Tuesday, November 17, 2009

RTT: The only living boy in New York

Jim, get your plane right on time
It's just your job that's on the line
Fly down to Madiso...o-e-o...o-e-On
(and on and on and on and)
Here I am
The only IT guy in New York...

  • New York City has been a dominant element in my life of late. It seems that when I'm not there, I'm trying to fix something that's gone wrong there. And when I am there, I'm working my @$$ off - until midnight or 1-2 in the morning. And if I'm not doing either of those things, I'm trying to make changes that will prevent Option 1 or Option 2 from happening.

  • People in Manhattan do behave as though they believe the world revolves around them. I know we all struggle with self-centeredness to some extent - but it often seems as though the people on that little island ("off the coast of America" as Spalding Gray once said) have given up the struggle. They live with the permanent delusion that they are more important than everyone else. Maybe it's just the cost of living.

  • The problems seemed to start when we blew the circuit in the server room. That was just before I made a scheduled trip to New York at the end of September - to finish upgrade of their connection to the company network. While I was in NY, we met with an electrical contractor and solicited a proposal for them to install a second circuit in the room. Of course, before the work could be completed, there were more power problems and more downtime. More people p*ssed off at the IT Dept. Finally, by the end of October, those problems were resolved. Or so we thought.

  • Keep in mind: On Wednesday, November 4, the New York Yankees played Game 6 of the World Series in the Bronx. They beat the Phillies that night to win their 27 World Series Title.

  • November came "in like a lion". On Tuesday night, there was another power problem in the server room. Then, overnight, the network connection (which we had just been installed a month before) went down. And Wednesday morning, power went out again to half the server room. By noon, my flight had been booked to LaGuardia. I didn't even argue. A goat needed to be scaped - and I was feeling mighty goaty.

  • You know how when you're really tired and in unfamiliar territory, things can seem quite surreal? How's this for surreal?

    By 11:30 pm Wednesday night, when I left the office I had worked (including travel; I can't sleep on a plane) about 18 hours. My only meal for the day had been Burger King at the airport before my plane left. The hotel that the office had booked me into had no rooms - so they in turn have set me up in another hotel - a $10 cab ride from the office. The desk clerk has warned me that the place doesn't look like a hotel from the outside (truer word were never spoken). The cab drops me off on 58th Street near 9th Avenue.

    There are all these 20-something hipsters milling around on the street as I drag my 40-something self and luggage into the entrance. It doesn't look anything more like a hotel inside either - and the techno is booming from somewhere above me. I get on a long, steep escalator with lime green lighting all the way up to the next floor - and the closer we get to the top, the more sure I am that I have dragged my luggage into a dance club.

    But no! When we reach the top, I see it - across the dim floor - music pounding, people dancing on the opposite side of the room, youngsters everywhere with drinks in hand - the check-in desk!

  • On Thursday, I only worked about 16 hours - but there was no travel involved and I ate lunch at my desk (leftovers from a lunch meeting of some big-shots in the Board room). The only diversion was dinner at a little Brazilian restaurant around the corner from the office - where I read news reports about the Fort Hood shootings on my BlackBerry.

  • When you're paying almost $500 a night for your hotel room, is it wrong to be a little concerned when the door looks like it was last opened with a crowbar?

  • By the time I flew home Friday, the power situation had been resolved - by replacing the ORIGINAL circuit in the server room. So we ended up with two brand new circuits in that room. And the power has been stable there ever since.

  • But the new network connection had problems on Monday and again Wednesday last week. Somebody else can make THAT trip to New York.
Take care.

PS: Go visit Keely at the Un-Mom willya?!

The Un Mom

How many times to do I have to keep saying it?!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Friends in Need

Today would have been Maddie Spohr's second birthday.
My lovely wife, the Middle-Aged Woman, wrote the tribute below.
If you have the means, please consider making a donation to help families with at-risk infants.
I don't think there are too many people reading this who didn't have their heart broken on April 7th of this year. That's the day we learned that Madeline Alice Spohr, whom we all knew as Maddie from The Spohrs Are Multiplying, was suddenly taken from her parents, Heather and Mike, when a respiratory infection coupled with a collapsed lung was more than her 17-month-old body could fight. Thousands of people across the country mourned with Heather and Mike, and thousands came to their support by donating to the March of Dimes in Maddie's memory.

