Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Old Filth

I probably never would have picked up Jane Gardam's novel Old Filth had it not been left in our elevator lobby "library" by one of our neighbors. Even then, I took it more out of a desire to let her see that her selection was appreciated than an interest in this particular book. It was my pleasure to discover that Gardam is an immensely talented novelist (with a trove of British literary awards to her name), and that Old Filth is a very enjoyable read.

Sir Edward Feathers is the title character (Old Filth being an acronym for Failed in London Try Hong Kong), a Raj orphan who has lived a long and distinguished life as a British lawyer and judge. Now in his 80s, he increasingly reflects on his youth and childhood. Through these musings, and through his present-day old-age wanderings, Gardam peels back the onion to reveal the incidents and relationships that created the complex character of Old Filth.

The book is interesting, witty, clever and, in a rather refreshing change of pace for me, mature without being boring. It is a book to be savored.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Polaroid meets its demise

When I was a kid, I really wished we'd had a Polaroid camera. I thought it was so very cool that you could get the instant gratification of an image, when we had to wait an eternity to have film developed. I ultimately came around to my parents' way of thinking, and became the last person I knew to stop taking pictures on film.

I still find the imperfections of the Polaroid era to be pretty endearing. We used a Polaroid camera to create our wedding guest book, so while most of the photos are great some are blurry, and in others people are looking away from the camera. We could have gone the digital route, but (a) we loved the kitsch factor, and (b) we wanted to capture the moment, rather than the best of several outtakes. That's not really allowed any more - poor photos are deleted. So for that reason, I am sad to see the passing of the Polaroid, may it forever live on in yellowing and blurry memory.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hilarious holiday comedy

You know those Christmas movies where everything goes awry, and hilarity ensues left and right. All the things that make it funny - a concoction of planes, trains and automobiles required to get home; being stuck in a random airport for days; sick baby who gets everyone else sick... Actually, those things are NOT very funny. Hilarity does not ensue.

After driving through a blizzard to reach the Hartford airport on Sunday, a series of delays caused our flight to leave over seven hours late. By that time, there were no more Chicago to Denver flights, and there was no availability on Monday, either. So we rebooked for a Tuesday flight, which ultimately delivered us to Ault just three days and two hours late, and bunkered down in the Hartford Airport Sheraton to wait.

The good news is that the Bug loves airports. She runs, she meets people, she plays. While stranded in Hartford, we also made lemonade by going to the Mark Twain house. It's a beautiful house and a lovely little museum - definitely worth a visit. Our time in Ault was severely cut short by the delay, but the Bug easily settled in with her grandparents, and we had a fabulous time at Grandma's on Christmas Eve.

Unfortunately, the Bug caught a bug, and she was sick for much of the day on Christmas. I'm now suffering from it, as are both of my grandparents and Aunt Jessie. As icing on the cake, when we got home last night we found I'd left my keys inside the house. Joker had to take an extra taxi to Port Chester, NY to retrieve his keys from Pop-Pop. Only then could we start assembling the Bug's gifts, which lasted until the wee hours.

More good news: The Bug bounced back quickly and she's happy as a clam today. Santa visited us last night and brought her a toy kitchen, which she loves, and all is right in her world. My world, however, is a little uncomfortable. I'm planning to catch some zzzz's in the hopes of making it to the Jets' game tomorrow.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Visit to Santa

Our Colorado travel plans were hit by the Arctic Blast that apparently covered Chicago in ice. The good news is that the delay is only one day - we will be flying out of Hartford (!!) tomorrow afternoon. This means that we will not have the good fortune to freeze our behinds off at the Bronco game tomorrow, but it also meant that we got to take the Bug for her first real visit to Santa.

The Bug does not like Santa. She clutched me so tightly I couldn't even get her to sit next to him. The picture was sorta made possible by me holding the Bug and leaning way to the right, while Santa came up on her left and put his arm around her. Apparently they do not allow people to take their own photos or videos of the experience, thus denying the next generation the pleasure of seeing their younger selves cry, scream, and arch their backs to avoid the clutches of the scary, giant, bearded man.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gearing up for holiday travel

I definitely made a mistake by not purchasing our Christmas tickets to Colorado before we left for Mexico. Tickets went from $450/seat to $650+/seat during this time, with availability disappearing by the minute. Given the fact we have to purchase three tickets, that's not a small change! We were about to buck up and pay the hefty price, when I decided to check for miles tickets.

Miracle of miracles, we were able to get all three tickets on miles (albeit for 50k miles/ticket, rather than the usual 25k), with the added benefit of leaving from the nearby (and very small) Westchester County Airport. The whole thing cost us $130, before the incredibly irritating charges for checked bags.

So with all that in mind, we can fly easy on Saturday morning. We have a short drive to a calm and comparatively relaxing airport, an easy connection in Chicago, and we'll be welcomed by Denver's forthcoming "Arctic Blast" by afternoon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New to the blog roll

I added a couple of new blogs to my blog roll today. One is by an old friend of mine from college, who I had completely lost touch with after graduation. Turns out she lives in Brooklyn, works in Manhattan, and got married and gave birth around the same time as I did. She is, however, a bit of an overachiever - she went and had two babies for the price of one. Check out their antics in I Do Know How She Does It.

And those of you with kids in or around Fairfield County should check out Fairfield County Child. It's full of great kid-focused activities, as well as info about fabulous sales at local businesses.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Creating art

The Bug has recently gotten into coloring. She's really, really good. She drew this for me on Thursday evening. After adding each of the three colors she examined her work. When she was done with the purple, she apparently deemed it perfect, and turned the page in her coloring pad to start the next work of art.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The bad-economy blues

If you read the news, or watch the news, or listen to the news, or even just participate in cordial formalities with your coffee guy, you know that major layoffs have been announced at companies across the country. The media business has been particularly walloped in the past weeks, with companies from NBC to Viacom to Sony announcing across-the-board staff reductions.

Despite some changes in our corporate structure over the last month or so, we hadn't been affected. To be fair, we suspected it was coming. We have spent a great deal of time preparing justification for each and every member of our staff, including detailed performance and responsibility summaries along with attributable revenue, so that we would emerge unscathed.

Today, layoffs were announced. I am very happy to say that myself, my boss and my manager remain intact. But it's impossible not to feel terrible for those who were let go, many of whom are junior members of the team. It's a lousy economy, a terrible job market, and no one wants to go home for Christmas without a job. This is my first real experience with a headcount reduction. It's not fun. I hope it is a long, long time before I go through another.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Mima and Boppie sent this to the bug... while they were flying back from their vacation with the Bug. Odd? Perhaps a little. Sweet? For sure!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Uncle Shane sent this while on a business trip to Vietnam. He actually visited this stunning bay, golfed the following day, and wrote to us while poolside the next. All this while there was supposedly a typhoon hitting the country. Not a bad gig if you can swing it!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jack Black, singin' Jesus

Who *doesn't* like web musicals starring Doogie Howser??

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tulum

During our trip we spent half a day at the Mayan ruins of Tulum. It's about 40 minutes from Playa del Carmen, which was much more manageable than the 3 1/2 hour ride to Chichen Itza. The site sits atop 12-meter cliffs, and is both fascinating and spectacularly beautiful.

