Back Where You Belong, and My Weekly Summary

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I have talked about moving my family from Massachusetts to New York for my job during the recession back in 2008. The Corning area is beautiful and has loads to offer, from natural beauty and loads to do outdoors, great schools, and a job at Corning that has been fantastic.

But it isn’t ‘home’, and this week I was reminded of that. We headed to Massachusetts and Rhode Island for college visits, and from the moment we crossed into Massachusetts on the Mass Pike it was like being home again and everything just felt ‘right’. This is where we ‘belong’. And it made me think about how all of us have a place where we feel most at home, regardless of where we live now.

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That Place You Belong

I had a friend in college who would refer to New York as ‘THE City’ … when he was going home one time and someone asked where he was going he said ‘THE City’, and they asked ‘WHICH city’. He said ‘Boston and Chicago and other places are all nice cities … but New York is THE city’. Being that we were all a bunch of engineers the logic was hard to argue in terms of what it offered and breadth of experience – so no matter what we actually thought we left it alone.

But the reality is that all of us love different places for different reasons.

I enjoy reading Lauren and Lisa and Cori and others talk about Baltimore, and Hollie talk about New Jersey and Caitlin about Pittsburgh and Susie about Chicago and Harold about Maine and on and on. For some of the blogs I follow the person is living in the ‘best place ever’, and for others it is just the place they are living.

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The Visit

I frequently write that I will always consider Massachusetts my home, but never was it more clear than these past few days. Everything is just a little different than in New York, and as we got to Rhode Island and the Narragansett Bay, I could just feel the stress drop off of me and I was totally relaxed and felt that although I’d never been to that beach before, I was home.

I could think back to the myriad trips to Providence when my brother lived there, or down to Newport for jazz fest or just to visit, and to our vacation in Jamestown.

For this college trip we had two main points of focus – Johnson & Wales University in Providence and Boston University. Johnson & Wales is one of the premier culinary institutes which Chris is interested in, and Boston University has a great film and communication school that Danny had wanted to look into.

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Spending the day at Johnson & Wales was a reminder of how different a culinary school is from other universities. After your freshman year you can get housing in ‘apartment style’ housing, with a benefit being a fully functional kitchen where everyone can show off skills and practice techniques and recipe planning. Very different than the focus of pretty much any other school I have visited!

The Cuisinart Center on campus is a huge building with food labs to explore pretty much anything having to do with all aspects of the food and drink world. Your education isn’t just cooking – all students learn how to run a business, and the most popular major is a combines culinary arts and food service management, which is pretty much a dual cooking and business major.

So in those labs aside from creating majestic pastries and plates, you are learning cost modeling, forecasting, inventory and supply chain management and so on. I honestly thought Lisa wasn’t coming home with us – she was ready to enroll immediately! It was an amazing school … fortunately Chris has a year to decide between culinary arts or music (or something else, multi-talented kid!).

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Boston University is different from the other schools Danny has visited for film because it doesn’t offer a BFA degree – it is in the school of communications and is more of a ‘technical’ than an ‘arts’ program. There is a great business tie-in, which is something he has wanted from the beginning. BU is a great school in a fantastic location along the Charles River starting in Kenmore Square. Is it the one for him? That remains to be seen, but nothing has given him the ‘butterflies’ like NYU.

Walking through BU brought me back to so many years of Boston visits growing up, and so many times Lisa and I walked the streets together, and the many trips into town with the kids to do the aquarium, Children’s Museum, Museum of Science, and also just to enjoy the city and take in a show.

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Coming Home

While we had just a quickly couple of days, we got to enjoy an awful lot of the area and culture while also touring the schools. The beach in Barrington RI, then we headed up 95 to 93 (sitting in plenty of traffic long enough to point out things like the exit to 138 in Stoughton I took hundreds of times while working in Billerica), and out to Hingham to go to Wahlburgers.

Wahlburgers is the subject of the TV show, and is a restaurant created by the Wahlburg brothers, and run by Paul and his brothers Mark and Donnie as well as the family. It was a total tourist visit, and as we came up to it the film crew was doing an external shot, and while waiting for our table dozens of people strolled by and took pictures. The premise of ‘great food and great prices’. The food? Decent – the boys said they prefer ‘5 Guys’, so nothing special. The prices? Burgers, fries and soda for four people was $65 including tip.

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After the BU visit, we hung around Kendall Square for a bit before heading on the T to Park Street to walk down to the Faneuil Hall area (yes, tourist central). We got to show the boys the location of our ‘two Dunkin Donuts’ story, and it was fun in a world that changes so fast to still have those landmarks from a quarter century ago still in place. We ate dinner outdoors, strolled through and chose a dessert, and headed to Long Wharf to sit looking out on the water for a bit before heading back to the hotel.

