Monday, August 20, 2018

Off to Italy

Well, today is the day that has been circled on the calendar for along time: oggi andiamo in Italia (today we travel to Italy).

The Chancellor and I  are traveling with her sister and her husband, who recently retired. It's a long trip: Eighteen days. Even longer away from work: 23 days

We headed to Campli in Teramo which is in the Abruzzo region to visit with family at the annual Pork Festival, then to Rome for Sister and husband to do the Roman Shuffle (Vaticano, Coliseum, Trevi Fountain etc), off to Lake Garda and Sirmione, then we meet my brother for a week in Lucca, Tuscany and finally a night in Roma before heading home. 

It seems like a long trip but really it's only two more days then the last trip in 2014.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

I want my two Dollars.

Yesterday was shopping day and years ago The Chancellor and I decided that we should align our responsibilities to our talents. She was very good with money and therefore doing bills seemed in her wheel house and me? I got food shopping since, well, I like to snack.

Yesterday was a little unusual since The Chancellor went food shopping with me. Usually this means it will take 35% longer, cost 30% more, I will go home with some decorative do-dad and there will be dancing in the aisles.

But today it only meant we were going for Sushi at Wegmans and then I would food shop alone and she would explore the 350 other stores in the giant Suburban Shopping Center megaplex.

This particular Saturday was a special sampling day and Wegmans had little stands set up to sample goods, kind of like Costco does.

Booth #1? Sushi. Well how appropriate.

The lady in the booth was offering "Wegmans Buffalo Shrimp Sushi Roll" for $7.99 and she said there was a $2 off coupon. She said the coupon was "in the app". Of course it is - you can't just had me a paper coupon like it's 1975 or something. We sampled her Sushi Roll, which was good,  and moved along to check out the Sushi counter.

While checking the rest of the Sushi, I decided to check the Wegmans app and turns out that I hadn't used the app in long, long time and that my iPhone had to download the app - again. So off it went downloading.

I found what I thought was the coupon - for $2 off the general hot and cold bar food, got the Buffalo Shrimp Sushi Rolls, the Chancellors Spicy Wild Tuna Volcano Roll and headed for checkout.

Of course you know where this is going - there was no $2 off coupon for Wegmans Buffalo Shrimp Sushi Roll in my app.

Now I have a choice - I can be "that guy" who holds up the whole line for $2 and makes a scene or I can quietly go away. Part of me wants to stand up for what's right and part of me just wants the whole thing to end.

I ask the checkout girl why I didn't get my $2 off explaining the booth, which she can see over my shoulder, and the nice lady offering samples who said there was a coupon.

Checkout girls says "let me see your phone" implying that I am an old feeble person who doesn't understand today's modern iPhone technology and scrolls through the list of coupons available like Louis the XVII looking for someone new to behead.

"No, that's the wrong coupon, it's $18.10" she says.

Dismissed, just like that. Well that just pissed me off.

I looked at the ever-increasing line and swear the nice people behind me had torches and pitch-forks.

I explained again, that nice lady over here (pointing) said there was a $2 off coupon.

She said there wasn't and we were at a stand off.

Now it's a matter of principle and about teaching a large regional American supermarket chain with 95 stores in Mid-Atlantic and New England regions a lesson.

And getting my two dollars.

I pay for the meal and head directly to Customer Service with my ever-increasing-warmer Wegmans Buffalo Shrimp Sushi Roll.

At the counter I explain that there is a nice lady at booth with Wegmans Buffalo Shrimp Sushi Roll samples and she says there is a $2 off coupon and well I went to the checkout and Louis XVII behind the checkout counter couldn't find the coupon either despite her best scrolling efforts and so I don't think there is a coupon.

She scrolls through her own phone and finds the coupon.

"Let me see your phone"

What again? Does everyone just assume I'm technically incompetent?

Scroll, scroll, scroll - no coupon.

Then she goes to some computer terminal off to the right and tells me she sees it there and there a coupon this week for free dish washing liquid.

I do not want free dishwashing liquid.

I want satisfaction. I want my two dollars.

I explain that I do not have the coupon in the app and that the nice lady at the booth said there was coupon and bought the Wegmans Buffalo Shrimp Sushi Roll based on the fact that there was a coupon and then Louis the XVII couldn't find the coupon either

At this point, Customer Service lady literally opened the register and gave me two crisp One Dollar bills.

I told her I'd like to see a manager.

I recall in High School that there was a nice old teacher that they had put out to pasture as a "Guidance Counselor" and the Guidance Counselor would tell you want kind of jobs there were and what your aptitude for these jobs would be.

