Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Was An Interesting Year

My entire adult life (which I calculate to have begun sometime around the age of 24 or so), I have lived on payroll. From Star Song Records, to EMI Music, to The Safe Side Company, always working hard to build and create, yet leaning on the safety of a twice monthly predictable payout. There were times the last few years of the corporate game where a bigger payday was possible. Annual performance bonuses, possible company sales that might provide a big pay day. But still the safety net was there.

2007 is different. It has been one of the scariest years of my life.

Waking up each day, getting the work at hand done, seeing various checks of various amounts arrive intermittently as the weeks and months went by, and all the time keeping an eye out for emerging opportunities and new businesses to start and develop.

We made it through. Actually making more than the year before. Not sure how that happened, but I think the federal government will be pleased- as they are taking a bigger chunk of MY money than ever before.

And what do I get for it? Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Huckabee telling me to vote for them so they can take more.

Happy new year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Doing The Math

A week ago today I wrote about the crèche (for most guys- insert the words barn/stable type structure used in nativity scenes) I made for Michelle. It has since garnered much praise from those that see it.

One of the things most everyone has said is that I should consider making these to sell for extra income. The encouragement seems genuine and it has convinced me that the two I’ve made are of good enough design and quality to sell retail.

Though the words are kind, and very encouraging, there is one big problem with this idea. There is little money in it.

I did some research and found that quality crèche’s like the one made by Willow Tree run about $90. Knowing gift and specialty retailers typically get between 40 and 50 points margin on the retail price (margin is the difference between what the retail paid for an item, and what they sell it for), that means retailers are paying somewhere between $45 and $54 wholesale for these crèches.

So, that’s the market I would have to compete in. Knowing that my crèches would not fetch the same premium as a well-known designer like Willow Tree (mine would probably retail for around $60 and retailers would probably require 50 points margin), and that any future crèches I would make would not be made out of the free wood I found at the dump, and that the milk-based paint I use is not cheap, and that it takes me about 6 hours to make one, there really is no money in this for me.

Assuming the wood and paint is $3, that would leave me about $27 in gross profit after my cost for materials. And at 6 hours work, that comes to a whopping $4.50. The federal minimum wage is $5.45. I suppose I could file a grievance against myself, but then I would price my crèches out of the market if I had to pay $35.70 in parts and labor to only get $30 wholesale per unit.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Temporary Insanity

How do I know I was temporarily insane yesterday? I went shopping in the real world.

I appreciate the plight of retail clerks. I was one. Though my career in that field was relatively short (I did a 2 year stint at Sears as a shoe salesman and then a couple years managing a women’s shoe store), I understand the pressure they are under. It’s no fun dealing with rude customers, long hours, weekend work, low pay, and much more.

Once in a while, though, I run into folks that work retail that really should be in the stock room packing and unpacking boxes instead of interfacing with customers.

Yesterday I ran into 5 of them in two different stores…within 20 minutes.

Last week I bought the new version of the Blackberry Curve. It was a pleasant experience as I actually had the full attention of the salesman, I knew my user name and password for my existing account (speeding up the transfer process), and the phone is awesome.

Yesterday I decided to pick up some gel cases for the phone and a memory card to hold all the music, video and photos I want to carry around with me (the ones that wont fit into my 16gig iTouch). A bit gadgeterialy excessive, but then again…I am compelled by some inner force I can’t control.

I stopped by an AT&T (formerly Cingular) store and was greeted with the offensive stink of some sort of combination of pizza, Shane’s Rib Shack ribs and, I think, curry. Two AT&T sales reps sat at their desks with customers finalizing deals with each of them for new phones. One of them acknowledged my arrival and said “We’ll be right with you.”

Ok. No problem. I went right over to the accessories, picked up a case of gels, grabbed a 2gig card and stood patiently near the sales desks. After 15 minutes of listening to both reps SLOWLY go through the sales process and each chit-chat about what they got for Christmas, what movies were they going to see this weekend, and that Chad was gong to have a big New Years party at his house and that Alisa was not invited, and so much, much more…I realized that there was probably another 10-15 minutes of waiting in my immediate future. I set the cheap case of gels on the counter, laid next to it the memory card, and walked out of the store.

