Archive: September, 2011

Something is still missing when it comes to social networks

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 29, 2011, 12:15 AM | comments: 0

I feel like there's something right in front of me that's missing from social networks. Maybe the first problem is that people call them social networks. At the end of the day, aren't they really just communication tools? I mean, really strip it down, and Facebook or Google+ essentially are doing the work of "old time" phone companies, mail, TV and stone tablets.

The discussion about these tools almost always revolves around features and user experience and the usual software stuff. My head, however, is more on the intent. What am I really getting, or wanting, out of these tools? What is being missed?

Several blog posts, comments and other flying bits from friends lately remind me of one of the most critically missing things, and that's privacy. Technically, yes, Facebook is private by default, but segregating people by group once you have hundreds of friends is a pain, and people can search for you unless you explicitly turn that off. Google+ feels like it's too easy to just post everything in public, like on Twitter. In fact, it feels very much like a threaded version of Twitter.

Personally, I'd like a social network that no one knows about. Like Fight Club. You can't search for it. I could even see something like this used in a small company, all private like. Maybe I have one of these for my family, so Simon photos are never seen by anyone else (that would be a tragic decision, because he's too cute to be kept secret). Sounds a little like a friend list on Facebook, or a circle on Google+, but there's still an important distinction that there's nothing public about it. No like buttons or +1's or anything.

I suppose the problem with all of this is that's it's a great idea for people who want something like this, but terrible for a business because it's hard to say how it would make money. I still think it's a good idea. I want my Fight Club.

From the road, to the future

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 10:32 PM | comments: 0

Two days of driving down, and generally speaking, it has gone pretty well so far. First day was rainy until I got to Montana (fitting, since that's how Washington greeted us two years ago), and Big Sky Country was just beautiful. Hotel wasn't great in Billings, but tonight's in Sioux Falls is lovely and very comfortable. Cats are mostly OK, though I'm scratched up from the morning pilling efforts. The 75 mph speed limits ding the fuel economy, averaging around 46 mpg, but it makes a huge difference in overall time. It was not particularly useful through the mountains.

Needless to say, you do a lot of thinking when you have ten to twelve hours to yourself, with minimal human contact. It's mentally exhausting. Plus, I'm missing Diana and Simon like crazy. The enormity of what we're doing is settling in, and it scares me a bit. The part about missing what we're leaving is starting to take a back seat to what our future looks like.

On the surface, one might suggest that this move is a safe and easy move. From a social standpoint, that's probably true. However, social risk hasn't really been on the radar for me since adulthood. This move includes a lot of professional risk, and shifts financial risk.

The professional risk has more to do with Cleveland not being Seattle than anything else. There's just SO much work available in Seattle, and Cleveland is harder to peg in the long term. I found a job so fast that I feel like it looks good, but even then, I have to take it on faith that everything is as it seems in terms of company culture and what not. I have no reason to think otherwise, but you just never know. I'll likely be more at ease after a week or two.

Financial risk has largely been shifted. My overall housing expense is more than cut in half, with the expected pay cut for the regional adjustment keeping me slightly ahead on a cash flow basis. More importantly, I don't have to blow cash on a negative equity sale. The risk here essentially doesn't change in real terms, but considering I left Cleveland with almost $30k in credit card debt and two unsold houses, I view the world in far more conservative financial terms than I used to. I realize that financial freedom ins't about being rich, it's about having as little expense as possible.

What am I really scared of? Change, of course. It's hard for me to admit it after the massive volume of change that all came in the span of a year starting April, 2009. I'd like to think I came through that fairly well, and the volume of learning that came out of it matched the enormity of the change.

This change comes more on my own terms, and the more we talk, the more we sketch out future changes. I think control, or the illusion of control, over change is what makes it easier. It's kind of exciting to think about. I'd like to think that I've dealt with so much crap and stuff not going my way, that I can deal with anything, but living without that fear would be arrogant and stupid.

Ready, go

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 26, 2011, 10:18 PM | comments: 0

Well, there isn't much left to say at this point. All of our crap is on a truck, and some time next week, we'll have it all back in Cleveland. I start driving early tomorrow morning, Diana and Simon fly out Wednesday.

Load went pretty smoothly, though Simon definitely got annoyed as he became more tired and hungry. I got super cranky having to drive to the far end of Redmond to turn in our Comcast box, and after 20 minutes with a screaming kid in the car, I just cut in line, dropped the box on the counter, and told them I was done with them wasting my time and walked out. Dick move, but whatever.

The Aspen Lane house is so empty. It's so weird. I liked living there for the most part. I just can't get over the mixed emotions that come with this move. It's even harder because tonight we're staying with Diana's brother's family, just down the road. Not having them so close is the biggest loss of the whole arrangement, and I struggle with it.

I feel particularly bad for Simon. I know that he'll adjust, but this whole experience has been a little rough on him. He's had lots of smiles, but he has also been out of sorts the last week. There's a part of me that often wonders if I didn't think it all through enough in terms of what's best for him. He's young, and he'll adjust, but it still makes me sad. I won't get to see his PEPS friends tomorrow either.

Crossing my fingers that the cats relax (with their kitteh dope), and tomorrow goes smoothly...

Last this and that

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 25, 2011, 8:27 PM | comments: 0

Today we were fortunate enough to have a perfect fall day, Midwest style. We had a strange downpour in the afternoon, but otherwise it was breezy, sunny at times and in the low 60's. Jacket weather. Of course, nothing has been normal about weather here in the last year.

As we went out to the one pizza joint we found that we really liked one last time, I was feeling very nostalgic. It was a combination of nostalgia for living here as well as a more general one for fall jacket weather. It's funny how at some point you start thinking, "Oh, this is probably the last time I'll go here, or do that."

Simon may have had his last visit to his favorite playground today, and last walk down his street (looks like rain tomorrow). He definitely had his last bath in the Aspen Lane house. While here less than a year, this is where he started to crawl, walked for the first time, started to chatter, try new foods... so many great memories!

I'm not sure why moving is such a huge thing in life, why it marks such a distinct beginning and end. The notion of home is less well defined than it ever has been for me, but the move is still a powerful marker in life.

12 Mile

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 24, 2011, 11:19 PM | comments: 0

This morning seemed like a cruel joke in the making, because it was nearly perfect. With the annoying stuff of the last week, I was just not expecting a turn around.

But there it was. Simon actually slept in, or at least, didn't get rowdy until after 8. The sun was brilliant, and it was going to be 77 degrees. We really had no fixed agenda, since everything (more or less) is packed. Simon not only slept in, but he was in an excellent mood, full of smiles. Clearly we had to make the most of this day, and we decided to try and get up to Sunrise on the northeast side of Mt. Rainier, as we intended to do earlier in the week.

We stopped at Red Robin near Maple Valley on the way, a restaurant that frankly continues to be among the most convenient for handling Simon (read: no silverware required for mom and dad), and Simon was mostly good. We could see the mountain on most of the drive up, too, which is better than our previous visit. With the mounting stress, this was exactly what I needed.

