A semi-daily chronicle of my life as a musician, a family man, and a citizen of Oregon.

Mar 26, 2009

Wii Fit

We finally bought a Wii fit.  More accurately we finally saw fit to expend the enormous amount of energy and resourcefulness needed to locate a Wii fit to buy.  After calling 4 Best Buys and 5 Targets I finally located a Wii Fit at the mall.  Nothing taps into my American consumerism more directly than scarcity.    I realized as I worked through this process that there are truly very few instances in my life when I want to buy something and can't go do so almost at will.

The kids love the game(s), which I'm really glad about.  I wasn't really sure that they would be into a game that is pretty much based on exercise but luckily they are.  If nothing else, Andrew and I keep going back and forth on who can set the highest score on the balance games. 

And nothing is quite as funny as watching someone else play a game on Wii fit.

Mar 20, 2009

Dry, Itchy, Watery Eyes

My eyes have been bugging me for a couple of weeks now.  I think it's mostly because of the incredible amount of laptop and reading time I've been putting in, but especially recently I've been getting headaches and my eyes have been feeling puffy and dry. 

Today I finally broke down and went to see the optometrist.  Turns out I'm far-sighted, and I have astigmatism in both eyes.  I had been prescribed glasses about 10 years ago but stopped wearing them because I didn't like the frames (which made me look like an old lady).  Looks like since that time my eyes have gotten worse.  The doctor said I will need "progressive" lenses soon - which is really a code word for bifocals.  Blech.

In the meantime Jen helped me pick out some cool non-grandma frames and I'm very much looking forward to my glasses coming in so that I can see better and get rid of these headaches.  Here's a picture of the new glasses.  The ones I'm getting are this shape but have a cool kind of wrought-iron look thing going on. 

Mar 15, 2009

What you can expect from your job

I had a job interview about 6 months ago that I've been thinking about lately.  During the interview, the interviewer wrote the following six phrases on the whiteboard:

  • Challenging work
  • Proximity to home
  • Good money
  • Fun, exciting coworkers
  • Opportunity to advance
  • Reasonable hours

He then proceeded to explain that in his experience it was reasonable to expect that in any job you can expect to get at least three of the items in the list.  He said that if you only have two, you can do better and you should find a new job.  If you have four you're doing well.  If you have more than 4 you should never, ever quit.  Do all you can to retire from that place.

Most people, though, can only get three items from the list. He then asked me which three I thought were the most important.

Lately I've been thinking that I'm probably in the top half of the list. 

Some of you reading this are my coworkers and I can say with 100% certainty that if I work with you you're the exception to the rule when it comes to that fourth item.  It's all the OTHER people.  You know what I'm talking about. ;)

I haven't been that optimistic about item 5.  I'm trying, but it's been slow going.  Option 6 is out of the question for the foreseeable future.

How do you think your current job ranks (assuming you have one)?  Leave a comment.

Mar 13, 2009

A dog park I can visit

I have a great dog, Maybell.  She's a German Shepard mutt of some sort that we got at the humane society about four years ago.  When we first got her she had a lot of behavior problems.  We've worked with her quite a bit over the last few years and she's gotten much better and has become a really close member of our family.  As I type this she's laying right here next to me, the picture of tranquility and obedience.

There are only a couple of issues we just haven't been able to work through.  The first is her aggression towards veterinarians.  She hates them.  It's like she knows how much they're overcharging me. 

She'll be friendly and warm to them when she firsts sees them but as soon as they start to poke and prod a line gets crossed that she doesn't like.  We've been through about three vets, the last of which was a vet that does home visits.  When he visited last time he casually commented "A dog doesn't necessarily need a rabies shot every single year.  Lots of times you can even skip a year.  It might even be better if we just kind of avoided visits unless there's a big problem".  Message received - I don't want to do this any more than I have to.

The other problem we haven't had terrible success in resolving is her desire to play rough with other canines at the local dog park.  She doesn't mean harm to other dogs, but she is aggressive in her play and it's caused some very uncomfortable interactions with my fellow Portland dog owners.  Usually the problems relate to other dog owners who are either a little too "Hey, it's ok.  They're dogs!  They love this kind of thing!" or "Oh my god!  My baby! My baby!  You terrible brute and your dog!"  Either extreme is not good.

So here's my proposal, Portland.  Let's open a jerk dog park.  Let's take one of the dog parks we already have and just acknowledge that all of the jerk dogs, like mine, can go there and play just as roughly as they want without the need for fear or shame on the part of any dog owner.  Your dog is playing too rough?  No problem.  I'll just walk to the other side of the park.  I get it, your dog is a jerk.  So's mine.  We're all good.

