About 10 years ago, my wife (then girlfriend) and I adopted two cats. They have been great companions for us.  They are two of the best behaved, social, playful cats I’ve ever known.  A bonus is they are great with the kids.  They put up with lots of little hands.

A few months ago, Zeke, the older one began to have problems: he was losing weight among other difficulties.  After several trips to the vet we learned that he had a kidney stone that had destroyed one kidney and weakened function in the other.  In addition, he had a mass in his bowel that was growing.  The mass was operable, but because of his weakened kidney function he would have difficulty with the anesthetic.  It was likely that the operation would kill him. We decided against the risk.  Today was his last day.  His condition had worsened to the point where we felt euthanasia was the best option. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  I am grateful for the compassion of the staff at the animal hospital; they made it “easier”.

The girls took it pretty hard when I brought him home afterward.  We had a nice service at a grave we prepared for him and gave them an opportunity to grieve.  Probably my least favorite parental duties.

That is all…

Spring break with the kids

This year, we wanted to do something for spring break. The kids have a bunch of days out of school and I had a couple of carryover vacation days to take. The timing was good, so we decided to do SOMETHING. What should we do? We are watching the budget and a couple of days really wouldn’t have been worth it to get on a plane. We decided on a “stay-cation” at Coco Key, a local, indoor waterpark. We looked at Great Wolf Lodge, but the prices were really high.

We checked in on Thursday and went to the park all day. We spent hours in the kiddie pool and water slides. The biggest challenge was that Ripley could go on two of three sets of water slides and Peri & Dyson could only go on one. Ripley was about 1″ short for the big ones, which would have eliminated her from the small ones and Peri was about 1″ short for the midsize ones. It was a balancing act to make sure that we all had fun, mostly the kids, and we didn’t have any accidents.

Overall the kids had a blast. They remembered how to swim. Dyson loved the zero depth entry pool and floating on the river with me. The girls ran around and made friends with the other kids. Mostly they didn’t want to leave.

We will think really hard about doing the stay over again. The park was really crowded. The food was overpriced and awful. The bathrooms/changing rooms were disgusting. The park was fun and right for our age group. All of these things I expected. One thing that I didn’t expect was the huge collection of really, really bad tattoos. There was definitely a slant towards ink with the crowd and apparently they all went to the same crappy, low budget artist because most of them sucked hard. Once you’ve seen a good one, all the others just look wrong. And this could have been the local convention for bad.

Amusing anecdote… We were getting ready to leave. We decided that changing in the bathroom was too foul to consider (someone had just thrown up). Gina used the old “hold up a towel and change behind it trick” with the girls. Ripley went fine, no exposure and minimum of effort. Peri didn’t understand what we were doing and stripped in the middle of the park… Ooops. A little quick maneuvering resulted in a minimum of flashing to the group of hundreds of patrons. We need to be clearer with her next time.

We may do the park again, but it will definitely need to be in short doses with breaks to leave for lunch. Part of me understands the difference between Coco Key and Great Wolf. I know that the food prices would have been worse at Great Wolf, but would the quality and lower attendance made a difference in the experience… I don’t know. We may find out next year.

On a side note, I do have a greater appreciation for the hell my brother and I put our parents through when going to waterparks, amusement parks, Disney, etc.


The things that I am thankful for…

What am I thankful for?  Here is a list, in no particular order:

  1. my beautiful, smart, witty, forgiving and thoughtful wife. I am not worthy.
  2. my wonderful children. They are a joy.
  3. being more fortunate than most in the world by having freedoms including, but not limited to:
    • not needing to worry where my next meal is coming from
    • not needing to worry about agents of the Government, or local militia, or gangs, breaking into my home and taking my property or imprisoning me
    • not needing to worry about where I am going to sleep tonight
  4. having a stable job that gives me the ability to use my talents for the betterment of my company, and by proxy, my community
  5. living in a country that was founded on the principles that the Governed are in charge of the Government, even though we forget that sometimes.
  6. My extended family… we are completely dysfunctional but I still love them all.  I do wish that we spent more time together.
  7. having a few really good friends
  8. having learned that it is not as important what others think about you, but what you think about yourself
  9. having access to more information than any culture in the history of the planet and means to access it (mostly) easily

This is not a comprehensive list and I’m sure it isn’t completely unique. I hope everyone takes time today to recognize what they are thankful for.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving everyone.

MS 150

This past weekend I participated in my second MS150 bike ride. It was awesome.

