Sunday, December 31, 2006

Five Important Things In Any Partnership

Five years ago I attended a meeting with Bishop T.D. Jakes. I found him to be incredibly motivating, and after he addressed our group I literally wanted to take up a sword and fight the good fight.

Part of what he talked about was directly related to a new partnership we were forming between his ministry and our company. Here is a paraphrased outline of what he said:

Here are five things that are very important in any partnership or union. There are others, but these are five that I wish to focus on today.

1. You can not be alike - it is better when we are different. Seek partners with unique or complimentary skills, knowledge and abilities. Before your partnership begins, clearly state your observations and thoughts in this area, and seek your potential partner's input as well. Make sure you are both understanding and appreciative of what each has to offer.

2. Together craft your significant message, brand, product and statement. What are you about by yourself? What are you about together? What are you seeking that brings you to this partnership, and what will be your joint-message?

3. Manufacture that message. Be fruitful. Once you decide on the message, brand, product and statement do it- quickly and aggressively. Be active, create, produce. It will not be perfect, but it is productive. Then meet together constantly to assess success and make adjustments and changes just as quick.

4. Market it. Tell it, show it, express and transfer your passion. If it does not move you, it won't move them- your customer, user, supplier, whomever. Don't be tentative in this area, you need tenacity, guts, and to lose your fear.

5. Motivation. Motivate yourself and your partner to convey it. Let yourself be motivated by your partner. Catch on fire, get excited, break your records, set goals and beat them. Go beyond who you were. Do not measure yourself against others. Push yourself to the limit. Go beyond limitations. Don't look to others to motivate you.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

What Is My Hobby Today?

About this time a couple years ago I was browsing the internet and found an interesting article about woodworking. Since I am a somewhat obsessive person (I like to find new things to read, do, create and then dive in, not surfacing for air for weeks on end), and I had an opening for something new, I decided right then to take it up. I read a few more articles, jumped in my truck, and headed for Home Depot.

To be honest, this, like most other things I decided to take up, was prompted by something that happened to me. A week or so prior I had my mower taken in for service. The driver that came to pick it up asked me for some scrap wood so he could rig a simple ramp for the mower.

Scrap wood? Why exactly would I have scrap wood lying around? The driver seemed astonished, and the look he gave me when I said I had none communicated “pardon me, I thought you were a man. Men have scrap wood. Its as simple as that.”

So, the only way to have scrap wood is to build something, and have leftover wood that is collected and saved for just such occasions.

I walked into Home Depot and told the first employee I saw what I wanted to do. He escorted me to the tool section, and I left shortly after with a table saw, jig saw, sander, planer, chisels, a Woodworking for Dummies book, and other assorted tools. Wow, I thought, this was expensive. I only forgot one thing. Wood.

I found a cool looking piece of furniture in the Sundance Catalog that was $299, and looked simple enough to build. It was a two-piece pine storage unit with bins that looked like old chicken coops. I studied the picture, drew out a plan, and commenced building. It turned out pretty good, and now sits in our guest bathroom faithfully holding extra toilet paper rolls and other assorted items. And including the wood and tools, only cost me $600 to make!

This week I built my first picture frame (I would give myself a D+ on it), and also a stand for our laser printer (B-). Next up, a replacement doll house for the girls (the one Santa gave them a couple years ago has collapsed. Elves nowadays need Woodworking for Dummies too), a cat condo and a crèche (Michelle asked for this one- its some sort of a backdrop for her nativity characters).

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Friday, December 29, 2006

How To Own Two Houses And Still Be Homeless

My sister-in-law just closed on her first new house last week. She is thrilled to be a home-owner for the first time, and looking forward to leaving the apartment she has been renting for the last few years.

Just the mention of someone closing on a new house gives me chills for two reasons. The first, especially if its someone I know, is because a house closing will almost certainly result in a moving day. See my post from Thanksgiving about the top 10 things I am thankful for in 2006. Number 5 will be blown to smithereens about this time tomorrow. The second reason? Read on…

When Michelle and I closed on the house we live in now, we were so amazed and thankful. We had been on a three year journey to find the right home, having outgrown our current place and its 3 bedrooms. With the birth of R, there were six of us, and we were getting cramped. We didn’t know if we wanted to build a new home, or buy an existing one. I didn’t care, as long as we had at least 10 acres. I had no time to think mowing the 1/3 acre yard we had. Our realtor faithfully drove us around every weekend for months on end to all parts of Williamson County looking for the right house or plot of land. It finally happened in March of 2003. We found the perfect place.

We closed on the new house on Friday May 9th, 2003, and we were so excited we could barely sleep. Part of the insomnia for me was the fact that we had not sold our current home, and so several double-mortgage months lay ahead.