Incidentally, the iguanas at Tulum grow to enormous proportions. Here's one "little" guy enjoying the view:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Diving in Playa del Carmen

A major highlight of our trip to Playa del Carmen was our time spent underwater. We lucked into a fantastic dive shop I found online: Pluto Dive right in town. They had excellent guides with detailed briefings, it was an incredibly professional outfit, and I'd highly recommend them - and dive with them again!

Four of our dives were reef dives, two each at Cozumel and at Playa del Carmen. Surprisingly, the dive with the most to see was right down the beach from our hotel in Playa del Carmen! We saw turtles, eels, amazing corals, lobsters, king crabs, stingrays, and tons of other beautiful things.

The most interesting aspect of diving in the Mayan Riviera, though, are the cenotes. These are open water entry pools into a gigantic underground system of freshwater caves and caverns. There are thousands and thousands of them, and many divers have simply fallen in love with cave diving and never left the area. They are filled with stalagmites, stalactites, crystalized minerals, and fossils, and the play of light and other visual effects is mesmerizing.

I snapped a couple of pictures of the entries into our cenotes. First is Kukulkan, named for the "Plumed Serpent" god in Mayan mythology. The entry is actually quite large, and it opens into quite a wonderland below. Interesting trivia: the largest underwater stalactite in the world is located in this cave, though it is in an area that can only be reached by certified cave divers. If you look closely, you can see a diver descending in the second picture.

The second cenote was even more beautiful. It is called Chac-Mool, after a type of Mayan stone statue, which is also the name of its system of cenotes. We accessed it down this stairway, fully geared up, and put our fins on after climbing into the water. Down below, it opened up into some of the most beautiful caverns I could even imagine!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Minnesota

To the Bug from Mima, who was visiting Aunt Jessie in Minneapolis for her birthday!

I'm back!

Our vacation to Playa del Carmen was fabulous. I'll write a little more about a couple specifics, like the Mayan ruins at Tulum and our fantastic dives... But first, a couple of reflections on the trip overall.

It was really awesome to see the Bug bond with my parents. She's spent time with them, but now she's old enough to really develop a relationship. It was great. She stayed in their room and spent every day at the beach and the pool with them. Joker and I were along for a lot of it, but while we had other plans they got to enjoy their Bug-time, and Joker and I got to enjoy our diving, the wedding festivities, and spending time with some of our friends down there. All in all, the Bug did better than great. She loved the beach, loved the pool, and she had a wonderful time!

Traveling with her was actually pretty easy. She had one on-plane meltdown when our flight was delayed for two hours on the runway yesterday afternoon. But she finally fell asleep and napped for an hour and a half, and after she woke up she did far better than many of the adults on the plane. We took her car seat with the funny stroller hook-up, and her hiking backpack, and left the regular stroller at home. It totally worked. We didn't bring tons of toys: some buckets and shovels, bubbles, an inflatable ring, and lots of books. Perfect. While aspects of all-inclusive resorts may not be ideal (the goofy organized activities, the crowds), it was perfect for this type of a vacation - it couldn't have been more kid-friendly, no one had to do dishes, and if the Bug wasn't able to hang for dinner we could just bail.

What a great time. I miss it already!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Angie's Excellent Adventure begins

I'm off in less than six hours to begin my adventures! I leave for the airport at 3:30am, will be in San Juan for lunch, and will feast on roast pig for dinner at Cisco's wedding.

Puerto Rico, here I come! (Just don't get too fond of me, though. I won't be staying long.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The hands-down best way to buy shoes

I've don't like shopping. I love having new stuff, I'm rather fond of buying things, but the shopping experience is simply a means to an end. Now that I have no time (have I mentioned that??), shopping rarely happens.

On Monday, when I wore my 3-inch skinny heels to work, I realized I desperately needed new shoes. I walk 40 minutes or more every day. I've gotta be reasonably comfortable, at least *some* of the time!

Enter Zappos.com, which I'd only used once before. Always free shipping; always free returns. They have amazing search criteria; in the case of my prior purchase, I looked only at black boots, size 6, 1 3/4-2 1/2" heels, skinny calves, within a specific price range. On Monday morning, I looked for black ankle boots, 1 3/4-2 1/2" heels, size 6, within my price range. I bought a pair I liked on the first page; had notification within the hour that I'd gotten free upgraded shipping; and had great new boots at my door yesterday. I love Zappos!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No sleep... so tired... ARGH!

Two weeks ago the Bug started waking up in the middle of the night crying. She needed comfort, and probably needed Tylenol, too - her top left molar was coming in. This passed after a few days, but re-started again after a few more. I think the top right was making itself felt.

The last four or five nights, though, have been terrible. For Joker and me. The Bug is waking up, crying out for us, whimpering, making a fuss, which escalates until she is hysterical and we need to calm her down. I'm not sure what happened (she's been a great sleeper for 15 months), and we don't know what to do. So every hour or two, both of us are awake and one of us is out of bed. Plus I'm a lousy sleeper who has trouble getting back to sleep each time. We are probably exacerbating the situation by calming her down each time, but if she's not asleep we aren't either, and we don't want her to be miserable!

Is this a phase? Will it pass on its own? Any pearls of wisdom to share??

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Doing the crazy thing

It's hard to be spontaneous with the Bug. Even just running a quick errand requires cramming a diaper, some wipes, and a sippy cup into my bag. Sometimes, though, I surprise myself.

We've got two destination weddings of very good friends coming up. One is November 22 in San Juan, PR, and the other is the 29th in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We knew about the second one first, and planned a week vacation with the Bug and my parents. Unfortunately, that meant we would miss the first wedding. We tried to change our plans so that we could do both, but it was cost-prohibitive.

We were bummed to have to miss it. So Friday morning, at Joker's suggestion, I bought a ticket to fly down to San Juan. I'm leaving at 6am on Saturday, and returning right after the wedding on the 3am flight back to JFK. Even though I'll be the one physically there, it was a team effort. Joker and I... we still do "crazy."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bug's exploding vocabulary

People who know me aren't shocked to hear that the Bug is turning into a bit of a chatterbox. She has been yammering since she had the pleasure of hearing her own voice. For a long time, there were no discernible words. Then she added Dada, "cado" (avocado, her favorite food), and duck. For the past couple of weeks she's been adding new words every day. Her vocabulary now includes Mama, dog, Sirius, Buffy, ba-ba, more, bubbles, door, floor, box, toast, milk, banana (more or less, that's a tough one), shoe, sock, bow, cheers, moo, windy, brr, nose, eyes, ears, oh, uh-oh, "I want" (generally before "more" or "bubbles").

When she's eating, she'll point at each bite of food on her tray and repeat the word after me. Same thing when we're reading a book. She'll chatter to herself in bed after she wakes up and before she falls asleep. It's amazing how quickly she's coming along!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another future Eli?

Congratulations to my good friends (and fellow Yalies) Maureen and Steve, who welcomed their second son Jacob Douglas Webster yesterday morning. At 10 lbs. 5 oz. (no, I'm not kidding!), Jake's gonna be able to hold his own against older brother Steven. Mama and baby are doing great.

