July 6, 2009

T-minus 8

That’s where we sit right now. Eight days until our lives are changed forever. Eight days until we’re put in charge of a little boy and all of his yet-to-be-developed hopes & interests & dreams & needs & wants. Eight days until no one is any longer interested in what Lynn and I are up to, but focused almost entirely on Seth.

I’m pretty excited. I think it’s going to be a blast to raise a kid, despite the lack of sleep (been prepping for that for years, to a mild extent), my penchant to worry (comes with the territory), the challenges of being a good parent (lesser people than Lynn and me have raised pretty decent children), etc. I get pretty jittery thinking about things like the first time he holds my finger, the first time he (sort of) smiles, the first time he falls asleep in my arms, and much more.

But all of that’s still for a week away. I’ve still got 8 more days to reflect on the other side of the coin, to marvel at the strength and beauty of the woman who is making this at all possible for us.

I told Lynn the other day that she’s been a pretty fantastic pregnant woman. In reality, I can’t imagine a more strikingly noble way to grow and carry an unborn child for nine months then what Lynn has done. She’s selflessly labored through each nauseous morning, each pang of heartburn, each restless night’s sleep, all with an unwavering sense of good humor.

It hasn’t mattered to her that she’s basically been turned into a human science experiment – regularly poked and prodded and measured and interrogated and examined. She’s just smiled and joked and devoted as much time as she needed to preparing for Seth’s arrival.

I’ll never be able to repay the debt of gratitude that I feel to my wife as I think about what will greet us in eight days’ time. Even were I physiologically equipped to do what Lynn’s done, I could never have done it with the grace and the dignity and the spirit that Lynn’s brought to her pregnancy. Seth’s going to be a lucky guy to have a mom so full of unending love and devotion to him and to our entire family.

Thanks, Lynn.

June 6, 2009

Springtime Weekends

Trying to get some more pictures up while I still can. Randi, Scott, and Julia came to visit Memorial Day weekend. We spent Saturday walking around downtown, including Faneuil Hall, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Common and Gardens. We hopped on the T over to Kenmore to take in some of the atmosphere before the Mets/Red Sox game, and then grabber dinner at Boston Beer Works while we watched the game. We got back to JP after dinner just in time to see the momentous game-changing home run that Omir Santos launched against Papelbon, much to the chagrin of Dennis Eckersley.

We stayed close to home on Sunday, splitting our time between playing some Rock Band, watching the Mets, and grilling some chicken and hot dogs.

Check out the pictures of the Marshalls’ visit to Boston.

Today, after walking to the mechanic to pay the bill on a bajillion dollars of car repairs, we headed over to Home Depot to pick up a pegboard and cable ties of various sizes. Back at home, we took all of our network electronics—cable modem, wifi router, VOIP device, and NAS—and strapped them to the pegboard. We included a power strip and stuck the whole thing out of sigh behind our TV stand. (This is all originally inspired by Declutter Your Desk, which I’ve been jealous of ever since I first saw it a couple of years ago.)

One step closer to having a baby’s room instead of an office!

pegboard for network equipment

May 23, 2009

Pregnancy in Real Life (or: When “Soon” becomes “Now”)

Lynn pregnant at sunset

So it turns out that real life is really quite similar to what’s in my imagination.

There seem to be several universal truths to being pregnant. People will give you lots and lots of advice, most of which is useful, and a lot of which is not. (Yes, there’s so much advice that the minority of it which is not useful is still a lot!) People will begin to treat you a bit like an invalid. People will give up their seats on public transportation for you. And, inevitably, people will ask if you’ve taken pictures of the pregnant belly.

So Lynn and I have now taken two sets of belly photos. The first was in New Jersey at 26 weeks, and the second was at the Jamaica Pond earlier this week (31 weeks). Please enjoy all of the belly pictures, and in particular my favorite one, over there on the right.

March 20, 2009

A Tale of Two Siblings

What happens when two siblings--one of whom is a computer geek and the other of whom is a journalist—both take a trip to Disney World? Well, the former blogs about it, so therefore (of course), the latter must report on it.

February 16, 2009

Disney Day 3 – Hollywood Studios

On our third day at Disney World, the six of us piled into our rental minivan and drove over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (nee MGM Studios). Perhaps the lack of lines at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot made us a bit lax, but we didn’t bother getting to Hollywood until well after it was open. So there was to be no avoiding crowds by getting there early. Despite that, we did everything we wanted with little trouble.

Oh, and did I mention yet that there were busloads of cheerleaders all over the place? Yeah, it was the Feigenbaums and the National High School Cheerleading Championships, together again for the first time.

It took us a bit to get going, and so we first grabbed a batch of Fastpasses for the Toy Story 4D ride. They were already going for the middle of the afternoon, so we started to plan our day around that. We then got on line so that Julia could—at long last—meet Daisy Duck, but Daisy disappeared and turned into Chip and Dale before we got to the front of the line. In my opinion, that’s a significant upgrade.

Finally, we hit up a ride:

  • The Great Movie Ride. There was no line for the Great Movie Ride, probably because it’s long since been upstaged by lots of newer rides. But the Great Movie Ride was one of my favorite memories of the last time I was at MGM, so I was glad to make it our first ride of the day… I couldn’t have been more disappointed in it. We ended up in the back row of the two car convoy, which meant half the time we were in a different room from where the action was going on. Add to that the fact that both our guide and our kidnapping mobster were both unenthusiastic and bad actors, and the ride was a giant disappointment. The Wizard of Oz room was still great, though.

