Author: Pete

Christmas Letter 2016

2015 sucked. You may remember it from the last Christmas letter, or if you are lucky, you got to watch us flame through the year like the Bad News Bears.

2016 was different.

After our failed adoption with Brandon, we were quickly rematched with a new birth mom, this time in Florida. We took a couple of trips down to hang out with her during the pregnancy, but we were much less confident this time around. But then, a week into January, I met Nicole for dinner at 54th Street Grill, and there were no kids with her. This was unusual, but it was a nice change. Then she pulled out a box, and in it was a pee-stained stick that said “pregnant.”

Naturally this came as quite the surprise since we’d been told by the experts that we couldn’t conceive naturally. That meant we had to make a huge decision – do we go ahead and adopt anyway? We thought about it for a few seconds and decided yes, we were already committed to the birth mom.

We had numerous false alarms in late January, but eventually the call came that we needed to jump the next flight. We got to the hospital literally as the c-section was in progress. And little Mia Grace was born.

The next two months are a blur of a newborn screaming in pain every 15 minutes 24 hours a day. At the end of month two, the doctor finally relented and let us switch to a lactose-free formula. Almost instantly, Mia became our best sleeper. I really don’t remember anything from February and March except for having Mia with me in the basement all night so Nicole could sleep.

Throughout 2016, we learned that pregnancy while caring for a newborn is really not fun, but we knew it would be worth it.

April was filled with Royals games and dance competitions. Spring is always the best time for both. April is also the month Nicole and I celebrated four years.

In May, I lost my grandma after a long bout of hospitalization and pain. We all traveled up to St. Louis for the services and saw the family.

Then in June, I lost my mind, and I bought Nicole a new puppy for her birthday. The dog is so cute it’s ridiculous. She’s also stubborn, loud, and refuses to poop or pee outdoors. Ah, the gift that keeps on giving. We also took a road trip to St. Louis so that we could watch Nicole barf in plastic bags – as is her tradition while pregnant.

July and August, I was in bed. And in the bathroom. And back and forth. I had a case of Strep that was treated with Augmentin, and the Augmentin gave me C-Diff. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t google it. If you’ve had it, you know what I mean. Imagine if you will, horrible stomach pain 24/7, with a side of diarrhea every 10 minutes 24/7 – for months. My favorite (least favorite) moment was when I was on an important call with our distributor WHILE I drove myself to the ER. What I learned is that next time I need an antibiotic, I’ll just go ahead and die instead.

On the plus side, August also brought the finalization of our adoption of Mia. August 24th is her “Lucas Date”. Which is awesome because her birth mother had given her a legal name as a practical joke – Nicole Miracle.

Then September 9th, the most perfect baby in the history of babies was born – Molly Ryann Lucas. And I immediately saw that she had a cleft chin. Apparently she looks just like her dad – except for that.

For some unknown reason, my sister scheduled her wedding for a week later, so we loaded up our 4 kids and our recently c-sectioned wife and had a road trip to Madison. The drive there was ok, the wedding was a lot of work, and then on the way home, Nicole and I decided to get divorced. Fortunately when we got home we changed our minds.

Olivia and I went to the Royals and sat in the Crown Club for her birthday – and we got to meet Rex Hudler!

In October, my retina detached, as evidenced by a black line running through my visual field. I went to the ophthalmologist, then the retina specialist, and he diagnosed me with retinoschesis. Apparently I’ve had 4 previous detachments that were outside of my visual field. And apparently the treatment for this condition is – well, hopefully you won’t have any more detachments in your visual field.

November was my annual Society for Neuroscience trip, but this year I got to take Nicole (and Molly). It was in San Diego, so there was lots of beach time, and some unplanned house hunting. Yes, we like it there.

Finally in December, I started my quest to become fully inked and got my first three tattoos. More are planned, but it was a good start. My wife says they are sexy, but she also says I can’t get a “Don’t Tread On Me” tattoo no matter how much I want to. I thought this was America.

