Alex's Brilliant and Completely Appropriate Response to My Man Cold

Yesterday I had a man cold that completely wiped me out. It was so bad that I took a sick day from work for the first time in close to a decade.  Having never seen me sick, Alex was understandably worried.  So, while on a grocery store run with his mother, he picked up not one, not two, but three Entenmann's Crumb Cakes and delivered them to my bedside.

This will no doubt go down in Russell lore as the most brilliant man cold remedy ever.

Ghostbuster Headquaters

A few months back I took the train to NY for business. While riding through the Connecticut countryside I kept getting distracted from some work I wanted to get done thinking of all the cool stuff there would be to do in the city. In an effort to get back in control I tried to empty my head. "Don't think of anything," I said to myself.

But I couldn't help it. It just popped in there. Something I loved from my childhood. The time had come to visit Ghostbuster Headquarters.

The 4 Things I Did To Honor Veterans on Veterans Day - Support H.Res. 333

The beginning of this post provides some background on my family and why I’m a strong supporter of H.Res. 333. If you’re just looking for the 4 other ways to honor veterans, jump to the bottom and take some action.

By the time I was in second grade I had things pretty well figured out. You see, my grandparents lived next door to us in Flushing NY, and I knew that if I walked to their house on my way home from school that I’d get a glass of milk, a substantial dose of cookies and a stream of funny stories from my Pop. Pop is what I called my grandfather.

He was a funny guy. He’d sit there in the kitchen while I scarfed down cookies. Sometimes he’d just make me laugh with funny rhymes “beans beans the musical fruit...” and other times he’d teach me important things like how to eat candy right in front of my school teacher and get away with it every time. The man was a genius.

He never mentioned a word of this to me when I was growing up but I eventually learned that Pop fought in the Philippines in WWII.  He was captured when the U.S.A. surrendered their starving and badly diseased soldiers after four and a half months of jungle fighting at the Battle of Bataan. He survived the Bataan Death March, the Hell Ships, years as a slave in Japanese coal mines, and returned home after the war ended.  As if that description left any doubt, during those years in Japan he and the other prisoners were treated horribly. So horribly that more than 60 years later, on May 30, 2009, Japan’s Ambassador to the United States delivered an official apology from the Government of Japan to the POWs that were captured at Bataan.

And now it’s 2011, and it’s probably easy to think that this is all in the past. You’d be wrong. The way we remember and recognize our veterans of WWII is a clear message to the veterans returning from war today of how they will be treated in the future.  Moreover, I learned in an email from my father that there are still living veterans, looking for recognition, that were imprisoned with Pop in WWII.

The prisoners of the Japanese in WWII were treated horribly and the Japanese companies profited from their labor as slaves. There are very few of these men and women left but they deserve recognition. I met about 20 of these veterans at a convention a few months ago and I can tell you that their memories are still very vivid and their stories are riveting.   
- James Russell, Aug 2011

The right thing for the U.S.A. to do for it’s veterans is to publicly acknowledge Japan’s apology and to push to get the remaining companies that benefited from the slave labor of US soldiers to apologize as well. That’s what a bill called H.Res. (House Resolution) 333 introduced into congress in June of 2011 would do.

H. Res. 333 supports the 66-year effort for justice by the American POWs of Japan who suffered untold hardships and misery in captivity as well as  gag orders and poor treatment upon return. These WWII veterans all in their 90s wish to see their dignity restored and memory honored before the last one passes on. The resolution thanks the Government of Japan for its apology and program of reconciliation given to the American POWs in September 2010. It further encourages Japan's great companies that used these POWs as slave labor to follow the example of their government to acknowledge and apologize to these American veterans. Japanese companies that used POW slave labor include Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Hitachi, Kawasaki, Showa Denko, Nippon Steel, JMS, Japan Stainless, and Nippon Sharyo.  -  H.Res. 333 Petition Website

This bill is a no brain-er. Congress managed to pass a resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the USA last week. Seeing as it’s only been the US motto since 1956 and these veterans have been waiting for acknowledgement since 1945 it seems to me that getting H.Res. 333 passed is an extremely reasonable request. And yet, H.Res. 333 has gotten almost no attention since the day it was introduced.

So on this last Veterans Day I did something a little extra to honor my grandfather; four simple steps that took me about 10 minutes. I supported the bill on and petitioned, called, and wrote my representatives. I told them that I wanted them to get H.Res. 333 passed.

Actions speak louder than words and I bet veterans like my Pop would appreciate it if you'd give 10 minutes for this cause.

The 4 Things I Did To Support H.Res. 333 on Veterans Day

  1. Petitioned: Signed this Petition: Tell Congress to Support Vetrans of WWII
  2. Voted: Visited The OpenCongress H.Res. 333 page and clicked on the green check mark saying I support this resolution.
  3. Wrote: Clicked on the support button on the OpenCongress H.Res. 333 page, entered in my zip code and sent a message to my representatives. OpenCongress made this extremely easy.
  4. Called: I clicked on the name of each of my Representatives from that support page, found their phone number, called them and told them I wanted them to support H.Res. 333.

Seven Stories of Summer

With snow falling last night and a storm on the way this weekend it's probably safe to say that summer is over. It just flew by this year. With few exceptions, the stories I meant to post here fell victim to the stories we were making next. It was a good summer.

As I sit here looking through pictures I realize I'd have to stop making new stories for weeks to recount all that we did. So instead, here are seven stories of this summer in pictures.

The kids learned to really swim at Grandma & Grandpa's lake house in NH.

We spent the 4th of July in Pulaski with Memere and Pepere. 

Allison invented a whole new standard for cuteness.

The Russellpours got together and we did the sort of ridiculous things we always did.