I decided to go to the “big’ AT&T (formerly Cingular) store in Cool Springs, knowing they both had more staff to help, AND, didn’t allow that staff to eat stinky rotten lunch food on the sales floor. As soon as I walked in I was approached and greeted by a lovely lady who asked if she could help me.

“Absolutely” I said, and proceeded to tell her what I needed. She walked me over to the phone case section, pulled out exactly what I needed, headed over to memory cards and pulled the 2gig card for me as well. I noticed there was a 4gig card next to it and pointed and smiled like a little kid and said “mmm…I want that one!”

“I’m sorry sir, your particular model of Blackberry is only designed at this time to manage a maximum 2gig memory card.” So, I have a reason to get the newer phone in a few months it seems.

She handed the two items to me, walked me to the sales counter and said “they can check you out here- have a happy new year!” Wow, so kind and helpful. It ended there.

I stood in front of the counter with 4 people behind it. Person #1 on my far left was talking on his cell phone. Person #2 in front of me was on her stool sideways talking to person #3 who was engaged on his computer. Person #4 was intently working on his computer as well. I waited patiently. No one acknowledged I was standing there. A minute went by. Then 2, and finally 3. I was checking my Blackberry that was eagerly awaiting to try on it’s new gel case.

A bit after the 3 minute mark, when none of the 4 even looked up at me, I kinda lost it. I put my Blackberry down, along side the gel cases and memory card, and did something a bit wacky. I jumped 3 big jumping jacks, waving my hands wildly, and said, too loudly, “Hello! I’m here!”

The store went quiet (there were probably 7 or 8 customers in the store, and about as many staff). The 4 sales people snapped to attention to see what crazy person was making all the noise and they all locked eyes on me for the first time. “Thank you! I said- I was beginning to think you guys couldn’t see me.” I said this with a pleasant smile on my face and in a joking manner so as to let them know I wasn’t as crazy as they must think. Kind of like, wow, isn’t it funny I just did that? Person #2 said, as she then turned to get busy on her computer, “we’ll be right with you sir.” The other 3 went back to whatever they were doing.

The friendly greeter came over with a smile and said “I’m sorry- hey guys, could someone check this customer out, he’s just buying accessories.” Person # 2 said “we’ll be right with him.” My kind protector, the greeter lady, walked away.

I stood there for another minute with no end in sight and then addressed the four once more in a much more quiet and gentle voice, saying “I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to walk out of here right now with this stuff without paying. If you would like me to pay, just let me know before I leave.”

Just then greeter lady returned with the manager and he asked person #4 to please take care of me right now. He did. As I left greeter girl apologized and explained they were really busy.

Reconfirmed for me that I need to do and buy EVERYTHING online that I can.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wii For Christmas- Play

With the 7 hours of set-up done, the fun began. I wouldn’t say Wii’ve been playing it non-stop…but once Wii get on it, its hard to get off.

Tons of games came with the system Santa delivered, and already the suggestion has been made by more than one child that family board game night be replaced with Wii night.

Wii’re having a blast. Gotta go.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wii For Christmas- Work

A Wii was the big gift from Santa Claus this Christmas for our whole family. Wii are a bit late to the party- seems the system was a big hit earlier in 2007, and Michelle and I only played it once prior when we were at a friends house for a party, but we loved it.

We were glad Santa had delivered this gift instead of what a few other folks we know went through. My brother-in-law got up EARLY the day after Thanksgiving to get to Wal-mart at 5AM to buy one, only to arrive and find them sold out.

Several other folks I knew couldn’t land one, and on a couple occasions in the last several weeks when I stopped in stores to scope one out (and the prices) there were none to be found. I overheard store clerks tell customers there were no more in Nashville. I found a website that updated hourly on Wii availability around the country- both in stores and online. I looked for a day or two and couldn’t find any.

