This weekend was marked less by Simon's first exposure to the strange customs of Halloween, and more by the fact that he has figured out how to roll front to back, and back to front. Sort of. The truth is that he's still a little stubborn about doing it in both directions. Like a NASCAR driver, he only turns left. But still, it's a very exciting step for him.
It was a long day, and he didn't really do any napping. We went back to the apartment to turn in our keys, then went for pizza at Zeek's. It's way too expensive, but it is delicious for sure. Then we went to Target for some essentials and a few new toys, since Simon seems to be getting bored with some of the items he has (we'll turn over the old ones to consignment, charity or garage sale).
By the time we got home in the afternoon, he wouldn't really nap, so we got him up and Diana put him in a Tigger costume, which he didn't entirely object to. I swear, we've got one cute kid. With his personality forming, he just gets more cute every day.
Unfortunately, it hasn't been all puppies and rainbows lately with him, because the constant teething has made him needy on and off. Combine that with his lack of sleep today, and he was just miserable for the last few hours he was up. It took three or four attempts to get him to sleep. Sometimes it's hard to remember that he's just hurting and wants the comfort of his parents. I hate to see our little guy so unhappy. I don't know what I'd do if he was like that all of the time.
It's so crazy to see how things change. Two years ago on Facebook, I'd see mostly pictures of friends getting liquored up at parties, now I see all of our friends torturing their own children with silly costumes the way we did, and I think it's cute. Is this really our life? It sure is, and I don't really mind it, because I've got a darling child and an excellent partner to raise him. I can't emphasize enough how thankful I am for that.
So of course, here are a few shots of our little Tigger...
A couple of months ago, I got in touch with the director of what appears to be one of the bigger clubs in Seattle. Long story short, we reached an agreement that I would coach their east side 17 national team ("Elite," as they call it, to differentiate it from the club teams).
My coaching story in a lot of ways began in college, when I played on a club team there. I really sucked at the game as a player, even though I really embraced a lot of the game theory. Since we were essentially self-coached, it forced me to think about the skills a great deal, in a technical way.
Two years after college, I was working my government TV gig, and got a request to post an ad on the cable bulletin board for a freshman coach at the high school. I thought, gosh, I can do that. The varsity and JV coaches were also new, and my age, so away we went. And that first year, I was terrible at coaching too. But on the up side, my own skills got better in a hurry, because I spent so much time breaking them down for the kids.
That second year went marginally better, but when I left the job in the suburbs, I also bailed on the program for a number of reasons. Part of it was the entitlement nonsense typical of suburban high schools (on the part of the parents, not the kids), but also because of the distance. After a year off, I discovered the club scene.
I made a random post on the OVR forums about wanting to coach, and while in Hawaii with Stephanie, on our honeymoon, I got a call from a club director in Cleveland about doing a 16 club team, and that began the long tenure with that club. It was a completely different scenario from high school. All of the kids actually wanted to be there, and you didn't really have to keep less talented kids. Parents just wanted their kids to be better so they could make their high school teams or play in college. People were just generally more motivated.
That club started out as all club teams, with one national team (we called them open at the time), a modest eight teams total. Over those seven seasons, it kept growing and growing, to something like 12 to 14 teams total, including a variety of open and club. I found my sweet spot to be 17 open/national (I don't remember when they changed the designation). OVR was a tough region, often home to national champs in each age division, and there was generally one club in each of the Ohio markets that was more dominant than the others. While we weren't that club in Cleveland, we kept getting closer, attracting more talent each year. My teams were generally ranking in the second fourth from the top most years, which was pretty gratifying since, with notable exceptions, my kids were fairly average. Trying to crack that top 25% was tough. We would crack it after going to out-of-region events, since they were worth more points, and other regions weren't as strong, but we'd still end up somewhere the bottom part of the top half.
That said, I often suspect we would have had greater success if my teams weren't continually robbed. There were these sisters that coached for the club that for some reason would get the club director to do whatever they wanted, and countless times I'd lose kids to their 18's teams. What annoyed me about this is that they never had better results for it. In all of the years I coached for that club, I only brought up two kids, and only then because they would very clearly be bored out of their skull and held back at the 16's level. It wasn't a decision I took lightly. Things went down hill in my last year with the club, but more on that later.
In 2005, my life was in total chaos. Stephanie and I separated toward the end of the JO season, and I was doing contract work at the time. My book had just come out, and I was plotting my next "real" career move. One of my dearest kids from the 2004 season got in touch with me about an open job at her tiny private school in Akron. She was second string for me, but emerged as a strong leader with great skills on her high school team, and I became close friends with her and her mom after the season. Needing desperately to get involved in something on a deeper level, I quit the contract work and took the coaching job, with no worries of teacher contracts or other nonsense to worry about in the event I wanted to stay with it.
This was, to put it lightly, a fixer upper. Our Lady of The Elms had 100 girls total, so literally one fourth of the school was in the volleyball program. As a tiny division IV school, they were used to playing other tiny (crappy) schools, and despite looking like a middle school team, rolled over most of their opponents the previous year. The athletic director, wanting to raise the game, scheduled matches against better teams and bigger schools, for which I was grateful.
By this time, I had some solid success stories with an adaptation of the swing offense, and despite it being far more advanced than anything these kids had encountered, I felt they could handle it since they were all above average in academics. Generally speaking, I was right, but just as I was teaching them the system, they were teaching me how to make it suit them. Every day they surprised me, and they caused me to question everything I thought I knew. It was the first team where kids embraced a generalist attitude, and it led me to an unlikely middle and an unlikely setter.
The season was challenging, in part because it's hard to convince kids that they're as good as they are sometimes, especially against those bigger schools. We had one match that we lost on an official's incompetence (opponent blocked out of bounds, and he couldn't figure out why that was our point). That was the most emotional I've ever been at a match, and the kids were as well. On the flip side, we beat a bigger, more talented private boarding school in our last home game, and it was easily the best moment I've ever had as a coach. Everything came together, and everything that I believed in had been validated that day.
