Toronto

I meant to post about this sooner but life has been hectic.

We drove to Toronto a few weeks ago and celebrated a belated Christmas with Andrea’s family. It was my first time in Toronto (or anywhere north of the Appleyard family farm in the Hamilton area, and that not since the early 80′s).

We stayed in the Don Mills area, near the Fairview Mall. It’s a nice area with easy access to shopping and public transportation. If I were inclined to live in a big city, that would have been a suitable spot to settle down.

The area was blanketed with snow the night we arrived. I’m not exactly sure how much fell but there was at least a foot on the truck when I went out the next morning. Here lies a pitfall of public transportation. Our group of six were walking to the subway stop around the corner. None of the sidewalks were shoveled or salted yet. Andrea’s sister slipped on some uneven pavement and sprained her ankle pretty badly. We had to go back and get the truck to drive her back to the apartment.

Four of us eventually continued, and landed ourselves downtown. We stopped at Fran’s Restaurant for a bit of food before heading to our main objectives: the Hairy Tarantula and the World’s Biggest Bookstore (WBB).

The Hairy Trarantula is without a doubt the best comic book store I’ve been to (no offense Graham Cracker or Darktower, I still love you guys). The Hairy T has an amazing collection of materials, including the complete run of Transmetropolitan and let me tell you, that is hard as hell to find locally. Quimby’s is the only store out of the dozen’s we’ve been to that carried any. The staff were wonderful and even joked around playfully when they learned I was American. We picked up Preacher #3Transmetropolitan #2, Strangers in Paradise #5 and #6, The Walking Dead #3, Animal Man #3, Concrete #2, and X-Factor #5.

Next we swung by the WBB. As advertised, the store was huge and their selection of SF/F anthologies was to die for. More than two full units! There were multiple copies of The Savage Humanists, still my favorite anthology ever (although not unexpected, since it’s from Robert J. Sawyer’s imprint). In the end, we ended up picking up Sideways in Crime, Chicks in Chainmail, Heroes in Training, The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases, Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman, and two issues of on spec.

The snow continued for a few days, so we ended up staying over an extra day or two before heading home. We’re looking forward to visiting Toronoto often after we move to Ontario later this year.

2009 née 2008

2008 is past, replaced by a new year and new hopes.

It was a rocky year, filled with good and bad. Divorce, and marriage, deaths on Andrea’s side of the family. Kittens and a new puppy. A historic election and rocky economic times. We’re still in for a bumpy financial ride but everything else is looking like its trending upward.

I did alright on my goals from 2008. Not bad, but the best I could manage under the circumstances:

Personal:

  • Finalize the divorce
  • Get out of debt
  • Be happy

Writing:

  • Write 12 new short stories (finished #13 on New Years Eve)
  • Revise and polish 12 stories
  • Submit 12 stories for publication (sent out 21 submissions, 2 accepted (1 electronic, 1 print), 1 pending, 1 anthology in hand)
  • Submit a story to the Writers of the Future contest quarterly

Work:

  • Finish migrating out of my hands-on role to more of a managerial one
  • Successfully manage and complete all planned projects
  • Come up with brilliant new projects for people to work on
  • Grow the company

For 2009, I want to continue the good trends I’ve already set. It’s going to be another busy year but I’m more prepared to tackle it. My goals for 2009:

Personal

  • Be a better husband (because there’s always room for improvement)
  • Build a better budget and get out of debt
  • Apply for Permanent Resident & move to Canada
  • Lose the weight I gained in 2008

Work

  • Less micromanaging, more delegating
  • Hire, hire, hire.

Writing

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas

End of year business, refinancing, the holidays and one last writing deadline is making life extremely busy. I probably won’t have much free time until January, but I wanted to share a little news.

Last week, Andrea and I flew to California. I had a few business meetings to attend, all of which went well. We enjoyed the moderate weather and a late night walk at the beach at the Montage in Laguna Beach. Saturday morning, we flew to Las Vegas and stayed over the night.

We stayed the night at the Bellagio. We enjoyed the buffet and the view of the fountain from the 28th floor. We played some slots, and I even played some poker. Above all else, we did what we went there to do. Around 7:45PM PST on the 13th of December 2008, we were married in a simple ceremony.