Never once did I hear of a job called Professional Corporate Apologizer and here I was face to face with John, the professional apologizer.  John said was he sorry and the he understood its frustrating that nice lady was telling people there was $2 off coupon the app when clearly there wasn't and that he would take care of it. John tried to give me another $2 but I told him that I had gotten my two dollars, thank you.

Semi-satisfied we went off to eat but not before stopping by the Sushi sample booth were I explained that you told me there was a coupon and well Louis the XVII over there couldn't find it and Customer service couldn't find it either.

"Let me see your phone"

Are you kidding me? I'm getting my free dish washing liquid and going home.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Key, Quay what ever.

I have a few "travel anomalies":

  • I've spent more time in Rome than New York City even though I am 90 miles from NYC. 
  • I spent a year in Japan but have never been to New Orleans or Hawaii. 
  • I've seen Pusan South Korea but never set foot in St Louis.
  • I had never been to the UK but I saw "Empire Strikes Back" in Mombasa Kenya.
And now I can say I've been to UK. On Bidness. 

It was to be Saturday overnight flight from Philly and I was travelling with my long time work freind John. We arrived early to airport and John went to see if we could improve our Corporate Economy middle seats to aisle or better. Apparently there had been a "equipment change" to an A330-200. 

Do you know the difference between a A330-200 and a A330-300? Neither did I. Surpise! It's 46 fewer seats. 

Snarky Airline counter lady asked us: Do you want to remain in the plane or is the wing OK? 

We loved our middle seats, thanks. 

So the poor gate people had a problem: how to get 46 people off this plane and onto later (the next day) flights.  Now last year this process would have been to drag people off the plane by their ankles, banging their heads on every seat by boot-heeled thugs whilst the rest of plane videoed the process for prosperity - hopefully in landscape and not portrait. 

Needless to say they've since upgraded the process and that new process is to offer money. Well, not cash exactly but something called "vouchers". They started at $1,000 and got 6 whole people. They upped the ante to $2,000 and started boarding the plane. We assumed they were done. 

John said earlier that if they got to $2,500 he was bailing on the trip for today. For us this made sense: We were point to point with no connecting flights. We could go home and simply come back tomorrow and arrive Monday instead of Sunday. 

And so we were seated. Seated in a row with a man equally as large as us. Squashed in is a more accurate description since once I was in, I couldn't reach my bag or my seat pocket and my arm was asleep. 

That's when they announced that they needed 4 more volunteers and they were willing to play $3,600 per. 

John and I looked at each other. We thought of our associate Will whom was flying from JFK and we were meeting at Heathrow. The ride to Ipswich was in John's name and Will would be, well, screwed. 

And there was a whole trust thing with the airline. What is a voucher? How long is it good for? What is good for? Can I share it with the chancellor or when we go to Italy in September will it be my wife squeezed into an economy seat between Jaba-the-hut and Jason Kelce and me sipping Prosecco and eating perfect caprese insalata in 1st class, thereby ruining the rest of my trip? 

No thanks. 

They got 3 more volunteers and offered the last seat at a peak price of $3,800. 

We were good to go, right? 

Well, not quite because apparently the baggage folks weren't quite up to speed on the whole "46 less" thing and had put EVERYONE's luggage on the plane. 

So my first question is Why the F did you weigh my luggage if you could somehow squeeze on 46 extra bags without having the landing gear collapse? 

Second question: Why the F did you put all the bags on the plane if you knew 46 people weren't making the flight?

Oh well. Just try to keep that blood circulating in the arm that's asleep. 

After our $3,800 prize winner left the aircraft we had two hours of bumping noises below us as they sorted through 380 people's bags looking for the 46 people's bags that left the plane. 

That must be some process: "Do you have 93560092356?" Nope. "Do you have 93570092356?" Nope. "Do you have 73560092356?" Nope.

Finally we were cleared and left Philly. 

We landed at Heathrow 2 hours late, found John's driver and made the 2 hour drive to Ipswich. 

Ipswich is a big town for the surrounding Suffolk area. By day it reminded me of a PBS murder mystery. (Is that Mrs McGillicuddy floating face up in the Harbor?) and at night it reminded me of any song from the Dire Straight's eponymous first album.

Maybe it was because the opening Lyric to the opening "Down to the Waterline" is:

Sweet surrender on the quayside

and our Hotel was actually on the Quayside. A real Quay! Which, by the way is pronounced like "key"and not like quake. Maybe I expected to see a marquee saying the "Sultans of Swing" were in town.

Either way:

You get a shiver in the dark, It's a raining in the park but meantime- South of the river you stop and you hold everything 

Ipswich is the biggest town in Suffolk and the biggest thing going on in Ipswich seemed to be my Company's building. Completed in 1975, it was and is a big deal for the area. The architect Norman Foster used the shape of the plot of land of make the exterior shape of the building and pushed the technological boundaries of 1975 to hang a curtain of reflective glass as the exterior. The interior, well, you have to see for yourself.