Old school Sesame Street

The Bug generally does great in the car, but she gets a little bored coming home from the babysitter at the end of the day. We tried to resist, but it makes her ride more enjoyable if Joker plays her a DVD in the car. The only kiddie DVD we own is Baby Einstein, so we started renting episodes from the early years of Sesame Street.

We've now seen the very first episode ever of Sesame Street. It's pretty cool. Gordon's got a great afro and mutton chops. Sketches include the guy who falls down the stairs laden with cream pies, and an ode to cows and milk, and the special features include golden oldies like "Rubber Ducky" and "I Love Trash." Big Bird has a strangely tiny head. And shocker of shockers, Oscar was orange that first year! I think that Joker and I probably enjoyed it more than the Bug, but we'll keep getting these old Sesame Streets for her late-afternoon amusement.

Monday, November 10, 2008

On the Road

I did something this weekend that I haven't done in a very long time. I quit reading a book in the middle. The book (as you may have surmised) is On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I know it's a classic, but I just couldn't get into it. After struggling with it for weeks, I finally decided it was time to put it down. Life's too short to read bad books. Did I make a mistake?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

San Francisco

My parents spent last weekend in northern California. They had a wedding to attend in San Francisco, and were able to spend Halloween with my uncle, aunt, and two young daughters. I think it's been a very long time since my mom went trick-or-treating! Mom and Dad love San Francisco... the hilly streets, crab sandwiches, the barking seals.

This postcard of another fave - the cable car - was sent to the Bug:
And a day later, a beautiful shot of the Golden Gate Bridge for Joker and me:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Barack Obama

Wow. I am so floored by this, much more so than I expected. I went to bed last night knowing that he would win, but this morning tears filled my eyes repeatedly as I listened to NPR. I'm excited that we have elected an African American, and for what that means to the world the Bug will grow up in. But that is only a part of it. I think that we have in Obama someone who will truly bring change to Washington. Not the so-called change of just being a different guy, but true change.

For one thing, he is smart. Really smart. Elite, if you will. Obama is in a class by himself. He is very confident in his intelligence and experience, but he is not an egoist. He is not afraid to surround himself with others of that caliber. He showed his eagerness to balance his weaknesses when he selected Biden as his running mate. He embraces people with differences of opinion, and he is not afraid to hear criticism. Compare that with the insular Bush administration, which forced out anyone who dared to disagree. I think there will be good things - bipartisan things - to come as his Cabinet begins to take shape.

Further, he has proven that he has great judgement and a cool head under pressure. His ability to calmly listen, digest, and then react is unmatched. It'll serve us well on the international front. Diplomacy is an art, an important art. In order to truly bring about change we will need to influence our enemies as well as our friends, and the only way to do that is to engage with them. Obama won't throw a tantrum when he doesn't get his way, nor will he be afraid to use force when it is needed. Of critical importance is that he can tell the difference.

Some of our greatest presidents entered office when the country was in its most dire straits: Lincoln, Truman, FDR. Obama has the opportunity, and the potential, to become a great president himself, but there is a lot of work to be done simply to right the ship. I'll worry about that tomorrow. Today, I am going to enjoy feeling optimistic for the first time in a long time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I voted today!

We've been going to the same polling place for five years, spanning two Presidential elections, a midterm election, and the three corresponding primaries. We have always walked right in and voted within five or ten minutes. This morning, I actually felt a bit emotional when I saw the line stretched out of the building and around the parking lot. It brought tears to my eyes to see how many people really care about this election.

On a related note, I'm wearing my "I voted today!" sticker. I always do, and I wear my "I gave blood today" sticker, too. I just kinda like 'em. Unfortunately for some of my colleagues, it appears that polling places in New York City aren't giving out stickers today. Bummer!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pre-election phone banking

Working the phone banks is second nature to my sister, but I have never really done it before. I just finished making about 30 calls to voters in one of the State Representative races here in Connecticut. It wasn't my district, but I was totally fired up by the letters the incumbent sent out, misrepresenting the emergency contraception in the ER bill and promising to vote against other such legislation. Most people were genuinely pleased to get the call, many because they know Elizabeth Esty personally and are planning to vote for her, and the rest because they are glad that the pro-choice movement remains active.

I hope that by this time tomorrow we are celebrating history with Barack Obama. Whatever your position, don't forget to vote tomorrow. It's a very, very important election. Make your voice count.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Little trick-or-treater

This Halloween, amidst the pirates and superheroes, football players and princesses, the Bug's alter-ego emerged bigger and badder than you've ever seen her. She was (drum roll please) a Candy Corn.

The Candy Corn really took to her first trick-or-treating. The conditions were certainly prime: we were at some friends' house, graciously hosted by their 6-year-old Hannah Montana (above), a 5-year-old fireman, and nearly-1-year-old cheerleader. There was a posse of kids (and grown-ups) who came for pizza dinner before heading out into Briarcliff's "Tree Streets" neighborhood, which sees roughly a zillion kiddies each Halloween.

The Candy Corn spent the bulk of the outing riding on Jokers shoulders. But about five or six times, she pointed to a house she wanted to check out. We'd get her down, she'd hold both of our hands, and we'd approach said house. Upon seeing their tiny visitor, each host got down on his knees to get a closer view, the Candy Corn carefully placed a piece of candy in her bag, and we'd wave bye-bye.

It was a vastly different Halloween than Joker's and my first date eight years ago that night, and another unbelievably fun one!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The good seats

There are ancillary benefits to my job because I am a part of the affiliate sales department. They regularly entertain clients, which is incredibly important for the business, and being a part of Madison Square Garden means doing some of this entertaining at Garden events. Last night, we had a suite at the Knicks' first game of the season, and I was able to bring a guest.

This was my first Knicks game in years, and my first time ever in a suite. It's totally cool! We got to use a side door with no line, and they had a little band in the "club level" reception area. The view is fabulous, the food's pretty tasty, and who doesn't like free beer? Surprisingly, though, I found the game a little hard to follow from up there. Being a bit removed from the other fans makes it feel less intense, so the game becomes the background rather than the focal point. That said, I'm looking forward to enjoying this perk again soon!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Save our courts!

The Supreme Court is in a precarious position, and will suffer irreparable damage under another Republican administration. While it gets far less attention, the influence of the U.S. Court of Appeals is more broadly felt, and Bush has brought it dangerously to the right as well. Republican-appointed judges, many of them conservative ideologues, now hold the majority in 10 of the 13 circuits. Democratic appointees hold a slim majority in only one.

Republicans decry what they call "legislating from the bench", but it is Bush's appointees who have upheld South Dakota law that forces doctors to inform women that abortions “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being” — using exactly that language. The dissenters, including both a Reagan and a Bush appointee, called this a sharp change in direction and a violation of the court's accepted standards. They further claim that this decision bypassed “important principles of constitutional law laid down by the Supreme Court.” For more detail, check out the front-page article in today's New York Times.

Our justice system allows a President to influence the nation for a generation. McCain has said that if elected he would appoint "strict Constitutionalists" in the mold of Scalia, Roberts and Alito to the bench. If for no other reason, please vote Obama/Biden next Tuesday!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs

I've read nearly everything by Irvine Welsh because I think he's a brilliant novelist. While The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs is by no means a great book, there are flashes of that genius within its pages. The book is at its best when dealing with the rough characters in and around Leith; unfortunately, and I never thought I would say this about a Welsh novel, it starts out boring.

