The Ol’Wizard needs your wit and wisdom

My father – the self-styled Ol’Wizard – passed away over a year ago, and there’s been a lot of paperwork clearing up the estate. He also chose to bequest some funds for a few local charities in his estate plan, which I’m working on disbursing now. He wanted to both be remembered, and to help out both people and animals: in the first case, journalism students and Coast Guard sailors; in the second case, cats at a pair of local animal shelters.

Here’s where I need your help. In each case, the gift is at a level where I am offered a small sign or plaque to commemorate his gift. I need your help, dear readers, to come up with some witty sayings or words of wisdom from the Ol’Wiz to pass on his message from the beyond.

The first assignment is a set of short messages for the Northeast Animal Shelter, where dad’s donation covers the cost of several sets of cat and kitten cages in this great no-kill shelter. I’ve already arranged to sponsor two sets of cages: for the cats, three cages in a row on the top shelf, and then two cages in a row immediately below them. Similarly, there are four kitten cages grouped together.

As my father was fond of witty sayings, I was hoping to come up with a pair of short “stories” or Burma Shave-like quotes that would fit on these small plaques in order. Since the cages sponsored are right next to each other, I think this would also be memorable for people looking for just the right shelter cat (or kitten) to bring home.

Each of these plaques is a small plastic sign, hung at the top of the cage. Most of the other cages that are claimed have text like “In memoriam, with much love from our dear father John Doe” or the like. It seems like we could have either two lines of reasonable sized text (somewhat short), or three lines of somewhat smaller font on each plaque.

What say you, friends of the Wizard passed? Any good turns of phrase, or anything you can imagine Ol’Wiz exhorting some humans come to do the good deed of adding a shelter cat to their home?

Similarly, we have also sponsored a bench (to be placed outdoors, probably by the intake area for people dropping off animals) with a very slightly larger plaque, either three or possibly four lines of text depending on how the shelter prints the signs. Any ideas for an outdoor sign?

FOUND: 2011 BMW E90 in Vermillion Red! Whee!

With many thanks to the long-suffering patience of my wife, and especially the able assistance of BHD in evaluating and negotiating, I’m happy to report a very successful new car search!

My beautiful new BMW

I opted to skip the xenons and instead pay a small premium to get low low miles (under 12K) from BMW of Newport. Apparently it was previously owned by some company (it was a commercial title) that didn’t drive at all. It’s a 2011 328i sedan with xDrive, so it will be nice in the winter with the little bit of extra traction (to say nothing of BMW’s none-too-shabby traction control and the like!)

In any case, cars have come a long way in the past 18 years! Wow. While I will long miss the crisp and uber-responsive handling of my beloved 1995 E36 – unmatched in just about any other sedan made – there is a lot to enjoy in my new-to-me ride now. Bluetooth integration, heated seats and steering wheel, and tire pressure sensors (with run-flats) are just a few of the things that are pretty gee-whiz to someone used to driving a 1995 base model car.

Similarly, while I have mixed feelings overall about the engine and transmission (I caved and got automatic), overall the experience is definitely better. While it will take me a while to get used to the shifting quirks and occasional slow upshift in some situations with the default mode, overall there’s a lot more power in even the default mode, and the sport shift mode is almost as responsive as a manual.

The most important features to me, however, are twofold, and probably a bit surprising to most.

  • Power lumbar support. Sad to say, I’m at the point in life where this is a requirement in a daily driver. Nice and adjustable, I can really adjust the seat to push my back just right.
  • Folding mirrors. Not just mirrors that fold, mind you: pushing the tiny little button on the driver’s side actually folds both mirrors inwards AUTOMATICALLY! Amazing!

OK, yes, I admit, power folding mirrors are a pretty minor mechanical thing to have. What amazes me (and this shows the 18 years that passed since my last car was new) is that they come on what BMW essentially considers an entry level car! I mean, sure, I’d expect power folding mirrors on a 7 series, or Mercedes or Cadillacs, but on a 3-series? That’s just crazy! It’s like getting a working Gameboy system with your Happy Meal at a burger joint! Luxury is now available for everyone! OK, well, everyone who can afford a BMW, which I admit is not necessarily that large a percentage of the population these days.

In any case, I love it, and am glad that I won’t need to buy another new car for… well, maybe a decade, this time, instead of 15 years. And hopefully next time, it will be just because I feel the need, and not due to… an emergency or mid-life crisis occurring.

Next quest: figuring out which dealer to use for the covered/warranty service for the next couple of years. No-one seems to like Herb Chamber’s service dept., so do I drive to Gallery in Norwood, schlep all the way to Wagner in Shrewsbury (the only place I’ve actually heard good things about service), or take up BMW of Newport on their offer to dropoff a loaner and drive my car down for any scheduled service. While the convenience of having a loaner dropped off is great, I’m not sure I need the extra 200+ miles on my car when it needs the covered oil change done.