We met up with Mom, who was feeling a bit under the weather, and she and I hung out in the beautiful weather while the rest of the gang went and saw the Little Mermaid show. Randi, Scott, and Julia then headed off to meet some characters, and Mom, Lynn, and I went over to the “animation courtyard.” The short film about Disney’s animation processes was cute, but the real highlight was:

  • The Animation Academy. We didn’t know what to expect, but Lynn was dying for the chance to do some drawing, so we waited fifteen minutes or so for the next drawing class. What we found was a 25-minute class in which a Disney animator led us through the process of sketching a Disney character—Jiminy Cricket in our case—from scratch. While it was a bit challenging to keep up with the pace at times, this was a ton of fun and we left with three impressive renderings of the little guy. (Well, ok, Lynn’s was really impressive, mine was not half bad, and Mom’s looked a bit like Jiminy’s aging father, but all three still exceeded our expectations.) Mom enjoyed it so much that she returned later in the day and drew Goofy.

We capped off a slow morning with a rather pedestrian meal at one of Hollywood Studios’s fast-food restaurants. We finished eating, squeezed past the street performance of High School Musical 3, and got on line for our next attraction:

  • Lights, Motors, Action! An old favorite, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, was closed for the day so that the high schoolers could compete for glory and ESPN air time, so we made sure to go to this big time vehicle stunt show, imported from Eruo Disney. I thought that the show was pretty entertaining. It was a good mix of informative, amusing, and entertaining, watching high speed car chases, boat and motorcycle stunts, and a few explosions thrown in for good measure. Well done, and I’d go back.

We headed back to Toy Story 4D so that the other five could ride while I took a nap outside. I think that they universally preferred the Magic Kingdom Toy Story ride. Around now I was starting to get a bit frustrated that my relative efficiency was greatly lacking compared to the two previous days. Randi had agreed earlier to go with me on two of the park’s headliner rides—Tower of Terror and the Aerosmith roller coaster—so we headed over that way next to scope out the situation. Turns out that while there was a 30 minute wait for Tower of Terror and a 70 minute wait for the roller coaster, both had Fastpasses available. With the help of Lynn and Scott’s tickets, we picked up Fastpasses for both.

To kill the hour or so we had, Lynn and I wandered around and watched a “block party,” a bunch of cheery-eyed singing and dancing and shenanigans. It was loud and colorful, but not particularly mindblowing. We then met up with Randi and Scott and Julia once more, and Randi and I went on…

  • Tower of Terror. I’d never done this before, having been too scared when I was younger. This was fantastic. Easily the best attraction at Hollywood Studios, and in the same “heads and shoulders above the rest” category as Splash Mountain at MK and Soarin’ at Epcot. The atmosphere is creepy, the confined setting with 11 other screaming people is immersive, and the ride itself is fun. I ended up grabbing a new Fastpass when we left and riding it a second time a couple of hours later, and it was a mostly different experience the second time around. Who would have thought that a plunge in an elevator could be so much fun?

We split up once more because we had a few hours until our roller coaster Fastpasses. Lynn and I headed to the other side of the park where Lynn watched a bit of the cheerleading (lots of teenage girls in tears by this point in the day; no joke) while I checked out another old favorite.

  • Star Tours. The line was non-existent for what used to be the top headliner. Kind of sad, but the ride has held up pretty well over the years. It’s a straightforward, fast, and relatively smooth simulator. They don’t fool around too much with extra story, you just get on your spaceship and go. Terrific, still. (Far better than MIssion: Space, if you ask me.)

Lynn and I stopped by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences “Hall of Fame” to brush shoulders with some busts of Hollywood greats. We meandered back across the park, peeking in again at the cheerleading and stopping to watch a street comedy/improv show that was pretty funny. I ran off a bit before the end to ride Tower of Terror for the second time, and then headed a couple of hundred feet away to meet up with Randi.

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Even with the Fastpass we had a 10-15 minute wait. Randi got a bit nervous as we got near the front, but not nearly as much as the poor girl whose friends/family were literally dragging her and carrying her onto the coaster against her will. This was a great roller coaster. The most intense part was the 0-to-60 acceleration into a loop right at the start. (We thought it was probably a loop at the time though we couldn’t tell; Wikipedia confirms that it is.) The rest was a very smooth and fast ride past all sorts of neon street signs. Way better than Space Mountain, but still pretty short. I just don’t quite understand why people wait on line over an hour for an 80-second ride.
  • Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage. An abridged version of the classic Disney movie. Excellent singing, dancing and production values for a show they put on a bajillion times a week.

We had dinner at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, where, when my Mom complained that pot roast in the 50s never looked quite so professional, the waiter astutely responded that they didn’t have multicolored “glow cubes” in the drinks in the 50s either. Staying somewhat true to the theme I had the fried chicken, which was crispy and tasty if a bit greasy and a ton of food. Drove back to our hotel and retired for the night.

February 8, 2009

Disney Day 2 - Epcot

We followed up our day at Magic Kingdom with a day at Epcot.

We arrived a few minutes before Future World opened at 9am, and joined the crowd queued up to the right (west) of Spaceship Earth (the giant golf ball). The rope dropped, and we walked with the crowd over to The Land to start our day.

