Wednesday, December 31, 2003

New Year's Eve 2003

We stopped by Brun and Kim's for a Christmas gift exchange and a drink.

Afterwards we left Jack with Sharon's dad for the evening and went to Dinner at Piatti's with Matt and Sherry Bell. Last year, Sharon and I had gone to Piatti's for dinner on New Year's Eve and had a nice time. We decided to do the same thing again this year and invite the Bell's to join us! We had a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

It finally stopped snowing early Tuesday morning. We got up fairly early with the idea of getting Jack into a ski lesson at Tahoe Donner or Boreal. Unfortunately, with the first break in the weather in almost 36 hours, everyone was trying to get to the ski resorts. There was a lot of traffic. It took us almost an hour and twenty minutes to drive from Tahoe City to the Tahoe Donner Ski Resort in Truckee.

The traffic trying to get into Squaw was amazing. There was a line of stopped traffic stretching from the entrance to Squaw going all the way back on to the freeway.

By the time we got to Tahoe Donner, the Snowflakes ski school was full and all of the private lessons were booked. We decided to start for home and ended up having lunch at TGI Friday's in Sacramento.

Monday, December 29, 2003

It started snowing Sunday night and essentially did not stop until early Tuesday morning. Monday morning we had a leisurely breakfast at the Cafe Echo. The Cafe Echo was less than 100 yard walk from the hotel. By the time we finished breakfast, it was snowing hard.

Our original plan was to put Jack into a ski lesson, but we decided against this given the weather. After talking to the front desk, we decided to go to a small ski hill and snow play area nearby called Granlibakken. This is located about 2 1/2 miles from downtown Tahoe City.

We sledded for a couple of hours. About halfway through we stopped and went into the warming hut for hot chocolate and beer!

After sledding, we drove around checking out some places to have dinner. At this point, it was snowing very hard. We went a couple miles north on 89 pass before turning around and heading back into town.

We ended up having dinner at Jake's in Tahoe City.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Sunday morning, we drove to Truckee and had lunch in old town at the Squeeze In. After lunch, we walked around the old town.

Sharon had made reservations for the three of us to go dog sledding with Cold Stream Adventures at 2:00 p.m. We checked in at their office in Truckee and then drove about 15 miles north on Highway 89 towards Quincy to Cottonwood Canyon. We had an hour and a half dog sled ride. Jack had a great time and loved the dogs!

The dogs were Alaskan Huskies, but they were not quite what we expected. "The Alaskan husky is a continuous experiment in breeding and really nothing more than a successful mixed breed mutt." Although the fur was thick, it was not as long we thought it would be. Nevertheless, the dogs could run!

After the dog sledding, we drove into Tahoe City and checked into a Travelodge. When we started looking for a place to stay, the condos wanted a week minimum, but we only wanted to stay two nights so we settled for staying at the Travelodge. This turned out to mixed blessing; the room was only so so, but there were a lots of things close by. This later advantage turned out to be a good thing over the next two days!

We walked to dinner at the Blue Agave for Mexican Food. As we walked back from dinner, it was snowing pretty hard.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Sharon, Jack and I went to up to Placerville and picked up Morgan and Drew for lunch. We had a nice lunch at Powell Brother's Steamer Company in old town Placerville. We did a Christmas gift exchange and delivered some presents for Morgan and Drew that my sister and brother-in-law had sent.

Saturday night, Sharon, Jack and I watched A Christmas Story that I had TIVOed.

Friday, December 26, 2003

One of my goals for this Christmas was to buy everything on-line and avoid going to the mall. I accomplished this objective; every present that I gave this year for Christmas was purchased from a web site! The on-line stores I used this year included: [a wide variety of stuff, including books, CDs, and consumer electronics]; Brookstone; Fontanini Gifts; Gaiam; Hockey Giant; Neiman Marcus; Sports Giant; Sur La Table, and; Victoria Secret.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Christmas Day 2003

We had a great Christmas morning. Jack is at the perfect age for the holiday. Jack got a number of presents including books, basketballs, basketball hoops and a hockey game from Santa.

I am going to post a larger photo album from Christmas in the next week.

After a late breakfast, the three of us plus Tim went to watch the Kings play the Mavericks at Arco Arena. Unfortunately, after leading by 16 points at halftime, the Kings lost by a score of 111 to 103. The team encouraged everyone to dress in white and distributed inflatable noise makers shaped like large candy canes. At half-time, they dumped "snow" from the rafters. Visually, the overall effect of everyone in white with the candy cane noise makers was cool.

