Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Over the course of the last two weeks, a lot in our life has focused on family. Whether it's getting ready to start our own, dealing with the ones that live close by or visiting them in Florida and California, family seems to be a central theme in our life these days.

We are getting ready to start the adoption process. We have decided to work with a local agency because we want an infant. The initial interest form is nearly complete and ready to send in. While we are disappointed that a biological child is not in our future, we are excited to provide a loving home to children that might not have that opportunity otherwise. While the payoff is going to be great, we are not looking forward to the proctology exam we are about to endure.

One item that we are seriously working through is how to instill faith in our children's lives. As many of you know, we are an interfaith family. While we both agree that in theory all that matters is that our children have a strong moral compass and a solid faith foundation, we are working through the importance of "rights of passage." In addition, it is very important for us to show a united front with our children. Regardless of our choice, we will celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, Passover and Easter. However, it will be present in a way that these are the holidays we celebrate and here is why they are important. It will NOT be presented as "this is what Mommy believes" and "this is what Daddy believes." We also agree that it is unfair to make a child choose between competing faiths. They will choose once they are an adult, but not before.

Speaking of holidays, about two weeks ago we went to LA to celebrate Passover with Keds' family. I enjoy these functions. We get to provide support for her Dad and get to see everyone. This year, we missed Uncle Larry and his clan. His daughters were with their Mom's family for Passover. While we missed seeing them, it actually made things a little easier. I really think they are starting to get to know Keds all over again, and it's neat to see the development. Oh, and Britta is an amazing cook. That alone is reason to attend family functions!

This past week was a trip to Florida. While we spent the most time in Orlando, we got a chance to - you guessed it - see some family. Our second night there, we had dinner with two of my cousins on my Dad's side. While there is a large age difference, we always have a good time when we get together. It's great to bounce things off of them as well and share stories.

On Saturday we headed to St. Pete to see Keds' sister, our nieces and nephew. We also got to meet our grandnephew. This was my first time meeting Keds' brother-in-law and the kids. The girls are amazing and David is growing up to be quite the young man. We saw David's PeeWee A Hockey Team, the Gulf Coast Flames, They won the game, which was awesome. We then had dinner with the whole clan before heading back to Orlando for the night.

Sunday we were off to Ft. Myers to see the rest of my Dad's side of the family. Yes, I realize we were halfway to Ft. Myers when we were in St. Pete - I never said we were good planners. Dinner with my uncle and cousins was great. They have definitely taken a liking to Keds, especially my cousins two girls. We definitely don't see each other often enough. Monday we spent some time with my uncle and his girlfriend before heading back to Orlando to catch our flight home.

As I mentioned, I've been thinking about family quite a bit. We really do need to get back to Buffalo. My aunt is going to celebrate her 70th birthday this summer, and it's been three years since I've seen my cousins. I was reading my cousin Therese's MySpace page, where she mentions her siblings that have moved away and Grampy. I miss them all so much.

Anyhoo, I'm really just rambling now. A life update and thoughtful blog post all in one! How's that for blog value?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Coming soon

Sorry I've been MIA. Things have been a little crazy and we were on vacation for a week. But don't worry, there is another post coming soon. After all, I just got a fresh shipment of Peet's!

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Friends and Internet Crazies

You may have noticed two new links on the left hand side of this blog. They are "The Deacon's Bench" and "Perspectives from the Summit." The first is written by Deacon Greg who happens to work for Katie Couric as a writer and is also a recently-ordained Roman Catholic deacon. The second is written by Greg who is a teaching pastor at a Christian church in Oregon. Who they are isn't really important. Rather my focus today is the differences in the blogs.

At first I thought the Deacon's Bench was interesting. Some Catholic news items, his personal experiences as a recently-ordained deacon going through his first Easter season. From personal experience, Easter is rough on priests. You are basically in church for five straight days. Saying Mass is often the least fulfilling of a Priest's duties. The best part for them is the sermon. He does like to throw some current events in there. However, he's gone into overdrive with the Pope's trip to the US this week.

