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July 2008 Poker

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I won’t be playing tonight, so I can safely report this month’s results now.

Given the past few months, this one was financially successful. That said, it was extremely unsatisfying financially, while simultaneously being extremely satisfying from a having a good time perspective. I guess you can’t have it all. 😉

So, the bottom line first, then a few details that I want to report just to get them off my chest (and make the above paragraph a little less opaque).

I finished the month with a profit of $359.02. Not too shabby.

Still, it was a financially frustrating month. If you read this space regularly, you know that I play a lot less than I used to (as in a ton less). That means I have much less time to play in cheaper qualifiers, so I pay a lot more to enter the bigger tournaments. That means one or two bad breaks a month and it becomes very hard to show a profit.

This month, I lost in all four attempts at the big Sunday tourney. That was an $860 hole that I dug for myself! In addition, they now have a nice Omaha Hi/Lo on Saturday afternoon (perfect time for me!) that costs $162 to enter. I entered that one twice as well, so that’s nearly $1,200 just to enter these six tournaments.

In the big Sunday one, I just missed this week. I came 109th out of 944. They paid the top 100. I likely could have drifted into the money, and gotten back $300 for my $215. Psychologically, I needed to do that (or rather, could have benefited from a cash), but I knew that playing my JJ was the right thing to do. Amazingly, after a very big stack called my all-in, another guy went all-in (bigger stack than me, but less than the stack that called me!) and he only had AK. He risked his entire tournament on a draw with one person all-in, and a bigger stack calling it.

The guy who called me had 66, so I was ahead of him, and the AK got lucky and hit, so I was out. A week ago, I came 164th out of 901, so I’m getting close, but just not getting there all the way…

That said, in the new Saturday Omaha Hi/Lo, I had very good success this past Saturday. I came in 4th out of 72 players. That was good enough for a $1,500 payday (bring the month back into the black). That was my single largest cash in online poker. That’s why I say it was a frustrating month, as I needed that large of a cash just to put me somewhat ahead for the month.

My other minor frustrations were in some qualifiers. I missed winning seats to the Omaha Hi/Lo and the Sunday tourney by one spot at least three times this month. In one, I was the overwhelming chip leader and when it came down to two people, the other person hit every flop five hands in a row, and there was nothing I could do but come second. The free seat only came to first place… On the flip side, after paying the full freight, that’s the one I made my big cash in, so I can’t complain too loudly…

Anyway, on to another month. 🙂

Dave Mason at BB King

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Last night couldn’t come soon enough for us. We loved Dave Mason’s show at Blend Bar on March 6, 2008 (covered in this post). The experience at Blend Bar was less than special, but the show was awesome. We immediately grabbed two tickets to see Dave again on April 4th at BB King, a place we frequent often and love.

As covered in this post, Dave called in sick that day, but we didn’t check in advance, and ended up showing up nonetheless. That show was rescheduled for sometime in June (a date that worked for us). That date was quickly canceled and rescheduled for last night (July 22nd, 2008). We held on to our original tickets, which were honored last night. Third time was indeed the charm at BB King.

The show was close to the same set list from Blend, but not identical (one example, they didn’t play Every Woman last night). In terms of their sound, and individual talents, every word in my previous post applies, so I won’t repeat that. Let me just say what was (slightly) different about last night’s show.

John (Johnne) Sambataro was as good as he was at Blend, and killed the crowd on at least two spectacular solos, but he was actually highlighted a little less last night than he was at Blend.

Johnne Sambataro

Johnne Sambataro

Bill Mason was actually highlighted a drop more last night. He’s a fantastic keyboards guy. His fingers were flying on his Roland, all night long, in particular on the numerous solos that he took.

Bill Mason

Bill Mason

There was a new guy added to the lineup last night, but even though Dave introduced him at least twice, I didn’t catch the name (Chris something I think). He played percussion (mostly bongos, a little tambourine, etc.). I couldn’t make out a single sound that I could attribute to him, but his hands were clearly moving fast, and in perfect rhythm with the music, so I assume he’s really good. No idea really. 🙁

Even this photo is the fuzziest of the bunch. Perhaps he wasn’t even really there! 😉

Unknown Band Member

Unknown Band Member

Alvino Bennett was awesome. In my last review I understated his playing a bit. Partially, it was because he was obscured in the corner, and partially, it was because he never took a solo. Last night, we sat at the right-most edge of the stage, a few feet back from it. Alvino was in the right-hand corner of the stage, so my view was of his forearms forward. In other words, all I could see were the drum sticks, his wrists, and some forearms, flying all night long.

Ironically, that gave me a very deep appreciation for how good this guy is. He had to lose 10 pounds while playing last night. Even though he doesn’t take any solos, his beats are fast, furious, constant, and perfect. To be clear, he wasn’t worse at Blend, I just didn’t get to pay as much attention to him, as I was so mesmerized to see Dave in person for the first time then. Anyway, Alvino is truly a great drummer!

Here’s a good shot of Alvino waving goodnight to the crowd after the show:

Alvino Bennett

Alvino Bennett

Lois had a slightly better angle on Alvino than I did, so she was able to catch him at the drums when he leaned forward slightly. 🙂

Alvino Bennett Drums

Alvino Bennett Drums

Alex Drizos was incredible on the bass. I could almost mirror the words I said about Alvino with regard to the drums, and apply them to Alex on the bass. He impressed me tremendously at Blend as well, but last night, we sat closer to Alex than to anyone else on the stage, so I got to watch his fingers in action a bit more.

While he too doesn’t get highlighted for solos, his bass lines are extremely interesting, often complex, and never overwhelm the rest of the band. He was great too!

Alex Drizos

Alex Drizos

That leaves the great man himself, Dave Mason. Wow. It was worth the wait. As I noted in the Blend review, his voice is still superb and his fingers are still silky smooth and super fast on the guitar (both six and 12 string). He’s not the most talkative guy on stage, but when he does speak, he’s warm and funny (and interesting). The band clearly loves each other, and they play incredibly tightly together!

Dave Mason

Dave Mason

For those who don’t feel like reading the Blend review (why not?!?), I’ll repeat here that Dave also has new music (in fact, he’s releasing a new CD on September 30th). At Blend, he played at least three new songs. Last night, he played two. They are awesome, so he’s still got it, in every way. Of course, his old stuff is as good as it gets as well, so he is incapable of disappointing no matter what they play!

