bed
Isaac has been great about his potty training, and the one time he still wears pull-ups is at night. He has been asking about when he can stop wearing them. Our agreement is that if he goes 3 nights with a dry pull-up, he can go commando.
So when we were in bed on night 3 after 2 dry nights, he said "ok, tonight, no peeing. Keep it all in until I wake up and go to the toilet".
I replied "yes, that's right"
"Dad, I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to my penis".
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Steve Kirchman, Chief Building Official
...For Living, Learning, Raising Families & Doing Business
Thursday, December 01, 2011
It is a magic land of robots.
Practically every test involves spinning something, or raising or lowering the temperature, or adding a precise amount of some agent, and then spinning it again, and then adding another re-agent. Over and over. And they have built very interesting machines that do all of this for us. The human measures the sample into a tube and places it into a machine. The machine moves the tube around, spins it, then a needle attached to the end of a robot arm squirts something in there, and then the tube moves some more... And the human watches a screen and notes the numbers that are shown.
I don't know how much fun the actual people are having, but I bet would be LESS fun to be doing all of the repetitive tasks that the machines are doing. And I was hypnotized watching these machines. I was on a simple introductory tour and kept finding myself lagging behind the group because I had become transfixed by yet another robot. I was imagining manic xylophone music, too.
On the tour was a visit to the blood bank: They had a retina scanner for entry (I did try, and the prim british voice said "pull back, come forward, forward, back a little, back a little, ACCESS DENIED"). They had "plasma shakers" - things that looked like glass doored refrigerators, but that had racks and racks of milky plasma in bags, and the racks moved back and forth constantly, shaking the plasma so it wouldn't gel or something. The red blood, that just sat in fridges. But plasma is ALWAYS ON THE MOVE.
I put on a disposable lab coat and went through the virology lab: I saw a clean room where a man was inspecting samples that had been deep frozen and had a thick layer of frost over the labels. I was hopeful that no alien spores were in there... though to be fair, if they were spores, that would be the mycobiology lab, not virology. I passed several robots that were not moving and dark, with sleek glass enclosures and giant monitors next to them indicating that their DECONTAMINATION CYCLE had 3 hours remaining of the 8 required. 8 hours to clean a robot at high heat.
I had to take a call and missed the genetic testing, stem cell, and pathology lab walkthroughs, but I'll have another chance next week.
The system I'll be helping them pick is not robotic, nor does it shake anything. It's the computer system that sits behind it all, tracking the orders for who gets what test, keeps track of who belongs to what sample, and what their results are, and then forwards that info along to their medical record. The organization behind the robots.
And so it was a fun day.
Monday, November 28, 2011
When I'm home, I try to really be home and present for the family. Isaac needs to be played with. Bella needs to be read with. But more importantly, Pamela needs to have time with me in the room (and I need to be with her too) to decompress at the end of the day. It just doesn't seem right or fair for me to disappear upstairs to be working on my Japanese pronunciation or tweaking a bass drum track.
Which isn't to say I'm not pursuing geeky pursuits - I'm reading a lot and still getting caught up on old Doctor Who episodes... but these are things I can do with some earbuds in, sitting and looking at Pamela as she does whatever she's doing (recently it's been research on the 1990s for a set of posters for a Girl Scout sleepover. These girls have no idea what Color Me Badd have in store for them).
I have been spending a fair amount of time at the Gym... but there's a good reason: Isaac LOVES the kids club at the Gym, and asks to go EVERY SINGLE DAY. I try to go every other day. Knowing that he WANTS to play for 90 minutes keeps me on my toes and encourages me to really get a good workout in - I'm running around 4 miles a session now.
Sometimes I bring Bella, but she's much more interested in reading and drawing than dodgeball. Pamela's also in the mix, coming along 3 times a week for her group fitness team... we're all working on health, here. It's good. I'm starting to recognize the crazy guy who used to teach fitness classes... and I think I may actually be in slightly better shape now than I was back then.
So that's what I've been up to: I'm just not quite in a writing state of mind. I'm spending a lot more family time, and more free time is taken up with exercise these days. I'll get there again, don't worry.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Today I had a full hour meeting to discuss what I had put into that email two years ago, and what we should do about it. We went point by point through the email and they explained how this one thing wasn't an issue any more, and how this point was still a problem, and what should we do?
But the strangest thing was that really for most of the document, my recommendations were still valid - they just hadn't gone and done it yet. The whole place was more or less in the SAME PLACE I left them back then.
So I'm actually now looking at the potential for getting a resource engaged with this client to actually go ahead and do the things that I specifically told them to do over 24 months ago, only this time, really make sure they DO it.
Walking out of that meeting, I ran into my old boss from the earlier time who has moved to a different area. Ken was a research librarian who had been put in charge of a cardiac center with lots of opinionated physicians. He always seemed happiest in his office with a whiteboard full of concepts about standardizing diagnosis codes or categorizing procedures - he remained a librarian at heart. Well his new job is doing JUST THAT - standardizing codes and things. And he seems happier.
And though he didn't actually do anything with my previous recommendations and that frustrated me a little, I was happy that he was doing what he wanted to be doing in life.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I go there because I think they're doing good work for the world, and I think I can help them.
At one meeting today, I had my agenda, the person showed up, we talked, and within 5 minutes, we had figured out that my questions had been answered. This area will not be impacted by my project (which incidentally is to select a patient monitoring system for the pediatric cardiac cath lab - where they fix kids' hearts). I should have stopped the meeting, but the person said something about their plans for 2012, and I just sat forward in my chair: I think I can help her. I had seen that very thing attempted at my previous client and I just wanted to share some insight. We talked for another 15 minutes pinging around ideas that had nothing to do with my project, but that will hopefully help her deliver HERS more successfully.
Later in the day, we were sitting in a final meeting to determine if our company will help them select a new laboratory and pathology system: The project manager and the lab guy from my team were there - I was there for continuity only - I won't be doing the work. But halfway into the meeting, I felt myself leaning forward in my chair. I couldn't help it. I THINK I CAN HELP THEM. I raised a few questions and found myself wanting to help them solve this problem.
I think there's something about this client that really triggers some sort of endorphin reward for me. I'm not sure it's entirely healthy, but I will say the client seems to really appreciate it. Fear not, I'm not hitting the road here - I have forcibly limited my involvement to every other week, just a few days here and there. But I wanted to share this.
Related topic: In the last 2 years, I have been called upon as an expert in the following subject areas: Digital radiology image storage and review, speech recognition, inpatient electronic medical records, patient registration and billing systems, web-based personal health records, rehab documentation systems, echocardiography review systems, cath lab procedure recording and reporting, long term non-radiology medical image storage, and clinical and financial analytics. And i'm about to learn more about anatomic pathology, pathology slide scanning and retrieval, bedside barcode systems for lab specimen collection, and much more.
I think that these opportunities are amazing, and I'm grateful every day that I'm "allowed" to learn things like this, and become an "expert" as needed. I think I have some pretty unique wiring, and am lucky to have a life that indulges that. Every opportunity to learn and share gives me a boost... and that's probably why Philly is so rewarding.
I've got a meeting with a gang of Cath Lab nurses at 7:30am tomorrow, so it's off to bed.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Right now I'm doing the reading, and it has been fun for me to act out the parts - I've got my spanish accent for Inigo, my Wally Shawn nasal voice for Vizzini, my big Andre voice for Fezzik. Now in our house, we pretty much stopped the story every time right after the Man in Black defeats Vizzini. Part of the reason I think was that even after the rescue, Westley is none too kind to Buttercup, and there's a lengthy Morgenstern interlude in there too... sort of grinds to a halt. But we powered through the other night and we're right in the middle of the Fire Swamp now.