Now I am as interested in the Pope coming as your next run-of-the-mill Catholic. However, some real humdingers were posted. First, it was about how the President really respects Catholic theology and has more Catholics on his staff than any other blah blah blah. The next piece that got my attention was one about how Sen. Obama has a group of Catholics as advisers for the Pennsylvania primary campaign. I don't think it was his intention to draw the crazies out, but he certainly did. First it was the comments about how they wouldn't be surprised if "W" converted after his presidency. I nearly wanted to vomit. Then there were the series of comments about how evil Sen. Obama is and how now they have a convenient list of supporters of this evil man to pray for. I nearly lost my dinner.

Remember how I had to step away from the blogs after the caucus? I had to do it again. First, I was offended that politicians were using MY faith for political gain. The implication is that a photo op with the Pope or a list of prominent Catholics as advisers is an endorsement for all Catholics. Second, I was offended because there are people out there that will fall for this! Enough people simply do not care about details to judge for themselves. It's conveniently forgotten that the late Pope John Paul II chided Pres. Bush for the war in Iraq and for not doing more to help God's less fortunate children.

Matt's blog is interesting. Matt's the craziest, but that's mostly because of his obsession with Peet's Coffee that makes mine pale in comparison. His deals with weighty issues of faith. It makes me think.

Anything out there rubbing your pet peeves or making you think?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What a week!

Sorry I've been away for so long sports fans. Having to get up and having to gasp drive into work has cut into my blogging/surfing time.

My first week at work was interesting. While I understand the process of project management, getting into the world of affiliate marketing is something completely different for me. So I've spent most of my first week trying to wrap my head around the industry. The one thing I hate about starting a new job is that initial feeling of non-productivity. You don't really have work of your own yet, so you are dependent on your boss to get you up to speed. That, and since I am brand new, I don't have a badge yet, which means that I can't get in and out of the building on my own.

I have managed to create my own morning routine, though. I get my coffee pot ready the night before, the alarm goes off once at 4:51 and again at 5. I get myself a cup of coffee, take a shower and get dressed then eat breakfast before leaving the house at 6 to get to the office by 7 since the office is across town. Keds has been nice enough to get up most mornings and make me breakfast, which is definitely appreciated.

So work is good. Everyone is nice and for once there is a clear induction program so that I don't feel totally lost and don't feel overwhelmed. Plus, this place promotes a healthy work-life balance which is a plus. They like to keep total hours worked in the 40-45 hour per week range.

I'll admit that I haven't been really good the last couple of weeks in watching my nutrition and getting my happy self into the gym. This week was just bad. With Annie and her brood in last weekend, I didn't get to the gym and didn't feel like going on Monday. I really worked my legs Tuesday, which was good until I remember that I was going to be doing some cardio-based stuff on Thursday with Andrew.

Let's just say that Thursday was one bad decision after another. First, I scheduled my appointment at 7. When I got home, we decided to go out for dinner, but I didn't really have a lot of time. Then we had Mexican. While the food was decent and we got to see our favorite neighbors, I was kinda full when I got to the gym. So my measurements were a disaster and the workout was less-than-pleasant. I could barely breathe, my legs were still sore from Tuesday and I was exhausted. Andrew was disappointed that I quit. And I did. But there was good reason. I just need to get back into the habit of working out and going to work again.

This weekend will be good. Saturday is the reconvened County Democratic Convention. Keds and I are both delegates, so we'll swing by the Thomas and Mack and vote. We then have reservations at Mesa Grill, sort of a combination celebration/belated birthday dinner. Tomorrow we'll go to church and the gym, but take the rest of the day off before craziness sets in for the rest of the month.

How was everyone else's week?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Rekindled Passion

As many of you know, I love coffee. Not just any old, run-of-the-mill coffee, mind you, but really good coffee. I like my coffee strong and I don't dilute it with cream or sugar. Sometime around 2001/2002 I became disillusioned with Starbucks. I think it was precisely when I realized that I could stand on my rooftop, throw a rock and hit about 3 or 4 Starbucks outlets that I realized they lost their proverbial soul. I put them up there with Microsoft and Wal-Mart as a member of the Triumvirate of Evil, intent on taking over the world.

