Friday, March 31, 2006

Why are the Jacksonville Jaguars so worried?

Pittsburgh is a city of 4 seasons: Pre-season, Regular Season, Post-Season and Off Season.

Now that we're squarely in the offseason, our gaze has turned to looking forward to 2006 and a scarce, but tradable comodity Pittsburgh Steelers Tickets.

The market for 2006 tickets was hot before the clock turned to zero in Super Bowl XL, and some NFL teams are already worried about the influx of Steelers fans.

Follow the Steeler ticket market in my new blog: Here We Go Info. Today, you can find out why the Jacksonville Jaguars are freakishly preoccupied with Steelers fans.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I am so proud...

One lucky visitor came to this blog yesterday through Google, after clicking on the #1 entry for waiting in line to pee. Ironically, the post about Disneyland is about waiting in line and mentions peeing, but is not really about either, let alone that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Blue Slide Park and Baseball

True to form in Pittsburgh, March came in like a lion and is going out like a lamb:

March 1st weather: High temperature: 43, Low temperature: 21
March 31 forecast: High temperature: 74, Low temperature: 53

That brought GSully and the 3 Amigos to Frick Park's Blue Slide Playground to ride the famous blue slide that is built into the hill. Our youngest daughter is now old enough to navigate the blue slide by herself, climbing the steep hill side like a sherpa climbs Mount Everest.

G tried to assist her up the hill, and in a fit of stubborness that only someone nearly 2 years old can muster, she immediately went back down the hill. She did not take the slide mind you, she scooted on her but down the climbing surface to get to the bottom in order to turn around and demonstrate her prowess in climbing the steep hill unassisted.

In a bit of spring fever, our oldest (who is fast becoming known as the kid with the red crocs in our neighborhood), spent breakfast chanting "Let's Go Bucs" in honor of this afternoon's nationally televised exhibition game between the Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates. I think the audience must have been preschoolers and senior citizens.
Our red headed middle daughter countered with, "Let's Go Princesses."

Let spring begin.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What's Gonna' Work, Teamwork

"Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets, we're on our way."

A new children's show has found a home on our TiVo, the world's best entertainment management tool for parents.

Look for The Wonder Pets on e-bay.

For the past month, the 3 Amigos have been consuming a steady diet of Wonder Pets. For the kidless and un-initiated, the high concept behind the Wonder Pets is a turtle, a guinea pig, and a duckling that live in a school house and in their spare time save animals and pets from distress.

Each 30 minute episode consist of 2 mini-musicals that feature stories set to some familiar and not-so-familiar music. For example in "The Wonder Pets Save the Swan," music from Swan Lake figures prominently. Some shows are actually scored by Tony Award winning composers like Jason Robert Brown, and the sources of music has been diverse from Avenue Q's Robert Lopez to, well Swan Lake.

Of course the 3 Amigos don't know any of that, but I do know that whenever they're asked to do anything around the house this month they immediately go into the Wonder Pets' anthem, "What's gonna' work, teamwork." And I guarantee you that even if you don't sing it out loud, whenever you hear the telephone, you'll find yourself singing "The phone, the phone is ringing." in your head.

The adoption of The Wonder Pets also means the retirement of another title from our season pass list. (Our kids seem to have a natural capacity for television of about 5 shows. So far only Blue's Clues, Dora The Explorer and Postcards From Buster have been lasting.) So say goodbye to Caillou. I never did warm up to this Canadian import. What's with the name? It's lasting contribution to our house is a red headed Rosie doll, Caillou's sister which is our oldest daughter's favorite.

Gotta' go because, "the phone, the phone is ringing, this is sewious..."

Update: New Wonder Pets episode list.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Red crocs!

You have new Picture Mail!
Originally uploaded by justinsullivan.

Somebody's gullible dad took his son to REI. The dad wanted to try on some crocs, but he took his son and daughter with him while mom waited in the car because they had to go to the bathroom.

