Monday, February 27, 2012


Well, turns out that even if one practices moderation in drink and bedtimes, being in smoky environs and yelling at parties (with the music so loud, the default conversational tone is "yell") and excessive schmoozing were enough for "The Ick" to re-enter the body, and by Thursday I was back on my back feeling terrible.  My sensible and lovely wife Pamela reminded me that it is not actually NATURAL for a cold to last for over 3 weeks, and for heaven's sake will I just go to the doctor?

A quick visit later I had a Z-Pak in hand and was starting the powerful antibiotics.  The doc had a good idea that while this might have started viral, it's likely that it went bacterial, so let's try to kill that.  And 5 days later, I am thrilled to say I really really feel better.  My guts are turned inside out due to the Z-Pak's power, but acidophilous you are my friend and you will rebuild my flora.

Bella had a swim meet this weekend and she's getting better and better all the time - it's fun to watch her getting the choreography and hitting the marks on the music.  And she's just so good in the water...   But of course Isaac and I didn't spend the whole day at the meet - we had a Dad's Day together, with me back at Lifetime Fitness for the first time in 3 weeks, then some Pei Wei, and a bunch of great quotes which I posted to Facebook...  but I'll repeat here because Facebook is temporary and this blog is forever:  I actually used the blog to help me remember something from 2009 (about the bird sanctuary and aquarium I visited on a business trip...)  So the quotes please:

Isaac held his arm up to the brown wood wall at the restaurant and said "look - I'm blending in" and yes the color was pretty close. I said that was so cool and held my hand up and said "look - I don't blend in as well as you do". 
He said "don't worry dad. I know what you can blend in with: a light bulb!"
I was waiting for Isaac to finish a drawing at pickup today and he said "I'll just be a minute - why don't you check your phone while you wait?
I'm back in Jersey for part of the week:  Tricky travel day:  Started at 4:43 (2 min before my alarm) when the airline texted me to alert that the flight was delayed for 90 minutes.  So I reset the alarm for an hour later, got up, had a leisurely morning until the airline texted me with a "never mind, it's only delayed 60 min" which had me bolting out of the house with my toast half-eaten and my coffee sloshed into a travel mug.  I pounded the coffee on the way, and discovered that a fair amount had dribbled down my chin onto my shirt.
I'm TSA-Pre now, so I don't wait in lines that mortals do anymore, so I breezed past, got some club soda and worked the stain.  With 5 days on the road, I really don't have a spare shirt, and was hoping to make this work.  In the end, the tie covered the remnant of the stain well.  Got into Newark in just enough time that if I got into a car and hit the road immediately, I'd be 5 min early for the meeting (of course I had planned on a hour of cushion in travel, but we know where that went).  
I didn't plan on missing a fork in the freeway and being taken 15 miles off course...  so I did make the meeting but was 15 minutes late.  GOOD TIMES.  At least I was only attending, not leading.
It's a strange project where I have been brought in to sort of provide oversight as two vendors actually provide the services - I'm supposed to keep the two vendors from getting in each other's grills, and make sure there's a coordinated plan across the 6 months...   but I'm not sure if I'm actually superfluous or not.  We'll see.  In the meantime, I had some goooood New Jersey Italian:  A slice of pizza and a dish of penne and red sauce with sausage...  it was entirely too much food, and incredibly delicious, and it came to about $10.  RIDICULOUS.
I'll be headed down to Philly for a social evening on Wednesday and then up to Boston Thursday for some meetings Friday and a flight home.  Interesting detail:  Round Trip ticket to Newark Mon-Fri was $500 more than a one-way to Newark, a train to Boston, and a one-way from Boston to home.  Not sure what that is all about.
The Boston meeting will be interesting - Another sales guy in our company made the contact, and it turns out that the guy (Arvind) is a fellow I've run into many times in the past 12 years, and we've always got along.  So they got the meeting on the condition that I come along.  I'm bait.  But I'm ok with that, because I have an evening in Boston now, and I'm going to USE it.  Maybe go to Panera, YEAH.
Circling way back:  There were two additional details from the show:  
1)  One of the tech blogs made a big deal about complaining about being ignored by vendors in their booths who seemed more absorbed in their smartphones than looking for customers.  One of the companies he called out was a Minneapolis company and I know the guys.  And they are totally chuckleheads who were immersed in their phones when I dropped by too.  It was just funny.
2)  Turns out after I got that great demo of Epic tools, another of my team got asked by JUDY what we thought about what we saw - I wasn't there.  Apparently my colleague said something like "meh, it's ok".  And then she told ME she said that.  I almost died, and wrote Judy a note to relate my own thoughts about the tool - I was just mortified.
I understand sometimes wanting to play it cool, but this was seriously cool stuff:  I had written up a full page email to our whole company explaining just how cool it was.  I don't know why we wouldn't just tell Epic they had done a great job.  People are just so...  so...  frustrating some days.
Ok, that's the update for tonight.  Off to bed - got a long day of meetings on deck tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Everything is amazing

