End of the Year Catch-Up!

… and just like that, it’s the second half of December.
When I left the Priority Health office on Thursday afternoon, I began an extended vacation period that doesn’t end until the morning of January 4. So far, I’m off to a good start. On Thursday I had dinner with Chris and Sheri after work, then did a focus group for the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters at the Craft Beer Cellar. On Friday, I did some Christmas shopping, saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi and attended the annual holiday party of my social writing group—and I bought a Best Buy door-buster item, a 49-inch TV that will replace the sad 28-inch version that had been in my living room. Yesterday, I enjoyed the annual Christmas party hosted by my beloved grandmother, St. Dorothy the Matriarch.
Evenings have been consumed with reading, which is something of a novelty lately. Just finished A War Like No Other, a history of the Peloponnesian War by Victor Davis Hanson. The landlord re-cemented some of the bricks in my office fireplace, so I’ve been reading by the fire with an adult beverage and a lap cat. Very serene.
But despite the “vacation” label, it’s not really a time of vacation. I’m not going anywhere, save a one-night trek to Chicago for a NAHQ planning session. Instead, I’ll be at my home office (mostly) or the Caffeinated Press office (occasionally) to get caught up on all the stuff I intended to do in 2017 but haven’t yet managed to finish.
This year, I’m doing something different. Instead of just looking at my mile-long task list, I’ve affinitized my tasks (I use Todoist) into projects. What’s new is that I’ve scheduled these Todoist projects by day, so each project has an assigned day:

  • 12/15: Christmas shopping
  • 12/18: Professional associations and consulting
  • 12/19: Reading list curation & content/distribution strategy for my erotica novellas
  • 12/20: Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters
  • 12/21: Personal writing projects
  • 12/22: Politics and health & wellness
  • 12/23: Vice Lounge Online
  • 12/26: Personal hobbies
  • 12/27: Caffeinated Press (marketing, seminars, the lit journal, governance)
  • 12/28: Personal finance & home stuff (filing, deep cleaning)
  • 12/29: Caffeinated Press (finance, operations, editorial)
  • 12/30: Caffeinated Press (transition work for the lit journal)

Overlaying all of this is my current consulting work for DotDash and ongoing Caffeinated Press work doing manuscript reads and some editing/development work on our anthology and two novels in progress. And I’m taking the actual holiday-days off entirely as downtime.
I think my to-do list is eminently reasonable and will clear the deck for a strong start into 2018.
If you, dear reader, take some vacation, I hope it’s safe, happy, healthy and relaxing!

Sixteen Days of Freeeeedom!

When I left the office around 2:30p today, I began a vacation that doesn’t end until I return on the morning of Mon., Jan. 5. Sixteen consecutive days of vacay bliss.
This calls for a celebration. Bourbon? Check. Cuban cigar? Check. (Thanks to Scott for the generous gift!)

So Far, So Good

The productivity trek for this two-week holiday is off to a rousing good start:

  • I got all my Christmas stuff done and wrapped. A day early, even.
  • I deep-cleaned the house and did laundry … even all the blankets I never use.
  • I did my annual goals list, tweaked my fitness plan, cleaned out my OneNote folders and set up the bedroom TV to stream Netflix for when I sit on the exercise bike.
  • Got caught up on news and did some free reading about novel writing.
  • Weighed in at a nice number lower than where I ended up on Nov. 30.
  • Spent some time socializing with friends on Skype, aided by a tasty, tasty martini.

I have most of the next two weeks hard-booked with tasks. That should help. I’d like to start the new year with a clean slate, the lingering debris of 2013 having been resolved.
So far, so good.

Christmas Vacation!

Today is day No. 2 of a 16-day excursion into vacationing excellence.
The time-off period started well enough. Yesterday I started the day with coffee with Abbi then a family Christmas party (held at the Cathedral of St. Dorothy the Matriarch), then a trip to the mall for a bit of shopping and then food-court dinner and a movie — Anchorman 2, which was hilarious — with Liz and Brian, Julie, Nichole, and Lianne. Today features a bit of housekeeping — cleaning, podcast production, grocery shopping, last-minute gift-buying — to settle me for the week.
Then … nothing.
Well, not nothing. I have quite a bit planned. It’s better to say that apart from another Christmas party on Tuesday, and a possible planning visit with Tony on Jan 2/3/4, that I’m not leaving the house. Instead, I’ll remain cocooned at home, with the feline overlords, performing sundry tasks:

  • Polishing the novel
  • Reviewing 2013’s achievements and planning 2014’s goals
  • A buttload of cardio
  • Soliciting contract writing work

I’m looking forward to it.
The last few years, Christmas hasn’t been much about the holiday; instead, it’s about the time off to hunker down and re-center myself.  A period of end-of-year renewal, as it were.
And I’m way past ready to get to work.

