Archive for the ‘Week-in-review’ Category

Week in Review 11/24/08: Pre-holiday Work Rush, Bolt, and Farrell’s

Monday, November 24th, 2008

The work week last week was pretty busy and stressful due to the rush to get various projects finished before the Thanksgiving holiday.  The team that I lead is most actively involved with projects during the early parts of the quality assurance process.  Since many teams really want their projects to complete over the first couple days of this week, the work piled on us quite a bit last week.  Our office is closed for Thanksgiving on Thursday and Friday, while the day before Thanksgiving is traditionally a 1/2 day with most staff wrapping up around 1pm or so.  That really only gives two full work days for this week.

Fortunately, the work load was such that I was really busy (and a bit stressed) while at the office last week, but it didn’t result in overly late schedules at the office or anything much in the way of weekend work.  I was typically pretty tired when I got home from work last week, but I still made it home in time to have dinner and help get my son off to bed each night.  I don’t really mind being very busy at work in cases like this where it doesn’t really interfere too much with my own time.

While I was a little concerned late last week that I would have to put in some time for work over the weekend, that turned out not to be the case allowing us to have quite a bit of time for family activities.  On Saturday afternoon, we took our son to see Bolt, Disney’s new animated feature which opened on Friday.  We have been pretty conservative when it comes to taking our son to the movies and this was only the third that he had seen in a theater (the two previous were Horton Hears a Who and a revival showing of The Muppet Movie).  So far, we have been very proud of his behavior at movies.  He did get a little fidgety around the hour mark, but we were able to settle him down very quickly.  He stayed very quiet throughout the movie, having taken very seriously our repeated reminders beforehand that a movie theater is a quiet place.  He seemed to enjoy the movie, although his attention did wander a little bit  The movie was targeted perhaps a bit older than we had expected.

I enjoyed the movie a lot, finding it to be fun, charming, and very funny.  The action sequences were surprisingly good for this kind of animated film as well.  I thought the voice cast was well selected and the character designs were appealing.  The film had some genuine heart as well, with the character of Mittens the cat being particularly effective in this regard.  On the downside, though, the film did have a pretty conventional look and style to it and the story line was almost entirely predictable.  My reaction was that this was a very good film, but not a particularly inventive one.  The end result was a fun movie, but one that is on a somewhat lower tier among Disney’s animated films.

Like The Emperor’s New Groove a few years ago, I think that Bolt is going to remain a film that I enjoy and admire, but where I also can’t help but wonder what might have been.  Both films evolved from projects that seemed much more ambitious than the final versions, but were halted when Disney management felt that they weren’t coming together in a commercially viable way.  In the case of Bolt, the film evolved from American Dog, which was to be director Chris Sanders’ follow up to Lilo and Stitch, which I believe to be Disney’s best, and most creative, animated feature since Beauty and the Beast.  Sanders was ultimately fired from the project and is now making films for Dreamworks.  As much as I enjoyed the final version of Bolt, I can’t help wonder if this fairly conventional film could have been something much more.

Shifting topics again (yes, these "week in review" posts can’t help being a bit rambling), yesterday’s main activity was a somewhat more intimate continuation of our celebration of our son Andy’s birthday.  For the big party last weekend on his actual birthday, we had to kind of go against his wishes in our choice of venue.  For his last two birthdays, we had taken him to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour for dinner/dessert with a few of our adult friends.  He remembered last year’s party and really wanted to go back there again this year.  That isn’t really the best venue for a party with a large group of pre-schoolers, so we ended up promising him that we would take him to Farrell’s the following week instead.

The Farrell’s chain is one that I remember well from my childhood.  They have a very boisterous, celebratory atmosphere, with sirens and a big drum used to regularly announce birthdays and other special occasions as well as to herald the delivery of such large and elaborate ice cream concoctions as "The Zoo" or the "Pig Trough".  The chain all but disappeared about 15-20 years ago, but a new set of owners are now trying to revive it.  One of the only three current locations is up in Santa Clarita, only about 20 miles from our house (the other two are in Hawaii).  The Santa Clarita location is inside of Mountasia Fun Center, an amusement facility featuring various video and carnival games as well as miniature golf, batting cages, go-karts, and other similar items. 

Yesterday afternoon, we drove up there around mid-afternoon and spent an hour and half or so playing some of the various games while waiting for a few friends to arrive.  They have a small merry-go-round (basically one of the miniature coin-operated type) which Andy especially enjoys and was, in fact, one of his main reasons for wanting to go back there.  He spent a lot of time playing that, while my wife and I took turns wandering around playing some of the various carnival and ticket-vending games.  Andy did take a bit of an interest in a couple of the other games this time, particularly enjoying a basketball game (it was cool that that they had a child-sized one in addition to the full-sized adult game) as well as a race-car video game.