I had a great time at the trade show yesterday, and got to spend some time looking at some very cool new features coming from Epic....  my favorite company.  Three times I had people come up to me and thank me for my nice blog posting from 18 months ago (where I got all mushy in love with Epic).

But it was a loooong day and it segued right into a long night with vendor receptions and the annual invite-only "event" from HISTalk, which is basically Gawker for Healthcare Technology - a snarky blog filled with rumors, but also an excellent place to find out useful information.  I made the invite list (and many did not - rumor had it tickets were being traded for $50 outside the event).  The MC for the night picked me out early and insisted that I participate in an Elvis Lookalike competition during the big show.  Of course I said yes.

Naturally the competition was rigged, a "real Elvis" crashed the stage halfway through, so I decided instead of crooning "blue suede shoes" as was requested, I started singing "Don't you want me baby" by the Human League.  Not really sure why, but people liked it.

Later on, our whole gang went to find a bar, and found it impossible to get a table - they were all roped off... unless you purchased "bottle service" - a $200 bottle of vodka gives you a booth for you and your friends.  I did the math, and actually it wound up being a really good deal - They brought cranberry, soda, and tonic, and a big bottle of Chopin, and that had all 10 of us set for 2 hours - everyone (but me) had 2-3 drinks - so you figure 10 people, 2 drinks at $12/each, the bottle was actually a good deal.  Plus it made me feel like some sort of high roller.  People were looking at our table with envy.

Las Vegas:  People can SMOKE there.  That's still a strange thing for me to process.  My entire wardrobe has been encased in plastic bags and will not be removed until it's ready to be washed.  STINKY.

I'm proud to say I didn't go overboard at any point - no hangovers, not a single cent gambled:  But so much time in loud bars has shredded my vocal cords, so we'll have to have me sound nice and husky.

The title of the post refers to Louis CK's monologue about watching someone get frustrated because the in-flight internet is busted - and I am totally using the inflight internet right now.  It's amazing.  And now we're descending and I'm going to be picked up by the family and we're having dinner out together - and THAT's going to be REALLY wonderful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I'm at the big HIMSS trade conference for healthcare - it's in Las Vegas and I'm at the Venetian.  This is my first time in Vegas since my dad took me here for my 21st birthday:  I will say this is not the same town I visited those 23 years ago:  I believe that I am on "the strip" which is completely unrecognizable... not that I remember that much about my trip so many years earlier (with the possible exception of the floor show we saw with a lady magician who "made her clothes disappear" - I later discovered that she actually does the trick with her twin sister, who I guess was on boob duty.  That's a strange family dynamic right there.  The disappearing top bit was just the end, the rest of her act was actually a pretty decent magic set.)

Anyway, I'm still not feeling GREAT, so I've been taking breaks and marshaling my energy for my bursts of interaction.  Last night we had our big reception, and almost 200 people showed up.  For followup purposes, I wrote down the details of about 25 conversations I had across the 3 hours.  It was exhausting, and my voice is fried - I sound like Kim Carnes.

I do love this show, and in 90 minutes, the real fun starts:  The trade show floor opens.  Up to now it's been meetings and "educational sessions" which I really can take or leave.  But let me loose on a floor of vendors with the latest in healthcare technology, and yeah, I'm happy.  I have meetings set up with a few, but have left a few hours to just prowl.

As to the rest of Vegas - I did step OUTSIDE the hotel complex to get some fresh air and find the Starbucks, but it's mostly indoors.  I've been walking right through the casinos - I have no desire to play a single game - I'm not really wired for gambling, which is good.

Time to catch a few ZZZs before the trade floor - then it's a pretty intense day going into the evening - two big parties I'm invited to that will be good for networking.  Then it's an early flight home tomorrow and not a moment too soon.  I'm missing the gang.