Bella LOVES this book, and she is guffawing at the funny bits - Bella has developed a hearty laugh that I go out of my way to provoke - it just fills my heart with happiness to hear it.
In other MEDIA news: I finally got caught up on my Marvel movies: Thor and Captain America. I loved both movies - very different movies to be sure, but very enjoyable. Neither were encouraging deep deep thought, and both were refreshingly light. There wasn't a moment of either one that I would have been upset if the kids had walked in during. Not something I'd say about Dark Knight.
And that's about it for the media update! More postings as they happen.
Me: One hundred TEN.
Isaac: ONE HUNDRED TEN! Then what?
Me: What comes after Ten? Eleven. So after One hundred TEN, come One Hundred ELEVEN.
Isaac: NO WAY!!!! THAT IS CRAZY! I'm going spend ALL DAY tomorrow counting. I'm going to count to ONE HUNDRED ELEVEN tomorrow. Should I start NOW?
Me: No, let's get our rest. Time to go to sleep now, Isaac.
2 minutes of silence.
Isaac: Daddy? How many babies can be in a mommy's tummy?
Me: Usually 1, sometimes 2, and very rarely 3 or more, up to 6 or 8. But that's very rare.
Isaac: It would be pretty bad for a mom to have too many babies right? You know how many would be REALLY bad for a mommy? A MILLION. They would bury her. They would reach all the way up into space, and the ones at the top would say "mommy mommy!" and then they'd die because you can't breathe in space. You can breathe on earth, though.
Me: Yes. A million would be too many for one mommy. Go to sleep now Isaac.
5 minutes of silence.
Isaac: DADDY: Want me to tell you about all the scariest types of bats there are in the world?
TIME TO GO TO SLEEP ISAAC!!!!!
Friday, October 14, 2011
The evenings have been stretching longer for the past month - from longer reading sessions at night with Bella, to Isaac demanding later bedtimes, to a lot more homework coming home with Bella. By the time all is settled, I'm looking at the clock and realizing it's already TEN. What? WHAT?
Fortunately, work is very achievable right now - for the past 4 weeks I've only had one client, and that client won't pay for more than 40 hours a week, and I'm not working more than that. So it's been good. Starting next week, I add a Philly client back into the mix - I'm helping them pick a system for Cardiac Cath Lab, and there will be 5-6 trips in the next few months, but only 1-2 nights at a shot. Plus, I do love Philly.
With a little extra time on my hands, I've been trying to use up my bank of sessions with personal trainers I bought last year, but never used (thank you Cleveland). I am feeling strong these days, able to lift furniture without stress. Which will come in handy as we attempt to nuke our basement this weekend. The combination of poor potty training for both a puppy and a little boy across the past 6 months has rendered our basement approximately 50% dried pee. A few weeks back we had a scotch tasting down there, and "mildly like pee" was a prominent tasting note.
So I pulled the TV out, set up the living room for living, and we're going to yank out EVERYTHING down there, and do a s**t-canning to beat all. This is what I've been training for, people. It's going to HAPPEN.
Bella is loving her guitar lessons, and her teacher took me aside and said "this is an instrument that really speaks to her". I pulled up a fake piano on my iPad during her practice two nights back and we played a two part round of twinkle twinkle little star - it was her idea to do the round... and she just BEAMED. It made me want to move the keyboard downstairs and play duets with her every night. I might just have to do that.
We finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this week, and she was just over the moon. She loved the denouement at the end, and wanted to memorize the kids names. She thought "Scorpius" was the best name EVER.
Saturday is circus day, and Isaac is so excited about going to class... and I'm so excited about the possibility of finally going to Cecil's deli for an Attazoy afterwards - this year his class is from 10-11, and so it's perfect for post-lesson lunch. Attazoy. ATTAZOY!!! (it's a roast beef sammich on a kaiser. No biggie, people).
Isaac is finding things HILARIOUS: Pamela used the term "Ridonkulous" as an intensifier for "Ridiculous"and it had him in tears. Also, somehow I was idly threatening the kids with "sending them to Juvie (aka Juvenile Detention)" and he was unable to speak for minutes as he pondered "Juvie". Bella on the other hand wanted to know how on earth kids could do crimes requiring being sent to Juvie? Being a kid is great, and you don't need anything because parents take care of you, so why would you steal or hurt people? It was such an innocent moment. I really didn't know how to answer. I may have pointed at a dog on the sidewalk and shouted "LOOK!!!!".
I read a great book called "The Postmortal" - the concept is that the cure for aging is discovered in 2019. It follows a guy who gets the cure at age 30, checks in every 20 years, and shows how the world is and how he's getting along. I have to say that up to now, I'd always had this idea that sometime around 2050 I would upload my brain into some sort of matrix and continue to walk around either virtually or in an android body. Reading that book made me want to just make the most of the time I have and not reach out for too much more. And yes, I know it was fiction, but it made some great points. I do recommend the book highly.
And finally, I sat down and watched Thor this week, and was so happy to have a great mindless superhero movie. It just delivered and delivered and delivered. I thought that the stylistic touches were very Jack Kirby, and the man playing Thor was simply incredible. Happy media.
Ok, I'll do better about updating. This every three weeks thing is just ridonkulous.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Isaac was also a very gracious host - after opening presents, he would say things like "what a wonderful gift" and give hugs to his friends. I was pretty darn proud, and was just astonished at how nice they all were to each other - somehow this preschool stuff is working...?
Tonight, as we got ready for bed, Isaac told me "my butt hurts, it's tired of being in clothing". After stripping down for PJs, he fled and dove into bed with an impish grin, and asked "can I just sleep like this?" I replied "Sure, if you want to."
"But you're the boss of me, you could tell me to wear pajamas if you wanted to"
Dad: "Yes, but you're really good at using the potty, and so I'm ok if you want to make this choice. But you WILL be wearing clothes to school tomorrow".
Isaac: "Well yeah, because who would want to look at my BUTT all day?" (prolonged laughter)
So he's sleeping in the buff tonight, ad he thinks it's pretty much the most grown up thing in the world. I'm just banking on this not ending with a lot of laundry to do in the AM.
In other news: Bella and I have passed the halfway mark in Harry Potter 7 (the book), and decided to reward our progress by watching Deathly Hallows Part 1... and it was just amazing. I had seen it earlier in the summer, and it was even better... and to confess, I hadn't read Book 7 for a year or more before the movie, so some of this wasn't as fresh as it could have been. But with the book fresh in mind, it was even stronger.
Of course I'm a big sissy and was crying within 5 minutes, with the scene of Hermione wiping herself out of her parents minds. Bella and Pamela both rolled their eyes. That's how I roll.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
I am willing to give George a pass on the Ewoks - they were cheesy, but the kids do love them. And since the "Special Edition" did away with the YubYub song...
One thing I was a bit embarrassed about - I caught myself muttering every line the Emperor said, just as he was saying it. Isaac noticed and asked politely "Dad, can you never ever do that again?".
Isaac has a terrible cold, so I've been loading up the videos and keeping him comfortable. One thing I thought he'd like are the Clone Wars shows - they're 20 minute episodes of pure action set in the time between "Clones" and "Sith" in the Prequels. They have a lot of Light Saber Yoda action in there. What's interesting is that the exposition is about 2 sentences at the beginning of each episode, and then you're right into it.