I traveled for work. A lot.

There were lots of projects, accomplishments and moments of awesome. 

Finally the bus came and Conner and Alex headed off for a new year of school.

Life is Good Festival and Frisbee

This weekend we went to the Life is Good festival. It was a blast! This festival may very well surpass the Garlic Festival as the event we look forward to each year. Once you're in the gate there's a giant field with 3 live music stages, great bands for kids and adults, piles of games and really good food.

We started off the day in a tent full of these giant foam blocks.

And we did some sack racing. Both boys came very close to legitimately beating me.

Conner was Conner.

Alex and I took a stand.

Alex braved the pins of death.

And then the sort of moment every father dreams of happened; Alex and I picked up a disc and started throwing. We'd tried it before, but he used to throw like a little kid. But life was really good this weekend. Alex started throwing like a kid who played ultimate, and catching better than his father. 

After about 45 minutes of throwing we went to get some water. I figured we were done, but Alex insisted on going back for more. 

So basically we spent the rest of the afternoon throwing, running and catching. 

 Allison was pretty tired but she managed to put up with us for a few more hours.

All in all it was a good day.

Mission Peak Hike in California

There are these great mountains in the backdrop of the offices in San Jose. For the last 10 years I have been traveling out there on business, and somehow in all that time I’d never taken a single night off to check out the area. Tuesday night I decided to change that, so I got out of the office early and hiked up Mission Peak.

I started the climb around 6:20, which gave me a little over an hour before sunset.

The beginning of the very dry path to the top.

The moon that would light my way back.

Cows just roam free in the absurd heat of the sun.

Not at the top yet and sunset was closing in.

The Peak

The marker at the top of Mission Peak. 

Made it.
Sitting at the top of Mission Peak watching the sun set.

The sun set while I was at the top of the mountain. There were still plenty of people around and the moon was bright so I wasn't worried. I made my way down by moonlight and took this panoramic of the cities surrounding the bay from about 3/4 of the way up the mountain.

Full size image available here.

Full photoset and slideshow from the hike.

Here's the hike as captured by runkeeper.

Childhood Memories of Soldering and the Philco Radio

I have memories of being 8 years old, soldering circuits in our basement, while hiding from my mother as she desperately tried to get me out the door to school. Those were fun times. The thrill of experimentation while racing against the clock to build something. What a rush!

Christine's memories from 8 years old are a little different.  Her parents had inherited a gorgeous 3 foot tall Philco radio from her grandmother and Christine would sit in front of it for hours. It brought old time radio shows and short wave signals from around the world. She smiles whenever she talks about it. Not the devious way I do when talking about sneaking a few extra seconds to get a solder joint just right, but with the sort of childhood happiness you imagine a kid would have staring up into a magnificent story telling piece of furniture.

This year that very same Philco radio was handed down to us. When it arrived in our living room it was in a state of disrepair. Apart from all the components being covered in a thick layer of dust the power cord was dangerously frayed. I started cleaning it up and quickly realized  I was going to need break out my old childhood friend, the soldering iron to make the necessary repairs.

And that's when it hit me. Alex was about to turn 8 and he didn't even know what a soldering iron was. How did I let things get to this point?

It didn't take much to get the boys interested in soldering. I mentioned something about melting metal and they were sold. So the boys practiced.

And practiced...

And practiced... 

Eventually I convinced them to take a break and we got the radio cleaned up and replaced the plug. I figured the chances of it actually working after all these years were pretty low, but to my surprise when we plugged it in it actually came to life. Christine was going to be so psyched!

That moment lasted for well,  a moment. Then the original transformer from 1963 began pluming back smoke and sizzling like a well buttered frying pan. Allison started screaming something about a horrible smell and that was all she wrote for the Philco's original components.

I did some checking on the web and determined that with a serious investment of time and money I could get the Philco back in to it's orignal working condition. For a lot less of both I could stick an amplifier and streaming media access point in that same chassie and bring the Philco into the 21st century. So that's the plan.

The Philco, now on it's 3rd generation with our family, will rise like a Pheonix from the ashes of its burnt out transformer as a wireless internet streaming speaker we can control from our computer and phones. From the outside no one will be able to tell the difference between this new version and the original.

And our kids will either grow up with memories of curling up in a blinket listening to stories in front of the Philco, or with fond memories of sneaking passed their parent to build things with dad's soldering iron when they should be getting ready for school.  If they're lucky, it'll be both.

Biking Against Cancer Over Comically Large Hills

My bike at the SAP (water refill) mile 17
Last weekend was my first time riding in the Prouty race against cancer. The bike route ran adjacent to the White Mountains in NH and crossed over into Vermont. It was, to put it mildly, a bit hilly.

The weather was perfect, the scenery magnificent and the hills were crushingly long. The ride starts with a 7% grade incline that last 1/2 a mile and if that doesn't kill you the rest of the ride is more hills. Fortunately, my friend Matt has been introducing me to some of the hillier bike routes of Harvard MA, so I managed to survive and even enjoy myself.

Details of the 35 mile ride were captured by the Runkeeper app on my iPhone.

Screenshot of what you'll find on the Runkeeper ride detail page.

By far the most amusing and humbling part of the ride was watching our triathlon team captain ride 2 mile circles around us the entire time. She didn't even look like she was trying as she flew by me and then looped around to check on a teammate that had fallen miles behind.

Me and Alex just after I crossed the finish line.
It's not the worlds most flattering picture, but the fact that I'm standing at all is a small miracle.  

Dad Look! I'm Peeing!

"Dad Look! I'm Peeing!" were his exact words. He beamed with pride. This is what happens when you let the boys run around in the sprinklers. Comedy gold!