In the end, despite having what I consider one of my greatest successes in life, I elected not to continue coaching with the school. I wanted to concentrate on my life and work, and create some stability as divorce was looming. There were too many parent issues at that little school too, most of which were about play time, their average record (they didn't understand that playing bigger schools meant they'd win less), delusions of D-1 scholarships, etc. The AD and I agreed that we were successful, and that was good enough for me.
(Side note: I'm still saddened by Emma's passing last summer. As the only sophomore on the team, she had the most to prove, and she delivered. She was such a funny, sweet and wonderful kid, and it bothers me to no end that she died so needlessly.)
In 2006 I went back to the club, and the sister coaches again got their way, and wrestled the 17's away from me. I got pushed to 18's, which was 80% leftover 17's. Most of the kids were going through the motions and not committed. I wouldn't say that the season was a loss, but it was hard to keep your heart in it when the kids were indifferent. Once again, we had a few bright spots, but it wasn't the level I was used to.
Later that year, the club director decided she was done, and without asking any of us who spent those years building the club to the borderline greatness it had achieved, she handed it over to some schmucks from another club. Actually, what she really did is hand over the mailing list and the name, because other than one guy who was friends with the other club guys, none of us went with it. We had been sold out. I spent a lot of time being very angry about that.
In 2008, I started out with the intention of coaching for another up and coming club, until they designated practice sites that were an hour plus away, and had teams sharing nets for practice. Yeah, national teams. It was completely absurd.
Since then, I got married, had a baby, moved 2,000 miles and all of that, and here I am today. I have a fairly positive opinion about the club. It's fairly organized, and the club director is full-time, which beats the crap out of a volunteer doing it to make sure that their kid has a place to play. It's his job. There are a few travel tournaments, to Las Vegas, Spokane and one in either Reno or Minneapolis (I sure hope it's Reno). I have no idea what to expect in terms of talent, as volleyball doesn't quite get the respect that it does in the Ohio Valley Region. I could have an epic team or one that's cosmically average. I'll have an assistant who is a current player for a local college, which will be a huge help.
It'll feel good to get back on that court.
I found myself feeling very melancholy tonight. I think things have just added up a bit. Like this is closing weekend at Cedar Point, and it's the first one I'll miss in something like 12 years. My would-be anniversary was this week, would've been 10. Stopping by the old apartment today, the one I'm glad to be rid of, made me a little sad because it's the place we brought Simon home to. And dammit if I don't miss my hot tub for its relaxation properties.
There are bigger issues too, but not things I want to publicly write about. The world generally just feels so heavy lately. Part of this is undoubtedly exhaustion, because between all of the travel and the moving, I can't seem to catch up. We actually postponed our Orlando trip by six to eight weeks, partially for the unrest that would come with what should be restful, and partly to be fiscally responsible.
In three weeks, I've got a week off. Our group's group gets the day before Thanksgiving off, and our immediate group gets the day off before that. So throw in a vacation day, and that's the week. I am hell bent on doing only things I want that week. I need that in the worst way. I haven't really had any decompression in awhile.
I have to admit that I'm starting to really drink the Windows Phone 7 Kool-Aid®. I've had pretty high hopes for it since I first saw it, but with every demo I start to become drawn to it more and more. Today's keynote at PDC was another example of that. I mean, look at the demo app ScottGu builds and compare that experience to "Hello World" on iPhone. No comparison.
When the phones do come out next month, I may still wait unless I can't stand it. My early termination fee on the iPhone will be around $100 at that point (it's prorated for "time served"), so considering the phone is free, that might not be horrible. I would like at that point to give Diana my phone so she at least has 3G data service.
Wait factors include the equipment at launch. I'm not sure if I'll like any of the models AT&T is carrying. Of the US models, I actually think the HTC HD7 looks nicest, but it's on T-Mobile. On paper, the Samsung Focus (AT&T) might be best for size and battery life, but I'll have to see it in real life. I like durable feeling stuff!
I haven't worked much on my app lately, but then I haven't worked on much of anything of my own lately. Must get back to it.
We've been at the new place now for about a week, and I have to say that overall life feels like it's of a higher quality. Of course, if it wasn't, I'd be pissed since we're paying more for the place, so I shouldn't be all that shocked.
Diana's intense desire to get unpacked was really key to landing quickly, and despite the downside to that, I have to say that it sure is nice to take to a place so quickly. As you might expect, her immediate needs were to get the kitchen and bedrooms functional, mine were to get the office and living room operational. The office got at least to the point where I could use the computer quickly, but needs additional furniture for some storage needs. The living room I didn't really tackle until the weekend, but it's good now even if the wiring of the gadgets is suboptimal. I also spent a ton of time taking care of debris, of which there is way more than last time since these packers sucked at their jobs. I've also got storage/non-essential stuff more or less stacked in the garage, though I may have to rethink it once the cars are in there.
The first and most welcome plus is the natural light. Especially when it's sunny, the place has almost a cathedral like glory to it. Unfortunately, we're in a rainy streak, so we're not getting as much of that as I'd like, and the shorter days don't help. My office is a very comfortable space for me, and I can see how if I had to work from home, I could. Having Simon's room upstairs means we don't have to turn the TV down to 2. And everything through the stereo sounds fantastic in the stupid high ceiling living room. The open floor plan in general has a great community feel to it, and I can say with certainty that I want something like that once we can afford to buy a place. Oh, and seeing the Cascades, relatively close, every night on the way home is just awesome, especially with snow on the peaks now.
The place isn't without its quirks, of course. The living room is smaller than it felt, and my couch kind of sucks in it because it's too big. An electric stove is also not ideal. And the weirdest thing, there's this odd curb on the driveway barely a car length from the house that makes it a pain in the ass to park two cars there. Hopefully it's easier once they're in the garage.
My commute time on average has been somewhere between 7 and 10 minutes longer, so I leave a little earlier. I would really like to start taking the Connector and not drive at all, but it leaves around 7, and it's hard to get up that early. The second route leaves too late though, considering my desire to leave work earlier, so I'll have to just suck it up. As soon as my laptop comes in at work (for wi-fi use on the bus), I'll probably start by doing it three times a week and see how it goes.
In any case, I really it here so far. It's an interesting area that tries to be a series of subdivisions that try not to be subdivisions, and it generally pulls it off. The poor Cleveland kid in me still tries to fight being "one of those people," but I'm not sure that's worth the energy. I like living in the burbs, and it doesn't mean I have to be pretentious about it, or that anyone else already is.