WANTED: 2011 BMW E90 Sedan, Value+Premium+Xenon, automatic

I’m looking for a low milage, very good condition 2011 BMW E90 328i xDrive (code: 1147) with Value package, Premium package, and Xenon headlights. I’m most likely going to get a CPO, unless an amazing private sale deal jumps in my lap; I don’t mind paying a slight premium for extra warranty and new dealer car smell.

Other nice features I might consider are Convenience package; split rear seats; active cruise control; sport steering wheel (if available). I do not want Navigation (no need) or the Sport seats (not comfy enough).

Metallic exterior colors could be any of the blues, black sapphire, red, white, or maybe the silver (need to see it in person again). Bronze and grey are right out; too muddy. I’d probably be OK with most of the interior combinations of the leather.

I’m looking to purchase in the next few weeks, and immediately thereafter will be selling my beloved 1995 E36 318i, who still drives great but is beginning to succumb to the rust monster.

Unless of course my dear friend BHD pulls another rabbit out of a hat and convinces me I need a different BMW.

ALERT: I’m scheduling my midlife crisis next week

Dear Friends,

A number of factors in my life lately have led to a whole lot of stress – above and beyond normal life – for a while now. Therefore, in part to deal with these issues, I am hereby declaring a midlife crisis. I plan to start it in exactly one week [1], at lunchtime, on Friday June 21st, and stretching throughout the summer months. I’m sure you all have many questions, so let me try to address some of them now.

Shane! What’s wrong, Shane?

I’ve decided to have a midlife crisis. Isn’t that the responsible thing to do? I figure if I schedule some of it out, it’ll be much more convenient for everyone.

Are you OK?

Yes, in the big picture, I’m still better off than most humans on the planet: I have a wonderful wife, daughter and cats; a comfy home; and a paying job. So color me #FirstWorldProblems for sure. But…

But what? What’s been going on?

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand moment was probably the death of my father, in January of this year. Dealing with both the personal issues and especially dealing with the paperwork and other extended family estate issues was far more than I expected, and is continuing. This also led to a number of other stresses and health issues for me, which of course got me worried about being stressed… Plus, my father was a hoarder, and the responsibility of cleaning out his house(es) is a huge undertaking that’s not even half done.

Coupling this with both the hectic normal life of a family with a young school child, two working parents with busy jobs, plus my significant (and growing) volunteer responsibilities at the ASF, has just been more than is comfortable to deal with.

So what are you doing about it?

Well, right now I’m writing this witty and informative blog post about it, just for you!

(ahem) No, really.

Well, I figured since I’m of that age anyway, I might as well schedule a midlife crisis. See, one of the skills I’ve always thought I should work on is better time management, so I figure if I can schedule a midlife crisis I’d already be improving myself.

Hence, to have a proper midlife crisis, I am taking an unpaid leave of absence from my job. Thus while I may be without regular income (but see: #FirstWorldProblems), I will have ample time to do all those crazy and fun things that go with a traditional midlife crisis. And since I won’t have a 9-to-5 (ha!) for a while, I should be much less worried about “getting things done” and just relax.

Cool – so what are you planning to do?

Well, it may sound trite, but I plan to buy a new(er) car. While I may love my current BMW very dearly, he’s finally started to succumb to the dreaded E36 rust monster. Be on the lookout for an E90 sedan w/manual & sunroof for me.

I also plan to enjoy the summer. While I’ve had sabbaticals before (thank you Lotus!), I’m really looking forward to having a whole 12 weeks of no job. I’ll do some cool stuff with my family, we’ll go visit family & friends a bunch, and I’ll do some important – or not so important, but fun – projects at home. Perhaps finishing my retro man cave, or finally organizing my entire digital life.

That sounds good – but will it help?

Not sure – I’ve never had 3 months off from my job since I started working at Lotus almost 2X years ago. But I also hope to work on a bunch of those things that I keep wanting to really do, but never seem to complete. I’m at the point in life where it’s clear to me that having more available time is more important right now than, say, income. And, #FirstWorldProblems, I am lucky enough in my career to be able to take a temporary leave from work (thanks, manager!).

Good for you. What does this have to do with me?

Well, one of the most important uses of additional free time that I can think of is to spend more time with friends! So one of the (again, stereotypical) things I hope to do is a few guy trips or dinners out with friends. Movies, good dinners, a drive somewhere, some card games, a trip to MV, or a recap of my 10th anniversary bachelor party would all be fun.

Likewise, it would be great to see families and friends, and local friends from school, and so on. We have a few weeks scheduled already, but otherwise plenty of time in the summer available now. So that’s what it does with you – I’d love to see all you friends more!

In any case, wrapping up things here at work will be quite busy until then, but do send me an email if you have cool ideas of stuff to do this summer.

Thanks for asking those great questions, by the way. That’s just what I needed to feel like I have a good start to my midlife crisis.

[1] BHD and the astute readers of my blog will of course note the discrepancy, which I will note is likely a result of stress getting the date wrong. That, or I’m just trying to be funny.

