Friday, June 27, 2008

New Photos, Discovery Green - Alex's Nature Class

Here's the photos:

While I was in Florida, Meredith and the guys went to Houston to visit the Holders. Alexander appreciated playing with Gareth and Ford and Bethany really enjoyed each other. One of the day trips that they took was going to Discovery Green, a Downtown Houston park that was preserved through the efforts of many of the city leaders. Featuring public art, performance venues and water features, it's a gathering spot in the middle of the urban landscape.

Last week, Alexander took a class at Arlington's River Legacy Park. He learned about animals using camoflage and building bird nests and how animals show that they are scared. He's even demonstrated how a skunk tells you before it squirts you.

We went out on Saturday to walk the trails. We saw turtles, squirrels, lizards and Alexander saw a two foot green snake before anyone else did. We enjoyed our walk.

This week has been Vacation Bible School for Alexander. He's been going to one (Outrigger Island) in the morning in Grapevine and to Power Lab at our church in Denton in the evenings.

A quick funny story about Ford. He and I hung out at the church on Tuesday evening as Alex was at the VBS. As part of the decorations for the Power Lab they had areas with black lights. I smiled real big for Ford and my teeth glowed. He tried to grab them. Then as I was looking closer at his face, I noticed that because his hair was so light and blonde that it was glowing yellow in the uv light. I was greatly amused by that.

Enjoy the photos.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How to Neglect your Friends in 3 Easy Steps

1. Say you're going to call and then don't. Really, I've been meaning to call, email, send flares whatever...but I'm only doing well enough to make sure that I take a shower once a day.

2. Go months and months without contacting them and booking yourself up with stuff on the weekends that you couldn't possibly be available to go see anybody or do anything.

3. Gripe about it in your blog, like THAT's going to help anything. Oh...crap.

Anyway, to anyone who still reads this silly thing. I'm sorry I haven't been in touch with you personally. As you might have guessed, I'm a little busy at the moment and will be attempting to actually have some time off soon. Alexander and I may even get to go see Kung-Fu Panda on Wednesday. But I'm going to make some time to get in touch with you and see how you're doing and hopefully make some plans to have dinner, let kids play and generally be human instead of driving to work - working - driving home routine.

Love to you all.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Gone to see a 6 foot mouse

I left Sunday afternoon to go to Orlando for a conference on our new computer system. The conference is being held at the Disney Coronado Resort in Orlando, Fl. I'll say up front here and now that I've never been to Orlando and never been to a Disney-anything...resort, development, theme park - well except the Disney stores once in a while, but they're closed now.

I do not like Disney. I enjoy many of the movies (Peter Pan, Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean) but I've never bought into the whole "Disney" image. I've always enjoyed the more tongue-in-cheek humor of Warner Bros much more. But, even Six Flags became overly aggressive in the "cute" factor.

The long and short of it is - I'm here for 4 days, no family, with a few work friends - but really no one to hang out with.

Meredith, home with the kiddos left on Monday morning to go visit Angela, Anthony and the cousins for the week.

I arrived at Orlando airport about 9:30pm on Sunday evening. I rode the Disney bus from the airport to my hotel, the Disney Coronado Springs Resort. I have a casita hotel room. About the same size as most Holiday Inn hotel rooms, but at least I overlook the large lagoon in the center of the resort. The walk from the main building to the room is a little over a quarter of a mile. I bought a $11.99 plastic mug for sodas as it can be refilled (only at this resort) for free and not pay the $2.18 per soda price tag.

The conference this morning was much more applicable than I thought it was going to be. Rather than just the basics of the system, they did discuss much of the theory behind their convoluted programming. The owners of the software are aware of much of the issues with the system as we are. That is not only encouraging but also a bit worrying.

I particularly enjoyed a presentation of a plan review software that allows the applicant to upload their plans and staff can overlay one set o plans with a revision set and it will show the modifications of the plan. Even if the changes weren't specifically requested by staff. That type of information would be invaluable for the quality control of plan review.