They were announced at 8:03pm and all but Dave came out on the stage. Within 10 seconds, Alex moved to the center microphone and apologized and asked the crowd to give them a minute. They all left the stage.

After a 10 minute break, at 8:14pm, they were announced again, and all of them, including Dave, came on this time. Whew. 🙂

They played for 75 minutes and ended with a rousing standing ovation. When they came back out for the encore, they had a special guest star, Jimmy Vivino. I hadn’t heard of him before, but the bio on his site is quite interesting and impressive.

Jimmy Vivino

Jimmy Vivino

Dave let Jimmy play his guitar (something that is reasonably rare in my experience). They played Stormy Monday (one of my all-time favorite blues tunes, I listen to the Allman Brothers Band version all the time). Dave sang (and didn’t play guitar at all). He was awesome, of course. Jimmy played lead throughout. He’s fantastic. I’d be happy to catch him in any other show and get to know his music and enjoy his talent more thoroughly!

After that, Jimmy left the stage, Dave took back his guitar, and they closed with the same number they closed Blend with, Feelin’ Alright. The crowd stood and danced (or swayed in my case) 😉 throughout the finale. We left on a complete high.

They were on stage for 90 minutes in total, and rocked the house down for every second of it.

For whatever reason, we decided that we were willing to risk slightly less-than-perfect seats last night, in exchange for not standing on line in the heat for too long. So, we left a bit later than we normally would. Since we both showered right before leaving, we also decided to take the bus (even though it’s a short walk to BB King) to enjoy the air-conditioning bliss that often is delivered on modern NYC buses.

Lois was quick to get her camera out of her bag when she spotted this colorful Statue of Liberty on the sidewalk (photo taken from inside the bus):

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

We got to BB King at 6:15pm (doors officially open at 6pm). There was still a short line outside, but it worked out exactly as we hoped (dare I say, planned?) and we moved inside within five minutes. We were seated by 6:25pm, in pretty good seats.

We both had the Chopped Salad (yes, I am soliciting polite golf claps for being good). It’s a really excellent salad. I had Pulled Pork on top (OK, not quite as good as Lois) 😉 and we split a side of Red Cabbage Slaw (they make that really well there too!).

In all of the shows that we’ve seen at BB King (which is many) even when there is an opening act, that opener comes on stage at 8pm. Last night, at 7:15pm, the lights dimmed a bit, and they announced David Jacobs-Strain. He came on the stage with an acoustic guitar.

David Jacobs-Strain

David Jacobs-Strain

He opened with an instrumental, and it was obvious throughout that this guy is an extremely talented guitar player. He played a number of blues songs, the rest all included him singing as well as playing slide guitar. He has a good voice as well.

While we both enjoyed his performance, especially that it was a true bonus, not cutting into any Dave Mason time, nor lengthening the evening at all, it’s not particularly my style of music. That should take nothing away from David, who is wildly talented, and those that like raw blues, will love this guy!

That said, here’s the really cool part of the story. The night before, David opened for Dave Mason at Rams Head in Annapolis, MD. After the show, Dave’s road manager called him in for a chat. David was obviously nervous that somehow, he blew it. Instead, he received a pleasant surprise, which was hearing that Dave was inviting him to open at BB King the next night!

David was supposed to head to California yesterday, but made the correct choice (IMHO) of joining Dave for another night, and playing at BB King. Kudos to Dave for wanting to highlight a real talent (when Dave came on, he retold the story that David did, and said that David was the real deal, and we could all use some more real deal in our lives). Kudos to BB King for being flexible, and starting an opening act at 7:15pm, accommodating everyone involved!

David played for exactly 30 minutes.

After the show, David was selling CDs in the lobby. Even though this isn’t exactly the style of music we normally buy, we both like to support live music in general, and talented musicians in particular, so we bought David’s CD: Liar’s Day. Lois got him to sign it for us as well. 🙂

WordPress 2.6 Goodness

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So, I tweeted the other day that I updated to WordPress 2.6 successfully, but didn’t blog about it. I am very pleased with the changes, though I had two minor frustrations, one was WP’s fault, the other not.

First, the goodness. When 2.5 came out, they completely changed the media/image management, changing the upload and selection process to be AJAX based. I really liked the look, but hated the feel. It took so many clicks and so much scrolling to edit the various image fields, and to select and insert an image in a post.

2.6 fixes this completely (for me). This is done by making two (theoretically) trivial changes:

  • Make the pop-up window larger, so that all of the fields for an image fit without scrolling
  • auto-scroll to the selected image when the user clicks on show

That’s it! Now I don’t have to scroll after I click show.

Another goodness is that the number of plugins that have newer versions available is now highlighted on every admin screen, with a cute little bubble above the plugins link. Very nice. I was very good about checking regularly anyway, but this will save me a few clicks every day.

There are other new features, most of which I haven’t played with yet, but they certainly sound useful. The video that shows off the new features is crisp and gets to the point quickly.

I’m happy with 2.6.

Now for my two frustrations. The first is a WP problem. I noted in a recent post that WordPress Ate My Posting Date. I patched it successfully (a one-liner). The patch documentation led me to believe that it was already in the trunk, and therefore would be part of WP 2.6. It wasn’t. 🙁

When I posted about Chuck Mangione the other day, the RSS feed delivered that post with a date of 1999 again. I reapplied the patch, and I believe all is well again. It was disappointing that this simple one-liner missed the 2.6 release…

The second frustration had nothing to do with 2.6. After I saw the new plugin update notification, I updated the two plugins that had newer versions available. When I went back to the admin screen and reloaded, it still claimed that both plugins needed updating, and the new bubble still showed a two in it.

After some playing around, I decided to clear the XCache cache completely. That solved the problem. So, somehow, there was PHP code cached that didn’t update when I installed the new WP 2.6. I will try to remember not to make that mistake again, and just clear the cache whenever I update WP. Now the question is whether I need to clear the cache when a plugin gets updated, etc. Frustrating that somehow date stamps on the files don’t over-ride the cacheing…

In any event, all is well again (at least for the moment). 😉

Chuck Mangione at Blue Note

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On June 7th, Lois and I saw Chuck Mangione at Tarrytown Music Hall. Last night, we saw him (with the same group) at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC. I wrote a long post about the Tarrytown show, all (except for the tribute to Jim McKay) applied to last night’s show, so I encourage you to read that one for more detail on the musicians and the music.