The protagonist of Bedroom Secrets is Danny Skinner, a charming and good-looking 23-year-old bastard (literally) who spends his time drinking heavily while managing just enough attention to his job and his girlfriend to hold on to them both by a thread. Enter Brian Kibby, a 21-year-old virginal nerd who joins his company and appears positioned to receive a promotion ahead of Skinner. For reasons he cannot understand, even the thought of Kibby fills Skinner with such intense hatred he actually hexes him while bingeing heavily one night. From this point on, any physical repercussions of Skinner's actions happen to Kibby: hangovers, black eyes, and so on.

It would be easy to make Skinner a despicable character, but Welsh does not fall into this trap. Rather, the curse he unknowingly unleashed leads Skinner to display nuanced layers of sensitivity and empathy. Ultimately he realizes that he cannot drink his adversary into the ground, which in turn leads him to genuinely care about Kibby's fate. Kibby never gets the reader's sympathy because he's just a wimp who plays video games and goes to Star Trek conventions. As the reader knows the cause of his unexplained ailments, it's simply the playing out of a drama with very little mystery.

Throughout all of this, Skinner's search for his father likewise falls flat. His mother refuses to tell him the circumstances of his conception, but Skinner determines it must have been one of the "master chefs" she worked with in the early 1980s. While this major plotline didn't do much for me, as a device it allowed for the introduction of the best characters and tangential stories of the book. This is where you find the trademark Welsh I love: hard partying, drugs, sex, booze, and the Scots dialect.

In all, I enjoyed the book, but would only recommend it to someone who has read Welsh's greater novels: start with Trainspotting, and if you want more, read Glue, Maribou Stork Nightmares, and Porno.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

She's got her ducks in a row

You know that business cliche about having all of one's ducks in a row?

In each bath for the past week or so, the Bug has lined up all of her rubber duckies on the bathtub edge like so:

It is laugh-out-loud hilarious!

Friday, October 24, 2008

W. endorses Palin/McCain


Will Ferrell's impersonation of W. is about the only thing I like about the guy. His endorsement of Palin and McCain is hilarious!

Incidentally, the New York Times endorsed Obama today, adding to his already-impressive list of major newspaper endorsements.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cannes, France

This is the very first postcard I've sent to the Bug! A view of the port and le Suquet (the old town) in Cannes. I was found the contrast to be compelling - uncountable yachts in the shadow of an old castle watchtower.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grasping at motivation

I was still running three miles a day right up until the Bug was born, and I resumed it within two weeks. I was able to keep it up for a while, but somehow along the way running completely fell by the wayside. I blame our insane schedule.

But we are going to Mexico in a month, so insanity be damned! I am thus declaring my intention to drag my weary ass out of bed at 5am for a run at least three times per week. Between looming images of bikini-wearing, and my ego being too large to publicly admit defeat, I think it'll work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Poor squishy Bug feet!

I'd thought that the Bug's size 4 sneakers were getting a bit tough to cram her feet into. We went to the shoe store on Saturday to get her measured for new ones, and she's now a size 6. Ouch. Sorry, Bug!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Washington Post endorses Obama

The Washington Post endorsed Obama today, with a very thoughtful and articulate supporting argument. It closes with the following paragraph:

[...] Mr. Obama's temperament is unlike anything we've seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment.
Please click here to read the full article.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bonjour! Merci!

That pretty much sums up my French vocabulary, even after spending the past three days in Cannes. I was there for Mipcom, which is a huge international television marketplace. It was a great success for Fuse, particularly since we had never been there before. We had great meetings, met tons of people, and certainly plan to return for future markets.

The town of Cannes is not nearly as exciting as I had hoped. It has very little history or culture, and primarily serves as host to numerous conventions every year. There is a small museum housed in an old watchtower, with an odd collection of old a few Himalayan, Peruvian, Polynesian, Egyptian and Alaskan artifacts, and some mid-19th century paintings of Cannes and the environs. The old town is comprised of two or three picturesque streets leading up the hill from the harbor. The harbor is cram packed with yachts, and the beach is lovely if not as impressive as you might imagine.

Our meals were amazing, though I was told that food is hit or miss in Cannes, with a "miss" entailing spending a ton of money for very bad food. Wine was also delicious, and people drank a great deal of rose. We had picture perfect weather... all in all, not a terrible place for a business trip.

Here are a few of my photos:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sleeveless in October

Today we had some of the most stunning fall weather I can remember. I even wore a tank top and flip flops for a great New England afternoon. After the Bug's nap, we went to Eden Farms in Stamford. We hadn't been there before, though it's just a ten minute drive from our house. It appears to be a full-service greenhouse and nursery during the spring and summer, but it's totally decked out in Halloween splendor this month! They had a haunted house for the little ones amid the beautiful mums, a witch in the big tree out front, and one of the proprietors dressed as Dracula. We took a hay ride down the hill to the pumpkin patch where there were pony rides and face painting. It took the Bug a little while to settle in to the scene, but she loved the horses, found herself the perfect pumpkin, and didn't want to leave.

I'm so glad we shared a fun day, because I'll be away from the little Bug in less than 24 hours. Tomorrow I am off for a 4-day business trip to Cannes. It's for an international television conference - not the film festival - but it should be a pretty neat trip. I still do not have a laptop (argh!), so I'll have pretty limited access to the internet. I do hope to post from across the pond, though... and I'll put up some pictures on Friday either way!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

I somehow missed the 2007 publication of The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, despite an apparently splashy review on the front page of the Times' Arts section. I picked up the paperback recently knowing nothing about it, and found it to be even more interesting than his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

The book is set in present day, but in an alternate reality. The divergence point is revealed to be the accidental death of Alaskan Congressman Anthony Dimond, who was responsible for preventing a vote to create a temporary refugee settlement for European Jews. In this alternate reality, Yiddish-speaking Jews took refuge in Sitka, Alaska, where they grew to a community 4 million strong.

The story is a murder mystery that resembles a Raymond Chandler novel more closely than it does Kavalier & Clay. The likable protagonist is cynical detective Meyer Landsman who's worked the Sitka homicide beat for years. He is called to the murder scene of a junkie who'd been living in the same fleabag motel as Meyer for some months. The room contains the dead guy, his heroin gear, and an oddly positioned game of chess. Meyer brings his partner and cousin Berko Shemetz, half-Jewish and half-Tlingit, into the case. Before they can learn much, they are told that Meyer's ex-wife Bina is back in town, and she's been promoted to commanding officer of their unit.

The book is not the comedy that the isolated press quotes on the cover make it out to be, but it is a fantastic read. Above all, the community of Sitka and its residents have been perfectly imagined by Chabon down to the most minute details. Beyond the geography and the towns, there are characters with deep backstories and complex relationship. From Meyer, Bina and Berko to the "boundary maven" Zimablist or the tiny Tlingit police chief Willie Dick, Chabon's Sitka has no shortage of interesting people.

Ultimately, the mystery takes Meyer into a world of Hasidic Jews that run an organized crime ring. Their mission is to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, which requires the birth of a red heifer and the destruction of the Palestinian Dome of the Rock (which will require massive amounts of explosives). If they succeed, the Messiah will come back to them, allowing for their return to their homelands.