Can't wait to have some people over. I do miss having parties.
I realized today that days go by in huge quantities where I don't work on any personal projects, and it bothers me. My personal projects aren't just a source of income, they're also the thing that keeps me sharp and gives me room to experiment in a way that a day job can't. Granted, we've been crazy busy lately, with the move, the Ohio trip, packing prior to the move and generally looking after Simon as he's a lot less independent when he's teething. But the fact is, I haven't checked in any code in three weeks.
The other thing is that I've been a lot more engaged at work since we started a new project, and that's a good thing. It just happens to be a trade-off, because I'm less interested in writing code at home when I've been doing it all day. Our dev director made a comment to me that he was surprised that more devs don't have little side projects/businesses like we do (he does freecell.net), but I do see how families, hobbies and indeed your day job can put you off from it.
I'd still like to pour some focus into finishing the MVC version of the forum app in time for the framework's v3 release (if I told you when that is, apparently I'd have to kill you), and especially before volleyball gets really intense. In fact, I was even asked about integrating it into an open source CMS being developed at work. Heck, it has almost 300 downloads and it's not even usable yet!
The bottom line is that I need to manage my time better, and that means figuring out how to spend time with Simon and Diana, watch Fringe and Modern Family, as well as write code and get some exercise.
Today is the day that the DeLorean would have landed in the "future" version of Hill Valley. Sadly, there are several problems. Our cars are still not flying and don't have Mr. Fusion's on them. There are no hoverboards, no double neck ties (thank God). No more Jaws sequels either. Also, Hill Valley, also known as the Universal Studios Hollywood Backlot, burned down a couple of years ago, though it has since been restored.
Elisabeth Shue, however, seems likely to sleep through most of the day, so at least that's accurate. What ever happened to her? The world needs more Shue.
And you can now buy the movie trilogy on Blu-Ray. That's technological progress.
Simon has not been a happy baby lately. If the teething weren't enough, he developed a cold last week, so he's been cranky. Dragging him all over Ohio I'm sure didn't help. And like us, I think he's also trying to get used to his new surroundings.
We put him down for a nap just before 5 today, hoping that he's still wake up for dinner and hang out for awhile. We're still trying to get him to sleep later in the morning, and we might be making some progress by simply not getting him when he starts babbling in the morning.
Tonight, I got him up a little before 7, and we had about an hour of quiet play time on the couch, with warm milk. He was happy, chilled out, and had some giggles, wedged between some pillows and me. It was the happiest I've seen him in awhile, and it was wonderful. In the chaos of moving, I felt like I wasn't getting quality Simon time, and I really needed that.
I was chatting with a friend tonight about some difficulties she was having with one of her friends. To summarize, she felt that the relationship was being somewhat trivialized by actions of the friend, and that made her feel shitty. I'm sure that we've all been there.
I've struggled with this situation countless times. Friends I've had for many years have in some way made me feel like I wasn't worth it, despite some amount of history or commonalities or whatever, and it hurts. The only thing I can really gather from those situations is that it's not a reflection of my value in the world.
The only real coping mechanism is to accept these relationships for what they are. It's easy for me to say that people inevitably disappoint you, but I know the opposite is true as well. People can be truly remarkable. People who mean the world to me have also virtually kicked me in the nuts for one reason or another, and it's hard to see sometimes why I admired them as I once did. All you can really do is accept that stuff happens, and either accept what's there or move on.
Our move yesterday, despite using actual movers, did not go as smoothly as I hoped, for a number of reasons that rest almost entirely with the moving company. I'll rant about that some other time.
Right now, we're in a maze of poorly labeled boxes and an overall unsettled feeling, as you might expect. Simon is struggling with crabby bouts caused by some combination of teething and general needyness, and that isn't helping. What it really comes down to is that we need to figure out how to better relax. We're too on edge, and that sucks.
Diana has already brought an amazing amount of order to the kitchen and Simon's room in particular. That I wasn't home today was not ideal, that's for sure. I got my computer set up tonight, which was causing me anxiety because I like to keep careful track of bills and such. I also finished getting the DVR set up, sort of. Tomorrow I hope to bring some order to the garage and get storage type stuff secured for the long term.
The new place definitely has some quirks, but as Diana pointed out, the amount of sun that comes into the place is just awesome. It's so nice to be out of the dungeon. For this I can learn to live with an electric stove, and a living room that isn't quite as big as I thought it was.
In addition to chaos management, we still need to patch the walls at the old place and clean it up a bit. We also need groceries, some shelving or bakers rack or something for in the kitchen (there's a closet that will work for a second pantry). There are lots of things to do.
We've also decided to postpone our Orlando vacation. Originally we were planning to do it after Thanksgiving, but we're going to push it out to late January. I didn't really want to do that, but felt like we needed to. The recent travel, combined with the move, has kind of been a grind. We need some weekends to do nothing. Harry Potter can wait!
After all of the "meh" that Apple has announced, finally, something that really tickles my techie naughty bits today. The new MacBook Air makes skinny the new hotness, in the first computer of this class that's actually functional and useful for something beyond reading e-mail and viewing porn.
The appeal for me is that it would be ultimately useful in travel situations. I love my 17" MacBook Pro, and it has managed to visit 20 states, but it's a pain in the ass to carry around long distances. This has become even more apparent when toting baby gear. I long for something small and light, without being too underpowered to do any real work. The new Air models fit that, and relatively speaking they're surprisingly inexpensive.
But the thing is, in addition to my 17", I've got a 13" MBP coming to me at work any day now (yes, Microsoft isn't above using Macs, seeing as how we make Office for them and they run Windows exceptionally well), so I probably don't need three laptops in my life. Those are a known quantity, since Diana has one, so I'll roll with that for awhile and see how it suits me. One of the other guys already has one, and my officemate has one coming with mine.
It seems like there's always another toy.
Tonight is the last night we'll sleep in the apartment at Park Hill. With this realization, I suppose I'm able to better assess how good and bad the place was.