Why I Chose Odyssey 7q Over Atomos Shogun

I’m an early adopter. Being an early adopter lets you (in many case) input to future product updates and it’s generally fun to play with toys when they are sparkly and new.

When Atomos announced Shogun, I was thrilled. At the time, I was shooting BlackMagic cameras and Shogun was the only recorder on the market with 12G-SDI. It could record RAW from the BlackMagic Cinema Camera and the URSA. It also promised to be compatible with just about any 4k camera coming onto the market.

Shogun was also cheap for what you were getting, especially if you factor in all of the promised firmware updates.

I ordered my Shogun and waited. And waited. Finally, it arrived. One TEENSY little glitch, they promised they’d fix… it could PLAY YOUR FREAKING VIDEO BACK. The little “Play” button was greyed out. Come on, man. But I got over it, because by that time I was shooting URSA and CFast 2 cards are wicked expensive and were hard to find at the time.

Atomos slowly released updates with the features they had promised originally would be there from the start.

Then I changed cameras. I wanted something run-and-gun capable, which the URSA most certainly is not (not to mention Blackmagic Design shares Atomos’ affinity for promising a lot and delivering very little), so I went with the workhorse Sony FS7.

Sony doesn’t mess around. When someone, anyone finds a glitch with their professional camera products, they actually fix it. Fast. When Cinema 5d discovered a RAW output glitch, it was fixed within a couple of months. After mucking around with a company that doesn’t ever deliver what it promises (BMD), I was super excited to start working with Sony.

Some projects dictate using all 14 stops of dynamic range that the FS7 can offer, and the way you do that is by recording 12-bit RAW .DNG using the XDCA-FS7 extension unit to an external recorder. Sony makes a recorder, but it is $5350 plus you need a $2000 interface unit. That’s a lot of cash to do what Atomos promised/promises that the Shogun can do. But the date for Atomos support of the FS7 is constantly pushed back further and further. Now it’s saying sometime in the 3rd quarter of 2016. Mmmmhmmm.

I had always steered clear of the Convergent Design Odyssey 7q because every review I read said the interface is terrible, the screen isn’t as nice, it’s basically poopy compared to the Shogun. But I was left in a situation where I could spend $7500 for the Sony system (plus another several thousand in proprietary media) or I could find a nice used 7q.

I did one better, because I found a used 7q that already had the RAW license on it (normally $995 extra). I went into it with tame expectations of the screen, interface, and build.

What I got shocked me. The Shogun feels like a plastic toy compared with the 7q. Even the power connector is a well-designed Neutrix that actually stays in place. The first impression out of the box was good. I always felt like one drop would be the end of the Shogun. The 7q feels like it could take a punch.

Then I turned it on, plugged it into the camera, and watched as the 7q detected the FS7 and instantly presented me with all of the available recording formats for FS7 RAW recording, which include HD, 2k, and 4k ProRes and .DNG. I thought – it can’t really be that simple. I didn’t read the manual. I spent 2 minutes pushing the various buttons on the touchscreen and I feel confident I know exactly how to use it. Within 5 minutes of unboxing, I was recording gorgeous Cinema DNG RAW in all of its 12-bit glory.

But there’s more. Shogun, by it’s design (single drive) is permanently constrained to 30P when shooting 4k or UHD. The 7q can shoot 60P in 4k and UHD, and it can shoot TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY FRAMES PER SECOND in 2K. WHAT?! Holy Snikeys.

If you only ever shoot ProRes and you never plan to go over 4K30P, the Shogun will probably work fine for you. If you want to shoot anything more, you simply must get the Odyssey.

2015 Christmas Letter

So, we meet again. I’m fully aware that I didn’t even call when I broke up with blogging. I could have at least texted you. But I didn’t, and that’s something you’re just going to have to live with.

After October of 2013, my life was altered in a very permanent, very drastic way. A little tornado named Elaina entered my life and now my blogging time is spent hiding in the bathroom trying to get my Reddit fix.