The only criticism I can offer is that Chabon's use of similes was a little heavy, particularly early in the book. His departure from his usual style, with shorter sentences and paragraphs, worked very well. The book was meticulously researched, which the completely foreign setting demanded, and I'd highly recommend it. Note to future readers: there's a Yiddish glossary in the back. I didn't find it until I was about a hundred pages in. It helps.

Chipping away at global access

Nicholas Kristof wrote a great op-ed piece in today's New York Times, about the Bush administration's recent decision to cut off the supply of contraception to a leading provider of reproductive health care and family planning in the world's poorest nations. Click here to read my post about this outrageous decision.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Bug and the Grands

A very special aspect about our little weekend away was that the Bug really got the chance to bond with my parents. We live in Connecticut; they live in Colorado; and one of my greatest fears is that the Bug won't get to know them. It's a little unfounded given the time we've spent together during the past 16 months, but I still have that concern.

When Mom and Dad arrived on Thursday night, the Bug was already asleep. But when she woke up on Friday morning she was completely comfortable with them from the get-go. It was probably a combination of remembering them from prior visits and seeing their pictures and talking about them every day, but they were not remotely unfamiliar to her. She missed Joker and I when we were away, but she obviously had a fabulous weekend. And when my parents were getting in to the car to go to the airport, she reached out for them and didn't want them to go. Joker and I could not have been more pleased!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Two nights on vacation

When my parents started planning to visit this weekend, Joker and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to go away for a couple of nights. This would give Mima and Boppie some great bonding time with the Bug, and would give Joker and I our first little vacation since the Bug was born.

We went to Saugerties, NY, which is a cute town a couple of hours up the Hudson Valley. We stayed in a room above Cafe Tamayo, one of the best restaurants in town, and had an absolutely lovely weekend! Saugerties is about 20 minutes from the town of Woodstock, which was overrun this weekend because of their annual film festival. We did drive up to the Buddhist monastery above Woodstock, but didn't linger in town because of the crowds.

We were absolutely floored at how good the food was across the board, with a great variety of locally grown produce, eggs, meat and fish. In addition to an amazing four course prix fix (for just $35) at Cafe Tamayo, we had a fabulous dinner at Miss Lucy's Kitchen across the street. Breakfast at Love Bites featured a very interesting menu, and we got fantastic sandwiches at the Argentinian restaurant on the corner of Main and Partition.

It was wonderful for Joker and I to spend some time together. We reprised our typical European vacation schedule on Saturday: visited their farmer's market in the the morning (they even had a band!), did a little sightseeing, and then parked ourselves at a table by the lighthouse in the middle of the Hudson for a picnic and a bottle of wine. The Bug had a blast with my parents and was thrilled to see us when we got home. Everyone had a perfect weekend.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A low bar does not equal success

The media buzz today has been all about how Sarah Palin exceeded the abysmally low expectations that people had leading up to her debate last night with Joe Biden. Is that really the standard by which a candidate for Vice President should be judged? If you don't expect much, and they don't grossly screw up, then voila! it was a success?

I watched the debate, and I thought she was bad. Perhaps less bad than in her Katie Couric interviews, but she was really bad. She avoided answering questions, she stuck to a very few carefully scripted talking points, and she boldly misrepresented Biden's and Obama's voting records. In sequential sentences, she said that government needed "strict oversight" of "corrupt" Wall Street, and then said that government needed to "get out of the way" of business. She apparently didn't understand the meaning of "Achilles' heel." And she out-Cheneys Cheney in her terrifying so-called understanding of the role of the Vice President.

By contrast, Biden sounded educated and experienced on the world stage. He understands how situations became what they are today, and that actions taken by the next administration will either exascerbate or begin to fix those situations. Further, he has a vision about what these next steps need to be, both as they relate to domestic and to foreign policy. He looked and sounded ready to lead.

In all, the debate really didn't change the fundamentals of this election. McCain's selection of Palin as a running mate was either very stupid, or very irresponsible. Either way, it's not how a President should approach major decisions.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lost in Long Island

Allow me to set the stage. Yesterday, 1pm, our team troops downstairs to hop our ride to our offsite in Long Island. The bus... has a stripper pole. And a disco ball. And strobe lights. I'm not sure we were their typical crowd.

As we get off the LIE, or whichever of the ubiquitous highways brought us to our destination, I remark how every location in Long Island looks exactly the same. Within a couple of minutes, we pull into Cablevision's corporate offices. Which I was at in June. En route to the hotel, I make the same observation. No joke - this place all looks the same. We pull into the hotel, which of course looks familiar, though I chalk it up to the Long Island Effect. It's not until we all go up the stairs to The Pub that I realize without a doubt that we are at the same hotel we stayed at for a friend's engagement party two or three years ago.

So I guess it's not that all of Long Island looks the same. It's apparently that I visit a very limited number of locations here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Courtesy 101, post script

At Ali's suggestion, I sent Courtesy 101 to Passive Aggressive Notes. It was finally posted, and has gotten over a hundred comments. Check it out here. Though if you're squeamish, skip the comments.

Rocketship Run

I've mentioned before that the Bug loves to dance, and the reigning queen of baby-time dance parties is Laurie Berkner. Note to cool mommies, daddies, or those in need of hip baby gifts: Her last disc, Under A Shady Tree, is fantastic. We recently got the new disc, Rocketship Run, which is also a blast. My fave track is "Mr. Bassman (and Piano Girl)"... but trust me, they're all good.

For a good time, feel free to dance along to "I'm Gonna Catch You" here:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A funny, snarky idea

You may have already heard about this little suggestion traveling around the internet, but I thought I'd post it in case you hadn't.

Given the dangerously anti-choice position of the McCain/Palin ticket, please consider making a donation to Planned Parenthood (or local/national NARAL). In Sarah Palin's name. She'll get a notification card telling her the donation has made in her honor, and you'll have the satisfaction of helping to get elect a pro-choice president.

Here's how: Visit the Planned Parenthood website at http://www.plannedparenthood.org/. Under the "donate" tab, select "honorary or memorial donations". You'll need to fill in the address to let Planned Parenthood know where to send the "in Sarah Palin's honor" card. I suggest you use the address for the McCain campaign headquarters:

Sarah Palin
c/o John McCain
2008
PO Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215

Let me know how it goes!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pro-choice and in concert

First off, did anyone know that the Indigo Girls are still around? Well, they are, and they're on tour. They invited two organizations they support to table at their shows, and I volunteered to help NARAL Pro-Choice America with the Stamford show. Check out my thoughts here.

In case you were wondering, all of the Indigo Girls' songs still sound exactly the same.

Ready to see the world

Joker, the Bug, my parents and I are all heading to Mexico this November for a friend's wedding. We're really getting excited - we haven't been diving in a couple of years, and none of us have seen Chichen Itza before! Plus, we are all ready for a vacation.