On Saturday May 10th, Michelle and I had watched the news about an approaching storm system that promised to deliver extreme wind and rain, and knew a night of scared little girls lay ahead. We finally got to sleep after midnight and several loud thunder claps that resulted in multiple visits by our girls asking to sleep with us.

A few hours later, about 3AM on Mothers day 2003, the phone rang. It was my friend Jeff, and he was yelling something at me. After a second or two I became somewhat lucid, and I heard him say that there was a tornado coming straight at our house. I thanked him, hung up, and woke up Michelle. We grabbed the girls, who promptly started crying, and headed downstairs to our “tornado room”, which really was nothing more than a small coat closet with a cinderblock wall on one side, and the stairway above. Somehow naming it our “tornado room” made it feel safer than if we were only hiding in a "coat closet." As we headed downstairs the house started getting pelted by large hail. Not a good sign.

After a few minutes, the wind picked up to a deafening roar, and then just as quickly subsided. We were safe, and I ventured out to make sure all was well. We lost a few roof tiles, and there was light debris in our yard, but nothing remarkable. We all sat together in our living room as I turned on the news.

The always faithful and perky Lisa Patton from Channel 2 News was hard at work keeping everyone up to speed on the twister outbreak. She got right to business, and we interpreted the following from her report:

The Good News
Our house was spared, and the tornado bearing down on us had passed.

The Bad News
The F1 tornado that skipped over our house went on to cause severe damage at several neighborhoods down the road.

The Really, Really Bad News
A new F3 tornado had been spotted in Leipers Fork, touching down several times and destroying some homes and other buildings.

Coincidentally, our brand new house we just closed on happened to be in Leipers Fork, and on the very road the tornado struck. We all went back to bed, but obviously didn’t sleep well. I dreamt of paying two mortgages and being homeless at the same time.

The next morning we skipped church and headed out to check on our new home. When we got to our road, it was blockaded by the police. We told the officer our house was on this road, he asked for our address. He checked a clipboard, and said that our house was in the damage zone, but he didn’t know any more information, couldn’t help us, and couldn’t let us pass through. Have a nice day.

I turned around and took a back road to get at our house from another direction. There were downed trees everywhere, but we were able to pop out further down on our road, just 2500 feet or so from the house. We drove towards our house, dodging tree branches and other various pieces of debris lying in the road, and made it to our driveway. There sat our house, undamaged, and looking as nice as the day we bought it.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Looking Up At President Ford

I heard about President Ford passing away early Wednesday morning, and I recalled meeting him many years ago as a child. He was visiting Hawaii and my mother took my sister and me to the airfield in hopes of catching a glimpse of him as he deplaned.

My mother has always taken us to witness big events like rallies, dedications, inaugurations and parades. We saw the children arrive in Hawaii after they were evacuated from Vietnam, and we even went to Andrews Air Force Base to see the Iranian hostages arrive after they were freed.

On the day I met President Ford it was a bright and beautiful day. We saw him get off the plane, wave, and then walk straight towards the crowd of well-wishers. As the crowd tightened, I slipped down, under and around anyone I could, and popped up right in front of the President. He looked down, smiled, and shook my hand. I knew nothing of politics, Watergate, or any of the turmoil Americans had endured the few years before that moment. All I knew was that I got to shake the hand of the President of the United States. Cool.

To top off the experience, a local TV news reporter saw me shake his hand and came up to interview me. I have no recollection of what I said, but it must have been expectedly inane blabbering from an eight year old little boy, because I do remember it lasting only a couple seconds.

I told my girls about the experience while we were all in the car yesterday and noticed the flags at half-staff. They asked me how long ago that was, and I responded twenty years. I quickly corrected myself and said that it was actually more than thirty years ago. I then spent the next several minutes pondering, yet again, at the speed life flies by. Thirty years. I am getting old. Life is fleeting. What really matters? Does my job, or lack of one, matter? Does my house? My money? It will all be gone. Every single material thing, every single thing I am seeing right now as I drive by will be gone with time.

What really lasts? Find that, and put your time and efforts there.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sergeant Pruitt And The Slingshot

I know it’s now two days after Christmas, and the whole Christmas-memories thing is over for the year, but I just remembered this one as I was pouring my morning coffee and looking out the kitchen window.

Our family moved from Hickam Air Force Base in Oahu Hawaii to Ft. Meade Maryland in 1976 when I was ten years old. We moved to a remote area of the Army base, on the edge of a large forest with multiple hiking paths and dense forests. There was an old small quarry nearby- well, more of a series of abandoned heaps of gravel and stone in a pit, and it was a favorite hang-out for the local kids, especially for breaking bottles and shooting cans with BB guns, rocks, and the holy grail for ten year old boys- the Wrist Rocket.