Then we turned on to the road up to Sunrise, where two signs greeted us. The first was that the parking lot at the top was full, the second that we should expect long delays. Neither one of these were useful in making any decisions. A cyclist was off to the side of the road where traffic was stopped, so we turned off to change Simon, and Diana asked if he knew anything. Turns out they were basically letting in one car for every car that came out. The park service was also not charging the usual $15 per car. Given the weather, you can understand the situation. He suggested going up to Crystal Mountain, a ski facility with a gondola, a few miles away. It wouldn't get us close to Rainier, but at least it wouldn't be a wasted trip. Good thing, too, because looking at the map, we were probably a mile from the guard station in the national park, and that traffic wasn't moving.

I was discouraged, but figured, whatever, let's roll with it. Diana said I should, because she lived on the edge and didn't bring in a sippy cup to Red Robin. That's probably only funny to us. In any case, a few miles later, we were driving up to the base area of the ski resort, with lifts criss-crossing the hills, and one very new gondola lift going to a place we couldn't see. At this point, I didn't care what it cost, I just wanted to see the mountains.

The ride was $20 each, which seemed a little much, but whatever. The peak is 6,800 feet, about where Sunrise is, only this one is 12 miles from the peak of Rainier. Better 12 miles than, uh, Tacoma. Fortunately, when we got up there, I was not disappointed.

The view was spectacular. Sure, there was Rainier in all of its glory, but what struck me was the valley below. The back side of Crystal Mountain is very steep, and you could see one of the rivers weave in and out of the hills. Rainier had "caught" a cloud that was stock on its peak, and it was a little hazy, so the view wasn't quite perfect. You could see Mt. Adams to the south, but Baker and St. Helens were obscured. (You can see Baker from our neighborhood when it's clear anyway.) It was really quite striking.

The gondola ride itself was pretty cool. Such a neat ride, and nothing like your typical amusement park lift. Interesting that it's made by a Swiss company. I suppose that makes sense, given the mountains there.

Overall, it was a good save, and I'm glad Diana talked to the cyclist. It would have been a shame to spend one of our last days in Washington doing nothing, especially with the weather turning to typical Seattle fall crap tomorrow.

Don't go back to Boxville

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 23, 2011, 10:16 PM | comments: 2

(Needed to slip in a vague REM reference here.)

The packsters have done their work, and once again, for the third time in under two years, we're on the move. Actually, they didn't entirely do their work, as they left the pantry pretty much not done, and also didn't do anything with my desk drawers. But whatever, they mostly did the work, and we didn't, and that was the point.

One thing that I will say about moving is that doing entirely yourself sucks. Everyone knows this, but it's not until someone else does most of the work and drives your shit cross-country that you realize that it's worth it at any cost to have someone else do it. I can thank Microsoft for that the first time. This time around, it's on my tab, but it's not horrible. It's still worth every penny.

Simon was particularly stressed out about the whole packing thing. He was very whiny and clingy, and I really felt bad for him. You can't explain to an 18-month-old what's going on. When I started to really think about it, I started to feel bad about the move, because he really loses the most. He loses this beautiful neighborhood with wide sidewalks, walking trails and playgrounds literally every other block. He won't have his young cousins just down the road. His play friends that he's known since birth (and their moms) won't be around. He won't get to go to any more Caspar Babypants concerts. I know that he's young and will adjust, but I feel pretty bad about disrupting his world like this.

I hope that we're able to get some leisure activities in this weekend. Tomorrow we're going to try again to go up to Sunrise.

Moving process under way, and it makes me a little sad

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 22, 2011, 10:44 PM | comments: 0

The packers are coming tomorrow, and we started to do a little pre-packing packing today. I have to box up all of the electronic stuff, and keep out anything that's going with me in the car, or that I'll need prior to the arrival of our stuff. This makes it all very real.

I realized today that it isn't really the actual move that causes me some amount of stress, but rather the non-concrete idea that I'm more or less homeless for a week or two. It's very weird. I actually have a place to live, know the area, have a job to go to, etc., but I'm rather transient until my stuff catches up.

Meanwhile, the nostalgia here in Seattle is surprisingly intense. I have to say that for most of the last year or so, it really did feel like home for us. The newer place certainly helped, and it feels like we just got in to it. But in the more general sense, everything just feels so familiar. When we were downtown yesterday, I didn't have to look anything up, we just did it. Before work ended, being on campus felt comfortable, as if I had been there for years.

It will be hard for me next week, when I get on to I-90 heading east, but not coming back. Seattle has been good to me. We made a lot of friends here, and it will always be the place where my son was born. The clean air and daily mountain views never stopped being amazing. It was not easy to decide to make this move.

That Cleveland would win in the battle for our hearts and wallets is ironic, since it's the housing market there that made Seattle a difficult place to reach our financial goals. There is no mistaking that the dollars and our social roots on the North Coast make it the right decision, but leaving Seattle is still hard. It feels so much like the end of college, only with a spouse and child. It's similar to the way I view the closest relationships of my life. They might have ended, but they'll always be a part of me.

The thing I can be sure of is that there will be many more adventures ahead of us. If there's one thing I've consistently noticed about life in the last six years, it's that it never ceases to be interesting. Cleveland, for all of the shit I hate about it, has a great deal to like as well. If things go as planned, or at least something like the plan, Cleveland is going to get me where I want to go.

Mounting pre-move suck

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 8:47 PM | comments: 0

When I started to plan out the great move of 2011, the anti-move of 2009, I figured, "Sweet, I'll have about two weeks between the end of work and the time I need to start traveling, so we'll have some good times and do lots of stuff."

The good news is that we have done lots of stuff. The bad news is that for the last few days, life keeps kicking me square in the balls with random crap.

For starters, Simon is having night time issues, primarily with his diapers. After some experimentation when he was born, we found out quickly that the only relatively blow-out and leak-proof brand was Pampers, in the purple and green boxes (Diana knows what that is). We've enjoyed this security of #1 and #2 now for 18 months. Then, they changed them up with some kind of different design. Now, he keeps leaking. Last night we went through several sets of pajamas and bed sheets in the course of a few hours. The "night time" model is even worse. Mind you, I have observed him when wearing non-unitard jammies that he pulls at the pants and/or diaper, so that could be a factor.

Just as we were going to bed last night, I noticed some pinkish liquid on the floor in our bedroom. I wondered if a cat was bleeding, and went to Cosmo first because the boys were intensely chasing her. Caught up with her to find her seeping something pink out of nether regions, presumably bloody urine. Observed that she kept getting in the litter box but not doing anything. Sigh. Given the lasting trauma around the passing of Luna, I dread losing Cosmo even though I'm ready for it, if that makes sense. She's 14. Tonight she's staying overnight in the hospital to get a urine sample, and I'm trying not to think about it.