I hadn't realized that all US citizens, regardless of age, need a passport when traveling by air to Mexico. So yesterday we took the Bug to get her passport photos taken. Saturday morning we go to the local passport office to apply. Note to other mommies and daddies: you can't do this by mail; you both need to take your child in person to get the passport, or one parent must appear with a notarized signature of the other. The Bug's passport will be valid for five years, and we intend to get some good use out of it!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ubiquitous Todd

The private lives of candidates are frankly not of much interest to me. I don't really care where they grew up, or whether they had a dog, or if they played high school sports. I'm very pleased that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are happily married, but only because it seems to make them, well, happy. I'm also pleased that we don't see much of Michelle Obama or Jill Biden, and that even Cindy McCain seems to have better things to do than to tag along on her husband's campaign trail. All three of those women are well educated and relatively articulate public speakers, and have held some of their own events, but by and large they are trying to maintain a level of normalcy in their families' lives, and keeping the political appearances confined to those who should be making them: the candidates themselves.

So has anyone else noticed that Todd Palin and his stupid goatee are all over the place these days? There are more pictures of him in today's Times than there are of Biden, and last I checked his uneducated ass isn't running for anything! Given the presumably difficult time his eldest daughter is going through, and given his oldest son has just shipped out to Iraq, and given the school year is just starting, why isn't he lending support to his children rather than waving to Sarah Palin's adoring throngs? Doesn't the Republican party claim the mantle of "family values"?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What to wear...

...when someone tells you to "Put on your big boy pants!"


Or, if you are a naked Volkswagon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Palin and Clinton address the nation

Sounds like the rest of the show was lousy, but this skit is tremendous:



I actually think that Tina Fey may have been one-upped by Amy Poehler this time around.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My life. My choice. My vote.

My alter-ego as a blogger is expanding. In addition to writing this blog, I'll also be contributing to the recently-launched blog of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut. You can find it in my blogroll under the title "My life. My choice. My vote."

I submitted my first post today, about the danger and ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education in schools. Check it out here!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No, I'm not joking. It's another bathroom sign.

Didn't I mention I'd hoped to find crazy bathroom signs at my new job? Well, here's the latest:


It's a rather pedestrian effort: no graphics, no instructions. But it does have a sing-song rhyming quality, and the mixed closing parenthesis / emoticon at the end is kinda special. Mostly, though, it reminds me how I distasteful I find the word "pee."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Remembering Rent

Last night was the final performance of Rent's 12-year run on Broadway. I've seen it myself three or four times, saw the movie in the theater, and I kinda wish I'd gone to see it on Broadway one last time. I always found the story and the music to be incredibly moving, and despite not being a 20-something, out-of-work, East Village artist myself, I really connected with the characters. So in honor of the end of an era, I cracked a beer and had my own little Rent dance party after Joker and the Bug went to bed last night.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The McCain-Palin Ticket

I actually watched more of the Republican Convention this week than I did the Democratic Convention last week. I guess I wanted to "know thine enemy" or something. Suffice it to say, what I now know makes me like it less than before.

Sarah Palin came out swinging in her speech on Wednesday. She spoke in very partisan, very aggressive terms, and what she said was full of lies and misrepresentations of Obama's and Biden's records. She exaggerated her own so-called accomplishments as the Mayor of Wasilla and as Governor of Alaska. After a week of the campaign berating the media for focusing on her family's woes, she paraded all of her children - and her daughter's condomless teenage boyfriend - in front of the camera. Her speech was style over substance, and the style was offensive.

Last night, John McCain was so boring he couldn't even keep the RNC attendees on their feet. He did bring some substance into his speech, but much of it was also blatantly untrue, like when he discussed his tax plan versus Obama's, or when he said that Obama opposes nuclear power. He referred to himself time and again as "a maverick," and he spoke at length about how he and Palin are going to "shake up Washington." Last time I checked, the best way to shake up a regime is to kick it out and install a new one!

After allowing myself to reflect on the various speeches at the two conventions, I believe that the patina of McCain-Palin will fade quickly. If change is your priority, it cannot be brought by maintaining the status quo. The only way to truly affect change is to bring in a new set of policies, and the experience to make them effective.

If you haven't seen this clip yet, enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sleeping in, baby style

A week or two ago, the Bug started sleeping in on weekends. For over a year she has risen between 6:45 and 7:00am every day, but lately she'll sleep until 7:15, 7:30, and even 8:30am on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It's funny for Joker and I to think that staying in bed past 7am actually feels decadent!

In other Sleepytown news, the Bug appears to be transitioning to one nap a day, from having a morning nap and an afternoon nap. It just happened on Saturday, and she did the same on Sunday and Monday. It's another of those funny little milestones you aren't even aware of before you have a baby of your own.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The insult of Sarah Palin

Like the rest of the free world, I was pretty surprised on Friday when McCain announced that Sarah Palin would be his running mate. For all his harping on Obama's supposed lack of experience, McCain boldly proposed bringing to the world a level of inexperience unheard of since Spiro Agnew. Palin is also a pro-gun, pro-drilling, anti-choice evangelical who thinks human activity does not affect climate change.

That McCain thinks this move will pander to Hillary Clinton's supporters is a blatant insult. The only thing that Clinton and Palin have in common is penislessness. Clinton was not just a woman running for president. She is a highly qualified woman who was a fabulous candidate and may yet be a fabulous President. Palin has been governor of an insignificant state for less than two years, after a short stint as mayor of a town smaller than most universities. As is apparently the status quo for Alaska Republicans, she's also currently being investigated on corruption charges.

I've said before that the selection of a running mate is a very important decision, and the first major insight into the type of President a candidate will become. Obama selected someone who will help him to navigate Washington, who will work hard to get things done, and who has deep and respected experience in his own right. McCain selected an inexperienced right-winger whose official biography still includes high school basketball captain and beauty queen. Obama is focused on how to lead; McCain is not looking beyond the election.

Lake Wobegon, MN

Aunt Jessie is a huge fan of A Prairie Home Companion on NPR, and she sent us this postcard from Art's "Nite-o-Rest" Motel at Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Please note the house rules on the back.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama's acceptance speech

I haven't watched much of the Democratic convention, although I've been impressed with what I've read of the transcripts. Notably, Jim Leach articulated brilliantly why Republicans and Democrats alike should be supporting Obama. And Hillary Clinton, who I admittedly would have loved to see on stage last night, was amazing in her keynote on Tuesday.

I have been incredibly concerned to see polling numbers at a dead heat between McCain and Obama prior to this week. I am not one of the people who has been totally enamored with Obama, but neither am I one who could care less whether he's connected enough or trustworthy enough (or other such irrelevant nonsense) to be elected. I really thought he could have better capitalized on some of the gaffes McCain has made recently; his eloquent but long-winded style seemed no longer inspiring. So it was with a great deal of interest and curiosity that I watched Obama last night.

He was fantastic. All of my reservations have been put to rest, and I am thrilled to support him wholeheartedly. He took the fight to McCain, he started to outline the specifics of his platform, and he proved himself ready to talk about the issues that matter rather than the ones that do not. Sure, questions remain, like how exactly he will fix our broken healthcare system, but he squarely addressed the miserable failures of the Bush administration with a focus on how McCain has agreed with it. He illustrated why this moment in time is critical, why keeping the status quo would be a debacle. And yes, he inspired... he inspired me to believe that Americans really aren't stupid enough to put McCain into the White House. We can win!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Child in Time

I've been trying to read all of the books on my shelves. You know, the ones that you don't remember when or where you got them, and they hold surprisingly little appeal considering you actually own them? Anyway, The Child in Time by Ian McEwan was one of those. I think I bought it used for freshman English, I know I never read it, and since my copy doesn't even have a summary on the back I had no idea what it was about.

