the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Christmas Recap

Had a nice visit with my parents this week; their arrival was delayed from Friday until Sunday thanks to the weather in Denver, which allowed us a couple of extra days to get things in order. They're back in Mountain Time now, driving from Phoenix to Durango. Highlights include:

  • A couple of excellent feasts for Christmas Eve and Day. Liz really knows her way around the kitchen.
  • Learned that Mom really likes white Burgundy. A lot.
  • Lunch at Melt was a huge hit.
  • My mother-in-law knitted me a Jayne hat!! It keeps my noggin surprisingly, delightfully warm.
  • Liz and my parents and my mother-in-law and I pitched in on a shiny new Mac as a combination Christmas/birthday present. It's job will be to help both my aging iMac and still-spry-but-time-consuming Linux box retire to gentler pastures. So far it's doing this quite admirably.
  • Liz surprised the hell out of me by hiding a Wii in one of the Mac boxes. The look on my face was apparently priceless.
  • Liz kicks my butt at most of Wii Sports, but I can totally take my dad at Wii Baseball. :-D


As a nice bonus, Webfaction rolled out WebDav support, so I can shift all of our iCal sharing off to that and have one less reason to keep a machine running all day here at home. Yay!

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Lazy Anniversary Weekend

Dear reality,

Sod off. We've quite enjoyed ignoring you this weekend.

Friday: Infinity, bubbles, cheese, and "Galactica".

Saturday: Sleep, wine tasting, the tasting menu at Nemo.

Sunday: Stayed in bed all day, sleeping, watching movies, sleeping, catching up on Cerebus and Flight, leftover Indian food in our PJ's, snuggling by the fire and listening to this week's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me".

Hardly glamorous, but perfect in its own way, and exactly what we needed.

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Making It So

Liz and I took a well-deserved three-day weekend trip to Ann Arbor to celebrate our anniversary a little early. It's hard to believe that six years of marriage have gone rocketing by so quickly!

Friday night we enjoyed a good wander around downtown Ann Arbor, discovered, to the peril of my credit cards, the Vault of Midnight, got a head start on our Christmas shopping, and met up with Kevin Dangoor and Mark Ramm at the Arbor Brewing Company, where a good time was had by all.

Saturday, after a spot of brunch and shopping (and discovering the hypnotic terror that is "Powerpuff Girls Z"), the main attraction began: a series of RSC shows featuring Patrick Stewart. First up was Julius Caesar, not featuring Patrick Stewart, but instead featuring buckets of blood, dogs of war, signs and portents, and all similar manner of treacherous goodness. We paused for a jaunt over to Vinology for dinner, followed by a quick bit of dessert at La Dolce Vita, then it was back to the theatre for Antony and Cleopatra, where I had a bit of a chuckle over Patrick Stewart's wig--I don't think I've ever seen him have that much hair before, unless you count the space-mullet he sported in Dune. This morning, we brunched again, then took in the third and final round, The Tempest, which had been done up as a rather cinematic affair in a barren land north of the Arctic circle, somewhere between King Kong and Neil Gaiman.

As expected, Patrick Stewart was thoroughly at home on the stage, and did not disappoint, in energy, in subtlety, in getting just the right nuance. And though he chewed a bit of scenery, he should be commended for making sure that his fellow players get chances to shine in their own right. We were especially impressed with Cleopatra, whose performance utterly defied words as it cascaded from girlish delight to bitter jealousy and rage, into despair, and finally, tragic, dignified resolve. Bravo!

And, just like that, the time has gone and now we're home again, making preparations to do battle with the week ahead. Oh, yes, there are still tickets available for some shows, if you find yourself of a mind to go. Even if your seats aren't the greatest, you won't regret it.

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Minor Victories and Comforts Amid a Sea of Turmoil

Still no time to dig through the San Francisco/Napa/Alexander Valley/Sonoma/wedding photos to find the good stuff, as work and other extra-curriculars continue to absorb all available free time. Hopefully I'll be able to get to some of that this weekend.