Today I hoped to go back up to Mt. Rainier, only this time go up to the Sunrise point on the northeast side, for some different views. Clouds were too much, so we bailed on that idea. Went down to the waterfront instead, Diana had seafood, we went to the Penzeys store, and for shits and giggles, went to the aquarium. It was expensive, but I don't really mind helping out a place like that. Besides, I really needed the diversion.

Tonight, after a nice calm and relaxed bed time, Simon started crying in bed, and as soon as Diana picked him up, he hurled all over her. I'm talking epic spew. Not the slightest idea what caused it. We put him in the bath to chill out a bit, and he was smiling in no time. I got him some cold water, and after he put away half of a bottle, he peacefully went back to bed (after much sanitation by Diana). I guess it might have been something he ate, but I don't know. Come to think of it, he did keep pushing away his milk, but he had no problem sucking it down after his initial bath.

The move itself doesn't worry me. People will pack up my crap on Friday, and put it on a truck on Monday. It all just happens. What's causing me stress is the actual drive, because it's just me and the cats. I do not look forward to it at all. I have no backup. The mental challenge, especially through the eastern parts of South Dakota and southern Minnesota, is intense. With Cosmo being an unknown, that doesn't make it any easier.

I could really do without all of this drama. We still have some fun things to do before we move, and I could do without the added stress.

Trip Report: 2011 CoasterBuzz Fall Affair at Holiday World

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 19, 2011, 12:18 PM | comments: 2

Wow, this was our fifth event at Holiday World already. Very hard to believe! This particular event has been has been very special to me over the years, because it has ended up being the one time of year where most of my closest friends, spread around the country, were in one place. Unfortunately, this was not going to be one of those times. In fact, I wasn't even going to have Diana and Simon with me, because the airfare was cost prohibitive. On the up side, it would be my last trip with Seattle as an origin, so it will be a lot easier to drive places for next season.

The flight out was dreadfully long, and I ended up leaving late from Chicago because, well, because it's O'Hare. I hate that airport. Got into Louisville at about 8, so it's like my day was shot. Traveling west to east never works to your advantage, though conversely, east to west will score you a longer day but you're tired out of your mind. I got to Santa's Lodge around 9 or so, where I met Mike, his brother and nephews, driving in from Chicago.

The thing about Santa's Lodge is that it's... adequate. I'm a hotel snob, and as much as I'd like to complain about something, it is pretty clean. The beds aren't great, and the rooms are a little worn, but that's the worst I can say about it. Having the bar in there makes it a great place to gather, and the breakfast buffet isn't bad at all.

What I did not anticipate was that the park was hosting the Golden Ticket Awards (Amusement Today's thing), which would bring in a bunch of folks that I haven't seen or talked to in person in a very long time. Gravity Group was throwing a party at the hotel, so right away I noticed Mike and Korey there and chatted with them briefly. Also saw Janice, who I haven't seen in years, and Jeff who was undoubtedly excited to tell me about a "totally immersive dark ride experience" or something. I felt like a party crasher, but it was good to see those folks.

I managed to actually go to sleep by midnight, which is surprising given the time change. I was able to get up nice and early to get set up for ticket distribution after a little breakfast (thanks, Mike!), and other than a brief snafu to getting the tickets, everything went smoothly. Diana helped me do envelopes and name tags the night before, and it was super easy.

First thing on the agenda was to finally do the water park. If there was an advantage to not having Simon with me, this was it. I closed up the ticket operation and met up with Mike and his family. It was still very cool, so there was almost no one in the water park. First thing I did was head over to Wildebeest.

I still had not been on a water coaster, so this was my first time. I boarded a boat by myself, in the third position. I was really impressed with the load and unload of the ride, and the overall capacity. It's kind of neat because every hill is essentially a block. Since the LIM's don't know anything about how many people are in the boat, they launch an empty boat literally off the slide. With one person, I could feel myself launching off every peak and landing. It was the single most awesome experience I've had on any ride, wet or dry, in years. Even with the cold water, I loved it. That they're building a bigger one with the new rafts is the best idea ever.

Shortly thereafter, I did it again when I found Mike, and we did it a couple more times. We did one lap with me in the front and Mike in the back, and the dynamics of the ride were even more crazy. I got floater air in the front, he got ejector air in the back. I can't say enough about how great the ride is.

We went around and did all of the other big slides around the park, none of which I had done before (except for the tornado, which I did at Geauga Lake). It's such a great collection. I did not care for all of the stairs, which as Mike pointed out would not be all-at-once if there were any lines, but I also appreciated that they had raft elevators for all of these things. I can't believe parks that don't spring for those. I was also impressed with the stuff for little people, especially the little slide complex they did recently. The newer wave pool is super impressive. Overall, it's an outstanding water park, and I give them a lot of credit for continuing to increase its capacity.

Before changing to dry clothes, we did Pilgrims Plunge. I'm not sure what is different compared to two years ago, but it held zero of the excitement it did that day. The run out went all the way to the end, so I assume either the depth was changed or the height of the track. The splash was unimpressive as well. It just didn't do anything. I was kind of disappointed.

Once dry, we gave thanks and had turkey dinner. As always, it was delicious. The new building is pretty huge, but was pretty full. I imagine when it's hot, it's a much better arrangement, but on a mild day like this, we opted to sit outside. The food was so good.

We decided to go see the Golden Ticket Awards, just because. It was way too long, but Mike and I stuck it out.

Dinner was down in one of the pavilions this year, as the GTA folks got to use the hall for their reception. Pretty good pizza, as usual, and I still wonder how most parks can't make good pizza.

We had just short of 80 people, so after several of the GTA attendees asked about crashing the ERT, I said I was OK with it. They even did two trains on Voyage, and there were still empty seats.

Raven continues to run exceptionally well. Last year it was almost glass smooth, and this year it was pretty close. The ride continues to amaze me, and it's amazingly well cared for. The Legend got an incredibly amount of love, and for the first time in all of the years I've been going to the park, I left feeling that Legend was my favorite of the bunch. I haven't had a good ride on there in years, but it was in absolutely amazing shape. They've clearly given it a great deal of attention. Even the helix, where the laterals can be brutal, was fun. You could tell how well it was running just by the weird pop of air going up into the last turn.

The Voyage, however, has seen better days. You know it's not running well when you move slowly through the mid-course. I also noticed it shuffling in a few places, most notably the second 90-degree banked turn. You could feel the train skip along it, because it was going too slow. Pat Koch was wonderful enough to talk with us on the platform, and she indicated that they want to keep that #1 designation for the ride, so they plan to spend quality time on it this winter. Between that and the Timberliners, I suspect it could be quite awesome next year. If the work on Raven is any indication, I believe it's possible.

Overall, it's just another one of those days at Holiday World where you feel that the place has a soul, where you're both a paying customer but a temporary part of their family. I know this impression is further colored by having so much time around the Koch family, as you do at these events, but it's really a great feeling that you just don't find at most parks. It's the reason you come back, year after year, to the middle of nowhere.