Willis Building - Ipswich

Why is it green and yellow? Because it was one of Lord Norman Foster's first big corporate buildings and as such is registered as a historic building. My company can change nothing including the 1970's green and yellow.

We spent 3 days in Ipswich, drove to Reigate and then I spent a night near Heathrow where I hoped a ride into central London for a few hours.

Pictures here.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

2018 Eagles Parade.

The decision to go to the first ever Eagles parade was easy. Ever since I started working at 1500 Market, I thought this is a good spot to view a parade.

Getting there was a little harder.

Basically the plan was PATCO in, shelter in place in the office, watch the parade and PATCO home.

Ten years before I did get to see the Phillies parade but that was a different era. Oldest son needed my permission to go. This time he needed his employers and his wife's.

Last time I sauntered in at 7 AM on PATCO and the train was empty. This time there was a one hour line in the cold just to get to the platform and it was SRO.

My building was on lock down, and actually I'm surprised they even opened. I'm not sure how you could have worked after that commute and the madness going on outside.

We settled onto the 22nd floor, had a nice picnic lunch and waited for the parade.


When the parade did come, it was pretty loud.

Here is a timelapse

All Pictures here

'75 Flyers Parade

In 1974 the Philly sports landscape was dismal. The Eagles were 5-8-1, the Phillies nearly lost a hundred and the Sixers were one year removed from the record worst NBA season ever at 9-73.

Philly teams did not win. That much was clear to me in my youth.

But then an upstart sport showed up on the scene, Ice Hockey. It was brutal and resonated almost immediately with Philadelphians when the NHL added an expansion team here. Hockey had turned into my Dad's favorite and he even took us to few games when Flyers were in town and the SPECTRUM had a roof.

By 1974 the Flyers had gotten good by brutality and  intimidation and I had watched TV at a friends as they beat the Boston Bruins - the New England Patriots of that league and time - 1-0.

I recall riding my by bike home thinking that a Philly team had done it, won it all.

This just didn't happen to us.

I did not go to the parade that year. I don't recall why. But we sure did hear about it.

When the Flyers won it again the following year, it was a no brainer. We were going - school or no school.

In 1974, the city was caught completely off guard by the estimated 2 Million people that showed up. It was mayhem.

I'm not sure that they were any better prepared for 1975 - at least by today's standards. They did take the precaution of moving the Flyers and their families to trucks and buses instead of the convertibles used the year before and they change the parade route from the goofy loop around Walnut and Chestnut to more reasonable East on Market, around City Hall and south on Broad to the old JFK stadium.

The crowd felt as if the tri-state area attended a kegger. Every. High. School. Emptied. on to. Market.

I don't recall exactly but I'm sure my high school friends and I took the El from 69th Street to center city. My strongest memory of the day was that as the parade passed, the crowd rushed the parade and attempted to get onto the buses and floats. The attempts to mount the floats were largely thwarted but the buses were left unprotected and the crowd started climbing a bus with the Flyers families. These were basically city SEPTA buses still festooned with their 70's era billboards on the sides. To a crazed teenager, a billboard is practically a written invitation, a ladder, a challenge.

Challenge accepted.

We started to mount the buses via the billboards. My friend Mark was a bit more agile than the rest of us and he was able to grab hold of  the windows past the billboards and he was up and onto the roof. For the rest of us the billboards quickly became an impediment as they were torn from the bus top first and thereby knocking all comers back to the street.

The bus pulled away with Mark and few others as the parade moved on and we never saw Mark again for the rest of the day.

The next day (because in those days once you got separated, you stayed separated unless a miracle occurred i.e. no cell phones)  we found out that Mark had surfed that bus roof all the way into JFK stadium.

It was a real good day.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

5th Time is the charm.

Our 2002 Honda Odyssey still has one piece of Scotch "invisible" tape in the back hatch window at a 45 degree angle, towards the upper drivers side of the window. I know because I put that piece of tape there on Friday the 16th of January in 2004. That and a matching piece of tape held a cardboard Eagles sign from the Philadelphia Inquirer  encouraging the Eagles to win their 3rd attempt at the NFC Championship in the same number of years.

Youngest son is now driving that van as his everyday car. My guess is that he doesn't even know that piece of tape is there. 

But I know. I know because it haunted me every. single. time. I. looked. in. the. rear. view.

It was a reminder that somehow the Eagles had lost that Championship game, at home, badly. 