I wanted one bad. It’s a black wire-frame sling-shot with rubber straps and a leather cradle for the ammunition, all resting on a hard rubber base that sits over the wrist, providing incredible tension when pulling back the straps for a shot. The velocity that can be achieved is amazing. They were the new status symbol for sixth graders- the Tiger hand-held electronic football game had not yet been invented.

I begged for one for Christmas- it was certainly #1 on my massive wish-list, and I verbally reinforced that top pick on a regular basis with my parents. “Puhleese?” My dad was uncertain- he was worried I would kill someone with it, while my mom was much more understanding.

I got the Wrist Rocket that Christmas morning, and later that day, headed out with it protruding casually out of my back pocket like it had been there my whole life and I wasn’t just showing off my Christmas present. I hit the gravel pit with a couple bottles in my hand, and found a few other kids to hang with. I had a blast. One of the kids mentioned that if you got the special ammunition made for the Wrist Rocket (they looked like enlarged BBs but with flattened sides for your thumb and forefinger to rest against when pulling back the cradle for the shot), and hit a big rock or the paved road a huge shower of sparks would erupt. My purpose in life was set.

I got hold of a handful of these, and decided to test the shower of sparks theory. My parents were out of the house for the day and I was alone with my younger sister. I had an idea- I could go upstairs and shoot down at the road, maximizing the resulting spark shower. I don’t know if that makes much sense, but it sure did when I was ten years old.

I went upstairs, lifted the shades of my bedroom window, opened the window, and took aim at the road that ran between our strip of military row-houses and our neighbors across the street. Yes, you probably know what happens next.

I placed the steel ball in the cradle, pulled back as hard as I could, and let loose a power-shot right at the middle of the street.

I was confused for a second. The shower of sparks did materialize, but my friend did not tell me about the amazing shattering sound that accompanied them. It was wonderful to behold. It all happened in a split-second.

I caught movement beyond the strike-zone, and looked up to see the final pieces of a large window dangling and falling to the ground. There, in its place, was Sgt. Pruitt, holding his newspaper, sitting at the kitchen table, and looking up at me with shock and horror on his face. I looked at him. He looked at me. And then I realized the sudden disintegration of the window was a result of my ricocheting bullet. Fear shot through me as fast as that bullet. I did the only thing I could do: Duck down, crawl out of my room on my belly, and hope somehow that Sgt. Pruitt didn’t really see me. No such luck.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Dinner Guest

We had Christmas dinner yesterday about 4PM, and while my sister and her husband (along with my young nephew) couldn’t make it due to some sort of stomach virus going around, we did have an honored guest- my great uncle Raymond, along with my mom and dad, and my wife's sister, Jackie.

After dinner, and what will surely be a new tradition of watching “Elf”, I got the chance to sit with Raymond and ask him a few questions. He is a very private person- the sort that rarely talk about themselves. When they do, its only because you corner them, ask direct questions, and give them no escape route.

Raymond is about 85 years old, and spent most of his life on the sea. He was a US Merchant Marine until about 20 years ago, and was 19 years old when aboard a ship traveling from the US East Coast to England when he and his shipmates got word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the German declaration of war the following day.

He spent his wartime years aboard Liberty Ships- massive cargo ships that the US was building at a rate of one per day during the war and using to supply our forces as well as those of our allies throughout the world. They traveled about 10 knots per hour, zig-zagging wherever they went in their only meager defense against enemy submarines.

Raymond told of the regular route his convoys took to avoid Nazi U-boats, leaving the Gulf of Mexico, rounding Florida and keeping close the North American coast all the way to Greenland, then East to Great Britain. The entire trip would last 10-15 days. He said the seas were so rough in the extreme North Atlantic that the convoys would sway up and down on the huge waves, sometimes gaining or losing 30 to 50 feet or more with each wave, making it hard for German torpedoes to hit them. It also made it hard to keep down food.

I asked him if he was scared back then, a young kid spending each day in the engine room deep below the ships surface, knowing an attack by a torpedo or a fighter plane could happen at any minute. He thought about it for a second and said “No. I was only 19 and felt invincible. Everyone was risking their lives, and you just didn’t think about those things much. You had a job to do.”

He recounted a couple convoy trips in particular. One to Murmansk in the Soviet Union to deliver supplies to the embattled Soviet Army. After putting into port and unloading, the crew had about 10 days to see the sights. He said there were only two buildings worth going to- one was the cinder block hotel and diner, the other the local watering hole. More accurately, the vodka drinking room. Everything else was boarded-up, shuttered or frozen. He also said the only people he saw in Murmansk were old people and women, and no one messed with any of the Murmansk women since they were about the same size and shape as the US Merchant Marine seaman.

Another convoy he mentioned went terribly wrong. The group of ships just ahead of Raymond's were attacked by a group of German subs, and several ships were sunk. Raymond watched as many men were killed by torpedo blasts or drowned quickly in the freezing North Atlantic sea.