Viva Las Vegas!

For the period 3/13/13 to 3/16/13, I was in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the 360Vegas Vacation. The notes below serve as my official trip report. 


  • Left at 6:30 and drove to Detroit to catch an 11:20 a.m. flight on Spirit Airlines. Stopped for gas/food/ATM in Gaines Township.
  • At DTW, my checked bag was slightly overweight, but the counter clerk let it go. The TSA doesn’t understand that a Microsoft Surface Pro is NOT a laptop; I was subjected to a secondary screening because I didn’t remove it from my carry-on. The flight attendants were hilarious and highly professional. Uneventful flight.
  • Had a local cab driver ferry me from McCarran. He advised that many unionized cab drivers were on strike. Their “picket line” was a line of cars with roof signs and continuously blaring horns, driving up and down the strip. Annoying.
  • Put my bags in Tony’s room at Harrah’s, then we explored The Quad (looks like Red Rock on the Strip) then enjoyed keno and drinks at Bally’s. The guard there “schooled” Tony on betting based on a frequency card.
  • Stumbled across a Davidoff store at Paris Las Vegas. Bought cigars, then walked through Paris and then off to Planet Hollywood. We enjoyed Davidoff 5000s.
  • I hit $122 on one bonus round on Cash Spin at PH.
  • Jason and Tony ate at PH Spice Market Buffet … good, 4 of 5 stars. Tony made me buy because of my bonus hit. Even though he had a 2-for-1 coupon in his room.
  • Went to KGB Burger for drinks (the White Russian was fabulous).
  • Took the Las Vegas Monorail to LVH and walked thorough. I won $50. LVH looks like a property desperately awaiting its inevitable implosion.
  • I went to get my bags from Tony and check in to the hotel (they were at 99.6 percent occupancy). Didn’t attempt a $20 upgrade. Did some work before retiring. We stayed at Harrah’s for the first time, because everyone else was either at Harrah’s or Monte Carlo. All things being equal, I still prefer Wynn/Encore or Caesar’s Palace, but Harrah’s wasn’t bad. The room was in very good shape, albeit small, and the housekeeping service was efficient and unobtrusive and my housekeeper made a point, when she saw me, of thanking me for the tips I left her.
  • Tony went back to Bally’s and lost $300 in video poker.


  • We were propositioned by hookers on the floor of Caesar’s Palace, on our way to breakfast. They were pretty hot, too. Tony’s response to the sultry question, “So what are you guys doing today?” was: “I’m headed to breakfast!” and kept walking without slowing down.
  • Enjoyed breakfast at Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Place. Very well done; definite influence of Wicked Spoon on the serving methodology. Tony loved the Eggs Benedict.
  • Tony won $65 on MooLala and $30 on Cheers, while playing slots at Caesars.
  • Met up with Stephen and his wife (Denton, Dallas & Beyond podcast) for some gambling. We played the Magic Lamp machines at Caesar’s; the three of us, except Tony, kept hitting bonus rounds. Tony got mad — it was funny.
  • The four of us transitioned to Bally’s for video poker at the bar. Jason won a royal flush for $1,000. Stephen and his wife departed after an hour or so. Steve (the bartender) was awesome.
  • Celebrated the royal with a pair of Davidoff Year of the Snake cigars, while Diane the cocktail waitress served us stiff drinks. There are few things as enjoyable as sitting in the Bally’s video poker pit with a fine cigar and prompt cocktail service from Diane.
  • When Diane’s shift ended, we went back to the bar. Jason hit $200 on quad aces. Tony: “You’re the luckiest mother[expletive deleted] I know!”
  • Intended to hit PBR Rockbar for drinks and dinner for the opening of 360Vegas Vacation. Instead of going to the Miracle Mile shops, we went to Monte Carlo. We both knew better but neither of us grasped that went to the wrong casino.
  • Ate dinner at Aria buffet. Nothing special. Reminiscent of the buffet at Mirage.
  • Went to Paris for the 360Vegas bus, but couldn’t find it. Communications snafu. Missed out on Ted. Received hostile tweets from Keren, which is a sign she misses you. (She’s like PPQ, except from Illinois). I was disappointed by this because I really wanted to meet up with Ted of AccessVegas.com; not only has he been a good friend, but there were some ideas I wanted to pitch his way.
  • Retired for the evening after touring Margaritaville. Wholly uninspiring little casino.