We moved really, really fast when we got to the Seattle area in terms of apartment hunting. We had already researched a ton of places on the Internet, and started looking at them the day after we arrived. Even though Microsoft provided 30 days of temporary housing, I was not fond of being in limbo with a pregnant lady and four cats. It caused a lot of anxiety.
There were a lot of motivating factors in choosing a place, but the biggest ones were distance to work and cost. Of the places we looked at, the best candidate was this beautiful, hardwood floors, marble counters, amazing townhouse up in Kenmore. It was a little pricey (I think the same as our new place), but totally new. Imagine the heartbreak when we did the drive to work, on a weekend no less, and it took almost 40 minutes, without traffic. Sigh.
We checked out a couple more places the next day, and we found this three bedroom that we've been in now for almost a year. The location was great, and it was "cheap" compared to a lot of places. That turned out to be a good thing, since retiring credit card debt took a lot longer than I would have liked, and we had Diana's house for the first six months on top of that (Diana's severance helped pay for it, but that's not the point... it was money we still had to spend on one of two houses we didn't live in). The relatively economical place turned out to be the right thing.
And truthfully, I didn't mind it all that much. The space was adequate, energy costs were super low, convenient access to retail, easy non-freeway drive to work... and then I spent a month at home after Simon was born.
The negatives became very apparent at that point. Even as the weather improved, it was always dark, facing north with a half-height retaining wall. We were further resistant to keeping the window shades up because it was like being in a fishbowl, particularly as the asshole kids who wanted the upstairs neighbors to come out would stand there in front of our window staring in. Soccer in the parking lot, hitting Diana's car all of the time, didn't help.
So this summer we decided that, even though my house still hadn't sold, we were going to find a house to rent. Even if it did cost more, we were really tired of putting our lives on hold and feeling transient. Diana started "shopping" and saw our current place on Craigslist, and it was immediately apparent that it was a solid place. And at the end of the day, the rent is less than $200 more than the Park Hill renewal, and that's further offset by the included water and sewer.
There are minor negatives, like an electric stove and a commute that's about 10 minutes longer, but I think they're pretty good tradeoffs. We'll be closer to Diana's brother too, and that's a plus because I want Simon to know his cousins.
The biggest win in my mind? Lots of windows facing south. It's a wonderfully bright place when there's sun.
I'm sure it's a guy thing, but the thing that annoys me most about moving is the electronic stuff. There are so many things that need to be connected with a bunch of wires, and you have to take at least some care in disconnecting it all before you wire it all back up after the move. It's incredibly annoying. Particularly if you have movers, they can easily just pack everything in your underwear drawer, and you pull it out at the destination and put it back. Ditto for kitchen stuff (if you don't mind all of the wrapping paper).
The first part is the computer stuff. Actually, this isn't nearly as bad as it used to be. I can thank Steve Jobs for that, I suppose. The iMac is one big thing that doesn't have to connect to a bunch of other things. Well, in my case it does, but it's just a handful of USB things, and an external monitor (which just doesn't look as good as, say, one of those new matching 27" monitors they make now :)). In the old days, I'd have a bunch of different stuff to connect into it, and there would be this big separate tower and what not, with six different kinds of connections to it.
The TV and audio stuff, however, is still a huge pain. It's also not as bad, since you now replace your VCR, tape deck, CD player, DVD player and what not with fewer devices. While those thing have been consolidated with fewer boxes, there are newer boxes now, namely video game consoles. The funny thing is that I only really use the Xbox. The Wii has been turned on maybe once in the last year. But all of this crap eventually has to route through the stereo as well, and it has wires for five speakers. I can't believe there isn't a better way, today. Granted, HDMI is a step in that direction, but not many of my things have HDMI, not the least of which is my 2006 TV.
There is a little bit of angst with the knowledge that I'll have to do this again in two years or so (sooner if I could generate 60-80k in cash for a house, and the old one went away). And who knows, maybe someone will figure out how to make more of those wires go away.
Our voyage to our former home state last week was epic in terms of its scope and the sheer number of people we met up with. It was so exhausting, that I'm not sure I can even recount it for the quasi-historical record that is my blog. But I'll try.
The general purpose of the trip was twofold: To introduce Simon to friends and family, and to attend BooBuzz, the CoasterBuzz event we've been doing at Cedar Point now for five years. Since some of the family was based in Toledo, and there are no direct flights between SEA and CLE, it actually made more sense (in terms of time and economics) to fly to Detroit instead. Aside from having to drive through the filth of "The D," it worked out really well.
Wednesday we got up at 3-something to catch a 6 a.m. flight. Traveling with Seattle as your origin to virtually anywhere east is an enormous pain in the ass, I'm finding. Sure, I expect to lose the three hours, but with three pre-move visits here and four other trips east in the last year, you can't ever leave at a decent time. This did fortunately put us at DTW in the early afternoon, so at least the drive to Cleveland was relatively easy from there.
One of our secondary goals of the trip was to eat at all of our favorite places that don't exist in Seattle, so we snuck in a lunch at Famous Dave's in Toledo on the way to Cleveland. Technically, there are several locations south of Seattle, but none of them are convenient. This was a fave for us because of the Cedar Point location, and also a fond stop on our cross-country drive, I think in Billings, Montana. I love the "Devil's Spit" sauce. Delicious.
The drive to Cleveland reminded me of something I had not fully appreciated. The roads are generally plentiful with the number of lanes, and you can drive so many places. In Seattle, the freeways are cramped, and there just aren't many places you can easily drive. Beyond Vancouver and Portland, there isn't much else to see within driving distance. From Cleveland, I logged miles to Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincy, Southern Indiana, Buffalo, Mackinac Island... there are a whole lot of destinations. I kind of miss that freedom.
And what a joy it was to drive around aggressive drivers. Sure, that sounds counterintuitive, but what some may call aggressive I call predictable. The four-way stop near my house had people rolling up, and the first in was the first out, just like it should be. No sooner did we land in Seattle that the first four-way we went through, everyone stopped and stared at each other. It's annoying. Similarly, people merge on freeways as soon as they get beyond the barrier, solid lines be damned. It's predictable, and traffic keeps flowing.