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Final Thoughts

We left home and the hotel a mere 48 hours apart, had 6.5 hours of driving each direction, visited two colleges thoroughly and still had a great visit to the area. Even though we were just here on vacation (mostly Cape Cod) two years ago, it was a new experience all over again for the kids.

As Lisa and I sat this morning drinking coffee, we reflected and talked about how we would move back in a second. Right now we have two years before both boys are out of high school – and this school system IS worth staying here! Then they are headed to college somewhere and who knows after that. I have no clue what the job market will look like in a couple of years, but I know that I would love to get back to Massachusetts … and don’t want to wait for retirement to do it.

It is my home.

My Running Summary

Last week was solid at almost 55 miles, and I assumed four running days this week due to the trip and with a crazy work schedule knew I wouldn’t have any time for doubles or extended runs. But I wanted to get in a solid week of around 40 miles. How did I do? Let’s take a look:

Sunday: 12.75 miles
Monday: 9.75 miles
Tuesday: 10.1 miles
Wednesday: 8.75 miles
Thursday: Travel to Boston
Friday: Boston
Saturday Travel home

I managed to get ~41.5 miles this week, which is not bad and met my expectation. Lisa and I brought workout clothes and scoped the exercise room – and I plotted a potential course around the JFK Presidential Library – but when Friday morning came there was no way we were getting out of bed any early than necessary to make it into Boston … and that was already a 6AM wake-up!

These college visits are exhausting and exciting all at once! Whereas in New York most places I looked and thought ‘wouldn’t want to be running here’, in Boston there are just so many more runner-friendly places it was a dream – and don’t think my family missed an opportunity to give me a rough time!

Where do YOU consider your ‘true’ HOME? How was YOUR week?

9 Thoughts from My ‘Run-Free’ Vacation

You might immediately be wondering why I chose NINE thoughts? Well, as I started writing this it has been NINE days since my last run. No I am not injured, and no I have not ‘fallen off the wagon’ or ‘lost my running mojo’.

I was on a family vacation in New York City, and didn’t plan to run. Of course, I was prepared just in case – I brought a full running setup in my bag. But for me it was psychologically important that I prepare to NOT run for the entire vacation. So on the 4th I had my great 18+ mile run and assumed that would be it until Monday the 14th.

Of course, if you have read anything I’ve written here or posted on other social media, you know my family isn’t sedentary – so you can believe we were BUSY and moving the whole week!

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1. There are More Important Things Than Running

I have said that I don’t look at building towards a race as ‘training’ any more than I think of it as practice when I pick up my guitar/bass/keyboard or when I grab some random data set and work on data analysis or programming skills. These are things that bring me joy, and therefore when I engage in them it is because I love doing them, not out of obligation.

But you know what is MORE important? Sure you do – family. So while I could have gotten up early and headed out (I woke up between 3-4AM every morning), instead I rolled over and slept more, and was up with Lisa sitting with a cup of coffee watching the sun rise over the city, with the boys joining us slowly as they woke up (ok, Chris joined us and eventually we woke Danny up!). Bottom line – it made every day special and connected and perfect.

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2. College Tours Are Like A Window into a World … and Your Child

There were two main reasons we chose New York City for our vacation: the boys chose it, and it allowed us to do a number of college tours (since we have one going into senior year and one into junior year it is very timely for both). The two colleges of real interest for them were NYU and SUNY Purchase. Both offer great arts programs – and our older son is very interested in film, media and writing as areas of study; and younger son is interested in music.

Do you remember visiting your university for the first time? I do – I actually hopped on a bus and spent the weekend with a friend of my brother who was a sophomore while I was a high school junior. I got a great tour, got to sit in on classes and see labs and so on. I saw other schools … but never recaptured that feeling – so the decision was made.

I saw that look on Danny’s face at NYU – that was totally his jam. As Lisa and I joked in the bookstore after the tour “ok, we can see him here, all that is needed now is $65k a year!” But seriously, every other school now has to compete with that first impression.

SUNY Purchase was almost the polar opposite of NYU – it is small (4,000 vs. 40,000), in the country vs. the heart of Soho, and entirely arts focused. Danny liked it but was concerned he couldn’t get the dual film & business major, but Chris LOVED it and the atrs focus and the ‘studio composition’ major that allows for modern production and traditional composition tied together … and is pretty much what he is already doing in our home studio!

From the college tour perspective, the week was a rousing success!

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3. I Don’t Miss Traffic

General agreement was that the low-point of vacation was sitting for over an hour on the Cross-Bronx Expressway getting back home after SUNY Purchase. We had done lunch in Port Chester and 95S was convenient … but I should have ignored the optimistic GPS traffic assessment and taken myself back to the Hutcherson Parkway. Ugh.