At the bottom of that post, I mentioned that they would be at the Blue Note for six straight nights (two shows a night!) this week. There are still four nights left to this run, and I encourage you to get to the Blue Note if you can, you won’t be disappointed in this show!

Lois and I had planned to see them again last night. It was a loose plan made with a very good friend of mine who has a girlfriend (do you still use that term at our age?) that Lois and I haven’t yet met (though we want to meet her badly, and she wants to meet us as well). In the end, with life’s complications, she couldn’t make it this week. I didn’t end up making reservations for the show.

On Tuesday, Lois asked me when we were going. I told her that because our friends couldn’t make it, I didn’t make the reservations. She was disappointed. So, she called on the spot and made them for last night (the only night that would have worked for us). Our godddaughter and husband had just officially moved to NYC that day (Tuesday), so she made the reservation for four, hoping they would be available. They were. 🙂

So, we went last night. We got there at 5:55pm (doors open at 6pm). We were seated at the stage, dead center (the band had to walk by our table to get up on the stage). We don’t have any good photos of them playing, because we were really close up (which might have been really distracting to them even without a flash) and because the band members all wear black on a black background, so the contrast was really bad. So, here is one photo of each band member (taken with a flash) while they were setting up. Chuck wasn’t on the stage, so no photo of him.

Gerry Niewood

Gerry Niewood

Apologies to Corey Allen, who had his back turned at the time Lois snapped the photo:

Corey Allen

Corey Allen

Charles Frichtel

Charles Frichtel Kevin Axt

Dave Tull

Dave Tull

Coleman Mellet

Coleman Mellet

So, they were as good last night (all of them) as they were in Tarrytown. That said, because we were right up front, in a much more intimate environment over all (which we prefer in general), there was an even better feel to the show. When Chuck played the Flugelhorn, he was all of four-five feet from us. When he played the keyboards, he was two feet from us. Dave Tull, one of the most incredible drummers you will ever hear, was less than five feet from us. Wow!

We got to shake every one of their hands after the show, and tell them how incredible they all are. Like I said earlier, they had to walk right by us, whether they liked it or not. 😉

As noted above, and in more detail in the previous post, Chuck paid a great tribute to Jim McKay’s passing at the Tarrytown show. Lois was very moved by it, and last night handed Chuck a note to that effect as he left the stage. It was another benefit of being right there. We certainly hope Chuck appreciated the sentiment.

The four of us all enjoyed our meals very much. I had the marinated skirt steak (I’ve always been a big fan of skirt steak, even though it’s a cheaper cut of meat). I had one extremely minor disappointment. My entire odyssey of chocolate martinis began two years back at the Blue Note with their Nutty Angel.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer on the menu. All of the bartenders are new (according to our waitress) so they didn’t know what was in it. I setlled for an Italian Chocolate Martini. It was good, but was thicker than any other one I’ve had (more like chocolate milk with vodka).

To make up for it, I had a Nutty Irishman coffee as my dessert. It had Bailey’s Irish Cream in it, but more importantly, it had the word Nutty in the title, so all ended well with the evening. 🙂

Catching Up

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It’s been exactly a week since I last posted. Usually, if I take that long a break, it’s a combination of not much to say and not much time to say it in. This time, I had a number of things to say (one in particular) and plenty of time to say it. I purposely didn’t post, because I wanted The Wedding post to stay on top on the main page (without explicitly pinning it), to savor the wonderful memory, just a little longer. Alas, life goes on, and so will this blog. 🙂

So, I’ll cover a number of things in this post, trying to keep each much shorter than they might have been had they been given their own space. Hopefully, the entire thing will be reasonable in length as well. Seperately, perhaps tomorrow, I’ll write a general music catchup post, so I’ll leave music out of this one.

The one post that was hard to avoid writing last week would have appeared on Thursday morning (congratulate me on my restraint). We have really good friends that over the past few years we’ve probably seen more often in NYC than any other couple. We used to grab a meal together roughly every other trip back to NYC.

For a variety of reasons, the last time we saw them was December 2007, mostly because their lives got really complicated. He got pneumonia that lasted a month, and immediately started a new job right after that (we had no idea about either event) and she was busier than ever in a wonderful job she landed six months earlier.

Cutting to the chase, we reconnected via email a few weeks back, and the best night for them to get together was last Wednesday. We were delighted to oblige. What they had no idea about (yes, we’re sure) is that it was our Anniversary. Even without that knowledge, they insisted on picking the place and treating.

They took us to Butai, a very nice Japanese restaurant. We had a fantastic meal with wonderful company. I ordered a fancy drink (I haven’t had a fancy drink in a while) that included Prosecco (a champagne-like sparkling wine) and Pear puree (among a few other ingredients). It seemed fitting on our Anniversary. Lois ordered straight Prosecco (she didn’t realize my drink had any, and she hasn’t ordered a drink in a restaurant in nearly a year!).

Anyway, Butai is highly recommended, and we’re glad to have reconnected with great friends. Thanks guys! 🙂

I know how late I am to the party, but I simply can’t let the Jesse Jackson – Barack Obama comments go by without mention. Here’s the only thing I want to say on that subject (would have been much more if it were its own post, in a timely manner): Jesse Jackson’s apology was beyond laughable.

I’m not surprised he apologized. I’m not surprised he’s still backing Obama (could you imagine him supporting McCain?). So, I’m not calling him a hypocrite for still wanting Obama elected, badly. But, could he not have injected an iota of reality into the apology? After all, he was quoted as threatening to castrate Obama (literally!). Here’s the apology I would have liked to have heard:

I sincerely apologize to Barack Obama for my comments yesterday. While I have some fundamental differences with him on a number of issues, which caused me to privately lash out, they pale in comparison to the numerous issues where I agree with him completely. Further, even in those issues where I disagree with him, I am closer to his position on those than I am to John McCain’s, so my support for Obama continues to be as strong today as it was previously.

