Personal Life

Farewell Tim Tripcony

My friend Tim Tripcony passed away this weekend.  As many others have said, he was a kind, caring soul who always gave of himself, and it’s a tragedy that he is no longer with us.

Since hearing the news, I’ve been haunted by something he said to me one time.   One night after too many drinks at Kimono’s or some other Lotusphere party, we were talking and he no-so-jokingly said that he always felt “like he didn’t fit in.”  When I asked “Where?” his answer was “Anywhere.”  It lead us to a long talk about being an awkward introvert, and I explained to him that he very much fit in within our community, and our group of friends, and that he would always fit in with me. I was proud to call him my friend.

The thing that saddens me so much, is that he never got to see the outpouring of love that came from this community this week.  There were tributes and blog posts and tragic tweets of disbelief from all over the globe.  I’m in no way exaggerating when I say that Tim was universally loved, respected, and looked up to by a great many people.  Myself included.  I really wish he could have been able to appreciate that before he departed this world.  I’m sure it would have made him smile.

So I ask you, for those friends of yours around the globe you care about.  Let them know a little more often.  Check in and say Hi out of the blue.  I’ve done a lot of texting and emailing this week doing just that.  Chances are, if you read this blog, I call you a friend.  And I love a great many of you.

So in a few minutes, I’m going to mix up a white russian, and connect to a Google Hangout celebrating his life.  I’ve posted the video to Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart for Awhile.”  Tim always kind of reminded me of a redheaded Warren Zevon for some reason (check out the resemblance in the black and white footage of Warren playing the piano) and this song, while it almost always makes me cry, is a perfect sendoff.

Farewell Tim, I’ll definitely keep you in my heart for awhile.

Create the infamous Pretzel Cookie at Home!

Lotusphere Pretzel Cookie

Lotusphere Pretzel Cookie

Alrighty, my awesome wife found a recipe at cookiesandcups.com that emulates the taste of the infamous Lotusphere Pretzel Cookie almost perfectly.  It requires the following:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, melted and browned
  • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

How to Make

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan melt 1 cup butter over medium-low heat. When butter is melted continue to cook, swirling butter constantly until it becomes a golden brown color. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. In bowl of stand mixer mix butter and sugar together until combined. Add in eggs, extra yolk and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
  5. Add in baking soda, salt and flour. Mix on low until incorporated, then mix in crushed pretzels.
  6. Finally stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Using a large cookie scoop, drop dough on baking sheet about 2 inches apart, baking until just golden at the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Centers might not seem done yet, but remove the cookies and allow them to cool for 3-4 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

I hearby declare my love for Shelly over at cookiesandcups.com.  If you want to see everything step by step, it can be found here.  My wife made them as shown in the tutorial, and the taste is perfect.  The size of the cookie is still off though, so we will have to experiment with that to get an exact duplicate.  That said, they taste the part, so I’m not sure they have to look the part at all :-)

I Resolve That 2014 Will Rock

I Resolve That 2014 Will Rock

Every new year, I like to come up with my resolutions here on the blog so they are public for all to see.  It gives me a little more motivation to actually complete some of them.  So, for 2014 my resolutions are as follows:

Lose Weight (Again) – Two years ago I did really well on some Biggest Loser contests and lost a lot of weight.  This past year wasn’t as easy and I gained some back.  I miss how I felt when I had fewer pounds on this frame.  So I would like to get back under 200 pounds.  I definitely think it’s doable, I just need to have the willpower.

Have Fun with Photography – The last couple of years my photography has consisted mainly of gymnastics meets, dance recitals, and food.  I want to re-ignite my passion for taking pictures.  Now I have a great camera on me with the iPhone 5S or Nokia 1020 pretty much at all times, so there’s no excuse not to take more shots.  I also need to break out the DSLR and go take pictures more often.  I think I can make it more fun again.

Learn More – I want to take the time to learn more stuff.  More software, more about managing folks, more techniques for developing photos.  I need to take more time to read, and more time to sit down and simply learn.  We have lynda.com at work now, so I think I’ll have an easy time with this resolution.

Keep a Good Work/Life Balance – This upcoming year promises to be my busiest yet.  We have a ton going on at work and I’ll really have a lot going on, and a good amount of travel.  I want to make sure I still have time to spend with my girls, my wife and my friends.  No matter how much work comes at me, family comes first.  I’ve seen people lose family this year, and you can never get this time back.  My family will know they mean the most to me.

Put Some Reviews Here on the Blog – In my job, I play with a lot of technology.  I play with new phones, tablets and computers all the time.  I’m also a gadget addict on my own time, so I pick up cool stuff for holidays and such too.  Since I actually review this stuff, I want to write up my thoughts and share it here.  It will get my post count up for the year too.