Jack fell asleep on the way home from the game and Sharon and I had a quiet dinner. She made a couple of great minature beef wellingtons.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Christmas Eve 2003

Sharon, Jack and I spent Christmas Eve at Sharon's parents house with her brother Tim's family [Tim, Kathy, Erin and Eileen], Jim Dunn and her parents [Jack and Rosemary]. Sharon's brother Tom and his family went to Phoenix to be with his in-laws. We had a nice dinner and exchanged gifts.

Christmas Card 2003

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

2003 Christmas Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

2003 has been a busy year for us!

In January, we visited Pat Funk and her family in the Philippines. We spent a week in and around Manila and a week on the island of Boracay. Sharon and Pat went on to spend a few days in Bangkok, Thailand sightseeing and shopping.

Mark returned from vacation to a reorganization which expanded his responsibilities. His role at Sutter Health now includes the enterprise help desk, corporate desktop, automation, the data center and the back office applications.

Sharon spent February through May focusing on building her legal practice and training for a marathon. Jack got his first taste of team sports playing T-ball in the Spring. He has talked for months about wanting to play baseball again.

In May, Morgan turned sixteen and got her driver’s license. Drew graduated from Union Mine High School.

In June, Sharon ran the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon raising money for stroke awareness and research. Mark celebrated his fifth year with Sutter Health.

During the summer, we took our sixteenth annual trip to Lake Almanor with the Tomasins, Wallens, Bachmans and Hunters. Later, we visited the Wallens with side trips to Safeco Field in Seattle and Port Townsend. Jack finished up at Cottage Kids where he was been for almost five years and started Kindergarten at St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton.

The fall saw Drew starting college at the University of California at Irvine as a theater major. We celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary with a trip to Las Vegas and Sharon finished up the first successful year of running her own law practice.

We finished the year with Sharon taking a temporary assignment as in-house counsel for T0wer Rec0rds!

We hope that this note finds you safe and well
Wishing you a happy new year,
Mark and Sharon Heringer

Monday, December 22, 2003

Sharon started a temporary assignment as in-house counsel for T0wer Rec0rds.

All of my work with Dell on Sunday left me at the same point; the machine will reboot itself while it is starting up. At 6:00 a.m., I called the Dell support line to continue trying to troubleshoot the problems. It is starting to look like the motherboard has a problem. This time I got someone in Nashville instead of India! It was a much better experience. The quality of the telephone connection was much better than Sunday and it was much easier to communicate with technician on the other end! We spent another hour running diagnostics. He finally decided to have Airborne bring me a box so that we can ship the PC to their depot. When we bought the computer, Sharon purchased a three year rapid response depot maintenance service [thank goodness!].

The differences between the experiences on Sunday with the technician in India compared to the technician in Nashville were like night and day. Every minute was a struggle on Sunday, while the experience on Monday was much cleaner and easier. While companies may be saving money moving the help desk to India, it is difficult for me to believe that they are maintaining any customer satisfaction.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Dell's India Help Desk

Sharon has a laptop for her legal practice that started having problems about a week ago. I tried a couple of different strategies to fix the problems myself, but finally ended up calling Dell Support Sunday morning.

Dell has outsourced their customer help desk to India. If you have not spent two and a half hours on the phone talking to someone in India trying to debug a computer problem, you have not really lived. There were two issues. First, English is not English. The difference in idioms and the pronunciation of words and letters is a much more of a problem than you would expect. Second, the telephone connection was only good at best. It was not a very clear connection which adds to language issues. After spending over an hour and fifteen minutes with one technician, I got dropped. I had to call back in and get connected with another technician in India. Although their system provides some details about my first call, I had to spend some time retracing the same steps. These factors were a very large distraction. I have spent my working career on all sides of these types of transactions. I am not sure how anyone without that kind of perspective could keep from going berserk during the process. At the end of the two and a half hours of calls, they actually had me typing machine language code into debug to reformat the boot sector of the hard disk. Realizing what they were trying to do, I was scared to death that I was going to misunderstand one of the letters or numbers that they were reading off to me. After we did this, they had me start the windows XP installation process from scratch.

Sunday everning, I took Drew and Morgan to the Nutcracker. Due to some bad scheduling, we needed up with Nutcracker tickets for both Saturday and Sunday night. Sharon, Jack and I went on Saturday night, while Drew, Morgan and I went Sunday night.