As it turns out, this is an amazingly powerful novel, and I could not be happier I read it. Not that this is a pick-me-up by any stretch. McEwan's powerful prose and his portrayal of raw human emotion brought me to tears more than once. Once I got into the story, I flew through it. I'm looking forward to reading more of his prolific bibliography.

The setting is a near-future dystopian London. Successful children's author Stephen Lewis is on an ordinary trip to the supermarket with his 3-year-old daughter Kate. Through absolutely no fault of his own, she disappears, and the course of his life is irrevocably altered. Stephen and his wife, Julie, spiral into very different cycles of grief that cause their marriage to disintegrate. Julie moves out of their apartment and becomes a recluse. Stephen spends the majority of his time drinking scotch, with a small government committee as his only responsibility. The book is not a story about Stephen's fruitless search for his daughter, but rather a philosophical journey through a man's emotional growth.

A pivotal theme of the book is that time is fluid. Moments can stretch into hours, entire experiences can contract into seconds, and it always comes down to perspective. During the year after Kate's disappearance, Stephen ultimately comes to grips with both his own existence, as well as the knowledge that his daughter will not return. The book is about memory, childhood, depression, and about the real possibility of moving on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Going long in season tickets

My sweet husband, for all that is wonderful about him, does have at least one flaw. Namely, he is a Jets fan. Big time. After going to a game here or there, we've had season tickets to the Jets for the past few years. And even my Bronco-fan self can admit it... It's a lot of fun.

As you may or may not be aware, the Jets and the Giants are building a fancy-pants new stadium. Not only has this turned parking into a disaster for the past two years, but they have come up with the most piggish way to extort money from their loyal fans that I've ever heard of! In order to retain their season tickets, the majority of holders must purchase "Personal Seat Licenses" for between $4-25k per ticket! That, of course, is on top of the cost of the tickets and parking. Lucky for those of us in the nosebleeds, we have no PSL requirements - just a healthy bump in face values.

In addition to this drama, my number came up this year for Broncos season tickets. So we've got (count 'em) two different sets of pro football season tickets. It's a little insane. OK, a lot insane. We're planning to unload the Broncos tickets to friends (if you're interested, please speak up!), hopefully catch a game over the holidays, and use the Broncos website to get rid of the rest. At the end of the year, we'll assess whether it was too much of a pain for us to keep the tickets and do it again. Ah, the glamor of sports fandom!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Obama-Biden ticket

I was very happy with this morning's news that Biden has been selected as Obama's running mate. In particular, I think his extensive legislative experience will prove invaluable to Obama. Obama's vision and ability to inspire will only take him so far. Once elected, he'll have no choice but to work within the Washington bureaucracy and process. He'll need the support of his cabinet and Congress in order to move his agenda forward. Biden's years in the Senate will be well suited to helping Obama navigate this. I fully agree with David Brooks' excellent piece in yesterday's Times. Smart job on this one, Obama. Now let's get this general election show on the road!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, via DailyLit

I just finished reading my 51st and final installment of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, via the DailyLit service.

First, my thoughts on DailyLit. In a nutshell, I liked it, but only as a complement (not a replacement) to reading traditional books. The biggest detraction is that the reader does not have control over how much or how little she chooses to read in a single sitting. There is a link to request the next segment immediately, but it's just not the same as turning the pages yourself. On the plus side, I was able to read an extra book over the course of two months, without putting any additional strain on my already tight schedule. I certainly would not recommend this for a very long or complex book, but it served quite well for this children's classic.

As for the book itself, I am embarrassed to admit that I had no idea that the movie diverged so greatly from the book! The book is fantastic - no wonder it immediately became a classic. It's very dark, quite violent at times, and paints the four geographic quadrants of Oz as very distinct lands. Dorothy is much younger than in the movie, Glinda doesn't save them from the poppy fields, and the winged monkeys aren't evil! On the other hand, the Wizard is still a fake, the scarecrow, tinman and lion had to learn they always had what they desired, and Toto's still pretty useless. As with any movie, a great deal of detail and many sub-plots were left out due to time and expense. The biggest difference is that there is no question in the book that Oz is, in fact, a real place. Dorothy did not dream the entire adventure; she actually returned to Kansas.

Having read the book, I now understand the basis for the thirteen sequels that Baum wrote. I'm very pleased that we have several of the set that Joker read as a little boy, and I'm looking forward to sharing them with the Bug! And replacing our missing copies may well become my new eBay project!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quick notes on work

I'm almost through my third week on the job, and I wanted to quickly say that things are going great. There is no shortage of work to be done, and most of it is really interesting... It certainly helps that even the most mundane task is more amusing when you're in the music business! Fuse has put together a great team of people, we've got a lot of opportunity in front of us, and I am thrilled to be here.

More detail soon, I promise!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sippy cup breakthrough

The Bug has been very resistant to using a sippy cup for anything other than smashing food on her tray. Since she's not even 15 months old yet, I've pretty much not worried about it. She'll start using a cup eventually. This weekend we finally made some progress - she watched me pour her milk into the sippy cup, and was actually excited to drink out of it! We're no where near 100%, but it is a step in the right direction.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Five-year reflections

This Saturday marked Joker and my fifth anniversary. I've been thinking a lot about the time we have spent together starting our family, the fun we have had, the beautiful places we have seen, and the adventures to come. I am so incredibly lucky in every aspect of our relationship. We have such a great time together, we've got the sweetest little Bug, and we truly love and trust each other. The first five years have been wonderful; I can't wait to see what the next five will bring!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Shaner got lucky!

My younger brother is the latest in a string of distinguished men (including Joker, of course) to bag a babe that's totally out of his league. He asked his charming girlfriend Ali to marry him, and she said "yes"! Ali hails from the lovely town of Madawaska, Maine, which is approximately... oh good grief - it's way the hell north of here. It's unclear whether we'll (a) need a passport, or (b) need to learn some basic Canadian words and phrases, to attend the wedding. Either way, we're thrilled!

Congrats to you both!
XOXO

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How not to get return business

New Yorkers love to drink outside in the summer, but good places in midtown are few and far between. So yesterday my friend Lynne and I met for drinks after work at Mad46, a new rooftop bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. Neither of us will return. We waited 45 minutes for a glass of lousy wine, so long that even the hostess was shocked and comped us. We felt bad for getting the waitress in trouble, so we ordered a second round. Which took another twenty minutes. We pounded those so that I could run - literally - for a train home. And we left a very generous tip anyway.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Drill, drill, drill!!

This is the mantra that is emanating from John McCain like a broken record. He's stomping his foot in places like South Dakota, insisting that if he's elected President he'll immediately start offshore drilling, onshore drilling, ANWR drilling, all of which will clearly provide immediate relief to the skyrocketing gas prices at the pump.