Then somehow Santa scored one and presto- the whole system and tons of extra’s was sitting in front of the tree Tuesday morning. But the fun was far off.

I knew I couldn’t just plug and play. The mess of wires and components hiding behind our entertainment system couldn’t possibly digest one more piece of electronic equipment. It was time for major surgery.

I keep a box of electronic gear and wires in storage, and pulled it out for the trip up two floors to the family room. I knew I would need some combination of various plugs and wires so brought the whole gaggle of junk upstairs. I started the project at about 10AM the day after Christmas and by noon there was close to a dozen pieces of electronics, miles of wires and a giant TV rolled out and in the middle of the family room. It looked like a bomb had gone off in the control center of Jack Bauer’s CTU headquarters.

The work went on and on. I tried to optimize the space, find the best placement for various gear taking into consideration the distance to power outlets and length of power cords, stacking components that made sense together (i.e. satellite receiver and amp, etc), and the best way to logically move through all the options when the family was trying to enjoy the family room (satellite TV, DVD, VHS, CD, Xbox, Wii, TV guardian, Karaoke, phone, etc). By about 5PM I was finished and clean-up began. What an exhausting process... and Wii hadn't even played it yet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Daddy, Can We Be Home Schooled?

Last night as I put the two little ones to bed (A & R) and proceeded to start the nightly ritual of back scratching, R said “Daddy, can we please be homeschooled?”

Michelle and I have talked about this idea several times over the last many years and just don’t see ourselves as the homeschooling type. We admire those that can do it, and know several people that do it quite well. We’re just not one of them.

I asked R why she wanted to be homeschooled and she said that it was real nice not having to get up early and go to school the last several days of Christmas break.

She then paused a second and added “plus, school is about the only bad thing in my life and I’d like to get rid of it.”

If only things we didn’t want to do were that easy to end.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas- Day

Good news for all peoples! Christ is born in Bethlehem!

A wonderful morning with my wife and kids, a relaxing afternoon, and a huge Christmas dinner with extended family.

What could be better? I’ll tell you. My sister Carla volunteered to cook and host the annual family gathering at her house this year- the first year in… I don’t know how many… that Michelle didn’t have to rush around like a crazy person starting at 9AM Christmas morning to get a meal for 15+ people ready by 4PM in the afternoon.

A very restful and peaceful day, followed by a 30min drive to my sister’s that allowed us to just show up, eat and drink, and then leave.

Wow. I hope she does it again next year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas- Eve

As I worshipped during our church’s Christmas eve service 7PM, with an invited friend on one side of me, and my wife and four kids on the other, the full weight of the words we were singing pounded down on my heart.

A momentous thing happened that first day of Jesus’s life in the flesh. A plan, who knows how long in the making, had gone fully into effect. The Lamb, the only sacrifice fully acceptable to God in order to appease His need for justice and order in the universe was born.

Romans 6 through 11 in “The Message”:

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we're at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Project Crèche Complete!

I did it. Finally.

A bit more than a year ago I promised Michelle I would use my budding skills as a woodsmith (is that a word? Woodworker sounds wrong) to make a Crèche for her Willow Tree nativity set. She had seen the official version in catalogs and stores for $60-70 and it just seemed to much to her to pay that for about $3 worth of wood and paint.

I said I would, and so a week ago I started on the project. I had found some great planks of wood at the dump a couple months ago and threw them into my truck thinking I could probably make something out of them for my garage/work area. Perhaps a new work bench or some extra scrap wood for something or other I might someday build (or then again, might never).

I had set a reminder in my Outlook last December and sure enough it popped up and reminded me of this commitment. I headed to my work area and found the old picture of the Willow Tree Crèche from a catalog and eye-balled it for a few minutes. I found the measurements from a listing online and started cutting and sanding away. I only used the rough dimensions (length and width of the base), and did the rest purely by eye. It turned out just a bit better than planned.