Back at the hotel, the evening was festive down in the bar area. There were many beers consumed. We pretty much set the ground work for a Dollywood event, and Jeff very much wants to have us down for an event at Schlitterbahn. It's hard not take him up on it.

Unfortunately, I had to leave from the hotel at 3:30 a.m. to get back to Louisville for my flight out (via Detroit), so it's a good thing I didn't drink too much. It still was not a fun flight back, as my legs (water slide stairs) and back (Voyage) were a little tight, and that's not good in an airplane seat. Overall, I'm still miffed at the ridiculous expense of getting there, but overall I had a much better time than I anticipated.

Internet social consumption

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 10:28 PM | comments: 0

Carrie had an excellent post about social interaction via the Internet, filled with themes that are familiar to anyone who has used the Web as a means to communicate with people. I particularly like her description about how crack-like it can be. To her point, however, the utility one finds for the medium can change quite a bit. She got me to thinking about how much it has changed for me.

I've come a long way around through various stages of consumption and contribution with The Great Series of Tubes. The order of my changing attitudes is probably way different from most people, and I haven't figured out yet if it's cyclical. My experience is different in part because I wasn't just participating in online social interaction, I actually created it with the various Web sites I've run since 1998.

In the early years, I approached it similarly to how I would have working in radio or TV. It was mostly me talking at people, with some limited interaction. Forums made it more bidirectional, but the stats showed that the people who actually posted stuff were a small percentage. The depth with which you could quickly infer a persona, however, was something I wasn't ready for. I recall in 2000, hanging out at Cedar Point with members of my wedding party, in line for a ride. Some kid one queue lane over said he "knew" me from my sites, and really kind of acted like we were best friends or something. I got somewhat annoyed, because I was there with my friends, one of whom was in from LA and not someone I got to see very often.

The next day, the kid posted in one of my forums, and sent me e-mail, to declare what a conceded douche I was. It was the strangest thing ever. I had my share of stalkers in radio who would show up at remotes or whatever, but you just brush it off. This kid seemed genuinely hurt. It still happens in a less serious way from time to time, where one of a million visitors expects me to know about them the way they know about me.

Facebook took things to an entirely different level, where suddenly you would be reconnected with people you did actually know, even if you hadn't talked to them in 20 years. Honestly, this has been a stranger thing to get used to than the previous scenario. People change a great deal over time, and even if you were BFF's in high school, it doesn't mean you will be now. It took me a couple of years to realize that I didn't have to accept every friend request that came my way.

I used to make a distinction between "real life" and the Internet, but as time goes on, I'm starting to realize that there is no distinction. While I can categorize much of my own social interaction via the Internet as trivial or superficial, I can do the same thing in the flesh. Surprisingly enough, if I were to actually break out people into superficial, casual, established and BFF relationships, I think the same percentages would work out virtually as well as in meatbagspace. What does change is that many of the high end virtual relationships translate into the real life variety.

So really, what it comes down to for me, is that the volume can get quite high because of the Internet, but you don't have to accept it. Online life is only as serious as you take it, and despite being someone who has made somewhat of a living from the online world, I don't take it very seriously. A bold statement for someone who met his wife online!

I swear I'm not going to be "that" dad

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 9:45 PM | comments: 0

We went out to Ikea this morning, one last time, because I realized that I wanted to get a matching wall mounted shelf to match the TV stand we bought. Should be a nice place to put the center channel speaker and the Kinect. Oh, and +1 for .99 breakfast plates.

For reasons not clear to me, some people slam Ikea for having cheap crap, but I for one really like everything that I've bought from there. Some of it is super cheap, but a lot of it is nice, trendy-ish stuff. I love my desk and my bookshelves. I always enjoyed walking around there, thinking about how I'd decorate a place, if I had my own place. Now that I will again, of course, I won't have convenient access to Ikea (nearest is two hours away, in Pittsburgh).

The shelf was a nice score, and it will match perfectly. Just after we found that, we wandered into the kids area. There we found a kids egg-shaped chair, with a canopy that folded down over the front. It also rotates. I put Simon in it, to see if he thought it was cool, and he went completely ape shit over it. Pulling him away from it caused quite a scene.

I'm not even going to admit to the cost, but needless to say, I bought it for him. Diana helped me justify it by saying it will be nice for his new room, to help him really make it his own. I don't even know what it means, but it works for me.

The chair is a ridiculous impulse buy, but Simon is still young enough that he won't understand the concept that if he wants something, his parents will get it for him. When he does start to get old enough, I can assure you that I won't be that parent. It's not going to happen. I will do my best to help him understand the value of money and where it comes from, and how he can earn it.

For now though, I plan to tap into my inner child, and surprisingly vivid memories from when I was that little, and give him a fun environment to explore and learn from. This ridiculous chair may not facilitate that, but we really like it.

On Microsoft and working there

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 1:26 PM | comments: 0

I'll never forget my first day at Microsoft. The new carpet smell (which is still there) in Building 92 seems so fresh in my mind. That first day was new employee orientation, better known as NEO, and it was my first look at the company as an employee. Diana dropped me off, almost six months pregnant, since we didn't have our cars yet. We had been in town less than three days, and were living in a temporary apartment. The weather was miserable and rainy.

The second day, I cracked open my new computer and installed stuff, did some pairing with my future officemate, and got to know the part of DevDiv then known as Server and Tools Online, home base for MSDN and TechNet. The week was filled with moving in to our apartment, getting licenses and figuring out what the fastest way to work was. Then Thanksgiving came, and then we went to Disney World for a week.

Those first three months were incredibly difficult for me. I had moved 2,500 miles, was living in a city I was completely unfamiliar with, and I was about to become a father. Even Microsoft itself was a huge distraction, and I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was there. My actual work probably wasn't very good at that time.

After Simon was born, in some ways it felt like it was easier to engage. Over that next year, I would have many discussions with my boss about where I might best fit in the company, and a program manager gig seemed to better align with the path I was headed down prior to joining the company. Eventually I would score one of those gigs, in the Cloud Services Team, where I had my last free soda.

I actually had two near-misses prior to landing my last gig that would have dramatically changed the outcome of my Microsoft experience, and probably would have kept us in Seattle for a lot longer. As I've said previously, I wasn't leaving because of Microsoft, but it wasn't keeping me there either. The first came less than a year in, when a program manager position opened up in the group I worked in, and frankly, the skills it required and components it involved were made for me. The hiring manager was even enthusiastic about it, to a surprising extent. Unfortunately, he was too worried about making the position a certain level, two up from my own, for appearance sake and not for any reason related to the job itself. It went nowhere, despite my best effort.

