Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blog Stats and you (Mark)

Dear Mark
If you learn one thing about any technology it is that data rules. I was looking at that stats our (my) blog and wondering what they informed us (me) of. It's been 7 years since our (my) first post to the blog. Since that time we (I) have compiled many a post/letter to ourselves (you) detailing where our (my) life was at the time we (I) posted.
I'm really glad we've (I've) gotten back to posting more often. I'm really enjoying reading our (my) letters to each other (you) and staying current on our (my) lives (life). Hearing about the daily things that our kids (Jack) do is hilarious.
Using the blog stat tool I queried to see which posts were the most popular. It is pretty clear that cycling dominates our (my) posts often. The top honor still goes to a post from May 30, 2007 about riding up Stevens Pass, but my recent post about the fall of Lance Armstrong has quickly taken 2nd place.

One thing that stats do tell us (me) is that you (yes you) do not post much. Even the top post on Daily Fiona was penned by me. Some say this might be a call to action. For me it poses an age old question, "if you blog about your brother and make fun of him and he doesn't read the posts, will he ever know?" Frankly we (I) may never know the answer.
This thing on?


Dear Mark

I've been feeling stressed and a little unfocused these last few months. I have been trying to figure out why and what I can do to counter it. I looked at my daily coffee cup and asked "are you, and your 4-6 friends that I drink every day, responsible for my stress and lack of focus?" I looked at all video inputs. I gathered them in the TV room (because he refuses to get off the wall) and as I looked at the phone and various tablet devices said "are you to blame for me being at my wits end and scatter-brainness (yes I invent words when I'm tired)?!" I asked Lavi and she told me to figure it out and that she had bigger issues, then went back to calmly reading her book and ignoring me.

Racing ahead to the end of the story but not revealing the point of my writing yet, I think there were a lot of little things. I've already made a lot of improvement in 2013 and my stress level is down. This was not so much about stating that I was stressed, but (there it is again) more about one thing I discovered as I searched for the answer.

As I sat stressed out and unfocused, no less than 3 different individuals asked if I meditated. Do I meditate? No, not really. I mean I don't sit cross-legged and hum to myself. I hum to myself while walking, or talking or writing.. or... well I do that a lot but I don't call it meditating. I call it aggravating because I can't get that song out of my head. I began to think about it. Do I meditate? Have I ever meditated? I found myself feeling that I needed to think about what meditation was.

Tangent: referring back to my spelling post. I've already caught 3 mistakes of "meditate" written as "mediate." Now that would have Mom slapping her sides in laughter don't you think? But I digress in sarcasm again.

As I puzzled over the meaning of what it was to meditate I was reading an article a friend sent me called "why we need more research into cycling and brain science." Now at first I thought of course. We cyclist are a naturally very smart group and we should be studied. Then I thought, oh wait maybe they mean we should be studied because individuals who willing dress in tight lycra, train crazy hours, shave their legs and attempt to gain speed that only cheetahs and sport cars are capable of are down right loonies. But then I read the article and it discussed how the affect of bike riding has been seen to add focus and attention.

It struck me what has been missing these last few months, I have not been bike commuting nearly as much (if at all) as I did in years past. Now I know I have legitimate reasons and my commuting accolades are massive (and unaided by sports enhancing drugs), so I'm not down on myself (disclaimer to those that would rush to talk to me... I'm okay). Bike commuting offered me decompression from the day, exercise and a sense of doing something good (less carbon, car trips, etc.).

I thought more about it and realized my meditation was on the bike. I just haven't had that in a while. I haven't been commuting by bicycle lately and when I do (in the warmer months) it is with Jack. Now cycling with Jack is another whole level of decompression, but what I'm talking about is the time in my head, letting go of the day and subconsciously solving problems. I recall times commuting home when I won't remember parts of the ride. At first it would make me not want to tell Mom for fear of a lecture based on worry. Then I would remember the ride but just having been in a, for lack of better words, zen like state.

I get this some times when I go for a solo run. I think cycling though really brings a level of focus. Maybe it is just the exercise endorphins. Whatever it is I want to get it back. I think meditating might be not only good for me, but necessary.

On your left, reflectively,


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rock Climbing

Dear Mark

This past weekend I took Jack to the local rock climbing gym. Our friends from PEPS took their son there a few weekends ago and they had a good time (Bridie and Calvin). We missed the chance to sync with them because Jack was attending a roller skating party, but I wanted to give him a chance to try this out.