Our plans going forward are fairly simple. Right now we’re wrapping up a refinance of the house and car but very soon we will begin the process of moving to Canada. Over the winter, we’ll be cleaning out the house and packing up our belongings (mostly books). Much paperwork to be filed and lots of research to be done (since I’ll still be working for a US company but living in Canada, taxes will be more involved, I imagine). I’ll discuss the process in more detail as we go, because it’s interesting.

Exploring the Northwoods

Dogs #1 and #3 survived their visits to the vet yesterday, so armed with canine antibiotics we’re packing up the truck and heading to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to visit family for the holiday. It’s been nearly 10 months since we’ve seen my Dad and more since I’ve seen the rest of the clan. Andrea hasn’t met any of them yet.

I expect to fall behind on email, twitter, and LiveJournal. Don’t have too much fun without me.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating it. Give your loved ones a big hug and pay remembrance for those you can’t. Life is too short to waste it on tomorrows.

Home Again

Home from New York City. Short trips like this are always a little tiring. So much activity crammed into a short period of time. This was my second trip to Ad Tech. I’m a techie at heart and don’t consider myself much of a salesman. That puts me in the minority at a trade show like this.

I’ve always had an eye for business. When I wrote software for the tanning industry, I would often talk to salon owners about what they did and what they needed. I even spent several nights working behind the counter, so I understood how their business worked.

Over the years, I’ve become a little more comfortable stepping out of the technical role. It helps that I’m passionate about the work I do and firmly believe we have a technically superior system. I designed it from the ground up and for the last four and a half years it’s been my baby. As the company grows and I step into more of a management role, I delegate more and slowly put the tools into the capable hands of the team we have built and continue to build.

I met many of my clients/partners at Ad Tech or the after party. It’s always a pleasure to put a face to the name. In some cases, there were people I’ve been working with for nearly five years that I met for the first time yesterday.

A good trip, good food, and good people. I passed Diane Neal from Law & Order: SVU on 7th avenue (I’m such a L&O fanboy). I had my first New York style hot dog. I ate my first (and possibly last) oyster. I celebrated Obama’s win in Times Square.

In the Big Apple

I made it to New York City with minimal difficulty today. Court went smoothly and traffic was light, so I made it to O’Hare with enough time to catch an earlier flight. One shuttle and subway ride later, I found the Westin and checked-in.

I met my co-workers for dinner at Quality Meats, followed by 40/40, where we co-sponsored a VIP party for the trade show. A fun night, and I got to meet several people I’d only known via email or instant message.

Feeling a little dead tonight. My original flight was canceled and American Airlines decided they needed to call me at 4:15AM and 4:45AM to make sure I knew about it. Between that and the flight I managed about four hours sleep today and tomorrow’s going to be another busy day. Here’s to hoping the beds here are comfortable.

It also looks like I’ll be staying over an extra day, so home again on Wednesday. I’m already missing Andrea and our menagerie of pets. I hear the dogs have been camping out at the front door all day and night, waiting for my return.

I sent in my absentee ballot a couple weeks ago. If you haven’t already, please go vote and make your voice heard. I think we’re on the brink of seeing some real change happen and that makes me feel pretty damn good.

House on the Rock

Dena and I went to the House on the Rock in southern Wisconsin two weekends ago. It’s a 3-4 hour drive from Chicago and takes about the same amount of time to tour, if you get the Ultimate package (includes the three tour plans).

The house is the creation of eccentric architect Alex Jordan, and it is filled with artifacts and exhibits that will make you what Mr. Jordan was smoking. The world’s largest carousel, a collection of doll houses, antique and replica weapons, and more.

The Organ Room, is one of the most peculiar things I’ve ever seen. Pianos mounted on the walls and set on the floor. Giant copper tubs that appear to be part of a distillery but connected to electrical generators. It’s easy to imagine that all sorts of dark and strange rituals conducted by an evil maestro using this or this.
to conduct his undead orchestra in the middle of the night.

Dena’s pictures are here, if you’re so inclined.