The second near-miss I don't feel bad about, but it was disappointing. In January I did an interview loop for a PM gig running a dev team that built shared test tools for Microsoft Game Studios. Everything about the job was interesting, in that the org was completely non-traditional in terms of structure, the product was interesting, and the energy was amazing. It would even give me the opportunity to mentor developers. When it came down to it, I actually passed the interview loop with flying colors, but the other guy being considered had just a little more experience than me. Ouch. The excitement around that part of campus is intoxicating, and it still stings a little when I'm over there and not a part of it.

Not counting the ups and downs around identifying my place in the company, I found working for the company pretty cool. It's definitely not for everyone, for reasons I'll explain later, but I'm grateful for the opportunity. There's a certain satisfaction that your ego has, too, about working at Microsoft. I mean, it's Microsoft, arguably one of the most historically important companies, software or otherwise, in American history. Not saying that they don't hire stupid people, but the path to getting in is rigorous, and I did it twice (for my initial hire, and job change). Granted, this distinction doesn't entirely carry the weight you might think if you consider that you share it with 90,000 other people. It certainly wins you a certain amount of respect as well, and this became particularly obvious when I started looking, whether it was in Seattle or Cleveland.

There's certainly something addictive about the potential for wealth when you work there. Even with the high cost of real estate, you won't be hurting there. With stock awards vesting and bonuses, it's no wonder that people buy expensive cars in cash, if they're into that sort of thing. That's the funny thing though, that despite the money, it's still a T-shirt and jeans culture, and a lot of folks choose to stick with practical cars. I suppose status means a lot less if everyone around you is also doing well, and that does cut down on pretentious stupidity, especially among developers.

The benefits are the best in the industry. I don't know any other way to put it. You don't pay anything for health insurance. No co-pays, no deductibles. The only thing we paid for around Simon's birth was the extra in-out of the parking lot. You get free public transportation, free private transportation, discounts all over town for everything, they even skipped fees for our apartment application. Extra time off is given pretty liberally in certain groups. Morale events are completely kick-ass, and I drank more for free at work than I ever did at home. The company really goes out of its way to make you comfortable. Free beverages seem like an obvious perk, especially in this line of work. I also appreciated the company matching of charitable contributions, up to $12k a year.

One of the things that I'll miss is access. Particularly when I was working in DevDiv, it was really fascinating to see some of the products grow up, and being able to mess with them before they were done. It was very cool that if you wanted to know more about something, you could literally find the person who wrote the code and ask them. It was neat to see the phone and Kinect up close before they were "real." I suppose it's another angle of being "in," even if you do share that distinction with so many other people.

The free stuff is great, too. The free phone, which AT&T turned into a free phone for me and Diana, was pretty great. The free Kinect from beta testing was another big one. Free MSDN subscription was always convenient (though quasi-useless since you can get everything there from an internal network share as needed). The company store was outstanding for super cheap Xbox Live subs, controller replacements and hardware. I can continue to have access to that, at least, if I join the alumni association. Yes, there's an alumni association for former employees.

It's hard for me to make a lot of generalizations about Microsoft, because it's too big to do so in most cases. I get annoyed when some dickhead on some tech news site says something like, "Microsoft can't do this because of that." It's like saying, "Microsoft can't cut the grass because of pi." It doesn't make any sense. The Xbox is a long way from Excel, which is a long way from Bing. You just can't connect the dots like that in a company that big.

That said, there are some bigger picture things that I think you can say about the company that certainly get in the way. They're not deal-breakers that will sink the company, but stuff that I wish could change, or change faster.

Much is made of work-life balance. I did a focus group once where one of the participants asked me if I ever went home. It generally just depends on where you work. I never, ever had an issue with work-life balance. Sure, there were two or three times where I either came in really early or stayed a little later to get something done, but where I worked, this was a non-issue. I've heard of people in other groups that are expected to put in ridiculous hours, but whatever, they must be OK with it or they'd be smart enough to move to something else.

There are definitely two Microsofts right now. On one hand, you have the forward looking, experimental, agile and fast moving side. On the other, you have the old school, slow, waterfall side. Both have brilliant people, but the latter is a bit stuck in its bubble. It doesn't know any better, and it isn't that interested in knowing that there is a faster way. Its people spend a ton of time on design up front, it's less collaborative and dudes have four or five computers under their desk instead of VM's. People are actually paid to worry about keeping window offices open, while interior offices are doubled up, because of some kind of seniority concerns (nevermind that groups should be in team rooms).

New Microsoft, on the other hand, is awesome. In some ways, it's more highly influenced by the outside world, with people who came from the industry, but not always. It builds quick prototypes, it iterates quickly on ideas, gets feedback and is not bound to rigid "traditional" organizational structure. People collaborate in team rooms and blur the responsibility between roles. It's a lot more fun. It's the Microsoft that I most identify with, and I don't think it's that hard to see from the outside which parts engage in that manner.

I'm not a fan of the entire HR process, in terms of reviews and promotions. While I personally did not have a negative experience, I think it's a crappy way to manage a workforce, and that includes the new system, a largely lateral move. The first problem is that there's an obsession with promotion. If you're not moving up, you should move out. There are two problems with that, the first being that awesome people who are frankly well-suited for a particular level are given bad reviews simply for not advancing. I hate that, because I've personally hired people in other jobs that were excellent heads-down code monkeys completely satisfied with their place in the machine. The other problem is that it doesn't trust managers to hire people. Good hiring managers with great teams still have to pick winners and losers, and crappy managers with crappy teams have to pick winners and losers.

That career model, emphasizing advancement, also makes it hard for people to find a good fit. For me personally, I've had more success managing people than writing the most awesome code in history (relative to each other... I like to think I still write good code). But I can't just skip the coding and start managing people and processes, I have to go up the individual contributor coder ranks. Conversely, some people have no business managing people, and don't want to, but if they want to advance, that's usually the only path they have. This is compounded by some degree of siloing between dev and PM disciplines, which isn't good for people who don't fit neatly within those lines. I have a number of friends in the industry who I know would have a hard time fitting in because of those lines, which is a shame because they're brilliant, valuable people. It's not to say the whole company is like that, but it does seem like the "normal" for most of it.

All of that aside, it's hard to find many places where you can meet so many brilliant people. They're not what you'd think, either, as they range from high school diplomas up to PhD's, and everything in between. Many majored in something other than computer science. They come from all over the world. Unless you're an idiot who doesn't pay attention, working there will make you better at what you do.

People often ask me, "Do you think I should work at Microsoft?" If you're interested in something the company does, then yes, of course. Remember, interviewing with any company is a two-way street. If you can get in the front door and do an interview loop, it's just as much a chance for you to check them out as it is for them to evaluate you. I did it a year and a half before I got hired, and it was awful. The experience even soured me on Microsoft, but as I said before, it's a huge company. I'd sooner endure daily colonoscopies than work in Windows or Office, but I'd like to think there's something for everyone.