On the way to New York our 4 hour ride became a 5 hour trip due to traffic on I80 in eastern PA. Heading from Jersey City to see my brother in Princeton the hour drive took closer to 2 hours … yeah, traffic.

For nearly 20 years after college I dealt with some type or other of Boston-area traffic, so moving to Corning and hearing people talk about traffic has always been laughable – because, really … there is none.

And you know what? That is just fine with me!

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4. Walking a City Rocks!

My family (I think it was mostly Chris) gave me a nickname a few years ago – The Map Whisperer. As he described it “he sees things on maps … and walks to them!” I would protest … but it is actually fairly accurate. Again, my family is active and we do loads of walking – I am just a tad bit extreme!

Some of the walking gave us flexibility – we walked the mile or so from our building to the ferry for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. This let us head into the city via Battery Park afterwards instead of worrying about getting our car again.

Other times it allows exploration – going from our play at the Cort Theater on 48th down to Times Square was a great fun walk, with great sites along the way. Similarly, walking all around NYU, Soho and Greenwich Village was a real highlight we would have otherwise missed. And after arriving at Battery Park we wandered all through the financial district, again a great way to see all of the lower Manhatten sights!

Of course, sometimes walking would be a waste of time – we were in Herald Square (34th) and needed to get to 73rd to Alice’s Tea Cup … and walking would have taken a very long time with no real benefit. The time was much better spent as extra time to walk around Central Park after our tea.

On average we were walking between 5 – 10 miles per day … including a couple of times doing the 30 flights of stairs from our room!

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5. Vacations are What You Make of Them

A few times over vacation we got to talking about OTHER vacations – Washington DC, Boston, Cape Cod, Ohio, Toronto, and on and on. And how much FUN we had regardless of whether or not everything was perfect. Our place in Burlington, VT needed to be cleaned before we felt comfortable, and the listing failed to mention the property was shared!

We were afraid when we arrived that this was going to be similar – because of the way the property was operated, nobody knew what we were talking about! Fortunately that was the only downside of the trip – but we talked about how we tend to make our own fun regardless of what else is happening. Sure we do loads of typical things everywhere we go – but we also will find a way to have fun heading late at night to the Duane Reed to get a deck of cards and have the security guard watching us because we were being silly.

There are plenty of people who will tell you what you SHOULD be doing on any given vacation … whatever, plot your own path.

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6. Big Stars Are Never The Whole Story

On Broadway we saw ‘The Cripple of Inishmann’ starring Daniel Radcliffe. It was an excellent story and production, and the Cort Theater is an intimate setting that made it a joy to watch. But as we were eating dinner (Carmine’s in Times Square – great stuff!) and chatting, all of us thought that in spite of being the ‘name’, Daniel Radcliffe didn’t stand out as the singular highlight of the cast.

That isn’t a criticism, but rather high praise for the entire cast, the writing and the interplay. But it is a reminder that life is a team sport – there are always things that get all the attention, whether people, places, events or whatever … but behind all of them there is a team that has made it happen. The recent World Cup showed the value of teamwork in sports, and every song on pop radio is the result of a large team effort.

I always think about that with runners and bloggers – running a race is a solo event, but almost always we depend on others to help us along the way. Maybe it is our family who have supported us through training and given us the time to get out and run, maybe it is the volunteers along the course.

I personally got a pretty big recognition at work just before vacation, and my initial reaction was to discuss the team effort required, but the focus was really on my contributions and accomplishments. I have always found that a bit weird, because early in my career I realized that without everyone working together, very little would get done.

TL;DR – ‘The Cripple of Inishmann’ is a great play you should see if you can. Daniel Radcliffe is excellent, so is the rest of the cast and everyone involved with the production.

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7. Apartment Suites Are Awesome

I mentioned that no one knew about the place we were staying, and that is because it is fairly unique (well, for us, but we are generally cottage renters). The place was Dharma Home Suites, and in a few locations in New York City and Jersey City they have chunks of high rise apartments that they rent out. They don’t own the entire building, so this isn’t a hotel experience with a front desk and so on. You are renting a furnished apartmemt for a week – which in our case was EXACTLY what we wanted. Check out the panorama I took of the main area:

Hotel Panorama

We got a one-bedroom suite, with two beds (twin and futon) in the living room. The full kitchen made cooking easy, and the apartment came with an incredible view, and access to an ‘amenities floor’ with outdoor grills and a pool. Sadly the tennis courts were closed off due to construction on an adjoining tower. But overall it was just an incredible place – it cost no more than a cottage on Cape Cod for a week, yet was a block from the Path train at Grove St. This is definitely something we will check out again in the future.

