I recently read a book I found to be, frankly, stunning, and felt compared to share it with you.
The China Study is ultimately about an amazing study on the long-term effects that the things we eat have on our bodies and our health. I am, or at least was, no health-food junkie--in fact, far from it--but I ran across this book after following who-knows-how-many links off an interesting Facebook post. And I'm very glad I did.
What I learned is that the diet we have all been told over and over again is good for us is...well...not. Animal-based food products, including meats, dairy, cheeses, and so on, are the plight of the developed world. It's somewhat amazing to me but these foods are killing us. I know that sounds like a radical position and, to be honest, I've always though Vegans were slightly nut-cases, but there is solid and very real evidence--about as indisputable as things like this get--that the Vegans have it right and the rest of us don't. Really, it's just about that simple.
If you have any interest in minimizing your chances of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and a whole host of other all-too-common diseases, you owe it to yourself to read at least the first hundred or so pages of this book. It has changed what I eat; I suspect it will have you looking a little differently at what you eat, too.
Thanks to the graciousness of Mark Myers from Lane Aviation, the wonderful folks at Flight Safety International, and the influence of a good friend with more pull than I will ever have, I was lucky enough to spend yesterday morning in front of a control panel like the one shown here, flying a Gulfstream G200 around Manhattan.
Well, OK, it wasn't a real G2 and we weren't actually in Manhattan, but it was certainly the next-best thing: a multi-million dollar simulator, the same ones G2 pilots train in. And, let me say, it was fantastic!
Here on the fringe of Columbus International Airport, on the East side of Columbus, Flight Safety International has a facility (formerly the site of Paul Tibbets' company Executive Jet Aviation) where they have seven (count 'em, seven) full-size, full-motion executive jet simulators. You can see a few of them in the photo below.
These simulators represent a range of flying hardware including the G2, Cessna Citations, and so on. Each is incredibly and exactly built to look, act, feel and respond just like the real thing. This facility is mostly used to train and keep up to date the 2,000 or so pilots for NetJets, which is also headquartered here in town. One thing I didn't know is that the FAA considers these simulators to be so much like the real thing that pilots (with appropriate prior credentials) can be trained, certified and licensed in one without ever actually flying the real plane. That is great simulation.
The experience, not surprisingly, was quite amazing. I'm not a pilot but I grew up the son and grandson of pilots so I've always had more than a passing interest and spent more than a few of my younger days trying not to puke from motion sickness in a variety of smaller private aircraft. I thought I knew at least a little bit about what to expect.
Mostly, I was wrong.
The simulator--and the real jet, for that matter--has a "glass cockpit," which means there are virtually no real gauges. Everything is presented on a collection of multi-function devices--computer screens--right in front of you.
Like every multi-engine aircraft, the collection of dials and switches and levers and knobs is overwhelming but John Bhim-Rao, the G200 Progam Manager for Flight Safety, who apparently drew the short straw and had to ride along with us, kept enough of the right things adjusted to the right positions to allow Mark and I to "fly" and worry about mostly the basics, which is to say steering, power, flaps, landing gear and, of course, getting the thing back on the ground in one piece.
Our flight departed from LaGuardia on a beautiful sunny day (light cumulus cloud cover, unlimited visibility) and, although it took a moment to figure out that the left pedal makes it turn right when you're on the ground, we took off successfully to the North, and climbed to 2,000 feet while turning left for a nice view of Manhattan out the port side of the cockpit.
But the take-off was a lot more interesting than that. First, of course, was the thrust of those two engines. With the power on, that little jet goes. And, as speed builds, the tires start thumping surprisingly hard on the expansion joints of the runway. Much harder than you feel in a larger commercial jet. When we had reached an appropriate speed, a gentle pull back on the controls and the thing rose easily into a 1000+ feet per minute climb. It was so, well, real, it was uncanny.
Ironically, considering where we were, John then showed us how much like a video game the aircraft actually is...or at least can be. In the center of the instrumentation was a pink V-shaped indicator along with another white one. The white V was our plane, the pink one where we wanted our plane to be. Getting the aircraft to go to the right place--that is, climbing to the correct altitude at the appropriate climb rate and following the correct heading--was as simple as keeping the white V nestled inside the pink one. Want a new heading? Turn a dial on the dashboard to request, say, a left turn to 280 degrees, then just follow the pink V. Amazingly easy to do. At least, with John over your shoulder.
After flying across above the Statue of Liberty, John pointed to the Verranzo-Narrows bridge, South of Manhattan, and said, "let's see how close you can get to that." We banked to the right and started to descend. Mark Myers, in the co-pilot's seat, said, "I'll give you a buck if you can fly under it" and, of course, I took the bet. Even better, we actually made it!
From under the bridge, we climbed back to 2,000 feet and banked left and to the North for our approach back into LaGuardia. As you approach the runway, from many miles back you can see the glide-path indicator, a series of four huge lights right next to the runway. If they're all white, you're too high. All red, too low. Get two red and two white and you will drop neatly back down onto the runway, which is exactly what we did.
After a few high-fives and some quick photos with our mobile phones, Mark then took us back up and around with me playing co-pilot. He was able to earn back his dollar by making it under the bridge too (he did it better than I) and also successfully landing back at LaGuardia.
A great experience I won't soon forget. Thank you to all who made it possible.
For my trip to Orlando for Lotusphere I picked up a copy of this book. As someone who loves racing in the rain, I was intrigued by the title from the time the book first came out.
But when I found out the narrator was a dog, for reasons I can't exactly explain, I worried the name was a come-on--that it was too much to hope somebody had actually written something compelling, thoughtful, about racing--and somehow that kept me from pulling the trigger.
Then, when it became popular with, well, normal people, that pushed me even further away.
That, I can tell you now, was time sqandered. Wasted. Frittered away.
Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the world of the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively. In order to make my point understood without question. I have not words I can rely on because, much to my dismay, my tongue was designed long and flat and loose, and therefore, is a horribly ineffective tool for pushing food around my mouth while chewing, and an even less effective tool for making clever and complicated polysllabic sounds that can be linked together to form sentences. And that's why I'm here now waiting for Denny to come home--he should be here soon--lying on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor in a puddle of my own urine.
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Known around here as the Thrilla in Vanilla, it started, as all such things do, with a bet. Specifically, one of our folks came in and said his brother-in-law, given an hour in which to do it, had failed to eat 50 donut holes in an office contest.
"Fifty? In an hour? That's all?," asked three hearty souls in our office, "That ought to be easy."
And so, the game was on.
The early money was on Laurie whom, it was widely believed, could leverage her amazing metabolism and easily out-eat the rest of the office in spite of her size.
The late money was on John, the biggest and, it should be pointed out, youngest of the bunch who came loaded for bear after spending the night prior researching eating contests on that Fount of all Knowledge, Google.
Each contestant got to choose their weapons. Mike and Laurie went with Krispie Kremes; John, Dunkin Donuts. John and Mike washed theirs down with water, Laurie with milk. John was a dipper, soaking the donuts before consuming, Laurie and Mike were washer-downers.
But, when push came to shove, Mike, the dark horse, was a run-away winner, downing 50 Krispy Kreme donut holes in just 9 minutes, 30 seconds. Laurie was second at 16 minutes and John, well, the kid came in last, downing his final Dunkin Donut (hole) at 23:40.
Afterward, all agreed fifty was a lot but when asked about having a whole hour to eat 75, Mike said, "Well, I could probably start eating again...."
To the winner goes the spoils and he walked off with a cool $100 (pooled from the rest of the office) for his trouble.
OK, people, back to work...
Unfortunately, the batteries are no longer available.
My daughter Sydney, with able help from Cameron, made Christmas cookies last night.
All kinds of Christmas cookies, including those shown here which were sugar cookies with a piece of chocolate poked into the middle.
It's a cookie they've made before so I don't know if it was too much time in the oven, or not enough, or too much heat, or...what, but they came out a bit different than normal this time.
And, yet, with a strikingly familiar look.
Of course, any good cookie needs a good name, so I have named these Airy Olās. A light hello.
But then, to decorate, they--Cameron, really--added chocolate Jimmies to some of the cookies and peppermint sprinkles to others.
I think the photos pretty much speak for themselves in this regard, but I have named them, respectively, Hairy Airy Olās and Sparkling Airy Olās.
Ah, the joy that Christmas brings!
...or Happy Holidays, as is appropriate for your particular belief system....
I've watched this four times in a row and still have my heart in my throat.
The next time you're in a mind-numbing all-day seminar and somebody mentions the term "creative problem-solving" or "thinking outside the box," this is what they are talking about.
Thanks to my Dad (the pilot), who found it...
UPDATE: See the comments below. This may not be real footage (but, damn, it's a good story).
Thanks again to Ned, whom, it seems, needs a little less time on his hands...
Michael Jackson's Thriller finally reaches its full potential as a...rehabilitation tool...?
Thanks to my nephew Ned who, somehow, found this.
You take one black London cab, mix in one or more musicians (and maybe a few of their instruments) and you get, well, impromptu concerts. Dude! What really surprises me is how good all these people sound without amplification and all the tricks.
Thanks to my nephew, Ned, for finding it.
Now, then... that wasn't so bad, was it?
One of my neighbors, Randy, stopped by the other day and complained he was suffering from "Olympic Sleep Deprivation."
I laughed, but I know what he means.
I'm too old (or too used to getting up early) to stay up past midnight every night. I need my beauty sleep. But I need to see who's going to do what in the Olympics, too.
Thank heavens it won't be back for another four (OK, two) years...
In Upper Arlington, Ohio, where I live, Independence Day is a big community event. I blogged about this three years ago when our street (the Devon Road Neighborhood) last entered the UA Fourth of July parade (and won Best in Show).
This year, we were back.
I won't go into all the details here as they are pretty much the same as in my post from 2005 in terms of who is allowed to be a part of the Devon Road Neighborhood (pretty much anybody) and our goals (fun and great memories for our kids), but this year we did a theme centered around Hippies. More specifically, the music from the Broadway musical Hair.
We always build two floats, one for the main show and one for the babies. The babies this year were carried in a VW bus made out of plywood and painted with LOVE, PEACE, HAPPINESS and lots of flowers.
The show float, carrying 8 of the neighborhood ladies in costume and doing dance routines, featured the White House. Why the White House? I dunno. It's a recognizable national symbol and, hey, it's Independence Day. Whatever.
Inside the VW were 25 or so of the smallest kids. It was packed. Surrounding the floats were other groups, each with their own routines. There were 20 or so mid-aged kids (8-12 or so) at the front with a dance routine, followed by another 20-30 mothers and young women (with a harder dance routine)
They, in turn, were followed by the floats (connected in tandem), followed by the Dads and oldest boys who all had hoola-hoops converted into Peace signs with which they did back-and-forth, walk-the-dog, and run-around-in-circles routines that would have made the Shriners proud.
In all, something like 120 neighborhood folks participated, everybody having a great time. Although we ultimately won the "Most Entertaining" prize, the wooden placque was unnecessary. After a week of building, painting, practicing dance routines and, yes, a fair share of neighborly comraderie, the real prize was the fun of getting ready.
Look out 2010...we'll be back!
As much as I sometimes hate to admit it, my family and I have been sucked into American Idol along with a lot of the rest of the country. It's good clean entertainment that all of us, from 7-year-old Cameron on up, can enjoy together.