Since then, the Spohrs, along with family and friends, have created Friends of Maddie, a fund dedicated to supporting families of critically ill or prematurely-born infants during their stay in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with supplies, help finding temporary lodging (because the NICU isn't always within commuting distance of home), and by creating a network of support.

Friends of Maddie uses your donation to put together Support Packs for families who find themselves overwhelmed with the care of an at-risk newborn. The packs include items such as reusable water bottles, snack bars, tissues, mints, and most importantly, a tri-fold binder with a note pad and accordion file to keep track of paperwork.

"We're hopeful it will make it at a little easier for parents to keep track of everything," Heather says."You get SO many papers, business cards, etc., every day, and it's hard to keep track of everything."

She should know, she lived the experience. Maddie's sixty-eight-day stay in the NICU is chronicled on Heather's blog and her husband Mike's blog as well. Readers across the country followed every setback and every victory. What message would she like to pass on to parents in the same situation?

"Patience. Take things a day at a time and live in the moment. Don't look down the road or things will get REALLY scary and overwhelming," shared Heather.

The reaction to the packs has been terrific, according to Heather, "We've been getting a FANTASTIC response from everyone! We weren't expecting such a big response so we are really behind in getting back to everyone, but it's a good problem to have!"

  • By now, you are all wondering how you can help, right? I knew it. You people rock. Your options: Donate! I know, the economy is bad right now, but every little bit helps. Or...
  • Let your local NICU know about Friends of Maddie, or...
  • Do you work for a company that might bring a valuable service to NICU parents? Contact FoM! Or...
  • Just spread the word! Write a blog post! Send out a tweet! Y'all know how this works!
Mike and Heather's loss is unimaginable. In spite of their grief, they have found a way to pay forward all the love poured out from thousands of hearts across the Internet. Tell your friends about Friends of Maddie.
Take care.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Stop everything - I think I hear the President..."*

I am not very politically-minded. I normally vote Democratic. I'm not conservative - because I don't have anything to conserve. I'm not very liberal either really. I'm like a Bill Clinton fiscal conservative/social liberal Democrat crossed with a pre-Palin John McCain Republican. (I don't even know enough about politics to be sure that last statement is even ACCURATE. And all this is far more background information that is necessary for this post.)

Anyway, after Fort Hood yesterday and the Orlando engineer "going postal" today, I think the President needs to get on the tube and try to talk this country off the ledge. I know my idea is a little over the top - but clearly some of us, maybe a lot of us, need a time-out; and the President may just be smart and articulate enough to pull it off.

After eight years of a guy who could barely read the teleprompter telling us the enemies were all "out there" or "over there", we've been reminded again what bullsh*t that all is/was. It was so easy to forget about Oklahoma City or Columbine after the World Trade Center. But we have once again met our worst enemy - "and he is us" as Walt Kelly so aptly put it.

I know it's risky business asking the Commander-in-Chief to become the Psychiatrist-in-Chief or the Preacher-in-Chief. But, after all - who's your Daddy? And clearly some us need Daddy to chill us out, big time. I personally would also suggest prayer, and lots of it. But maybe you're not into that. Then go give somebody a hug or something.

If you can't be happy yourself (and God knows it is plenty difficult sometimes) then at least have the decency not to spread your unhappiness around with bullets. Why can't these gun-toting idiots be seized with the desire to commit suicide instead of teenagers who got dumped by a girl/boyfriend or just had a bad day and can't see beyond it?

C'mon, Mr. President - talk to me.

Take care.

*Apolgies to Joe Jackson

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Well, it wasn't a complete lie.

I didn't say they were nice-looking ones.

[I feel so cheap right now. How will I debase myself next?]

Anyway - the action is all at He Read/She Read.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

RTT: She got me the "Fatty" pants


- My lovely wife (the Middle-Aged Woman) has a pretty open schedule lately, so she took pity on me and went shopping. For me. You see, all but one of the 4 pairs of pants that I wear to work had...problems. The ravages of age and excessive wear had taken their toll, so she went in search of a bargain on some new pants for me (this being an unbudgeted expense and all). And she was wildly successful! I think she found 4 pairs for about $80.

There was just one catch: two of them were "Fatty" pants.

You know, the kind where the waistband of the pants has some "give" to it. But these two pair don't just have an "elas-ticky" waistband - there seem to be different panels of fabric at the waist that will adjust based on just how fat you happen to be. These are pants that will make getting fat easier - by quickly adjusting to any new girth, so there is no warning sign of your trousers getting snug. (The b*stards!) What will these fiends think of next?!

