Laughter

It doesn’t take much. The smallest action. A certain word. Even a glance at the right time sets off a string of laughter. It usually starts with Anna Lynn. But it doesn’t take long before it spreads to Luca and Lincoln.

Within seconds all of them are laughing uncontrollably.

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Luca laughs till tears roll down her cheeks. Anna Lynn’s laugh is loud and startling. And Lincoln laughs so hard he can barely breath.

Tonight I enlisted their help to wash our van. I asked Luca to wash the windows. Lincoln was supposed to wash the grill while Anna Lynn scrubbed the tires.

That’s how I planned it. But I should know better. Attempting to plan an activity that includes a bucket of water, a hose and a giant pink sponge results in sensory overload.

Things went as planned for at least 10 seconds.

Although the van wasn’t getting any cleaner, the kids were. Wet rags and went flying. Someone got squirted. And somehow I got smacked in the head with a sopping wet pink sponge.

And that’s when the laugher started. I wasn’t sure what to think as I cleared soap bubbles from my ears and attempted to regain my composure. Should I be upset? Should I send them to their rooms? Which kid possessed the accurate aim?

What would you do?

I decided to do what any reasonable father would do.

I took the sponge and dunked it in the bucket of water before chasing them around the yard.

Our van is a lot cleaner tonight.

And our family is a little closer.

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Apple iPhone = The Gateway Drug

Over at Marketwatch, John Dvorak wrote a column titled, “Microsoft’s Business Model Is Done”. The primary reason he gives for this is the cost of computer parts has decreased to the point where Microsoft Windows and Office have become prohibitively expensive.  And given the trend towards smaller, sub $400 netbooks fueled by the economic downturn, Dvorak believes many past Microsoft customers will be searching for low cost alternatives such as Linux along with one of many free Office alternatives such as Google Docs.

I tend to agree with a lot of what Dvorak says. It doesn’t make sense to spend $300 on a netbook then turn around and shell out $350 for Microsoft Office. But that’s just one of the problems Microsoft is currently facing. Dvorak touches on what I think is the larger issue and that is simplicity and near instant boot times of these inexpensive devices. The iPhone possesses both features.

iphoneI’ve had an iPhone for just over two weeks now and it’s changed how I access the internet and get work done. I use it to access and respond to most email. I do most of my RSS reading from it along with viewing my calendar and task list. In short, I’m spending a lot less time using Microsoft products to access the internet and get work done. Most of my time is now spent using Apple and Google products. Apple has raised the bar in what I expect from an ultra-portable computer, because that’s what the iPhone is: decent phone, fantastic little computer.

While I try to keep as few programs on my Windows PC (due to Windows rot) I love the tiny apps available for my iPhone. It takes a fair amount of patience to deal with the idiosyncrasies Windows tosses my way on a weekly basis. Sometimes it boots just fine. Other times it crashes or runs at a snails pace. The more programs I install it on, the slower it runs.

Yet the iPhone is a joy to use. It feels like it was created to suit how I work. It feels so very polished. Like someone spent the extra time to make sure the last 5% of the product was done right. Microsoft is creating products based on how I worked 10 years ago. The idea of spending 30 minutes to install Office and countless hours updating and patching it over time is an archaic model that must come to an end. And the registration and activation process for Windows is an absolute mess. Sometimes I feel like Microsoft is creating products for the IT Managers instead of consumers who shouldn’t have to learn how “Windows Genuine Advantage” works.

Having said that, I’m impressed with what I’ve seen in Windows 7. I just wish it were a free upgrade to all those who bought into the lost promises of Vista.

I’m not saying the iPhone will replace the PC. The PC is still the best device for writing more than a few paragraphs, and it provides the horsepower for processor and memory intensive applications. But the iPhone just might be my gateway drug to more Apple products in the same manner the iPod lead me to getting an iPhone.

And that should worry Microsoft. I stopped using Office in 2008 and I left Windows Mobile behind two weeks ago.

Could Windows be next?

The Perfect Day

Woke up late.

Had cinnamon sugar French toast at Sun Break Cafe.

Took kids to mall. Didn’t lose a single one.

Played “Ramblin Man” on Guitar Hero.

Sat on front steps listening to the rain hit the roof.

Chatted with my dad as we watched Utah wax Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Listened to “River Man” from Till Bronner.

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Up Late

It’s not often that Kai will put his held on my shoulder and rest. He’s so busy and restless that relaxing isn’t part of his game.

But sometimes I’ll catch him at just the right time and he’ll rest against me while I’m typing away at the computer. Occasionally he’ll even fall asleep. But tonight he was keeping an eye on mom across the room.

Moments like these balance out the times when kids won’t go to bed, magic markers are going through the dryer and mud is being tracked through the house.

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Laughter of the Soul

Anna was on the couch watching cartoons tonight while her brother and sister were in bed. Kim didn’t feel well today so she headed off to bed earlier than usual. That left me and the dog to make sure Anna was watching Dragon Tails instead of Dexter.