  • Took a cab to El Cortez. Did a little gambling there, then Four Queens. Did breakfast buffet at The Fremont (not bad, but a bit scary — did the breakfast staples well, though). Bought souvenirs at FSE and Mob Museum.
  • Dropped off our stuff at my room, then went to Caesar’s Palace for drinks and cigars with Stephen at Casa Fuente. Jason enjoyed a Fuente Fuente OpusX, plus an Old Cuban and a Casa Mojito. The three of us talked a fair amount of shop, which was fun.
  • Tony went to Serendipity3 for drinks and gambling with the 360Vegas gang; Jason and Stephen gambled at Caesar’s. Went back to the Magic Lamp machines, then to Michael Jackson. I won $280 on a bonus spin at Michael Jackson.
  • Stephen, his wife and I went to Bacchanal Buffet for lunch. Lunch was just as good as breakfast.
  • Tony joined us at Harrah’s after lunch, whereupon we went to my room to record E-110.
  • After the show, we went to Monte Carlo for dinner with the 360Vegas gang at The Pub. Dinner was mediocre and the service was slow, but the beer flights were tasty.
  • Monte Carlo reserved a craps table for 360Vegas. We played $5 craps for several hours with excellent service from the Monte Carlo team. Cashed out, up $85. A good time.
  • Cab ride back to Harrah’s. Packed.


  • Took airport shuttle to McCarran.
  • Bag was over-weight; assessed $25 penalty. Screw you, Spirit Airlines. I’ll pay extra for Delta Air Lines from now on.
  • Uneventful flight home.
  • Landed in Detroit around 7 p.m. EDT. Drive back was odd; traffic was both heavy and filled with dangerous drivers from I-275 to I-96 past Lansing. I was tailgated doing 95 on I-275 at one point.
  • Home at 10 p.m. Cats were alive and well and did no damage. Unpacked, then went to bed.

Vegas Vacation Recap and Other Items of Note

Back from Vegas!

I flew to Las Vegas via Minneapolis on Monday the 4th; the rest of my party arrived in The Happiest Place on Earth the day before. I prefer to fly Delta Air Lines. Because I was gone for a full week, I checked a bag for the first time since 2008 (I had to pull the NWA tag off the handle). Funny thing — although I had a four-hour layover at MSP, I got a call from Delta telling me my bag arrived at an earlier flight.

The first day consisted mostly of low-key events. After Tony, Jen and Emilie picked me up from McCarran, they dumped me off at Bally’s, where I checked in then hoofed it over to Bellagio. We had a quick lunch, did some gaming at Aria and Monte Carlo, then enjoyed a hilariously disastrous dinner at Prime at Bellagio. The dinner itself was awesome but there was a mix-up on the restaurant’s part regarding  $750 comp (we were told we had one, but when the bill came the manager said “oops” we meant a different table). After that, some drinking at Yellowtail at Bellagio.

Tuesday started with the fabulous brunch buffet at Wicked Spoon at Cosmopolitan, followed by a podcasting session with our executive casino host. Most of the day is spent doing light gambling and drinking — Jen won $1k on a royal flush at video poker at the bar at Bellagio — punctuated by a tasty dinner at Sinatra at Encore. We gambled a bit at Bally’s, Paris and Wynn but that evening featured a high degree of general crabbiness so we called it a night early. Emilie had to bow out even earlier because she flew out early the next morning.