WANTED: trackpad keyboard, laptop riser, IPS monitor

It’s time to update my home office. My back, neck, and eyes can’t handle the semi-cheezy setup I currently have for typing on my laptop & monitor to one side. I need some simple upgrades to fit onto my existing glass-topped desk; suggestions?

Keyboards, keyboards, keyboards! I need a new one. I like the MS ergonomic ones, with the curved keyboard and a slight break between the keycaps on each half. However I really want a keyboard with a trackpad in the middle – even better, with a little red IBM Thinkpad style pointy stick. But virtually no-one seems to make these; one of the few companies that does has totally bad reliability reviews on Amazon. Any suggestions? I actually would prefer a wired keyboard – it just stays on my desk – but either way is fine.

I end up hurting my back because my laptop screen is too low. Once I get a proper keyboard, I can raise the laptop up somehow to the correct height. But how to raise it up without having those dumb legs underneath that always get in the way of your keyboard? Should I just spring for one of those swing-arms that attaches to a laptop shelf? Or is there some sort of simple rigid holder that will keep my laptop maybe 10 inches up off the desk, with completely open space below the laptop itself?

Oh: and while I hate to spring for yet another monitor, keeping my eyesight (and thus my sanity) is probably well worth it. Anyone have personal recommendations of a good 21 to 24in widescreen, mostly used for code editing, occasionally used for streaming movies? The last time I looked for a monitor I looked for a deal on a multi-input one with speakers and HDMI and everything for a TV-replacement; now I realize I don’t really use any of those features much…

I was briefly debating investing in a Mac, but one of the key programs I need doesn’t live on Macs. So it’s not really worth the extra investment, given I’d have to do one of the VM solutions and I’d have to learn a new damn keyboard style. Plus, how the heck do you really get around on a Mac with only one mouse button?

Oh, and do Lenovo mini docks for W5xx series (not just port replicators) really cost you over $100 even used? I guess a full docking station really is only ever a business class expense, not a personal one. I hate to pay for the convenience (and the extra monitor port), but I suppose… it may be that or my sanity, and even what little is left of that is worth more than $100.

In any case, happy spring all!

How do them Yankees get around?

A colleague (a Southerner) was kind enough to pen a little ditty for us Yankees to help us through the storm. I offer a paltry reply from a brain too tired from watching the beautiful snowflakes back:

Our southern colleagues, they did ponder:
How do them Yankees get around up yonder?

I can tell you’ll want to know,
It all depends on the depth of the snow.

(First, below an inch – that’s a cinch:
it’s too small an amount
to bother about; that doesn’t even count.)
Three to four,
now that is more
noticeable outside the door.

Five or six inches seen when on the roam -
that’s when people start getting back to their homes.

Six to twelve is fine for today –
working at home with our kids in the way.
But tomorrow our backs will swell
after shoveling it all up the hill.

Into the feet is where *this* storm’s headed,
and that’s where the less intrepid start to dread it.
At this level there are neighborly teenagers galore,
Who for a fee, will shovel up to your door!
This weekend’s to win some sledding prizes
Until next week, as it melts when the temperature rises.

But the most important moral of my story:
In our winter, snow tires are mandatory.

How You Can Help

A number of people have asked me recently how they can help, especially in dealing with my late father Steven’s affairs. Here are a few things I could really use:

  • If you plan to attend his memorial gathering on the last weekend of January, please contact me at estate@curcuru.com to let me know how you knew my father, and how many people are likely to attend. Given his long career in journalisim and mentoring in Boston throughout the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s, I really have no idea how many of his old friends and co-workers are planning to attend.
  • If you did know Steven, we need your stories. I’d love to be able to actually collect some of the stories of his mentoring projects and television production derring-do. I heard many of them verbally when I was a child, but as far as I can tell so far, my father never really wrote polished stories of his exploits. Please either email me, or post comments here. Please be sure to let me know if we have permission to share publicly (here on the web) or only privately at his memorial.
  • Similarly, if you do plan to attend the memorial gathering and are willing to speak briefly about my father, please let me know. This will be an informal and non-denominational gathering, more like a chance to remember his life with others rather than any kind of funeral service.
  • If you know anyone who works at the Boston Globe, please let me know if there’s any way to figure out if they plan to run an obit for Steven or not. While I got a very nice auto-reply, they have not yet published the obit I provided (or any other one, for that matter). I may need to simply pay for a 3-line paid death notice that simply points at my online obit.
  • If you know me (Shane) personally, I don’t really need much more help at the memorial. But I would love to see you (and/or your family) socially. Find a time where we can get together for dinner sometime in the next month or so, just to do something together.
  • If you have recently dealt with the estate of a family member, what was the number one thing you wish you knew about the legal or financial issues beforehand? I think I have a good set of checklists, and plan to work with the same lawyer and accountant that my father used in the past, but other advice on that one thing I should know to do is appreciated.