After two shows, which he did enjoy, Isaac insisted on Episode IV A New Hope again. And he sat and just enjoyed the full "real" Star Wars experience. While blowing his nose non-stop.
Bella is doing well with her guitar lessons - she's taking it seriously, and played her practice songs for us several times today. She gets this faraway smile when she does so.
And that's the update for today.
I'm sorting through a stack of books, trying to decide which to keep and which to chuck. I linger on one book.
An 800 page hardcover tome with a weathered slipcover. The picture on the cover is of a man wearing a Mario style overall set - red overalls, white shirt, red baseball hat. He's reclining on a white leather sofa looking at a copy of the same book I'm reading.
Two women flank him wearing futuristic jumpsuits looking out at the viewer, one brunette, one blonde. The couch is in a stark white room, and a huge window is behind them through which you can see the curve of the earth and a wheel shaped space station. They're clearly on some sort of space cruiser.
The man in the Mario outfit is David Cross (Tobias Funke from Arrested Development). This is his autobiography and it is titled "That was some shit, it was".
Zooming back out to me holding the book, I remember thinking it was a pretty good read, but not worth keeping. I chuck it on the toss pile.
Then I woke up.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
1) Isaac has been insisting for a few days that "he is ready to watch STAR WARS", so I agreed to watch it with him today. I turned out that yes, there's a lot of guns and shooting and yes an entire planet gets blown up, but there's not much SCARY stuff in there. If anything, the "action" on Tattooine was a bit draggy for him, but once we hit the Millennium Falcon things moved at a decent clip. And he loved Darth Vader.
I do have to say that my DVDs are the "Special Edition" ones from about 10 years ago, and its really quite jarring to see all of the digital effects that Lucas had crammed into there - all of the fakey storm troopers riding lizards, the lamentable "conversation with Jabba" that makes no sense since Jabba is literally HALF the size he is in Jedi - even Bella commented "there's a bigger one of those in another movie". I am OK with the new improved "explosion rings" for Alderaan and the Death Star, but a lot of the rest of it was just painful. I am not looking forward to the further tweaks he put into the Blu-Ray releases.
Anyway, the kids loved Star Wars, and have demanded we do "The one with the SNOW" on Sunday. So we're doing that.
2) Torchwood Miracle Day ended last night, and it was just hard to gauge my feelings - I felt a bit like at the end of Falling Skies - "well that was interesting - not sure we needed 10 episodes to get there". It had a cool premise - one day humans turn immortal - just life, not healing, so people who are dead are still alive, but still suffering. And one guy who is immortal (Captain Jack) turns Mortal. But they just sort of dinked around with it and quite honestly it would have fit in a well written two episode story, or been stretched to a 5 episode series like Children of Earth was (which is still amazing - do yourself a favor and netflix that). But at 10 episodes, they just flailed around.
Let me just say that it's been very stark - I get to the end of a Torchwood, and I go "hmmm, interesting". Then I load up a Doctor Who and I'm on the edge of my seat completely enthralled (in no small part due to Matt Smith's amazing work).
I'm not sure what will happen with Torchwood - I hope if they go high-concept again that they'll do more with it than they did this time. But that's done.
3) On the recommendation of friends who know I love my Dr Who with Matt Smith, I've started watching from the 2005 beginning, with Christopher Eccelston. And I love it, and can't believe I wasn't watching this years ago! Eccelston has an impish gawkiness with great self assurance that leads very often to a very puzzled look when things aren't working out. Anyway, I'm very happy to have another 50 episodes to enjoy (just 5 more with Eccelston, then I get into the David Tennant years, and I've seen a few of his episodes and can't wait to get to know him.)
4) Alphas was renewed for next year! More David Strathairn! More "sorta-mutants"! It's all great fun.
And that's my media news, what I'm enjoying. Posts about my life will return soon enough.
Saturday, September 03, 2011
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
We bought cars. We re-did Bella's bedroom. We had weeks in which no room in the house could be navigated in more than two paces straight ahead, forcing weaving around piles of this, that, and oh yes the other thing. We had a dog in a cone, and fed him by hand. We had a jealous dog who we fed by hand just so he wouldn't feel left out. We had kids who were getting MORE AND MORE BORED by the entire world of summer and who can recite the Phineas and Ferb theme song in their sleep. I know who Perry the Platypus and Dr Doofenschmirtz are now.
I took a couple of short business trips and got stuck in Atlanta. I took 3 days at the lake without a laptop or iPad. Bella and I picked up Book 7 of Harry Potter again, and I got to do my Kreacher voice again. Isaac has thoroughly exhausted what can be achieved by climbing the lilac tree in the back, and has been eyeing other trees for possibilities. I have realized that I moved the play camper in such a way that if not this summer, then certainly by spring Isaac will work out that he could easily climb onto the garage roof from it.
Isaac has been having babysitting/playdates with Colin, who is a relentlessly athletic boy across the street, and the two of them play sports, and time disappears. They also play Wii, and cars. They're 6 years apart, but genuinely like each other's company.
We hit the State Fair and it was wonderful: Not too hot, first day so everything was fresh and clean and everyone was still friendly. As we walked through the barns, one girl raced up to us with a chicken and encouraged the kids to pet it. A full table of rabbits was there for the petting. As we walked past a lamb shearing, the farm family offered the kids a big handful of wool to take home. I ate a LOT of sausage, as is my divine right.
My friends Nick and Paul lost their mom to a very scary disease, and we all mourned.
August is over now, and September brings with it a bunch more business trips (Akron next week, Philly the week after, Madison the week after that)... while still working my main Minneapolis gig. Fall will be busy. The kids will be back in school - Bella will be in 3rd Grade, Isaac still in Pre-K. Synchro will be starting again, as will Circus school.
Bella will start Guitar Lessons next week too - and I will gladly sit with her to learn Kumbaya. I'm imagining her smile as she makes a successful chord. Isaac's energy will need to be channeled. Perhaps a drum set.
August was a great month.
Friday, August 19, 2011
It started Thursday afternoon: I was headed back to Maryland for a "final" visit with the client out there: We had done work in the Feb to May timeframe, and I've been trying since then to present my findings to the board, who meet for a mere 90 minutes every month. I was bumped from the agenda in June (hours before boarding my flight out there). I was bumped from the agenda in July (the notification came while my flight was in air, so I did NOT cancel that trip - but it was great fun anyway because I got to hang out with Erik in DC).
This week, I got confirmation, then double-checked. Then triple checked. No I was not going to be bumped this time. But as I booked the travel, my spider sense was tingling… all of the direct flights were booked. I had no choice but to connect. What could possibly go wrong?
We landed in Atlanta and headed to the connecting flight, waited a little while on the tarmac, then wheeled back to the gate: BAD WEATHER somewhere in the DC area was preventing our departure. We all deplaned and hung out waiting for news. The weather lifted, but then we lost our crew due to work restrictions, so we were clear to go, but needed to wait for a replacement crew. Finally by 10pm, we had a crew and were in the air… and on the way we circled for an extra 30 min while more storms passed. I had got on in Minneapolis at noon, and landed in Baltimore at midnight.
Further frustrations ensued - a very slow possibly incompetent checkout guy at the car rental place delayed me a further 20 minutes. When I got to the hotel, the door was locked and it took me 5 minutes of banging and calling to get the clerk to wake up and come let me in. My head finally hit the pillow at 2:30 am. And the wakeup call came at 6am.