I designed it differently than the retail version- the back of the Crèche is connected with two dowel rods that allow the back to pull off the base and lie flat for easy packing when we store all our Christmas decorations.

I used a butternut yellow milk-based paint for all the surfaces, and then hand-rubbed black glossy effects paint over the yellow to create a wonderful old barn wood grey color (thanks to the helpful people at the local WoodCraft store for the paint tip!).

Michelle is pleased. And so am I for remembering to follow through on my promise.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Yesterday was day two of a new agreement between me and my friend Gary. We are to meet each day, Monday through Friday, at around 6:15AM-ish.

I get there early, about 6AM, and he arrives late about 6:30AM.

The meeting place is a YMCA roughly half-way between our homes, some 30 miles apart. The goal is to spend some time on the treadmill and then do a bit of strength training each day.

Our casual agreement is meant to keep each other accountable and work on getting into shape again. His commitment is deeper as he is also just signed up to lose weight in order to benefit a charity.

Mine is purely selfish. I would like to fit into a few more pants that I own. My charity of choice for this venture is the "DigitalRich Long Lost Clothes" trust.

The pain has begun. And will likely continue full force for about a month until I get back into the swing of things.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Observing People

Traveling alone is absolute me time. There is a quiet that is hard to explain. In the midst of blaring pilot announcement, screeching jet engines and jarring slams to the shoulder as passengers visit the porta-potty for a bio-break, it is still somehow peaceful.

Granted, I think my new fancy iPod is helping a little, along with my noise reducing headphones. Ok, actually they're helping a bunch.

I am free to observe other travelers, but I can't hear what they're saying while listening to some old George Harrison as my soundtrack for the night.

I saw some interesting folks. A man that was in a wheel chair and boarded last with help from others to get in his aisle seat... Followed of course by the woman who was late to board that had the window seat next to him. She had to climb up over him, slipped, and fell chest first into his face. I think I've seen that once or twice in the movies.

I watched a man spill mustard on his suit eating an Aunt Annie's hot dog pretzel (but for the grace of God go I). My favorite was the husband and wife getting progressively more pissed each time their flight to Newark was delayed (three times while I was sitting in the gate area in Cincinnati). They we're kind of yelling at each other (I think) and giving each other glaring evil eyes. At one point I snickered a bit too loudly and they glanced at me. I sort of tried to cover up the laugh by emitting some sort of low frequency humming rap-type drummish sound to go along with the music from my iPod while starting to nod my head.

I don't think it worked. The woman kept tossing sideways looks at me.

It was a pretty fun night considering.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas Conundrum

We have everything we need, in material terms. A home, safe neighborhood, space, plenty of food, music, movies, televisions, surround sound, Tivo, clothes (man…do we have clothes), toys, digital music players (last count, somewhere around 10 of them), and on and on and on.

And so Christmas comes again. Yet another year of running around buying stuff to give to people and each other. What do we buy? What do we ‘need’?

This cycle and focus on gifts is driving me crazy. Michelle too. But we still have two young ones that relish the magic of Christmas morning and the gifts from Santa. We have always been modest with gifts- we don’t go crazy. Santa brings each girl one gift a year plus a stocking, and we give the girls a few other gifts as well. But with 4 kids, and an ever growing extended family, what once was a month where we spent $300 or $400 is now a couple grand when all is is said and done.

And how are we better for it? In January, how are we different, other than the burden of the new stuff accumulated?

We want to do it different this year. But we are not on a course yet to do so. Do we forgo most of the gifts and take a nice vacation? How do we help others instead of helping ourselves to the plenty God has provided us? We are searching and talking and thinking about it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Winter Ramblings

I am sitting at my desk, looking out the double doors into my backyard. The horizon of the gentle slope of the yard always in conflict with the straight horizontal lines of the window panes.

The fullness of the trees beyond the yard are gone, and brown skeletons of 40 and 50 foot tall remain, looking eerily like the veins and capillaries of a human body. It’s almost as if they are soaking up the nutrients of the earth and feeding them up to the flesh of the world.