I learned this morning, while researching the US Merchant Marines a bit, that their wartime record shows losses were among the highest of any group in the front lines during World War II. They died at a rate of 1 in 24, perishing on troubled waters and off enemy shores.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

This Is Obviously...

...a quick post only done to fulfill the commitment I made to myself to post every single day.

I am fudging a bit...this is being done on the 24th, but I am setting the post date for the 25th to make myself feel better, to soothe my obsession for order and symmetry, and so I don't have to fool with this again until Tuesday.

Merry Christmas.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Foretelling

These words were written by Isaiah almost 750 years before the birth of Christ:

Isaiah 1
18 "Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

Isaiah 7
10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights."
12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test."
13 Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 9
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

Isaiah 42
The Servant of the Lord
1 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him
and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
4 he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his law the islands will put their hope."
5 This is what God the LORD says—
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
6 "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 53
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Write This Expression In Point-Intercept Form

This morning I got up and thanks to some quick thinking on my part, using the point-intercept form of the lines represented by my kitchen table legs and table-top, I quickly calculated the slope of the surface options I had to set down my full cup of coffee.

I really needed the coffee this morning, and did not want to risk losing it to the floor.

With my Blackberry in my free hand, and using only my right thumb while cradling the device in my palm, I quickly worked through the problem:

y = m(x) + b, where m is the slope and b is the y-intercept. Slope-intercept is the form used most often as the simplified equation of a line. See also Point-slope, standard form, two intercept, vertical line and horizontal line definitions.

Let’s see… the table is about 40 inches high, so the y intercept would be 40, while the x-intercept would also be 40 (where the x line is the table leg, and y was the table surface). Therefore, I can assume one of the the points on the graph would be (40,40). So I can write the expression in this way:


Ok, so then I subtract 40 from the right hand of the equation, and also from the left, leaving:


Almost there. So, anything multiplied by 0 equals 0, so that means that m must equal 0. And finally, if m, representing the slope, was 0, then the surface of the table had no slope and my coffee cup was safe. If, however, I place my coffee cup on the surface of the table leg, with a slope of “undefined” I would have problems.

Awesome! I have finally figured out how to make algebra a part of my daily life.

I knew in high school, even middle school, that I would not be an architect, scientist, astronaut, pilot, financial planner, or even an algebra teacher. I fought all the way through school asking why I needed to know this stuff. The answers, and yes, there are at least 3x of them, are now evident to me:

1. You must learn algebra to prove to the right-brain academicians that you are not just a feel-good, mushy, artsy type. Or a jock.

2. You must learn algebra because it teaches you critical thinking patterns that helps you in all areas of life (this one is expressly for my daughter Ks benefit. She reads my blog, and I don’t want her throwing this stuff back at me and asking me irritating questions like “so why do I have to learn algebra anyway?”).

3. You must learn algebra because your thirteen year old daughter will ask for help studying for her final exam right before Christmas break.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I've Been Tagged

I was tagged yesterday. I had absolutely no idea what it meant, so I headed immediately to Google.

Turns out it’s a game of online tag where one blogger tags five others, and each of those have to post five things about themselves that most readers would not know.

In return, those five tag five others, and curse them with the burden of having to think through what to post. The challenge is obvious: 5 things people don't know + you don't mind them finding out. Hard.

By the way, here is the link to the post that explained Blog Tag:

So here are my five things:

  1. I worked two summers in a rodeo at River Valley Ranch in Millers, MD. This included scooping up stuff from the ground, saddling horses, cinching bulls, and a very brief stint (like 15 seconds) as a rodeo clown.
  2. I am writing on online novel at a secret location. It’s not very good.
  3. My first car was a 1974 Chevy Nova that didn’t have a powerful engine, constantly overheated and broke down, and had a bad paint job. But I thought it was cool when I was 17.
  4. I have an uncanny ability to hit moving targets at a great distance with snowballs. My favorite part of the movie “Elf” is when Will Farrell nails the mean kid with a snowball one last time as he is running away. When I saw that scene I could totally relate.
  5. I deep down inside, way down there somewhere, like Barry Manilow music. Ouch. That one hurt.

OK, so here are the five folks I am tagging:

My friend and former co-laborer, FMF at FreeMoneyFinance
My other friend and former co-laborer The Eccentric Blonde
Liza's Eyeview
Tom at SMS100
Meg from Maine-ly Megan

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

We Hurt The Ones We Love

In a previous post, I briefly mentioned a duck that I killed. I thought it would be interesting to explore that a bit more. By nature I am not a hunter/killer, and in fact have only been hunting once in my life. I don’t imagine I’ll ever do it again.