Simple, but believable. Don’t pretend that it was all just taken out of context, and that it’s a non-stop love-fest between the two of you. It’s obvious to any thinking person that Jesse Jackson can’t stand Obama whatsoever. That’s fine, they don’t have to love each other in order to be supportive of each other. Bottom line, with friends like Jackson, Wright and Phleger, Obama certainly doesn’t need any enemies…

I’ve been good about keeping up with my exercise routine. I walked my 8+ mile jaunt in NYC three times this week, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t typically walk two days in a row (especially after taking off only one day in-between the first two walks), but the weather was perfect here this weekend, we were atypically in the city over the weekend, and they were predicting rain all day today.

In any event, I had great walks all three times. It’s helped with my weight as well, as I hit at a new low this morning since I reported on my dramatic weight gain back in this April post. I’m sure it will fluctuate up and down a bit more, but the fact that I’m at a new (interim) low, a week after a wedding where I didn’t hold back on desserts, is a good thing. 🙂

To be clear, I’m still way above my low since beginning to lose weight in 2001, but headed back in the right direction, finally!

Lastly, there aren’t any particularly insightful words I can add to the numerous praises that have been heaped on Tony Snow after his passing this weekend. Lois and I watched Tony for years and were always impressed with him. He was as geniunely a good person as one could aspire to be. He was also only one year older than me, so I know (personally) how unbelievably short his life was. Rest In Peace Tony, you well deserve it!

The Wedding

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The day finally came and is now firmly entrenched in the memories-of-a-lifetime category. As godparents, we enjoyed it without having to endure all of the amazing hard work and planning (not to mention costs!) that the actual parents undertook. Since the result was perfect (in every way), the heartiest of thanks and congratulations go to the parents of the bride, our dear friends, Bob and Sally! Bravo! 🙂

On Saturday, I wrote a shortish (for me) post on how we spent Friday and early Saturday. What was special about the Jamestown trip (beyond the normal wonders of learning about history) was that it was the perfect way to introduce a group of strangers (many of whom were about to become related to each other) in an interesting and relaxed manner. Kudos to the father of the bride for having the idea, and executing it so well!

As noted in that post, we had a fantastic meal and fellowship together at the rehearsal dinner on Friday night. For that, we thank the father of the groom, for putting together such a splendid evening!

The festivities and preparations were ongoing throughout the big day. There were lots of details to be taken care of as well as the typical female primping. Smartly, I avoided all of it. Since Lois was involved to an extent, and the hubbub was happening in the rooms all around ours, I was peripherally aware of some of the activities. Here’s a single example of some primping:

Primping

The wedding was called for 5pm at the Wren Chapel at William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. You can read the storied history of the Wren Chapel, but here’s the opening paragraph from that link to give you a flavor of the magic of the place:

The Sir Christopher Wren Building is the oldest college building in the United States and the oldest of the restored public buildings in Williamsburg. It was constructed between 1695 and 1699, before the city was founded, when the capital of the colony of Virginia was still located at Jamestown, and the tract of land which was to become Williamsburg was populated by simple timber buildings and known as “Middle Plantation.”

They hired a limousine to shuttle the wedding party and out-of-town guests from the hotel to the chapel. It’s a short trip, so the limo was to make continuous trips back-and-forth starting at 4pm. I got to the lobby at 4:28pm and didn’t see anyone I knew. When I stepped outside, something akin to an Airport Shuttle Bus pulled up. I asked if he was heading to the Wren Chapel, and he said he was. When I stepped inside, I saw that it was as plush as you could imagine (no hint from the outside), including two flat-screen TVs (they were off). A limo indeed! 🙂

After waiting five minutes, I was shuttled alone to the chapel. I felt a bit cramped in the back of a vehicle that could comfortably seat 16-18 people, but I made do. 😉

Lois saved me a seat near the front of the chapel, so getting there a little later didn’t cost me. You can see from the stock photo that the place is gorgeous, but in addition to how beautiful and well-preserved the place is, it has a very wonderful feel to it as well. To my left was a great friend of the bride, and for a couple of years now a great friend of ours as well, playing the harp. She was awesome, as was the organist (playing in the balcony) who was her teacher when she was at William and Mary herself. They serenaded us as people arrived.

Here’s the harpist, with her harp. This photo is from the rehearsal since Lois didn’t get any good shots of the harp on the wedding day:

Harp

At 5pm sharp, the electricity was in the air, as the music shifted and the guests hushed. The procession began. The Wren Chapel is set up perfectly to enjoy exactly this kind of event, because the pews face the center aisle. No neck-craning required to see all of the attendants and the main attraction. I purposely avoided the wedding rehearsal (but cleverly, not the rehearsal dinner!) 😉 so I got to soak it all in without knowing how it would play out.

When the beaming bride walked down the aisle on her father’s arm, it was truly a joyous site to behold. They were fortunate enough to have the minister from their church in Williamsburg (who therefore knew the couple well) preside over the ceremony. He was amazing. His wit, wisdom and spirituality were deeply inspiring.

The bride’s uncle is a Pastor as well, and he read a moving passage and added some inspirational words of his own. Mirroring that, a close friend of the groom’s family read a moving passage as well. On every level, the ceremony was just wonderful. On the most important level, the joining of the happy couple, it was heart-warming (and mesmerizing) to see their eyes locked on each other, with deep love and anticipation for their future together. There was no nervousness at the altar.

One grainy photo of the married couple:

Married

When Laura (the bride) was younger, she had the honor of being a Junior Bridesmaid at her cousin’s wedding. Laura is very close to her cousin and to her cousin’s children. She had the pleasure of honoring her cousin’s oldest child by including her as a Junior Bridesmaid this time around (full circle!). Here is a photo of the Minister calling on her and the final groomsman to close the procession:

Junior Bridesmaid

When the ceremony was over, we were all asked to gather as quickly as possible outside for a group photo. The cause for the rush was the impending storm. Luckily, aside from a very few drops, the clouds held it together for what will hopefully be a really great shot from a balcony above us.

We hitched a ride with a couple that we’re deeply fond of and rarely get to spend quality time with, so that turned into a surprise pleasure. One minute after we got into the reception area (a wonderful air-conditioned tent on the veranda of a beautiful country club in the outskirts of Williamsburg) it started to pour. We were very lucky. Others needed umbrellas to make their own luck. 😉

Appetizers and drinks were served while people selected which table to sit at. We gathered with a group of Richmond-based friends and the merriment began immediately.