The drizzling rain, going for two days now, has deeply soaked the world outside, and all of the creation I can see is falling asleep- readying for the next few months of winter slumber.

This is the time my memories start to rush in. Some sort of connection to the ancient world, when winter brought an end to harvests, field work, wars, conflict, and forced the weary inhabitants of the northlands inside to spend the coldest days of the year in thought, conversation and memories.

I remember childhood, winter storms, snowball fights, igloo building, school closing, sledding, snow ramp construction for headlong death flights of fancy through the atmosphere 36 inches above the ground on a wood and steel contraption with blades that I imagined might slice off my leg.

Good and wonderful memories. I want snow. And lots of it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Maybe Your You-Know-What CAN Smell Like Roses

This has to be, hands down, the funniest new product I have seen in some time. Its aroma therapy for your arse.

Here’s the text from the ad (since it’s too small to read on this post):

Zum Bum

After a few spritzes on some T.P. and a few dainty dabs on your tushie, you will definitely have that, you know, oh-so-fresh feeling. So come on, booty up to our new “bidet in a bottle,” made with naturally soothing witch hazel, pure essential oils and vegetable glycerin.”

The hang tags on the various bottles read:
“Booty duty calls”
“Stinky rear ends here”
"Dump stinky rump.”

Hilarious! I know these folks well- they are the lovely people from I have shopped with them for years online, and even use them often for Christmas gifts to friends and family. One year they got all my gifts (25 or so) shipped out with the wrong gift cards- huge mess, and they fixed it quick by contacting everyone and apologizing and sending me a huge free shipment of soaps.

I think this year I may make this THE DigitalRich gift to friends. How funny will that be?

I guess the only thing that could possibly top this would be some sort of pill or liquid you consumer to make ALL your bodily functions smell mountain fresh.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Close To Home

It happened Wednesday night. I heard the sound of a helicopter outside, shortly before the kids came down to my office to tell me dinner was ready. I stepped outside wondering how close it was.

The drone of the blades sounded like it was just on the other side of the tree line…very low. I looked for blinking lights or anything that would signal its location but saw nothing. I thought for a second- why am I hearing a helicopter so low and so close? We have a ‘neighbor’ or two that has a personal helicopter, and I have no doubt that a few folks have come home on a helicopter. One nearby couple, you might have heard of them- Faith Hill and some guy named Tim McGraw- certainly have enough money and land to have a fleet of helicopters on property. Every few days there is one in particular that zooms over our property fairly low. It had to be one of those.

Except for one thing. It just stayed where it was. For too long. One the ground, very close.

I went back inside and didn’t think about it again until the next morning when I went to a clients office for a meeting. Matt looked a little tired and had a hard time focusing as we started our presentation to a major retailer. After the meeting he apologized for struggling in the presentation and said it had been a long night. He told me a relative of his had died in a car accident- not too far from my house- and he was with the family until early into the morning.

Two fathers died shortly before I heard that helicopter. Two fathers, way too close to my home. A young boy was in one of the cars with his dad, and their car somehow crashed head-on into another car with another father driving home on our insanely hilly and curvy road. The boy survived, and was the passenger on the helicopter I heard, life-flighted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

I can’t get this out of my head. Neither can Michelle. The kids too. None of us knew the victims directly; we didn’t have a relationship with them. But we know both families from a distance. The little boy rides our girls bus to and from school.

I have driven by the spot where the accident happened 9 or 10 times by now, and I always have a feeling of horror, loss, and anger. I think about these people with their lives ahead of them, just going about the daily routine of living, suddenly, in a split second, taken from this world.

Why? The same questions, asked by billions of people over thousands of years, flood my mind. Why would God allow this to happen? Does he or does he not see the future? If he does, and he knew this would happen the moment and place it did, why didn’t he just have the one dad leave work 5 seconds later? Or the other dad get held up at the traffic light in Franklin 3 seconds longer? Why? What good could possibly come of this? How will God use this for good?