Simon was so good on the plane, and he did OK in that long drive. Diana did have to sit with him a few times throughout the week, mostly so he could eat. His sleeping and eating routine was trashed, so it's no surprise that he got cranky at times, especially given his teething. Poor kid had some screaming bouts now and then, intermixed with smiles depending on how distracted he was from his mouth pain.
On Thursday, we covered a ton of ground, hitting I-71, 77, 480, 90 and 490. We started by visiting the Key campus where Diana worked. Her former fellow trainers loved to see her and the lad, as did many of the call center folk she trained. Oddly enough, this was the first time I had ever been in the building. I never went in when she was actually employed there.
From there, we headed to the Winking Lizard in Brunswick. Of all the food places I miss, this is at the top of the list. It's not that the food is the most awesome stuff ever created, it's just that it's so comfortable, tastes good and isn't expensive. The atmosphere of every location has a great vibe to it, from downtown, to Peninsula, to Macedonia, to Brunswick. I went once a week to locations near my job or home. There is no equivalent in Seattle, which tends to lean toward stuff that's more expensive, and often pretentious. I really miss it.
After lunch, we stopped by my house. I won't lie... I reacted very emotionally to being there. I was angry to still own it, and at the same time, happy about all of the memories I created in that place. It was my first house, I fell in love while living there several times, I felt the joy of many parties, and the isolation of divorce. So many experiences, good and bad, were packed into the eight and a half years I lived there.
The intensity of that reaction was short-lived though, because Simon was in no mood for hearing that he was conceived in that house. I did a quick walk-through to find that the toilets were growing science projects, and read the water meter to see that the City of Cleveland water department should indeed go fuck themselves if they can't be bothered to send someone out for a meter read. (They owe me money, not the other way around. In a related note, they keep fucking with Diana over the house she doesn't even own anymore.) The landscaping is a mess, and the house desperately needs some paint in some rooms, but it's still a great house. I miss living there.
The clock really started ticking, so we made a swing by the new (well, new as we were moving) Jared location to get Diana's ring inspected and cleaned, since the location in Seattle is not convenient. From there we headed to my dad's house in North Ridgeville.
Simon got a short nap in the car, so he was fairly alert for his grandfather. He really loved Leo's cat, Pete, and in a moment I wish I could've captured with video, Simon grabbed his tail, gave out a shriek, and sent Pete off protesting (minus a lump of fur in Simon's hand). Good times. He also had a head bump that scared the shit out of me, when he fell back into the handle on the recliner.
After a couple of hours there, and I can't believe how well Simon did, we were going to head back to Brecksville when we made an unscheduled detour. We diverted to Melt, on the premise that if there was no wait, we'd stop. It was the closest we'd get to Lakewood, so we gave it a shot, and scored. I don't think we were actually there more than 40 minutes, but we got that delicious gourmet grilled cheese, and it was awesome. Simon spent much of the time protesting.
That evening, we had some visitors, including Cousin Dave, Niki and Jake, the latter of which is huge! I can't believe how much he has grown. Something we have to look forward to. We also had a visit from my friend Randi from the ICOM days. She's had all kinds of life changes too lately, with ICOM getting bought and her moving to a new house. It was great to see them all, and really strange to go so long without seeing them.
Friday started with breakfast at Jennie's to see Simon's cousins, as well as our friend Shannon. Once again, he did a great job staying up and being super interactive with everyone. He seems to really hit it off with older kids, and watched every little thing that Gabe and Ann did. This was also the location for the great poop incident of 2010, where he decided to go while in diaper transition, only to do some peeing, causing more spreading of poo, and topped off with the depletion of diaper wipes. There was poo everywhere on the poor kid! Fortunately, the team effort got him into the bathtub and cleaned up, and he took it all in stride, even if we didn't.
Our hope for the afternoon was to stop at Chet & Matt's in Sandusky for the pizza we love, but time got the best of us after the poo incident, which required a Target run for diaper wipes. By that time, we had to meet up with the Walsh's to go to Cedar Point for BooBuzz.
We arrived a little late, not getting to the Millennium Force platform until about 4:30, but I didn't care. I can't fully describe how awesome it was to be rolling Simon down the midway, before the park was open, on a beautiful and sunny day. Being there with him required some kind of reconciliation of change that I had never fully considered before. CP has been a huge part of my life for a very long time, where I've forged some incredible friendships and created many, many memories. Without having access to it this year, I've learned a lot about the role it played in my "old life," and Simon is most certainly a part of my "new life" that I've been building the last eleven months. I guess there's a bigger story about how great my life has been, and perhaps how I've taken it for granted to some extent. It's really hard to verbalize it all. A lot of it is just the joy of being able to share something so part of me with my little guy, even if he can't understand the importance of it yet.
We didn't end up riding very much, but it really didn't matter. Seeing Simon watch Raptor and Wicked Twister, and jump when he saw Dragster go by, was neat. I do regret not doing a few more rides, but wouldn't you know it, they appeared to be having record attendance again, so the lines were a little longer than I would've liked. It was still a vast improvement over last year, when the Saturday event saw ridiculous crowds.
Even though we didn't get to hang out a ton, it was a rare moment where me, Gonch and Carrie all occupied the same general space, something we don't get to do very often. If Mike could have been there, it'd be a full podcast gathering! I don't get to see them very often, but even if they're largely virtual friendships, I'm glad to have them.
We finally bailed around 10, after Carrie got off of Maverick. The park was just beautiful in a way that only an amusement park can be. We didn't get down by Red Garter and the treats there, unfortunately, and we obviously didn't want to take Simon through the Fright Zone, but otherwise we did get a good bit of roaming. And I had the fries, which was super important.
Saturday, we had our lunch at Chet & Matt's, and Carrie joined us. Simon really seems to like her, and really, who doesn't? The pizza was delicious. Only one more food tour stop to hit.
About an hour and a half later, we were in Maumee, outside of Toledo, and stayed in a "Studio Plus" or something like that. At first it just seemed kinda outdated, but it was otherwise adequate, and I thought clean. Later I noticed the yack/blood stains on the mattress, and that totally disgusted me. Meh, you never know. The online reviews indicated the place was fine.