Last night, if you are lucky enough not to have been bitten by this particular bug, you missed a somewhat amazing performance by David Cook, one of the contestants. Cook is one I didn't particularly like at the beginning of the season but week in and week out he is without question the best of a very good bunch.
Last night was more icing on his cake. Tasked with singing songs from the years in which they were born, Cook chose Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, which I never would have picked for someone who is bascially a rocker.
But his performance? Well...wow. A rather amazing twist on what was already a pretty darned good song (at least in its day). Click on the image above to see it for yourself.
Who knew you could do that with a song like that?
Uncle Jay Explains the News. Have you been to this site yet? No? Then you need to go.
Each week, Uncle Jay does a quick video "explaining" the news so small minds can understand it. That's "small," like in yours and mine. It is so over the top it's hilarious.
I bought a new set of tires the other day and have been driving around ever since loving my car ever so much more than I did with the old ones.
It's not that they're better tires--in truth, they're probably worse...certainly a lot cheaper--but, rather, that they're new. New tires are still really round, so they roll better. They're smoother. The steering wheel turns more easily. They just feel...well...better. I've been spending the week driving around with that smile I get every time I buy new tires but then quickly forget...until I get the next new set.
It's a simple pleasure that has me thinking of other simple pleasures.
Writing code sometimes is that way. This week, I'm writing code that builds reports for a production tracking system. Sounds boring, I know, but really, it's very satisfying. Writing complicated code that works is very satisfying--a strong positive reinforcement for those of us Pavlovianish in our responses.
While writing that code, I've been enjoying some of my favorite tunes on the iPod. That's another simple pleasure, the iPod. It feels good in your hand, looks great to your eyes, sounds terrific.
One of my favorite songs on the iPod, which I've heard a couple times today, is Ray Charles and the Count Basie Orchestra doing Oh, What a Beautiful Morning. It is simply wonderful. Ray Charles is another simple pleasure.
All in all, it's been a good week for me so far (surrounded by all these things that make me happy)...but what about you? What are the simple pleasures you enjoy?
My middle daughter, Sydney, had friends over last Friday night. The weather was cool enough the kids (High Schoolers) could stand to be outside around the fire pit (and away from The Old People). Of course, even outside, they couldn't be away from music, so Syd plugged her iPod into the stereo and turned on the speakers on the patio.
Nothing special in that.
But, sitting in the Living Room, where the stereo is, Sarah and I watched a pretty much endless line of girls (it was only the girls) come in, grab the iPod, pick a new tune, and head back out. About halfway through whatever Girl #1 had picked, Girl #2 would enter, change it, and leave.
Over and over again.
While it's nice to hear what you want to hear, I have to think the rest of the crowd might have liked to have heard the ends of some of those songs and not just the beginnings. But the more I watched this transpire, the more I realized, as much as I love my iPod (I do! I do!), I've had times when I, too, have wanted to pick a specific set of random songs but didn't want to wait until one had finished to pick the next one.
I'm not talking about a Playlist--I have Playlists--I'm talking about just...songs. But there's not really any way to pick a song and say, in essence, "play this one after that one finishes." As soon as you pick one it starts, regardless of what else had been playing, tromping all over the previous selection.
There's no way to stack them up, in other words.
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I keep having these little moments of clarity lately, seeing technologies we take completely for granted but at the same time realizing how not-long ago they were nothing but fantasies.
Maybe I'm just getting old. OK, yes, I am getting old, but maybe you're seeing (at least some of) the same things. For instance, it wasn't all that long ago...
Everybody had a typewriter. Even in 1992 when we started this business, we used a typewriter (yes, driven off our computers but a typewriter nonetheless) to put out all our proposals and other correspondence. Does anybody have typewriters (they use) today?
You had to get Traveler's Checks before you went on a trip. And a pile of cash for walking-around money. Now I just assume there are ATMs everywhere. I never carry much cash. Why bother...even McDonald's has ATMs.
Only cameras took pictures.
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Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but it's not like that's ever stopped me before. Henry and I have been spending a lot of time in a small Northwestern Ohio town over the last several months; usually 3 days at a time. As a result, we've found the places we like best to eat.
I've noticed something here I've not seen elsewhere. Two of our favorite dives, one a diner and the other a bar near the nearby lake, both make their sandwiches upside down. At the diner it's fried bologna sandwiches. With a big chunk of bologna on top of lettuce, tomato, a thick slice of onion, pickles and mayonnaise, it is just about the perfect sandwich.
When I first saw it there, with all the condiments on the bottom, not on the top where god and Dave Thomas intended for them to be, I have to admit I was a little taken aback. But, on the other hand, it was darned good. Even so, I wasn't willing to attribute it to sequence. I thought it was just a great combination of, well, stuff.
But, the next time I was back, in the name of Science, I tried flipping it over so things were in the "right" order. Guess what? It wasn't as good. Not nearly. In the un-flipped order you got a lot more bologna flavor and a lot less of the condiments--especially the onion, which was terrific. It was good but not as good.
Curious, I thought, and logged that somewhere in the back of my head for later review.
So, last night we were at the bar. Wednesdays are dollar cheeseburger nights so we always go and the cheeseburgers are always surprisingly good. As I chomped away once again, I took a closer look and, sure enough, the cheeseburger was upside down, too, with the meat at the top of the pile. And it was darned good, too. Really good.
I hate to think we've all had it wrong all this time but I'm telling you, there's something to this. Give it a try on your next good burger or sandwich and see if you don't agree.
I got tagged on this by Betsy Thiede. Hm. Five things I haven't already blabbered...? How about...
- I've had too many cars. Well, not too many by my reckoning but by the standards of those a bit more, shall we say, conservative on the subject of vehicle ownership, possibly so.