First, a little background. I drank coffee sporadically in high school and college. I worked at McDonald's and worked the opening shift (i.e. show up at 5 a.m.) on the weekends. I'd drink their perfectly passable coffee to get me going, but that was about it. I'd drink coffee occasionally to help me get through an all-nighter after I ran out of soda. When I moved to Vegas and started working a steady day shift, I found Starbucks. First, it was Frappuccinos. Then I switched to Caffe Mochas. Right around 2001-2002 I decided I needed to lose some weight. I was going to Starbucks every work day and getting myself a Grande Caffe Mocha, complete with whole milk and whipped cream. Not only was it expensive, but calorie dense - 360 calories per drink! That was practically a meal!

I needed to take drastic action. I was working at ClientLogic at the time, and we had just landed the Gevalia Kaffe account. Most people know Gevalia for their free coffee maker offers. The Project Manager and Call Center Director were both friends of mine, and they sent me some free coffee to try and I signed up for the delivery service as well. I used to water my coffee down with cream and sugar, but those were calorie luxuries I could no longer afford. I relegated myself to one non-fat latte a week. I have been a black coffee drinker ever since.

In the intervening years, I went on a quest for good coffee. Gevalia was good for a while, but their quality started to suffer greatly about 3 years ago. It was about that same time I discovered the Coffee Bean (oh, and met my wife, ironically at the Coffee Bean three years ago yesterday. Happy Anniversary babe!). The whole bean coffee wasn't quite as good as Starbucks, but their Caramel Lattes are way better than Starbucks' Caramel Macchiatos. They were close to the new house and gave me a free coffee when I bought a pound of beans. Alas, the location in the Aliante Information Center closed after a Starbucks opened across the street.

So it was back to buying my coffee at Starbucks. At first, I had them grind my beans for me, as I didn't have a grinder at home. Then, we used a portion of a Bloomingdale's gift card to buy a burr (as opposed to blade) grinder for the house. The burr grinder provides a lot more control over the grind of your beans, providing a more consistent coffee ground which makes for better coffee. Since Keds and I have become aware of the subtleties of food, I figured we could tell the difference in coffee. However, we couldn't tell the difference between blends and varieties. It all tasted the same. Which led me to try Peet's.

My first awareness of Peet's Coffee was back in 2002 or so. I read Howard Schultz's book about how he ran Starbucks. If you work in corporate America, I strongly urge you to read the book. It explains why they are one of the best companies to work for and you can totally see what your company is doing wrong. In it, we learn that Starbucks was founded in Seattle by three former Bay Area residents that were fan's of this place called Peet's Coffee in Berkeley, not far from the Cal campus. In fact, in their first year of operation, Peet's actually supplied them with their raw beans. After Schultz left to form his own company that would offer espresso beverages, Starbucks actually bought Peet's. They later re-engaged with Schultz. Eventually, Peet's and Starbucks went their own way.

I tried Peet's Coffee at Mitch and Samantha's. It was good. However, as my disillusionment with Starbucks bean quality grew so did my desire to search out Peet's. Then, one day we were in Whole Paycheck (sorry, Whole Foods), and I saw Peet's coffee sitting there on the shelf. However, I was aghast at what they were charging for 3/4 of a pound! Surely it would be cheaper to buy it direct. But I also wanted Keds to try the Arabian Mocha Java blend - one of my all-time Starbucks favorites. So I go into my local Starbucks and request it. I was absolutely devastated when they told me they had discontinued this classic blend! That was it. My quest had been set.

On our next couple of trips to LA, we had every intention of stopping at a local Peet's outlet and picking up a pound or two of Arabian Mocha Java. But it didn't work out. This last trip in, though, we made the time to stop buy. I picked up one pound of Arabian Mocha Java and one pound of their signature Major Dickason's Blend. I could actually taste the difference between the blends and taste the difference in the quality of the coffee. I decided to take the plunge and set myself up for home delivery. So I did. I placed my order on Thursday, it shipped on Friday and it arrived on Tuesday. One pound of Mocha Java and decided to try something new - New Guinea Highlands. What impressed me most was that both pounds of beans had their roasting date on them - Thursday, March 27th. So cool.