After our friends arrived, we went into Farrell’s for dinner and ice cream.  My wife and I both had pizza slices for dinner, which were pretty greasy, but still not too bad.  I was particularly surprised by how generous they were with the toppings.  They, of course, have a good variety of ice cream sundaes available for dessert.  I selected one called the "Hot Caramel Nutty Nutty", which pretty much is what it sounds like: vanilla ice cream covered in hot caramel with lots of pecans and Spanish peanuts.  My wife had an Oreo sundae and Andy had the kid’s "clown sundae", which was a scoop of ice cream with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles and then a sugar cone placed on top such that it looks like a clown’s hat.

It was a fun evening that provided a chance to spend some time with a few good friends as well as to enjoy some family time.  It made for a good supplement to the bigger, more chaotic party of the week before.

Week in Review 11/9/08: Elections and In-Laws

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Depending on whether I have enough to say and how disciplined about it I end up being, this may or may not turn into a weekly post on here.  I’m a terrible procrastinator when it comes to writing, but maybe I can talk myself into spending a little time each weekend writing up a few thoughts about whatever caught my attention during the previous week.

On a national (and probably even world) scale, the biggest event of the past week was obviously last Tuesday’s election.  I haven’t really made it a secret in previous posts that I’m a Democrat and supported Barack Obama’s run for president.  Therefore, I was happy with the results of the presidential election.  After the past 8 years, it is definitely nice to be back on the winning side and I do have hope that this will signal a positive change in direction for the country.

I do think that President-elect Obama has a very difficult job ahead of him.  More so than in the other presidential elections that have taken place since I’ve been old enough to vote, I genuinely felt quite a bit of enthusiasm as I voted for him.  I was certainly very aware of his policy positions and agree with him on most issues, but I also have an impression that he is someone with a vision that could genuinely lead to correcting some of the biggest negatives that I have seen in our political system, particularly in areas of corruption and cronyism and a sometimes stifling fear of trying something different.   It is pretty clear to me that I am not alone in feeling that way about what Obama has to offer, but I also think that will prove to be both a blessing and a major challenge for him.  He goes into office with a remarkably supportive public, but he also faces the potential to disappoint dramatically if he fails to live up to his promise.

Of course, this election also represented an historic breakthrough as this country selected its first African-American president.  I was very disappointed, though, that I couldn’t help feel the euphoria surrounding that was blunted dramatically by the fact that a majority of voters here in California, among others, also decided to vote in favor of continued discrimination against homosexuals.  At least here in California, many of the arguments used in support of Proposition 8 were so ludicrous that I can’t  help but see it as simple excuse-making by those that don’t want to admit bigotry even to themselves.  I do still believe that the clear trend is in the right direction here and I was at least heartened somewhat by how close the vote was on Proposition 8, particularly with younger voters pretty decisively opposing the continued discrimination. I do believe this setback to be temporary, but I was truly hoping that this would be more of a year of breakthroughs on multiple fronts.

Shifting gears to my personal life, this week was dominated by one of the recurring events regularly experienced by those of us who do have marriage rights: a visit by the in-laws.  My wife’s parents currently live in Arizona and we typically manage two visits with them per year, usually with us making one trip out there (which we did last February) and them coming out here one time.  For this visit, they arrived last Wednesday and will be staying through tomorrow.  While they aren’t quite the constantly "on-the-go tourists" that my parents usually are during their visits, I’m still pretty tired after a weekend of company, even though it was a very pleasant and positive visit.  I think maybe I’m becoming too used my wife’s and my usual weekend ritual of tag-team napping, making the change of pace a bit harder.

It has been a good visit and I’ve been very pleased with the amount of quality time that they have had with their grandson.  Andy’s grandmother has particularly bonded very well with him, spending quite a bit of time playing toys and reading with him.  Both grandparents have put in some time working on drawing and writing with him and he has also enjoyed demonstrating his various computer games to them.  His grandparents also joined us for his weekly Gymboree class this morning and our usual Sunday morning breakfast at McDonalds.  This afternoon, we had an early birthday celebration for him where we had a small cake and they gave him his presents.  Tomorrow, grandma is going to accompany Andy for at least the first part of his day at pre-school. 

Looking forward to the week ahead, it is back to work tomorrow although it looks like it could be another rather quiet week there.  Between the upcoming holidays and the slowing economy, there aren’t a lot of active projects going on right now, which has kept the stress level and number of work hours somewhat more manageable the past couple weeks.  I don’t really anticipate that changing.  Other big events of the coming week include the appointment to get the crown attached to my dental implant on Tuesday (hopefully the last step of that long process) and Andy’s actual birthday and birthday party next weekend.