Not including spousal or child vehicles of which there have probably been ten or more, there are at least 23 I can think of off the top of my head. 9 Porsches, 3 Mercedes(es?), 2 BMWs, 2 Fiats, 2 Datsuns (one for just a day!), a Lotus, a Saab, an Audi, a Chevy pickup and a Ford van (both of which vehicles were used to pull other vehicles).
Oh, and a Ralt Formula Atlantic, if you can count pure racing cars, so make that 24. Might be missing one or two but I've never bought one new (OK, yes, for my wife I have) and, other than the trucks, no American cars (except for my wife's cars again).
- I used to be pretty good Saxophone player. Not great, but decent. At one point (this was High School) I owned four Saxophones (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone), a Flute, a Clarinet and could play pretty much any woodwind (Bassoon, anyone?).
I started to take it up again a few years ago and was making good progress until I just stopped finding the time to practice. On the other hand, twice now I've sold off all my horns to pay for racing expenses so I guess that says where my real interests lie.
- I am too poorly-travelled. Not in the US. I've been all over the US but at almost 50 I'm a bit embarrassed to say, other than Canada, I've never been outside the US. We're going to Europe this fall to start solving that particular problem, so there's still some hope.
- The Olympics make me cry. There's something about watching these kids who have pretty much given up any semblance of a normal life in the unwavering pursuit of a mostly useless goal that, well, gets to me when they actually achieve it.
- I have a bit of an artist's eye. I have a love for beautiful things that goes beyond what I think of as the traditional "beautiful things." I love, for instance, a beautiful form. That's "form" as in "piece of paper" or, more in my line of work, "paper-like representation on a computer screen." Yes, I know (GEEK!) but that's how it is. I can't stand working on ugly applications and obsess over things like exactly how much padding each of the cells of a table needs to make it look right (5 pixels, in most cases).
Case in point: After finishing (and posting) this blog entry I have gone back and tweaked it at least half-a-dozen more times to get things to lay out and read the way I want them to.
Sarah and I went to Casino Royale, yesterday and we are both on record as saying this is without question the best James Bond movie ever.
Are you a Bond movie fan? I am, but have to admit I've always kind of wished they were a little less hokey. I thought they were headed the right way with the Pierce Brosnan installments but this one is way better.
There are a few nods to the traditional elements, but usually with a twist. For instance, standing in the bar of the casino after a particularly emotional moment for him (emotions...see?...that's new) he says to the bartender, "Give me a Vodka martini." The bartender says, "Would you like that shaken or stirred." As a devotee, you're ready for the usual, "Shaken, please," line. Instead, he says, "Who the hell cares?" Trivial, I know, but indicative of the whole.
This movie was gritty with action that reminded me more of The Bourne Identity than Thunderball. Daniel Craig is great. Less of a playboy, more of an agent. And, if I may say so, what a body that man has.
Leaving the movie, Sarah, who rarely gets very worked up about movies, kept saying, "That was great! That was great!" We highly recommend it.
Driving into the office this morning, listening to NPR, I heard Scott Simon interview KT Tunstall, a Scottish singer who plays everything herself. That's everything as in percussion, background vocals, guitar, rhythm parts...everything. She is her own accompanist.
And, it's all done in real time, or at least nearly-real time.
Using some kind of pedal-operated looping recording device, she lays track over track over track in a terrific and captivating manner and does it all on the fly. The songs are good anyway and her voice has a growling edge that is quite addicting, but the way she's able to combine all these other sounds together as she's performing is mildly miraculous.
As you can probably tell, I was mesmerized. I sat in my car in the parking lot until the interview was over. You could tell Scott Simon felt the same way. After every song he was effusive and bubbling with enthusiasm from having watched her perform it live.
Anyway, she only has one song available on iTunes yet but her album is about to be released in the US. In the meantime, go to NPR and listen to the tracks. I'm particularly fond of Minature Disasters but they're all great. It's hard to imagine it's just her making all that music.
Or what about this? Men, if you subscribe to the theory, are hunters, while women are gatherers. An example of the difference is in how (on the whole) we shop: When I go for a new pair of pants I park as close as I can to the door nearest the pants-part of the store I plan to get them from, head straight to the pants, find the pair I want, pay, and get out. In and out quick, nobody gets hurt.
I hunt 'em down and drag 'em home.
But when my wife shops, there's a whole lot more gathering going on, including checking out things not at all on the list, like shoes or jackets, looking in other departments or even--gasp!--other stores. Way off the trail but if she doesn't look EVERYWHERE she can't be happy with what she finally decides on. She needs to sample the field, to find what's ripe.
So, I'm wondering, if men are (on the whole) more inclined to be focused on a single objective and women (on the whole) more inclined to choose among many more options, why are twice as many men as women unfaithful to their spouses?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Leaving my house this morning, I stopped for a moment to talk to my neighbor, Ron, who was headed the other direction. Windows down, we said hi then he, with a big grin on his face, said, "I'm living in the Fortress of Solitude this week."
He needn't have uttered another word as I knew exactly what he meant, but he continued anyway: "Diane and Michael are in North Carolina and Peter is off at basketball camp for the week." I thought, "how nice," and was actually quite happy for him.
Wow. A whole week alone.
He said, "my buddy says it's just like being single again, to which I said, 'yeah, except I don't have to go out.'"
What struck me about it were several things. First, Ron thought it was a great thing to have been abandoned for a week or so.
Second, he didn't feel the need to party, or bar-hop, or re-live his youth or, well, compensate for this "hole" in his life with anything else. He was simply looking forward to the quiet, for a little while, in his own house.
Third, that his buddy and I completely understood and, I dare say, agreed. I'm not saying I'm envious but, on the other hand, I'm not exactly saying I'm not a little envious, either. Some quiet time alone sounds pretty good.
But I started wondering, was this a guy thing?