A friend of mine, Troy, invited me to join a group of gents I know to go dove hunting. They had received permission to hunt on Gary and Amy Grant’s Franklin farm northwest of Franklin, TN. I remember being extremely envious of the vast tract of land they owned, 1/3 of which was surrounded by the wide and gently flowing Harpeth River.

After we got to the farm, Greg, another friend, drove his truck around dropping off hunters in 1s and 2s at various spots around the property. I had borrowed his shotgun for the day since I didn’t own one. Greg picked out a nice spot for me along a line of soaring trees and a stones throw from the river. I was given a quick tour of the gun, a refresher on how not to get killed by myself or another hunter, and a briefing on what a dove looked like. Yikes.

I jumped out of the truck, took my spot, and watched them drive a short distance away to drop off Grant, another friend. I got comfortable, loaded my gun, and wondered why the heck I was out there. If I did bag a dove, I wasn’t about to clean it, and I can tell you for darn sure, Michelle certainly wasn’t going to cook it.

On several occasions I spotted what might be a dove, and half-heartedly took a few shots, but didn’t hit anything other than tree tops. After a few hours, the group decided the dove count was too low in this area and we decided to head to another farm that Greg had lined up as a back-up just in case this happened.

We got to the new farm, and stood in the middle of the field in small groups of 3s and 4s. The doves were flying. Over the next couple of hours the group bagged dozens and dozens of birds. I got a few too. I remember one in particular.

Dove’s are small and delicate birds. If hit with a chunk of buckshot they almost always succumb to it instantly, and fall to the ground with a slight thud. Once in a while, the job is not done. That happened to me. The dove fell to the ground and started fluttering, and wouldn’t stop. I asked Troy what to do, and he told me to pick it up and twist it’s little head off like a 2-litre bottle top. Nope. Wasn’t gonna do it.

Instead, I decided to put it out of its misery with the gun. I don’t think I truly understood the power of a shotgun at close range until after I pulled the trigger. I did put it out of its misery- all that was left was feather vapor and a six inch hole in the ground, eliciting much laughter from the group. That was it for me- I was done. I handed over my six doves to Troy for him and his family to enjoy, and spent the next hour or so just watching the others.

Oops. I forgot this was supposed to be about the duck I killed. Well, I can get that one out much more quickly. I was about 2 years-old and my mother brought home a baby duck she had rescued from a local farm. As my mother tells it, the baby duck was rescued from being bitten, pecked and harangued by its siblings.

The previous Christmas I had been given a little duck shaped tricycle, kind of like a big-wheel, but it was white and in the shape of a duck. When ridden it would make quacking sounds. Evidently I was a big duck fan, what with my duck-mobile and Donald Duck toys.

My mother thought I would be thrilled to have a real live duck as a pet, and so was presented with the little guy that I appropriately named “Duck.” As I would travel to and fro in my duck-mobile, Duck would be right behind me, waddling as quickly as he could to keep up. My mother thinks Duck became attached to the toy and though of it as his mother.

One day, while I was out in front of the house with Duck, my mother noticed the familiar sound of my duck (the riding one) had ceased. She was used to hearing it constantly, and the silence was an alarm of sorts that I was up to no good. When she went outside to check my status (was I eating a poison berry? Eating ants? Eating dirt?) she saw me squatting down next to Duck, who was laying lifeless on the sidewalk.

“C’mon duck. Go duck. C’mon duck.” Were the words she heard me saying as I poked at Duck to get him moving again. I had run over Duck and ended his short little life. What really pains me now thinking about it is not that I was the one that killed Duck, whom I loved dearly, it's that Duck must have been horrified to think his mom took him out.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dinner On The Run: Coyote Food

We live in Leipers Fork TN, a small unincorporated village just to the west of Franklin, TN, which is itself about 15 miles or so south of Nashville. We love the area- its real country with rolling wooded and pastured hills, forests, and many creeks and rivers, along with an abundance of wildlife.

We often hear coyotes in the distance howling at the moon, at each other, or whatever is getting them agitated. Sometimes they trade barbs with a gang of dogs that live about a mile down the road at a dog breeder’s home.

One night about 8pm we heard some particularly loud howling and barking, particularly close. I grabbed a flashlight, turned on the outside lights, and stepped out onto our back deck. As I shone the light around the backyard I caught a glimmer of what could only be a set of animal eyeballs at the tree-line about 150 yards or so to the back. I focused on that area and counted a total of three sets.

They were a few feet apart, facing me, and moving slowly closer. Just then, a black shape caught my eye about ten feet below and that many away- I looked down to see the source of interest for the pack of coyotes- a small slender black cat, creeping with it’s belly to the ground and deathly wide eyes, glancing back towards the coyotes every few seconds.

The cat, for the purpose of this story I will call him Dinner, did not have a collar, and looked to be just about a year old. Not a kitten, but not a fast and resourceful battle cat either. Dinner would be just that, dinner.