He had a lot of fun and kept saying "Dadna, wasn't that awesome!" We paid for an hour of belaying support and put Jack on the wall and watched him go. He climbed a lot better than I thought he would have. In the past Jack has been like his Dadna, all leg strength. While this bodes well for his career as a TdF stage sprinter, I was worried about his upper arm strength. Surprisingly he did just fine. He would climb up and get to a point, then want to come down. The next time up he go fast over the previous route and take 1-2 more steps up and come down. Each time he made a little more progression. He never reached the top but he was impressive.

I added some pictures to the following gallery. Enjoy. I'll write later when I have a bit more time.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The good, the bad and the boss I wanna be

Dear Mark

I've been a Manager for several years now at Adobe. I really enjoy the role. I feel that of all my soft skills seem to lend themselves to the role as well. I try to stay current with the latest management trends and buzzwords. I mean I've created synergy within paradigms that align our teams and bring to the table clear goals and countless exit strategies that can help foster organic growth while still being proactive and moving forward which at the end of day is win-win. (reference) That's a management buzzword score of 12 by the way. See, I gotz mad skillz yo! Aside, I'll admit that I completely over use the word "organic" these days. I have to find another way to convey the meaning of allowing my team or individual or process to come to success without forcing it. Every time I say "organic" I can feel my team wince, as does my inner douche meter.

I was recently reading highlights from the book "Good Boss, Bad Boss. How to be the Best and Learn from the Worst." My employer has this cool service that allows me to read highlights, or cliff notes, of recent books. It's a solid way to get the main points and decide if you want to read further. I'm not going for a back-handed compliment here, but I'll say that the book describe many things I aspire to be as a boss. Listening, asking insightful questions and knowing that individuals are different and each person reporting you may need a different approach were some of the main points.

I've been pretty lucky I admit. I've had some really good Managers and an individual who mentors me in managing while at my current employer. That said, I've seen and had some who have failed miserably. They say that the #2 reason a person may leave a job is their direct manager. It's definitely a reason I keep up on trends and do my best to be the value add manager.

All of it made me remember a game that Lavinia and I play while watching TV called "Who would you want to be your boss?" The game is pretty easy. Have a compelling reason why you would want a character from TV, who is a boss, to be your boss. Let me run through some examples and show you the reigning winners of our little contest.

I think the game started years ago when we were watching the first seasons of CSI (the original one from Vegas). William Peterson was playing the role of Grissam. We followed Grissam through his science crime solving ways and started to think he would be a fun boss. Sure there seemed to be weekly danger surrounding him, but we chalked that up to the job. I mean look at how he mentored a young CSI Nick Stokes or kept a veteran CSI Catherine Willows from over running everyone with her years of experience. Yes, for a while Grissam was the boss we wanted.

After this we of course naturally thought about other crime shows and wondered how the TV characters from those shows would do. CSI Miami is pretty well known for the overacting David Caruso as Horatio Caine. I always argued for him being a good boss. He was straight to the point, always had the last word, motivated his team to do really dangerous stuff, he never sunburned in the Miami heat. This was a guy I could learn from. Lavinia busted me on the fact that I just wanted to be on his team so I could work with CSI Natalia Boa Vista and I'll admit that she was partially right. I just really wanted to learn how you could be the manager that takes off his sunglasses all the time, cool. While Lavinia may have defeated my nomination of Horatio Caine, she was equally defeated with her nomination of CSI NY's Gary Sinsie as Mac Taylor. Sure Mac is the hard nosed, get it done, you honest with me and I'm honest with you kind of manager we all want. Some one who has more years of experience in his personality that he/she does years on the earth. In the end, Lavinia just wanted to follow him around the crime lab like a teenager with a crush. The comforting part of her liking older gentlemen is that I seem to be trending that way myself.

So far Grissam was reigning supreme, but we really started thinking about it. We decided that if Joss Wheedon had been an actual TV character we'd chose him for sure. However, we could decide between many of his TV shows. Immediately Giles the Watcher sprang up. I was a big fan of him because he helped teach you how to fight demons with kung-fu. Doesn't everyone want that boss? While Giles is loved and appreciated he is no match for our favorite. Capt Malcom Reynolds of Firefly. The two of us would board Serenity and fly out in the black with this character in a heart beat. His is the ultimate cowboy/sci-fi captain. Hard-nosed and rough, yet caring deeply for his crew. Mal knows well how to build a team when he says "every one's got a job to, so lets get to doing it." If the team is working well together than success follows. In business that may seem low-key, but for Mal it meant not being captured by the Alliance or eaten by Reavers so it's important.

"Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand

I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me..."

Mal also scores high on the list for best theme song. While CSI has made liberal use of songs from the Who, the Firefly theme song is best. 