Sharon took Jack to a Christmas party put on by one of the kids in his class. It was all kindergarten boys. They made ornaments, sang a couple of songs and had an appearance from Santa.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Pavilions 2003

Sharon, Jack and I went to the Pavilions Shopping Center on Fair Oaks for the afternoon. Santa makes an appearance and they have complimentary carriage rides. After taking a carriage ride and wandering through a few shops, we went to Piatti's for early dinner. We did the same thing one Saturday afternoon last year and decided to make it an annual event.

After dinner, we took Jack to the Nutcracker. The production has all new sets that were made in St. Petersburg and a live orchesta. It has probably been nine or ten years since I last took Drew and Morgan to see The Nutcracker.

I have started a related web site at which allows me to post directly from my camera phone to the web.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Google Search: miserable failure


This is odd. If you do a Google Search for "miserable failure," the first item in the list is the biography of George W. Bush on the official White House web site.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I spent the day in San Francisco at a Kronos Project meeting at CPMC in the morning and the West Bay CIO meeting in the afternoon. I have a hands free handset for my cell phone and I have gotten into the habit of making a series of business and personal calls on these trips. On the way down to San Francisco, I had a long talk with John Wallen. It included relating a long six degrees of separation story which I have been involved in that makes me realize how small the world really is. On the way back, I had a long rant with Sharon.

Sharon went out for drinks with Janie Diagle and Jeana Hultquist to Morton's Steakhouse in downtown Sacramento. The three of them had a great time together at Sea Ranch and have even made up a nickname for themselves!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I registered Jack for the Rookie Division of Elk Grove Cal Ripken Baseball. His coach from last year's T-ball team is organizing a team and asked Jack to sign up. Jack had a great time playing T-ball last year. He has been talking about wanting to play baseball again for the last six months.

My fantasy football team was seeded third in the league playoffs and won the first round of the playoffs by a score of 203 to 100. Over the next two weeks, the team will be playing for the league championship. The team that I will be playing against had 12 wins and 1 loss in the regular season and is anchored by Priest Holmes [the #1 fantasy player] and Torry Holt. I do not give myself very good odds for winning.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Sharon worked for an hour and fifteen minutes as the Art Docent for the afternoon kindergarten class. The lesson plan was titled "Religion." The lesson talked briefly about Paolo Veronese, Sandro Boticelli and Giorgione. It highlighted a painting by each Artist: The Finding of Moses by Veronese; Adoration of the Magi by Boticelli [shown below] and Adoration of the Shepherds by Giorgione. As part of the lesson, the kids made a framed nativity scene.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

I have enjoyed Christmas in our house very much over the last four years. Sharon has done a better job every year decorating the inside for the season.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Drew, Jack and I went to see Morgan perform in a Jazz Band competition at Consumes River College. Morgan plays the piano in the Jazz Band for Union Mine High School.

Sharon and I had a drink at Gallagher's Irish Pub and went out to dinner at the Broiler's Steakhouse. Originally, we had gotten a babysitter and planned to go to dinner and then the Gainsley's Christmas Open House. Unfortunately, I got the night wrong; their open house was Friday night. We ended up having a leisurely dinner and going out to Arden Faire Mall to finish up some Christmas Shopping.

Friday, December 12, 2003


The Business System Team held a white elephant gift exchange at lunch. Donna has been organizing this as a team building event since 1998; this was the sixth gift exchange. This year's group included almost 60 people.

Drew finished up his finals this afternoon and flew back from Irvine. I picked him up at the airport at about 11:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Nativity Scene

As part of Jack's homework for the week, we built a Nativity Scene Diorama. I found an interesting web site [] that has cut-outs of a wide variety of things, including a Nativity scene. We enlarged the cut-outs to fit into the shoebox and printed them on photo paper.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Sharon's Dad, Jack, turned 86 today; he was born on this day in 1917.

Jack's school had a Christmas Social tonight. They had a selection of small gifts that the kids could buy as presents for people. Jack picked out presents for Andrew, Mom, Dad and Morgan. They then helped the kids get the presents wrapped and ready to put under the tree.

Santa was also there posing for pictures with the kids.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Print Article: Ex-wife sues Clancy over books he doesn't write

I just finished reading Tom Clancy's Power Plays: Zero Hour. Starting in early 1995, Tom Clancy lent his name to three other series of books: Op Center, Net Force and Power Plays. Of the three, the Power Plays series has always been the weakest. This book hits rock bottom. After 300 pages of wandering, it sputters to an ending in about 30 pages.