The Saturday portion of the ride was essentially the same as last year. Last year I finished day one in 4:52, this year it was 4:16; and improvement of 36 minutes! Much of that was riding with a group of really strong rider. You know, drafting works… It’s physics! Cruising at 21-22mph for extended periods was pretty cool.

The Sunday portion was completely different. It was hillier than day one, just like last year, but not quite as bad as last year. We had a new challenge, 20 miles of gravel road. It was like riding in molasses. Even so my time last year was 5:26 vs 4:43 this year; an improvement of 43 minutes. The first part of the ride, I rode with the same group but was on my own for most of the last 50 miles.

I did learn a couple of things. First, training for 9 months vs. 4 months makes a huge difference. Second, you need to ride your ride, instead of someone else’s ride. What I mean by that is you cannot train for one thing and then ride at a completely different pace/schedule. I trained for hours of constant riding with very few rest breaks. The first day we rode fast and took long breaks. That was a problem because my muscles were tensing up and I ended up finishing with leg cramps. Today, I started that way and realized that it wasn’t going to work with the extra hills and terrain issues. So I struck off on my own and finished well.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked riding with the group and going really fast was a blast. It was really nice of the group to let me tag along and I appreciate it. It helped me realize that I need to work hard over the next year to be able to get closer to managing that pace. I just real wasn’t ready for that this year, and I’m glad I realized it before I had a really bad time this year.

One last thing, I want to thank everyone that sponsored me this year. Together we wearer able to raise over $1,400 for the multiple sclerosis society. You guys rock!

Fourth of July adventure

So, we had no big plans for the 4th so after we had breakfast there was a discussion about taking a day trip for an adventure. With nothing constraining us and the weather being nice, we decided to take a trip to Serpent Mound in Adams county. We packed a lunch and headed out.

The drive was nice and we had a picnic at one of the rest stops. The kids thought that was awesome. Gina taught the kids about the trees and birds that we saw. Very pleasant. Then we continued on to the mound.

The last time I was at Serpent Mound was in the mid 70s with my grandparents. I remember driving forever to get there, not quite understanding it and wondering what I was looking at. I figured there was something to it and Gina and I are committed to making sure the kids understand stuff, at their level.

So we got there and it was pretty cool. I remember it being much bigger. It was taller than I was. When we got there, I was expecting a huge monument. It was big, but not 10′ tall. If I was 3’6″ it would look much larger. It was kind of cool to explain it to the kids so they understood what they were looking at.

When we finished up, we stopped at a rock and fossil shop that we saw on the way. It is called House of Phacops and it was awesome. The owner had built exhibits for the Smithsonian and was very knowledgable about stuff. We liked that more than the mound.

Since it was early, we decided that we would take a drive down to the Ohio and come back via Route 50. Due to a small miscalculation on my part, we ended up in Portsmouth, OH. A little further down river than I expected. It was kind of cool to see the new bridges on the river at Portsmouth and Aberdeen. But the kids had clearly had enough of being in the car. They lost their minds about Ripley, OH.

We did manage to get home in time for fireworks in Ault Park. It was nice because we could walk home when they were done.

It was a long day, but I promised the kids and adventure when we left, and we managed to find one.

Wired app for iPad

So, I downloaded the Wired iPad app. This was one of the apps that I was most looking forward to for the iPad. I have subscribed to the magazine for a while and enjoy reading it.

First off, the application is beautiful. The interface is nice, mostly, and works well. It is really nice that within an article they’ve integrated sound and video. In the music section, you can actually listen to the song that the article is talking about. In some of the “Play” section they put in video to show the products they are reviewing/highlighting. This is pretty awesome.

The reading of articles is very cool. You can read the entire article in one place instead of flipping through the magazine. The interface is mostly good: swipe left-right to move between articles and up-down to go to next page. The biggest issue that I have is that the layout seems to still assume two side-by-side pages instead of a single page. I hope this is resolved in the next edition.

The advertisers have tried new things with the format. Some of them are really interesting. Pepsi took advantage of the ability to have video and had a cool commercial built in. Many had you change the orientation to see a different view. Kind of interesting. Some used the ability to link to a website to give you more info. I expect to see more of this in the future.

The biggest single problem I have with the new Wired format is the preponderance of advertising and cost of the issue. The digital copy is $5 when my subscription is significantly less. For the extra charge I would expect to have LESS advertising. Wired is already advert heavy and this was more obvious in this format. They need to work on that.