After the shower, I grabbed my electric shaver and felt it die in my hand as I finished the right side of my face. A quick trip down to the front desk secured me some shave cream and a "razor" to finish the job, and it's a miracle I didn't slit my throat accidentally.
I made it to the presentation and NO I did not get bumped. YES it went off without a hitch. I was running on pure adrenaline, making grand hand gestures and didn't even notice until after I sat down that my cuffs were unbuttoned and had been flapping wildly as I waved at the data flow diagram showing exactly where those hand washing and pressure ulcer statistics were going to be stored for future reporting in my grand vision.
I did not walk out of there with a signed statement of work, but it went very well indeed.
In the midst of all this, I spent over 90 minutes across three conversations with our client in Rochester who has decided that while he loves us and our work, and cannot deny we are delivering for him in a big way, he'd like us EVEN MORE if we were 20% less expensive. Now I have been in meetings with this guy and he is what I will call a "Drone Winner" - he will continue to circle back onto the same point over and over and over and over until the opposition throws up its hands and says "this is not worth fighting for anymore". Through this strategy he has somehow risen to the title of CIO in a major health system, and woe be unto any vendor he begins to negotiate with.
And he has decided to negotiate with me.
I have been standing as firm as I can: I am fully prepared to end this engagement and walk away from this work. But GODS this is exhausting. And not fun. I make a point, he agrees with the point, and he says "but if you were 20% less expensive…." as if that would make my point even MORE valid. And so I have been battling with this robot terminator from the future who cannot be stopped but insists on ENGAGING in the conversation…
So that's in the middle of the crazy travel. And now I'm on my way home, and I'm pleased to announce that the trip home is going WITHOUT A HITCH. Flights are on time, traffic was light, and I even caught up on some sleep. I did have a long layover in Atlanta on the way home, but I got caught up on some email and even did a little creative writing. Plus I got caught up on Alphas and Torchwood too!
Oh, and speaking of BATTLE: TNT, I hope you're not expecting me to be watching Falling Skies next summer. That was some WEAK SAUCE the way you ended that…
Friday, August 05, 2011
Monday Night - caught a flight to Philly.
Tuesday - Drove to Jersey to my old client there who wanted a presentation on something called "Information Lifecycle Management". The trouble is that this subject has about 4 major facets - a technical weenie piece, a patient record archiving piece, a legal piece, and an IT governance piece. My presentation hit on 2.5 of these areas, but it turns out the client was more interested in the 1.5 parts I didn't hit on as much. I figured this out about 10 minutes into my 2 hour presentation, so I needed to do a LOT of improvising.
BUT it turned out well in the end: They asked me to put together a project plan to make it happen. So now I just need to whip that up and find 2 people to do the work. Easy.
Tuesday Night - met up with some of my company comrades and had a fine steak dinner, followed by watching my colleagues inhale cigars while I wondered if the smell would ever leave my skin and clothes. I seriously considered throwing away my outfit from the evening.
Wednesday - was very bedraggled in general due to the previous evening, but pulled it together for a meeting in Philly with the Children's hospital I worked at back in 2009. Turns out all of my prep-work and planning is in the same state more or less as it was when I handed it off in 2009. But they're totally finally ready to execute on it. So they want me to come back and oversee a team to put my plan into action.
Next steps are to build out a 6 month plan, find staff to do it, and propose it. Easy.
Wednesday Night - out with my full company leadership at a tapas bar. My entree had a strong taste of shrimp sauce. Shrimp shell actually. It wasn't entirely pleasant, though others had the same thing and wolfed it down. I guess I'm just not a sprimp guy. I'm ok saying that now.
Thursday - ALL DAY MEETING: What is our strategic plan for the next 5 years? How can we get there? I was actually pretty jazzed - we have a LOT going on in our company and I'm definitely in a good place right now. DEFINITELY.
Thursday Night - Went to a dinner place called Fri Sat Sun. Dinner was ok, but the dessert was amazing - puff pastry with vanilla custard, topped with berries and caramel. Mmmmmm.
We headed out as a group to see our friend Gregg's house: They're blogging their updates HERE and they are actually going to be on a DIY Network show in the fall - they had their 4th floor redone for a home improvement show. It is an amazing space, and I swear they are investing an insane amount into this. But they love it, love the house, love the west Philly neighborhood. The house is from 1881 and is just amazing.
Friday - ALL DAY MEETING: Went over our tactical plans - my Minneapolis Market plans and my Business Intelligence plans. Bascially, if we could hire 5 people in the next 2 weeks for my projects, I'd have them working for a long time. And that would be good. Our best minds are thinking on this now.
Friday Night - flew home from Philly, got home. Pamela was asleep when I walked in at 9:30. Gesso has spent the evening at my feet. Isaac woke up to pee 20 min ago, and asked for some cuddles to get back to sleep. All is good in the world.
Sure would be nice to take a break.... BUT SATURDAY IS COMING. It's my 25th High School Reunion, and I planned it. I have no idea how many people are coming... we'll be selling tickets at the door and I sure hope people show up. I do have about 40 pre-payments which doesn't really cover costs, but it'll do for a start.
My old buddy Jeannine won't be making the trip. Another person paid, but needs to back out because she was just diagnosed today with breast cancer and starts treatment on Monday, and strangely is prioritizing spending time with her family over 25 year people from the past.
It's a full day affair - a picnic in the late AM, and a party in the evening. And I'm officially NOT planning the next one - this has aged me.
So I'm REALLY looking forward to Sunday and the week ahead where yes I'll be busy, but I'll be home. And Home is GOOD.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Why did the house go up in the rocket ship? BECAUSE IT HAD LEGS.
Why did the Pig open the door? BECAUSE IT COULD
The next joke will be the FUNNIEST EVER:
Why did the Pancake get up and move? BECAUSE IT WANTED TO JUMP UP TO THE ROOF!!!! THAT'S WHY!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
That is all.
"They're SUPERHEROES, Dad! This one is Long-ey (the dowel), this one is Clamp-ey (the punch), this one is Girl Draw-ey (a pink pencil), and this one's the BAD GUY (a green pencil)."
Now he's in the basement setting up cars. It's nice to see him being creative!
Monday, July 25, 2011
Farewell Lord Landshark - the Jaguar XJ is no longer in the driveway. After almost 8 years, it was time to say farewell to the royal beast. Things were starting to happen. A bit of trim came loose,the shocks started feeling a bit stiff, a puff of blue smoke when firing it up... it could have gone for another year or five no doubt, but not without cost.
And as time has passed I have come to realize that perhaps as a 43 year old father of two kids under 10, I may be in a "valley" of Jaguar's target market - between the young money and the kids-in-college treat. Right now I need practical. And I'd still like FUN, but not necessarily "high performance".
So say hello to the Shuttlecraft, my new white Honda Fit Sport. It's fast enough, very roomy, very cool looking inside and out, and has room to haul. Plus it has an iPod jack for my music and language lessons. It's smaller than the Mini on the outside, and bigger than the Mini on the inside. And I could have bought FOUR of them for what that XJ cost years ago.
So I'm back to practical. There were three key moments that led to this change:
1) Going up north with my bosses to assess a hospital in Hibbing - the CMIO saw my car and said "I do not see that as a jim car: There are at least 8 other cars I see as Jim cars. That one is not even on the list. I don't understand".
2) Winter: Losing a tire EVERY SINGLE WINTER to the cold and having the tire separate off the rim, usually while driving. Getting it beached in a snowbank last winter was the last straw.
