Twelve Quick Updates from a Whirlwind of a Month

What an interesting — and busy! — few weeks it’s been.

  1. Las Vegas trip. I got back this past Monday from a two-night trek to Sin City to meet up with friends surrounding the Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic event. VIMFP is an annual confab featuring Vegas-focused podcasters and bloggers. Lots of attendees. Lots of fun. You can listen to me and Tony discuss my trip report on episode 290 of The Vice Lounge Online.
  2. Nicole’s wedding. My cousin Nicole married Corey on the 14th. Lovely wedding and reception. I wish them the very best for many years of wedded bliss!
  3. Horseshoe Hammond excursion. Tony and I trekked to Hammond, Indiana for a day trip to this lovely Caesars Entertainment casino on the outskirts of Chicago. Everything I touched seemed to turn to gold! You can hear the highlights in VLO’s episode 289.
  4. Essay contracted.  I’m pleased to announce that I’ve recently signed a publication agreement for a short essay, “A Moment of Clarity,” intended for publication in a volume titled Staying Catholic When You’ve Been Hurt in the Church. The book — edited by Eve Tushnet and published by Wipf and Stock Publishers — is currently in early production status.
  5. Brewed Awakenings 2 released. I’m delighted to share that Brewed Awakenings 2, the annual house anthology of Caffeinated Press, is now on the market. Buy your copy today to support local literary excellence! This collection features 15 stories by 14 different authors, ranging from just a few hundred words to more than 20k words; the stories cross genres and styles.
  6. Grayson Rising released. And speaking of releases, Grayson Rising also hit the market this month. This delightful YA novel, partially set in Grand Rapids, is the first major fiction release by local author AJ Powell. In fact, AJ hosted a small launch event at his place of employment that was well-attended and greatly enjoyed by those who dropped by.
  7. The 3288 Review, Vol. 2, Issue 1, released. And now the trifecta: We recently printed the fifth iteration of our quarterly journal of arts and letters. It’s a flourishing property that is already drawing attention across the state. Quite proud of it!
  8. NaNoWriMo is coming. November looms, and with it, National Novel Writing Month. I will participate again. I will also continue to host my Saturday-morning write-ins. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to write, a point I’ll expound upon in greater detail over the next few days. Let it suffice that I’ve developed a good skeleton for a literary novel augmented by some detective-genre conventions. The working title is The Catfish in the Shallows. Do not expect to see/hear much of me between 10/31 and 12/1!
  9. Site5 shenanigans. Although it didn’t affect this site, I had a world of trouble — as in, five days of unexpected downtime — with my longtime Web host, Site5. Outmigration is on the near-term horizon, unfortunately.
  10. Health quality glossary. Spent a fair amount of time recently as a subject-matter expert for NAHQ as we fine-tuned a comprehensive glossary of terms specific to quality improvement in healthcare. Much of this work entailed the alignment of definitions across existing products. Good intellectual exercise.
  11. SIP lines for Caffeinated Press. For years, the CafPress toll-free phone number (888-809-1686) went straight to a voice-mail box. I’ve now set us up with a SIP provider (i.e., a voice-over-Internet phone service) so our toll-free number actually rings in the office. I even have a desk phone, now, with my own extension and local number. Not that I actually use the phone much. But still. Progress.
  12. Outdoor kitties. A pair of felines have been lurking around my house. One of them has a home, and I’ve ensured that she’s been returned to it. The other — a fluffy black tabby, neutered, and sweet as molasses — keeps visiting. He likes it when I give him some Meow Mix. So I do. So far, he looks like he’s in good shape: his coat is fine, he looks well cared-for, his weight seems constant. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for signs of neglect as the cold-weather season sets in. I get the feeling he’s someone’s cat and that he might be an indoor/outdoor dude.

All for now.