The next thing that I see room for improvement on is the lack of ability to share the content or take advantage of the connectivity. Most of the articles will be on their website. It would be nice to be able to tweet or update Facebook and automatically include a link to the article. This would drive traffic to their site and save me the trouble of trying to find it. I found that frustrating.

I would have also expected, with their desire for revenue, to have links from the product reviews directly to somewhere to BUY the products, *cough* Amazon.com *cough*, instead of needing to get out of the app and trying to find the product. There is an opportunity to make this a seamless experience and take advantage of impulse shoppers. They’ve already told you why the product is cool, make it easy for me to buy it.

Over all, I think this is a great glimpse into what is possible in the future of magazines. Wired and all of the others need to think about their subscription model and figure out a way that I don’t feel like I’m being taken advantage of. Quite simply, I don’t think I should pay MORE for electronic than I can get for a dead tree version; that is unless you kill the advertising, then you’ve added value. I need to feel like I’m getting MORE for my money if you are charging me more. The other complaints that I had will work themselves out I’m sure.

Thoughts on 40 – redux

40 was a bigger surprise than I thought.

Ok, I thought yesterday was going to be a nice, calm day with a couple of my closest friends and my wife. No big deal but awesome. Little did I know that my calibration on “awesome” would need to be reset in a major way…

We got up, cleaned up, and got together with friends for breakfast. Went out for a pretty pleasant day, even though it was raining, it was nice.  We hung out, talked, did a lot but nothing “important”.  I figured we were just hanging out, not a specific biding time until later type of thing.  JR did a wonderful job of keeping me occupied, despite my best efforts to do what ever I wanted.

When I thought we were going to dinner, he fed me a story about needing to meet his girlfriend and my wife somewhere they were shopping. Completely plausible.  When we walked past the window to the venue for the party, I saw my neighbors and thought “hmmm, thats odd, but inside the realm of possible”, then I started recognizing other people, when I opened the door, my first thought was “that person has a camera pointed at me, thats unusual.” then “why is EVERYONE that I know here?”, “I don’t normally see my co-workers, family and friends together”, “hey, what are the odds of seeing them, I haven’t seen them in years?”, “wait a minute, everyone is saying ‘surprise’, WTF?”, “hey, there’s my mom, why isn’t she in Las Vegas?”, “ohhhhh….. I get it”

Clearly, the surprise worked. There was a whole lot of context switching, pitching out of assumptions, working to bring in new assumptions, and all around mental re-jiggering to get the picture of the world readjusted to a new reality that had very little to do with the one that I had in my head.

I have a wonderful wife, a fantastic family and more friends than I thought. The surprise party was, well, a surprise. I did not know that everyone in my life could keep something like that from me; I’m going to assume for the future that this is a good thing 🙂 I truly had zero idea that this would happen. I had a passing thought that it might be nice to have a birthday party, but I was really okay that it was low key. This exceeded any (and every) expectation that I had for how my birthday would be.

The friends that we were hanging out with are from out of town, so I thought them being here was the big surprise, but that was apparently a ruse to squash any suspicions I had.  For those of you who knew about this (which I think is everyone on the planet except me)… well done folks. No one let slip that they’d see me this weekend. And, you have seen a rare thing, me completely and totally surprised (clueless really) and completely speechless. As was mentioned to me repeatedly, that doesn’t happen often.

I want to thank all of you.  It is good to be reminded of how many great people that I know and are in my life. Thank you for sharing my birthday with me.

I would like to thank my wife specifically. I’ve been giving you a lot of crap lately about stuff and clearly you have been working on a very important project. I need to publicly apologize for being a douche; my bad.

thoughts on 40

It is customary to evaluate things periodically, and birthdays seem as good an arbitrary date as any. This is especially true on a decade boundary, because even though it is completely arbitrary and it is “round” only as a side effect of having 10 fingers, it seems like as a good enough time as any to assess.

The last 10 years have been eventful. In my thirties, I:

  • met my wife
  • became a father (three times)
  • produced and directed a movie
  • changed jobs twice (both times for the better)
  • lost many friends
  • kept some fantastic ones
  • gained a few new ones
  • read a lot of books
  • admitted to myself and everyone else that I am an atheist and a secular humanist
  • rode thousands of miles on my bike
  • bought a house
  • wrote and delivered my first eulogy
  • left North America for the first time
  • switched to Apple
  • voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in my life

It’s been a busy decade. Overall, I think it was my best so far. I had a lot of plans, but I also accomplished a bunch of things that were never on my list when I started the decade. Funny how life can change what is important to you and guide you to decisions that you wouldn’t normally think you’d arrive at if you didn’t take the journey.

