Personal Life

Lotusphere: Thanks for the Memories

theendmediumOn my last day in Orlando this week, I took a walk around the lake, the boardwalk, the beach and the Dolphin and Swan hotels.  I just wanted to take it all in again, one last time.

Myself and many of my friends have been migrating south every January for nearly twenty years to gather as a community, learn, network, and see each other in real life.  It’s been an awesome ride, but Lotusphere as we know it in Orlando, is probably finished.  Since that’s the case, that walk brought back a ton of memories, and so I thought I would share many of them, in no particular order.

  • Hating the Wild World of Sports as a closing party, but LOVING the Brian Setzer Orchestra
  • Going to the first several Lotuspheres not knowing anyone and keeping to myself.
  • Finally engaging online at Scott “The Turtle” Wenzel’s Totally Gonzo Unofficial Lotusphere page, and talking with a lot of folks online.
  • Going to that first ESPN party and meeting Scott in person and having him introduce me to many folks including Wes Morgan and Bill Buchan.
  • On that fateful night, matching my friend Bill drink for drink.  The next morning I had one of the worst hangovers of my life.  Vomiting, dry heaves, splitting headache.  When I finally was well enough to hit the Sunday afternoon sessions, I ran into Bill, and he was just peachy.  In tip top shape.  I learned my lesson to never try to match him again.
  • Meeting John Head for the first time when he saved a seat in the front row for me to attend one of his sessions.
  • Meeting this young Irish lad who had built the template everyone was running their blog on, Blogsphere.  His name was Declan Lynch and to this day he is an incredible friend, and for some time now, also an incredible coworker.
  • Being introduced to Jaegermeister and Red Bull by Ms. Terri Sciolla.
  • Meeting and partying with Devin Olson, only to sit next to him the next day and not recognizing him because he had shaved off the full beard he had the night before.
  • Enjoying the birthdays during the event of Liz (Olsen) Novak, Wild Bill, Terri Sciolla and most recently Dr. Marky Roden.
  • Having people like Andrew Kelly and Sean (and Rhonda) Harris appear for the week of Lotusphere only to disappear again until the following year.
  • Having Paul Mooney talk a pretty, young SeaWorld employee out of her lighted nightstick by offering her a kiss, and then having my wife hide it in her clothing as an accomplice to get it out of the park.  Then seeing Paul use it the next day during his session.
  • The epic mini-bar theft incident
  • All of the BALD dinners.
  • Singing karaoke for the first time in my life at Kimono’s with a bunch of support from my friends, including Julian Robichaux who sat at my feet like a groupie.  I sang Desperado by the Eagles.
  • Seeing Matt “White Chocolate” Stratton belt out Rapper’s Delight and other songs with ease on stage.
  • Never being able to finish a duet on stage with Jess Stratton because we would always break out laughing.
  • Meeting Jess for the first time and we were both wearing our “I’m blogging this” t-shirts.
  • Doing “Summer Loving” with Kristina “U-Turn” Festa.
  • Singing “If I Had $1,000,000” with Rob McDonagh or Ray Bilyk every year.
  • Hanging out with Rob, and the super hero duo of Genelle “Lady Buttcheeks” Hung and U-Turn.
  • Bonding over our love of cigars with John “Angry Johnny” Noltensmeyer, Rob and Francie.
  • Way too much sake with Paul Mooney and Devin Olson.
  • Closing Kimono’s, continuing to drink in Paul’s room until about 6 in morning, then all going directly to a 7:30AM blogger BOF while still drunk.  I honestly have no recollection of going, but I was told I spoke, was coherent, and made good points.
  • Covering Lotusphere as press.
  • Asking my friend Volker for advice on how to properly act as press at the event.  He imparted a lot of knowledge on me, and for that I am grateful. 
  • Covering the event as one of the blogging community.  Including the one year with yellow beanbag chairs.
  • Speaking at Lotusphere will always be a highlight.
  • The year a certain analyst was there and we all wore our “I’m a Sicko” badges and let her know it every time she turned around.
  • Dancing and playing pool at the old Copa Banana.  This is also where I first met Mr. Chris Miller.
  • Being in awe at the expertise of Gab Davis and Andrew Pollack.  I used to think I knew administration, and watching their sessions made me know I had a lot more to learn.
  • Meeting, hanging out with, and now being able to call both Gab and Andrew friends.
  • Seeing Worst Practices for the first time.
  • Walking out of my hotel room and walking directly into the chest of John Cleese. 
  • Meeting Stephen Wright in between the Dolphin and the Swan and getting a selfie with him (before anyone called them selfies)
  • Seeing Francis Ford Coppola, Walter Cronkite, Neil Armstrong, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Alton Brown, William Shatner, Kevin Spacey, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Jim Gaffigan, OK Go, American Authors, They Might Be Giants, Blue Man Group and others over the years.
  • All of the Sunday night reception parties around the beach.
  • Having an entire Disney or Universal park to ourselves each Wednesday night party.
  • Mat Newman hugs
  • The alcoholic milkshakes at the Penumbra social.
  • The Great Geek Challenge
  • The very personal and moving Spark talks put on by the nerd girls.
  • The year of ten thousand attendees and people selling badges on EBay for exorbitant amounts.
  • Having the NFL playoffs happen during the conference for several years, and seeing my friends Mitch and Rob very happy as a result.
  • The first community photo.
  • The first time we were allowed to take that photo on the main stage.
  • Meeting so many excellent Loti/IBMers who truly got the platform and what social meant.  Sorry that IBM didn’t quite share your passion.
  • Hanging out with Paul Steel, and seeing the Blackberry Playbook before anyone knew what it was.  Over cigars, on the beach, of course.
  • The Swan boat races.
  • Closing down Kimono’s, Closing down the Dolphin bar, and hanging out in the Dolphin rotunda until far too early in the morning.
  • UK Night.  And having to get by the bouncers of Big Tone and Carl.
  • Hanging out with Julian Woodward.  We are far too alike and get into far too much trouble when together.  It’s probably safer for mankind that for most of the year, there is an ocean between us.
  • Going to Las Vegas immediately after Lotusphere for Project Drunken Leprechaun.
  • Never winning a thing in the damn product showcase :-)
  • Mai Tai Night put on my Joe and Bill (and hosted by Dec and Terri for the last few years)
  • The awesome Lotus Developer Co-Op giveaways from the likes of Mark, Julian, Matt and Ben.
  • Seeing my close friend Kathy Brown go from hiding in her hotel room to being one of the most respected speakers around, and an IBM Champion.
  • Seeing my coworker Mike McGarel start to bloom at Lotusphere Idol.  He’s now spoken, helps to put together MWLUG, and is also an IBM Champion!
  • JamFest and rocking out on stage with so many talented musicians including Red Box.
  • Getting to meet so many people I interact with online in person.  Too many people to name, and I’m sure I’ll forget some folks, so know that if you are reading this, you are on the list.
  • The first time someone recognized me from this blog.  It floors me every single time, and happened several times this year, although this year was mainly due to Twitter.
  • Sitting out on the lawn with out boxed lunch on the final day, and enjoying the sun with our friends for the final time that week.
  • Yes, the pretzel cookie.

