The Power of Music

Last weekend, my family and I went to a little wine bar in town. It was open mic night, and a couple of my daughter’s friends were going to perform. We went and watched as the girls each performed, and then continued to hang out to see several different sets of people take the stage and do their own thing.

Some of the people did original songs, some did covers, there were even some really good instrumental guitar from a couple of the guests. The music ranged from pop, to punk, to flamenco, to classic rock, but the cool thing was that everyone was supportive, and really had a good time listening to all of the different types of music.

My eldest daughter has been taking guitar lessons for around the last six months. She has never wanted to play AND sing before. But after hanging out and seeing the live music, she immediately started learning some songs at home and singing along. It inspired her to want to perform. It helped her get past that feeling that she couldn’t do it. She was excited about the music, and excited to practice and get better.

My youngest has been teaching herself to play some piano (with a little help from my wife) and has also been taking some voice lessons. Well she immediately asked the wife to get her sheet music to “Lean On Me” so she could learn to play it and sing along as well. Seems she really liked what she saw too.

Hell, even I got the itch to perform again. A couple of the other Dad’s play guitar, so I might try to con them into playing something I could sing along to. Watching everyone perform really made me want to be creative again. I’ve started looking at old song lyrics and poetry, and wondering what I could do with it nowadays. That joy and adrenaline rush you can get from performing is like no other, and who knows, maybe I’ll experience it again soon.

No matter what though, I’m really thankful to have a great local venue that is welcoming to musicians. Good live music is something that inspires everyone, and it’s so cool to have something like that in my hometown. It makes me want to be creative again, and that includes coming back here to write. Let’s hope it becomes a trend.

Weapons of Mass Reduction

Earlier this week, my office at work embarked on a Biggest Loser weight loss challenge. I had planned on attempting to lose weight soon, so this was the perfect thing to jump start me. Myself and three of my colleagues formed a team, and we weighed in this past Wednesday. We are up against seven other teams of four people each. So with the competition so rough, we trained… by eating total crap.

For the week leading up to the weigh in, I ate all the nasty stuff I wanted as a last hurrah.

  • Pizza
  • Chili
  • Chili Dogs
  • Burgers
  • Burgers stuffed with OTHER meat
  • Gyros
  • French Fries
  • Garlic Butter French Fries
  • TONS of sushi (went for some of the deep fried rolls)
  • Meatloaf
  • Sausage Egg and Cheese McGriddles
  • Candy bars
  • Regular full-calorie Coke products

It was a great run, but quite frankly by weigh in, I was actually feeling ill from eating so unhealthy. So it was time.

As always with my attempts at weight loss, I need technology in order to help this geek out. So, I bought a FitBit Ultra and started tracking my food intake on Lose It! I’ll write more on that at a later date, but I really like the combo so far. We’ll see how it holds up.

So wish me luck. I’m off to an awesome start. I’ve already lost six pounds :-)

Close your legs #firstworldproblems

Man, I’ve been away from the blog for quite some time, and what’s the first thing I do upon my return? Bitch.

There’s this burger joint near where I work that’s a Chicagoland landmark, and has been an awesome place to eat for years. Always has great food, and the waitresses (who have been there forever) are awesome.

Well today I go in there, have a seat and I don’t see anyone I recognize. No worries, the place always rocks. My never-before-seen waitress takes my order and then things immediately go downhill.

I order a meal that has chili, a burger, fries and a drink (I’m bulking up for my initial weigh in for a weight loss challenge. More on that in future posts)

Anyway, the chili has add-on’s here. Cheese and sour cream cost $.89 extra for each. I order both. In addition they always ask if you want raw or grilled onions on the burger. Always. This waitress just asked if I wanted everything. I said yes, and that I wanted the onions grilled.

She drops the chili off at the table and then sprints away like she just pulled the wrong cord while diffusing a bomb. Because of her rapid departure I’m not able to tell her that she forgot the cheese. No worry, I probably don’t need it anyway, so I figure I’ll tell her at the end of the meal.

So next she comes by and drops off the burger and fries. She asks if I need anything, and I ask for a side of mayo for the burger. She says sure, and then like the Flash, she’s gone again. I realize then that there’s no onions. Okay, strike two. I’ll inform her when she returns with my mayo. So I wait…and wait…and wait some more.

She’s flittering about the restaurant taking care of people, so I figure the mayo has slipped her mind. I try to flag her down a couple of times to no avail. Fine, before everything gets cold, I’ll eat it without the mayo or the onions. Strike three.

I don’t see her again until after I’ve consumed everything. She does a high-speed fly-by and drops off the check. Not once did she ask to refill my drink (which had been drained since mid-meal.) Strike Four. I look at the check and everything I ordered is on there, including the cheese I never got for that additional $.89 cents. Strike Five.