I know that whenever I leave town on business, Sarah (a) has one (or sometimes more) "hen parties," where she invites a lot of female friends over, and (b) spends a lot of time having dinner with neighbor/friends.
And, when the men in our close friends' families travel, more often than not, Sarah feels the need to have the "left-behind" women and children over for dinner at our place.
I'm rather certain that if the kids and I left Sarah alone at home for a week she would either be (a) resentful, (b) having lots of hen parties, (c) eating over at friends' houses every night, or (d), most likely, all of the above.
I, on the other hand, would be a lot more like Ron and look for a good book or a re-run of The Matrix to amuse myself with.
To each his (or her) own, I suppose.
I live at the corner of Tremont and Devon Roads in Upper Arlington, Ohio. It may be an anomaly in these days of video games, iPods, and hundreds of cable channels, but Upper Arlington is pretty fanatical about the 4th of July.
How fanatical, you ask? Well, let's see...
- The city paints permanent red, white and blue stars on the street all the way down the route of the 4th of July parade
- People start putting their chairs out on the parade route a week before the actual event to reserve their spots
- On the morning of the 4th, at about 8AM, cars drive all through town with their horns honking and people yelling through bullhorns telling everybody to "get up!...it's time for the parade!"
- In the afternoon, all over town whole streets get blocked off so neighbors can have block parties
Stuff like that. But maybe most telling are the neighborhood floats. Neighborhoods like ours get together and build floats for the parade. Even though my address is Tremont Road, we are a part of the "Devon Road Neighborhood" which has very strict rules for membership. To be a member, you have to meet at least one of the following criteria:
- You live on Devon Road.
- You have lived on Devon Road
- You live near Devon Road
- You'd like to live on Devon Road
- You know somebody who lives on (or would like to live on) Devon Road
- You're not too particular about the people you associate with and like to have a good time
It helps if you know which end of a hammer is supposed to hit the nail, but that's not, strictly speaking, a requirement for entry.
Building a float, the way we do it, is a big enough endeavor that we only do it every other year. On the off years we go to the parade and say to ourselves, "Man, that thing really needed us!," and start planning for the next year.
You see, the Devon Road entry is not just a float, it's a show...
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OK, I'm venting here. Yesterday afternoon, I took my 12-year old daughter, Sydney, to the Kay Jewelers store near us. I find the place cheesy, but Syd reads their flyers as if they might possibly contain the secret of life or, perhaps, the winning lottery number hidden somewhere in one of the facets of a pin prick-sized diamond chip.
She baby-sits for us and the neighbors, and does other work around our house for money. She's been earning her own money for some time now. We pay for all the things she needs, of course, but she pretty much pays for all the other stuff. I'm very proud of her ability to set a goal for herself and then just go out there and earn the money to get things she wants. I wouldn't always have spent it the way she does but, on the other hand, it's her money and she knows how hard it will be to replace.
So, yesterday, there was a little ring she just had to have. It was ON SALE!!!, part of a CLEARANCE SALE, available FOR ONLY $39.99 which was 60% OFF** ITS TICKETED PRICE ("**Clearance discount off ticketed price. Ticketed prices refer to the original ticketed price of the merchandise and were offering prices that may not have resulted in sales...."). Right. Like they've ever sold one of these things at the $100+ "ticketed price." The chances they have $5 cost in that thing as it sits in the case seem unlikely.
But that's not why I'm venting. This is why I'm venting:
When we went in, the store was empty except for the three LARGE women working there. Smelling blood, two immediately pounced, one from each side, like Hyenas taking down a wounded Zebra. One showed Syd the ring while the other tried to get me to look at something else. OK. Whatever. I'm a big boy. But then they started on the extended warranty.
Not one of them, but both. Tag-teaming her from both sides.
You know what I mean. For only $20 more, she could buy their SPECIAL COVERAGE that would LAST FOREVER and give her FREE repairs, FREE resizing, FREE replacement of any of the tiny worthless chips in the ring she was about to buy and lose within a month.
Literally, from two sides these two large up-until-then-nice middle-aged women put the full-court press on my 12-year old to buy their stupid warranty. Among the group, we'd already talked about the fact Syd had earned the money herself, so it's not like they didn't know whose pocket they were trying to pick.
So, I put a stop to it. I turned to Syd and said, "They're trying to charge you an extra 50% over the cost you expected to come in here and pay, for something you'll probably never use. This doesn't cover loss, so if you lose this ring like you lost the last one you bought, you're out the $40 for the ring plus the $20 they're trying to tack on. Alternatively, you can take your chances and, worst case, do a couple of baby-sitting jobs and buy another one." She said no thanks to the offer and the Hyenas backed off.
Or, so I thought.
The transaction continued because it turns out Kay only stocks one size of ring. What? Your finger isn't the same size as the ring you want to buy? Oh, sorry, that's a service ticket. You'll have to pay to have it resized. I said, You've got to be kidding, and they assured me they weren't.
Quite the contrary, Hyena number 2 was using this as a reason to buy the service package again. After all, changing a ring size could cost $15 and the package was only $20. I said, "Let me get this straight. You carry this inexpensive ring in only one size and then expect to charge us an additional fifteen dollars to make it fit for the initial sale?" She mumbled something about doing it for five dollars and retreated to behind her glass countertop.
Of course, all this has to be written up by hand--the purchase, in quadruplicate with carbon paper (I didn't know they still made carbon paper), the service order, in triplicate with carbon paper--and between each transaction was a trip to the inconveniently-located cash register which Hyena #1 was unable to use without advice from her co-workers.
Eventually, somewhere during the 10 minutes or so it took to get through all the paperwork, Hyena #3, the manager from the look of her, came over and started making small talk with Syd. "You come here a lot, don't you?," with her best want-some-candy-little-girl smile. Syd allowed that, yes, she'd been there twice before. Whatever.