I have a lot of ideas of what I want to accomplish in the next 10 years. I now need to coordinate those plans with four other people, but I don’t think that will be a problem. Together I think we can make my 40s even better than my 30s!!!

MS150 – why I ride

Its that time of year again. I am beginning my fund raising for the MS-150. Its a ride that supports research into treatments and cures for MS, and helps to provide support for those living with the disease. I thought it might make sense to talk about why I am riding this year.

Last year was the first year that I rode for this cause. It started out as an invitation from my brother-in-law. He and his wife had started riding and had a group that they were riding with. They knew that I used to ride and it would be a good opportunity to do something together. When I first heard about them doing it, I wasn’t sure that I could make the time. We had two children and another due any time.

I decided, at the prompting of my lovely bride, to commit to it. I paid my money and set out to train for it. About ten years ago, I picked up riding and wanted to ride in the MS-150 but never got to the point where I could ride that distance. My training was haphazard and really more of a way to burn off stress from work. Last year was different. In the intervening years, I matured as a person and because of my time constraints, I realized that I needed to have a structured plan in order to be able to handle the rigors of the event. With less than 16 weeks to prepare, it was an effort, since I didn’t know what I was doing, had a new baby and limited time.

I managed to get it together and finish the event. With the generous support of my family and friends, we were able to raise over $1,300 dollars for the cause. At the event they had a couple of speakers that spoke about how all of the funds that were raised impacted the lives of people in a very real way. It started off as a way to get fit and do something with my family and became a way to help other people. What more can you ask for?

After spending a year riding, I also noticed that I felt better, my mood was improved and I had found a way to reduce stress. This year, I started much earlier in the year to train for the event. Now that I know that I can finish, my goal is to improve my performance: both in terms of the actual event and the fund raising for the cause.

I don’t have a story of how my life was impacted by MS. I am fortunate in that respect. As far as I know, there is only one person in all of my family, friends and co-workers that has the disease. I did find that when people donated, they shared with me how their lives have been impacted by loved ones with MS. This helped with the feeling that this is a concrete way that I can try to help to make the world a better place for a lot of people in this one area. From what I have read, there is a lot of promising research in this area and I really think that it my donation to this organization makes a real difference.

So, lets be honest, the primary reason that I ride is because I enjoy it. But in doing something that I enjoy, I can help others. There is no direct impact to me, but there is a real impact to others. I hope that you will help me with a donation this year. A link to my fund raising page is here. Anything you can donate would be appreciated.

iPad impressions

So, I’ve had the iPad for one day, almost exactly. I haven’t had as much time to use it as I’d hoped because I’m a parent 🙂

FIrst impression is that the device is a great size. It is big enough to be useful and small enough to carry around. It will necessitate a bag if I am leaving the house with it, but it that generally isn’t a problem.

The screen is awesome with some minor annoyances. You’ve got a great viewing angle so more than one person can watch a movie at once. I played a couple of games with the kids and it was good because we could all see and participate. The biggest issue that I have with the screen is that it is VERY glossy. It shows every fingerprint and gets glare in the light. I think this would be easily fixed with a matte screen or a screen protector, which I planned on getting anyway.

The apps that are out for the device so far are good for the most part. I’m really looking forward to seeing how I can use it at work for taking notes, working on documents/presentations and possibly as a notebook replacement in many instances. The Citrix client is very exciting, provided that I can attach it to the network at work. That will be a conversation to have with the appropriate network and security people.

The biggest thing that I was looking forward to was the eReader. I have a Sony Reader that I’ve used for several years now. The ePaper is a great interface for reading a book, and was interested in how the iPad display compared. So far I’ve been impressed with iBooks and the interface. It is very pretty and easy to read content.

The biggest complaint that I have is with the lack of titles in the store. I am really disappointed that I couldn’t get “Diamond Age” for it, just because it seems appropriate to read that book on a computer 🙂 Sony had the same problem early on, and I hope that Apple will continue to get titles loaded. I tried the Kindle reader on the iPad and it is nice, but nowhere near as user friendly as the iBook reader.

I would love for the players to get together to have a standard for content, so I can buy content at multiple locations. Then pick the reader application that makes the most sense for how I read. This could be different for everyone, and the advantage to the iPad is you can have multiple readers, just for now each one in a ghetto for the sellers content.

Overall, I’m impressed. There are annoyances but most of them are minor or easily addressable. The bigger issues won’t be resolved for a while. To quote Ferris Bueller, “if you have the means, I highly recommend it”