Today's victory: got the green light from The Powers That Be for the topic I was thinking of for a PyCon presentation. Now I just have to find the time to blast out the proposal and outline; this weekend looks like it might be a candidate. My original plan was to take care of all of that while out in California, but various crises kept me from submitting my idea to TPTB until just this week. I probably needed the complete vacation anyway.

Today's comfort: just back from a wine dinner at Grady's featuring wines from the Rousillon region. Liz (not my Liz, but the lady who runs the shop) amazed us with one perfect pairing after another. Hooray!

Work tells me that I get to fly to DC for a day next week. What exactly I'm along for isn't terribly clear yet, and I unfortunately probably won't be able to skip out for sushi at Kaz (*cry*), but it should add a little novelty to the week. The trick will be waking up early enough to catch a 7:30 AM flight--ugh!

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Punching for Our Supper

After a Monday night of drinking high-end sake and feasting on exquisitely delicious sushi with my high school buddy Josh, we hauled our sleepy behinds up to Napa for the kick-off of the week's wine country adventures.

We spent pretty much all day Tuesday at Tres Sabores, getting a tour by way of working for the winemaker, Julie Johnson. Liz and I punched down the caps on some 2006 Petite Syrah, took some samples of Zin grapes from the vineyard, and ran the samples over to a local lab for testing. After a lunch of burritos from La Luna (perfectly paired with Julie's 2004 Zin), it was back to work again: Liz punched down, then went out into the vineyard with Julie to do some pre-harvest maintenance, while I repaired some dodgy splices in the wiring for the shop's speakers and got the radio going again, all while standing on a series of ladders and entertaining a charming six-year-old girl whose father was up for the afternoon to work on his Cab. We've apparently been adopted by the various dogs and cats who romp about the grounds--two of the kittens even tried to sleep with us for a while last night. The sheep and guinea hens, however, remain a bit standoffish. Julie very generously treated us to dinner at the bar of a nearby restaurant, and then we slept the sleep of the righteously tired.

Today the weather is grey and misty. There is harvesting this morning (actually already completed) and preparations for crush are underway. Once that's completed (or at least going) it'll be time to hit the road and drive up north to Albion.

I have been fairly photo-crazy up here, so expect some updates once I get a chance to edit and see what came out well.

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When You're Going to San Francisco...

To celebrate our launch and the start of vacation, I took my team-mates out to Melt for beer and tasty food, and a good time was had by all. Of course, then I had to go home and pack, and then didn't sleep much that night (I never manage to sleep well before a flight for some reason). We tried to sleep on the plane, occasionally hampered by the gentlemen behind us, who were apparently best friends in a former life. I could have put up with their loud conversation (audible through ear plugs and over iPod), but it was the harmonica assault in the middle of my nap that really upset me.

Once we got checked in and had real food (an adventure in itself, thank you hotel restaurant that can't tell bratwurst from least you had free popcorn and tasty beer), we hopped the BART down to the Embarcadero and met up with my cousin Cole, an RA at Stanford who was up for the day to make sure his residents survived their scavenger hunt. We meandered around at the Ferry Building market, had a walk along the waterfront, watched a group of skaters making a video of themselves screwing up tricks in fairly spectacular fashion, and had a great time catching up.

When it was time to let Cole go to meet up with his Stanford crew, we walked up to the Metreon to chill out for a bit, visited the Apple store, and popped into the Container Store to kill some time. Then it was off to Tres Agaves, where, after having our table given away several times, we met up with fellow CWRU-escapee Andy Reitz for dinner.

Liz has spent today in class downstairs, while I've been largely comatose and drooling on myself throughout the day, which has been punctuated by strange visions on TV: Mike DeWine and Sherrod Brown on "Meet the Press," Woz being interviewed, Scrabble finals on ESPN. Now that I've basically spent the entire day asleep in a hotel room, I'm starting to feel surprisingly human again. It's a good feeling.