In any case, again the plan was to stay in one place and have people come to us. We were a little disappointed that only Diana's two aunts and cousin came out to see us, but it was still good for Simon to get some lovin' from his family. He was particularly cranky, as we think his mouth was bothering him again. We made our final food tour score, with a ton of Buffalo Wild Wings goodies. I busted out the Mango Habanero, and it was awesome. I bought 12 boneless, but only got 10 down before my body said stop. It wasn't the heat, just the fact that I had put a ton of not-good-for-me food in my body the previous few days. (Oddly enough, I lost a pound for the week.)
Getting Simon resting was a challenge that night, and we tried to get to bed early in anticipation of a 4 a.m. wake-up for us. We realized in the middle of the night that we might run out of formula on the plane, and that would be a disaster. Fortunately, a 24-hour Meijer was near by, and we stopped there before heading to Detroit for our return flight at 8:30. We managed to arrive at our gate after dropping off the car and what not with about 40 minutes to spare before boarding.
The flight home wasn't bad, though Simon was very whiney. I'm still going to give him a "W," for a record of 7-1, because he did have two half-hour naps on my lap, and some giggles. We really pushed him hard all week, and he deserves a ton of credit, especially with his sore mouth.
This was not really a vacation, and we're all a bit exhausted. I'm left with a lot of realizations about the place that I'll always call home. When we moved, I was prepared to say that Seattle us just a better place, but I'm no longer convinced of that. There are a great many trade-offs you make to live here, and the only thing that makes it "better" is the economy. Seattle will never have thunderstorms and cheap housing (or Cedar Point). Cleveland will never have mountain views. I'm really not sure that I'd ever want to live there again (hey, at least I'd have a house!), but I also can't dismiss it.
Overall, it was a great trip. I wonder when I'll visit again.
We have returned from the Tour d'Ohio, and we are all kinds of screwed up for it! I've decided that living west and traveling east is a lot harder than the reverse. It seems to take longer to adjust once you get out there, and if you end up having to get up early to come home, it's really early in terms of Pacific time. Such was the case today, where we had to get up at 4 a.m. to make a Meijer stop for formula in Toledo, and get to DTW for an 8:30 flight. That means we got up at 1 a.m. Pacific, which is basically yesterday. We landed a little after 10:30 our time.
Simon seems to sleep with the sun, whereas we're very clock oriented. In some ways, I kind of envy him for that. He generally traveled well, considering how hard we pushed him. He struggled a little on the way home because his teeth are really bothering him. Lots of whimpering intermixed with laughs. He's a happy kid, but this tooth in particular is definitely messing with his good nature.
We took a several-hour nap this afternoon, as did Simon. He just went to bed, and I'm trying to stay slightly caffeinated and hope to stay up at least until 10. We've got a busy week ahead with the move. I'll write more about our trip soon.
My friend Gretchen speculated on Facebook that perhaps Simon's meltdown yesterday was induced by an ear infection. That kind of put a bug in Diana's mind as a possibility, and since we're traveling this week, we figured that would suck if we didn't catch it.
So she took the boy to see Dr. Cargopants, and she made a non-amazing discovery... Simon is busting out his eighth tooth, a molar. I say non-amazing, because honestly, this kid's over-achieving dental history just isn't surprising anymore. We just didn't see the signs because it's in the part of his mouth we rarely see.
I better start saving for braces. He'll probably need them by next year.
Simon had a really rough day today, and I'm not sure why. And because he had a tough day, that means Diana did too. I hate not being there to be backup in those situations.
I theorize that there are times where he just doesn't want to be alone or put down, because when you do, he totally freaks out. Screaming at the top of his lungs, in a way that distinctly says, "I'm not happy," instead of, "I'm hurt/hungry/uncomfortable." When I got home, he had been screaming for about 90 minutes, and all Diana could do was leave him in the crib. He wouldn't eat, wouldn't sleep... he was just miserable.
It's really hard to be rational in those cases, but since I didn't have to listen to him do it for much of that afternoon, I tried my best to stay cool and read his signs. I first gave him a stern talking to about being dramatic, which he probably heard as "blah blah blah." Then I picked him up and tried to get him to calm down. He was eye rubbing and yawning, so he was tired out of his mind. I put him down, it started again. I got him to chill out a little, turned off the lights, and sat next to the crib with a hand in touching him. He literally held my hand until he fell asleep. It took three tries to leave before I could do so with him sleeping. He stayed there for two hours until we got him up.
These kinds of situations are difficult, because they fall outside of the typical hungry, tired and poopy categories. He can't come out and tell you what he needs or wants. I felt like I could distinguish this as a "want," but I wasn't sure what it meant since it was so out of character for him.
We did have a good day earlier though. Simon and Diana came to work, picked me up, and we went over to the Commons for some lunch. We went to a quiet area outside the main food areas and the three of us had some lunch, where he charmed everyone who walked by. After lunch, we headed over to the company store to buy him a Microsoft hat and get a free "future employee" badge, which looks pretty much like the real ones. Yeah, I'm into these Kool-Aid company moments.
He was in much better spirits when we got him up at 7:30, but after eating and a bath, it was pretty clear that he was ready to go back to bed, and he did so without protest. The Puzzoni house is once again a calm and peaceful place.
Political punditry as of this week has reached a new state of bizzaro irony. On one hand, the feds report that unemployment is actually up slightly, because of the number of jobs shed at all levels of government, given a decrease in tax revenue. On the other hand, the private sector had a fairly significant gain, but not enough to offset the loss of government jobs.
So there's a loud voice that says, "Come on government, create more jobs! But only spend what you need!" And the thing is, government is doing exactly that. However, depending on your political leanings, and which level of government you want to bitch about, you might suggest that the opposite is true.
There's a bigger question about whether or not the government has any real role in creating jobs, and I suppose that's worthy of debate. Economists seem to agree that without the stimulus package, we'd be a lot worse off right now, so one could infer that helped with unemployment. What I can't stand about the political climate right now is that the same people simultaneously want government to fix the economy and at the same time do less. You can't really have it both ways.
The real truth of the matter is that regardless of the role government plays, the economy is driven by individuals and businesses as well, so nothing is going to happen over night. There is no magic bullet. It starts with someone buying my house.
Last night, we had a nice steady rain with a window open as we were going to bed. It wasn't one of those pussy Seattle drizzles either, it was actual rain that you could hear and see in an obvious way. It was rather soothing.