That this is completely untrue is more than just an annoyance. It would take decades for new offshore oil exploration to provide any tangible results. In the process, irreparable harm could be done to the coastlines. The thing that really makes me angry, though, is that average Americans hear this inane blather, and they believe it. They believe it so strongly, with 63% of Americans favoring new off-shore leases, that even Obama has come off his anti-drilling position, saying now that he'd consider allowing new off-shore oil exploration.

Pandering to public opinion, taking advantage of public delusion, is dirty politics at best. If you still needed any evidence that this campaign season would be business-as-usual, this should be enough. Can the electorate wise up in time for an intelligent dialogue about real solutions to take place before this election?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cuddling a newborn

We had the pleasure of visiting little Oliver on Saturday on our way down to Pennsylvania for a friend's wedding. He's the first newborn I've held since the Bug was born, and it was amazing. He's so tiny and wiggly and soft, and he can't hold his head up yet. He just laid on my chest and nuzzled. I'd completely forgotten what a newborn feels like! It was a blast.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Broadway Brett: another old dude

All of the recent Brett Favre drama has made me chuckle. A little nauseously, perhaps, but definitely a chuckle. He retires, then he un-retires, then the Packers don't really want him back but he only wants to go to their top rivals, then today he lands with the New York Jets. Joker's a huge Jets fan - season tickets, the whole nine yards - and did not greet this news with joyful celebration. His response was to point out that Favre is older than he is. ("What's next? Are the Jets gonna get Dan Marino out of retirement??")

So I spent part of my train ride fondly reminiscing about Favre's early years in the NFL, when he was the first superstar who was roughly my own age. Now, I see him as too old to play. Funny how your perspective changes so quickly! Luckily my other key observation, that he was a hottie, was obliterated long ago by his abysmal acting skills.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture

I bought Douglas Coupland's Generation X after I read Shampoo Planet more than ten years ago. It sat on my shelf, I contemplated it, but I never picked it up. Upon finally finishing it, I oddly found myself neither more nor less compelled by it. It was a very ordinary story, though it did have some cultural impact.

Coupland's first novel, the book popularized the term "Generation X" in the early 1990s. It's about three twenty-somethings who each left a budding career to eschew mainstream society and live in the desert. It's a premise that could easily set the stage for a fantastic book by a greater author, Irvine Welsh or David Foster Wallace, perhaps. But in the hands of Coupland, these three apocalypse-fixated friends never developed into anything more. The characters didn't draw me in, their situations seemed flat and unconvincing, and the book was surprisingly tedious.

Monday, August 4, 2008

New baby news

We've had so many new babies among our friends in the last month - what fun! On July 30, our good friends Stacey and Trent brought Oliver Miles Nelson into the world! He bucked the trend of early arrival, and allowed himself to get fully baked... to the tune of almost 10 pounds! All are very happy, very healthy, and home - and we're hoping to meet the little (??) fella this weekend.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ted Stevens: old *and* corrupt

Since every other Alaskan Republican seems to be indicted on various corruption-related charges, I wasn't particularly surprised to see Ted Stevens accused of failing to disclose gifts he received from the oil industry. I'd personally love to see that old-ass, out of touch Senator lose this reelection bid. Lest we forget, this is the man who, while the Chairman of the Commerce Committee which regulates the internet, described it as not being a dump truck, but rather "a series of tubes".



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My new jobbie-job

I didn't want to jinx myself, so I haven't posted anything yet about my new job. But, since I start on Monday and am taking this week off, here goes!

I'm going to be the new VP Business Development at the Cablevision-owned network Fuse. It's quite the dream job for me for a number of reasons. It's the role and responsibility I was looking for, and as an added bonus it's for a music-focused cable network. On a very high level, any non-advertising, non-affiliate revenue falls under me. This could be anything from partnerships for merchandising or travel, to launching entirely new lines of business. From a corporate perspective, Fuse combines the feel of a start-up, in that it's now getting a fresh focus on programming and marketing, with the stability and infrastructure of a real business. Plus, I'm working for a guy I know well from TV One, and the entire management team is excited and energized.

My consulting gig at BET Digital wrapped up on Friday, and it was a great experience all around. I left on a very high note. They were sad to see me go, and have promised I'll have a place there if Fuse doesn't work out.

I've got really high hopes for this new position. I can't remember ever wanting a job so badly, and I'm really fired up to do some great things! If only there are crazy sign-leavers, my life will be complete.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Spoonbridge and Cherry, Minneapolis

My sister just bought what sounds like a fabulous new condo in Minneapolis. Mom and Dad went to visit her last weekend, and sent this postcard. The sculpture is in a lovely park near the apartment Jessie had been living in.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Girl in Landscape

Girl in Landscape is the second novel by Jonathan Lethem that I've read. Lethem gained mainstream recognition for his fantastic 1999 novel Motherless Brooklyn, but he'd been writing science fiction for a number of years before that. I actually found Girl in Landscape, written in 1998, to be more akin to the western genre than sci-fi, in that the landscape itself is a primary character.

The book starts a little slowly, with 13-year-old protagonist Pella's family preparing to move from Brooklyn to the planet of the Archbuilders light years away. Once they arrive, the story that unfolds is a character-driven coming-of-age meets pioneers-on-the-frontier. Pella's family and the other settlers from Earth have to co-exist with the indigenous Archbuilders, whose mannerisms, language, even food and shelter are barely understood by the humans. More important to Pella are the personal battles they are facing. Her father is a failed politician trying in vain to regain something of his former glory. Her younger brothers are dealing poorly with their mother's death. She herself is going through puberty. And surrounding them is a supporting cast of Earth's (and the Archbuilders') rejects.

About halfway through this book, I became convinced that Lethem is one of the most brilliant contemporary authors out there. His ability to create characters with incredible depths of emotion through his spare writing style lifts him above the fray of ordinary writers. I am enthusiastically looking forward to reading more.

Another courtesy lesson

For those of you who have passed Remedial Courtesy and Courtesy 101, yet another sign appeared in the ladies' room yesterday that you might find helpful:


Again I will reiterate, this is not an unpleasant bathroom. It is apparently just frequented by crazy people.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My new night terrors

I've always been a very weird sleeper. As a child, I would walk and talk in my sleep. After college, I'd wake up in the middle of the night doing some very bizarre things. Once, I was on my hands and knees in my closet, I'd taken out all of my shoes and piled them in the middle of the floor, and I was searching for the hole that the gnomes came through. Another time, I had removed all of the framed pictures from the wall and leaned them against my bed. Since I've been married, my "night terrors" have been more along the lines of thinking I see giant spiders on the ceiling, or that there are things hanging from the shelves or lamps.

The last week or so, I haven't slept well at all. Each night, I've woken up with the frantic realization that I've lost the Bug somewhere in my room. Like I was supposed to be watching her but then she disappeared. I look in the covers, under the bed, under the desk, in the bathroom. Mind you, she's still sleeping soundly in her crib in her room. I read in the Times that this is fairly common for new mothers to experience. But the Bug's a year old... so why now?

A belated shout-out

I realized that I was delinquent in wishing a congratulations to my sister's good college friends, Carly and Dave, in the birth of their daughter Samantha Lee Brantz. Sam arrived on July 3, while we were in DC. I've been following Sam's in utero experiences via Carly's blog, which has been a pleasure to read... and I'm looking forward to staying tuned!