After the sessions were over, I went on the bus to "Downtown Disney". A boardwalk environment dead center of the WDW area. Restaurants from Wolfgang Puck to McDonald's and even a movie theater. Being me, and alone, I ended up going and seeing Iron Man. Most likely the best superhero movie I've seen. Much better acted than the last Spider-Man movie. I think the Marvel Studio concept may work well.

I wandered around the area for a while. The most impressive of the stores was the Disney store with all of the Pirates of the Caribbean stuff and, if I had a little girl instead of two guys, a complete princess makeover studio. But by far and large, the most involved store was the Legoland store. They had Lego models of robots, dinosaurs, dragons and fish out front. Inside every Lego set you could imagine was out for display.

I ended up having dinner at the Wolfgang Puck bistro with a small wood-fired pizza and a tea. There is plenty of bars, saloons and other adult entertainment. As I type this, there is loud music down the hallway from me from the lounge here at the resort. I just can't bring myself to be the sad person drinking alone in a bar in Florida. Much more creative men than me have done sells massive concerts full of people wearing parrots, and the other I'm thinking of ended up in Idaho with a shotgun for a friend.

I a having more fun here than I thought I would. The massive regret I have is that Meredith and the guys (especially Alexander) aren't here to enjoy this with me. Maybe next year or the year after when Alex is 6 and Ford is 3 would be a good time to go. The transportation is rather easy to get around and well laid out. I'm not going to any of the parks this trip (really, how sad would that be?) but whereas before this trip I was an absolutely, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. If we went slightly off-season or as a road-trip combination with going to see the grandparents in South Carolina it could work.

My next thought is to what to bring the boys and Meredith back as souvenirs. I think something pirate-related for Alex and maybe small pendant for Meredith that wouldn't be too-grab orienting for Ford. Ford maybe happy with a small figurine of Mickey Mouse dressed as a jedi knight.

From a planning perspective - Disney is massive sprawl. Consisting of over 46 square miles of (lets face it, reclaimed swampland in many cases) the place is extremely well planned...IF you use your own vehicle or the Disney Transit system. Otherwise you can't walk anywhere (no sidewalks to any of the boulevards connecting the parks/resorts) Everything is a controlled environment. There is hardly a bulb out or a weed present in any landscaping. Each entrance to the resorts, parks is designed for the "wow" view as one enters the park. Look at the anticipation of the sign, the lighting, the berms hiding what is a forty story tall building with fish on the you turn the next corner. Pre-destined and well-thought out.

However the "Disneyification" can only be described as a real occurrence. Because there isn't anything out of place, there is a feeling that the experience isn't totally real. The "cast members" are nice, but there is a forcefulness behind it. Rehearsed lines and faces from part-time actors who put their time in and are ready to go home and their own "real" lives.

Obviously it is something that works, and has for over fifty years. It is a vision of American corporate power oriented to making people forget about their own lives and live a fantasy for a few days or even hours. Who am I to really question that?

As wireless internet access is $5 an hour here, I'm going to log off and check out my email. Most likely I won't be posting further from the Disney area. I'll use that money to buy something nice for the guys and remind myself that fun is in they eye of the person having it. I'll go back to Europe and Northern California someday when I can slowdown and really enjoy them.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

You Know What? Just Tell Me Ok?

If anybody as a problem with me...tell me straight out. Tell me I'm talking too much. Tell me that my ideas have no merit. Tell me I'm wrong. I may or may not agree with you, but in the very least I know where you stand and I can get on with my day. Well, except when I sometimes use a malapropism - wait until I'm done...then let me know.

I don't need to be stepped around lightly. I don't have the ego or arrogance to think I'm right all of the time. Most of the time I think I'm wrong or making it up as I go along anyway.

But you don't have to humiliate me by letting me hang myself with my own words. You don't have to punish me by belittling me.

I'm my own worst critic and that's punishment enough.