I do want to come back to Vegas with my sweetie pie, however.  It's pretty wild.

Monday, February 06, 2012

On Drama

I just came off of a 4 day "solo dad" stint with the kids and dogs - Pamela was up at a scrapbooking retreat, having a wonderful time. I took two "work at home" days to be available to the little ones, and we did all the classic dad stuff... Ate well, danced a lot, played a lot fewer videogames than you'd imagine, and read a lot. Also I attacked the sock pile, and finally filled all of our sock drawers with happy matches.

It was a wonderful time to recharge, after a few weeks of more travel than I've been used to, and a few more coming up. I'm on a plane right now to DC to visit my best man Erik. Well, technically I'm going out to do some work for a hospital in Fredericksburg, but I'm looking at it as an excellent opportunity to see my good friend. Take these moments when they're given, I say.

I took my late evenings with the dogs at my feet, the kids asleep, the socks sorted, and I got caught up on some media: I finished up the first season of Homeland - a manchurian candidate like show that won Claire Danes the Golden Globe, and she earned it, for sure. Damian Lewis also was very good as a frustratingly opaque POW who may or may not have been turned by to a terrorist in captivity. I'll leave the plot points at that, because at least one dear reader is just 2 episodes in, and the DVDs will be released in a few weeks and I want the REST of you to consider watching it. WARNING: This is a showtime series, therefore there are boobies. Move past the boobies (nowhere near as many as Game of Thrones, btw), and you'll be in good thriller-land.

I read an interview with one of the creators of Homeland Alex Gansa - he was a showrunner for "24" for a season, so he knows how to build tension... but I can reveal in a spoiler free manner that Claire's character is certainly no Jack Bauer - I think she holds a gun about once in the show... but is no less destructive in her own way. Two things struck me about the interview - first was the fact they're set up for a season 2 (or more), which leaves me with an odd feeling: When the last moment of episode 12 flashed by, I thought "now THAT's an awesome way to end this". I felt like every character had a great arc - we saw everybody's low and high, and the "situation" played out well for 12 episodes - there was a strong arc... I just don't know how that can be done in a second season - and I'm not sure I want to know what happens next. But I suspect I WILL want to know before long...

The other thing I read was that while they had an overall arc for the series, that on and episode by episode basis they were pretty much making it up and seeing where it goes. He revealed that even on 24, when there was a mole, they usually picked the mole right near the end based on the person whose activities were most likely to have been mole like. That means they were counting on a mole existing, but didn't know WHO until the last minute.

This sits WRONG with me: I don't think it's too much to ask to have these things actually plotted and planned out... but apparently series television is a lot looser than that. I guess it comes down to my ultimate disappointment with X-Files, where it turns out they really had no cohesive overall arc - that they were making it up as they went, and in the end tried to retrofit a conspiracy into there... but there were many episodes that didn't gibe with the big picture - where a person who is later revealed to be a traitor actually risks his/her life to save the person they were secretly undermining...

In Homeland, I can vouch that they DID make it all make sense - there's no "hey but why did he then..." moment at all - it's very consistent, but almost in spite of itself. In the interview it's revealed that a very key plot point was established through improvisation... which was a bit amazing to me. On the other hand, I have to respect that even though they had an arc in place, they were able to start to refocus parts of the plan based on strengths you find in the people playing the characters.

I was thinking of this more with last night's Downton Abbey - a show that is quite wonderful, but the episode last night was just a bit of a turd, with the ridiculous "Martin Guerre/English Patient" subplot - you KNOW that wasn't in the big arc planning sessions.

My other media completion was Neal Stephenson's REAMDE, which I loved beyond all reason, despite the fact it took over 50 pages to truly HOOK me. But as I've written before, Stephenson meanders a bit before letting the story start to go: In his 3000-page Baroque trilogy, it takes fully 200 pages to find a plot accelerator. REAMDE deals with a virtual world, but also about Iowa farm people, Idaho survivalists, Russian mobsters (and former Spetznatz heroes), Chinese hackers and street vendors, Hungarian IT support, MI6 spies, and Islamic Jihadists. It really gets roaring.

What's fun is that the main villain is not so much a criminal mastermind as much as a very good situational improviser: He doesn't think more than one move in advance, and as such is unpredictable and unstoppable. You can't root for him - he's just too terrible - but he's FUN to read, which is a great thing.

And so, I got caught up on media, and will be dong REAL work for a while, I suppose. Sigh.