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8. Tourist-y Things Can Be Fun … or Not

On our first full day of vacation we went on the Ellis Island / Statue of Liberty tour, with the assumption we’d want to spend more time on the Statue and still leave time to head into the City, so we rushed Ellis Island a bit. Turns out we had it backwards – we loved Ellis Island and reading all of the history and stories and details, whereas after a short time after getting time looking at the Statue of Liberty up close we were done … then spent 45 minutes working through crowds of people who seemed either oblivious or unaccomodating to others, just to get off of the island!

In contrast, in Central Park, within 5 minutes of getting past the touristy entrance at Strawberry Fields we saw a couple getting engagement pictures done, a gay wedding finishing up, another wedding getting going, and a commercial for an Israeli jewelry line being shot. And everyone around was incredibly warm and friendly (well, for New York) and willing to work around what was happening.

We did loads of other touristy things – Canal St, shops in Soho, Madison Ave, Times Square, Herald Square, lunch in Washington Square park, and on and on … and in general we had loads of fun doing everything. It is all what you bring into the experience that makes the difference.

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9. It is YOUR Life … YOU Decide What is Most Important

While on vacation, we saw pictures from other people who were in places we had gone on vacation, and even others in New York City where we never quite managed to cross paths. Everyone does things differently, and even two people doing the same thing experience it uniquely. We have honestly never been a ‘shared vacation’ family, in spite of doing a few of them … and yeah, you can probably guess how we rate those experiences!

Doing our vacation, our way, was an incredibly fun experience – Chris wanted Starbucks (multiple times!), Danny wanted food truck food, Lisa wanted to check out the Macy’s in Herald Square (well, she was more excited about Alice’s Tea Cup, but I already used that picture) and I loved having lunch on a park bench listening to jazz in Washington Square Park. We all respected our other’s time, space, and desires … and as a result we had an incredible vacation.

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Bonus #1. Food is Good!

Interestingly I took very few pictures of food. That isn’t due to a lack of food in general or good food in specific – I really have no idea. Apparently I’m a lousy foodie. Our basic strategy is full breakfast at the apartment, late lunch out, snacks or light dinner at the apartment later. But we ate SO MUCH for those dinners that we were seldom very hungry when we got back. So on Thursday after SUNY Purchase we had a big BBQ on the 7th floor and cooked everything we had – two meals worth of burgers and two meals of chicken, and packed the rest in the fridge and carried it home, where it fed us until Sunday.

Highlights included the Maple Lawn Diner in Elmira, NY, which we hit on the way out, Carmine’s in Times Square, Alice’s Tea House on the Upper West Side, Pizza Mercato near NYU … well, and pretty much everything else!

Bonus #2. Oh yeah … RUNNING AGAIN WAS AWESOME!

I never got around to posting this on Instagram this morning, but the natural conclusion to this story is about me getting out on Monday morning and having a great run, right? OF COURSE! And that is exactly what happened! And since it had been 9 days, you can assume I took it slow, ran a shorter distance and … um, no. It was a great foggy, humid, sweaty 9.25 miles, where I at least wore my most comfortable shoes (Kinvara 5s), then home for ab work and just barely getting past 2 minutes on the plank – and every second past 1:40 was a struggle, aided only by our cat stalking around and rubbing against me the whole time.

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I am more than a week behind reading most of your blogs – and since I get most by email subscription that translates to ~150 emails sitting to go through until I am caught up!

So … well, I’ve missed all of you so comment on this or tell me anything you’d like?!?

Sunday Vacation Day, Award-Worthy and Weekly Summary!

Happy Sunday! Well, actually by the time you read this I will already be on vacation! WooHoo! I will say in advance that my intent is to be ‘mostly unplugged’ all week … so I apologize in advance if I don’t reply to comments, read blogs, or answer emails in a timely fashion. But for me, these unplugged times are really important since I tend to be an ‘always online’ person.

In my absence I haven’t set up any guests to post … instead I have pulled out three of my earliest posts – ones that seem to really resonate even now. I reworked them all a bit and reposted – hopefully you will enjoy!

Award-Worthy

When I did my Very Inspiring Blogger award post I sorta cheesed on nominating others … and it has bugged me since. I mean, it was one thing earlier this year when I had two in a row and had nominated all my faves in the first one … or even when I did the mega-awards post more recently. This time? I just didn’t make an effort – and worse yet, I realized that there are a bunch of new awesome blogs I am reading that deserve attention!