Over the years we have had many candidates and even winners who held their own against them. Some honorable mentions and past winners are worth mentioning. Robert Guillaume's Isaac Jaffe from "Sports Night." In fact we often wondered if Dana (played by Felicity Huffman) could be a candidate. Isaac's character was great, but we curse ABC for canceling it too early to really know. I usually just wanted to be Danny any way. Recently Hawaii Five-O's Capt Steve McGarett played by Alex O'Loughlin seems to be Lavinia's recent candidate. I would say it has less to do with this take-action style of management and more with his six pack abs, even by which I find myself swayed at times. I mean you could seriously chip a nail. I guess in the same vein as that I'm constantly pitching Bones' Dr. Saroyan played by Tamara Taylor. While I argue it is because she is very smart, doesn't get squeamish when things get tough (which in the show is usually dealing with dead body parts but there is an analogy there to work I'm sure), and lets her team contribute by maximizing their talents to create a greater level of success, it's pretty much because she is extremely hot. Sue me. 

While I hope my next re-org will have me reporting to Dr. Saroyan, I think Lavinia and I would both be happy to report to Henrietta "Hetty" Lange, played by Linda Hunt on NCIS LA. No one delivers that look of take caution coupled with make the right choice which is my choice look than Hetty. She's witty, always seems to know what the path to success is and teaches her agents the value of team. She's the current winner of the "Boss we want to report to" contest. Although if Dr. Saroyan has an opening I'll be hitting my network hard for referrals because she's just awesome.

While thinking about what boss we want to report to, I began to wonder about what TV boss I'd like to most emulate myself. I mean I have so many choices. There is J. Jonah Jameson and Nick Fury from the Marvel universe. You could pick from any of Edward James Olmos from Battlestar Galatica or his time in Miami Vice (definitive!). You may hit want to emulate Optimus Prime from the Transformers cartoon. While I act more like Michael Bluth from Arrested Development, I think I've settled in on my choice. I'm sure anyone who works with me will just laugh because the odds of emulating this character are border line insane, but I would chose Jethro Gibbs of NCIS played by Mark Harmon. Is it because he, like me, makes salt-n-pepper hair look amazing? Possibly. Is it because he plays by the rules but will bend them to benefit his team at any cost to himself? Likely. Is it because he can stare down a report and make him/her jump to it on command? Most definitely. All in all he gets results and he gets respect. At the end of the day you can't ask for much more than than.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Year(s) of the Cape!

Dear Mark

Jack has had many things he has been into over the past few years. There was Dinosaurs and PBS's Dinosaur Train show that mesmerized him for some time. Who could forget how Lightning McQueen and the Cars movie still to this day are some of his favorites. Star Wars is a big thing now too and that is just down right awesome. I've often wondered how he gets into things we've never introduced him to, such as Angry Birds (Uncle Ben) or Ninjango (school friends). You know he currently a huge fan of Batman right now. Even though he started off as a Robin fan, he quickly moved to dressing up as the Batman.

One constant that seems to have held with Jack over the last few years has been, the cape. Jack loves his Capes and wears them all the time. This little 2012 montage shows that (minus the jumping in the pool shot, but he would have warn it had we let him).

Jack's cape obsession, if you can call it that, started when he was little. Lavinia bought him a simple black cape, with red borders and a red star. I think this cape is the equivalent of our blankies (oh, did I just out you.. so sorry). Whenever he puts one on he seems to be playing the part. When he was 2 he'd run around the house like Superman saying "Dadna, it's fly time!" and zoom off he'd go. It got to the point that I could put on the Superman movie theme song (another John Williams classic) and he start zooming and zooshing around the house.

The Super Hero angle really started with Robin, then quickly moved to Batman. His first foray was a dress up day at school. At home he'd wear his mask and cape and watch some cartoons.  After a while he had started acting out the title sequence of the Batman cartoon. It was funny to watch.

Jack would insist on wearing his cape everywhere. We'd go to the store, the market, a bike ride, a walk, to the beach, etc he'd want to have his cape on. As much as it was a bit corny he would get the coolest compliments from other adults. "Hey kid, nice cape!" "Are you Batman?" "Wow, superhero kid coming through." Very rarely would I get a second look from a disapproving parent, but I knew that those adults were just refused a cape when they were little, which was probably why they were such judgmental jerks.

Jack would play all kinds of fake-believe (our family word for make believe) games with his cape. Some of the games had nothing to do with super heroes or even the cape. It just became an accessory, like wearing a coat. The picture to the right is him, building a city in our parent's backyard. No need for the cape, or the Robin R but he had it on anyway.

With capes come masks too. We've had Batman, Robin, Darth Vader, Nightwing (yeah, my kid knows how Nightwing is, how cool is that) and more.