Blowin' in the Wind …

Behold the whirlwind.
Where to begin? I’ve posted photos of the drama related to my dining-room window. The broken pane is from a century-old window, so the glass repair is taking some time. The storm window is in place — the A/C unit is now in front of my bedroom fireplace — so it’s not terrible, but I do occasionally feel a draft. Ugh.
Two weeks ago, I went on a casino trip to Detroit (MGM Grand, Motor City and Greektown) as well as Caesar’s Windsor and Hollywood Casino Toledo. Tony and Roux attended. It was a great time — we covered it in a podcast last week — but regrettably expensive.
Last Friday, a six-hour board meeting of the Michigan Association for Healthcare Quality. In Mount Pleasant. The board accepted my proposal, endorsed by the MAHQ education committee, to hold our annual conference in early October in Traverse City. Can you say “wine tour?” Lots of good planning, though — I think we have a real opportunity to coordinate more with leaders in Lansing about state health policy, and the board endorsed my fuzzy proposal to deliberately cultivate contacts in state government.
This coming weekend, I’ll be in Chicago for a state-leaders conference sponsored by the National Association for Healthcare Quality. Should be a good networking opportunity. The folks at NAHQ asked me to help moderate a speed-networking event on Saturday morning.
Life has been busy, but good. My normal routine still hasn’t recovered from NaNoWriMo, though. I’ve done a bit of writing, mostly Saturday mornings with Brittany. Caught the Lego Movie with Duane on Sunday.
I’m really excited about some upcoming scuba trips. I had dinner two weeks ago with Jen, Dave and Tawnya. T is my new dive buddy; she just got certified and just bought her gear. Woohoo. We’re planning a weekend trip to Gilboa, Ohio, for late June. Of course, we’ll have to do some local lake diving in late May and early June to get Tawnya some logged dives. I’ve already paid for a advanced cert course through the dive shop. I think I’m going to target “Level 4” status in SSI by the end of the season. That’s basically 50 dives and four additional courses, plus Stress and Rescue training. If I can get that nailed, then next year I can work toward Divemaster in 2015. I’m thinking maybe I’ll do deep diving, Nitrox, navigation and wreck diving. We’ll see.
The feline overlords are doing well. One of them has decided that I make a great elevator, so when I’m crouched over or kneeling down, he sometimes hops on my back/shoulders and expects a pony ride to whatever shelf or cabinet he cannot otherwise access. It’s cute.
I have officially loved this winter. We have the second-snowiest winter in Grand Rapids history this year, and we’re like #2 nationally for snow cover. Yay. I have 4WD and my landlord shovels/snowblows, so for me, it’s just been fun. I grow weary of everyone bitching about how much they hate the winter.
Although, come to think of it, drivers do piss me off. I’m glad you treehuggers out there buy your Priuses and Civics, but in Michigan, those vehicles aren’t exactly prudent between Nov. 1 and April 1. Sheesh. And since so few people are shoveling their on-street parking curbs, I’m having fun counting how many cars have a smashed driver-side mirror. In some stretches of road, every fourth or fifth car has a missing or damaged mirror.
Writing has been slow. I’m still pleased with my novel, but I’m hung up on Chapter 4. To me, it’s obviously an addition that stuffs in material that counterbalances content in the second half of the novel. I think I need to remove it and find other ways of addressing plot continuity deficiencies.
I’m woefully behind on a bunch of chores, though. All the travel and events I’ve been doing in January and February have conspired to deprive me of time to get stuff done at home. I’m behind on routine paperwork, and the re-launch of some of my business properties is delayed thanks to some tax/legal considerations. Oh, and I need to pay Abbi for her excellent design work so far.
I might have some time in late March. I’ve got a long-planned return trek to Las Vegas scheduled. I’ll do three nights in Sin City. Knowing my travel companions as I do, I figure my mornings will be free to work on stuff. Since I’m the only person who seems to arise before the sun begins to set.
Lent begins tomorrow. Interesting perspective on the Lent/Easter cycle given my time this year as an RCIA sponsor. I think I will, for the first time ever, attend a Chrism Mass at the Cathedral. Maybe I’ll get to meet the new bishop.
All for now.

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.