So here is what I am doing – I am just going to list 25 30 great blogs I read regularly, including old faves as well as new discoveries. If they would like to do a ‘Very Inspiring’ post (which is really mostly about listing a bunch of things about yourself) – great. But either way I encourage everyone to check them out!

1. T-Rex Runner
2. Runnah
3. Ann’s Running Commentary
4. Loving on the Run
5. The Lyons’ Share Wellness
6. The Gluten-Free Treadmill
7. She’s Going the Distance
8. SuzLyfe
9. Run Salt Run!
10. Paleo Running Momma
11. Life Between the Miles
12. Darlin’ Rae
13. Fit Fresh & Funny
14. Spiritual Creaminess
15. Carina’s Running Career
16. The Girl Who Ran Everywhere
17. Running Southern
18. Running Sunflower
19. Cowgirl Runs
20. Running Boston & Beyond
21. Carmy
22. Candies & Crunches
23. The Passion of Running
24. Running Out of Wine
25. So Very Slightly Mad
26. To a 5K and Beyond
27. Blonder side of life
28. Snack Therapy
29. Amazing in Motion
30. The Big Man’s World

Wow – I love a lot of blogs 🙂

My Running Summary

Another week without a Sunday or Saturday … and in spite of the heat and humidity I really enjoyed my runs. That said, having the cool dry breezy air of Friday was just amazing! I’ll take 365 days of THAT every year, thanks!

The funny thing was hitting my driveway and the Garmin saying 18.73 after I hit the button … and I really just didn’t care enough to make it 18.75 … oh well!

Sunday: ‘Rest’ day (Hike the gorge)
Monday: 10.25 miles, 2:32 plank
Tuesday: 11.4 miles, Abs, 2:17 plank
Wednesday: 9.75 miles, Abs, 2:39 plank
Thursday: 10.5, Abs, 2:07 plank
Friday: 18.73 miles, Abs, 2:32 plank
Saturday ‘Rest’ day (getting ready for vacation!)

This was an awesome week with a couple of late nights (Chris went to Fallout Boy/Paramour and got home after 1:30), but somehow I managed a total of just over 60 miles.

Have a great week and I look forward to catching up when I return!

Five Things Friday – Vacation Ideas for 2014 and More!

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Happy Friday! This week has been crazy and exhausting, and the weekend looks to be pretty much the same – it is junior prom weekend and my older son and his girlfriend are going along with a bunch of other friends. I have already decided to take the weekend off from running, so if I DO end up heading out it will be a bonus. Through efficiency and good weather I’m already over 50 miles, so a weekend off with family with be great.

In my ‘marvelous’ post I mentioned that the new ballroom dancing class Lisa and I were taking has been a blast and something we are looking forward to … but this week it got canceled due to a sick instructor. Not to miss out on a chance to be together, Lisa and I had a date night at TGIFridays … any opportunity to be together! I dropped a picture on a href=”http://instagram.com/p/lzuuI3iao3/”>Instagram. Apparently now I am the Mayor of our local TGIFridays, which leaves me with a question … WHY do I still use Fouraquare?!?

This past couple of weeks much of the discussion has been around vacation ideas for the summer, which I alluded to on Thursday. Normally by this time of year we’d already have something booked and planned, but as the kids get older the considerations change as their schedules become less flexible. Last year, for example, with Danny going to Europe for most of July after several ‘prep days’ in East Stroudsburg, PA, our vacation ended up wrapped around that.

Also, this year we have one son finishing his sophomore year and the other completing his junior year … so college visits are a priority. Both boys have interest in media arts, and since Danny producted a documentary that took him to state finals, has been used as an example shown to the school board and has become an example used by the history department … film schools are of great interest, with a cool list of great schools found here.

Of course we can’t take a vacation that hits every college that might be interesting, so we identified a few places that we wanted to vacation that also have schools of interest.

Has to meet these criteria:
– Decent beach access: not necessarily ON the beach, but an easy drive
– Some sort of non-college activity to occupy most of the week
– At least one ‘high interest’ college
– At least one ‘activity of interest’ for each person
– Reasonably affordable

So here is what we are thinking!

New York Times Square

New York City

Of course, NYU and Columbia are great schools regardless, but they both have fantastic film and journalism schools. These are highly competitive and expensive schools that mesh a top-notch education with all the benefits (and distractions) of a big city. There are a ton of other great schools in the city as well as music, culinary and other great schools.

As I mentioned, we have never visited New York City as a family, and Danny has never been there at all. So getting to check out the sites at a more relaxed pace should be a blast. Beaches in New Jersey (and my brother) are close, and we will definitely not suffer a lack of things to do.

All of this a quick four hour drive from home, with some decent hotel options we have scoped out … this is the front-runner.