3) While parked for a long weekend in my dad's driveway, he noticed an ominous stain left behind: "If you're not already having some oil troubles, you will be soon".
Now, these are negatives. But there's a huge positive in that Fit. It just makes me smile. It simultaneously reminds me of my old VW GTI, and of the longing I had in my heart for the 1984 honda civic hatchback - same one my friend Dean had. It was such a cool car, and it never seemed to be in the shop. The Fit is a lot like that car.
So out with the old, in with the new. I'm excited. I'm happy, and I'll be getting over 30mpg, suckers.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Poor Pamela sprained her ankle BUT GOOD the day before we left: She's been doing a "get fit" nutrition and cardio bootcamp program at Lifetime Fitness, and as it always happens, she stepped on something just a little wrong, and her ankle collapsed... and a short wait at the Orthopedic ER later, and she's got an aircast. The pain laid her up for a lot of the trip and kept her out of the water too... So I pulled double duty, helping her, and keeping an eye on the kids as they spent every possible moment in the lake. Also, I was the chauffeur, so the driving was up to me... though it's Pamela's left ankle that's hurt, so she will be able to drive the kids this week, have no fear people.
The dogs were pretty good on the trip: They're not welcome at the lake house, but the farmhouse where we sleep had plenty of room for them... they just needed to spend the hours we were at the lake in the kennel, which they found frustrating. Also, Zinsser is a bit of a neurotic animal, and was very barky. We need to work on him, Gesso was a saint because he is the perfect animal, even if he does poop where he shouldn't.
I was a LITTLE bummed about Pamela's ankle, because it would have been fun to go visit Epic, which is about a half hour from the lake, and would have been a fun afternoon diversion, but we are going to do it next time... and by that time, the campus will have doubled in size YET AGAIN, I'm sure.
And it's worth mentioning that I didn't do a single lick of work while on vacation. Oh, I took some calls and responded to an email or two, so call that a lick of work if you will... but the laptop stayed in its container, only coming out to print a recipe from Epicurious.
And that was the weekend that was. And I was right back at it today, with a drive to Rochester for a 4 hour meeting in the AM (90 min drive each way), and a full afternoon back at the Minneapolis client.
While in the halls of the Mpls client, my old boss stopped me and gave me a wide eyed look and said "Jim.... Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim. You got out at the right time, my friend. You are a lucky devil". Then he shook his head and kept walking. I guess the big Epic project is hitting some bumps in the road... I'm happy to be on my PACS project, where all I need to worry about is how, if we pick a different vendor from the one we're on right now, we will will migrate 100 terabytes of images through a pipe that can only handle 80 gig in a day (hint - it will take four years).
And that's about it for right now: The kids are asleep - Bella has just learned about Horcruxes, and I have given her a STERN warning that she is not to go about making one. Isaac is incredibly Daddy-focused right now, so as I was reading to Bella, he was screaming at the top of his lungs at Pamela about how "GIRLS ARE BORING I WANT DADDY".
I'm sure I can go back and find some Blog posts about frustrations when Bella wouldn't let me comfort her in the past... but for right now, my poor gimpy wife is just a little sad that her little boy doesn't want her hugs. This will change, as things always do. But for a lady whose ankle is killing her, she needs a little extra TLC.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Now I must say that I did love a lot of it. The characters, the writing, the dialogue were all just amazing. There were some scenes in the book that will never leave my mind, which is a good thing. But I was left ultimately unsatisfied... And I know that was exactly what he wanted to do, to leave us on the edge, not knowing what would happen next.
As I wrote before, a lot of the book is about addiction, and what it brings people to. There's not a single fully functioning person in the book, and everyone is wounded in some way, and acting badly. It's a big love letter to AA, which counsels you to take it one day at a time and just be in the moment and not look ahead because. So ending abruptly is perhaps just right.
so I respect it. I respect what he did there.
but I still want to know - did Hal take the dmz that left him wrecked at the beginning of the book willingly, or did Pemulis dose him as he did others? Will the quebec separatists ever get ahold of the entertainment and unleash it on the unsuspecting north Americans? Will Maranthe actually seek out Joelle Van Dyne and try to work out the nature of the entertainment? Will Gatley recover? the presence of the crown at the end indicates he was more hurt than we realized, and maybe he won't be able to stay off of pain killers after all? Will Orin escape the glass cage with the roaches and tell the quebecois wheelchair terrorists where his father was buried?
Now that I write this, I guess these are pretty silly questions if you haven't read the book... But that's what I'm left with.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Bella and I are still enjoying our Doctor Who episodes. We got to season 5 episode 4 tonight, the one about the Weeping Angels (vicious statues that attack only when you re not looking at them - creepy and excellent for low production budgets), and it was the first time Bella confessed that it was maybe a little scary.
It was a good fathers day, even with the weepy boy (and the girl who was getting a little jealous about the attention being paid to the weepy boy). We had dinner out at Pei Wei, and we discovered that Bella likes Edamame! That will be very handy when we do ago to Japan... Just in the past months she's decided she loves smoothies and turkey too, so her diet is definitely broadening.
Yes it is a few weeks later and Infinite Jest remains unfinished - I'm a tantalizing 70 pages from the end. This will be completed. This journey will end. And I'll be done wi it and can pick up something nice and relaxing. Like James Joyces Ulysses.
Other random thoughts... The not-as-busy continues to be a good thing for work, and I find myself spending evenings relaxing and not trying to cram in work in every waking minute, I did have a business trip get canceled at the end of last week, whichi didn't mind one bit except for the fact I was going to add on a dayton visit my best man Erik in DC. But we have rescheduled for July.
OH YES one last thing. I did some music this week! Two pieces of music for my neighbor Dave for a short movie he was making for his workplace. Two groovy tracks that made me happy to product, and I felt parts of my brain awaken. What was very fun was bringing up the sequencer files and showing Bella how all of the parts were played and layered and mixed. She was pretty amazed. Weepy Isaac justwantedto know when dad was goingq to be done showing things on the computer so he could watch Scooby Doo again. I cuthim some slack.
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Until I started my new project: My email volume is down to 1/5 of what it was just a month ago. Emails to my sponsors, even URGENT ones, tend to be answered in hours or days, not minutes as before. I am adjusting to the fact that that last email check at 11pm will probably NOT contain a gem I need to address for 20 minutes.
I'm having a bit of a time adjusting... but I'm also really enjoying the silence.
Things are still going well: My move to the new project has been great - it affords me more time in the day to do all of the other things I apparently need to do... since Bidness is still BiZOOMing.
It's Bella's last week in 2nd Grade. I'm sort of in shock that time is moving this quickly.
I did see the X-Men movie during a business trip to St Louis... and I loved it.
I still have not finished Infinite Jest, and am starting to wonder if I ever will: It just keeps GOING and GOING. I'm still enjoying it, but let me just say I THINK I GET IT: ADDICTION IS REALLY REALLY BAD, even when it's written about in a wry, effacing manner.
I'll update more in the days and weeks to come, but I just wanted to end the drought! Life is GOOD! REALLY GOOD!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Today, he was looking for the DS, found it, and said "THERE IT IS! How can I ever thank myself?"
I think maybe he needs a little less DS time.
Sunday, May 08, 2011
Isaac is obsessed with Ages and is amazed and freaked out that until Gesso reaches one year old next January, he will be ZERO YEARS OLD.
So he doesn't refer to Gesso by name. He calls him "The Zero Year Old". As in: "DAD, where's the zero year old? Can I hold the Zero year old?"
