Friday, December 29, 2006

Casco Bay

More photos from Maine.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

The other day, Mom had the day off from Panera, so we ran around all day getting into hijinx. The best part may have been going to the ocean. The sound of surf restores the soul, I find. Then we went to Arby's for lunch, and bought Chris some music for his birthday at a very cool shop in Portland, Bull Moose. We also went to a uniform shop so Bethany could buy a nurse's uniform, now that she has graduated from nursing school at Bunker Hill in Boston. While she tried them on, Chris, Ryan and I defaced children's coloring books in the waiting area. It was childish, but we laughed so hard I couldn't stand up.

I took some pictures at the shore; hopefully, I'll have some more holiday shots soon.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Vote for Kringle

Ryan and Bethany have been making JingEling videos for Christmas the past three years. Check out this year's offering, and selections from 2005, here. I love the first Scatitor sketch, and the Wykira chips, and the entire Kringle campaign. Have a look, and make sure to vote.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Catching Up

I love books. This is almost entirely a good thing. One of the few drawbacks is that I have a backlog of books to read. An entire shelf by my bed is dedicated to books "on deck." So I'm often behind the curve with the latest book that most other folks are reading and talking about. This clearly happened in a big way with The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. Most folks read this book last year, so I am a little late to the party.

It is a very intriguing book, though. And if you haven't read it, I recommend it. The topic is the increasing interconnectedness of the world, especially with regards to economics. Two things from the book have struck me, even though I haven't finished it yet. First, the growing ties between individuals, and the continuing rise of multinational organizations (especially corporations), has begun to roll back many of the changes wrought by the rise of nationalism in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And secondly, the rise of outsourcing and offshoring may not be bad for the US, on the whole. We are becoming a nation of robber-barons, controlling innovation and capital while the rest of the world does the dirty work. I find that very interesting, and look forward to finishing the book and thinking about this some more. If anyone else has read it, I'd like to hear your thoughts, too.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Behind Enemy Lines

I went undercover last night at one of our competitors' company Christmas party. Oddly enough, I skipped out on my company party to go to this one. What happened was, Jane got two tickets for the party at her new job, but at the last moment Ian wasn't able to go. So I said "I am willing to eat free steak at Ruth's Chris." I wanted to help her out, since it is the holidays and all. Actually, their party was free - my company charges $25 a head now. So, I talked it over with Sarah on Friday, and she agreed to give me a full report on our Christmas party, if I turned spy and gave her the lowdown on our rivals' party.
It was a lot of fun. Mostly because they avoided the unpleasant parts of many company holiday parties. No speeches; no dancing (I don't want to see my retirement-age coworkers doing the Electric Slide); an open bar; and good food. What made it especially good was the company - I got to sit at the Cool Kids table (a relative term, since the room is filled with engineers). I hung out with Jane, obviously, but also Megan, her date Richford, TatooGirl, Skunk-Nut and his russian mail order bride*, my old coworker Jon, and his filthy, awesome wife Jodie.

Jane, TatooGirl, and Meg

Jane in her chinesey dress from China

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that the bartender was making extremely stiff drinks. I'm glad Jane was driving. Hell, I wrote a text-message to Sarah as an update, and I had to have Jane spell-check it for me. Thanks for the help, Jane.

Somehow, I ended up being in the last group of people to leave from the rival company's party. Not my usual M.O., in a lot of ways. We adjourned to Jon and Jodie's for another few hours, and had a fantastic Cool Kids After-Party. The details of which are not suitable for public consumption. It was very memorable.

Jane's Party Post

[edited to change "russian girlfriend" to "russian mail-order bride." Thanks, Jane]

X-mas Marks the Spot

I do not recommend using DHL Express to ship anything. And I'll tell you why:

I designed my Christmas cards this year online at place called Zazzle, and ordered them the week after Thanksgiving. It takes time to print them up, ship them, and get them addressed, and sent to all the kith and kin. I gave myself plenty of time.

Like many online businesses, Zazzle hooks you right into the shipping company to track your package. After a while, I logged in to check where my stuff was. Imagine my surprise when the note says "Delivered to Front Door" ... two days ago. So, I took a long, hard look around the front door, and finding nothing, resolved to call the shipper.

The good folks at the DHL phone bank told me that it was delivered to my front door two days ago. Thanks! After a short conversation, they told me they would contact the actual driver on that route, and get back to me the next day.

The next evening, having heard nothing, I called again. It's getting close to being a time crunch at this point - I address everything by hand, and I like to try to give everyone a personalized touch in their card. Takes time. At any rate, they tell me they are going to call the driver "right now" and they'll call me before the night is over. And to their credit, they did. The driver double checked, and he had delivered it to another house around the corner. Same number, different street.