The thing that will really stick with me is my time in DevDiv, in what used to be STO. Those were really good times. Exciting, too, with the launch of Visual Studio 2010, .NET 4, ASP.NET MVC 3, etc. I can't say enough good things about the people I worked with there. I got the thing that I wanted most out of a job, and didn't have since the lay-offs at The people made me better. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. Leaving was one of the hardest decisions of my life.

Obligatory 9/11 reflection

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 11, 2011, 11:07 PM | comments: 0

So... ten years. There hasn't been a ton of noteworthy history in my lifetime. The end of Vietnam, fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, Challenger and Columbia, Reagan being shot, election of the first black president, end of apartheid, a hand full of natural (and unnatural) disasters... nothing that was quite the scope of a world war. But the horrific nature of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 certainly ranks up there.

In fact, that's one of the most striking things about a terrorist attack of this nature. Psychologically, the impact is huge and widespread, but the vast majority of Americans were not directly impacted. I lost my job, and was unemployed for six months as a result of that day. While it was certainly a dark period in my life, second only to my divorce, it still pales in comparison to the experience of anyone who was there in New York, or DC (or on United 93), or knew someone who was involved or died.

What began as an example of the worst that humanity could do to itself turned into an example of the best of humanity before it was even over, in the sky over Pennsylvania, in the stairwells of the World Trade Center, and on the ground at the Pentagon. Think about the context of the political climate at that time. We still weren't over the very toxic election of 2000, fighting over two candidates that frankly were both poor choices.

For the better part of a year, there was some genuine desire for people to get along and help each other out. Even politicians were getting along and crossing the aisle, getting work done (even if some of it was reactionary and immoral... I'm looking at you, Patriot Act). Watching people come together in New York was inspiring, given its caricature reputation for being grumpy and mean, a la Ghostbusters II. In fact, the most remarkable thing about the stories of that day is that the terrorists were barely a footnote compared to the heroics of everyone from firemen to ordinary office workers doing extraordinary things.

Rightfully so, many of the documentaries and news programs about 9/11 focused on the efforts of the people who were there in that city block. Police and fire faced the absolute worst case scenario and performed as brilliantly as they could given the situation. For awhile at least, people all over the US were willing to vote for funding issues that supported the people who ran into burning houses or risked walking into a situation where a bad guy had a gun.

What followed was not always pretty. In the desire to make someone pay for the sheer evil of that day, Americans largely rubber-stamped a war against a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks. The focus on remote portions of Afghanistan, where the real bad guys were, nearly disappeared. The cost in human lives and money has been astronomically high, and futures of sons and daughters, and unlike previous wars, mothers and fathers, have been erased. We've asked so much of our military families, and it might never be truly over.

If there's any one thing that I hope will come from this anniversary, it's that we're able to refocus on the very core values that demonstrated what made our nation great in the response to the unthinkable. To see people help each other out, without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation... to really understand that none of us are all that different... that's the world I want to live in, and the one I want my son to inherit. We have a lot of work to do.

There was a kid interning at NBC that I saw on TV, who lost his father on United 93, and he really captured what I think is the best way to approach these anniversaries. He said that he doesn't stop to remember the end of a life every year, but rather he celebrates the lives that were. That strikes me as a fantastic way to remember the people lost, the people who are closest to the loss, and the people who continue to risk their lives on our behalf in the face of crime, war and disaster.

On a side note, I have to say that I'm really struck by the beautiful simplicity of the 9/11 Memorial in New York. It's really quite moving and I look forward to seeing it in person some day. I know there has been a ton of criticism and disagreement for years over what to do on that site, but I think they've made some good decisions to honor the dead, provide a historical record of what happened there, and rebuild.

Rough day

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 9, 2011, 8:04 PM | comments: 0

The day was not good for us. It started when Simon got up before 6 a.m. Later, his general crying over something we couldn't quite identify prompted me to get up and offer Diana a little relief. Shortly thereafter, he took a tumble over the back of the couch, and chipped one of his upper front teeth, presumably on one of the bottom teeth. We actually pulled the fragment off of the back of his lip. He's going to see the dentist Monday, who thinks he can repair it. I'm skeptical. It's not super noticeable, but he probably isn't a good candidate for dental commercials anymore.

Work was annoying pretty much as soon as I got there. I was really only there to meet up with my friends for lunch one last time, then turn in my ID and benefit stuff. My boss didn't even come in today. The dude sitting next to me in the team room demonstrated his constant audible sipping and burping routine for about a half-hour. If that weren't enough, the network was performing poorly, so I couldn't even surf Facebook efficiently. It just seemed like a total waste of time to be there.

Lunch was a highlight. It was good to sit down with the gang one more time. The people from TTFKASTO (the official Microsoft acronym for "the team formerly known as Server & Tools Online") were representative of everything that I loved about Microsoft. Smart, good people. Best co-workers I've had.

The check-in and return of my junk was uneventful, but it was very emotional. It reminded me a lot of my last day at school, when the campus around you that was home base for so long was not going to be a part of your life anymore. You aren't going to be a part of what goes on there anymore. That made me very sad.

When I got home, of course I forgot that I was supposed to stop and buy cat food. Shit. So I took Simon with me to one of the closer grocery stores and paid twice as much as I should. I at least chose the store further away from town, so I didn't have any traffic issues.

When we finally got down to eating dinner, we had a solid check-in conversation. I think with everything going on, we've been neglecting our wants and needs, and catching up was long overdue.

To wind down, we popped Simon into the stroller and took a nice long walk into the expensive part of the neighborhood. This prompted more solid conversation about long-term goals for finances, real estate, schools and such. It all sounds so serious, but honestly we really needed to do that.

The day really should have been more symbolic of the transition and excitement of our future life, but it just seemed that something negative happened at every turn. Here's hoping tomorrow isn't like that. I still need to work out that blog post about my two years on the Death Star.

Debt attitude

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 8, 2011, 11:00 PM | comments: 0

I suspect that I'll spend a lot of time this month reflecting and writing about the last two years. When I think about how things have changed in that span of time, one of the things that stands out is the change in my views on debt. They are radically different.

The first real change actually came a couple of years earlier, in 2007 probably, when I nuked most of my personal credit card debt. In 2008, I cured the business as well. Ever since I got my first credit card in college, back when they'd give you a $300 credit limit, and only if you were at least a junior (I think it was 1993), I just kind of bought whatever I wanted. I definitely had a comfort level I pushed, but I just let revolving debt pile up. I nuked it once in 2000, when I sold, but just fell back into old habits.

In 2009, after that long stretch of being job-free, I racked up quite a bit of debt since I lost my job the day after my honeymoon ended. We moved to Seattle with at least $26k between my personal cards and the business (which was paying me my "salary"). Naturally my focus was to obliterate that as quickly as possible.

I also became more sensitive to long-term debt. I've always been sensitive to car debt, and I think people who make themselves car poor are morons. People who think their car represents status are double morons. But I realized the same thing applies to houses, too. As the mortgage crisis unfolded, it was clear that part of the problem was the people who bought more house than they could afford. While I didn't do that, it sure would be nice to have a mortgage that was easy to stomach in uncertain times.