The waitress has now gone full ninja and I can’t find her anywhere. She didn’t catch a single mistake, didn’t refill my drink, and wasn’t around to ever tell her any of it. That was all annoying enough, but at one point I heard her talking to the people seated in a booth behind me.

“I’m good at this because I can juggle seven kids and this job at the same time.” “Seven kids?” they ask. “Yep, keeps me on my toes.” she says as she sprints away at Mach 5.

That’s the part that really pissed me off. She thought she was awesome at this job, and she bragged about her over-population of the Earth as if repeatedly fucking without contraception was a job skill. In reality she has nothing more than a clown car for a vagina.

So honey, apparently you should have closed your legs years ago, because seven kids was too many to allow you to also be a good waitress. I think I’ve had my last burger there.

For Jen – Happy Valentine’s Day

Never Stop by Safety Suit

This is my love song to you
Let every woman know I’m yours
So you can fall asleep each night, babe
And know I’m dreaming of you more

You’re always hoping that we make it
You always want to keep my gaze
Well you’re the only one I see
And that’s the one thing that won’t change

I’ll never stop trying
I’ll never stop watching as you leave
I’ll never stop losing my breath
Every time I see you looking back at me
I’ll never stop holding your hand
I’ll never stop opening your door
I’ll never stop choosing you babe
I’ll never get used to you

And with this love song to you
It’s not a momentary phase
You are my life, I don’t deserve you
But you love me just the same
And as the mirror says we’re older
I will not look the other way
You are my life, my love, my only
And that’s the one thing that won’t change

I’ll never stop trying
I’ll never stop watching as you leave
I’ll never stop losing my breath
Every time I see you looking back at me
I’ll never stop holding your hand
I’ll never stop opening your door
I’ll never stop choosing you babe
I’ll never get used to you

Still get my heart racing (you)
Still get my heart racing (for you)
Still get my heart racing (you)
Still get my heart racing (for you)

I’ll never stop trying
I’ll never stop watching as you leave
I’ll never stop losing my breath
Every time I see you looking back at me
I’ll never stop holding your hand
I’ll never stop opening your door
I’ll never stop choosing you babe
I’ll never get used to you

Still get my heart racing (you)
Still get my heart racing (for you)
Still get my heart racing (you)
Still get my heart racing (for you)

Lotusphere 2012 Recap

The Swan #ls12
I know that Lotusphere was a couple weeks ago now, but this year I decided to digest it a bit before I put it down on the page here.

The Show

This year was one of the better Lotusphere events in recent memory.  The OGS started with OKGo rocking though three songs and then Michael J Fox was our guest speaker.  The OGS continued on a fast pace with lots of demos and nothing lagging.  It was a huge departure from last year for sure, and very welcome.

The news was all mostly good.  IBM is making everything incrementally better and more connected to each other.  It’s obvious that the Lotus brand is getting sunset (even though next year it’s supposed to still be called Lotusphere) but I think that’s okay in the grand scheme.  IBM has better brand awareness now and Lotus is considered legacy by too many.

For me, the biggest things concerning the whole “social” theme were support for OpenSocial, Embedded Experiences and the Activity Stream.  I’m so used to activity streams in Twitter and Facebook and the like that I’m actually excited by the prospect of this in the business world.  I’m a fairly brutal when it comes to filtering things in real life, and for me I think it will translate well to the business world.  Also, being able to tie into other systems with OAuth and such will be very beneficial.

There were no huge announcements this year, and that’s okay.  The incremental pieces are making everything more usable which is really cool.  The only thing really “out there” was a plug in for Internet Explorer that allows your browser to natively run Lotus Notes apps.  This is fairly amazing.  Too bad it’s windows only, but I still like it.

Me Personally

This year was new for me in a different way.  Since IBM eliminated the blogger program ( how social of them :-) ), this was the first time I wasn’t attending Lotusphere as Press or as a blogger in something like six or seven years.  That means I didn’t have a full schedule of interviews and press conferences to attend.  It was actually really nice as I got to see more of Lotusphere proper than I had in years past.  That said, I did something I had never done at Lotusphere before, and that was speak.

I was on two customer panels.  One was the Customer Evangelist panel and another one was about using Social in the SMB space.  So I didn’t have to prepare like a normal speaker.  In the Evangelist panel I had five slides and five minutes to speak and on the Social panel I just had to answer questions from our panel moderator (Ed Brill) and questions from reporters in the room.

I really enjoyed both, and might actually try my hand at speaking in the future if they’ll have me.  I’ve always loved speaking at events like these, so now I just need to find something compelling enough to talk about.