  1. Soarin’. We headed here first because we hoped that Julia might make the 40” minimum height. Luckily, she passed with flying colors and an inch or two to spare. Though we weren’t at the front of the crowd, our wait was less than five minutes. Soarin’ was tremendous: a super-smooth simulation of flying accompanied by dramatic scenes of California cities and landscapes. Really great.
  2. Living with the Land. Since we were at the pavilion already, we walked right over to the old Listen to the Land boat ride (now Living with the Land). No line at a “tier 2” attraction like this this early, of course, so we got right on a boat. I was disappointed that the tour guides of the past have been replaced by recorded narrations, but the second half of the ride—through the Epcot greenhouses—were tremendous. Super-sized melons, tomato trees, tiny wheat plants all made for remarkable sights to see.

Randi and Julia ducked off to meet Donald Duck and some other friends of his, so Mom, Scott, Lynn, and I crossed Future World to pick up FastPasses for the Mission: Space simulator ride. Scott and Lynn then killed some time while Mom and I went on the next ride together.

  1. Test Track. After much debate about whether we had been on this ride before (we hadn’t, as it only opened in 1998; we confused it with the former GM World of Motion ride), we got to the front of the ride and boarded our “test vehicles”. Several warm-up tests were followed by an exhilarating high-speed straightaway and turn. While the GM sponsorship of Test Track was a bit heavy-handed in some parts, the ride itself is still masterfully conceived and one I’d love to try again some time.
  2. Mission: Space. Lynn and Julia headed off to Innoventions to play video games, and the other four of us used our FastPasses to walk onto Mission: Space. Against her better judgment, Mom joined me for the more intense “orange team” while the other two tried the “green team.” I thought the ride was good but not great. It started off extremely intense with significant pressure generated from faux G-forces as our rocket launched into space. The rest of the ride was pretty intense simulator fare, but nothing out of this world. I’d pass on a return visit.
  3. The Seas with Nemo. Julia had sat out a couple of rides, so we headed over to ride with Nemo. While the ride was cute, it doesn’t really match up with the quality of kids’ rides like Peter Pan at Magic Kingdom. I took a bit of a nap. The best part of this pavilion was when Lynn and I scored 3 of 5 taking an “advanced quiz” about sea creatures—all in Spanish.

At this point it was time for the Marshalls to head off to their princess lunch at the Norwegian pavilion, and the rest of us grabbed lunch at the Seasons restaurant at The Land pavilion. (Decent, better than most fast food at Disney.) Deciding that lunch could serve as a useful logical barrier in our day, we headed over to the World Showcase. I don’t have much of a blow-by-blow for the country pavilions, but here goes nonetheless:

  1. Mexico. We watched a glass-blowing demonstration here and wandered through the bazaar. Mom picked up a beautiful wooden eagle to add to her collection.
  2. Norway. We rode the Maelstrom ride, one of Lynn’s favorites. I tried to convince her that the lead up to a backwards drop over the steep waterfall was the real deal, but failed miserably. I snoozed through the Norway travelogue film.
  3. China. Walked through it, skipped the film, though we decided we might return to it.
  4. Germany. Enjoyed a Spaten draft. Disappointed that the Clock and Crafts shop didn’t feature many clocks for sale.
  5. Italy. Enjoyed the replicas of the Doge’s Palace and the clock tower at St. Mark’s Square.
  6. U.S. Mom watched the film so that she could hear her favorite song (“America, Spread your golden wings”), but the rest of us skipped it. We did watch a five-person drum and fife corps outside the pavilion. They were pretty good, even though I think their leader and one of the fife players (fifers?) were jerks.
  7. Japan. Walked around, enjoyed a beer.
  8. Morocco. We wandered through the streets of Morocco, before stumbling upon the Genie from Aladdin greeting people for photos and autographs. After a small amount of arm twisting, I convinced Lynn to get on line to meet her favorite Disney character. To our pleasant surprise, as we joined the line, the Genie was joined by Princess Jasmine. The characters’ handlers heard Lynn softly singing some music from Aladdin while we waited, and after he told the Genie that he (the Genie) refused to pose for a picture until Lynn sang to him. Much hilarity ensued (for me, at least).
  9. U.K. We caught a bit of a performance by a Beatles cover band, but then headed off for dinner.

All six of us ate dinner together at the Rose and Crown pub at the U.K. pavilion. We timed our dinner reservation carefully so that we’d have a table outside in good position to watch the Epcot light show at night. What we didn’t take into account was how freakin’ cold it might be. Still, we had a great table and battled trough the chill to eat a leisurely-enough meal to stretch from a bit after 6pm to show time at 8pm. The food was nothing special (Lynn and I shared fish and chips and a “lamb two ways” dish), but the show was great and the pub did manage to serve me a flight of three single-malts after my meal.

We had chosen to go to Epcot on day 2 since it had three extra hours at the end of the day for Disney resort guests. We took advantage of this following the Illuminations light show by hitting up a couple of final rides:

  1. Journey into Imagination. I was expecting to be disappointed by the way in which they butchered the former ride, and I was. While I was glad that Figment now has even more of a starring role, the rest of the ride was pretty bad. And the trademark “Imagination” song was sung strangely—either off key or with some weird harmony that was completely unnecessary. Oh well.
  2. Soarin’. We ended the day the same way we started, back at The Land pavilion with Soarin’. It was great again. Two times riding it, two thumbs up.

All in all, another good day, and not very crowded. The longest line we waited on was actually about 15-20 minutes for Soarin’ at the very end of the day. We missed a few things: Spaceship Earth, the film at the China pavilion, the France pavilion, the Canada pavilion, the American Adventure film, and most of the U.K. pavilion, but we figured we could try to make some of that up on Monday. What doesn’t really come through in the play-by-play is how peaceful it is walking around Epcot for a day. I’ve gotta say, Epcot still shines in my mind as probably the top Disney World park.