Dad tried on brown crocs. A woman told him that these were the most comfortable shoes ever. The only color they had in dad's size was brown. Dad thought brown rubber was ugly.

They had a whole rainbow of kids colors. The dad's son likes red and his daughter likes pink (light pink, NOT hot pink). They tried on crocs. A guy walks by and says "These are supposed to be the most comfortable shoes in the world."

REI has the son's size, but not the daughter's. The son is not leaving without the red crocs. The daughter is bought off with a bag of gummi bears and the promise that some pink ones will come in the mail.

The woman at the cash register says, "These are THE most comforable shoes." The dad hands over his credit card.

The mom in the car is pretty sure the dad is crazy.

The son wear's his new red crocs to grandma's house. Everyone is pretty convinced that he likes them because they're red and have buttons that have crocodiles on them (which look a little bit like dinosaurs).

But as the young family is going out the door, the son goes "These are the most comfortable shoes that I've ever had on my feet."

**Update: Find out what happened when pink Crocs arrived in the mail.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I knew Nordstrom was coming to Pittsburgh when...

I knew that Nordstrom was coming to Pittsburgh when I saw the Terry Bradshaw flags flying outside of it Seattle flagship store during the Pittsburgh Steelers Superbowl run.

While Nordstrom might not answer all of our prayers and magically transform us into the land of milk, honey and high priced shoes, it will be nice to have their customer service training available here in Pittsburgh.

And, while we're on the topic, we're not prone to reflecting on Cleveland as an upscale Mecca here in Pittsburgh. So why is it that now that we're getting a Nordstrom, the Post Gazette is already worrying about whether or not we're as worthy as Cleveland is to have one:
Will Pittsburghers be equally enchanted? The Seattle-based retailer, which announced plans yesterday to open a store at Ross Park Mall in Ross, can only hope there will be the same market here as there is in Cleveland for $595 Missoni striped jersey dresses and $885 Armani jackets in nubbly silver and pale blue silk.

Amen. USAirways listen up!

A quote from this morning's Post-Gazette from television writer, producer and Carnegie Mellon alum John Wells, in town to film a television pilot:
"Pittsburgh really needs a [non-red eye] direct from L.A. again."
I agree 100% and felt this one personally when planning our Disneyland vacation. There's no way I would fly with the 3 amigos on a red eye.

Let's tackle this one before the London thing, please. And while you're at it, throw me a bone with a direct flight to Seattle.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

10 Disneyland, lessons learned...

Disneyland is an exhausting experience. Unless you spring for the $55 electric scooter rental (at Disneyland there's only 1 class of stroller rental by 2 kinds of wheelchairs! They really do their best to take care of the infirm (and the extraordinarily lazy and obese)) you'll be walking and standing virtually the entire say. Here's 10 random tips to enjoying your time in the park:

1. Stay in the park. We didn't. Our reward, carrying our 2 year old on our shoulder for 2 hours at a time while she napped. If you have kids that should nap and you'd like part of your group to be able to break away for a siesta in the afternoon, the on property hotels are really the only option to do this. Everything else is too far. Period.
2. Live the suite life. You'll be spending enough time with your brood during the day, there's no reason to sleep with them at night. So if you're already disregarding rule #1, make sure to follow rule #2. Extended stay hotels like Residence Inn by Marriott are popping up, complete with kids bedrooms and king sized beds for mom and dad. Added bonus -- these hotels are newer.
3. Avoid ART. If you stay offsite you will be bombarded with pitches about the convenience of Anaheim Resort Transportation Disney shuttle busses. To discourage you from driving, passes will be "included" with your hotel. If riding a crowded bus packed with folded strollers, other people's exhausted and occasionally crying children (in addition to your own), and frustrated parents that runs on an inconsistent schedule and virtually guarantees 90 minutes of your day wasted coming and going to travel a distance of 1 mile -- by all means go for it. Otherwise, see #1 or do what we finally wised up and did and drive to the parking lot and park in Disneyland's enormous parking garage -- I think it's the size of the State of Rhode Island -- for $10.
4. Pre-souvenir. In Las Vegas, every attraction leads to a casino. At Disneyland, attractions lead to gift shops, mostly charging MSRP. Shop the Disney outlet online...pop gifts out of your bag at key moments. You'll be a hero. This is not unlike tailgating before the big game. (I'm NOT smart enough to think of that on my own, that's all GSully.) Bonus: Resist the call of Disney apparel. By your third day, you will think that it is perfectly appropriate to buy and wear something with some sort of Disney thing on it. Don't. It isn't, and the feeling quickly goes away when you get home. Partial exemption granted for elementary school teachers.