I’ve been very very longwinded with this post, and I could probably go on for many pages more and name so many additional people.  I truly love this community, and I love you people.  This community has helped me put food on the table, and progress my career in ways I could have never imagined.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing these memories with me.  They are deeply ingrained part of me and always will be.  And even though this particular event may not live on, we will cross paths again, I guarantee it.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Resolute 2015 – This time it’s Personal!

Resolute 2015 – This time it’s Personal!

Alright.  Since I failed so miserably at last years resolutions, I’m going to really try to focus on these this year and make them a reality.

  • Get Healthier.  I just added a standing desk at work, so that will help.  I think I’ll cut back on cigars some and replace them with vaping instead.  I’ll eat a little less, eat a little healthier and when a certain health conscious watch comes out this year, I’ll probably integrate that into my routine.  I looked at my weight chart for the past two years and 2013-2014 really let me down from where I was in 2012 when I was at my best in years.  I’m going to do little things all around and hopefully that will help. 
  • Do more with my photography.  No, really.  I want to go through my catalog and tag metadata correctly, import my iPhoto library into Lightroom, and whack a bunch of pictures that just suck.  I’m not going to promise I’ll take more photos, but I’ll try.  I have an excellent camera on me at all times, I really should make use of it. 
  • Write more again.  Whether it’s a music review, internal marketing of our IT team at work, hardware reviews, my musings on the world, or tips and tricks in the IT space, I want to do more long form stuff.  I do quite a bit on Twitter and Facebook, but I need to not let my longer form writing skills languish like they have been. 
  • Learn.  I don’t care if it’s learning more about software, hardware, cigars, photography, vaping, managing or creating music.  I need to learn new things and make it a priority. 
  • Work/Life Balance.  This has been a staple here in my resolutions, but it’s really the most important thing to me.  I need to make sure that work doesn’t consume me and make me ever place my family on the back burner. I’ve focused on it over the last few years and I will continue to do so. 
  • Be kind. 2014 had a lot of very unkind things in the world.  I’m just going to do my best to be nicer and kinder in all of my dealings.  If we all do, maybe the world gets just a little bit better.