But no more than 3 sentences into the conversation Hyena #3 started right back in on the damned extended warranty. And, as soon as she did, Hyena #1 perked up and came right back into the fight to help tear flesh off the carcass. So here we are again, with two more large (each pushing 200 lbs, I'd say), middle-aged women again bearing down on the kid to pony up her hard-earned money for something she'd already said NO to.
I mean, give me a break. Yes, I understand it's a huge incremental profit and, yes, I understand you personally get a spiff off it, but is this the way you try to encourage people to come back and buy more of the crap you sell? You need to put the big pressure on a kid? Even after she's said no?
On the way home yesterday, Syd and I had a nice talk about extended warranties and holding your ground. She's a smart girl, she understands. And she knows how much money an extra $20 is. But even so, having had most of a day to reflect on it now, I find their behavior all the more appalling.
Ok, call me a Luddite. Whatever. I have been one sitting on the sidelines wondering what, exactly, is the big deal about iPods? Sure, carrying around some music would be nice from time to time but, really, they don't even have radios.
The first twinklings that there might actually be something to this iPod thing came along slowly.
Our two nineteen-year-olds got iPods for graduation from High School last year. They smiled but, hey, at 18 (at the time) and out of school, you don't see them much.
At a number of events in the last year I've noticed more and more of my geek friends carrying and, I'll admit, raving about their iPods. Some, Karen Hobert comes to mind, even going to the trouble to carry around portable speakers.
Yeah, but these are the same people who spend all their time at dinner playing with their super-multi-function cell phones. Another chink in the armor, though.
At Spring Break this year, Sydney, my 12-year-old, used her babysitting money to buy an iPod Mini. Ugly color but, hm, kind of interesting. Especially once I figured out you could download CDs onto it. Really? That's kind of cool.
I have a lot of CDs.
Then, looking through the American Express Member Rewards program recently I noticed I could get an iPod Photo for the points which were, at that moment, burning a hole in my pocket.
It arrived last week sometime and, since then, I've managed to load a ton of songs from a pile of my CDs (and a few I bought off the iTunes web site). It is amazingly easy to do and suddenly it's easy to more or less justify all the money I've plunked down on CDs over the years.
My 451 songs, according to the iTunes client on my laptop, require just a bit less than 2 gigabytes of storage. My iPod has 30 gig. Short of selling my house and moving into a cheap apartment, I can't see how I could possibly afford to fill it up.
What I'm really enjoying, though, is just putting it on shuffle and letting it pick the songs while I work.
I guess the good news is, even though I'm a little slow, I'm trainable.
iPod. Highly recommended.
One night last week, we got together with a group from the office and a few other friends and went shooting. Yeah, shooting, like with guns.
This is not something I know much about. As a kid at camp I shot .22 rifles a few times and in college I took skeet shooting as a gym class one quarter but, other than those two experiences I really have no background in this at all. I had never, for instance, shot a handgun.
But not everyone in our office is so inexperienced.
Chief among the NRA-ready is Steve, my partner, whom, I suspect, could arm a small militia if need be. Far behind him in quantity of firearms but not enthusiasm is Jim, whom Steve tempted into the world of armaments a few years back.
Gone from our staff but still near as a friend is Richard who has gone so far as to get a part-time evening job at a shooting range so he can buy guns at a discount.
I will admit that on more than one occasion I've given all of these guys grief over their love of weapons. So, isn't it ironic that we all had a fun outing at the shooting range last week (they all graciously brought bags of weapons and shared them with Laurie and me, the newbies) and that I had a great time?
He who laughs last, I guess.
Hard to admit, but it was a lot of fun. Also, the shooting range was nothing like I'd expected. My experience with gun stores in the past has been some scary-looking place in the back of a sporting goods store or--even worse--one dedicated only to guns which seemed like a place you'd be as likely to get shot as to buy a gun.
The place we went, the Black Wing Shooting Center is, well, amazing. First of all, it's big: 20,000 square feet. Next, it's clean and nice. It is like a combination of Target and a hunting lodge and everyone there is just happy to be there. It was a huge surprise.
Our group rented out a whole shooting range (6 lanes) and had at it. Over the course of the evening I had the chance to try out more guns than I can name including .22 target pistol, 9mm, .40, and .45 caliber Glocks, a .357 Smith & Wesson (sounded like a cannon going off), and more.
Frankly, I don't know one from the other much (the composite Glocks were easy to distinguish, though) but whatever they were, they were fun to shoot in a nice clean, comfortable and safe environment. Talking to Laurie afterward (she'd never even touched a gun before that night), she was enthusiastic about it, too.
Now I'm scratching my head thinking, hm, maybe I need to think about getting one for sport...?
Thanks to a generous friend, I had the chance to go to St. Louis for the Final Four and Mens' NCAA National Championship basketball games this past weekend. Through a lottery put on by the NCAA, he'd secured two tickets for seats we knew wouldn't be really great but, hey, it's the FINAL FOUR!
Saturday, the night of the Final Four games, we dutifully arrived in plenty of time and had a couple of beers with the crowd surrounding the Edward Jones dome. At the appointed time, we, along with forty-thousand of our closest friends, made our way into and up into the stadium. Up up UP into the stadium.
Our seats, it turns out, were at the opposite end of the stadium from the action. Yes, that IS what the diagram on the ticket package indicated but, well, we'd held out hope the diagram wasn't to scale. We were wrong.
Here's what happened: The game was held in the same stadium used by the Rams; in other words, an indoor football stadium. Imagine a football field running along an North/South axis. At the South end of the field, from, oh, the 10-yard line or so to the line at the back of the End Zone is a basketball court. The basketball court is turned the opposite way from the football field so the baskets are on the East and West ends of the court.
With me? Okay.