The essential human element

Some of you will remember the “essential human element” as a past Lotusphere theme.  For me, that’s the theme that has always stuck, because no matter what we are doing in life, it’s our interactions with each other that matter most.  This Lotusphere was no different.  At the end of every day, I gathered with co-workers and friends to relax, talk, smoke cigars and have a few libations.

Kimonos was rather crowded this year, so we didn’t spend as much time there as in previous years, but it was still a good time when we did.  The weather was very cooperative, and sitting outdoors at tables by the Swan and Dolphin pools made for wonderful evenings.

These folks are like family to me, and I know I say that every year, but I really cherish the time I get to spend them.  This is what truly what makes Lotusphere special.  Social?  It’s nothing new.  We’ve been Social for twenty years, I’m just glad IBM finally caught up.

:-)

CES 2012

Amex CES #ces12For those of you that don’t know, I work in the trade show industry.  I’m the Director of IT for a premier exhibit marketer.  We do everything related to exhibit marketing.  Design, Build, Warehouse, Ship, Install, Tear Down etc.

Since I’m on the back-end IT side of things, I normally don’t go to the show floor to see how things happen leading up to an event.  This year I decided to change that, and go see what takes place before an event.  I figured I might as well go big and hit the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.

In a word, overwhelming.

This show is absolutely huge.  On the CES website they state that there are 35 American football fields worth of exhibit floor.  I walked all of that.  Every day.  For three days straight.

I walked it on Monday, before the show was open to the public.  I had my exhibitor badge and got to wander and check everything out.  This was about 20 hours before the show went live, and it’s amazing how much work still has to be done in that last period of time.  I honestly was floored by how much teams for every exhibit do in that last day.  They had been setting up for a week already, and still had tons of fit and finish work to do.

One Tuesday I got there about an hour before the doors open, and I was able to once again walk around before the floodgates opened.  There was still polishing and vacuuming and tons of other things going on everywhere.  Teams really do make the most of their time.  :-)

I spent the day walking the floor again, taking pictures, and checking out various products.  I just wanted to take in the enormity of things, so I spent most of my time walking and checking out differing booth designs and how different categories of products related to each other.  It tends to become sensory overload really quickly.  There must have been 40 premium headphones vendors and just as many iPhone case manufacturers.  Those were just two of the many categories of products.  But even though we in the tech industry enjoy CES, this is really a show focused on the average consumer.  People buying TV’s, cell phones, tablets, stereo equipment, accessories, car stereos etc.  Sure, many manufactures showed off ultra-book designs to compete with the likes of Apple’s MacBook Air, but that wasn’t the big focus.

So I enjoyed it, but since it was my first time, I ran around and looked at everything fairly superficially.  I think in future years I would probably plan out what I wanted to look at first and map out where I wanted to go.  It would make for a less harried experience. That said, I really have a new admiration for the people that put these events and booths together.  The work put in is simply mind-boggling.

In all, CES is an awesome behemoth of a show and worth a trip to other gadget addicts out there such as myself.  It’s absolutely overwhelming in every sense of the word, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing :-)

If you want to check out my photos of some of the various booth designs.  You can find them here.

2012 Resolutions

In years past, I’ve gone fairly in depth, and fairly specifically, into what my resolutions for the new year were.  This year, I’m taking a slightly different track.  So without further adieu, in 2012 I resolve to:

  • Eat slightly less
  • Exercise slightly more
  • Watch less TV
  • Take more photographs
  • Be slower to anger
  • Be quicker to forgive
  • Criticize less
  • Hug more

Yup, that’s it.  A bunch of little things that all done together will make for a better life and a better year. Here’s to a wonderful 2012 for us all!

Reflections on 2011

Well, it’s time again for my yearly post that looks back on the previous year and my resolutions to see how I’ve done.  Well for the resolutions, I flat out sucked to be quite honest.  I didn’t get more fit, and rather gained back some weight.  I spent more time traveling and working and a little less with my family.  In fact, I think we were all over-scheduled a bit.  As for photography, I didn’t really do anything artistic, but did get a lot better at taking photos of sporting events thanks to my daughter’s gymnastics.

About the only thing I did accomplish from my list was to enjoy what I have and decrease spending.  Even with that, there never seemed to be a surplus of money.  Seems we always just get by.