Michelle came out to see what was going on and we both called Dinner to come closer. Michelle’s sister is a vet, and a champion of lost causes, and we figured we would give Dinner shelter for the night and bring it to Jackie’s clinic the next day. Dinner would have nothing of us. He, or she, kept on the move, keeping constant contact with the grass, and headed around the house and towards the side tree-line. The pursuers were starting to split up, preparing to flank and then charge Dinner.

I started to yell at the coyotes and shine the flashlight wildly around them, but it only caused them momentary pause before continuing the hunt. They were closing in fast on Dinner.

I remembered hearing, or reading (or maybe not- I can’t recall for sure) that coyotes will not attack a grown person, even if they are in numbers. So I did the only thing I could do, not having a firearm with me at the time- I walked down the stairs to the killing field, and with the flashlight shining upwards onto my face, started running at the coyotes screaming like a banshee fool with my free arm flailing about. Michelle was screaming too, but not at the coyotes.

It worked. I scared the coyotes out of their skins. I heard a yelp, and they scattered so fast one of them fell down. They bolted for the back tree-line, as Dinner, equally as frightened by the large and insane man that entered the playing field, finally lifted itself off the ground and ran for dear life towards the front of our property. By the time the drama was over, the two parties where at least 1000 feet apart- it was the best I could do to protect Dinner.

I stayed on the deck another fifteen minutes or so making sure the coyotes did not make a return appearance. They didn’t. I headed in hoping Dinner would make it alive until breakfast.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lame Claim To Fame

It is said most people have some connection to fame. It may be 15 minutes worth personally gained through some event or achievement, or it could be a friend or relative that makes it big in Hollywood or Billboard.

Mine is lame. I went to Gaithersburg High School in Gaithersburg MD from 1982-1984. I remember sitting in algebra class and meeting my next desk neighbor Doug. While getting to know him I learned he played guitar in a band that had neither a name, a sound, or any experience playing in front of anyone. I was in.

I told Doug I played keyboard and guitar (I didn’t include that I played them very poorly), and he invited me to hang with the guys. Later that week they invited me to join the band- they were fascinated that I could play a few chords while looking anywhere except the keyboard. Over the next few months we practiced several times a week getting to a point where we could play in front of people without driving them out of the room. We named ourselves Entranzit. I have no recollection why.

After almost a year of playing at house parties, Knights of Columbus halls and other sundry venues, we got our “big break.” We entered a battle-of-the-bands that pitted us against the fave band from rival Seneca Valley High School- “M.I.A..” We slaughtered them. They were horrible, and the only thing they did that was interesting was take an old acoustic guitar and smash it to bits on the gym floor at the end of their set.

That was pretty cool.

Fast-forward 10 years- Entranzit was long-gone, and I had just recently moved to Nashville with my family. On one fall night I was taking out the garbage when my wife ran outside excited and called me in the house. “Mark and Dean are on TV!” she said. My response was, “who?”

I went inside, saw that she was watching VH-1’s Artist of the Month, and the show was going on about a band I had never heard- Hootie and the Blowfish. There on the screen was Mark (guitar), Dean (bass) and a couple guys they must have met in college to complete the new manifestation of M.I.A..

That was even cooler.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Apparently, The Grass IS Greener Here

I have often heard my wife comment that she wished we lived somewhere where there was more to do. I agree with her. Franklin TN (in the Nashville area) just doesn’t seem to have an abundance of family activities available- especially since our family greatly enjoys oceans, mountains, dramatic landscapes, and added recently- heartstopping whitewater rafting.

Imagine our surprise when we opened the local paper this weekend to find that (a site I take much stock in since I used it to plan a killer trip to Italy just recently) has named our little village one of the “Top Ten Hot Destinations for 2007.”


Turns out we are placed right alongside places like Vail Colorado, Kailua Hawaii, Breckenridge Colorado and Millinocket Maine by the folks at I just can't believe it.

Unfortunately the article did not list in detail the reason why our town was selected. That would have been nice- I could have used it to put together a nice checklist of activities.

I think what I will do is to go back to and research Franklin as if I didn’t live here and was planning a trip to this town that is 100 years and a few short miles from the hustle, bustle and honky-tonks of Nashville.

There is no doubt that Franklin, and the entire Williamson County area of Tennessee is beautiful (thought I would throw in a few pics from our town and surrounding area), but we don't yet have any pounding rivers, white sand beaches or soaring mountain peaks. Maybe in a few years.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Postman Always Passes Twice

Last year I was brought on board The Safe Side Company, a start-up kids video venture founded by Julie Clark (founder of The Baby Einstein Company) and John Walsh (host of America’s Most Wanted).

Our first release, Stranger Safety, is now the best-selling kids safety video ever, and hundreds of thousands of kids have been exposed to its fun and effective lessons at home and school.