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Boston / Cape Cod

OK, I’ll be honest – this is MY first choice, because I can never get enough of the area. We were there two years ago and there is really no need to go back, but … well, I just love it there and would love to return ‘home’ to Massachusetts someday. Boston University is one of the dozens of top notch schools there, and the media school has evolved with the times, noting:

“Instead of making students choose between film and TV, now all of the undergrads are film, TV and new media students with equal access to the full range of courses.”

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Orlando Florida

Perhaps in support of Disney and the other surrounding parks needing loads of talented media people, central Florida has a great set of schools of various sizes, including University of Central Florida which has a great media program.

We have been to Disney with the boys a few times through the years and always had fun … there is so much to do, and now that the kids are older we can do things all over the place rather than just Disney World. Plus you can get to either coast pretty quickly.

Los Angeles Hollywood

Los Angeles / San Diego

With Hollywood being ‘movie/TV central’, it is not surprising that there are tons of great schools in the area. USC, UCLA and on and on – great universities with tons to offer. Just down the road a few hours is San Diego and even more great schools.

Then there are beaches, hills and valleys and endless sighseeing opportunities. I have been to San Diego, but none of us has visited LA … it would be pretty much awesome.

North Carolina or San Francisco

There are actually loads of other great media-centric schools in Connecticut, Chicago, the Pacific northwest, Wisconsin, Texas, Colorado and so on … but two other places we would love to go are North Carolina and San Francisco.

North Carolina has huge education centers in Charlotte, Raleight-Durham, and Winston Salem, and some excellent beaches as well. There is plenty to do, and close proximity to get to Virginia and Washington DC if we wanted to do things that way.

The Bay Area is a place I visited regularly with Shipley/Rohm & Haas, and I miss going there. Between San Francisco and San Jose I was there close to 20 times through the years, and don’t remember a bad trip. The area is loaded with fantastic schools for any interest, and so many things to do – and friends to visit – that I know a week would end in a flash.

Any other thoughts? Never opposed to anyone pitching a school or location you think might be interesting!

Four OTHER Things

OK, so while I already did a ‘5 things’ on vacations … why not now turn the vacations into #1 and do four more?!? Hey – this is MY list and I’ll do what I want! 🙂

2. Stronger Support for ‘Big Bang’ Reported

Big news this week in the field of astronomical physics, as there was a report of a discovery that supports decades of theoretical and observational research into the origins of our universe. The report talks about the researchers involved, the development of the ‘cosmic inflation’ theory and so on.

These groundbreaking results came from observations by the BICEP2 telescope of the cosmic microwave background—a faint glow left over from the Big Bang. Tiny fluctuations in this afterglow provide clues to conditions in the early universe. For example, small differences in temperature across the sky show where parts of the universe were denser, eventually condensing into galaxies and galactic clusters.

Because the cosmic microwave background is a form of light, it exhibits all the properties of light, including polarization. On Earth, sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere and becomes polarized, which is why polarized sunglasses help reduce glare. In space, the cosmic microwave background was scattered by atoms and electrons and became polarized too.

One striking thing – these data were collected and analyzed for more than THREE YEARS before the report was issued. It is a reminder of the depth and complexity of research and analysis done in these cases … and at the risk of getting political, this should be used as a reminder to those who like to devalue the work ‘theory’ by making it equivalent to a ‘wild uninformed guess’.

3. Hiring Bias – Even Women More Like to Hire a Less Qualified Man

Here is the reality of hiring: all else being equal, the man gets the job. In fact, even if things are NOT equal, it is likely that the man gets the job, according to this article at INC. Check out these depressing details:

The study, conducted by business-school professors from Columbia University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago, asked male and female managers to recruit people to handle simple mathematical tasks. The applicants had equal skills, but managers of both genders were more likely to hire men.

The male candidates boasted about their abilities, while women downplayed their talents, but the managers didn’t compensate for the difference when making hiring decisions. When the managers were explicitly shown the women could perform the tasks just as well as the men, the result was still that men were 1.5 times more likely to be hired. Even worse, when managers hired a job applicant who performed worse on the test than a fellow candidate, two-thirds of the time the lesser candidate was a man.

There are really three main ways to deal with this: change your behavior, change your mind, or change your systems.

Changing behavior means teaching women to boast and possibly exaggerate their skills and accomplishments … which is not really a particularly positive goal. Changing your mind means realizing that there can be gender-based differences in responses based on how an individual was taught through the years.

Changing systems means addressing the reality that if this survey shows differences, then you can assume that the output of this bias exists throughout the organization. This means that the systems involved in recognizing talent and potential are likely biased as well. Un-biasing a system is difficult and will take years, but in the end will result in an organization that recognizes talent equally and provides a positive and productive workplace for all.