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The Ecstasy and the Agony

Fixing really esoteric and deeply buried, almost impossible bugs, the sorts of things that achieve near mythic proportions for their extreme rarity and ability to induce mass perplexion, is a rare and delicious treat. It brings such a sense of delicious righteousness once the cause of such an elegant problem is understood, and having been grokked, is crushed mercilessly out of existence.

However, it sucks when it keeps you in the office until nine o'clock.

But, besides making an eminently reheatable pizza, my adorably wonderful wife bought mini oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, which were utterly transcendent and perfectly paired with the Left Hand Imperial Stout that I'd had waiting in the fridge for me. Hooray, cookies and beer, I earned you today!

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Being Uncle Mike

My recent vacation photos hiatus is in part due to spending last weekend being all responsible and grown-up and stuff--Laura, one of my nieces, came to visit us for the weekend. Note the use of the word "my," a big step for me, as for most of the past seven years, the girls have been "Liz's nieces." Maybe they're just growing up to the point at which I can relate to them, but they're really, finally feeling like family.

So! Laura braved the increased airport security, water bottle fascism and all, and arrived last Friday. Liz picked her up, and after getting settled in at the house, took us all out to lunch at Phnom Penh; to my amazement, Laura loved her loath chha! That evening we hit our local Winking Lizard and then went out to Will Farrell NASCAR movie (hilarious, recommended), got ice cream on the way home, and stayed up far too late playing Munchkin. Saturday we caught up on "Monk" and "Psych", then went out to friends' for their Wild Game BBQ, where there was much delicious food, frosty beverage, and wacky croquet fun, then zipped down to Blossom to chill out under the stars and experience the Cleveland Orchestra playing the scores to Bugs Bunny cartoons (and incidentally seeing a lot of folks that we don't always bump into). Sunday we had brunch downtown, spent a few hours at the science center (note to self: don't try the "virtual hang-glider" right after eating...), tried to get Laura hooked on "Firefly", and played a lot more Munchkin and Apples to Apples.

Laura was up and out the door early on Monday to get to her flight on time; by all accounts she made it back home safely. I'm still trying to wrap my head around her pronouncement that I'm "an awesome uncle," but for the most part I guess that's pretty cool. The entire experience has left me a lot more optimistic about the idea of being a parent, a mental paradigm shift that is simultaneously comforting and scary as hell.

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Weekend, Surprises, Verbosity

After far too much not-blogging, I think I'm hitting the point where the withdrawal is really starting to bug me, so I guess I'd better take care of that.

Work is fairly unmentionable; I pulled a few 12-hour days last week, which I should probably stop doing if I'm going to be the only one (as usual) trying to put in the extra effort to keep the project on schedule. Hah. I am Jack's insane work ethic.

Far more mentionable is the weekend that just whooshed by in a bizarre combination of gosh-that-went-too-fast and cheerful, languid laziness.

Friday started out with one of the few rare instances in which I am proven right, but I was unfortunately too right. I don't know crap about cars, but I've listened to enough "Car Talk" to recognize the clicking sound that Liz's car was making every time she turned left as her CV boot. I felt somewhat vindicated when the issue turned out, indeed, to be her driver's-side CV boot, but as it happens I am karma's bitch--she needed to get both of them replaced. Somehow the old "why buy one when you can have two for twice the price" philosophy doesn't really feel so great in practice. Not the most auspicious start to the day, and it'd come at the end of a week far too long.

Liz quickly turned the tables on my week, though, starting with dinner at Nemo. We sat in the tiny little "Lover's Lane" nook, an odd little space barely large enough for a two-top table, and strangely, delightfully echoey. We had a great conversation, luxuriated in the sensations of food and wine (my Sangiovese was utterly fabulous with rack of lamb and mushroom risotto), and enjoyed the tumult of rain, thunder, and lightning outside.