The video is based on 7 simple Hot Tips that teach kids how to be safer around people they “don’t know” and “kinda know”:

The Safe Side Stranger Safety Hot Tips

  1. Keep your Safe Side Adult close. If you can see them, they can see you.

  2. Never open the door without your Safe Side Adult.

  3. Never talk to Don’t Knows unless your Safe Side Adult is with you.

  4. Stop and Think! Don’t fall for tricks.

  5. Don’t let anyone inside your Safe Side Circle. Run from danger!

  6. Never go anywhere, with anyone, unless you ask your Safe Side Adult first.

  7. Know your three Safe Side Adults.

My four girls, K (13yrs), L (11yrs), A (8yrs) and R (5yrs) have been steeped in these Hot Tips by watching the video many times, and also enduring discussions, lectures and dinner talk about personal safety. One of the most important Hot Tips for kids to understand is “Stop and Think! Don’t fall for tricks.” This is the one that teaches kids about Don’t Knows and Kinda Knows that may use tricks to get close to kids and start a conversation.

There are several stories about children tricked by people with bad intentions that "need help" finding their lost cat, puppy or child, or needing directions to the nearby park or mall.

The video expands on this tip by teaching that adults do not need help from kids. If kids are asked for help by an adult they don’t know, they should go get their Safe Side Adult (parent, grandparent, etc) immediately, even if the people that ask look important or official (security guards, businessmen, repairman, etc).

It was this Hot Tip that led to an interesting incident with our mailman (or more accurately, mailwoman).

The girls had got off the bus and started the long trek to the house- our driveway is a bit more than a 1/10th of a mile long. As they crossed the street and started heading to the house, the stopped traffic started to move again. Just then someone called out to our kids.

It was the mailwoman from inside her Jeep. After she got the kids attention, she asked if K would take the mail to the house since one of the parcels wouldn’t fit in the mailbox- it would save her having to back up in traffic, and pull into the driveway for the quarter mile round trip to the house and back.

K, remembering the Hot Tip, quickly said no, turned around, and the four of them started walking briskly home. The mailwoman, a bit surprised I’m sure, pulled into the driveway, passed the girls once on the way in casting a confused look at K, dropped off the mail on our front porch, and passed them again on the way out.

When we first heard what happened, Michelle and I almost told K that she should have helped, but we remembered the Hot Tip and decided that it would only confuse things if we did. She did a great job, thought quickly, and acted. We encouraged her by telling her she made the right decision and we were proud of her. Too many times parents unknowingly send mixed messages to their kids about personal safety.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Great Night

As I write this it is just after midnight and I arrived home about ten minutes ago. This will be a brief post, and a shameless plug for a band I manage named the koo.

Tonight the guys played their third show in as many nights, and did a killer job playing a full 45min set at The Pond. The venue is a hole in the wall bar in Franklin, TN, but the place was packed out- SRO.

I have heard them play live many times, but tonight was the best set I have ever heard from them.

You can check out their website and hear three of their tracks here:

So far, they have had over 23,000 plays of their music from the site, plus a bunch more off their page. You can also check out some pictures of the band from a recent show here:

The only remarkable event of the evening besides the great show was when one girl sitting at my table was so into “Assbeater” (the last song of the koo’s set) that she knocked her drink into her lap. I got her napkins.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy

Earlier this week I attended a meeting about a half-hour from my home office, and on the way took a short-cut passing by a small man-made lake/pond in Brentwood TN.

As I miraculously drove the speed limit of 25mph or so, I noticed a group of six kids standing by the shore. They were bending down picking up rocks and hurling them side-armed, full speed, at a group of geese about fifty feet beyond. The kids looked like they were out for blood.

It’s amazing how memories can flood instantly. I was about seven years old, standing outside the Honolulu airport waiting for my grandparents to get their luggage. My mother and sister were with me while dad was helping his parents. We had a few minutes to kill, so I wandered over to a carp pond (I don’t know if there still is one at the airport- I would be interested to know) and watched the colorful fish. I noticed, as do all young boys, that if you spit in the water, the fish come running. Or swimming or whatever.

I progressed to dropping in bits of paper, then small pebbles. Each new item, the larger it got, summoned more fish. I remembered wondering if I could hit one of the fish with a pebble, so I picked up a large one, threw it in, and struck one of the carp squarely on the head. He sunk to the bottom and rested on his side, not moving again as I watched for a few minutes. I was devastated and ashamed- moving quickly away from the area while looking to see if anyone saw what I did.

That was the first creature- other than insects and a baby duck- I had killed. The baby duck thing was when I was 2 years old, and that’s another story.