I opened my pound of Mocha Java this morning and nearly got a contact high. That got me through my shower. When I took the first sip from my first cup this morning, I was hooked. I could taste all of the flavors within the coffee. I finally found what I am looking for in a coffee. I can't wait to try the New Guinea. Their write up indicates that the original coffee trees were transplanted from Jamaica's Blue Mountains. We love Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. We drank it every day on our honeymoon. I am now a certified Peetnik. Fellow readers, if you are a coffee or tea drinker, don't be surprised if you get Peet's as a gift...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

City Council Meeting 4/2/2008

While I don't mean to scoop ScandalMonger, I am going to report a little on tonight's City Council meeting. We knew it was going to be a hot one, that's for sure. On the Agenda were two hot items, both relating to apartments. I specifically went to speak against Agenda #32, a zoning change for property at the northwest corner of Centennial and Valley from a Planned-Use Development to R3, or apartments. When I handed in my card, it was mentioned that the requestor was asking the item be removed from the agenda. Basically, they had at least three of the five votes against and with all three running for Mayor next year passage wasn't likely, so they are most likely going to the original zoning, which is for condos, or waiting until a later time.

However, the real hot issue was agenda item #2 - the Site Plan Review for the parcel at Centennial and Revere. The land was already hard-zoned R3 and to not pass it would violate the Open-Land Development Agreement. Basically, the city would be sued by Pardee Homes. The City Attorney basically said she couldn't find any justification to disregard the OL-DA other than the citizens were mad.

About 50 people stood up to speak against it. The Mayor and Council both said they had never seen so many people turnout. Some were a little crazy, some were very methodical and presented logical arguments. In the end, the citizens of El Dorado's gripe is with Pardee Homes and they need to file a class action lawsuit against Pardee. The City Council's hands were tied. If they voted against it, the city would be sued and Pardee would have come after the city for legal fees. We already pay they highest tax rate per assessed value of any municipality in the Valley. It was much less raucous than I thought it would.

The vote went exactly as I thought - 3 -2. Mayor Pro-Tem Robinson and Councilwoman Buck voted against. Councilwoman Buck's vote was purely a self-preservation move. She lives in El Dorado and is running for Mayor. Prior to this, she didn't find an apartment project she didn't like. Poor Councilwoman Smith. She basically sealed her political fate tonight, but did the right thing. People won't understand it, though, which is sad.

What I did notice, though is that our mayor is a jerk. He was rude to people and talked down to them. Now don't get me wrong - people were sometimes out of line, but you let them make fools of themselves and don't look like the bad guy. I can't believe he's been in office nearly 12 years. What a schmuck.

That one agenda item took nearly 2.5 hours to listen to all the public comments. The rest of the meeting went pretty fast. The next showdown is next Wednesday at the Planning Commission. Basically, Pardee wants to add two more parcels totalling nearly 1,100 MORE apartments for the adjoining parcels. Should be quite the showdown because the troops are now mobilized.

Bachelor Week

As many of your know, Keds is in LA this week keeping a friend company while her husband is at Science Camp. So that's left me on my own this week.

So what am I doing to fill my time? It's not like Keds left me with a laundry-list of "honey-do's." Don't get me wrong - there were a couple of things like get the sheets out of the dryer, water the plants and make sure the guest room is ready for the housekeeper. But that's about it.

No, rather, I've been spending my time watching baseball, the History Channel and playing Civ. Opening Day was Monday, and the A's played their home opener last night and I'm watching the second game this afternoon. I'm catching up on some of my History Channel programs I've recorded.

I've also worked on closing out a few business-related items, since I won't be around during the work day anymore to work on some of these thing. Plus, the casita is a disaster and I need to clean that up too. I am working with a local activist to establish a Democratic Club in this part of town. I need to get the by-laws written. The goal is to serve the needs to those north of Cheyenne or Craig Rd. on both sides of Decatur. We just need a name. And a logo.

Oh well. Enough of that for now. The A's game is on. Hopefully they can salvage a split with the Red Sox.