Not so with Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: It's a huge book, in which frankly not a LOT happens, but what DOES happen is drawn in such detail and over and over and over again that you can't help but allow his FULL intent be engraved somewhere in your psyche - he draws his messages lightly but repeatedly, so the remaining outline stays.
And as a result, I've had more than a few bad dreams directly attributable to this work of fiction: There's a lot of stuff in there about addiction and recovery, a lot about tennis, a lot about slowly revealed details of mildly plausible near future, but a thread running through it is a lethal videotape called "The Entertainment" which is supposedly so enthralling that it shuts off every other desire and turns people into drooling goons... and it's something that is instantly captivating, so the imagery in the book involves one person putting it on, succumbing to it, someone finding that person, and succumbing, and eventually a whole room full of people before someone kills the power.
Needless to say this very concept of something so attractive that even glimpsing it is dooming yourself is a metaphor for addictive substances of all kinds (when my friend Mark started down his path years ago, he related that that first taste of the substance was like "well, this is it, this is perfect, and this is all I ever need".) It's compelling in a way that a traditional substance abuse take wouldn't really be, since we have guards up about the dangers of alcohol and drugs already.
In fact, the book is CHOCK FULL of shocking drug anecdotes (a lot of it takes place in AA surroundings), and it's almost numbing, but the idea of "The Entertainment" has seeped pretty deep for me: I have had recurring dreams of finding my family enthralled, and then I turn my head to see what took them...
They're very unsettling dreams... and it speaks well (???) to the Author's ability to really communicate that feeling that I'm processing it with personal worry.
I'm about 2/3 through this massive tome, and I think I may need to take a little break!
We have a fun day on tap - headed out to Pinstripes for brunch then bowling with a family who we just love but who are moving out of state in a month, so it's bittersweet, especially considering Isaac and Bella both love love love the kids in their matched ages.
Isaac's addiction to Mario goes unabated - but it's a good thing - we probably wouldn't have made it halfway through the swim meet yesterday if Isaac wasn't buried in his DS playing Super Mario 3. And boy, he's actually getting pretty good. Every single day starts with "Hey Dad, can we go to the chatterBOX?" The Chatterbox is a restaurant nearby with ok food but with Nintendo systems, so you can play Mario with your food. And Isaac thinks it is heaven. And he always stresses the third syllable - chatterBOX.
Isaac's very into discussing "big ideas" these days - If Dad is this tall at 43, imagine how tall he'll be at 100! Why can't we make a car that's Isaac-sized and let him drive it on the road? It could be Isaac sized in the front, and have a big back seat for Dad to sit in. Where would we go? chatterBOX!
Bella has been reading a lot... not 6 months ago, we read the 5 book Spiderwick Chronicles together. She's been checking out the sequel series from the library and is reading them herself. She's also reading the Boxcar Children series too... I'm seeing her curled up with a book quite often now, and it makes me happy.
As for me - work's going aok - my Mpls work is stabilizing and is lightening up appropriately, so that I can take on the work for St Louis and Maryland... Mayo has been slow to act on a proposal we sent last week, but hopefully that'll cook... and there's more in the hopper.
Plus, it's a gorgeous day - time to hit the shower!
Saturday, April 30, 2011
We had a much different night last night - and we did get seats. We stayed for 4 more acts (including the most amazing kids standing, walking, and jumping rope on top of 3 foot diameter balls.)
And I was on "go get Isaac duty" after his bit, and to bring him back up to the stands, and I will say that the ushers had a very different demeanor, and were far more positive in how they were herding the expectant parents off in the wings - it looked like a much better night for all involved.
So I just wanted to have that update out there - I beefed about Circus Juventas, but then we worked it out, and it was a much better night. So they're back on my happy list.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
1) Minneapolis: Two projects - my "old" project of being the lead for the clinical teams for a big Epic install - 5 weeks into a successful golive, working on transitioning out, but still in the role. Will be done in 3 weeks.
2) Minneapolis - same client, Second project, and major PACS upgrade (digital radiology). Still in the planning stages, will be full-time (sort of) for 12 months. Just 5-10 a week for now.
3) St Louis: Reviewing their reporting architecture to assess their readiness for reporting on Accountable Care metrics. 100 hours in 8 weeks.
4) Maryland: Finalizing my findings for their reporting and data access audit and planning a one year project to implement tools to improve the consistency of their reporting. About 40 hours in 2 weeks remaining, more to come.
5) New Jersey: Reviewing proposals from 2 vendors for a full suite of Cardiology tools - assessing whether there are major gaps in the proposals and mapping against my own "what works" knowledge. 30 hours across 3 weeks.
Plus we have a proposal on the table in New Orleans for a project similar to 3)....
AND I just had a huge meeting with a major health system in Rochester MN, and may have a portfolio of projects for 2-3 people for the next year - will know more about this as it develops.
So Jim is a busy boy!
Now, during the dry run, we were told we, the parents, would be at one end of the stage and the kids would come over to us at the end. So when we headed that way for the show, we were stopped by the ushers and told that no, we had to wait in the lobby, we couldn't watch the kids, and they'd be brought to us afterwards. THEN, another person said we could "sneak" over to one of the side stage areas by the bleachers, but we'd have to keep back with bad sightlines and no seats. And several times during the (5 minute) set people came through hissing at us to "leave a path - people need to get through" - of course the only people who actually needed to come through were the people hissing at us.
Through this Bella started crying - she just wanted to see her brother. Unbeknownst to us, Isaac in his 45 minutes backstage was getting anxious - he thought we had LEFT him, and was getting freaked out, and when he did come out to perform, he didn't know where we were.
Ok - I'm sympathetic that 90% of the audience is parents of kids in the show - you can't have them not paying for the show. But for the kids who are 6 and up, the parents are free to drop them off and pick them up later. For the toddlers, the kids need to see their parents, and the parents need to see the kids. And it's unreasonable to ask us to buy $20 tickets for the 5 minute toddler parade.
I think it would have made a lot more sense to have a little roped off area for the parents of the toddlers and kinders, let us just beam with pride and lead the kids to us at the end - it would have been an "awwww cute" moment.
As it is the whole thing left us feeling sort of shabby - like we had to sneak in to see Isaac perform. We should have been sneaking cigarettes too. Knowing this is the scoop for next year too doesn't really fill me with excitement.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Yep we got another dog... little Gesso is a Schnoodle from the same breeder as Zinsser, but different parentage. He's strawberry blonde, and just over 12 weeks old - a good month older than when we got Zinsser and boy it shows. Gesso is lot easier than an 8 week puppy for sure - he's already holding his pee and poo for hours and is pretty good about going outside - just a day into it.
Gesso is totally daddy's dog. Wherever I am, he wants to be, and he's in my lap at least as much as Zinsser is in Pamela's lap. I took a nap today and he was curled up on my chest for most of it, and I woke up with him laying across my neck. As with Zinsser, I have NO allergies to this creature.
So how did this come about? Well, it all happened this past week. A combination of elements combined to help me feel somewhat at ease about life: I got put onto a new project at the big client (lower stress), I got kudos from another client, I got a healthy tax refund... and I "accidentally" surfed to the website of Shelbo Schnoodles, where this little face stared out at me.
We'd always intended for two dogs, really, but number two was planned maybe to be a standard poodle. But truth be told, I like Zinsser's size, and I like the temperment of the Schnoodle, So when I saw this little blondie looking out at me, I said "I WANT HIM". I did clear this with Pamela, and contacted the breeder, and we made it all happen on Saturday afternoon.