We spent Friday night, Saturday night, and half of Sunday parked in front of the TV, breezing efficiently through the final season of "Six Feet Under" on DVD, a sudden arrival on seven-day loan from the library. The season had some weak spots, but overall it was a fitting conclusion to a great show, and a nice farewell to characters that have managed to become like family. It's definitely worth your time if you haven't seen it; if you can put up with the ever-present background morbidity, it's quite interesting, often hilarious, and surprisingly uplifting.

Much of Saturday managed to be simultaneously relaxing and off-kilter. Now, Liz and I had laid out a moderately elaborate plan for Saturday, consisting of all of our necessary and desired weekend errands in the proper order of timing and fuel economy, but the cats managed to completely throw it into disarray by nine o'clock in the morning as Julia came bounding up onto the bathroom counter, leaving a path of bloody pawprints in her wake. Realizing what was going on came in little quanta of sudden understanding: there is a cat here; there is something on the counter; the something on the counter is blood; the blood is from the cat; the cat is bleeding; oh crap oh crap the cat is bleeding all over; what has the cat done now? Liz was a shower and full set of clothes ahead of me, so after we corralled Julia in the bathroom to assess the damage and clean up her wounded paw, Liz and Julia zoomed off to the vet while I stayed behind to get dressed, look for more blood, and be someone for Valentine, the likely culprit, to howl confusedly at. Luckily, the bleeding--caused by a puncture wound to one of the pads on her left hind paw, either claw or fang--had stopped fairly quickly, and no stitches were required. The patient returned home promptly, along with a prescription for a week's worth of liquid antibiotics. The details of administering liquid meds--specifically pink liquid--to a fussy cat are best left to the imagination, but suffice it to say that Liz is now down one white shirt, and we had to add a trip to the dry cleaner to our Saturday agenda.

But! Our bloody cat had the good taste to get hurt, get better, and get home in time to let us get to our 10:30 appointment to peruse tile flooring options for the laundry room (a moderately long story in its own right that I won't get into here). From there, though, all of our errands seemed to start getting out of order, and the flow wasn't working, which unfortunately makes me a tiny bit fussy, even though I got a bunch of CD's from the library, got a haircut, and spent some nice time wandering around shops in Rocky River with Liz.

What really got to me was Liz's suddenly-announced, last-minute need to be on a conference call at two PM, right in the middle of when we were supposed to be tasting wine and getting groceries. Which then got rescheduled to three, allowing us to stop by Grady's to taste wine and nosh on little wine-friendly nibbles. But the vital trip to the grocery store had to be deferred. I sat upstairs and listened to music while Liz waited for her call. The cats hung out with me in the open window, relishing the fresh spring air and staring greedily at passing birds. When three o'clock came and went, I went downstairs to harass Liz about this call--shouldn't she call in or something?--and, rebuffed, I retreated back to the office to sulk and ponder whether we'd ever attend to the rest of our errands while I listened to Jethro Tull and Peter Gabriel. Slowly, there came a deep rumble, as the biggest semi I've ever seen trundled cautiously around the corner. Great, I thought, who's the asshole driving a giant truck through our neighborhood and ruining this perfect spring day? The truck pulled a little further around the corner, and I was able to see the Room and Board logo on the trailer. Liz and I had spent a day in downtown Chicago last winter trying to find a leather chair for me that was up to Baby Bear's "just right" standards, and had after several hours succeeded in filing an excellent candidate away in my permanent wish list. Swell. Somebody's getting awesome furniture and it's not me. I'm never going to get my chair.

Right about then, a lot of things happened at once. First, the truck whuffed and sighed to a stop directly across from our driveway. Valentine and I shared a dumbstruck moment of incomprehension; according to Liz, the look on my face was priceless. Liz closed the office door to keep the cat contained. And then, to my complete and utter astonishment, the delivery guys started unloading my chair, while, by complete coincidence, the Peter Gabriel CD I'd picked up at the library blasted out "Shock the Monkey."