I miss thunderstorms. I mean, it doesn't rain much at all in the summer here, and that's good I suppose, but I miss those serious thunderstorms with thunder and lightning, and wind that shakes the house. I miss the big wall clouds that roll overhead, bringing a ten degree drop in temperature. I miss sitting in the hot tub, watching the sky blink from a storm still miles away. I miss the horizontal rain that tortures the windows on one side of the house, while the windows on the other side are open. I miss the way my vinyl siding would squeak in high winds. I miss the huge water flows on both sides of the street.
There are many little trade-offs you make in weather for where you live. I don't think any place has everything.
Microsoft has tens of thousands of people (with dependents it's easily six figures) to buy medical insurance for, and considering the zero-cost nature of it for full-time employees, you can bet that they do some things to help lower the cost. I believe they even subsidize some kind of program for extreme weight loss for the morbidly obese. But for regular lazy schmucks like me, they do cholesterol and basic number screenings. I did that today.
The last time I did this, nearly four years ago, the results were really not good. That wasn't entirely surprising. While I had done a great job of taking off a ton of weight (divorce will do that) the year before, I got kind of comfortable during 2006, perhaps because I was in a serious and somewhat comfortable relationship. Or I was lazy. Regardless, the results were not unexpected.
This time around, I expected much of the same, but they weren't quite as bad. My total cholesterol is now at the high end of normal, but at 190, under the threshold. My triglycerides still stuck, but less so, around 300. My weight and body fat percentage are too high too. The health educator who counseled me told me exactly what I already know: I need to get off my fucking ass and get more exercise. She said my dietary habits were actually good in that they're helping to minimize the ugly, but I need to add more veggies. It couldn't hurt to reduce soda either (ironically, provided by the employer that wants me to be healthier).
And again, the other numbers suggest that my body is perfectly willing to be at its best. My glucose levels are damn near perfect, my blood pressure is perfect, my resting heart rate is exceptionally low... it all keeps coming back to how healthy I could easily be if ate right and exercised right.
I've been watching WW points again, and the first six pounds came off easily. Beyond that, I haven't been sticking to the plan at all. I catch myself doing it and I don't respond. It's hard. And yet, there are a few obvious things I can cut out and get there, like limiting soda to 12 ounces or less per day, not doing side dishes (especially tater-tots, which are my weakness since starting at MSFT), and more water. Eating real breakfast would help too. Mini-Wheats helped a great deal in my big 2005 weight loss.
Overall, there isn't any real news here other than the bad numbers weren't as high as I expected, so hooray for that. I still have a lot of work to do. Coaching will help a great deal. After lunch walks around campus will help, as will walks to and from the bus if I can get back on the Connector plan after we move. I have to remember that there's a family that relies on me now... I can't fuck around with this anymore.
The details of our move are coming together, thanks in large part to Diana's ground work. All things considered, moving is fairly low friction when you're paying someone to move all of your crap, and that's exactly what we're doing. As repeat customers and a Microsoft employee, we've got a discount, and the total cost should be under two grand, fully packed and moved. That's worth every penny.
There are peripheral emotional issues attached to the move, some of which are brought on by the season. It's hard to believe we've been here nearly a year already. The move here was difficult for me, and it took a long time to feel grounded here. Oddly enough, it took Simon's arrival to really get me beyond all of that. But with another move comes another reminder that I have a house I haven't sold, and I swear that's aging me.
On the other hand, it feels like so many other things are coming into place and hitting a stride. I feel like I'm making meaningful engagement at work, I'm considering coaching again, we'll have space that's ours (even if it is rented), we're making good routines with Simon and generally living our lives in a way beyond being new in town. There's comfort in stability, and that's something I haven't had in probably nine years.
Which is not to say that I don't enjoy a little chaos. Comfort breeds complacency, which causes time to get away from you. This move is just the right amount of chaos, I think, to keep me on my toes. And I'll have my very own man cave. That excites me.
Time sure flies! Our little guy is now seven months old. It's staggering. He was this tiny little creature that you could hold in one hand (with a forearm), and all he really did was eat, sleep, poop and cry when he wanted to do one of the first three. Now he has personality, he laughs, and he very much knows us. It's wild.
The physical development is coming along as expected. What's more interesting, and harder, is that the psychological development is coming along now too. For example, he demonstrates a very distinct difference between crying because he needs something and crying because he wants something. The latter is usually accompanied by a dramatic shriek. Already he's starting to test boundaries, and that's crazy.
It's been a great adventure so far, and I think the thing that makes me most happy about how things are going is that we tend to make him a part of most everything. Like I said the other day, aside from going to movies, he's pretty much in on everything we do. He's seven months old, and he has been in six states, and eight by next week.
His sleep routine is a mess right now, but he seems to be moving toward (with some setbacks) longer continuous sleep periods. And it's a little selfish, but with his pre-midnight feedings, I love those sleepy moments after he eats when he cuddles up on my shoulder. There is nothing like in the world like it.
All things considered, we haven't had any gigantic challenges with Simon yet, though the little things can kind of stack up and be exhausting at times. It's worth it though. I can't tell you how many times we stand there looking at him, and think, holy crap we made him from our genetic filth. That's pretty amazing.
Gonch made this post recently about what it means to be rich, and in particular how one guy didn't feel rich despite bagging a quarter-million annually. It does make a lot of sense, and I can't say that I'd quickly write off the guy as someone disconnected from reality. There's a song by James called "Sit Down" that says, "If I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor." That has always resonated with me.
Like Gonch, I can't draw any real conclusions about the linked article, but I can appreciate different perspectives. I'm not even sure if people can arrive at an agreed definition of being rich. Being rich, to me, isn't the same as being wealthy. Then you have geography and other things to consider. I'll be honest, if I had my current salary and was still living in Cleveland, with only one house to pay for, I'd feel rich. But then I revise my definition to include some level of security, meaning that I could maintain the same lifestyle for years going forward, and then it doesn't feel so rich.