Wednesday, I checked into Caesar’s Palace then we did our Marathon Day of Gambling at Bally’s (and Diane was working, but she didn’t remember me so now she’s dead to me). The goal was to get Jason “diamond in a day” status with Caesar’s Entertainment. We failed miserably — quarter VP will do that — but I did manage to have just shy of $15k run through under my Total Rewards card that day. Not bad. Dinner that night was at BLT Burger at Mirage, where we met two of Tony’s lawyer friends from Lansing who were in town at the same time.

Thursday was fun: After a farewell breakfast for Joe at Cafe Bellagio, Tony, Jen and I drove to Mandalay Bay to see the shark aquarium and buy Davidoff cigars, then we drove to Red Rock Canyon national park and did the 23-mile driving loop through the park. We made frequent stops to take pictures and climb upon the rocks, and if I end up headed back this autumn I may take a full day at Red Rock Canyon to hike the various trails. From there we went to Red Rock Casino — a lovely destination — then I got dumped off at Caesar’s while Tony and Jen left the Bellagio and checked into Golden Nugget downtown. I used the remainder of my evening to sit for a few hours at the Casa Fuente cigar bar at the Forum Shops, enjoying a Fuente orange label and sipping Auchentoshan and an Old Cuban while reading the news.

On Friday I sat off the gaming floor of Caesar’s and completed my annual performance review. I must say, self-evaluations are more fun with a huge breakfast, a Bloody Mary and slot machines in the background. I left Caesar’s and checked into the Cabana Suites at El Cortez. I met Tony and Jen for lunch at Binion’s Cafe then we strolled Freemont Street before deciding to tour the Mob Museum. After drinks at The Long Bar at The D, we cruised more casinos downtown then settled down for dinner at Oscar’s at Plaza. From there we toured a few more casinos then settled down for drinks at Insert Coins, a lovely video-game bar.

Saturday revealed the extent to which Vegas is great for a three-night stay. We were all fairly exhausted, so after we met for a late breakfast at Hash House A Go-Go — of course, I was up way earlier than Tony and Jen so I not only did some writing but also spent an hour or so cruising the gift shops on Fremont and even did the oxygen bar — Tony and I did some podcasting at Golden Nugget and we just sorta chilled. Ended up spending a few hours at Bar 47 at Golden Nugget, then dinner at Red Sushi. We spent a long time at the Chicago Brewing Company cigar lounge at Four Queens: I put $20 in the video poker terminal and cashed out for $70 three hours later, having consumed my weight in premium microbrews that were comped because we were playing full coin. After a quick greasy pizza run — in which I sat down with the wrong woman — we retired for the evening.

Sunday was Departure Day. Tony and Jen picked me up, then we drove to McCarran. We were on different concourses, so I had a light breakfast alone and did a bit of writing. Had a very brief layover in Minneapolis, then got back to Grand Rapids a bit early that evening — enough time to catch the season premiere of True Blood.

Excellent trip. Only catch: For longer visits, we need to do a better job of pacing ourselves so we don’t burn out so quickly. You can only eat and drink so much without sleeping before everything crashes home.

A few other quick hits —

  • The FCC has now granted my callsign: KD8SOI. I’ve already received my license in the mail.
  • Installed a 12,000-BTU window air conditioner yesterday. Despite the temperatures hovering above 90, the interior of my apartment remained comfortably cool. I couldn’t turn the inside into an icebox, but the A/C unit will keep me from sweltering during the mini heatwave predicted for early next week.
  • I’ve been asked to become a co-facilitator for NAHQ’s ambulatory care special-interest group.
  • Looks like I’ll be in San Diego instead of Italy next month. Too much has popped up that requires me to attend the 2012 Joint Statistical Meetings instead of the hoped-for Italy vacation.
  • Had an interesting end-of-the-fiscal-year celebration last Thursday: Our department director took all of her teams out for an afternoon of mandatory bowling at The Clique. “A good time was had by all.”
  • A few weeks ago I welcomed my mother and grandmother over for dinner (salmon, asparagus, rice) and hoofed it to Lansing for dinner and drinks with The Gang for Tony’s birthday.
  • I’ve been working for the last six weeks or so on a special project for Demand Media, as a featured writer for eHow Tech. I get assigned several articles per week at a significantly higher than average per-piece rate, working directly with DM staff and a single assigned copy editor. Interesting experience.