I was honored to be asked to introduce the wedding party upon their arrival. At roughly 6:50pm I was alerted that my duties would be discharged shortly. I waited patiently on the dance floor by the DJ, microphone in hand. At one point there was a possibility that I would also be introducing the parents of the couple, but that didn’t happen. Here’s what I would have said had the opportunity presented itself:

It is clear that the love shared between these two couples, for each other and for their wonderful children, is a model that our new couple will follow. Guided by their parents, they were destined to find each other, sharing a faith that is truly inspirational. Please join me in welcoming the proud parents of the bride and groom!

Those words didn’t get spoken that night, but they are memorialized here. 🙂

Here’s what I did say:

My name is Hadar Pedhazur, and I have two distinct privileges tonight. The first is that of being godfather to Laura, which is what allows me to enjoy the second privilege, of announcing the wedding party.

And, of course, then I announced them, followed by being the first to call the bride and groom “Mr. and Mrs.” (at least the first with a microphone in his hand!). 😉

Hadar Introduction

Here is a grainy photo of them arriving, waiting for me to call out their names:

Wedding Party

Here is the happy couple, introduced by me as “Mr. and Mrs.”:

Happy Couple

When I was done, the father of the bride took over. His speech was very moving, ending with everyone joining hands and being led in a wonderful blessing by him. He could have been a Minister, had he so desired!

On to the festivities. The food was served buffet style. It was the first buffet of this size that I attended that was run rationally. Each table was told when to get up so that we didn’t have wrap-around-the-block lines. It was quick and painless to fill your plate. The food was outstanding. Kudos to the kitchen staff for preparing a delectable feast.

Many people traveled great distances to attend. The groom’s family came from California. The bride had family from Nebraska and Texas. None of that matched the trip undertaken by one of the bride’s cousins (uncle to the Junior Bridesmaid above). He came from Capetown, South Africa, with his 14-month-old daughter (her first trip to the US). She had the distinction of both being the youngest guest, and the one that traveled the furthest. She was an angel in every possible respect, and was likely the best behaved person (adults included!) at the wedding and reception. 🙂

Lois Olivia

Immediately after eating, I got to catch up with a number of incredible people who we see all-too-infrequently. That was another blessing associated with this wedding, that it brought together all of the people that hold this couple and their extended families so dear. A breath of fresh air to collect so many nice and extraordinary people under one roof (OK, tent) for such a happy occasion.

Finally, the dancing. Of course, the youngsters were on the dance floor the rest of the night, non-stop. Many of the older crowd were cutting up a rug as well. Normally, you can’t pay me to get on a dance floor, but when they called up every married couple, it was hard to pretend that I wasn’t. 😉

So, even I danced with my lovely bride:

Lois and Hadar Dancing

Here is a photo of the Groom’s landlady, dancing with one of the groomsmen. He had trouble keeping up with her, I kid you not!

Landlady Dancing

Of course, one of the more important dances of the night, the famous Father/Daughter dance. Unfortunately, another grainy photo (sorry folks):

Father Daughter Dance

One Father/Daughter picture deserves another. The father of the groom has two lovely daughters, both of whom were bridesmaids:

Father and Daughters

Since we’re showing off our pride and joy(s), we may as well complete the scene with two photos. The first is of the proud godparents (us) with the bride (our goddaughter), groom and our godson. The second is with our godson only, mostly because it’s a much clearer picture of the three of us:

Proud Godparents

Proud Godparents Clearer

There were three toasts given to the happy couple. The first by the Maid of Honor (a good friend of ours too). The second by the Matron of Honor (another good friend of ours, whose wedding we attended just last summer!). Finally, the Best Man (and father of the groom!) spoke.

All three speeches were moving and captured the spirit of the bride and groom beautifully. That said, because they were so moving, they weren’t easy to get through. Both the Maid and Matron of Honor broke down, multiple times. I was impressed that the bride kept it together as well as she did! The father of the groom kept it together a drop better, but it was a struggle for him as well, as he was bursting with pride and love for his son.

A very grainy photo of the Best Man (father of the groom) giving his toast:

Toast

After significant additional merriment, we finally said goodbye to the bride and groom, by forming two lines and giving them a Sparkler Sendoff (exactly as we did with the Matron of Honor’s wedding the year before). Last year, someone put a still-lit sparkler into the bucket of fresh (unused) sparklers, creating a gigantic blast and flame. No one made that mistake this time around. 🙂

Sparklers Canopy

The mother of the bride leading the sparklers farewell:

Mother of the Bride

Since we hitched a ride over, we needed to hitch a ride back. We were less fortunate this time, and ended up splitting up, each taking one empty seat with people who were kind enough to put up with us.

Back at the hotel, we topped off this most extraordinary evening even more so. First, our room ended up being a temporary gathering place for most of the wedding party, as they prepared to do stuff to the couple’s car (I didn’t want to know the details). 😉 Having energetic young folk around keeps us young (at heart at least), so we both love that.

Shortly after they left, the parents of the bride stopped by our room to finally breathe a well-deserved sigh! Their son (our godson) joined as well, and the five of us just quietly basked in the glow of a perfect ending to a perfect day together.

The next morning was filled with lots of present stuffing in our car. We drove most of their presents to NY yesterday, since they’ll be living in the same building as us. We then spent the next 7.5 hours in the car, and were very happy to finally see our own bed, after being on the road for two weeks!

Congratulations Laura and Chris, we couldn’t be happier for you, and we can’t wait to see you in NYC next week as you kick off the next phase of your life together! 🙂

Jamestown

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The wedding weekend is upon us. In fact, the wedding itself is just over two hours away.

Yesterday was a delightful day. We’re staying in Williamsburg, VA (where the happy couple both went to school at William & Mary). At 10am, 25 of us (both sides of the family) drove the 10-15 minutes from the hotel to the Historic Jamestown site. Our host, the father of the bride, arranged for a private tour guide who took us through the settlement and did a wonderful job of bringing life in the 1600’s alive in the present. We have nothing to complain about nowadays…

After the 2.5 hour tour, we dispersed for lunch. I chose to spend the rest of the afternoon in bed (I’m exhausted). I didn’t really nap, but I definitely rested. After a shower, I joined a much larger group for the rehearsal dinner at The Blue Talon restuarant. A great meal and a great time (including a wonderful compilation of photos of the couple). I had the Lamb Shank, it was yummy.