After assessing that all was well and functional in the land of new things that recline, we did a quick furniture rearrangement in the living room, and since then I've been taking every opportunity available to test out my new manly man chair. I've covered one of the really long chapters of Head First Design Patterns; I've chilled with the iPod; I've enjoyed sitting by the open window with the cats; I've sipped wine and listened to Pink Floyd; I've passed out and drooled on myself; I've (now) blogged. So far, it has passed all of the important tests with flying colors. Well, almost all--the cats are still a bit scared of it, but I expect that with time they'll show it the same indifference that they usually show me.

So, yes, Liz's "conference call" was a lie, a ruse, a deception, a clever means to have me home so that she could see my reaction, and I completely, totally, thoroughly fell for it. In a way, that makes it all the sweeter. (Right?) In case I haven't correctly sung the praises of Liz lately, let me declare here that I totally love my wife, that she knows exactly how to spoil me, and that she is damn good at being awesome. My silly manly man chair is beyond excellent, unneeded, and unexpected. Thanks, hon!

Other than that, life is quiet here; lots of work, lots of studying, and as much slacking and irresponsibility as we can get away with. Gotta keep things in perspective, after all.

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Better Days

Luckily, fortunately, thankfully, I've had a string of pretty good days lately.

Liz had to work for most of Saturday, so I used the time to knock a bunch of things off my to-do list, including a trip to the library to refresh my influx of new music, and a half-day of being able to work in peace in the office. Saturday night, she took me to Grovewood Tavern for dinner, which was utterly fabulous (I had the "Quackitori", seared duck breast yakitori style, and I highly recommend it, especially paired with the Parallel 45 Cotes du Rhone). After dinner, we hit the Velvet Tango Room for post-dinner cocktails, where I was introduced to the shimmering delight that is the French 75. I totally dig VTR's vibe, and I got an especially geeky thrill from recognizing Winchester '73 playing on the TV by the bar. VTR is a bit pricey, but the experience--especially on the weekend, where your lady friend gets a perfect rose--is worth it.

On Sunday I managed to get more stuff on my list done, and then we hit the local movie theatre for a matinee of Thank You For Smoking, a cheerfully subversive little movie that anyone with two brain cells and a sense of humor should see as soon as possible. Seriously--run, don't walk; it's that good. My only issue was with the quality of the audience, as we seemed to be seated directly in front of, next to, and behind people who insisted on sharing their running commentary, explaining jokes to each other, and so forth. Sorry, folks, but if I wanted the commentary track, I'd buy the DVD, and you wouldn't be part of it. Though it was almost worth it to hear the person next to me try to explain a joke and then, verbally, loudly, not get it... (Seriously, she didn't understand why it might be funny that the firearms lobbyist set off the metal detector at a security checkpoint. "Must be something metal," my next-door Ebert observed.)

Monday marked a return to workplace madness, but it ended early as Liz and I had picked up tickets to see K.T. Tunstall at the House of Blues. It was a pretty much spur-of-the-moment decision a couple of weeks ago when I realized that she was in town. I admit, I'm a total poseur, and it took her solo appearance on NBC's "Today" show for her to arrive on my musical radar... I wasn't sure what to expect from seeing her live, but I figured I wouldn't be disappointed, and the ticket price was pretty fair, so I figured there were worse ways to spend a Monday night. We had a nice dinner at the HOB (assisted in part by a small parade of happy-hour mixed drinks), and then proceeded to be completely blown away by her live performance. She's touring with a band to back her up, which helps fill out her sound nicely, and there were particularly nice bits featuring various band members soloing on drums, keyboards, trumpet, guitars, and cello. Mellower tracks had a nice dash of psychadelia that reminded me of early Pink Floyd, while the more raucus, upbeat numbers struck me as the perfect soundtrack for blasting down a desert highway, windows down and stereo cranked. In short, even if she's getting mainstream radio (and worse, grocery store!) airplay, K.T. is the real deal, and you should check her out, especially live. Seriously good times.

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