The kids had no idea. We brought up a picture from the website during lunch on Saturday, they said "awwwww" and Pamela said "well let's go get him then!!!" Bella was sort of in a smiling, shocked silence, while Isaac was dancing and yelling around the house. We drove the 45 min to Isanti, got the dog, and life has been great.
Zinsser was definitely aloof for the first day. But by tonight they're fully playing with eachother - Zinsser does the respectful "play bow" and brings toys to Gesso. They play Tug of War, but Zinsser attenuates his tugs so it's not hard on Gesso. Gesso is now playing tag with Zinnie. They are having a lot of fun.
So why "Gesso?" Zinsser is a brand of wall primer. Gesso is what painters use to prime their canvases. So they're both primers. Getting arty with it, they're "foundations" on which we can paint our lives. Also, it's fun to say "Jess-Oh" in a "GOOD BOY" voice.
A final note: Tonight at dinner, Bella sat back with a smile and said "You know I remember going to go get Gesso like it was Yesterday!". Pause for laughter. That girl is a HAM.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
2) Happily, the golive that I had abandoned to go to Disney actually went really well. There were problem areas, but they were the same ones I knew about when I left, and 3 weeks in, they're stabilizing. I actually was able to take last weekend off, so things aren't too bad.
I did have one of my team leads quit on me just this week, but I seriously think she was slightly insane. It is for the better, this.
3) Strange coincidence: I was reading a book on lessons healthcare can take from the airline industry ("Why Hospitals should Fly" - great subject, but very clunky prose). A key turning point in the aviation industry was in 1977, on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, when two 747s collided due to bad communication and top-down leadership style (the engineer was afraid to correct the pilot). I'd never heard about this disaster, nor the island of Tenerife.
Later that evening, I was listening to a spanish learning podcast - Coffee Break Spanish. I was a big fan a couple of years ago, and downloaded their latest for this trip. I pop the headphones on and it's a dialogue about the language and culture of... Tenerife.
I got double Tenerifed in one day.
4) Business is BOOMING: Right now I technically have two jobs at my main client (and need to pick between them). I'm in Maryland on a third one (close to finishing up), just sold work in St Louis, and am close to a deal in New Orleans. Now I need to clone myself or find some very smart people like me. NOT ALWAYS EASY. I'll make it through this group of gigs with a protege brought in, but I'll need more more more help.
It's a good position to be in, however. As long as I can keep all of the plates spinning!
5) I just want to have out there that I have lust in my heart for Chik-fil-A. I had some for dinner 4 hours ago and I am still nowhere near hungry. That stuff fills you to the edges.
Saturday, April 02, 2011
By late morning, the word had got out to all of the world that it was a GREAT DAY to be at the park, and a sea of humanity descended onto the Magic Kingdom. Soon, even "gimme" rides like the Teacups were posting 20 minute waits, and Peter Pan hit 60 minute wait by 11am. We got Fast Passes for the Jungle Cruise, which is typically not that hard to get on, but when we finally arrived, we found that the "civilians" without Fast Passes were waiting 70 minutes. We sped through in 10.
The Jungle Cruise was interesting because there was a "never event" which clearly rattled the boat driver - the elephants who playfully spray water just in front of the boat had their timing off (or the driver did), and we were blasted with firehose-strength water. I looked it up, this just doesn't HAPPEN on the ride. The driver was really apologetic, and dropped his Bob Hope cornball routine for a bit, wanting to make sure we were actually ok.
(Later in the evening, as I put Isaac to bed, he spent some time crying about the elephants - WHY DID THEY SPRAY US? I DID NOT WANT THAT!!!)
Our brainstorm for our last day at Disney was to acknowledge the fact that Bella had blisters on her feet, and Isaac by the end of each day was insisting on a grownup to carry him, so we got a big double stroller for the kids, and they were very happy. The strollers have a window for a big nametag, so we named ours "Duran Duran (Rockstar)". After every ride, we'd call out to eachother "Where did we leave Duran Duran? We'd better go get them".
We bailed by 3pm, having ridden the train around the perimeter of the park again, and also the TomorrowLand People Mover. Everyone was pretty beat so we zoned out for 2 hours with some shows and naps (and the Giraffes and Zebras came over to give us a show on the porch too). Then it was down to dinner at the "fancy" restaurant at Jambo House - Jiko. The food was AMAZING - everything was incredible - as good as I remember some dinners at Table of Contents back in the day, if that's any indication. Simply amazing, and the waiter was great with the kids too...
A huge surprise - Dave and Kristine (who bought our old house and live on our block) and their kids decided to cut short a road trip to Colonial Williamsburg and hit Disney, and they surprised us at our table (I helped plan it, from text messages earlier in the afternoon). The kids ran off for some serious playtime, and we got to hang out with D&K and swap tales of Disney. It was very spontaneous and fun.
Isaac had a VERY hard time going to sleep, and as noted above, had worries about the elephants, but also tearful protestations that he wants to stay at Disney FOREVER, and have somebody send down his toys and Zinsser and we can just LIVE THERE. WHY CAN'T WE LIVE HERE? It took an unheard of 45 minutes to get him wound down.
Today we got a late start, had a big breakfast, and made our way to the airport. We had plenty of time... assuming of course that I had noticed that our flight time had changed. As I checked in, the kiosk said I was too late to check luggage, and I discovered our flight had moved UP 2 hours, so far from being early for our flight, it was leaving RIGHT NOW.
I almost had a full on panic attack. I'm sure they must have sent me a message on this at some point, but I've been so swamped with work I must not have processed it properly. Long story short, being Platinum does have privileges, and we got on the next flight, though we lost our First Class seats, and Pamela "had" to sit by herself in an exit row while I sat with the kids. Hey wait, I think that actually worked out ok for Pamela.
By the time we finally got home, we had maybe one nerve left between us, and we were about to fray that one too, but Grampette was to the rescue, with Zinsser at the door ready to greet us. We forgot our stress and got ready for bed. Well, most of us did. I read Bella a long awaited chapter of Harry Potter (which she was asleep by the end of - I'll be doing some refreshing tomorrow night). Not a peep from Isaac, and Pamela has been out for 90 minutes already. So what am I doing up? Well, I hadn't seen last week's big Fringe cliffhanger, so I had to get caught up. But I think I'm ready for bed now.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I didn't read the fine print on this, but I think they are actually legally Jack Sparrow's children now.
RAIN RAIN RAIN RAIN RAIN. From the time we woke up to the time we're drifting off tonight, it switched between hard rain, really hard rain, torrential rain, monsoon-type rain, and oh man am I tired of this rain. We had severe cabin fever, and were sort of crossing our fingers hoping for a clear-up by the late afternoon so we could go scamper around Epcot again, but no, it's still raining.
There were movies (Swiss Family Robinson), some Wii in the lounge, lots of snacks, some games (new Angry Birds:Rio, and some Mario on the DS), reading, and chatting.
Out of nowhere, we came back to our room to find roses and a beautiful beaded giraffe, and a note from the staff hoping we are having a magical stay. MAN does Disney know how to treat a family right.
Tomorrow we're revisiting the Magic Kingdom, to see a few of the things we missed... and the weather report is for blue skies.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Jambo is a grand hotel, but Kidani is more suites-driven, with a smaller lobby, fewer rooms, and a cozy atmosphere. But they have a different pool area, and that's where we spent over 4 hours - a pool with a pretty fun waterslide and a "splash park" - zero depth with lots of fountains and misters. Jenny came to join us for a couple of hours too. The kids swam and swam, and got a little crispy in the sun.