There's also a practical side to how a person likes to live. I've never had a desire to buy a "status car," despite it being well within my means to have one, and I only need as much house as it is practical (something reinforced after a year in a "small" apartment). Fashion isn't important either, so I'm content rocking the Old Navy catalog. I suppose the expensive computers aren't entirely necessary, but given my line of work, it's a lot like having great tools if you're a mechanic. Hot tubs aside, I don't use "stuff" as a measure of wealth either.
I guess I define being rich as basically not being financially restricted from doing stuff you like. The naive side of me believes that generally doesn't change if you're well grounded (as in, I can't imagine wanting to spontaneously go to Paris just because I can). But if I can decide that today I'll hang out with my family in a park, or tomorrow we'll go to great restaurants in Vancouver, or next month we'll go to Hawaii for a week... all without being accountable to someone or something else, that's being rich. It's financial self-sufficience.
Facebook's RSS notes importer has been broken on and off for months now, and it's totally hosed for me. I try to get it to import and it says there's no feed or it throws up a generic error page. Last week, it would get as far as reading the feed for confirmation, only to throw the error page after that. It's annoying.
And the thing is, I don't generally care if anyone I don't know is reading my blog, but I kind of like it when my friends do. And since my real life friends all use Facebook, and they're going there daily anyway, it's super convenient for them to read it there. Sadly, this arrangement is wholly broken when Facebook is broken.
That's an interesting problem, by the way... there's a single point of failure now in the world of online social networking. It's that pervasive now in our lives, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. You can't get your friend data out of the site, and that sucks.
A part of me would really like to see a truly private site that's something like FB. I mean, the same idea, with photos and status and whatever, but zero public facing anything. If you're in it, no one knows until they're in it as well, and they look for you there. The default should be you don't share anything with anyone except your friends. Someone should build something like that, and make it so your content is truly your own to take elsewhere, if you so choose.
Me and Red Delicious had a very extensive day out yesterday, for the first time probably since January, when we toured Seattle. Uncle Joe offered to babysit Simon, as we're doing a two-nighter for Simon's little cousins about a month from now. Seemed like a perfect chance to get out and do stuff. Although I will say that, for the most part, we don't really do any less than we did before Simon was born. He's rarely a limiting factor for us, except perhaps for seeing movies. Perhaps that's why he's such a good traveler.
We started our afternoon by going to see The Social Network, which was every bit as good as I had hoped. It really doesn't paint Zuckerberg as much of a douche as I expected. There are plenty of stories about why the movie isn't entirely factual, which I think doesn't matter for the purpose of entertainment, but there was a whirlwind of crap going on around him that he clearly didn't anticipate or think much about. I can see him being socially inept (his real life public appearances don't exactly counter that), but I'm not sure I buy the parts about him needing attention. Like a lot of nerds, I just think he wanted to build something great, and that he did.
The bigger story to me is that of vision and execution, which is something he clearly had, and maybe still does. The basic functionality of The Facebook in those early days was not anything that different. Heck, I launched CampusFish before that with some of the same features (in dire need of refinement, mind you), but I was only interested in charging for it. It was the little increments that helped Facebook catch on, and they were things I never would have thought of. The idea that status updates could ever be interesting to anyone was mind boggling. I thought people were only interested in long-form content, but then, perhaps that's why LiveJournal never became what Facebook is.
I first saw Facebook in 2005, when I had several friends in their last year or two at Michigan State. I immediately thought it was awesome, and wondered why the hell they didn't open it up to the world at large (they eventually did in the fall of 2006). My first 50 or so friends were, not surprisingly, former volleyball kids who were all in college and already had accounts. It took years before I had a lot of "grown up" "friends" on there.
Go see the movie though, it's really good. The crazy dense Sorkin dialog starts in the very first scene and doesn't stop.
After the film, we tried a place called 520 Bar and Grill in Bellevue. It was a little pricey for what it is, but still very delicious. It's owned by some successful realtors, who happened to be there with their way-too-pretty daughters and friends on the patio to watch the UW football game. I had chicken mozzarella, which is basically just chicken parm with different cheese. They had it over some linguini in a ridiculously rich alfredo sauce. It was SO good, if clearly not good for me. Also had another Washington Riesling, and I'm surprised at how good most of them are. Prior to moving here, I only had good German Rieslings.
Onward from Bellevue, we went to see our first UW (#10) volleyball match, and they won this one against UCLA (#12) in three straight sets. Even though they won the first, I didn't think they'd win the match because their defense was so awful. But from that point on, they got more and more intense and more accurate, especially in the third set. Their senior setter is, not surprisingly, from the Ohio Valley Region. I thought she looked familiar, and sure enough, she played for Cincy Classics, one of the big pain-in-the-ass teams I'd inevitably meet at regionals or bid, so I've probably had to coach against her. She was deadly accurate, time after time, and made up a lot for the poor passing early in the match.
They were national champs in 2005, and ever since then, according to a club director I talked to out here, everyone has tried to emulate them with the Gold Medal Squared system that has become quite a business for a number of high ranking USAV people, doing camps and coaching seminars and what not. It's a system for play as well as teaching, and it's interesting because I don't agree with a lot of it. For example, they appear to advocate a lot of gratuitous pancake shit instead of moving through the ball as quickly as possible, and I dislike that because it has almost no ball control, and it teaches kids to meet the ball instead of get there with time to spare. Ditto for passing (for what I've read about it), where it's OK to rely more on your arms. Again, same problem with meeting the ball just in time, but also because not passing in front of you, with your whole body, you can't pass and go as quickly. And I'll still never understand why anyone is still using outside-in hitting approaches.
Criticism aside, I think UW has a lot going for them in terms of size, and talent in their setter. If their defense is more consistent, I see them being contenders for the final four. They're 13-1 right now, but I can't tell you anything about their schedule. The regional tournament is at UW in December, so we might just get tickets for that.
Overall, it was a really nice day out, and it went so quickly! It was kind of weird not having Simon around. This was the longest Diana has ever been away from him (about nine hours). I have to say that I like that we're able to bring him along in most everything we do.
After five and a half years on the market, my book has finally made enough money to cover my advance! That means that it made enough in the last six months to actually have a positive balance forward. The publisher now owes me... wait for it... $11.
Unfortunately, Pearson doesn't issue checks for less than $25. Fuckers. :)