- Little chocolate donuts are just delicious. I think a new food group should be created just for them. I would call it the "So d@mn delicious if you eat the last one I'll kick your @$" food group.

- Do you think I should be concerned that wife is reading a book titled "Marrying George Clooney"?

- I don't know why, but sometime in the last couple weeks, the MAW stopped putting my sandwiches into plastic sandwich bags and started wrapping them in waxed paper. I wonder if she's taken a principled stand against sandwich bags. If so, I probably need to tell her that the wax paper seems to create a larger amount of waste than the sandwich bags.

- Maybe my sandwiches are just too big to fit in the bags. Maybe she thinks I'm eating too much.

- Maybe the whole "Fatty" pants thing is supposed to send me a message: "Hey, Fatso!! Why don't you just stop scarfing down all the little chocolate donuts!!!"

- Do you ever just scare yourself sometimes. Happened to me.

- Just now.

- I have a $200 cell phone bill this month. Why is my cell phone bill $200 this month?

- Do you think these pants make me look...insane?

Take care.

PS: Did I mention that you are supposed to visit Keely at the Un-Mom immediately.

The Un Mom

If not sooner.

PPS: Don't forget to visit He Read/She Read tomorrow and check out the reviews of Yann Martel's Life of Pi by the delightful Pamela (from the dayton time) and Yours Truly (from right herely) . You won't want to miss that!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Death of Curiosity:
Jim Styro's Meaning of Life, Part Fourteen

The thought occurred to me recently - that I am no longer as curious as I used to be.

I could probably come up with a lot of reasons why that has come to pass. I'm older, I know more, so there's less to be curious about. I'm older, so there's more things I don't want to know (like what are my daughter and her fiance doing during their sleepovers? Hell, I know damn well what they're doing! The same thing I was doing with my fiance 30 years ago.) I'm confronted with so much information from modern media that my mind is occupied with absorbing the information already bombarding me - not seeking out more stuff to try to absorb.

These reasons all have varying degrees of validity - but I don't think they tell the real story. (The "I know more" one is particularly weak, since the amount of "What I know" as a percentage of "What there is to be known" hasn't even caused the Knowledge-O-Meter to jiggle during my entire stay on this planet...) The biggest reason why I'm not very curious anymore is:
I'm just too damn busy to be curious.

You've heard of "idle curiosity"? People use the phrase like it's a bad thing - but I'm not so sure. In any case, I'm pretty sure a prerequisite for idle curiosity is...being idle. If your time and your mind are constantly occupied with "what is going on right now", there's little or no room for curiosity to creep in.

Which, in and of itself, wouldn't be a cause of concern - I mean, who cares whether or not Jim Styro is curious. But I think we're ALL getting too busy to be curious. And I think that general phenomenon could be more of a problem.

Consider for a moment the sort of situations in which your mind seems to work best, is the most open and creative. Is it when there is a flood of information, sensation or ideas being thrown at you? Is it when you are bearing down, highly focused, intent on an objective? Is it when you let go, relax your mind and let it wander for a minute or two in a happy place? Ask yourself: When you can't remember something, when something is on the tip of your tongue but you can't quite come up with it - and it's bugging you - what do you do?)

Like most things, I think the mind benefits from some variety - but I fear that our culture and lifestyles don't permit as much as we need. It's not that we don't like to think at all (although that is a problem that deserves a separate examination) - but even when we do, it tends to be reactive, frantic and...directed. This last point, I think, is particularly harmful to the curious nature. Because I think we tend to confuse the "pursuit of knowledge" with curiosity.

"The pursuit of knowledge" is noble and useful - but it is most often done with a particular objective (or worse, a conclusion) in mind. When I worked for the federal government, my friends and I there had a humorous motto that we intended to have printed on T-shirts.

It said:
If you know the answer, you don't have to think
A saying both funny and true - but dangerous to thinkers everywhere. In our haste - to make money, to be first, to not "waste time" - we have dismissed the importance of idle curiosity. And if we do that, if we stop letting our minds wander where they will go, we risk not only missing the inspiration that we may find from the wandering - but our minds may forget how to wander.

I say we need to start exercising our curiosity muscles - before they atrophy.

Take care.

PS: Lest you think that I hadn't noticed, my lovely wife, the Middle-Aged Woman, has partnered up with Captain Dumbass (my hero - or is he now my rival?) to bring you
the Zombie News Network!

Don't miss it - or heads will roll.