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Ok, so maybe I'm the last person on the face of the earth to actually buy a digital camera. So sue me. I can give you about a hundred reasons why I haven't done it in the past but really, it comes down to two things: (1) I want it to take the picture when I push the button; and (2) I want the photo quality to be indistinguishable from film.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I bit the bullet and bought a Nikon D70 and--wow--what a great camera!
Back about a hundred years ago, when I was in High School, I did a lot of photography--to the point I had a darkroom in the basement. Even rolled my own film. That was a lot of fun because everything was so darned cheap. You could shoot two or three or even four rolls of film and hope to get a good shot or two. If you did, you did; if you didn't, no big deal. It was great.
Since then, I've had a few different film cameras (and still my old Nikon FTN Photomic), but when you have to pay somebody to develop every damned photo, well, it kind of loses its appeal.
Well, no more. With a 1 gigabyte memory card I can take nearly 300 six-megapixel photos without stopping. And, I can delete any I don't like at any time I want. It's great...it's just like the old days...but even better. I can even take fancy-schmantzy photos with weird lighting and motion and, well, whatever I want (like the one here; YES, I know it's not exactly in focus: it's supposed to be like that).
Plus, no more scanning to digitize images to email or eBay. Hell, not even any more driving to the store to get prints: I can download them online and have them mailed back. This is a lot more civilized way to do things.
Best of all, from a photography standpoint it's just like using a good film camera. Immediately shoots when you press the button. Zoom by turning the lens rather than pressing the button and waiting. Interchangeable lenses. It's really pretty cool. Makes photography fun again.
Yes, I know you've known about digital cameras forever, but it's new to me (and I'm loving it!).
Glorious, really, in the early-morning sun, the toilet paper wafting gently in the breeze, it was such a comprehensive toilet-papering job I couldn't help but think that here—right here in little old Upper Arlington, Ohio—we have among us a budding young Jeanne-Claude Christo.
It was such a great job there was really little to do other than marvel at its completeness and think, man am I glad it wasn't my house!
I stole this from Ned Batchelder's blog, but had to share it.
Guilford College vs Randolph-Macon.
0.6 seconds on the clock.
Missed foul shot.
87-foot Hail Mary heave (the court is 90).
On this Valentine's Day, what more fitting than a lover's tribute? My apologies to those on my e-mail list of jokes who've already seen this (and thanks to my father for sending it), but I get a chuckle every time I read it. Hopefully you will, too.
And now, without further ado...
the Redneck Valentine's Day Poem:
Collards is green, my dog's name is Blue
and I'm so lucky to have a sweet thang like you.
Yore hair is like cornsilk a-flapping in the breeze.
Softer than Blue's and without all them fleas.
You move like the bass, which excite me in May.
You ain't got no scales but I luv you anyway.
Yo're as satisfy'n as okry jist a-fry'n in the pan.
Yo're as fragrant as "snuff" right out of the can.
You have some'a yore teeth, for which I am proud;
I hold my head high when we're in a crowd.
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You, like me, probably have a few people who were important in your life but with whom you've lost touch over the years. Well, I heard from one of mine this morning.
Her name is Cindy, and we met, oh, I suppose it was between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I was working for my Dad's company at our Columbus location (a 70-mile commute each morning and afternoon) and she was the receptionist.
It didn't take a whole lot to figure out this was somebody I wanted like to date. She was pretty, blond, vivacious, fully-equipped, and had a nicely off-color sense of humor. I was smitten. A week or so of flirting later we agreed to, as I recall, dinner. One thing led to another and we dated on and off for half-a-dozen years, I suppose.
We always had great times together but somehow never managed to live in the same city. Because of that, it was always one of those a-weekend-every-now-and-then relationships; but one I've always cherished.
Anyway, this morning, there in my in-box was her e-mail. She'd found me through a Google search which turned up our web site, which had my photo, which verified it for her. The thing is, what she saw was our old web site...the photo isn't on our current site anymore but I haven't blocked the old one from working, just in case. I guess it paid off this time.
The last time we'd talked was when she stopped into my office to say hi on her way through town. That was 20 years ago, I'd guess. Since then, I've often wondered what happened to her; where she went; how she was doing. So, how nice, this morning, to get, as her subject line read, a blast from the past.
It made my day.
Now, if I could just find Dave Thomas and Reg Bourgeois and get them off my missing-in-action list and onto the close-old-friends-I-rarely-see list.
One at a time, I guess.
I recently crossed one of life's little thresholds: I'm now a bifocal-wearer. Doesn't that sound awful? Bifocal. The name alone reeks of grandmothers with Kleenex up their sleeves; of closets that smell like moth balls; of driving while looking under the steering wheel.
Bifocals sounds old. But I don't feel old; so there must be something wrong here.
If you're just coming back from several decades of suspended animation you may be unaware that all bifocals don't look like Joe Paterno's; they aren't all 1/4"-inch thick with a hard horizontal line separating correction from CORRECTION.
No, today there are lots of no-line options. That's what I've got and, after a few weeks of using them, I have to say they're really quite OK. I don't mind them a bit and it really is a hell of a lot easier to read, particularly in low light.
They look the same as my old glasses (my wife couldn't tell), they let me see better both in the distance and up close, they're really pretty easy to live with. I really like 'em, except the name.
The name Has Got To Go.
Born in 1957, I'm squarely in the middle of the Baby-Boomers. OK, a little more toward the end than the beginning. WHATever. We, as a group, do not seem to be aging well. Not because our health isn't here--it is--but because we pretty much refuse to get old. Or at least to acknowledge getting old.
Bifocals are for old people. Like the nice lady in Exhibit #1, above.
But, see, I'm not interested in the nice lady in Exhibit #1. While I'd be happy to have her as my grandmother, I don't want to wake up next to her. The catch is, the woman I do wake up next to is starting to talk about getting bifocals her next time around, too.