2015 was a really long, tough year for the Lucas family. But here we are, still standing. In January we finalized our adoption home study, which involves fingerprints, financials, interviews, home visits, and microchip implants. Nicole and I were excited to get the process going, however, so we could adopt a baby before Elaina was ready to go off to college. In January, I also took over the worship leader position at our church, a church that is 50% young families and 50% people over the age of 65. As you can imagine, song selection is like a game of Russian Roulette where every chamber is loaded.

Then, in February, I blacked out for the entire month.

In March we went to visit my mother-in-law’s fiance’ in Scottsdale, AZ. The weather was great, and aside from taking a cranky toddler on an airplane, it went off without a hitch. In what we’re told is supersonic speed, we were matched with a baby-to-be in Americus, Georgia (town motto “We may be hot, humid, and gnat infested, but at least we don’t have any stores, restaurants, or attractions”).

When we returned from Arizona, we opened the door to our house and heard a waterfall. Water was pouring down the walls and through the light fixtures. The 2nd story bathroom supply line had burst and pumped out a week’s worth of water (about 60,000 gallons) into our house. It was a gut. I called ServPro and booked us a room at the hotel, where we would live until August.

The advantage to having your house flood is that you get to have all new floors, sheet rock, paint, and kitchen cabinets. The bad part is that you have to live in a hotel room with a 1 year old and a 10 year old. This also put the nursery decoration on hold for our impending adoption. We knew we were cutting it close – the baby was due in August and the house was due to be completed in August.

Over the summer Olivia competed at dance nationals in Branson, MO (mottto “We’re just like Vegas without the nice hotels”). Her team won “best of show” and all was happy. Ironically, we were living in a hotel while checking into another hotel. Double dipping on the Marriott points…

Then in August, we got the call “baby’s on the way.” We loaded up the kids into the SUV and started the long drive to Americus. We dropped Nicole at the hospital just in time to catch the baby and cut the cord, while I took the girls to the most disgusting, shady, dirty, 90 degree hotel room I’ve ever seen.

The next morning, my mom arrived and took over watching the girls so I could go to the hospital and meet the little guy. We named him Brandon after my friend and fellow worship leader Brandon Hollis. The mother signed the consent and we took him back to our hotel and began the wait for interstate clearance.

Sadly, in Georgia, they have a 10 day revocation period for an adoption consent. On day seven, the mother revoked her consent, and we had to take Brandon back to the social services building and hand him over. Then the long, sad drive home began. The girls were crushed. I was mostly angry. Angry about all the money down the drain. Angry that I’d wasted the only boy name I liked on a kid I wasn’t going to end up raising.

Now we wait and see what’s in store next.

Not the best year, but we certainly learned a lot as a family. Looking forward to turning the page. 2016 is bound to be better!

2013 Christmas Letter

When we last left off, I told you all that I hoped by this letter I’d be talking about a baby. I almost can’t comprehend 2013 as I sit here and try to put it into words. It’s been a wild ride, filled with anxiety, tears, fears, happiness, pain, and immeasurable blessing. So here goes 2013. January. Giving injections to Nicole. That’s how the first several weeks of the year started. Big needles, little needles, boxes and boxes of pills. The whole thing is overwhelming to even think about now that it’s all in the past.

The IVF process started in November 2012 when we began our orientation and started planning. After months of hormones and shots, craziness, and anxiety, on January 18th they finally did Nicole’s egg retrieval for IVF. She was sedated and sent to the operating room where they jabbed a huge needle into her ovaries 43 times. Of those, 22 were mature, 8 fertilized, and 5 made it to day 5. They transferred 2 eggs back on day 5, and 2 of the final 3 made it to freezing on day 6. Then we waited.

So get this. February 14th, Olivia, after a year of nada, tells me she loves me. Just one week later, we find out that we have a baby on the way. Also, a coworker told me I needed to “call Google and get screenshots of our deleted website.” You simply cannot make up this stuff. This is the same coworker that sent me a tersely worded email telling me I needed to “make sure I let her know in advance if she’s going to have a computer virus so she can back up her files.” The same person said the following to me: “I’m a really good artist; my sister is a painter and a sculptor.” Eh? True. Story. I’m an expert at Constitutional law, too – because my sister has a Ph.D.