I think these are all attainable goals and I’m really looking forward to an exciting 2014.  I just need to spend less time in front of a TV and more time enjoying life.  I can make it happen.  Here’s to a great new year!

How ‘Bout Those Resolutions Fat Boy?

Well we’ve completed another trip around the sun, and I always like to look back at the prior year to see how I did on my resolutions.  Kinda half and half this year, so let’s see how I fared:

Enjoy my family - On this one I think I did very well.  I made it a point to schedule work trips around recitals and gymnastics meets, and made it a point to say yes more often when I get asked “Do you want to play?”  Could I still be better?  Sure, but for the most part I didn’t let work consume me, and was able to let my family know they were important.

Maintain my weight and Exercise SOME - Nope.  Not even close.  I’ve gained back about 15-20 pounds since last year at this time and I’m not happy about it.  I just need to get my head back in the right place.  I’m sure this will be something for 2014.

Play more Games - I absolutely excelled on this one.  I completed both Startcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm and Bioshock: Infinite.  I got sucked into the addiction that is Minecraft with my daughters and spent many an afternoon or evening building and mining with my girls.  We also played a lot of Settlers of Catan, and Ticket 2 Ride on the board game front.  Santa brought Risk: Plants vs Zombies edition, Tsuro, and Zombie Dice for Christmas.  My parents also bought us Sour Apples to Apples.  I’ve got Plants vs. Zombies 2 and the next Walking Dead series queued up on the iPad.  So I feel I can once again call myself a gamer.

Learn some stuff - Once again, not really close.  I try to tell myself I’m too busy, but unfortunately the times I could be learning I tend to plop down in front of mindless TV.  I know I’ll do better in the coming year.  I just signed a two year contract at work with lynda.com.  I’ll make sure to take advantage of that.

Update my personal websites - I actually completed this as well.  I tried a couple new themes here on the blog, and have come up with one I like.  In addition I took roling.com and set it up to point to all of the places I spend time online.  I figure I’m putting content in a lot of places, so I should make those places easy to find.  They might evolve more in the coming year, but I’m happy I finally got around to completing the updates as my places were feeling kind of stale.

So like I said, I was about 50/50.  I really need to get healthier again, and that’s the one I’m most upset myself for failing on.  I’ll definitely turn that around in 2014.  Now to think about what else is important to me for the upcoming year…

Da Coach Mike Ditka’s Number Retired

On Monday night, the Chicago Bears retired the number of legendary tight end and coach for the team, Mike Ditka.  I’ve always liked Ditka, even when I didn’t like the Bears, so it was awesome to see.

After seeing him honored at half time, it reminded me of a time when my good friend and co-worker, Declan Lynch, and I got to meet the coach at one of his Chicago restaurants.

It’s one of my favorite stories of all time: Declan Does Ditkas.  Check it out.

Things I’ve learned

Things I’ve learned

My 43rd birthday was back in October, and I had planned on doing one of those inspirational “Things I’ve Learned” posts to share what little wisdom I bring to the table.  So it’s taken a few months, but here are things 43 years of living have taught me.

  • There is no better feeling in the world than returning home to be greeted by a happy dog, except being greeted by happy children.
  • You will never regret hard work.  If you work hard at something, it means more.
  • Do not be afraid to fail at new experiences.  Failing = Learning.  In addition, you just may find yourself enjoying something you’ve never tried.
  • You’ll regret the things you were afraid to try much more than the things you did try.
  • Be nice to your ex-loves.  You loved them for a reason, just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean you need to hate them or tear them down.
  • Tip well in every situation, it can only benefit you.
  • If someone is mean to the waiter or waitress, that person is not someone you want to associate with
  • Don’t trust people who don’t like dogs.
  • If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
  • Try new foods whenever you have a chance, your palate will surprise you.
  • The only truly healthy way to lose weight is to eat healthier, consume less, and exercise some.  You just need willpower, not drugs or a system.
  • Hug your family every single day.  You’ll miss it terribly when you no longer can.
  • Keep your word.  If you promise something, come through.
  • Don’t promise too much.  Always under-promise, then over-deliver.
  • Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself.  It’s good to decompress.
  • If your car costs as much as my house, you can wait to merge into traffic.
  • Be kind to the planet. It’s the only one we have.
  • I don’t care what your belief system is.  If it brings you peace, that makes me happy.
  • You shouldn’t care about my belief system.  It brings me peace, and I am happy.
  • Music should be part of every day
  • Take lots of photos. They are the best way to document the life you live.
  • Don’t worry about things you cannot change.  The sooner you can “let go” of that stress, the happier you will be.
  • There’s nothing wrong with nudity. The human body is beautiful, and people who can’t handle seeing a nipple or a woman breast feeding are idiots.
  • Cursing is not inherently evil.  Words are simply words.  Know when to fucking use them as punctuation.
  • You should live with someone before marrying them.  Loving someone does not equal the ability to live with someone.
  • You’re never too old to play games
  • Be an individual, never be afraid to be YOU.
  • Statistically, half the world are idiots.  If you run across one, don’t bother trying to figure out their motivations.  They are just idiots.
  • Life is too short to hate your job.  If you hate what you do, change what you do.  You have the ability to make that leap.
  • I don’t care what you do behind closed doors as long as you aren’t hurting anyone.
  • Everyone deserves to be happy