The first Championship attempt you had a feeling that they were just lucky to be there. It was the height of the St Louis Rams greatest show on turf years and they were the number seed. The Eagles were a 3 seed and had come up through the playoffs the hard way. One home wildcard game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they were know in those days, a defensive showing against the 2 seed Bears in Chicago and finally off to St Louis for Championship week. 
I recall thinking that this was new ground for the Eagles, one game from the "Big Game" as they say when they don't have the rights. The Eagles weren't favored but they came within 1 drive of winning when smiling Donovan McNabb threw a pick to Aeneas Williams with 1:55 left.  

It felt acceptable. They had almost done it. Wait till next year. 

The next year looked even more promising. Eagles were the 1 seed, edging out the 2 seed Bucs becasue they had beat them head to head in week 7.  The talk Championship week was that Bucs can't win if the game time temperature is below 40 because somehow the Bucs were like hothouse flowers that can't stand the cold. 
The last game played at the Vet did not end well with the Bucs winning 27-10. Eagles fans will recall Joe Jurevicius doing what ever he wanted against an injured Blaine Bishop and again the game ending for the Eagles on a McNabb interception, this time to Ronde Barber for a pick 6. 

Which brought us to the 2003/2004 Championship. Surely this can't happen three years in a row, especially since again the Eagles were the 1 seed, favored to win, just coming off the exciting 4th and 26 game divisionals against the Packers? This is the year, right?

You know what happens. Venue doesn't matter and the first Championship game at the Linc ends in a dismal offensive showing by the Eagles and Carolina exposing a glaring weakness for the defense that couldn't stop the run. 

For a year that simple piece of Scotch tape mocked me. Reminding me. 14-3.

Of course 2004/2005 brought TO and a Championship. A stout defense that fixed it's run issues by bringing back Jeremiah Trotter and the McNabb to TO connection crushed teams all year long to the point where not only were they #1 seeds - but they had established that after 14 games and took nearly three weeks off before beating an over extended Minnesota and the Mike Vick led Falcons - all without TO.

So how does tomorrows game feel compared to the above?

Kind of a combo of 2001 and 2005. At the beginning of the year no one expected them to be here. There were a lot of 8-8 prognosticators making it feel like 2001. But then these Eagles got to this game by the shear will of their young, emerging superstar QB who is now hurt - which makes it feel like 2005 with a hurt TO who put them over the top.

I'm honestly not sure what to expect tomorrow. I honestly think these are two mirror image teams with very good defenses, former backup QBs (which ironically were interchangeable teammates on a 2015 7-9 Rams team) and good running games. I think it comes down to Halapoulivaati Vaitai and who makes the most mistakes.

My prediction: Home team wins 20-17. And that's only because 20-17 is the mostly like outcome in any football game and the Home team has an advantage.  

Friday, December 29, 2017

If you were in Seat 38, Row A of the Balcony at the Walter Kerr Theater last night, you may have been inappropriate.

I've heard it said that every office has a Michael Scott and if you don't know who it is, then it is you.

If you were sitting in the Balcony Even side Row A by the spot light, standing with a raised fist yelling Broooooooooooooooooooooooce and singing along at "Springsteen on Broadway" last night... well.. I have some news for you.

I say this because of the dramatic difference between every other hootin' and a hollerin' Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Show I've seen and the performance of Springsteen on Broadway.

You, apparently, did not recognize this difference.

I point this out here not embarrass you but instead to show how different the Broadway show is. It's reverent. It's so quiet at times you hear a pin drop. Sometimes he sings with out the Mic. It's reflective. It's an old man dreaming of boyhood intermixed with songs of boyhood. However, there are times he can rock too.

But it is clearly not an "E Street" performance.

Me and a Psychic

How did I get tickets?

I signed up for the "Verified Fan" ticketing process on a whim. I'd go if picked but it wasn't like I felt compelled to go. When the first round of codes were sent via text, I was in the mountains of remote Carlolina-stan with Wifi but no SMS coverage - unless you count holding your phone in the general direction of civilization out off the highest deck and waiting for "the bar" to show up at 4G. Since my phone is tied to my employers intergalactic corporate account, I couldn't even turn on "wifi calling". So basically I was screwed. I fully expected to receive a text the next day while driving through "town" that basically said "thanks for playing but you needed to respond yesterday".

That never happened.

So I forgot all about verified fan and Springsteen on Broadway until one Sunday when I was cooking on the back deck at home in Mt La-La and received a text about a code for Verified Fan two months later. I was working from home the day tickets went on sale so I thought "why not?"

When 10 AM rolled around, I got right in the site and and panicked a bit at "when would we go?".  I figured the week between Christmas and New Years is good because I'm off and maybe we can make a short vacation out of it. Of course it's difficult to predict 13 degrees with a windchill of 5 in October.