I have wondered for some time why Clancy continued to allow the these series to be published when it was clear that they are damaging his "franchise." I came across the following article that suggests at least one possible answer: Ex-wife sues Clancy over books he doesn't write. The article suggests that while Clancy may be trying to kill off some of these series his ex-wife is motivated to keep them going.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Drew has started a web site which can be found at:

The sites focuses on his music and includes a static link to his solo album at:

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Joe Larkin and I went to the Kings versus the Indiana Pacers game. Lew Gasper, John Muncaster and Rudy Jugoz and his wife were in one of the vendor suites. The Kings beat the Pacer by a score of 91 to 88. This was the best game that I have seen this year.

I spent part of the day working on building a Christmas card using Print Shop. The card consists of a collage of four pictures from the year.

Believe or not, I also hung some additional Christmas lights in the front and back yards. Over the last couple years, I have wanted to put lights up over the entry way which is two stories tall. After a number of aborted atttempts, I finally got these lights up.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

We took a trip out to the rental in the afternoon. There is some dry rot in the back that we are having fixed and we wanted to check on the work.

After dinner, we finished putting up Christmas decorations inside and cleaning up the house. Last year, we had a big open house on December 7, more than 70 people in total. The open house was an event that we spent months getting ready for. On the eve of the anniversary of the event last year, we both wondered where we found all the energy to pull it off.

Friday, December 05, 2003

2003 Xmas Lunch

Mike Kaplan planned a team holiday lunch for the business system team this afternoon at Joe's Crab Shack on Front Street in Old Sacramento. This team includes about 65 people working on implementing and supporting Lawson, Kronos and a couple of smaller applications. This is a fairly new building in Old Sacramento; I did not believe there was a building there when I originally got the directions. It is just south of the Rio City Cafe between the railroad tracks and the river. It is a chain and is actually owned by the same company that owns the Rainforest Cafes [Laundry's Restaurants, Inc.].

Sharon and her brother Tim saw the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Kings in overtime. The Timberwolves won by a score of 112 to 109.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Decorating the Christmas Tree

We worked on decorating the Christmas tree.

I called and talked to John Wallen to catch up. I had called him about two weeks ago on his cell phone on my way to work. It turned out that he and Jill were on vacation in Hawaii. With the time change, it was 5:30 a.m. in Hawaii. I had rousted him out a deep sleep while he was on vacation!

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Christmas Tree 2003

We had an early dinner at Buca de Beppo. While we went there a number of times after it opened, this is the first time that we have been there in more than three years.

For the last two years, we have bought a flocked Christmas tree at Able's Christmas Trees on Folsom near the intersection with Jackson Highway. We were very happy with the selection of trees at this lot. The owners had indicated that they had been at the same location for twenty plus years. We were disappointed when the lot did not appear this year.

Sharon and Jack went into the tree lot at Cal Expo before dinner and was very happy with the selection of trees. The tented area of pre-flocked trees was larger than the entire lot we went to last year. She bought a tree that we picked up after dinner. While Sharon was purchasing the tree, she mentioned the disappearance of the lot where we had gone the year before. The person helping her knew of the lot and said that they [the Cal Expo lot] had driven them out of business. They said that Able's still had a small lot in Carmichael.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I spent most of the day at the SOMA meeting in Modesto. SOMA is the steering committee for Sutter Health's outpatient electronic medical record project.

After running out to an 8 win and 3 loss record, my fantasy football team has lost both of the last two weeks. The team lost by a score of 90 to 95 in week twelve and by a score 90 to 106 in week thirteen. The team's record is now 8 wins and 5 losses.

My team still has a shot at winning the league. The play-offs start this weekend and my team is seeded third. The second and third seeds play for two weeks [weeks fourteen and fifteen of the season]. The winner plays the winner of the first and fourth seeds for the league championship in weeks sixteen and seventeen. The best team in the league has 12 wins and 1 loss and is anchored by Priest Holmes and Torry Holt.

Monday, December 01, 2003

I spent most of the day attending demonstrations of enterprise project management systems. A large group had presentations from Lawson and PMOffice by SystemCorp. Last Tuesday, we had a presentation from Niku.

This week Jack is "Star of the Week" for his kindergarten class. Star of the Week includes a number of activities such a poster. We made a large 28 inch by 22 inch poster over the weekend titled "Where in the World is Jack Heringer?" The poster had a world map as a background and included pictures of Jack in different places, including: Victoria, Canada; Seattle, Washington; Arco Arena; Cancun, Mexico and the Philippines! I also added another picture to the ones that I originally posted from the Cancun Trip.