It was raining pretty hard during dinner so Lois and I decided to skip the fireworks and head back to the hotel. We walked. The rain had stopped, but after one block, it started coming down again, accelerating into a full downpour for the last few blocks. Lois wasn’t happy with me, but I didn’t really mind bonding with nature for a few minutes.

Unfortunately, even though the room and the bed are very comfortable, I didn’t get any meaningful sleep last night. Nothing I can do about that now. After a wonderful buffet breakfast in the hotel with most of the men-folk in our group, I went back to our room to catch up with email. I didn’t turn the laptop on at all yesterday!

The hotel charges for WiFi (through Wayport). Rather than giving 24 continuous hours of access, they give access until Check-in time. So, if you start at 10am, you get only five hours of air time before having to pay again. Not interested. I overpay for the privilege of rarely using my cell phone as a high-speed modem for my laptop. I’ve been logged on for five hours in a row now, through my cell phone. I am getting nearly 800Kbps downstream, and 130Kbps up, so I have no complaints (many hotels are much slower over their shared WiFi).

I received two phone calls on my cell, and the connection to the Internet wasn’t dropped (I was flabberghasted!). My connection dropped once (the normal sound I hear when my cellphone has a weak signal that it reacquires), and one click on the Sprint Connection Manager software reconnected me. I am certainly delighted with the ease and reliability, if not with the price of my insurance policy.

I am (mostly) caught up now, and once I log off to attend the wedding, won’t be back on until tomorrow evening, since we’re heading out tomorrow morning for NY.

Update: Now that we’re home, Lois uploaded her many photos. I’ve selected a few to support my tale. 🙂

I spent most of the social time at Jamestown chatting with the groom’s grandfather. He is a fascinating man and I thoroughly enjoyed every second that I spent with him. Thanks Bill!

Hadar and Bill

Here are a few Indian Carvings of the Powhatan Tribe:

Indian Carvings Jamestown

The youngest member of our 25-person-strong brigade was a 3-year-old. I’m thinking that she didn’t think that living in a hut full-time would be all that bad. 😉

Indian Hut

Part of our group about to board the lead ship in Jamestown:

Jamestown Ship

Our littlest one learning to construct things the old-fashioned way, inside the Jamestown Fort:

Jamestown Fort

Topping off the day, here is a photo of the bride-to-be herself (now, officially married an on her honeymoon!), cutting me a slice of her world-famous apple pie! It went amazingly well with the chocolate Groom’s cake with ice cream. 🙂

Apple Pie

June 2008 Poker

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This month is simple to report on. Economically painful, but otherwise, enjoyable and almost non-existent.

I barely played this month. I’m reasonably sure it’s the lightest month since I started playing online poker in September 2004. That said, I played and lost two of the big weekly ones, paying full freight in both. I played in a few qualifiers (not the really cheap ones either) and didn’t win any seats, so that cost me too.

Bottom line was an ugly -$617.00 for the month. Over 2/3 of that came from just the two big tourney losses ($215 each) and with qualifiers, closer to 80%. I had two reasonable cashes (percentage-wise), but they didn’t come close to making up for it. In one, I put in $11 and finished 8th, and collected $39.60. In another, I put up $55 and came 9th (out of 199) and collected $170.

The one very bright spot for the month is that since I played very infrequently, I didn’t even get remotely upset (I swear!) even when my luck was horrible. I simply enjoyed playing, and took the beats in stride better than in the past, even though I have been improving in this area for a while now.

Anyway, I’m reporting now because I know for sure I won’t be playing tonight, so this is officially the end of the month for me.

Discovering Fredericksburg

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We’ve been coming to Fredericksburg, VA consistently for 11 years, since we first approached the Digital Creations team (now called Zope Corporation) about a possible investment.

Since July 2001, the number (and length) of visits increased dramatically and has remained steady. That’s because since then, we have both been involved more in the operational details of Zope Corporation than we had been previously.

From other posts, you may know that I am back in the swing of regular exercise, something I had done a good job of for a number of years in a row and fell off the bandwagon last fall. When we’re in Fredericksburg (which can be two weeks a month) I am more inconsistent. There were times when I was religious about using the tiny gym in our hotel. There were also long stretches of blissful laziness. 😉

To combat that laziness, Lois took matters into her own hands (even though she doesn’t exercise at all, she’s judicious in supporting me and even in pushing me if I admit to being lazy). Unbeknownst to me, she sent an email to a number of the single guys at Zope asking if they wanted to walk me. Specifically, the subject line of her email to them was Walking Hadar 🙂 (smiley included in the subject line). When I finally saw it, I felt like a doddering old man. 😉

Tuesday evening, four of us walked along the Fredericksburg Canal (after work). It was a slightly more leisurely pace than I normally walk at back in NY, but it was beautiful and the company was excellent. We walked for just under an hour, and the four of us grabbed dinner at Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

A quick digression. Lois is a history buff of the first order. For seven years she has been begging me to visit the various battefield sites in Fredericksburg. For any number of reasons (mostly because I’m mean and lazy she would likely say) we haven’t gone (and therefore she hasn’t gone). Now back to our story…

On Thursday evening, the same gang of four decided to try a different walk. We chose one of the battlefield sites, located on Lee Drive. I admit to feeling a little guilty that I would get to see the battlefield site before Lois would, but that’s just the way things were going to work out…

So, after work, we met at the base of Lee Hill. It’s a reasonably steep uphill climb of roughly 1/4 of a mile. At the top are two canons, a few placards, and not much else. We came down a few minutes later. We drove to the next parking spot (perhaps another 1/4 of a mile up Lee Drive). We entered the trail there into the woods (after seeing the two obligatory canons at the head of the trail).

In total, we walked in the winding woods, up and down hills, for roughly an hour. There was little about the walk that made me feel battlefield, or even anything historic, but it was a great walking trail and good exercise. The company was good (again), but less chatting, because the trail is very narrow, so we walked single file. At the end, rather than walk back through the woods, we walked back along the road itself (where people were jogging and biking as well). We chatted a lot more then.