The weather held nicely for us - it would have been a good park day, but we needed the rest.
We hopped into the car for dinner at the Wilderness Lodge, the Whispering Canyon restaurant. There was very little whispering going on, but lots of fun. Loud boisterous waiters, hobby horse races, and if you needed some ketchup, well, you needed to holler our for it, and chances were you'd wind up with a dozen bottles for your effort. The food was FANTASTIC as well - some of the best we have had on the trip.
A wander around the grounds of the Wilderness Lodge was good - it's a beautiful property, but all told, it does the north woods feel a bit TOO well - we thought we probably wouldn't want to go there for vacation since, well, we get that sort of think up at Ruttgers, so why do it here?
Today was an EARLY day - Up by 6, at the Magic Kingdom by 8, and on the Dumbo Ride by 8:10. In rapid succession we hit all of the Fantasyland greats - Peter Pan, Dumbo, Merry Go Round, Small World... No wait on any of it It was my first trip to Small World since, well, since it cost an A-Ticket to ride. And I loved it - it's WAY more charming than I remember it - and I'm sure they've updated it with certain PC tweaks, but it still feels like a wonderful call back to when you could point at a mountain and a doll in Lederhosen and say "That's SWITZERLAND!!!" The world doesn't feel quite as identifiable any more does it? Maybe it never really was, but I loved remembering those touchpoints.
On a whim we hit the Haunted Mansion - Isaac loved it, Bella hated it, even though we tried to prep her that it was "All Scooby Doo style ghosts - nothing real". Isaac was a real thrill seeker in general - he insisted on the Race Cars (he also insisted on steering, which led to many many jarring "bumps" as the car corrected itself on to the guide rail). AND he insisted on the Ripsaw Roller Coaster, which he laughed manaicallly during - he wanted to go on it again and again.
We pretty much hit everything we wanted to hit with no waits (again, thank you Tour Guide Mike), and laughed as we saw the Dumbo Ride with 50 minute waits by the end of our day. We're planning on revisiting the Magic Kingdom on Friday and hitting TomorrowLand with everything we got.
We left by 2, had some chill time at the hotel, and then started back to the Magic Kingdom for dinner, just in time for a short squll to pass through, throwing lightning around and forcing us down to 20 mph on the highway while sheets of water poured across our windshield ("A nice way to get the car clean" said Isaac). The rain cleared up just as we pulled up the The Contemporary Resort.
The Contemporary is the hotel that has the Monorail going right through it, which I thought was AWESOME. But inside, it really doesn't do modern much more than your average Courtyard by Marriott... it was just sort of blah. I wish it had a retro-sixties futurism happening, but it was more just, retro 80's Hyatt Regency sort of feel, which was not terribly awesome.
We did have a buffet dinner, and we had all of the characters drop by - Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, and Goofy. Isaac was out of his mind jumping around and hugging them all... but he did ask "why don't they talk?". Then Isaac and Bella did a 5 minute spontaneous dance which I will call the "cupcake sugar rush dance" - but it got quite the audience.
As we left, Pamela was beckoned to the table next to ours - they wanted to know if Joe and I were by any chance TV stars, because they could SWEAR they'd seen us somewhere before. I think that we just live a little big, maybe we give off that "comfortable in the spotlight" vibe. Because I'm pretty sure nobody saw that TV Pilot we made back in the late 1990s ("Papa and the Jimmy").
Tomorrow will be a lighter day - if the weather holds, we may revisit Epcot to see what we missed and spend a little more time in the international areas. But no big plans. At the very least, we're sleeping in for a while.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The flight down was good - on time and relatively smooth... but the last 10 minutes had us hitting some pretty major bumps... and poor Isaac wound up puking all over the place as we taxi'ed to the gate. Of course I wasn't quick enough with a bag, and it wound up EVERYWHERE. Fortunately the door opened shortly and people were able to flee. The flight attendants were very pleasant - apparently Isaac wasn't the only kid to have lost his cookies on the flight, either.
The downside is that Isaac has been announcing that "i think I'm going to frow up" at every opportunity. It figures - he didn't really see why he puked before, so it's a potential for every minute now.
So Friday we checked in to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, an African-themed hotel with a gorgeous atrium and wild animals wandering around right outside our windows. There are 4 giraffes, a pair of zebras, and many ox-goat-bull style animals. Some with absurdly large horns. The room isn't big, but the view is great. Nothing like having morning coffee watching a giraffe nibble on some leaves 100 feet away.
On Saturday we did the Animal Kingdom park. Here's where Pamela's obsessive planning came into play - We did all the rides we wanted to do, with no waiting at all. She got us hooked up with Tour Guide Mike, which is a "Disney Insider" website. She set up an itinerary that was based on going "contrary" to the typical flow of guests at the park, and strategic collection of "fast passes" which let you jump to the front of the line (but need to be planned out). For most of the day, we were like Salmon spawning, flying against the crowds. We started with a character breakfast at Tusker House, where our not-very-African bacon and waffles were complimented with visits from Donald, Daisy, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy, all in safari gear. The kids were thrilled.
We passed out early after that day, but not before running into Rick and Kari, parents of Bailey and Ty, who were at the tail end of their weeklong trip. We retired to the pool for drinks while the kids swam (mostly with Rick) - Bella discovered the water slide at the end of the pool and went down it thirty times. She counted.
Sunday was a chillaxing by the pool day - the kids were tired, we were tired, and we spent many hours at the pool, Randy, JeMae, and Jenny came by after THEIR day at Animal Kingdom, and there was another swim-fest into the evening. We had dinner at the big buffet in the hotel, which has African-themed foods (which to my tastes means "sort of BBQ, but with a great red harissa sauce you can put on everything"). The food was great.
Monday was our day for Epcot, and it was a RAINY RAINY DAY. It started drizzling, but by the time we finished our first ride on "Soarin'" (the imax flying ride), the lightning was flashing and there was a half inch of standing water everywhere. We stuck to plan and got to do the indoor rides we wanted to do, but by 11:30, we were getting hungry - we ducked into the british pub in the "international" part of Epcot and had a leisurely pub lunch... while the rain thundered down. "A Beautiful British Summer's Day" as Papa said a few times. More than a few times.
Since we were in the international area (which has exhibits from Canada, Great Britain, Morocco, Germany, Italy, USA, China, Japan, France, and I'm sure I'm forgetting one), we decided to fill out a "passport" for Bella - where you go to each country, find the "kidcot" station and get a stamp and talk to a native speaker.
It was actually very fun, though by the end of it we were thoroughly soaked. Highlights included Japan, which had an amazing gift shop, and Great Britain, where we ran into Tigger AND Mary Poppins! Mary was very nice to Bella, and Isaac did some jumping with Tigger.
Soaked to the bone we made our way back to the hotel, and we're taking another day off Tuesday - we all need the break. I wound up carrying Isaac for most of yesterday and my shoulders and arms are all a-twitch from exhaustion. I'm sitting in the grand lobby using my phone's connection, since Disney has taken the admirably retro approach of not only NOT having any Wifi, but also charging $10/day for a cabled connection.
It is forcing me to think twice about checking emails... so I'm really only checking in once a day with work, and am offline a lot.
And I needed some serious offline time. I'm very happy to be relaxing.
NEXT UP: We're doing the Magic Kingdom on Wednesday, and we hope the weather agrees with us!