I honked at the group of kids by the lake, and they glanced at me and continued throwing rocks. So I pulled over, honked several times and when I got their attention, gave them the universally known hand signal communicating "cut-it-out" (flat hand moving back and forth in front of the neck). They slinked away, unsuccessful at their attempt to fell a goose.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

As The Grass Grows, So Does My Brain

Each Saturday, from about mid-March until Novemberish, I get up and go through normal preparations for the big mow. Get gas, make breakfast, dress appropriately (raggedy shorts, holey t-shirt, baseball cap, eye and ear protection) and plan the attack (straight up and down? sideways? angled?).

The next four hours are some of the best of my week. Uninterrupted by phone calls, E-mail and the such. I usually finish the task with a handful of strong ideas to work through the following week, most business-oriented, some not.

Many people have their ideation peaks taking a shower or laying in bed before falling asleep. For me, it’s cruising at about 8mph on my zero turn radius behemoth mower. Part of my brain is still needed for basic things like motor control, avoiding the suddenly appearing bunny rabbit or field mouse, but other than that it is hard at work thinking through ideas, options and next-steps.

Now that the grass has stopped growing, I fear the ideas will abate. I guess I should get out and walk or ride a bike. Hey- I bet those landscaping guys are pretty smart. Seriously.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Video Evidence

One of my favorite TV shows is King of Queens. Michelle likes it too. There are traits about the two main characters, Doug and Carrie, that hit very close to home- and so it’s funnier to us than it might be to most.
In one episode, Doug hosted a reunion of his high school football team in his home, and the war stories began. It isn’t long before the coach mentioned the "big play" that won the "big game" and Doug started to light up. As the coach continued to give a dramatized retelling, Doug remembered the play clearly and how he saved the day- it was one of the highlights of his life. Then the coach concludes the story by attributing the play to someone else on the team.

While the reunion continued downstairs, Doug spent the next few hours upstairs scouring the attic for the video tape he knew his mom had made of the game.

When he found it and played it for everyone, it clearly showed someone else making the big play, and Doug was confused and crushed. He remembered so well making the play, but the video showed otherwise. Later we learn that Doug wore the wrong jersey at the game that day and had in fact made the play. I noticed, as did the characters on the show, that the video of the play was no where near as exciting as the version the coach had told just a couple hours before.

During a recent home-movie night, we pulled out a DVD featuring our family life from 1996. As soon as it started, Michelle and I remembered clearly what was to come- we were at my parent’s house in Gaithersburg Maryland and a significant snow storm hit. The day after the storm we had gone outside with our two girls K (3 yrs at the time) and L (1 yr) to go sledding and a terrible accident had occurred.

At least that’s what Michelle and I remembered. We paused the DVD and told the now older accident victims K & L, and the two more recent additions to the family that weren’t in existence at the time, A & R, to watch closely because coming up was a terrible sledding incident where my parents dog ran out in front of the fast-running sled and was run over causing an epic wipeout. We told them I was pulling K & L very fast in the sled, and Ringo (the dog) was run over, the sled tipped, and both baby girls tumbled out at great speeds into the deep snow.

We watched the video together and the big scene started. There I was pulling the sled at a reasonable speed, then Ringo made his appearance. The action started- the sled bumped into Ringo and he backed out of the way and sat down, the sled started to slowly tip, and out popped the two little girls into about six inches of snow. They started to howl and scream in the cold snow and then the camera shows me running to pick them up.

We sat there watching the boring video for a second longer and then our youngest, R, asked “was that it?”

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Good Is Great, The Bad Forgotten…Until Someone Reminds You

Last week at a lunch meeting with a former co-worker I was asked if I missed working at my old job. I thought about it for a second and responded yes, in fact I did miss it.

I clarified to him that what I really missed was the people and relationships. My mind wandered to literally hundreds of people I worked with for the last 5, 10 or 15 years and great memories flooded my mind.

Seeing staff grow, develop and get promotions, dinners and hang time with clients or co-workers, travel buddies, conventions, attending weddings, bringing my daughters to “work with daddy” day, positive changes, victories, parties and celebrations.
Great memories.

Then yesterday I had a series of meetings at the old job site with several people I used to work with. All was going well until one person reminded me of a couple folks I used to interact with that made life miserable for so many people. She recounted for me a recent meeting that included those "couple of folks" and how they deflated her and others- a common occurrence for sure. It reminded me of hours upon hours of meetings that I attended with them as well.
Bad memories.

I had not thought about them at all in the past year. It is fortunate that we so often forget the bad experiences in life.

Most every person I worked with there inspired or challenged me, some were marvelous encouragers- my boss, my staff, several peers and co-workers from other areas of the business. But there are a few people there, and sprinkled about everywhere in life, that thrive on draining the life out of others.

Why people do this I don’t understand. I hope I forget them again soon.

“May I forget what ought to be forgotten; and recall, unfailing, all that ought to be recalled, each kindly thing, forgetting what might sting.”
-Mary Caroline Davies

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