When we got back to the cars, our total walk time was just under two hours. It was a very nice workout. We decided to throw away the entire benefit of the exercise, and grabbed dinner at Five Guys (hamburgers and fries).

Before Tuesday’s walk, we had planned on getting together Saturday morning for a walk as well. This time there were five of us. We lost one of the original gang of four (he was supposed to be out camping over the weekend, but his plans changed a number of times). We picked up two additional walkers. We decided to redo the second part of Thursday’s walk on Lee Drive.

This time we returned through the same woods rather than taking the road, so the total trip (since we skipped the first Lee Hill part) was 90 minutes round trip. We walked single file, very little chatting, and maintained a reasonably good pace throughout. Since the end was mostly uphill, we finished on an exercise high.

We parted for showers and a drop of down time, then all met for lunch at Uno Chicago Grill. We also picked up the guy who walked Tue and Thu making seven in total for lunch (Lois joined us for lunch as well). Here’s a photo of all of the guys, Lois took it, which is why she isn’t in it. Plus, she didn’t walk with us, so she didn’t earn the right to be in the photo. 😉

Zope Guys Uno Chicago Grill

After lunch four of us went to see the new movie WALL-E. It has superb animation and the story is cute, but to me, there was nothing special about the movie. I chuckled a bunch and there were zero unpleasant moments, so it was a relaxing way to spend a few hours. That said, the young kids in the audience squealed with delight, so that’s the only age group that I can highly recommend the movie to.

Anyway, all in all, great exercise, great company, a touch of history (if a little underwhelming), a mindless (but cute) movie, followed by collapse in the hotel room. Thanks guy, and thanks to Lois for making it all happen!

P.S. When we travel, I have various tray tables with me for different situations. In the hotel, I use a tray table meant to serve breakfast in bed, but I put a laptop table (from Bed Bath & Beyond) on top, since my laptop is way too heavy for the thin part that the plates are supposed to sit on. For a number of reasons, I forgot (first time!) to bring the tray table and laptop table. Luckily, I had an identical tray table at the apartment (where we left from this time), but no laptop table to put on top.

I decided that I would either buy a new one ($10) or perhaps just get a single piece of plexiglass or wood at Home Depot. I mentioned that to Rob Page (CEO of Zope Corporation) and he told me that he could cut me a piece of wood to do the trick.

Indeed, he did, and here are the photos to prove how well it fit and worked. I prefer it to my laptop table, so I’ll be traveling with this block of wood from now on. You can also get a sense of the size of my beast of a laptop. It weighs nearly 14 pounds with the power supply brick, which is why I need a table to support it rather than putting it on my actual lap…

Block of WoodBlock of Wood and the Beast

Thanks Rob! 🙂

Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby at Wolftrap

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We saw this group at BB King in NYC nearly 18 months ago. I briefly mentioned the show, including that they were awesome, in my uber rediscovering live music post.

We’ve been to Wolftrap twice before, but both shows were at The Barns. Last night’s show was in the Filene Center, which is the main pavilion for concerts. It’s an outdoor venue, with a cavernous covered area with proper seating, and a large two-tiered lawn system that is completely outoors behind the main structure.

We bought our tickets months ago and even back then were forced to select seats way to the right of the stage. They were in the fourth row, so that part was great, but we were three and four seats off of the extreme right aisle. I’ll cover the opening act later (a group we’ve seen before and like as well).

Ricky, Bruce and Ricky’s band, called Kentucky Thunder came on stage at exactly 9pm. The crowd wasn’t just there for an evening out, as it was clear that they were giant fans of either Ricky, Bruce, or both (as we are).

Let’s do a 30,000 foot tour of what’s great about these guys:

  1. Bluegrass music is fantastic, and these guys are amazing, individually and collectively
  2. Ricky and Bruce have excellent voices, and sing great individually and collectively (great harmonies) together and most often with Paul Brewster
  3. Every single member of Kentucky Thunder is a phenomenal musician. I’ll call out three of them in a bit
  4. Ricky is one of the best mandolin players
  5. Bruce is a mind-bogglingly great piano player
  6. Each has written a body of music that stands the test of time
  7. They are fun and have tremendous stage presence

I could go on, but if you don’t get the point already, a few more whacks on the head won’t convince you. 😉

Last year they released a CD called Ricky Skagss & Bruce Hornsby (catchy title). In March of this year, they released another, named Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 & 1947. They played a bunch of songs from both CDs. They also played a few more of Bruce’s big hits, done reasonably differently than the original Bruce Hornsby and The Range versions.

For the most part, the Bluegrass versions (of Bruce’s songs) work great (even though I still prefer the originals). In the case of Mandolin Rain (which is on last year’s CD), it’s not even 20% as good as the original (IMHO). It’s cool, and if I didn’t know the original, I would like it more, but I feel teased when I hear this version. A better example is their rendition of The Way It Is (title cut from Bruce’s album of same name). It’s a really great Bluegrass version (though I still like the original a little more).

As you’ll see below, Lois didn’t have her usual unfettered access to the camera during the show. She didn’t get off many shots to begin with, and under the circumstances, most of the shots came out poorly at best (lots of ghosting and lighting problems). I would have foregone putting any pictures in the post, but Lois works hard for all of you, so to honor her effort, I’ll put them in. I won’t make any more excuses on each individual picture, this is my one disclaimer. Please don’t blame her photography skills for the results… 😉

I’ve already said that both Bruce (on piano) and Ricky (mostly mandolin, but also amazing on guitar on three numbers) are incredible. Let’s cover the rest of the band, left-to-right on the stage.

The only guy to the left of the grand piano, and reasonably far behind it in the back of the stage, is Andy Leftwich on fiddle. He’s truly amazing. We’ve seen some great fiddlers in the past year, so I’m not sure I can say that Andy is the best of the best, but I’m equally unsure of any flaws that he has that would keep him out of that group, so suffice it to say he’s a joy to listen to! Andy was obscured from our view the entire night, so unfortunately, no photos of him.

Behind the piano, just to the right of it, dead-center stage, is Mark Fain on upright bass. Excellent all night, but only highlighted in one number, late in the evening. Solid, never a distraction.