I decided this was as good a time as any to spend time with her. I figured she was a bit groggy and wouldn’t try to talk me into building a cushion fort. She was content to lay next to me on the couch as long as she could hog the big pillows and blankets. I was left with one tiny baby blanket and throw pillow.

Anna thought that was funny. I did too until my feet got cold and my head hurt from being propped up by a Fisher Price rotary play phone.

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Anna is our third child. She’s also our most free-spirited and independent child. She’s a peacemaker when she wants to be but can hold her own against anyone. But she’s also our resident comedian who has never told a joke she herself didn’t find gut busting hilarious.

Whenever I’m around Anna I’m usually laughing. Like the time tonight when I fell off the couch or mispronounced the name of her favorite Backyardigan (it’s Pablo not Fabio).

But the laughter can be a problem when it starts at church or when Kim’s trying to get the kids down for the night. Lincoln laughs so hard we think he’s on the verge of passing out. It’s as if his body is too small to contain all that pent up fun and giggles. Anna knows this and puts on a show.

I love the joy and laughter our children bring to our home. Most of the time it’s a result of something only we’d find humorous. Like watching Anna dance until her pants fall down. But most of the time I have no idea why we are laughing. It’s not uncommon for the kids to bust out in laugher around the dinner table while Kim and I stare at each other trying to figure out just happened.

We seldom figure out why they’re laughing, but it doesn’t matter.

Because they can’t laugh without smiling.

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Expectations

The valet was at my door before I could turn off the engine. A young man greeted me and held the door open while I shuffled into the cozy lobby of the hotel. The fireplace was ablaze and already warming the backs of patrons lined up next to it. The staff was friendly and immaculately attired.

Every detail felt authentic even down to retro rotary phones and wooden chess sets available for play.

From the first interaction my expectations for the experience were set high. And yet that’s a challenge because even the smallest miscue is magnified.

This hotel could be considered a Seattle landmark. It jettisons out over the blue waters of Elliot Bay. One can watch cruise and cargo ships docking at the nearby piers. Ferries cross paths delivering their passengers to this area’s many islands. Seattle’s skyline as well as Alki beach are viewable in the distance. It’s a peaceful setting and the main reason travelers are willing to pay extra to stay here.

So when I waited to be seated at the only onsite restaurant, I assumed it would be at one of the tables situated near a window. Although several such tables were available, the hostess offered a larger table for four, far from the windows, yet inches from the Continental Breakfast.

I could and should have asked to be seated at a smaller table closer to the windows.

The point is this: I should not have to ask.

I didn’t come for the $4 orange juice or the $9 oatmeal. If a table near the windows are available why not seat me at one?

There’s a lesson here I can take to my team that provides high end technical services to Microsoft: Every interaction you have with a customer creates their expectations of what’s to follow. I expect clean restrooms at Nordstrom. I would expect the service department at Lexus to be orderly. I’ve come to regard the friendly Starbucks barista as an extension of that $5 mint chocolate chip cream frappuccino.

I went back to the restaurant for lunch and was greeted by another hostess who happened to be my server. The dining area was crowded. As she grabbed a menu and asked me to follow, I thought to myself, “please don’t seat me at the same table”.

She didn’t. And I’ll return.

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To Infinity and Beyond

Kim gets the kids ready for bed most nights. That involves rounding them up to brush teeth and get drinks and retrieve gum or candy they have stashed in their little pockets. If we’re lucky, they climb into bed with a book and a flashlight.

And maybe a swig of Benadryl when The Office is on.

But usually we aren’t that lucky which is where I come in. Phase 2 of bed tucking in involves making sure each child is in her or her own bed and and there are no hands down butt cracks. Once they’ve settled down I’ll tell them a story of varying degrees of scariness.

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But tonight the kids had a hundred questions about travel. They measure travel by how many nights they would sleep on the plane.

How many nights would we sleep on the plane to grandma’s house?
How many nights would we sleep on the plane to Disneyworld?
How many nights would we sleep on the plane to Australia?

This lead to the following discussion:

Lincoln: Is heaven above the sky?

Me: Yes, I guess so.

Lincoln: How many nights would we sleep on the plane to get to heaven?

Luca: You have to take a rocket, Lincoln, because rockets go straight up.

Me: That’s right, it takes a rocket to get into space.

Lincoln: I couldn’t sleep on a rocket so let’s just go to grandma’s.

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Pull My Finger

I work with a bunch of very cool people. They travel around the world and return with all sorts of goodies which they graciously share with me. Last week I returned to my office to find two bars of my favorite chocolate. The kindness must have been contagious because I brought one of the bars home to share with Kim and the kids.

I share most things but I’m sure you’d understand my past lack of generosity if you could taste one square of this dreamy chocolate.

That same day someone also left this John McCain action figure on my desk. Nobody has come forward so I’m not sure whom to thank. But if you happen to be reading this I want you to know how much fun I’ve had bending his arms back and forth. If you look closely you’ll see the old Maverick’s nose is suffering from rug burn. If someone forced him to push a penny down the hall with his nose, I didn’t see a thing.

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