I think that’s where I’m going to leave it this year.  Here’s wishing you all an exemplary 2015.

The 2014 Greyhawk Recap

Okay, I completely sucked on my resolutions this past year.  Lose Weight?  HA!  Have fun with photography?  Nope.  Learn More? Not enough.  Put some reviews on the blog?  Two.

Did I keep a good work/life balance?  There I think I did pretty well.  I didn’t let work consume me to the point where I would sacrifice the family.  And since that was really the most important resolution, I think things went well.

So 2014 in general for ME was okay, even though I didn’t do anything resolution wise.  However 2014 sucked for humanity in general.

  • A friend of mind and a brilliant mind committed suicide.
  • One of my childhood icons committed suicide.
  • Gamergate raised a level of misogyny online that made me embarrassed to be called a gamer
  • The Israeli/Palestinian conflict caused immeasurable suffering
  • Ferguson Missouri, NYC, Ohio and more proved that it’s hard to get rid of bad cops, and that race is still a very big issue in America
  • Execution of police officers in NYC in retaliation for the above just answered injustice with murder.

All of these horrible things made 2014 one of the worst years in recent memory.  I’m glad for it to be over, and for the world to heal a little.  Be kind to one another everyone.  Let’s pledge to do better in 2015.

Farewell Robin Williams

Three months ago I said farewell to my friend Tim Tripcony.  Tim was a kind gentle genius, who felt that he needed to leave us far too soon.  This past week, I learned that a childhood idol of mine, Robin Williams, felt he had to do the same.

It’s a horrible feeling to write back to back posts about people who felt they had no other option to combat the darkness they carried with them.  Depression is a very real disease, and I’m thankful that I’ve never felt that level of despair.  For my friends that do occasionally fight this disease, please know there are people out there like myself that care, and will be there for you.

Now, onto Robin Williams.  Robin was a stand-up comedian and actor whom I adored growing up.  When I was a young kid, I was introduced to Robin as Mork on the TV show Mork & Mindy.  Then (when I was probably a little too young) I fell in love with his stand-up.  He was such a funny comedian.  I remember laughing so hard I cried during his routines.

When he was on talk shows, there was this manic energy that emanated from him.  He could ad-lib, improvise, and make anything funny.  And he was ALWAYS like that.  That’s why you were drawn to him, he was uplifting and funny.  He had a comeback for everything.  I loved that about him.  I wanted to be him, wanted to always have that comeback, and always try to be funny.

Then there were the funny movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, The Birdcage and even Aladdin.  Then you had his serious side, like Good Will Hunting, One Hour Photo, and one of my favorite movies of all time, Dead Poets Society.  Dead Poets Society also made me cry.

For someone who was so funny, to be able to be so uplifting, touching and inspirational in their serious acting was something that was so impressive to me.  I admired that skill, and wanted to emulate it.

In my Junior year of high school I was president of both the Speech and Drama clubs.  For Speech that year, I did two things.  Improvisational Acting, and Dramatic Acting.  On the Drama side, I did a compiled monologue from the Vietnam war play Tracers by John DiFusco.  I took on the personas of soldiers and it was dark and sad and I made myself break down into tears while performing it.

For Improv, we drew two characters and a situation, and 30 minutes later we had to act out a scene we improvised.  I had a formula where the two characters were part of the same person with multiple personality disorder and they were suing each other for whatever the situation was.  I had stock characters of a drugged out Judge Wapner and others, but I always tried to made it the funniest most outlandish scene I could come up with.

So like Robin, I wanted to do it both.  I wanted to do the drama and the comedy.  I did, and made All State in both categories.  In fact, I was one of only 30 high school students in the entire state of Iowa to do so.

When we went to All State, my dramatic was first and it went well.  After all the actors had performed, you had judges who would critique you in person and give you pointers.  I got some great advice on the dramatic side.  Then it was time for improv.

I don’t remember what characters or situation I got, but whatever it was I went for it.  I left everything on that stage and I remember getting an incredible reaction from the crowd and judges and I couldn’t have been happier.  Or so I thought.

After everyone else had gone, it was time for our critiques.  A couple folks went first and got the standard fare.  Then it was time for me to stand up.  When I did so the first judge started laughing.  I hadn’t been on stage for 15 minutes at that point, but he looked at me and laughed.  

After a bit he stopped and said “You remind me of Robin Williams.”  I don’t remember what he said after that, because quite frankly, that was the highest compliment anyone had ever given me.  To laugh and compare me to my idol was something special, and something I’ll always remember.

So this past week, we lost another person who shaped my world view.  I’ll miss his humor, and I’ll miss his tenderness.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Indeed, thank you Oh Captain My Captain.

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.

Load More