Oh, did I mention in February we found out we were expecting our little IVF rainbow baby? March was memorable because of the first two sonograms and the visit where we heard the heartbeat for the first time. That pretty much sums it up. If you haven’t experienced that yet, I hope you get to. Oh, and I got to see the Weinermobile with Olivia.

April. Our first anniversary. What a wild ride this has been. Just two years prior I was being verbally abused on a daily basis by a selfish, lazy narcissist while she played all day and expected me to do everything for her. Now, I find myself living with an amazing, loving woman, and doing such activities as rhinestoning dance costumes. I could never have predicted any of this.

May can be summarized with this: On my birthday, I felt the baby kick for the first time. After fighting the urge, we finally gave in and scheduled a gender reveal party. When the pink balloons popped out of the box I’m pretty sure there were a bunch of really happy ladies. In June, what turned out to be the first domino of managers quitting at my company. She gave two weeks of notice then came in for only 6 of the days, in no particular order. This left me with the joy of figuring out her job and transferring my “knowledge” to other people who had no desire to add that to their job description. I am so tired of people leaving and doing it without any consideration. I long for, and will relish the day that our company is ridiculously successful so they can kick themselves for leaving the way they did. I have all your names on a list, and they’re all scratched out.

The only good thing that happened in June was Nicole’s birthday, which we naturally spent at the T-Rex cafe, because everyone knows that’s the best food money can buy. July brought our family vacation – the last before baby Nugget arrived. We decided to do San Diego, mostly because I love San Diego, but also so Olivia could see the “other” SeaWorld. We paid the big bucks so that we could have close encounters with Belugas, penguins, walruses, and other assorted wildlife. Nicole and Olivia even got kisses from the Beluga. I got some beach time and we racked up some Marriott points to boot. I even accidentally tipped a valet $100 and got treated like a celebrity the rest of the week.

In what may be the most shortsighted, stupid act in history, one of my managers quit in July because he got his nose out of joint about this very blog. You know I often say if you’re offended by a post, the shoe probably fits, because I’m not thinking of you… well, clearly the shoe fit and he didn’t like how it felt. In July, I also learned that bouncing back is harder the older you get. After falling while teaching Olivia how to roller skate, the guy came over and asked if I was ok and if I needed help. Naturally, being a guy, I said Heck Yeah I’m OK. Then I tried to get up and realized that I was in fact NOT OK. Sadly he had already skated off so I had to crawl to the edge of the rink under my own power. The 3D ultrasound we got in July was amazing. The first picture was so crystal clear and perfect that Nicole cried. Both of our parents were there along with grandparents and Olivia.

August 5th was a day that will live in infamy. It was the day I sent the final cash payment to my ex from our divorce settlement. I paid it off 3 years early. And now that it’s paid, allow me to tell you something. When a man divorces a woman after finding out she’s running around with other men, getting naked at drunken parties out of state, and generally not being a very good wife, the system is so screwed up he will still end up paying in a divorce. For me it cost $61,000 in cash and a $39,000 Jeep. That’s a ridiculous amount of money when you consider the circumstances. But it’s still a bargain when you consider I don’t have to spend one more second with someone who disrespected me in every way she could think of.

After a horrible SNAFU involving a heart catheter product failing during our clinical trial, I got to spend several days convincing the trial hospital continue the trial and another day or two with our engineer, Alex, cutting apart defective catheters in a clean room and reassembling them. Such is the life of an medical device startup. August was our second attempt at going to a Royal’s game as a family. This time it was above freezing and I insisted we stayed for the whole game. The older I get, the more I appreciate baseball.

September is literally a blur of painting and fixing our rental house that was destroyed for no apparent reason. With a week to go before our baby’s arrival, I decided it was the perfect time to have all of our home’s floors replaced. Nicole was super excited about it.