Mar 10, 2009

M. Ward March 8th at the Aladdin

photo credit: vassego in Washinton, DC 2/21/09

I went to see M.Ward March 8th at the Aladdin theater here in beautiful Portland with my friends Chris and Audry.  The opening band was Port O'Brien, who I really enjoyed.  Port O'Brien plays a whole lot of guitar.  In particular the lead guitar player was playing a reverbed Rickenbacker that sounded incredible.  The singer has a kind of Neil Young / Kurt Cobain screamy nasally thing going on that I quite enjoyed.  They had a female banjo player, but I couldn't really hear the banjo too much.  In all they were quite enjoyable and I plan on picking up their newest record.

M.Ward was incredible.  He played quite a bit off his new album but also mixed in quite a few songs from Post War for those of us who hadn't quite caught up with him yet on Hold Time.  One of the best things about M.Ward was the total groove he laid down, whether it be by himself or with the band.  I was really impressed how he could sing with the acoustic guitarists laying down the chords but still come off so tightly in his phrasing and musicality.  Quite impressive.

Of course, he has an incredible voice that's just one of those things he's blessed with, and he used it to great effect.  His songs are sensitive and thoughtful, and I loved the way he put arrangements together.  He's also a far better guitar player than I had anticipated.  He did a great instrumental guitar song that showed off his Bakersfield style Buck Owens skills quite nicely.  It was very impressive.

He must be a pretty shy person because the lighting was very dark.  For the most part he was in a blue shadow and not very visible.  He had a really cool lighting effect of a window pane on the back curtain.  As the concert went on the window went from showing a day scene to a beautiful night with lightning bugs flying around back to morning orange sunrise for the encore.  It was really cool.

I loved the concert - definitely one of the best I've seen in a while.  Can't wait to get the new record.

Mar 9, 2009

Random Updates


Work has been on the very busy side since changing jobs last December.  I've joined a new project at the electric company (same place I've been) that's installing all of those automated meters you may have been hearing about from Barack Obama and others.  The ones we're installing will communicate two ways (the meter giving us readings and us sending the meters info) and a good portion will support remote disconnection/reconnection.  It's a huge project, much bigger dollar-wise than the web projects I'd been working on for the last few years.  It also has a lot of implications for how different facets of the company's core business run.

The project had been going for more than a year so quite a few things are already kicked off and some phases have completed.  I've been put in charge of Software Requirements, IT Quality Assurance, and Release Management.  This all falls in with the work we've been doing and I've been advocating to transition from a waterfall style of software development to a more agile method. 

What this means for me right now is that we're implementing new processes and while I have a broad responsibility. I didn't join the project with a team to support me in these roles, but it's more of an initiative and change that I'm advocating and leading.  For the last few months I've been a part-time Business Analyst, a part-time program-level planner, and a part-time politician and cheerleader for the changes we're implementing. 

Slowly the team is taking shape.  I now have two Business Analysts (BA) on board, as well as a QA lead.  I probably still need at least one more BA and perhaps another QA person.  The folks I've brought on are transitioning out of their current roles which creates some bandwidth for me so that I don't have to on-board everyone at once.  The time commitment should start to let up over the next few months and then things will settle back down to a more normal pace.

What this has meant in practicality is running very close to maximum capacity work-wise.  Working every weekend going back since December, long days during the week, and a whole lot of understanding required from my family.  They've been great, but the situation is untenable over the long-run and I very much need to focus on transitioning some responsibilities.  I've already exhausted all of the "work smarter not harder" and time-management techniques - right now I just need more bodies - capable, smart, self-motivated bodies - who can lend a hand.


Wedding planning is ongoing.  We're taking a new tact, doing the kind of planning I might do for a project.  Jen and I have identified the logistics (mostly stuff we need), roles, clothes, and script for the ceremony itself.  We've also identified reception information including food , decorations, logistics (again "stuff"), and setting items (mostly stuff to do to the yard).  Next we need to tackle the Honeymoon and activities around the time we're spending with my brother Dan's family.

After we've finished identifying all of the different stuff that we need we'll need to come up with a list of what we have to do in order to get every item done and then create a schedule for how to fit all of the items in so that we're not trying to do everything at once.  We'll also create estimates for how much everything will cost and begin procuring items.


With everything going on at work I've had a really hard time fitting in both riding my bike to work (which I love doing) as well as runs.  Late last week I came to the conclusion (highly related to the "work" section above) that I needed to get back into the running habit.  I've been feeling funky and grumpy and kind of put-upon and a lot of it has to do with not getting out there and sweating.  There's a huge amount of calm I get from running that I just don't get out of biking.  The relationship for me between running and biking is like eating a great satisfying meal versus eating desert.  Desert is fun, but the great meal keeps me going.  I started running again on Friday and ran 8 miles today.

I've also started the two hundred situps program.  I've always sucked at sit-ups so that would be a good next thing to tackle I think.  My first exhaustion test had me doing eighty crunches, which was a lot more that I thought I could do, but still paltry compared to Jen's 135.  She's a mah-cheen.