I am hurting for these families. The pain and anger constantly cycles into a nausea, and back again I end up reeling, thinking about how easily it could have been me with the girls in one of those cars. Or Michelle.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Do You Like Being A Mom?

Little kids have amazing thought processes. They are trying to think through, sometimes, deep and complicated issues with very simple immature minds. One of the few basic thought processes that most young children master first is cause and effect.

If I push this button, the light comes on. If I try to walk down the stairs, I will fall and hurt myself. If I throw food to the kitchen floor from my high chair, my mom or dad will repeatedly pick it up no matter how many times I do it in a row.

Many times cause and effect works as a scientific method of observing our world. But not always.

The other night before bedtime Michelle was making lunches for the coming school day. The whole family was spread out in the kitchen and the adjoining open great room engaged in various activities. I was on the couch working through my self-taught guitar lesson (currently learning to chord every Beatles song), K was on the computer pretending to do homework while chatting with 3-4 friends on Google Chat, L was doing homework and A was too. R, our 6 year old, was observing Michelle make lunches.

“Do you like being a mom?”

That was the question R had for Michelle after quietly observing her make lunches. Wow. We all stopped and looked up. What a deep question for a 6 year old to ask. What was going through her mind? Was she thinking about Michelle and how she is dealing with all of her sisters growing up so fast? The burden and pressure of taking care of a workaholic husband, keeping up the house, caring for 4 kids and trying to discover who she is as a person?

While the family paused in their activities and silently observed the conversation Michelle looked at R and said “Yes. Of course. Why do you ask?”

“Because you have a really mean look on your face while you’re making our lunches. I was just wondering if you like being a mom and having to do work.”

Thursday, November 08, 2007



You could have read it if you had a reader program and got it delivered earlier.

If not, too bad.

She felt it would have hurt too many feelings. She's sensitive that way.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Doble Digits

A couple weeks ago I trekked to my old worksite for a meeting. While there I wandered by my old office and peeked my head in to look around. It’s been exactly two years since I worked there, and the space no longer generated a familiar feeling. It was now replaced by something more foreign and distant.

It did bring back a fun memory though.

My office had a series of large windows, each about 3 feet wide and 6 feet tall. There were 5 across one side, and 3 across the other. A nice roomy place to work. On those large windows I used to write out ideas and objectives in erasable marker. The windows made perfect ‘white boards’ that allowed anyone that wanted to graphically make their points during meetings in my office. I also had one of the walls covered in sheet metal which worked just as well for an impromptu white boards as well as a cool place to use for magnets to hold posters, brochures, anything.

For my kids, the windows and the sheet metal wall were a magical and mystical thing that allowed them to do something that they couldn’t, wouldn’t, do in the real world. Write on walls and windows.

Each time Michelle brought them by the office they went straight to the markers and started to draw and doodle all over my office. There were several temporary works of art that adorned my office for days afterwards.

One particular day L, our second child, came in the office the day before her 10th birthday. She was so excited about turning double-digits (that was her big thing) that she drew a marvelous portrait of herself and a birthday cake wth a giant heading to the picture proclaiming “Tomorrow I turn DOBLE DIGITS!”

I teased her a bit about the misspelling, good naturedly, and she wanted to correct it. I didn’t let her. It was too precious. It stayed on that window for at least 6 months.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Halloween Is Lame

I’ve tried. Over the years I have tried to make Halloween work.

Even as a kid I remember struggling with the stupidity of Halloween. So, you dress up in a costume, and you walk around your neighborhood knocking on doors and observe strange people you don’t know, or maybe you do know them and they freak you out a bit because they have a mean dog or their kid is a bully, drop candy in your bag or bucket. You stand there at their door with a mask on and mumble some magic words. Candy materializes.

Then you go to the next house and do it all over again until all the front porch lights in the neighborhood start to flicker off signaling the merciful end to this weird “holiday.”

And all of this celebration centered on death, demons, witches, ghosts and various dark things.