When we moved, we had two to worry about, since Diana's house wasn't sold either. I realized that, especially with declining values, owning a house was a lifestyle choice, not an investment. As I mapped out a future in Seattle, it was important to me that we not get into a house for less than 20% down if at all possible, since it was likely a house would probably cost between $400k and $500k.

What it really comes down to now is security. Despite the tough couple of years in the job market, I was never in any serious financial danger, but the stress of it all definitely took its toll. Now I want to work toward a future where a significant portion of my house is paid for outright, with cash. I want to live in a world of sub-$500 mortgage payments (not counting property tax).

I think I can get there. It will depend a lot on how work goes, and where my career takes me, but I feel like it's more possible than ever, in part because I'm not paying on any revolving debt. As long as house prices don't increase dramatically, I think I could get there in five, maybe even four years. I'm talking about pool and palm tree lifestyle. It seems possible.

I don't want to imply that all debt is bad, by the way. Student loans are helpful. Sensible mortgages are essential. Revolving credit is fine if you're promptly paying it back. But when things suck, cash is king. Keep more of it.

Nostalgia for the old school PC

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 7, 2011, 9:46 PM | comments: 0

I've got two PC's that followed me out to Washington that I have no use for. The first one is the machine I used as my desktop for many years, complete with clear sides and aluminum case. The second is what used to be my home theater PC, pulling down over-the-air HD, but it was replaced by a silent Mac Mini (running Windows 7).

I'm giving the desktop to a friend who wants a spare PC, so I'm formatting the drives to erase my po, er, "data" so he has a fresh start. I feel a lot of nostalgia for this box. The power supply is practically new, and probably the third that lived in that case. It has a mobile Athlon XP overclocked beyond its spec, and an entire gigabyte of RAM! It even has a floppy drive.

This is a relic from the days when you regularly replaced parts, and reinstalled Windows probably once every nine months. It was a pain in the ass, but there was something fun about it. Busting open a new video card that scored you an extra 2 frames-per-second in some shooter was cool. It was fun to dress up the machine and put lights and other crap in it too.

In late 2006, I bought a Mac Pro, and the old PC was retired. In late 2009, I sold that computer (for $1,200!) and bought a 27" iMac. I don't miss the clunky tower, or constant upgrades. When I do use Windows, it's a virtual machine that I can trash and instantly restore.

What a difference a few years makes. Now I get many years out of a computer, without having to upgrade it. My laptop is closing in on three years, my iMac on two. Both are more than adequate. I'm not upgrading hard drives or CPU's or any of that. I admittedly miss the tinkering a little bit, but not really. Gone are the days of drivers and IRQ's and all of the things that made computers more complicated than they had to be, and I think we're better off for it.

So long, old PC. We had a good run, but you're not going back to Cleveland with me.

Microsoft influences and non-influences

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 7, 2011, 1:51 PM | comments: 0

I'm still organizing my thoughts about my experience at Microsoft, and will post those thoughts eventually. I can't just trivialize two years of work experience into a couple of random paragraphs. That said, I was thinking today about what kind of influence the company has had on me in terms of the products and stuff that I used, and how that may have changed. In no particular order...

Developer products

No change there. I was working in Microsoft's stack in the first place, so obviously I'm still a .NET guy. What has changed is that I spend a lot more time actively finding open source stuff, and of course offer my forum app as open source. I think it's an important part of a developer ecosystem, and it has come a long way in the last two years.

Operating systems

No change here either. I still tend to use OS X for general computing (given all of the Macs we have), and Windows 7 for development. At home it's in a VM, at work natively. I started just a bit before Windows 7 and think it's something of a miracle turnaround. It's a nice operating system. The truth is that I'm relatively indifferent about which OS I use, since so much of what I do outside of development happens in a Web browser.

Video games

I wasn't a huge gamer in the first place, but I don't remember the last time my Wii was on. Xbox was my fave before hand, and with the employee discount I upgraded to the newer slim model. Got Kinect for free.


Switched to Windows Phone 7. This was a non-committal switch at first, because the phone was free. That I could develop apps for it was certainly a consideration, but if I decided I didn't like it, I had no issue going back to my iPhone. As it turns out, I think the UI for WP7 is so much nicer, and all of the apps I used before have WP7 equivalents. The Facebook contact integration alone is a big win. Going back to iOS feels dated now. I'm not sure if this was Microsoft influence or not, because I approached the thing, even in its development, with healthy skepticism.


I actually switched to Chrome after I started, because the other kids at work were using it. I never switched back. IE9 is actually pretty nice, but since I do most of that kind of thing in OS X, can't use it there. Unless it's just slow and crappy, browser is rarely a thing I spend a lot of time thinking about.

Office type apps, e-mail

I'm still using Gmail via Google Apps for your Domain. Obviously wouldn't invest in something like Exchange for a one-person business. I will say that Exchange and Outlook have come a long way in the last two versions, and most of the time they're problem free to use at work. I still use Word and Excel now and then, but the version (Windows or OS X) varies. I use Google docs rarely, and mostly just when I want to share a doc with someone.

Search services

For straight out Web searches, I mostly use Google. For maps I like Bing better.

Overall, not much has changed outside of the phone usage. I'm not sure that I would classify the usage as passionate, but I'm honestly surprised at how good WP7 is. If they get the thing in front of more people, especially on this hot HTC hardware coming out, I suspect they'd win a lot of market share.

Microsoft makes some sweet stuff. While working there, I've stuck to the same mentality I did before, to use what makes the most sense. I can't stand people who get religious in either direction.

Freakish weather

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 6, 2011, 11:36 PM | comments: 0

I think Seattle is celebrating our imminent departure. Sunny and 80's are on deck through the weekend. Normally, the corner would have turned and we'd be well into "jacket weather" by now. Cleveland is holding steady in the low 70's, which sounds about right.

Weather is certainly a consideration in terms of where you live, and Seattle is typically predictable. The last year (if you believe the natives) has been a strange exception to the rule, with snowfall at sea level, cold spring and summer, and drier winters compared with wetter summers. I think I buy that, because our first 12 months here seemed about in line with my expectations.

Cleveland has freakish weather by definition. The high and low swings are extreme to three digits above or double digits below. People talk about it, because people talk about weather, but it's never really unexpected. It's funny how that works. Living in Cleveland, you always know you'll get that week of 90's and high humidity in the summer, along with lake effect snow and extreme cold in the winter. You expect that weird 50 degree day in July, and the 70 degree day in February. It's just how you roll.

It's strange then to look at a place like Florida, where the weather doesn't vary a lot, and you can generally predict how it will be. Sure, you have hurricanes that shake things up a bit, and the occasional cold snap, but it's unusual in the same way that the last year in Seattle has been.

