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


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


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!