The beginning of October brought us a couple of false alarms that sent us to the hospital, followed by a scheduled C-section on the 7th. Nugget decided to cause a full week of contractions with absolutely zero dilation. The day of the C-section finally arrived, we went to the hospital early and sent Nicole in for her spinal block. She was a trooper and finally after listening to the assisting physician refer to his resident as “dumbass” four or five times, they invited me into the operating room. They cut her open, started tugging, pushed her back in, tugged some more, climbed on Nicole’s ribs and shoved, and the next thing we knew, a 8lb 2oz baby popped out – COVERED in hair. Nicole and I looked at each other for just a second, wondering if they’d mixed up samples in the lab. But upon closer inspection, it was clear she was 100% ours. Elaina Kay Lucas joined us 10/7/13 at 12:10PM.

The day before Halloween, I packed up a huge suitcase full of literature and product samples (read: disassembled parts), weighing in at 104 pounds. If you fly much, you know this is way overweight and most airlines won’t even take it if you pay extra. I tipped the skycap $100, paid the $75 overweight fee, and included a product brochure on top so TSA wouldn’t shoot me for checking a bag full of circuit boards and wires. I threw a minor fit in my hotel room as I missed Lainey’s first Halloween. Then I got over it and went to sleep, and then it was November.

After starting the company in 2006, we finally launched our first new products in November at the American Dental Association meeting in New Orleans and the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego. Naturally they were one week apart and I had to attend both. The neuro was a SMASH hit with all of the nerds at SFN.

Bad Things – Good People

All my life, I’ve heard this question. It’s used by those that don’t believe in God to justify their disbelief in a good God. Surely if God is all-powerful and all-knowing, then He wouldn’t just wipe out good people with a tornado, right? This is a natural human reaction to suffering, but it’s bastardization of who God really is. God created us in His image, and wants all of us to love Him.

He did not make us robots, because by definition, love can’t be programmed or coerced. What makes it confusing is that He knows everything that will ever happen. So why even bother making Ted Bundy? Christians frequently throw out the “everything happens for a reason” platitude, which isn’t even Biblical, to explain it. Sometimes the reason something happens is that a human being has decided to be an asshole. That’s not a very comforting reason, but it is THE reason. God sent Jesus to die for all of our sins. That includes Ted Bundy. Ted Bundy had free will to choose to follow God or not follow God. The fact that God knew what his choice would be does not mean that Ted didn’t have the choice.

That’s a difficult paradox for us to understand, because in our minds, if God knows in advance, he should just only create people he knows will choose Him. But that’s not love. You’ve gone right back to a scenario where God has simply constructed paradise on Earth. There’s a second aspect to the bad things happening to good people argument. What is a good person? Am I a good person if I follow the 10 commandments, go to church, and pay my taxes? Or am I a sinner just like everyone else on Earth? God doesn’t assign degrees to sin, and when we do, it leads to silly arguments like wondering why bad things happen to good people. A) there are no good people, and B) god doesn’t MAKE bad things happen regardless. Bad things happen for a bunch of reasons.

People are killed by weather because they live where deadly climatic events happen. Nobody’s ever died from a tornado or a hurricane in Arizona. Most bad things that happen in the world are at the hands of other people. Some of those are purposeful, some are accidental. But none are at the hand of God. People die from sickness. Did God make them sick? Does God use sickness as an instructional or disciplinary tool? Or is sickness A) a normal part of life with an imperfect body, or B) a result of crappy decisions like what to eat and what activities to engage in, or C) a 1:1 result of doing something you shouldn’t be doing? People make choices.

For example, we eat garbage and way too much of it. If all you eat is grease, salt, and sugar, you cannot blame God when you have a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. If you shoot drugs or engage in promiscuous sex, you cannot blame God when you get Hep C or HIV. If you do skateboard or BMX tricks, you cannot blame God when you break your neck. People are hurt or killed by other people’s choices.

My unborn but full-term baby was killed in 1998 by a drunk driver. The person driving drunk chose to drive drunk. God didn’t make him drink or drive. He did that himself. Sadly his choice affected others. That’s what happens when there are 6 billion people all making bad choices on a daily basis.

Bad things don’t happen to good people. Bad things happen and there are no good people.