February 5, 2009

Disney Day 1 – Magic Kingdom

We went to Walt Disney World in Orlando along with Mom, Randi, Scott, and five-year-old Julia. Some recaps and thoughts for posterity to follow. (Pictures to follow at a later date.)

It was freezing cold. When we set out to take advantage of the extra morning hour allocated to Disney resort guests, the ambient air temperature was an absurd 32 degree Fahrenheit, with wind chills another five to ten degrees colder than that. Add to this the boat ride which was the sole transportation option from the Wilderness Lodge over to the Magic Kingdom, and the day got off to a chilly start, to say the least.

But we quickly learned that touring Magic Kingdom on such a freakishly cold day was not without its benefits, as the early-morning competition to tour Fantasyland was practically non-existent. Without needing to run, elbow small children out of the way, or break a sweat we walked right onto all the headliner Fantasyland attractions:

  1. Dumbo. I didn’t realize adults can ride on this. It was a tiny bit better than I expected, but then again I didn’t expect much out of it and it was over before I knew it. Good to get it done with first.
  2. Peter Pan. Love the faux-flying and love Captain Hook in a state of being perpetually almost eaten by the croc. Just like I remembered it.
  3. Winnie the Pooh. Pretty good tale of Pooh and friends, though I didn’t really understand the trippy acid-inspired scenes in the middle. I am a big Tigger fan though, and he made plenty of appearances.
  4. It’s a Small World. Still a classic, still love the individually singing dolls, still a dramatic oversimplification of the world, and still a tune that gets stuck in your head for hours after.
  5. Carousel. I skipped this and took a few pictures. I’d already done flying elephants that go up and down, so I opted out of the horse equivalent.

At which point it was 8:40—only 40 minutes since we entered the park—and we were done with (round 1 of) Fantasyland! Remarkable. So on my insistence we headed over to Tomorrowland to see if we’d blown our chance to experience crowd-pleaser Buzz Lightyear without much wait. We took a brief detour so that Julia could take a spin on the tea cups, and then meandered over to Tomorrowland.

  1. Buzz Lightyear. No wait whatsoever. We rode it twice now, and once at the end of the day. Wonder why it took Disney so long to marry their unique ride designs with competitive video games? The formula works well, even if I was consistently outscored by tens of thousands of points by the rest of my family.
  2. People Mover (aborted). We got to the loading platform for the People Mover (Tomorrowland Transit Authority) only to have the ride break. Came back later.
  3. Carousel of Progress. No longer the GE Carousel of Progress, I was surprised to see this one open. Having both fond and maddening memories—we were once stuck on the 3rd scene for four or five consecutive tellings of it—we jumped at the chance to walk right in. The Carousel is still using the original theme song (A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow) rather than the 80s version (Now is the Time). It’s also a bit of a leap to go straight from the 1940s to today. Still, the animatronic family is entertaining as always.
  4. Space Mountain. Well, we hadn’t had a single line yet, so why not check out the real superstar in the area? Mom and I walked right onto Space Mountain without pausing for a second. This was my first time on Space Mountain, and I have to say, while it was fast and dark and fun, I don’t see what the big deal is. I definitely don’t see why people wait upwards of an hour at busy times to ride it. It was just ok. But quite passable for zero wait!
  5. Stitch’s Great Escape. Lynn, Mom, and I went on this without knowing what it was. In the end, what it was was silly. Cute story, dramatic atmosphere, and silly sensory execution. Glad we experienced it, but it wouldn’t make the top of my list on another visit.

At which point it was approaching 11, and we caught the tail end of a singing/dancing/fireworks show at Cinderella’s Castle. The girls then went off for a couple of hours of makeup and princesses, and Scott and I leisurely killed a couple of hours with:

  1. Haunted Mansion. The jokes are great, the ride is decent but not as amusing as I remembered, the ambiance is great. This was the first ride we had any sort of wait on whatsoever—about 10 minutes.
  2. Lunch at Liberty Square Tavern. Nothing to write home about. I had pot roast, and it was uneventful.
  3. WDW Railroad. Rode two-thirds of the railroad circuit, from Frontierland over to Main Street. The narration is entertaining, and the “behind the scenes” feel, such as Pocahontas’s camp site, make it worth the time.

We rejoined the rest of our group, spent some time browsing through Tinkerbell’s souvenir shop, and then Lynn and I walked over to Frontierland.

  1. Splash Mountain. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it’s not peak season. Still, I thought it was a travesty that there was no line for Splash Mountain at 1:45pm at Magic Kingdom. No line! Lynn waited outside with the camera while I walked right on and shortly thereafter remembered why this is by far the best ride at MK. Great story, great setup, great music, great head fakes, great climax, great end.
  2. Splash Mountain. Mom joined us, and I convinced her to go with me for a second round on Splash Mountain. Got a bit wetter the second time, but nothing too serious.

They had to close Thunder Mountain for one reason or another, so we met up again with the Marshalls and headed to Adventureland:

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean. I was expecting this to disappoint me, since I thought it had been completely neutered by the movies. It actually lived up to my memories of it almost exactly. Pleasant, amusing, but not spectacular. Still, it was peak time in the park and we walked right onto the ride. Still incredible.
  2. Jungle Cruise. Loved every second as our guide—Tre—regaled us with pun after pun after corny joke after corny joke. And all the computerized wildlife was as entertaining as ever.
  3. Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride. I sat this one out, as the Disney folk can’t quite fool me by taking Dumbo, moving it across the park, and changing the elephants into magic carpets.