Search for Disneyland on ebay.

5. 1 on 1 rules. If your kids aren't independent, and I'll use the "can responsibly walk themselves to the restrooms and back to you unescorted" definition here, you probably will not enjoy yourself as a parent unless you have a ratio of 1 adult per child.
6. Don't skimp on meals. Eating in the parks? Find a place to sit in the shade and be served. The Princess Lunch at Ariel's Grotto in California Adventure made us all feel like royalty. We got to relax, sit in the shade, be served and recharge. Contrast that to the fast food outlets where you will wait in one line, order and pay, wait in another line, claim food, battle crowds for table, and choke down bland, warmish food.
7. Study up. Our second and third days in the parks were more enjoyable because of the familiarity we had developed the first day. As much as it seems like you shouldn't have to prep for a vacation, a basic understanding of where to find strollers, rest rooms and food as well as the rides will reduce your stress and increase your comfort.
8. Let your kids drive. You don't always know what they will enjoy and why. We spent 2 days saying no to Dumbo's Flying Elephants because the line was long and the ride was something that we could do at Kennywood. It was on all 3 kids' Top 5.
9. Fastpass. It seems obvious that not waiting in line is better than waiting in line, but someone is still waiting 90 minutes to ride Space Mountain. It isn't me and it shouldn't be you.
10. Don't forget your cellphones. My march statement will have 100 calls between March 13-16 of 1 minute or less. I just called to say "Where are you? Okay, stay there. I'm on my way."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Did we enjoy our trip to Disneyland?

"It's a nice day when you wake up in Disneyland."
--Five For Fighting

With the California sun overhead and our credit cards in our wallets, we set out on one of America's 2 most common, must do consumerist vacations -- a trip to Disney. This year, Disneyland in California is celebrating its 50th year welcoming families to Anaheim.

GSully and I were nervous that we would not enjoy it and even worse, that our kids would not enjoy it. We were partially convinced that we (well mostly GSully's mom actually) would hand over a great big pile of money to a great big company and be disappointed. After all our children barely recognize Mickey Mouse, and didn't even seem to know what Disneyland was before we introduced the idea.

Can you believe how silly we were?

Our kids loved it -- skipping naps for 3 consecutive days and dragging 3 adults from dawn to dusk and beyond through adventure after adventure punctuated by mediocre meals and waiting in line. (Our typical wait in line was often punctuated by 2 separate trips to the bathroom, 1 deep philosophical question and occasionally and actual collision with a stranger. For example my 2 year old accidentally kicked another girl in the head when I lifted her onto a great white steed on King Arthur's carousel.)

So why does Disney work? First, it might be the most lavish place that many Americans go (at least the ones that don't gamble. They pee in Kohler toilets, and sit in the shade or stand in line while looking at lush arrangements of flowers that grow so colorful and beautifully. Second, unlike an impressionist painting, Disneyland does not degrade with the details, from the Latin inscription of above Mister Toad's Wild Ride, to the Space Port staging area at Space Mountain to the fact that cast members all sing along in the nightly parade, the minute details separate Disney from other experiences, making them more REAL for children and more interesting for adults. Third, I actually think that there is something about the line waiting. Jokes above aside, I'll bet some families have more genuine conversation while waiting in line at Disney attractions over the course of 3 days than they do in the course of 3 months at home.