The 28th of December it is. Now, what seats to pick? I started with cheaper lower level seats, picked two and when the price came to seven-hundred-and-something dollars, freaked out a bit. Mr Springsteen, I love you and all but you have enough of my money. The Chancellor was a willing Springsteen victim when it was a large group going out for a good time but 2 hours of Bruce intimacy at seven-hundred-something dollars?

No way.

I dumped the lower level tix, went for the balcony and to my surprise I got two. One hundred sixty something bucks and I could stay married. Winner.

I texted the biggest Bruce fan I know, Gail. Gail is The Chancellor's best friend and the sister of a high school friend - way back when we all lived back in PA. Yes, the Chancellor is a bit like Oprah AND has best friend named Gail. Gail's a little, uh, passionate about these things. When it's an E Street concert, she usually gets Philly AND NY tickets. I told her to save the date as she was my second choice after the Chancellor.

Later that night when I told the Chancellor how lucky we were, the first things she said was "well, you have to to take Gail"

And we were set. Gail and I would go and the Chancellor and Mr Gail would do something New Yorky at Christmas.

Mr Gail wasn't all that happy about it - mostly because for some reason Gail, Bruce's Number 1 Fan in Mt-La-La, neglected to sign up for verified fan ticketing. He wanted to go to the show too but there wasn't much I could do at that point.

It never occurred to me that Gail and I would have to explain our "relationship" until the day of.

Now, not many know this but Gail is a bit of a Springsteen Psychic since he speaks to her in dreams. It started in '99 when she dreamed he would play "Factory" and of course he did. The night before this show she had a dream where we end up on stage.

How would I explain our relationship to Bruce if he asked us when we on stage?

Well, she my wife's best friend and ... Well she really likes You and ... Well my wife, she really doesn't love you. She wanted to go but that whole Verified Fan thing freaked out a bit....  Anyway, we did not get on stage and it never came up, thank God.

13. 13 Freaking degrees.

The day arrived.
The whole day seemed like a race against time. We left Mt-La-La a little after two for a 4:45 dinner reservation at Bond 45 on 46th. (I'd recommend it) Of course NYC traffic at Christmas can be wee a bit hellish and we left plenty of time but somehow still found ourselves in a long line of red tail lights waiting to get in the Lincoln tunnel with 45 minutes and 3.5 miles to go. Waze said we weren't going to make it. Like ever. Never saw that before - "you'll never get there" as the ETA.

We arrived at the restaurant a little after 5 after the coldest 2 block walk I've been on since walking to Junior High School.  They seated us right away and I thought we'd be fine on time from there on. 5 PM, order dinner, how long could that take?

Imagine my surprise when at 6:25 we still didn't have meals. Getting a bit nervous now. I must have spent 3-7 PM just snapping my fit-bit up to examine the time - It's amazing I don't have carpel tunnel.

Dinner arrives at 6:30 and by 7 we are out of there. We had a bit of a scuffle about seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center, which we could if we rushed but I just couldn't rush through something else.  No Tree and off towards Times Square where of course they are setting up for NYE. Snap some selfies and then off to the Kerr Theater on 48th.

So happy it's not 3 days later

Here we separated from our spouses as they went on "The Ride" and we headed into the theater.

The Walter Kerr is old. There is no getting around that. It's clearly from a by-gone era when men in horse costumes danced and told jokes. "Daisey, how many fingers am I holding up?" and the "horse" scratches three times with a hoof. It's that old.

I get the sense that everyone there considers themselves lucky to be there. There's a sense of privilege in the air. "Why, yes, as a matter of fact I did see Springsteen on Broadway, you must go go if you get a chance" type of thing.However, it is the typical NY/NJ Bruce crowd. Before the show my whole row remarked how we were all bald men in the their 50s and 60s. Imagine 480 enlarged prostates.

We make our way to the balcony after finding the Ladies room on the street side, the "odd" side of the mezzanine. I find out the men's room is on the opposite "even" side. The women's room has a sign saying how they want everyone to be comfortable and that you can use what ever bathroom of the sex you recognize yourself as.

I briefly entertain the idea of identifying as a woman - just to save flights of steps.

We meet again the balcony and find our seats on the "even" side. It's really not bad. You can see and hear everything even though it is a strange angle to view the stage.

The show starts a little after 8. There will be no Patti tonight as she's ill at home. Later Bruce tells us she was hospitalized on Christmas with the flu.

The show is a poetic version of the book with appropriate songs on acoustic guitar and piano intermixed. For the faithful, this is a close to a papal audience as they are going to get.

Did I love it? Meh. Don't get me wrong I loved going, but was I going to worship at the feet of He who from Freehold? Probably not.