We headed back to Fantasyland, where Julia and folks used their Fastpass for a second go-round of Pooh while we snacked on some pretzels. Randi, Mom, and Julia then headed off to storytime with Belle while Lynn, Scott, and I went back to Tomorrowland.

  1. People Mover. Oh man, still one of the best rides in the park. And when we went through Space Mountain, something was wrong and all of the lights were on, giving us a rare glimpse into the cavernous room and elaborate setup that makes the dark roller coaster go.
  2. People Mover. We declined the attempt by the Disney employee to solicit a bribe for us, yet he let us stay on the People Mover for a second time around nonetheless. This time it was properly dark when we traveled through Space Mountain.
  3. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. The rest of the group joined us for this as the afternoon waned. Wow did this blow away my expectations. What a hoot. And they used the joke that I text-messaged during the pre-show. Woo.
  4. Buzz Lightyear. Just for the heck of it. I got my butt kicked one more time.

At which point there were still a couple of hours left in the MK’s day, but it was dark and freezing and we had seen just about everything we wanted to see. We skipped the parade and the fireworks and headed back to the hotel. Need to rest up for Epcot tomorrow.

January 27, 2009

Lynn @ 29

I interrupt my series of introspective posts to bring you this update on my beautiful wife:

November 10, 2008

A Sentimental Geek

  1. Read today's xkcd comic.
  2. s/Mom/Dad
  3. Sad.

November 9, 2008

Obama in Nevada

Last Saturday in Las Vegas, Lynn, Lynn's Grandma, and I woke up at 5:30am to head over to neighboring Henderson for Barack Obama's last rally of the campaign. The rally was inspiring: I'd heard the words many, many times before, but I had never felt the electricity in person. We met a bunch of passionate and friendly people, each with their own story and their own reasons for wanting change.

I'm very proud of what America did this past week. I don't expect any miracles in the coming years, but I do expect a government that I can look at proudly and one from which I can expect accountability, honesty, and progress.

Please enjoy some pictures of the Henderson Obama rally.

July 24, 2008

In Cherbourg


(Last time, we were in London.)

We were supposed to spend our first full day on the cruise docking at Le Havre, in France. From there, Lynn and I were going to hop on a bus down to Paris and spend the day in the City of Lights with our good friend, Jonah. Unfortunately, French workers--as they are wont to do--were on strike at Le Havre's port, and so we were diverted to Cherbourg for the day. Oops, there goes our day in Paris. (See map.)

So we made the most of it in Cherbourg. My in-laws set out to the Musée de Normandie (Normany Museum) in Caen. Meanwhile, Marc, Louise, Lynn, and I failed to find three scooters to rent, and so we settled for four bicycles and set off along the coast. We biked for several hours, stopping frequently to take photos, eat, and enjoy the scenery. Gotta love the French seaside-shack lunch of a baguette with shaved steak, melted cheese, and the most fried french fries I've ever come across.

We headed back into town where Lynn and I dropped off our bicycles and then walked back to the ship. The rest of the day was rather uneventful; oh, except for the part where Marc and Louise got engaged. Yeah, that was pretty cool.

Please enjoy a few pictures from our day in Cherbourg.

June 10, 2008


It may as well be 20,000. Or 1. When you get right down to it, any difference is irrelevant. I miss you, Dad, and I'll always love you.

June 8, 2008

A Few Photos

In early May, Lynn and I went to Darcy and Todd's wedding in Worcester:


Over Memorial Day weekend we were at Cousins' Weekend 2008 at the Doral Arrowwood in Rye Brook, NY. I took some pictures of the fun and games.


And finally, from Passover back in April, a mug only a son-in-law could love:

January 6, 2008

Without Missing a Beat

Lynn: How long has my brother been abroad?

Lee: Hmm? He's been a guy as long as I've known him...


(Yes, I haven't blogged in a long time. A great pun is just the way to get back on the horse. Maybe.)

April 6, 2007

Passover 2007

I've got a lot of thoughts about Passover this year. Mainly, the thoughts relate to the fact that these were the first seders that Lynn and I have been to in New Jersey since Dad died. The corollary is that these were the first seders that I've ever led in Glen Rock. As I said at the seders, this is something that I never wanted to have to do. But if life teaches us anything it's that we need to be able to make the best of (really) bad situations, and with that outlook I was proud to lead the seders. People at both seders said that I did things a lot like Dad did. Of course, that's no coincidence; I learned everything from him. He was the best though, and all I can do is try to live up to his high standard.

There's a bunch more thoughts here about the composition of our seder crowds--about what's changed and what remains the same. But for now, I'd just like to share some of the pictures I took over the weekend. (I'm still learning my new camera, so the shots aren't as crisp as I'd like, and my post-processing leaves a lot to be desired. Apologies.)

Lynn and cousin Rachel     Julia

Enjoy all the pictures from Passover 2007.

March 6, 2007

A Summertime Visit from Julia (August, 2006)

I have many pictures that have languished unseen for far too long. For the moment, enjoy these pictures (mostly) of Julia from the Marshalls' visit to Boston last summer. A few tastes:

Julia poses    Lee pushing Julia in a swing

Enjoy all the pictures of Julia's visit.

July 24, 2006

They win; they finally win!