I have some closet enthusiasm for Disney, but it's not the magical fantasy that gets me going. After my first visit when I was in high school, I went home and wrote an American history term paper, with great respect, about the city-state Disney was able to construct for itself in the middle of Florida. When I go to the Disney parks, I see math -- the number of people moving efficiently, willingly and obediently through lines and attractions cloaked in fantasy. The math that exists somewhere that shows how much more money a guest will spend now that Fast Pass can take them out of line for an hour and put them into a restaurant and gift shop. This math that traces its roots back to a simple line drawing of a rodent.

In the next couple of posts, I'll share what some of our families favorites were and some tips for anyone planning to visit Disneyland with a young family.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I've been out wandering

This blog has been MIA over the past week or so as I've been on vacation to sunny Southern California with GSully and the 3 Amigos. I had intended to post remotely (I thought it would give me something to do while waiting in line at Disneyland), but I wasn't set up right. So until I get to sit and post, here's the 1 post I wrote from the airplane on the way...

Greetings from 37000 feet above the United States somewhere riding in seat 35 B of a Delta Boeing 767. This is my 3rd cross country trip this week.

Our connecting flight out of Atlanta was delayed by catering's failure to stock the plane. Five hours is a long way to go without eating, but an extra half hour waiting for processed gouda spread, granola and a cookie is a little ridiculous.

Instead of riding solo like I usually do (and did earlier this week in Vegas), I've got the whole family gsully, 3 little sully's and the "MIL" (that's Mother-In-Law, not a typo you sicko). Traveling with the 3 Amigos is stressful in the minivan...keeping them amused while seated for 5 hours in about 12 feet of space is like a game of whack-a-mole. Getting one situated guarantees the next one has to pee or spill. I find myself rooting for the drink cart to quietly pass us by.

We'll be hitting lots of "lands" this week: Legoland, Disneyland, La-La Land as we indoctrinate our children into the culture of "If you give The Mouse your money."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sandra Sully birthday leads...

Hello again to my Australian friends, who continue to find my blog by searching for Sandra Sully, often in hopes of finding "Sandra Sully Birthday." She does seem to be pretty coy about this bit of information, and much of her personal life. Lucky for you, I have found a couple of leads.

Search for Sandra Sully on Ebay.

IMDB lists her place and date of birth as 1964, Brisbane, Australia.
The Hole In The Wall Gang lists her birth date as May 18, 1962.
Wikipedia says it was in 1965 that she emerged from the obscurity of the womb destined to become the "6th hottest Australian of all time" and "52nd Sexiest In The World" in 2005.

Maybe someday we'll know the truth, but we'll never stop searching for it.

Las Vegas by day...

When people think of being in Las Vegas, they mostly think of being there at night with lights flashing, music playing and drinks flowing.

For a lot of people, this is the excitement of Las Vegas during the day. Sitting quietly in a windowless room, eyes gazing at the screen where light from another power point presentation illuminates the room, recovering and reflecting on whatever it is you did the night before.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kirby Puckett...

I was shocked and saddened to see that Kirby Pucket passed away yesterday at age 45 after suffering a stroke on Sunday. Growing up a Yankee fan, I can remember several trips down to the Bronx to watch a short, fat, bald, and at one time, surprisingly fast outfielder patrol Center Field in Yankee Stadium. At the time, the Yankees center fielder was Rickey Henderson, not a huge guy, but his game was muscle and speed, his demeanor casual and cool enough for you to question his heart. By contrast, Puckett looked like he succeeded on heart and enthusiasm, from the name that is fun to say to the waddly trot, he was fun to watch.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Gladwell on Sully in Vegas...

Originally uploaded by justinsullivan.