Now if you read the above, you might think I had a crummy year, but the opposite is true.  It was actually quite good, and here are some reasons why:

  • We accomplished a ton at work this year.  We opened a new office, moved three others, updated systems, launched a killer XPages application, increased network capacity and much more.  In fact, it’s been IT’s most productive year I can remember.  I owe all of that to the awesome team of individuals I have working with me.
  • My youngest had a great gymnastics season, and her and her team ended up winning first place at Nationals.  She was ranked 6th overall in the nation for her age group.  It was pretty amazing.
  • Nationals was at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Disney in Orlando.  So in the spring, we made the trip and enjoyed a vacation as well.  That didn’t help the whole “spending” thing though.
  • My eldest started dancing at two new places (one a competitive team and the other for technique classes) and she really enjoys it.  In addition she’s found a few new really close friends out of the deal, and that’s pretty cool.
  • The man cave really came into it’s own.  It got lots of use as I was able to have friends over for poker or sports or just to hang out.  The ability to do that this year was really nice and helped keep me level headed.
  •  The Zen attitude really helped this year.  My whole “let go” motif has really served me well.  Now it doesn’t always work, I am human after all, but for the most part I’ve been able to not be bothered by things I cannot change. I’ve also been pretty good at the separation of work and home life, and that has made things better for the family.
  • Most recently, I was picked to speak twice at Lotusphere in 2012.  It’s quite the honor and I look forward it it in January.

So the year itself was pretty great overall.  Myself and my family were happy, healthy and busy, which is much better than the alternatives.  Here’s to an even better 2012.

Bah F’ing Humbug

Not sure why really, but I just couldn’t get into the holiday spirit this year.  I generally love the Holidays and the time leading up to it but this year I just went through the motions.

It could have been the fact that it’s been an incredibly mild fall and early winter so far.  We’ve barely had any snow, and temps have been really warm for Chicago.  It’s been rainy and grey and bleak.  So the season didn’t feel like Christmas.

In addition, I love to give gifts.  I love to surprise people, and try to get that perfect gift that makes them go wow.  But this year, things have been much tighter money-wise and so we scaled WAY back.  In fact the wife and I pretty much knew what we were getting each other, and it wasn’t much.  So I didn’t get that feeling of snagging the perfect gift. I know that’s not the reason for the season, but it’s a fun piece that I felt I missed out on a bit.

Work has been high stress at the moment too, and it’s for a good reason, but the normally relaxed holiday season has been a million miles an hour.  A major office move, and a major project all aligning at the same time meant glitches.  Glitches that normally aren’t a big deal, but when you are on a deadline, things change a bit.  Some of glitches are out of our hands too, and I hate that feeling of being responsible for something yet not being able to fix it myself.

Next, my kids are at an age where they are constantly at each others throats.  So it seems every time we are in a car, or spending time together as a family, they are fighting like cats and dogs.  The eldest is constantly neglecting the youngest, and the youngest is purposefully being annoying to compensate.  In addition, the youngest is hypoglycemic, so she needs to eat right and watch her sugar intake.  But she’s been horrible about not wanting to eat anything that might be decent for her.  So THAT has been a struggle.  Then she spent all of Christmas with a horrible cold that blossomed into nasal and ear infections. So she was completely miserable for the holiday and it sucks to see her this way.  After the doctor’s visit today, hopefully that improves.

It also seems like forever since the wife and I have had a date night.  We don’t do babysitters, so it’s always generally my in-laws that take the girls for a night when we need it.  But, we’ve been so busy for the last several months that we just haven’t had time to get away for a movie or dinner.  So I’m missing that.

So fuck it, I’m in a shitty mood.  And today’s work glitches (that we couldn’t control) did not help matters.

But all of that said, I think everyone is entitled to have shitty moods once in awhile.  So I can wallow a bit and not feel the least bit guilty.  But, I’m not going to take it lying down.  It’s time to reverse the mood, and here are some reasons why.

For one, I’m speaking at Lotusphere for the first time ever.  That kicks ass.  For those of you who aren’t part of my Lotus circle of friends, Lotusphere is the annual IBM conference that talks about social software.  It’s a honor to speak, and I’m thrilled to be a part of two sessions.

Next, I’ll be attending the Consumer Electronics Show in a couple of weeks.  The company I work for does a lot of work for that show, so I wanted to see some behind the scenes, and I’m just a huge gadget nerd too.  So even though it’s work, I think it’s something I’ll really enjoy.

Most importantly, my family has their health (minus poor youngest’s cold), I have a job that I really do love, I work with people whom I trust and admire, and I’m blessed to have family that I actually like to be around and see on a regular basis.

So as I sit here in my kick ass man cave, listening to music on the Sonos, smoking a cigar and drinking some Scotch while typing this blog, I just have to say to myself “Suck it up you pussy.”  So that’s what I’m going to do.  Time to harden the fuck up.

So today, Bah Fucking Humbug.  Tomorrow, I reign supreme.

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