This past weekend, Lynn and I went down to Jersey to spend some quality time with our families. After Lynn exerted her will through a five-hour drive filled with flash storms and miles of traffic, we met up with Lynn's Grandpa Sam, Uncle Mike, and Mom and Dad in Tarrytown. We ate Portuguese and Brazilian food at Caravela in downtown Tarrytown. (I enjoyed a decent braised veal dish served with some mashed potatoes that I suspect were not authentic but which I enjoyed very much nonetheless.)

On Saturday, the six of us who went to dinner on Friday were joined by my Mom and by Wing (who had been rendered plans-less by the immovable force of a girls' (and Jeff?) spa day) at Shea Stadium to see the Mets host the Astros. Now, if you've even read just a few weeks back in my blog, you'll know that Lynn and I have not had the best of luck recently when it comes to attending Mets games in person. And with the mysterious El Duque on the mound for the Mets against the freshly-back-from-the-DL Brandon Backe, I didn't know what to expect.

As we drove into Queens a bit after noon, it became clear that the one thing that I had not expected would be the one thing I was going to be guaranteed to get: rain. Lots of rain.

We met up with Wing and headed to our seats—but say several rows higher up so that we could be covered while we watched the tarp do its best imitation of a corpse until just about twenty minutes past scheduled game time. It was then that rain subsided, the crowd let out a roar, and we were treated to the dance of the grounds crew as they uncovered the field and prepared for the game.

rain delay at Shea    rain delay at Shea
rain delay at Shea    rain delay at Shea
rain delay at Shea    rain delay at Shea
rain delay at Shea    rain delay at Shea

Once the game got underway, our misery intensified as the Astros shelled El Duque in the first inning to the tune of three runs on two home runs. But after that, something miraculous happened: El Duque settled down, and the Mets bats came alive just enough to take a one-run lead on Xavier Nady's three-run shot in the fourth inning. And even though Wing committed baseball sacrilege by leaving before the game was over (OK, he had a good excuse and had warned me beforehand, for the record), Duaner Sanchez and Billy Wagner managed to protect the lead and give the Mets the win. Oh rapture, oh joyous day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with the Marshalls, where I got a good fix of Julia time. (Julia time mostly consists of playing with a beach ball, staring at a Mets pin with glowing lights, counting to five (sometimes to ten, sometimes in Spanish) over-and-over again, and running around on the floor aimlessly. As I said on the drive back today, I wish more of my friends played the way Julia does.) We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant in Queens which apparently serves delicious pasta—I wouldn't know because I tried the porcini risotto which was mediocre at best. I should have known better when the menu spelled it "porchini."

Sunday arrived and treated me to an emotional back nine at the British Open, culminating in victory and runner-up for the two (prominent) golfers who have lost parents in recent weeks. I think it's amazing and not inaccurate to say that I can empathize with Tiger Woods about something. As he said in his victory speech following the tournament, we all have parents and for almost all of us, they mean the world to us and we miss them terribly when they're not here.

In the afternoon we visited Grandpa and Millie along with Millie's daughter Audrey and granddaughter Sarah. After a couple of hours Lynn and I said are goodbyes and got on the road back to Boston. Lynn slept most of the way and I hummed to myself and noodled on ways to implement abstract syntax tree rewriting schemes in the SPARQL engine I'm working on at work. Clearly, fun times were had by all.

You can see more pictuers from the weekend, including some pictures of Julia, a puddle, and a reservoir, in my photo album.

July 11, 2006

Meeting Halfway

For quite some time, Mom has been advocating spending a day somewhere in Connecticut halfway between Glen Rock and Brookline as a reasonable substitute for seeing each other when we can't make a full weekend work. I've admittedly been a bit hesitant to put such a plan into action, not least of all because the first time we tried this we ended up spending several hours at a crafts expo—not exactly my first choice for spending an afternoon. My other reservations came from what seemed to be Mom's primary method of figuring out where we would meet: find a point such that the driving mileage for both of us would be identical.

But for this past Sunday, not only did Mom suggest Farmington, but she also had done a good amount of research on activities in the area. And the weather looked promising. So as Lynn and I headed out west at 9:30 in the morning, I was cautiously optimistic. In retrospect, I should have dropped the "cautiously" altogether, as the day turned out to be fantastic on all fronts: weather, activities, food, and, of course, company.

After meeting up at the West Hartford Reservoir, we headed into West Hartford Center and ate brunch (eggs benedict for me, a veggie omelette for Mom, and New England red flannel hash for Lynn) on the roof deck at The Elbow Room.

After six of my eight TXT message correspondents helped me locate the phone number, address, and directions for Farmington River Tubing, we headed there. We enjoyed a peaceful two hours floating lazily down the Farmington River, at the end of which I did my part to repay Lynn for her courage the week before. You see, when we began, the only instructions we were given were that the end of the route was marked by a tube hanging from a tree, at which point we should head to the left bank of the river and climb up to the road (where a shuttle bus would take us back to our car). About 100 minutes into our tubing, Mom and I were quietly chatting and floating together, while Lynn floated slowly 15 yards behind us. We slowly came to the point of disembarkation, at which point Mom and I detubed and Mom climbed to the road while I waited for Lynn.

The thing is, Lynn was drifting extremely slowly on the far side of the river with her head tilted back and with no signs of any intention of heading towards left bank. After waiting in the thigh-high water for a few minutes, I decided that Lynn must have been fast asleep and started calling to her, at first quietly and then more and more loudly. When my sweet nothings failed to rouse her, I began to trek across the river after her. Eventually I caught up to her before she had floated much past our destination, woke her up, and towed her safely to the exit point. But if not for me, I have very little doubt that Lynn might yet still be floating in that tube somewhere out in the Connecticut River or Long Island Sound.