How fun and happy.

Of course, the amount of candy you collect is roughly equal in volume to the candy you (or your parents if you’re young) hand out at your house.

This all seems pointless to me. There is no redeeming element to Halloween. No feast, no gathering of friends and family (unless of course its at a Halloween party with alcohol and the resulting drunk driving), no message of hope or love or kindness.

I don’t get it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Oh Canada! You're So Nice!

In and out trip to lovely Canada. Arrived in Toronto yesterday afternoon about 1PM and went through customs in a flash. The folks I was meeting with picked me up at the airport, gave me a guided historical tour of Toronto on the way to the office, and expounded on all things Canadian.

The current state of being for the Canadians seems to be estacy, for two reasons. 1) Its hockey season again. 2) The Canadian dollar is now of greater worth than the US dollar. And this last one seems to please them to no end.

During the meeting the European-side of these people shined through: fine coffee and a splendid array of fine fruits, breads and sweets for an afternoon business meeting. Unlike the American way- stale coffee from a few hours ago and a piece of hard candy if you're lucky.

The meeting went well, deal sealed I believe, and then a drive to the hotel. Exceptionally nice people. I can't say that I've ever met a mean Canadian. Indifferent maybe, but certainly not mean.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Picture and Story 11

This is my nephew Jacob being tortured. Enough said.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Mud

Rock beats scissors, and scissors beats paper. And somehow, though I have never really undertood this, paper beats rock. According to a tour guide at the Hoover Dam, what beats rock, or rather concrete, is really mud.

A couple weeks ago I braved the depravity of Las Vegas and brought my wife and four kids to sin city for several days vacation.

We avoided the strip at night, though did have to brave it a couple times around dinner time. Fortunately nothing to wacky happened other than the traveling billboard trucks with a scantily clad female on an ad with a message along the lines of “Lonely? Call me tonight!”

We went there for a couple reasons…the hot weather and cool refreshing pools at the MGM Grand (a cold snap hit Vegas while we were there), and the surrounding attractions (Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, Lake Meade, etc).

On one of our day trips we stopped by a chocolate factory for a tour and samples, then headed to Hoover Dam. It is certainly an experience I will never forget- the massive concrete structure seemed almost beyond human ability to construct…and the massive turbines that the Colorado river flows through to power millions of homes and businesses were so large that when they were built the government had to first build forges and factories there at the building site because no form of transportation existed at the time to move these from any distance.

We took the full tour and traveled down hundreds of feet below the surface packed into a surprisingly large elevator with a rather animated and goofy tour guide. But I repeat myself.

On the tour a few questions were asked of the guide as we moved from the feeder tunnels, through the depths to the power station and then back up to the observation area. I had one question that our family had wondered about earlier on the tour- how long would this dam last? Or rather, how long did the designers think it would stand? We guessed amongst ourselves with my guess being the farthest out- I thought about 200 years. That seemed reasonable.

I asked the guide the question when we stopped to wait for the elevator up to the surface.
“This dam was built to last 2,000 years. But it wont really last that long…the sediment will build up against the dam and make it useless a few years before that.”

2 millennia. What has man made that was expected to last 2 millennia? Surely the pyramids, and perhaps a Roman or Greek building or two…but not too many things I think were built with this time frame in mind.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Man For This Time

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down for a few hours, over a wonderful lunch of chicken salad and fresh fruit, with Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, MI.

It is fascinating to me that this master communicator has 7-10K people that sit for an hour to hear him talk, and another 20-50K that listen in via his podcast each week (I am among them), as well as buy his books and short films. He is too cool for school, with book titles like “Velvet Elvis” and “SexGod” and a series of 17 (so far) short-films that border on life-changing called NOOMA.

What is fantastical to me, though, is that thousands of people will also buy live event tickets to see him “on tour.”

During his recent tour, “Everything Is Spiritual”, he traveled about the country in various venues and concert halls with a giant white board and talked about the things he has learned, absorbed, crystallized, in a way that was mind blowing. It is refreshing to hear such a logical and dispassionate walk through what it seems we are hard-wired to understand deep in our souls but is filtered and full of static due to the interference of human life in this broken world.