Well, that's a problem. Bifocals are for old people. I don't want to sleep with an Old Lady in bifocals. I want to sleep with a chick. A babe. Somebody who's hot. Somebody more like the woman in Exhibit #2, the not-so-grandma.
My wife is pretty hot. She's pretty much a babe. Give or take, like Exhibit #2. A little older; a few more character lines; a bit more worldly. She'll do nicely, but this bifocal thing...well...there's a disconnect, as we like to say in corporate settings.
The problem isn't the technology, it's the terminology. So here's the billion-dollar idea:
It's time to change the name. Although I'm getting used to it now, saying, "I'm wearing bifocals," the first few days after my plunge was about as easy as standing up before the Rotary Club and announcing I was wearing silk panties and a cute little bra under my suit. It was a little too telling. It was a public admission of getting old, at least to me.
I'm a boomer. We don't get old.
And although, as I said, I'm getting used to saying bifocal now, when it really matters is when you first have to buy them. I didn't even want other people in the store to hear it said. I could imagine them looking at me with that, Funny, he doesn't look that old..., look.
What we need is a name with positive connotations. A name that emphasizes the good aspects of bifocals. A name that seems appropriate for the babe in Exhibit #2. And here's the good news: I have the name. I've worked it out.
She's not wearing bifocals, she's wearing DualVision Polycarbonates. For the Active lifestyle.
I can see the advertising already. It would feature the same poor put-upon couples currently working their way through Erectile Dysfunction on our TVs. You know the ones: Beautiful, sexy, 40ish women with their good-looking ex-jock husbands who can't quite get it up anymore? Well, guess what? Neither of them can read the dosage on the Viagra bottle. Now they've got a problem.
Enter the also-hot, also-40ish neighbor wearing her DualVision Polycarbonates to save the day. Heck, it might even hint at the possible threesome that they're contem...well, you get the idea.
Take the same products that are out there today and re-brand 'em to appeal to We, The Boomers. You can make a fortune. Really.
All I ask is a small percentage of the profit for giving you the idea.
I'll be watching the mail for my first royalty check.
God bless Ronald Reagan.
Difficult words, these, from an atheist, yet like much of America, I suppose, over the last two days I have spent an inordinate amount of time watching coverage of and reading about the life of Ronald Reagan.
I find myself in awe.
I sat here in my hotel room in Las Vegas last night with teary eyes as I watched three or so hours of A&E's coverage of Reagan's life and, more importantly, his presidency. Then again the tears today as I read USA Today's coverage. This, from one who is seldom teary-eyed at anything.
It rekindled for me memories of how great and yet humble a leader he truly was. His passion along with his compassion was exceeded only by his vision of what was right for the United States and, in turn, the world.
Through some of the toughest times our country has seen since World War II, he made us believe we could make a difference, that we could change the world, and damned if he wasn't right. I remember time after time watching him on TV, enthralled by his words. Yes, he was an actor somewhere in there, and certainly that must have helped, but there was more to it. There was what seemed to be genuine human kindness clutched within the iron fist inside the velvet glove.
His words were his strongest weapons and he used them well. A few of my favorite quotes:
--following the space shuttle Challenger disaster, January 28, 1996
"The glistening hope of that lamp is still ours. Every promise, every opporutnity is still golden in this land. And through that golden door our children can walk into tomorrow with the knowledge that no one can be denied the promise that is America.
"Her heart is full, her torch is still golden, her future bright. She has arms big enough to comfort and strong enough to support, for the strength in her arms is the strength of the people. She will carry on in the '80's unafraid, unashamed and unsurpassed.
"In this springtime of hope, some lights seem eternal; America's is."
--GOP convention, August 23, 1984
- January 26, 1983
-- Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)
He gave us hope and clear-minded leadership at a time when both were hard to find.
May he rest in peace.
It's funny how things clump together. I realized the other day that since my last haircut I've been in both Florida and Alaska, and spent a couple of days on a racetrack for good measure.
Granted, I could use a little off the sides at this point.
What's weird, though, is how things like this seem to come in groups. I'll go for a few months at a time when I don't do much of anything except work and then all of a sudden I'm travelling.
As it turns out, some of this was work (Alaska) and some of it was play (Florida and Mid-Ohio), but all of it in a compressed timeframe. While the racing was the most fun, Alaska was the most interesting.
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What got me started on this was the recent coverage of the 11-year-old girl who was abducted and then murdered by, well, by whoever it was. The photo here is from that abduction. What's striking to me is this is the image of a man leading a girl away to her death, but the girl is apparently not fighting him. Or, at least not fighting much.
That got me thinking.
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Yeah, I know, everybody gets free trade magazines but those don't count. They're no fun to read. Nope, it turns out there's a company out there who just sends magazines. For your lobby. For your visitors. For free.
We don't have a lobby. Not that you'd recognize, anyway. And, we almost never have visitors. But we still get the magazines.
Ah, the magazines.
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An example? You want an example? OK, try this:
The database underlying this blog is one that's been worked on by a lot of very smart folks and made generously available for free (contributions accepted). OK, there's not a lot of documentation but, hey, it works great. You fiddle with the CSS settings for a while to get it to look how you want it to look and then just start typing. Miraculously, things fall into place and you really look like you know what you're doing.
Quite impressive, really.
And blogs, really, are about the ideas more than the look. Aren't they? Shouldn't it be enough to just have a place to type in your ideas and have them shared effectively with others? Shouldn't it really not matter how the input page looks as long as the result looks good?
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So I have.
Last night was the Super Bowl and I realized how seldom in the last howevermany years I've seen it other than at the Lotusphere opening party. It was nice, actually, to watch the game at home for a change. Nicer still that it actually WAS a game for a change, instead of the usual rout. The disappointing part? The ads.
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