4. Productivity – Getting Stuff Done

Who doesn’t want to get more done, amiright?!? This week I came a cross a number of article focused on productivity, including this one on the differences between successful and unsuccessful people, a bunch of ways to get more stuff done, and even ways to NOTHING and be more productive! Here is my favorite quote, from the ‘Do Nothing’ article:

Do nothing when you’re angry. Some people think anger can focus emotions, but it doesn’t. It’s like focusing on a kaleidoscope. You’ll walk straight off a cliff. Anger is a roadmap off that cliff. You have to wait until it settles down and you get perspective. Time is the morphine drip that soothes the anger. Then you can act. Anger is just an outer reflection of inner fear. The fear might be correct, but the anger blurs it.

5. Strange Cat Behaviors Explained

We love our cats, as I mentioned on Thursday. But make no mistake … they are BIZARRE! OK, here is a great slideshow talking about some strange things cats do:

Brings You “Presents”It’s what you’ve always wanted: a dead rodent or insect at your feet. Behaviorists have many theories about why your kitty insists on doing this. As a kitten, her mother might have brought back dead prey. You might actually be encouraging her behavior by paying her more attention when she offers you “presents.” Your generous feline might share her prey to thank you for feeding her, or she might simply be sharing her successful hunt with you, acknowledging that you are a member of her “friends” group.

Our 13-year old ‘cancer kitty’ remains the scourge of the small mammal population in our area … she doesn’t just bring US presents, she brings them to the dogs as well! Maybe she watches them bark in frustration as they fail to catch the squirrels and birds (terriers are NOT stealthy!). We tried the ‘bell’ trick the article suggested, but he either gets tid of the bell or entire collar!

As for our poor twice-abused adopted Dolly … she has no idea how to ‘play’, but wants to. She is also a totally love – after 3 years she really just wants to spend time with us, and we give her run of the house when we can. But when the dogs are inside she lives in the (finished) basement. And when I have to go upstairs she will come towards me and bat me with her paw. At first she didn’t know what to do next, but now it is a game between us and she manages to keep me a bit longer by doing it.

What bizarre things do YOUR cats do?

Bonus: 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer

I always love The Oatmeal, for a great combination of humor and information. His running series is just incredible … and now there is one on beer. I will close with a part of his infographic, for the rest of it head here:

20 Things about Beer

So what cool stuff did you see or read this week?!?

ThrowBack Thursday – Vacation Time

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Recently I have asked myself – what do I really want from ”Throwback Thursday’? Back on Valentine’s Day I had my #TBT post all ready – I had the idea, the story, and even the full text written. The only thing missing was the picture – and I discovered I didn’t have a picture that represented what I wanted, which was the trip Lisa and I took to the Captain Daniel Stone Inn in Brunswick Maine for our 6 month anniversary.

So as I was contemplating whether or not I would do one this week, I drove home from work on Tuesday just as a super-long train was passing the back of our facility. The rail weaves around Rte 64 that I take home as well as the maine highway Rte 86. So as I was driving I saw portions of the train on the other side of the brook alongside the road, then it passed under me as I went over a bridge and we split off in different directions.

As I headed home from there I knew what pictures I wanted – the four of us on the Cape Cod Railroad on vacation when the kids were young.

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All I had to do now was find it.

Fortunately I hit the right shoe box and had the envelope in hand in no time; I scanned these pictures and was done.

When the kids were little we would take vacations in June (well, we did Disney in May) in order to get ‘warm enough’ temperatures, fewer crowds, and better prices. We loved going to Cape Cod – beaches, ocean, and plenty to do for all of us. It always acted as the perfect intersection between busy and relaxing – definitely never ‘Disney busy’.

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In 2002 we had a ‘mixed bag’ year, it was a bit cooler and damper on a few days than in other years. We used that as an opportunity to hit places on ‘scenic Route 6’ such as the fireman museum, the old general store, Cuffy’s and the Cape Cod Railroad … fortunately we also had some warm and sunny days for Nauset beach, Chatham, and more.

The Cape Cod Railroad was perfect for one cool and damp morning. If you look at us, everyone but me has layers on to keep warm. The route is from Hyannis to the Cape Cod Canal and back, and it is very scenic and relaxing. There was some snoozing, and plenty of books were read.

There is so much about the boys that comes through in these pictures – Danny loved Spiderman (I think he was Spidey for 5 Halloweens!), Chris loved cool glasses, both loved reading, and so on. It is also interesting framing Chris next to Lisa and I separately – because each boy constantly hears ‘you look just like mom/dad/ depending on which they are with … and here you can see those elements, though I think Chris looks more like Lisa, and Danny more like me.