Easily Solved! I'll walk over, meet some more neighbors, and start addressing cards. I walk over... and the house is clearly empty. There is one light on, in the front hall. I can look through the window of the locked front door and see my package on the floor. I can also see the "For Sale" sign on the front lawn. I thought I might have to make an offer on the house just to get my Christmas cards back.

Thankfully, the "For Sale" sign had the number of the realtor. After I explained the situation, she was extremely helpful and offered to bring the package over sometime the next day. So, almost a week after I should have gotten them, I got my cards. I was a whirling dervish of address-writing and envelope licking, but they are all on their way. Less the "reserve" cards I hold back, in case I get cards from anyone I haven't sent cards to already.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Down with the sickness

Yesterday, I took my first sick day in a long time. I woke up with a splitting migraine and nausea at about 0300. I held out until my normal "start work" time, 0700. At that point, I still felt awful, so I said screw it.

I feel fine, now. I did nothing all day, so I'm actually glad to be back on the job. And if I skip Half Day Friday this week, it will only cost me 4 of my Personal Time Off (PTO) hours. Wheeee.

It was a pretty damn good weekend, before I got sick. I went out for lunch on Friday with Sarah, Grant, and Jane. I think we spent most of the time being geeks. Sarah is a big fan of geeking out, it seems. Or maybe she's just like that around Jane and I ... because we're such geeks. We did spend most of our time sharing an office talking about monkeys hooked up to robot arms.

Saturday night, Sarah & Paul invited Jane, Megan and I over for dinner. Enchiladas! And surprisingly good store-bought eggnog. The bourbon may have helped. It was a really enjoyable, laid-back night. We even came up with nicknames for people in our offices: Timeburglar, Minivan, Skunk Nut.

Sunday, it was out for brunch with Steph & Aaron. While they were waiting for me, two other USCGA types happened by, including Morgan G., who was my AIM cadre AND my first Offshore sailing team crew chief. I was with him on Arctic Tern, the "racing" Luders yawl crewed entirely by freshman (save 1/c Morgan and 3/c Josh). I have very fond memories of that boat. It was a pig, and we always finished DFL (dead f***ing last). Good times.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I won't bore anyone with the details of the past month; other than a very enjoyable family Thanksgiving in Boston, including a visit with my old friend Vanessa, things have been very quiet.

Actually, I should reconsider that statement. Mike did come to visit while on leave from Bahrain, and that as a lot of fun. We caught up, visited with Kirk over in Annapolis, and had a nice, low-key week. I'm glad he was able to swing by during his limited time stateside. While he was here, I got a chance to check out one of his little gadgets, a PSP. Since I travel fairly regularly for work and pleasure, I caved pretty quick and got myself one, too. Normally, I'd wait until after Christmas to buy myself stuff, but I can't imagine anyone getting me one for a gift. Besides, I'd rather people get me books. Now I can play games, and even watch tv and movies I export from my computer. I'm becoming a gizmo nerd.

After all that relative quiet, though, I had a nice business trip early this week. I went to Pascagoula, Mississippi and New Orleans to meet with folks at two of the shipyards working my current program. It was mostly a meet-and-greet, putting faces to names and such. But there were some good briefings, and I came away with a warm-and-fuzzy feeling about how things are going on that side of the fence.

More interesting, however, were the side benefits of business travel. I got to see the Gulf region from the air, and it is still very much in recovery from the storm. The airport in Gulfport seems like it is being rebuilt from the foundation up. There were still a lot of Katrina Cottages and FEMA trailers all over the place. And New Orleans was a quiet as I've ever seen it (granted, it was a cold Monday night in December).

I got a chance to walk around the French Quarter, since I found a hotel there that is under the GSA hotel rate and very nice. I took some photos:

After walking down to Jackson Square, I got to meet with Kevin and his wife Stacey for dinner. Actually, I had to wait for them a little, and enjoyed rum & coke in the bar (chasing the very stiff free check-in cocktail at the hotel - a white russian, but only because they couldn't make a dark & stormy). We had an excellent 5-course dinner at Tujagues, across from the famous Cafe Du Monde. Bread was followed by shrimp remoulade, gumbo, beef brisket with creole sauce, lamb chop, and bread pudding. All the courses were outstanding, particularly the brisket. But the real pleasure was seeing Kevin and Stacey, who are always a treat. Hopefully this job will lead to more trips to New Orleans, and I will have additional opportunities to spend time with them.

The next big thing is getting squared away for Christmas. Cards are on order, lights are up, but gifts and supplemental decorations are still to come. With luck, this weekend I can leave those in my wake. Then it's nothing but candy canes and eggnog until Epiphany (Jan 6th). Or maybe I'll hold out for Elvismas (Jan 8th).