Once at our car, we headed back to the West Hartford Reservoir with a brief detour at a small farm stand to pick up an apple and some vidalia-onion tomato-basil dressing. At the reservoir we walked a brief ways to one of the many actual physical reservoirs on the territory, took a few pictures, and headed off to dinner.

Lynn at the reservoir Mom at the reservoir

We ate dinner at Ann Howard's Apricots, a restaurant and bar overlooking the Farmington River. We arrived early enough to have our choice of tables outside, yet late enough that as dinner progressed we were able to savor the beginnings of a beautiful sunset. The food was fantastic. Mom enjoyed a salmon filet grilled on cedar planks; Lynn savored the Chatham cod atop lemon (?) flan; and I devoured a strip steak served with a peppercorn sauce, mashed potatoes, and haricot verts. The coup de grace was the warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, which Mom and I both decided very well may have been the single best dessert either of us has ever had in our lives. (Coming from someone who is not a big fan of overused superlatives, that's really saying something.)

We said goodbye to Mom and headed home, content, relaxed, and happy.

Enjoy all the pictures of the West Hartford Reservoir and the dinner view at Apricots.

May 4, 2006

Muriel Zuckerman, in memoriam

I wanted to write a short memorial tribute to my wife's grandma who passed away recently. She was a fiercely devoted, loyal, and proud friend and family member with a sharp wit and a smile that would melt an ice cube. After Lynn gave an impromptu, emotionally stirring and beautifully delivered eulogy at her funeral, though, I felt there was nothing more for me to say (and, unfortunately, I wasn't in a position to share Lynn's words with those not at the funeral service).

Last night, though, Lynn told me about a conversation she had with her grandpa. and the message resonated strongly with my own philosophies and, indeed, with the sated goal of my blog. He said:

Lynn, enjoy all of the moments that you and Lee spend together becase in the end, all that you have left are the memories. And after 61 years, it hurts so much more because I have so many good memories.

We miss you.

April 14, 2006

Holiday Tradition

From the category of strangest holiday traditions ever comes my father-in-law's time-honored Passover tradition. Most of my non-Jewish friends fail to understand why Jews would willingly eat—and enjoy—gefilte fish, but such a tame act pales in comparison with this.

My father-in-law likes. to. drink. all. the. jelly. from. the. gefilte. fish. jar.

March 17, 2006

The Best Reason To Have Kids?

This morning, Lynn and I were driving from New Jersey out to Queens to visit Mom, Aunt Karen, Scott, Randi, and Julia. As we were driving by Shea Stadium on the Grand Central Parkway, the following conversation ensued:

Lynn: Let's go to Shea!
Lee: I don't think they'd let us in—.
Lynn: But I want to run the bases!
Lee: There probably aren't even any bases setup right now...
Lynn: When we have kids, we're going to bring them to do the Mets's [Dynamets] Dash.

(moment of silence)

Lynn: Will they let me run the bases with our kids?
Lee: Probably only if the kids are younger than a certain age.
Lynn: Well, then we're just going to have to continuously have kids so that we always have one young enough for me to run the bases with!

(I didn't point out to Lynn that she'd have a hard time enjoying her base-running perks if she's continuously pregnant.)

December 6, 2005

A Tardy Thanksgiving Report

The problem with trying to maintain a blog is that sometimes you just don't finish entries in a timely fashion. Exhibit A, your honor:

We enjoyed a gastronomic feast at the Zuckerman's home in Wyckoff yesterday on Thursday the other week, featuring:

  • Assorted crackers with blocks of Swiss, cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheese
  • Tortilla chips with a cheese-salsa dip
  • Assorted veggies with a southwestern ranch dip
  • Baked Brie
  • Other dippables: hummus, baba ganoush, and tuna & cannellini bean dip
  • Chicken wings
  • Eggplant rollatini
  • Oven-roasted turkey stuffed with an onion and herb stuffing
  • Gravy from pan drippings
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Spinach soufle
  • Sweet-potato pudding
  • Homemade corn-bread stuffing
  • Sweet and sour meatballs
  • Cornish hens
  • Ribollita
  • Steamed asparagus
  • Apple crisp
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Strawberry-rhubarb pie
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Assorted candies and cookies

Following the food and festivities, the fine folks at CSI treated us to a Thanksgiving Day episode specifically designed to make us regret every single ounce of chow that we'd spent the day enjoying. The episode featured a poor man who suffered from Prader-Willi Syndrome, who escaped from his (temporary) caretaker and literally ate himself to death. The show, of course, shunned explanations that Prader-Willi goes hand-in-hand with levels of mental retardation in favor of gruesome autopsies and montages of the victim gorging at a buffet, competitive eating contest, and in the dumpster where he lost his life. Truly an hour of television carefully scripted to air on Thanksgiving night. I caught a re-run of a season one or two CSI episode a few days ago, and what struck me as surprising was that the team was investigating two run-of-the-mill murders. There were no rare diseases, no insect evidence, and no kinky sex acts involved. Somehow, investigation, forensics, and deductions (not to mention the requisite musical lab segment and eyestrain-inducing lighting) managed to create an engaging and entertaining episode. I do think that CSI is still one of the best shows on television today, but it's a bit of a shame that any subtlety or simplicity has long since been thrown to the wind.