It is interesting to me seeing myself in just a t-shirt and shorts. Until my thyroid died I was always very warm, and so it is not surprising that I wasn’t layered. If we took the same picture now, I would definitely have a sweatshirt on, but still shorts … and the boys would likely be less covered. Funny how these things change.

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I love looking back at things like this – especially as my kids are racing through high school and seemingly getting older and more mature by the day. I don’t wish for those years to come back, but I do enjoy revisiting them through these pictures.

What are some of your best ‘non-event’ vacation memories?

Throwback Thursday: Disney Memories

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Last weekend was the Disney Marathon and the ‘Dopey Challenge’ – 4 days, 4 races: 5k, 10k, half-marathon and full marathon! I read about it on a number of blogs from people who either ran or wished they had – especially Lauren at RunSaltRun who is plotting to get there for next year with her family to do the challenge.

All this Disney talk brought me back to the times we have gone there with the boys. The picture at the top is Lisa and the boys from 2005 – we were there over the 4th of July – it was great seeing the fireworks, but something else when we joined the half million OTHER people trying to get out of the park at once afterwards!

We have gone three times – May 2001, July 2005 and over Christmas 2007. Each one has a bunch of memories for a number of different reasons.

In 2005 we stayed at a time-share resort rental that was pretty close and as the kids were four years older we were able to do even more than before. It was a great time, and we actually enjoyed the resort quite a bit (up until the high-pressure sales pitch at the end!), walking around to the ice cream shop, using the pools and so on.

In 2007 we went with Lisa’s sister and her family, so there were eight of us for the week. It was fun but definitely added different dynamics than how we would have done things for just the four of us. Here is a picture from Downtown Disney:

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It is interesting for me to look at that one – I had found out that my thyroid was dying, but it hadn’t hit rock bottom yet (and wouldn’t until I was in NY a month ahead of the family move). But I had been slowly gaining weight, and was probably about 50lbs heavier than I am now.

But for me Disney will always go back to our first family trip there in May 2001. They had just kicked off a more structured ‘Star Wars Weekends’ the year before, so we figured it would be a great time to go down – plus May travel was cheaper and less crowded.

Flying with kids can always be a challenge, but since we were doing this pre-9/11 things were much easier, quicker and smoother. I love this picture of Danny on the plane playing a game on an early Pocket PC from Casio (Cassiopeia E-125 to be specific) … I think the game was Mini Golf.

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But one of the huge things from that trip to Disney was Star Wars Weekends, and in particular when they had the new event ‘Padawan Training’. We had no idea what it was about, so we hung around to see what happened and found out that kids got to participate. They were looking for kids between 5-12, so we figured Danny was close enough if he wanted to try.

He was interested, but didn’t want to raise his hand or push forward, so he hung back and let others get chosen. Then when the Jedi Master pointed somewhat in our general direction, Chris headed for the stage! Lisa was going to stop him, but I held her back – if they didn’t want him, we were close enough to just go grab him. But they brought him on stage – he had just turned 3 – and he got to fully participate! I love this picture … he is so cute and was so serious and engaged with the training!

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Throwback Thursday – When My Babies WERE Babies!

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OK, so I will admit to absolutely loving doing these Throwback Thursday posts for two reasons – sharing a bit about myself … and trawling through loads of old pictures of myself and my family!

Perhaps it is superfluous of me to say, but I was early on the digital photography thing, and as a result one good thing is having loads of digital photos reaching back through the years. Of course, the downside is that I’ve also had perhaps a couple dozen different Mac & PC computers since our first digital camera, meaning different software, storage systems, and so on.

This makes it fun to look through the past couple of decades – but also makes me realize how much we’ve lost from when WE were kids … but perhaps there is also a cost of spending time capturing rather than experiencing? That is a discussion for another day!

When Danny was just 8 months old we took him to Cape Cod and stayed in Brewster – and amazingly it was on this vacation at the Captain’s Table in Chatham we found out we were pregnant with Chris. We’d had so many years of disappointments and false alarms and painful miscarriages along our path to parenthood that it was hard to believe and accept – but also tremendously exciting!

In 1999 we headed back to the Cape again – and again going in mid-June to get better pricing and avoid the summer rush. We were heading out on the Ferry, and got someone to grab a family picture.

The boys are so totally adorable in this picture – hats crooked from the wind, all bundled and snuggled up (that was NOT a particularly warm summery vacation!). Chris had his awesome light fluffy blonde hair that was just magical, and Lisa was holding his blanket that he loved.

Cape Cod remains just about my favorite place to go in the summer … we were there in 2012, and I would love to get back again soon.

Happy Thursday!