Bruce is funny though, especially with the ironic stuff. He who wrote "Born to Run" and "Thunder Road" specifically about getting OUT of his home town, now lives 10 minutes from the Famous-because-Bruce-is-from-there Freehold. He tells you that he who wrote "Racing In the Streets" did not know how to drive a car at age 21.

That's when you realize: Bruce Springsteen was that friend that always needed a ride.

He stays away from the Mike Appel days and the darker depression stuff but his father hangs over the whole performance like a shadowy figure. His mom is the happy one. His sister married a rodeo star.

Overall, I enjoyed going and I enjoyed bringing Gail. I just wish the person in seat 38 sang-along less.

On the way out, while I waited in line with 479 other enlarged prostates at the Men's room, Gail snagged us two discarded Springsteen on Broadway souvenir cups (with lids!) and some strangers last swig of beer. Yes, she's that big a fan.

You must go if you get the chance

Growin' Up (guitar)
My Hometown (piano)
My Father's House (guitar)
The Wish (piano)
Thunder Road (guitar)
The Promised Land (guitar)
Born in the U.S.A. (guitar)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out (piano)
Long Time Comin' (guitar)
The Ghost of Tom Joad (guitar)
Long Walk Home (guitar)
The Rising (guitar)
Dancing in the Dark/Land of Hope and Dreams (guitar)
Born to Run (guitar)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 the year in review.

Once 2017 is in the rear-view, I'd think The Chancellor and I would look back and think "well that was a good year"

There was a college graduation per son, youngest son started his first big-boy job, our first wedding and of course the pinnacle event: our oldest son got off our cellular data plan. 

I only say this because I've never actually heard of people getting off your data plan and among the our circle of parents of adults, having that warning text come in about how "you" are about to exceed your unbelievably and seemingly insurmountable data plan limit is the bane of our existence. 

But as it says in Genesis:

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and their data plan, and shall cleave unto his wife's" 

And so it was that oldest son and his wife moved onto to Verizon and I gleefully check the AT&T pie charts to see how far we are from our limit. 3.43 GB of 22.39 GB with 17 days left, ba-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. I'm looking forward to seeing how big I can get the rollover to be.

In other news about 2017, it was a big year for travel.

I probably did more more business travel in 2017 than the past 5 years combined and the Chancellor joined me for at least one of those trips.  We went to Colorado to visit her uncle while brother-who-isnt-on-the-internet=even-though-he-has-a-domain was visiting. He left Dulles Airport at 5:30 AM and we left Philly at 8:30 AM and somehow we met them on the road as they drove out of the parking lot of the Safeway in Canon City, CO. We visited with the Uncle in the Mountains (see below) for the weekend and then I attended business meetings in Denver. It worked out perfectly.

We had been planning a return to Italy but we'd have to settle for a wedding and I'll count the wedding as travel since we rented a home in Brigantine and had our family stay with us for several days in September.

I also visited the Joker's Lair in San Francisco, spent less than 24 hours in Tampa, FL and visited our new IT headquarters in Nashville three times.

Mountains were a big theme this year as we visited my brothers place in the mountains of North Carolina, twice visited Lake Wallenpaupak in PA and attended the Papaloni family reunion in Watkins Glen, NY

I guess a business trip to our Arlington, VA office and a weekend in Ashburn, VA also count as travel.

The places I visited in 2017
12,80,92,72,53,33,68,24,53,45,33,77,02,89,25,16,34,97,64,82,69,70,97  Any guesses? These are the deli numbers I've had this year. True story. While waiting to be called I always snap a picture. On the Internet everyone has "a thing". I guess I joined late and all that was left was taking pictures of deli numbers.

We're still doing Hello Fresh  since it matches our Calais Ad lifestyle. Oh and we joined dance lessons at M'Kor Shalom Synagogue to reinforce this. Again, we are two outdoor tubs and a convertible away from having our own Ad. Maybe next year.

The M'Kor Hustle

In other news, my dog is more popular than I am at work after she barks at any molecular movement outside our window while I'm on conference calls and I shared this calendar with co-workers.

We watched an eclipse,
Shot guns.
and I built a new computer
And we bought a car, unseen, over the internet and we love it.

On towards 2018!

Friday, October 20, 2017

And a wake up.

Servicemen have an expression they use when counting down to some day in the future, they'll say "I have X days and a wake up".  

Thirty five years ago, on the 19th of October 1982, I was down to the wake up after 6 1/4 years in the United States Navy. I was leaving NAS Whidbey Island and headed back to who-knows-what-lies-ahead.  The moving company had already come at great expense to your Government and taken all of my household effects, put them on a truck and started the drive back to my parents home in Broomall, Pennsylvania that I had left 2282 days previous. Now all that lay ahead was 3,000 miles of the continental United States and no time table other than "before the snows set in".