All things considered, I think the weather in Seattle is a lateral move from Cleveland. Yeah, you don't get the huge snow a few times per winter, and it rarely gets below freezing, but in the general sense it's not an up or downgrade. Long periods of gray in Cleveland are replaced by daily rain, with a peak of sun most days. It's pretty much a fair trade, though this last year has sucked without any real summer (unless you count now).

Eighteen months of Simon, parenthood and our new normal

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 6, 2011, 1:12 PM | comments: 0

Yesterday was Simon's birthday-and-a-half. I can't believe it! We've managed to keep another human being alive and generally well for 18 months, not counting a dislocated elbow, which he somehow did on his own. We are parents, we have a little boy. That never stops feeling normal.

But it is our normal, and most of the time, it's pretty awesome. Simon's mobility, which came a little late, has certainly changed everything about the way we have to be parents, but the mobility brings so much curiosity and personality, and it's fun to watch. It also leaves us a bit exhausted by the time he goes to bed, but I think that's just the composite weight of everything going on in our lives right now.

In the last two weeks or so, Simon is making a lot more sounds, and "talking" a lot. We have no idea what he's saying, but he's clearly experimenting with tone. He kind of "lost" his first few words, and he is behind in speech development (relative to averages), but I suspect he'll catch up the way he did with crawling and walking. As the local bartender warned us, "Pretty soon, he won't shut up!"

It seems like we still struggle with sleeping times, but we've been working a now-obvious strategy lately. First, make sure he's tired, second, make sure he has some nice wind down time where he gets plenty of love and attention from us. That seems to put him at ease, and results in better sleep. I'm also trying to make sure we mix it up in terms of timing and activity, so he doesn't need perfect ideals and flip out when we travel. I still want him to have the routines right before bed, but if we're out later or whatever, I want him to learn to adjust.

We have an extremely active kid. He loves to walk, loves to explore, loves to get outside. Not sure how that's going to go when winter sets in. I'm thankful that he wants to be active, but he doesn't really play with his toys much. Maybe he needs different toys. He also doesn't care much for TV, except when he's tired, but I'm not going to complain about that.

One thing that I don't take for granted is how excellent a partner Diana is. We have our disagreements of course, but I can't imagine being a parent with any less cooperation and collaboration. I can easily see how a poor pairing of people can make parenthood a living hell. I mean, I was reasonably confident going in that we would make a good team, but you never know until you get there. Diana is such an excellent mother.

So far, so good! I look forward to the winter adventures we'll have with Simon. There's a nice little hill behind the house, so I suspect we'll have to obtain a little sled.

Seattle bucket list progress

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 5, 2011, 7:26 PM | comments: 0

As soon as we realized that we were moving away from Seattle, we started to compile a list of stuff we wanted to do before leaving. So far:

  • Silverwood near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
  • Segway tour of Seattle.
  • Space Needle.
  • Pacific Science Center.

Still to come:

  • Mariners game at Safeco Field.
  • Drive up to Mt. Rainier.
  • Port Defiance Zoo.
  • Wild Waves (not going to happen).
  • UW volleyball (not likely).

Today we knocked out the Space Needle and the science center, not realizing that there was a big concert festival going on in Seattle Center. Still, we got there early, and practically had the museum to ourselves. Space Needle is a rip off at $18 a person, but you know, it's just one of those things you have to say that you did. Despite the sunny skies, it was super hazy, so the classic shot of downtown with Mt. Rainier in the background was not meant to be.

Good times so far, and a few more to come. We'll miss these ridiculous mountain views!

Making September count

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 2, 2011, 11:08 PM | comments: 0

I realized today (in the spirit of Labor Day), that with vacations, holidays and the move, I will go to work a total of five days the entire month. And I can assure you these will not likely be particularly productive days. That's fairly unusual. The number of days, not the productivity.

There's a significant challenge in store for the month, however. I somehow have to balance relaxing and enjoying the time off with the fact that we're moving at the end of the month. What a pain in the ass to have to shift context back and forth all of the time.

There are a number of things we want to do before we go, but honestly some of them aren't looking very promising. For example, we'd like to take in a UW volleyball match, but we're basically limited to this coming Thursday or Friday (any babysitters available?). It doesn't help that I have to turn in my Prime card to work (massive discounts all over town) on Friday, and the weekend after next is Fall Affair, putting me out for the last non-packed-up weekend. There isn't a lot of time left.

The move itself is honestly not as big of a deal as you'd think. This will be our third move in two years, and I've learned that it's fairly low maintenance when someone else is packing up all of your shit. The hardest thing to figure out is what you'll need to keep with you while everything else goes on the truck.

The unpacking part is the more time consuming part, but knowing where you're going to live and not having to learn a new city will certainly help things. Unfortunately, getting settled is going to take awhile, because of the painting and furniture buying. We're both already thinking about things we have to do, and honestly it's kind of pissing me off because I've got less than three weeks to enjoy Washington. I mean, I mentioned that I want to get the furnace cleaned. Really?

Hopefully we can knock out a few touristy things. Against all odds, the weather is going to be spectacular for the next week and a half. We've talked about going up the Space Needle (clear day required), driving out to Mt. Rainier, maybe climbing Mt. Si with Simon on our back (maybe not a good idea). I'd like to actually do a little of nothing at all, too, but that's kinda hard when you have a very active toddler that wants to be outside as much as possible.

Gotta prioritize, I suppose. We'll be Ohio residents again before we know it.

Simon's anti-sleep pattern

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 1, 2011, 11:19 PM | comments: 0

Our little guy has been up and down a lot lately in terms of mood, which seems pretty normal. He's getting better at communicating, staying slightly more patient doing certain things, and making development strides. Some days he's super fun, other days it's tantrum city. One pattern I'm not thrilled about is Simon's inability to sleep.

Granted, I'm sure we're part of the problem, because we don't leave him to his own devices when he cries. He's generally got a significant moment of protest within a half-hour of going down, and then we've had nights where he has started crying several times a night. This morning, somewhere between 4 and 5, I ended up rocking him on my shoulder for a good 15 minutes, and Diana I'm pretty sure got up several times before that. This is not sustainable.

The hardest thing as a parent is that he just wants love, and dammit if it doesn't feel good when he gives you a squeeze and drops his head on your shoulder. Unfortunately, he's old enough now to know about this vulnerability, and he knows that if he cries enough, one of us will show up. Especially right after bed, before he really falls asleep, he knows we'll be there. I was able to fight off the temptation to go to him last Friday though, and after 15 minutes of crying, he crashed on his own.

The other thing is that sometimes going to him seems like the path of least resistance, because it gets him on his back quicker. I think he knows this as well. We have to break the cycle. Fortunately, if he's really tired enough, he'll get through the night. I can't identify any particular pattern related to nap length, mood during the day, activity, or whatever. He just rolls how he rolls. Now if only it would be sleep from 7 to 7.