Mark Fain

Toward the right side of the stage were three acoustic guitarists in a row (slightlly unusual). The first of them is Cody Kilby. Of the three, he plays primarily lead guitar. Run, don’t walk, to his MySpace page and listen to the four songs on there. His fingers move so fast and his leads are extremely interesting. I had to stare at his fingers to really beleive that one man could make the sounds that came out of his guitar. It sounded like two great lead guitarists playing at the same time. Nope, it was all Cody. Wow! I’m definitely getting his new CD!

Next was Ben Helson. Bruce introduced Ben as being new to the band. Unfortunately, the Wikipedia page I linked to above shows him as a former band member, and still shows Darrin Vincent on the main page. In any case, it’s definitely Ben in the middle of the guitar trio. He plays excellent rhythm guitar and sings backup vocals on a very few numbers. Solid, but not highlighted at all.

Next was Paul Brewster. Also played rhythm guitar, but featured on background vocals on nearly every song. He has an excellent voice, complementing Bruce, Ricky and both together whenever he joined in.

The three guitarists together:

Kentucky Thunder Guitarists

Finally, Jim Mills on banjo. He has won quite a number of Banjo Player of the Year awards (the site says four, but I recall Ricky say six or seven when we saw them at BB King last year). He definitely deserves it. His banjo playing is so crisp, clean, fast, interesting, driving. We’ve seen some truly great banjo players in the past year as well (like with the fiddle and mandolin players), and for my taste, Jim is probably in third, very (very) close to number two. My top pick is Bela Fleck (more on him in a minute). Second is Ron Stewart (currently part of the Dan Tyminski Band).

Here is Kentucky Thunder, minus Andy Leftwich, who is to the left and behind the piano, out of our view:

Kentucky Thunder Minus Andy Leftwich

Here is a YouTube video of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. There are a few nice highlights of Andy playing fiddle, Ricky on the mandolin and Cody on guitar.

In the middle of the set, they asked anyone in the crowd who wanted to come up and do some clog dancing to join. No one volunteered, and you had to wonder whether people thought they were just joking around. After some more teasing a few people climbed the stage, which started a flood. There were roughly 30 people on stage with them, dancing around in a frenzy. It was cool.

Cloggers Ricky Skaggs

It also highlighted a truly idiotic policy on the part of Wolftrap. There are a few signs around (not all that prominent, but also not invisible) that there is no photography permitted (even without a flash). That’s just silly in this day and age. Of course, not only were tons of people taking photos throughout the show, many were doing it with flash on as well. Ushers were flying all over the place admonishing people, even as others a few rows away kept snapping.

The reason I say that the clogging highlighted it is that even with 30 people on the stage dancing around, clearly to the delight of the crowd, ushers were trying to stop people from taking pictures (of their loved ones, etc.). Truly silly, but what can you do… Lois got off some shots (and got yelled at once) but she took five percent of the number of shots she would have if it was permitted. She never uses a flash during a performance, even if it’s allowed.

I will come back to one cool part later (you’ll understand why I’ll tell that part out of order when I get to it).

They played an amazing 97 minutes before saying goodnight. After a rousing standing ovation, Ricky, Bruce and Jim Mills came out on the stage alone. For this one number, Ricky played the fiddle (really well!) and Bruce played the accordion (to the delight of the crowd!). Then the rest of the band came out and rocked the house with another full-energy number which ended with another standing ovation. Total time on stage 112 minutes of pure joy!

Here are Bruce on the accordion and Ricky on the fiddle during the first song of the encore:

Bruce Hornsby Ricky Skaggs

The opening act was Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet. They too have a new CD out called Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet. We saw them at Joe’s Pub in January this year, described briefly (by my normal standard) 😉 in this post.

I mentioned above that Bela Fleck is my favorite banjo player. He plays every conceivable style (bluegrass, classical, jazz, country, dirges, etc.), all fantastically. Abigail Washburn has a great voice, and plays the banjo extremely well too. Casey Driessen is an incredible fiddle player and Ben Sollee is a superb cello player who also sings gorgeous harmony with Abigail.

Here’s a shot of Abigail and Bela. Ben and Casey were obscured in this photo so I cropped them:

Abigail Washburn Bela Fleck

The four of them play extraordinary instrumentals. That said, while Abigail’s voice is wonderful, her song selection leaves Lois and I a bit puzzled (in both concerts). They could be a super group, but the selection will relegate them to also-rans in my opinion. Lovely sound, well executed, but just off target…

They came on stage at 7:58pm (two minutes early, a rarity indeed). They were introduced, and started playing at 7:59pm. They left the stage at 7:47, so they gave a very nice warm-up show, with very little down time between acts. I was very impressed by Wolftrap in that regard!

The surprise I alluded to above is that well into the Ricky and Bruce show, they invited Bela to play with them. He’s recorded with Bruce a couple of times (and probably Ricky as well). He was on stage with them for 25 minutes (very nice indeed) and on one number, played a cool banjo duet with Jim Mills. Tons of fun. Bela is just a superstar in my opinion.

Ricky Skaggs Bela Fleck

Wolftrap can hold 7,028 people in total (at Filene), with 3,868 under the structure and 3,160 on the lawn. During the Sparrow Quartet set, there were hundreds of seats empty including the six to Lois’ immediate left. There were entire sections left and right of the stage, at the back of the seating area, without a single person in them. We were shocked, given that I didn’t have that much choice when I purchased tickets months ago.

I assumed that when Ricky and Bruce came on, it would be full. It wasn’t. Barely a few dozen of the empty seats were filled in the intervening 13 minutes between performances, so we slid down five seats and got a better angle for the main event. By the time the show was over, the seats were practically full (an empty seat here or there, like the one Lois left empty between her and the person she slid down next to). I don’t know if people just showed up late, or if they allowed people from the lawn to come down. The lawn still seemed pretty crowded so it could have just been late folk.

Anyway, a fantastic show all around that we thoroughly enjoyed.

On the downside of the evening, getting out of the parking lot there is a total zoo. It took nearly 30 minutes to get out. Then we were making great time down I495/I95. When we were 15 minutes from the hotel, taffic came to a dead stop. Oh oh. Highway repaving. Fun. It made the last 15 minutes take 45 minutes, which turned out to be not as bad as it first appeared it would be. Still, we didn’t get to bed until nearly 1am, which for us, is the equivalent of dawn. We slept for 5.5 hours and came back to the office, exhausted, of course…