I wish I would have known some of these things back when I was a kid. All I can do now is help others. Hopefully this does help in some small way.  Have a great weekend everyone.

Dispensing Justice for Ten Dollars a Day

Last week, I was called upon to fulfill my job as a citizen and report for Jury Duty.  Basically, you get called to a courthouse and do a lot of sitting around.  Then, a group of 45 or so of you get corralled like cattle into a courtroom.  You get to answer answer awesome questions like:

Do you have any religious objections to alcohol? or

Does anyone here NOT believe in the US system of Government?

Once you’ve answered the questions, then the attorneys get to dismiss people they think might not be good to their case.  Those of us who seem fine to both the prosecution and defense get picked to be on a Jury.

I’ve actually been called quite a few times, but never actually picked.  Well last week was my lucky week.  I was part of the twelve (and two alternates) who were chosen to choose the fate of a man who was up for felony aggravated battery.

The defendant had struck a man with a large plastic BB gun at 2AM in the parking lot of a taco joint.  When it broke, he then grabbed a baseball bat.  Luckily for the person who was struck (and the defendant) there was an officer that saw him strike a victim the first time, and got there in time to keep him from striking with the bat.

The officer saw the defendant strike the victim.  Everyone on both sides agreed that happened.  They also agree it was in public.  The thing they didn’t agree on was whether or not it was self-defense.  Did the defendant feel threatened enough to have to defend himself? If we had even a shadow of a doubt whether it was self-defense or not, we had to proclaim him innocent.

Now the defendant was too drunk to drive (his fiance drove) and was known for starting fights when drunk (his fiance’s words.)  The victim did NOT want to testify and had to be subpoenaed.  The victim never struck the defendant, and also did not speak English.  What the victim did do is stop the car, get out, and confront the drunk guy.  For many of our jurors, that act of stopping the car (and possibly blocking the defendant in) and then coming around the car meant the defendant could have gotten scared enough to grab the first thing he could get his hands on and defend himself.  He was found by us, a jury of his peers, to be not guilty.

I had to be convinced. I think this guy instigated the whole thing and was acting tough and as soon as someone got back in his face he hit him.  But, I had to feel that beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn’t feel threatened to act in self-defense.  Eventually, as one of the only dissenters, I caved, because there was the wee bit of doubt.

There were lots of screwed up things in everyone’s testimony and no one was really believable.  The original officer who witnessed the crime that night was actually off duty, so rather than pay him overtime they brought in another officer to process the scene.  That officer basically skated through the investigation and only wrote a one page report.  The report didn’t have key info in it that could have been bad for the defendant and good for the prosecution.

Also, through testimony the defendant said he only had five or six beers and stopped drinking at 10PM.  So some folks thought he might be fairly sober at 2AM and just had the fiance drive to be safe.  Also they say he was really remorseful in the police car and very apologetic.

During your Jury Duty, you cannot research the case outside the courtroom, and you can only listen to the testimony. You are also not allowed to talk about it with anyone including other jurors.   I followed the rules.  But after the case was over and this man was set free, I did some research and found some news articles.  The article from the night in question had his mug shot.  He looked completely plastered and he was laughing and defiant.  He didn’t seem remorseful and didn’t look the least bit sober.  If we had been shown the mug shot, it’s possible folks might have had another opinion.

Despite my misgivings, I really like that it takes a unanimous vote of 12 people to convict someone in this country.  I also like that people in the jury are really supposed to have not heard anything about the case and not have any knowledge of the situation.  I think it’s a decent system, and it was nice to see it from the inside.  Our case was fairly laughable, and there were so many mistakes that we had to proclaim the defendant not guilty.  That said, I’m really glad that I didn’t end up on a trial that was more serious or deadly.  I can sleep at night with this decision, I think a more serious case would be much harder to put behind me.