I had bought a 1971 VW "super" beetle in 1978 and four years later it had over a hundred seventy five  thousand miles on a rebuilt engine. The car had a stereo I had designed myself that basically turned the small car into a giant set of headphones - which may explain the constant ringing in my years today. The mission was to get me, the car and few things I didn't have the moving company haul in a giant mostly empty moving van back home.

By time I got rid of the car in 1988 it had over 250,000 miles and spoiler alert, it made exactly one trip across the US.
The VW Super-beetle

The only agenda I had was to make it to Memphis, Tennessee to visit my friend Chuck.  There were no google maps, only a giant paper US atlas with a road map of the lower 48. That meant the route taken wasn't exactly, well, direct.

Rarely in life do you recall exactly where you were at exactly a precise time, but at 0900 on the 19th of October in 1982 I was inside a wooden Government building that just had to be a left over from World War II and I was picking up a giant packet of papers that basically said I was free to go for the first time in 75 months. It sounds like I was being freed from prison but it didn't feel that way at the time. It was just "what's next" and this was what was next: hang out for a bit in Oak Harbor and then leave Washington State and spend a few days driving across the US.

I drove north to head south and I was making it up as I went. Whidbey Island had one way in and one way out if you didn't want to take a ferry. So I drove north on Washington Highway 20 for that last time to get to I-5. From there who knows where I would go next.

Highway 20 is one of the most scenic roads in all of America. It travels just about all of Whidbey Island, across the majestic deception pass bridge then winds along lakes on Fidalgo Island until it turns into a business-as-usual divided expressway that connects with I-5, the western north-south conduit sandwiched between the Cascade mountains and Puget sound.

I was now on what would be considered a common trip if you lived on Whidbey Island - a trip back to civilization. The further you drove, the stronger the radio signals and the better chance of finding a mall. No worries, I had boxes of cassette tapes and knew better that to be dependent on signal strength to be entertained, after all this was my 4th year and 900th set of wiper blades in the pacific northwest. Once you got to I-5 it was North to Canada and South to Seattle. Simple choice.

So it was south on I-5 then towards Seattle for one last time. I had been as far south as Silver Lake on I-5 on that trip my brother and I took to go see Mount St Helens, or what was left of it but that was back in the summer. After Mt St Hellens was unseen vistas and untraveled highways.

Like I said, I really didn't plan out my journey with any precision. I would drive as far as I could for the day and find a place to stay.

So, I went to Portland and I made a left.

I'd always heard that the Columbia River gorge was beautiful and it was until surprise! it started raining. Rain. Portland, October. What are the chances?

While tooling along I-84 by the river, I went wandering across the FM dial and found, for the very first time, All Things Considered on NPR. I'd never even heard of NPR but I remember just being enthralled at the depth of the stories and how unlike it was compared to all other radio news programs.  I searched NPR out for the rest of the trip.

I stayed in some mom-and-pop hunters lodge motel once i got tired enough, in Pendleton, OR I think.

The next morning I was off first thing but only drove half a day to Boise after all - I recalled - I was in no hurry. I got a nice room in nice hotel and just hung out.

It was weird.

The next day I decided to cover some ground and got as far as Provo, UT. I recall having a very odd feeling around Provo - like something was off.

The following day the idea was to meet up with I-70 and truly head east but to get to I-70 I'd have to cut through the dessert on a piece of two lane black top, UT-191. This is where the boredom caught up with me.  I decided that my foot was getting tired since all it was doing was pressing the gas pedal down and so I looked around the car. I had a squeegee with about a one  to one and half foot handle on it so I took that, jammed in front of the seat structure and onto the gas pedal.

Wha-la The Italian cruise control. I rode most of that lonely road with the "cruise" on.

This was a clear transition phase and I was now deep into it. I was leaving behind six years and three months of being constantly in motion from one base and ship to another and moving on towards consistency. I'd go back to school that next semester and finally get my bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering. A week after my return the Broomall area I'd meet the Chancellor through some old friends. Life rarely has such clean lines of demarcation like this. I was done with the USN and moving on to the next chapter. In 7 more years, I'd be married and we'd be having our first child.

Oh, and why six years and three months? Because I signed up for six to get the electronics training I wanted and then had to extend another 3 months to make sure I had 18 months reserved for shore duty - other wise I'd have to to stay on my last ship, the USS Midway, for an 15 extra months. It didn't seem fair at the time but things have a way of working out. It turns out that during the 18 month shore duty assignment, I had to take a 3 month assignment working at a golf course - in the summer. So effectively, that extra three months was spent working 5 hours a day out in the sunshine. Like I said, it worked out.