Part of the Galdwell Simmons e-mail conversation ("Gladwell and the Sports Guy," March 3) was this glowing description of Las Vegas by Malcolm Gladwell:

"You get there. You can't get a cab. Last time I waited 30 minutes in line at the airport. You get to your hotel, you wait another 45 minutes to check in.It's 120 degrees outside, and inside it's 45 degrees and all you can think about is there's about to be a epidemic of Legionnaires Disease. The food is terrible. Everyone loses money -- everyone. The amount of plastic surgery is terrifying. There are large packs of enormous, glassy-eyed people in stretch pants, pulling the levers on slot machines. (By the way, greatest and most under-appreciated gambling story ever: William Bennett, he of one best seller after another lecturing Americans on moral values and virtue and the bankruptcy of our culture, turns out not only to be a degenerate gambler, but a gambler who only played the slots. The slots! Had he been a great poker player -- even a decent poker player -- I'm in his corner. But the slots?) I digress. Back to Vegas: Why would I want to see Celine Dion, ever (and I'm Canadian)? Or white mutant tigers? Or the Village People? Or Tony Orlando and Dawn? I have more fun walking to the laundromat from my apartment in New York than I do in Vegas."

Guess where I am this week...that's right, Vegas! As you can see, from this picture of the cab corral at the airport he was right on. But on the temperature, he was way off. It's only 65 degrees today that's 50% cooler than he said.

The Blast Furnace will be posted later, as well as an update on the quest to find out News 10 Australia newsreader Sandra Sully's date of birth.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Say hello to Dave Littlefield...

It was about 25 degrees this morning, but for a few hundred folks gathered at PNC Park this morning spring was on the corner. That's where my 5 year old son and I met Pirates General Manager Dave Littlefield. Dave asked my son to be in the picture with him, but my son's a little bit shy. Dave said we should call this "a picture of me waving to [your] son."

Dave, you should know that you're doing a great job...before we met you we hadn't spent any money. After we met you, we spent $250 on tickets and Buckaroos club memberships. Now, I realize that this doesn't make me a big spender in Major League terms, after all it will pay just about 0.6% of Jack Wilson's game check after his new contract extension, but I'll be surprised if our contribution isn't up to at least 1% by the end of the season. I don't know how you rate as a GM, but I think it's safe to say that you're not the Isiah Thomas of baseball.

I personally think the Pittsburgh Pirates do a very good job of taking care of their fans. They're especially inclusive of children, a luxury you have when you have 81 games a large chunk of empty seats. (I bet if you're in the Red Sox kids club you get 1 Red Sock, but the other one will cost you.) We enjoyed hanging out in the Pirates clubhouse, hanging out in the dugout and saying hello to the Parrot, Sauerkraut Saul, and Cheese Chester today.

If you're a Bucs fan and want to get ready for the season, check out this Pirates video on It will simultaneously get you ready for the season and tell you everything that's wrong with the Pirates.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Gladwell and The Sports Guy...

Over the past couple of days over on's Page 2, they've posted an e-mail conversation between every-man sports journalist Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons and Malcolm "Blink" Gladwell. If you haven't read this yet, click over to Part I and Part II and save it or print it out before the 2 week window expires and you have to be an "Insider" (inclusive word for subscriber) to see it.

Hundreds of hack columnists and TV analysts talk about sports as a microcosm of life, but rarely is it discussed in such a specific light and as humorously as between Simmons and Gladwell. Plus, it gives you permission to like high brow New Yorker Magazine pseudo-intellectual BS and sports.

For example:
  • Why do you think you can be a better NBA GM than Isiah Thomas despite the fact that you know that you know less about basketball than he does, and why are you probably right?
  • Can NBA GM's learn from the latest advances in child psychology?
  • Why don't people work hard when it's in their best interest to do so?
  • How important is effort compared to natural talent and coaching in the equation of reaching your full potential?
I'll leave with this Gladwell quote that really made me think:
"But one of the fascinating things about sports, it seems to me, is that when it comes the way we think about professional athletes, we're all liberals (without meaning to be, of course). We give people lots of chances. (Think Jeff George). We go to extraordinary lengths to help players reach their potential. We're forgiving of mistakes. When the big man needs help with his footwork, we ship him off to Pete Newell for the summer. We hold players accountable for their actions. But we also believe, as a matter of principle, that players need supportive environments in order to flourish. It would be nice if we were as generous and as patient with the rest of society's underachievers."
P.S. For Pittsburgh Steelers fans, The Ben Roethlisberger that is able to do this (It's Good To Be Big Ben) and still win a Super Bowl, Bill Cowher, and Hines Ward (who celebrates his 30th birthday today -- Happy Birthday Hines) all figure prominently in the discussion.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Remembering Bubba, the Lovable Leviathan Lobster

What better way to follow a post about boiling frogs? A poster about lobster of course.