Life is a long journey full of peaks and valleys, and we all learn at different times to appreciate the peaks and to weather the valleys. Life knocks us down and we get back up swinging; life lifts us up and we strive to cherish the moment. This year, though, I'm thankful for all those days when life simply looks the other way. The weeks when I wake up next to my wonderful wife, go to work with intelligent and witty people who are also my friends, create good times with high school and college friends who I must have known since ages past, watch my niece learn to say "boobies," and share in the warmth of two loving families. It's easy to celebrate the momentous occasions, but it's more important to learn to love the mundane things that make life worthwhile. Happy December, everyone.

September 19, 2005

No One Deserves Lung Cancer

My sister, Randi, is a lot more gifted with words than with web design. From No One Deserves Lung Cancer:

Last June, my father died at the age of 56 after a nearly two-year battle with lung cancer. His story challenges the very fundamental perceptions people have of lung cancer patients.

For Dad

The stated purpose of my blog is true, but while composing it I realized who the single best target member of my audience would be: Dad.

I could always tell Dad any little thing--no matter how whimsical or irrelevant--and he would listen and reply with unbounded and genuine interest and enthusiasm. During the sporadic days of my old web log and sports log, Dad was my single biggest inspiration for writing. I could always count on receiving an email response from him the same day that I would post. These weren't single-line responses either; they were well thought out comments, discussions, and questions on whatever arbitrary topic I had written about.

Anyway, because he would have enjoyed reading this blog as much as anyone, I'm dedicating this blog to Dad. I wrote the following about three weeks after Dad died last year, and it captures many of my feelings about Dad:

Always There

"Always there." Two little words, but together they speak volumes about the
person that my Dad, Steve Feigenbaum, was. Within those words are Dad's
soaring passions, his fierce loyalties, his sparkling smile, and his
endless love. Dad taught me innumerable things in the times we shared, but
perhaps most of all he taught me that an openhearted life of "always there"
can yield untold vigor and joy for many, many people.

What does it mean to live a life of "always there?" For Dad, it meant that in
all aspects of his life, from day-to-day minutiae to long-term outlooks and
plans, he always knew, expressed, and acted on exactly what he wanted and what
was best for the people he loved. It was very difficult to know my Dad a little
without knowing him a lot. His energy and warmth would draw people close, and,
once close, Dad's true self was always there. He never minced words, and he
lay bare his soul for all who would get close to see, to enjoy, and to learn

You need only have met my Dad on any August day to know the passion for the
Mets or his hatred for the Yankees that would gnaw at him one day only to
invigorate him the next. Chance to call on a Friday or Saturday night in the
fall or winter and you'd learn of his ardor for Penn basketball. All was not
lost should your call go unanswered, as Dad's musical love and talent was
evident in his rendition of a rewritten version of "Blue Moon" on our
answering machine. Dad's passions were definitely always there.

Dad was always there to answer questions, no matter how trivial, or to hear
stories, no matter how irrelevant. He'd stop everything he was working on in
the middle of tax season to talk to me on the phone, and regardless of whether
I wanted to ask him an accounting question for a friend, chat about the latest
Mets game, or discuss plans for an upcoming vacation, he was happy to oblige
and indulge. And yet, he was always there for his clients as well, working
late into those cold winter nights, dotting every 'I' and crossing every 'T',
caring about their livelihoods and their lives, right up until his final days.
I doubt that any of Dad's many, many friends and family members have ever
known someone who would take as forthright an interest in the smallest details
of their lives as Dad did.

Dad's Judaism was always there throughout his life. His uncomplicated and
unchanging beliefs taught me the warmth and joy that can come from Jewish
traditions. I could always look to Dad as my model for dovening in shul,
leading Friday night Kiddush and Ha'motzi, and singing melodious haftarahs.
The perfect Passover Seders that Mom organized would never have been complete
without Dad joyfully leading them. Passover will never, ever, be the same
without Dad. Of all the religious traditions that I learned from Dad,
duchening impacted me the most. I will never lose my memories of standing on
the bimah and chanting the priestly blessing, together, with Dad always there
at my side.

Growing up, Dad was always around to share good times with. I couldn't begin
to count the number the number of tennis matches, croquet games, aerodarts
games, leaf races, or simple games of catch that he played with me during the
summers in the Catskills. Our vacations in the Caribbean were filled with
great times, and when Mom and Randi wanted to ride Space Mountain at
Disney World but I was too afraid, Dad was always there to ride the good ol'
People Mover with me, again and again.

One tiny incident from my childhood stands out. Near the end
of my brief and unspectacular little league experience, I found more and more
that as I stood in the outfield during twilight games I had trouble picking up
the ball off the bat. I told Dad this, and I have vivid memories of seeing my Dad
trot out along the left field line to stand 50 feet away from me to help me know
when the ball was headed my way. It probably seemed frustrating,
insignificant, and embarassing at the time, but remembering it today fills me
with overwhelming gratitude and longing for Dad.

How can a world function without someone who was always there? I can't imagine
existing without Dad's presence as a rock-steady anchor in my life. How can Dad
not be around to discuss the Mets? How can Dad not be working late at the
office on a cold March night? How can Dad not be leading a Passover Seder?
These questions seem the height of absurdity to me, yet they are the impossible
truth that we face now. I know that many people who I love very much believe
that Dad is still always there, watching and enjoying all of the lives of his
beloved friends and family. I do not know if this is so, though I hope so
dearly. What I do know, is that I owe Dad what little I can do to be an "always
there" presence for the people I love. I'll also make sure to cherish and
share all my love and memories of Dad. In these ways, at least, Dad will truly
always be there.

Lee Feigenbaum
July 1, 2004