But I leave you with words of advice.  If it’s 2AM, and you really want tacos, go to bed, you’re drunk.

 

Back in the Saddle

In order to get back into the rhythm of blogging, you have to actually sit down and write.  That’s true of any writer, you just have to sometimes force yourself to put words to the page. I used to have the urge to write all the time, and that’s largely been satiated with various social media outlets, but I miss blogging.

So I refreshed the blog template with a new Parallax theme from Themify.me that I like quite a bit.  It’s got some great ways to share photos, so that’s rekindled the desire to get out and focus on my photography a bit more too.  Both of these are good for my creative outlets, and I need to be more creative.  Lately the pointy hair of the day job has focused on long term goals and politics more than the joy I get from technology.  It’s not all a bad thing, just an evolution.  I just need to make sure that I don’t lose that joy, whether it be technology, writing or photography.

Out in the Man Cave tonight I put some old memories up on the wall.  My old baseball jersey from the town I grew up in, the T-shirt I designed for our college radio station, and some awesome shirts from the LDC including the Lotus “Back in Blue” shirt.  It’s really rekindled a lot of memories and stirred the muse.  Some punk music on the Sonos and a cigar at my side and things feel right.

So as I’ve done on several occasions over the last decade, I’m declaring that I’m back folks.  Let’s see if these are hollow words or if I follow through :-)

We have four paws in the house again

We have four paws in the house again

It’s been quite some time since I blogged anything here, and I believe some of it was a little bit of depression every time I came to the site and saw my last post.  We had lost our dog Peanut to cancer, and whenever I came to the site to write, I never really had much to say.

We recently started looking to give a dog a forever home because we knew we wanted to get a dog in the summer months to get them acclimated to our house and the dog run and everything before the fall weather and rains kicked in.  Nothing like trying to house train a dog when outside is completely soggy.

Well now we have filled that furry void with our new dog, Pepper Pawts.  We adopted her from Cache Creek Animal Rescue a little while ago, and she has fit in perfectly with our family. She’s got a wonderfully mellow personality, loves to snuggle, was house trained and young enough to really be able to be a part of our family for a long time to come.

She’s made our house a home again.

You see, I’ve always loved dogs.  And except for a couple years in college, dogs have been a part of my whole life, a faithful companion.  In addition, Jen and I have had up to four dogs in the house for the entirety of our marriage.  There’s just something about the unconditional love of a dog that makes life better.

So now things are back to where they should be.  Pepper got her forever home, and we got a new family member.  Makes coming to this blog worthwhile again.  Maybe that means you’ll start seeing me post more regularly again.  Don’t hold your breath, but I do feel energized to start writing again, so hopefully it will manifest itself here.  Thanks Pepper.

Say Goodbye To My Little Friend

Peanut 1 A little over three weeks ago on March 13th, we had to put our dog Peanut to sleep.  She had stopped eating, had a hard time getting around and looked at us like she knew it was her time to go.  She had some non-cancerous tumors but they must have grown pretty rapidly, because one week she seemed fine, and by the next it was really too late to do anything.

If you didn’t know the story, Peanut came to us as a stray.  Keeshonden are not a common breed, and for her to show up on our doorstep was pretty amazing.  She spent a wonderful six years with us and we’ll miss her dearly.

The really weird piece for me is that this is the first time (save for the first couple years of college) that a dog hasn’t owned me.  I grew up with dogs, and even before college was done, I made sure to have another canine companion.  Since college we’ve had as many as four at a time in our home.  And in our current house, we’ve always had a pup roaming the halls.

But now, we don’t.

I still find myself looking down to make sure I don’t step on a dog when turning a corner, or heading to another room.  I’ve teared up when I have no one to give the yolk of my hard boiled egg to.  I still have the urge to open the door to let the dog out before I leave or get home from work.  These things I’ve done forever are no longer applicable.  It feels empty.

My wife was sure I’d have to have another dog immediately, but I think she has the itch even more than I do.  That said, I’m going to wait awhile.  Maybe replace some carpet, and avoid the wet spring.  Then we can look again.  I have no doubt we’ll add another furry family member, but not quite yet.  In the meantime, we have the photos to remember Peanut by, and we’ll give a little extra love to the cat.

I want to thank my wife for taking Peanut in for her final visit to the vet.  I was crushed when I took Shadow in, and I couldn’t get that out of my head.  My wife took the burden off of me and did it herself, and I know it was a really hard thing for her to do as well, no matter how necessary it was.

Have fun running in the wind Peanut, we’ll miss you.

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