One year ago, the eyes if the world were on Pittsburgh as the saga of Bubba the Leviathan Lobster came to an end (as it seems to for far too many sea creatures) at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, a bacterial infection taking care of Bubba just one day after being spared from the lobster pot.

Bubba lived his first approximately 100 years in anonymity before being captured off the coast of Nova Scotia. From there, he worked his way through the sea food supply chain until he landed in Pittsburgh in the display case of Wholey's Fish Market where he caught the eye of 2 PETAs: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and People Eating Tasty Animals. Sadly, after being granted a pardon, Bubba contracted a bacterial infection and died shortly after being transported to the PPG Zoo and Aquarium.

In his short time in Pittsburgh, Bubba brought us the kind of publicity that money just can't buy. A Google Search for Bubba Lobster returns more than 200,000 entries, including ABC News, CBS News, MSNBC, National Geographic, and Dave Barry, among others, all chronicled Bubba's brief stay in the 'Burgh. Bubba even has his own Wikipedia entry.

No doubt Bubba would be excited by all the great changes in the year since he's been here. We have a new Mayor, lots of new condos going up, slot machines are on their way, and the Steelers won the Super Bowl, events all set in motion in some way by Bubba, our most famous lobster ever.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Are we turning into boiled frogs?

Are we turning into boiled frogs?

As I read about galciers melting and temperatures rising, including today's Seth Godin post about the marketing of global warming and its failure to create urgency to act, I can't help but have the feeling that we're turning into boiled frogs (in this case almost literally).

If you're unfamiliar with the parable of the boiled frog, it reflects on the fact that a frog that is dropped into boiling water will immediately jump out, but a frog that's dropped into a comfortable bath will contentedly stay there as the temperature is raised until it falls asleep and becomes dinner. (See: The Parable of The Boiled Frog)

I came across The Boiled Frog when reading The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge. My company, Ariba, is working on becoming a better learning organization, and not being able to notice these types of gradual changes is one of the learning disabilities often shown by organizations. The only thing is some of these changes (especially if you live next to a glacier) don't seem so gradual anymore.

Pittsburgh Public Schools, finally managing decline...

Last night, decades after the closing of steel mills helped accelerate a population decline that had already begun, the Pittsburgh School Board finally voted to 6-3 to close 22 schools to save $10.3 million annually. (Link: PG article and chart outlining the plan)

Where the private sector restructures quickly and mercilessly with thousands of jobs and even entire companies disappearing in an instant, reforming civic institutions is a painful and public process. A community is forced to look within itself and make decisions to walk away from principles and institutions it once held dear, and was even willing to sustain by elevating the tax burden for years.

This is a tough decision.

Rather than face the fact that Pittsburgh may have too many professional sports franchises to sustain, we pursued (are pursuing?) publicly financed arenas that charge higher prices, thereby taking an even higher percentage of income to sustain them. We justify this by our collective embarrasment at perhaps not being perceived as "major league."

Rather than face the fact that the City of Pittsburgh may not need as much infrastructure, whether that be police protection, fire protection, etc, we forced ourselves into bankruptcy where outsiders would be appointed to do what's in our economic interest.

Like a family that is forced to acknowledge that it can no longer make its car payment and must trade down, our community is facing the reality that are infrastructure is too large to sustain and that the students to fill those empty chairs are never coming back. We hope that we're making the right decisions to sustain the quality of life and quality of opportunity for those that choose to live here.