But I digress.

It was onto to I-70 and Colorado. It never occurs to you today but cars with carburetors can be ticklish things - especially at higher altitudes. The VW was a simple car and simple meant carburetors. Up next, the Eisenhower and it's 11,000 foot elevation. The poor car was barely puttering along at 35 MPH in second gear by time I reached the top of I-70. I considered pulling over and adjusting the fuel mixture but I figured I'd only have to adjust it back shortly. This was my biggest concern - fouling out the spark plugs but that never happened. Besides it had started lightly snowing.

Once through the tunnel, I started back down, headed into Denver by that evening. I found a motel just before Denver and settled in for the night.

The next morning, just east of Denver I saw something I had never seen before and have never seen since. There was a Colorado State Patrolman standing in the left lane pointing and pulling people over with just a hand signal. I recall thinking he would have lasted approximately 15 seconds in Philadelphia. Standing in the lane, are you kidding me? He just pointed and pulled me over. Checked all my papers and gave me a warning for speeding. Like I'd be around long enough.

I made it to Memphis just before Halloween and stayed with my friend Chuck and his family for a few days. Then one night I decided it was time to go home. So I got in the car and left Memphis as it was getting dark. I was always going to get a place to stay overnight but never did pull over and find something. I just kept going. Which took me to Washington DC at exactly morning rush hour - not wise after driving all night long.

I was home by afternoon after pulling over and getting some sleep and suddenly it was all over.

Updated 10-21-2017, an accompanying playlist

Saturday, June 17, 2017

PURE Accelerate 2017.

I've just returned from San Francisco where I attended PURE Accelerate 2017.

Pure is one of those newer disruptive technologies which is using technical advances in storage and networking to take a bit out of traditional tech behemoths like EMC and HP just like EMC and HP did to IBM twenty years previous.

They're edgy.

One of their co-founders is known for only wearing what is outside my dress-code for normal my work from home outfits - solid colored t-shirts, basketball shorts and sneakers. He wears this same outfit everywhere. Even on stage in front of thousands at PURE Accelerate 2017.


They went out of their way to prove how edgy they are by reusing a former steel factory on the San Francisco water-front on a part of town where the Joker and The Penguin would normally house their lair for the conference.

The building was a shell.  No working plumbing, electrical etc. But it had big empty spaces that PURE filled with the usual conference do-dads. Vendor exhibitions, presentation rooms constructed of orange shipping containers, a room large enough to hold the key note with the largest video screen I've ever seen.

Super edgy.

It's cool.

But edgy comes at a cost.

  • All the electrical power was furnished by generator.
  • The rest room facilities were those high end portable jobs. 
  • The dining was all outdoors under the blue Californian sky. 
  • Food Trucks!
Actually the eating outside was kind of cool. 

But as an East Coast guy I was amazed that "what if it rains" never even occurred to them. 

Technically what these guys are doing with storage is amazing however. I got an update on the their newer flash blade technology. They are basically taking apart SSD drive technology and spreading it across a highly distributed multi-path architecture. 

Amazingly I only understood this after an afternoon double-espresso. I think PURE uses espresso the way the Grateful Dead used acid. One sip and suddenly you understand. 

Good conference and tow-days was just long enough. 

I was reminded how much I love San Francisco. There is just something about that chilly air and bright sunshine that seems perfect. I think most of the people that live there are nuts but I love the town. They all look like or want to look like bike messengers. I guess that's OK but the town is just beautiful with the hills against the picturesque bay.  

Since I was mostly still on East Coast time, I was up early. I mean still dark early. So I walked Market street to he water both mornings and loved it. The 53 degree air had a chill but after walking a bit I warmed right up. 

Just like it's impossible to get a bad meal in Italy, it's impossible to take a bad picture of San Francisco, especially in the early morning. 

I did notice a smell that reminded my of school bus rides in High School and smelling it reminded me where I had left a pack of smokes in 11th grade. They were in the bushes at the corner of Farnsworth and South Central.  

The whole experience had been reinforced because I was making my way through "Long Strange Trip", the Amazon documentary on the Grateful Dead.  And that suddenly made sense to me too. San Francisco is the culture it is today because of the Grateful Dead. They didn't necessarily start it or end it, but they did push it into the forefront of culture. 

Anyway I was thinking that what does PURE do next year to be edgy? I mean after you've had a conference at a compound that looked like a Zombie Apocalypse refuge,  where do you go form there? It's not like next year you go to Caesars in Vegas. 

Here's my idea:

A burning man like Storage experience in the desert. Everyone can wear wacky costumes except of the basketball shorts wearing co-founder - he can wear a suit.

On the final night they burn down a giant EMC VMAX made of sticks.