Jack has had a few capes over the time. His favorite is still the black and red one. He's added a new shinny one from xmas that has a bat on one side and spiders on the other. He earned a treat at the toy store and purchased another one with lizard spikes on it. Your own mother made him a yellow Robin one one day. The most creative was the one he made himself. The one below that is Jack hanging out with me and my buddies one night when Mama was traveling. He was just hanging, shirtless, having some crackers and juice while we all had a brew or a Tequila... with his cape.

Jeff & Lavinia Moran: The Cape &emdash; One day Jack had sassed his Mama a bit too much and his cape was taken away. He was heartbroken, how could we he asked. He was told that he needed to respect his Mama and indeed things did get much better quite soon. However, in a fit of what can only be called "Creative Defiance" he set out to make his own cape, and make one he did. With construction paper and tape he fashioned a cape that he wore for over 3 weeks. He even wore it out to the stores. Oh the looks we received that I'm lucky I never saw. While a bit defiant, it was super cute and creative.

I wonder what dress up symbolizes or means for young children. I know that I when I go bike riding there is a large difference between casual dress to some bike specific clothes to even a full on team race kit. When I have my kit on I ride harder, I visualize success on the bike, I'm serious and it helps me enter the zone. I begin to wonder if Jack would do better in school wearing his cape. Would it give him the edge, the focus? Or would he just daydream, like I do, about what it would be like to fly through clouds or lift a bus off the ground.

I guess every kid has something that they latch on to and won't give up. We had our blankies, other kids have a hat they never take off, some kids carry a stuffed animal and so on. At the end of the day I pretty happy that Jack has found a fondness for his super hero cape. Maybe it will help foster a kid that not only quotes Peter Parker's Uncle Ben but also walks the talk. Every parent believes his/her kid is special and capable. Maybe that is why it doesn't phase me at all that my kid likes to wear a cape, because I already think he's a pretty Super Kid.


P.S. Here's a couple of galleries of his best Cape wearing photos and a good video of him dancing to the Batman cartoon theme.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Dear Mark

I didn't make a spelling error with the title. "Thursdray" is what me and a few of my friends call our Thursday night outing. About 3-4 years ago my buddy Joey and I had been frequenting a local waterhole called The Dray. You've been there. It's a Belgian style brew pub serving mostly beer and some wine, no liquor, and some small food fare. We some how settled into hanging out there on Thursday nights.

Thursday + Dray = Thursdray
Ain't we clever.

Since then the owners of The Dray have opened a new spot in Greenwood called the Yard. It has more substantial food options and a full bar, which means this brother can have a Tequila. We've been meeting there for a good 2 years now. Yet, the name Thursdray has stuck because frankly Thursard sounds stupid.

I look forward to Thursday nights a great deal, some weeks more than others depending on how things go. In the spring, summer, fall I manage to ride my bike or walk over it is so close. I like the idea of a weekly time to get away, have a tequila and see some friends. The staff spoils us and we don't mind that one bit. I feel like the place could yell "Norm" as one of us walks in and it wouldn't be out of the ordinary.

Usually there are about 5-7 of us that meet up. But the beauty is that we don't all have to show up. Who ever is free usually makes it and the night is something we all look forward to. You know Joey, and Rod shows up now too. I've even managed to get a few other high school folk to show up. Our conversations run from "guy talk" to juvenile (yes there is a difference), from cycling to other sports (we have a couple of us that like cycling, surprise!), and from technology to down right stupid. At the end of the night we've decompressed and laughed, a lot.

I really wish you were here in Seattle so you could join us. It reminds me of that joke that Dad always tells.
An Irish gentleman walks into a bar and orders 3 beers at the same time.
He takes them to a table and sits by himself, proceeding to drink each beer in turn.
He pays his tab and leaves.
The Irish gentleman returns every week and does the same thing.
The bartender finally says "Sir, if you like I could serve each beer in turn so they don't get warm on you."
The Irish gentleman says, "Oh thank you sir, but you see I have 2 other brothers and they live far abroad. We miss each other a great deal. We decided we would each visit our local watering hole, order 3 beers and drink them as if we were together each week. So I appreciate the courtesy, but I'm quite fine."
Well the reason for this gentleman's beer ordering became well known over the year.
One day in early spring he showed up and ordered only 2 beers and drank them.
The local patrons took noticed and discussion began.
After 2 weeks of doing this the bartender said "Sir, I want to give our condolences for one of your brothers. We noticed you are only ordering two beers these days."
"Oh no you have it mistaken. " The gentleman said. "They are both doing just fine. I simply gave up beer for lent."
I hope you are doing well and that you get a chance to visit your watering hole with some buddies on a routine basis. It is really a great consistent thing to do each week. I put it right up there with exercise.