Check out this clip:

About “Everything is Spiritual” Rob says this- “In the Hebrew Scriptures there is no word for ‘spiritual.’ And Jesus never used the phrase ‘spiritual life.’ Because for Jesus and his tradition, all of life is spiritual. So what does that mean?”

The DVD is available soon at this website. I highly encourage you to check it out.

I already have a ticket for the next “show”- his new tour is called “The God’s Arent Angry Tour” and the closest it comes to Nashville is Atlanta. I know some people have a problem with Rob's teachings, and I don't agree with everything he says, but I will be there with an open mind and eager heart anyway. There is incremental life when he is around.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Drinking During the Workday

I don’t know how Darrin Stephens and Larry Tate did it. On most episodes of Bewitched they threw around advertising campaign ideas over 2, 3 or even 4 martini lunches, then poured a fresh drink in the conference room when the client arrived for the pitch.

Yes, I know it was just TV, but I get the impression that tossing back a drink or two during the lunch hour, and perhaps a snort in the afternoon, was a bit more prevalent in the past then it is now. The last couple of positions I have had required a signed statement included with the standard pages of agreements a new employee signs stating clearly that consumption of alcohol was strictly forbidden during the work day. A bottle of wine or cocktail at a business dinner was alright, but certainly not during the day.

After I started my own business I thought I would explore this freedom a bit. A week or so after I completed my work for my previous employer and started out on my own, I sat down to a light lunch at my home office. A nice plate of fine cheese, some fruit and a couple glasses of wine. It was a wonderful meal. When I woke up a couple hours later after what I thought would be resting my eyes while reading a proposal on my recliner, I realized it wasn’t such a good thing.

A month or so later I had a business lunch at McReary’s Pub in downtown Franklin. So of course, having signed no agreement with myself that I would not drink during the work day I enjoyed two fine pints of premium imported ale. And of course, when I got back to the office I could hardly function. Not that I was drunk- two ales over a 90 minutes with a big lunch and my body weight hardly moves the meter- but I was relaxed. Too relaxed. I found myself closing my eyes at my desk and generally unmotivated to attack the afternoon.

I have recently drafted an agreement between me and my company and I will not be drinking any alcohol during the workday.

Perhaps it’s just how alcohol affects me. Some people become animated and energized with a few drinks. I am totally the opposite. For the most part I am animated and energized WITHOUT anything to drink. A drink or two seems to shut off my brain, hyper-relax me, and cause me to sink deeper into anything I am sitting or laying in.

Once a year the perfect storm occurs. A mid-afternoon Thanksgiving feast with a few glasses of wine. I promptly pass out.

Friday, October 26, 2007

You Should Make a CD

You gotta love little kids. Their world is so small, their experience so limited, that each new and exciting thing they see or experience almost redefines the borders of their existence. Feats of even moderate talent performed around them, if beyond their abilities or understanding, fascinate them to no end.

In August 2006, after almost a 20 year absence from my hands, my guitar came out of storage and its confining dark and musty prison on a lark. I can’t recall exactly why I got it- I think one of the girls needed to use the case for something or other. Anyway, out the guitar came and it sat in my office for a week or so until I picked it up and tried to strum a few chords.

I was horrible. Not that I was ever very good, but now I couldn’t even get a decent “C” chord out of the thing. My fingers wouldn’t cooperate; the strings were brittle, and sure enough on about my 4th or 5th try one of the strings snapped. Or rather crumbled into dust.

I went to the music store and bought new strings (I had a free afternoon somehow) and had it up and running in another hour. I finally managed to hit a decent chord or two and it was wonderful to hear the guitar produce something similar to music after so long. I decided right then, and I have no idea why, I would dedicate 30-60 minutes every day to try to get back to beginners level of play- maybe even a bit beyond. I reasoned that a month or so of daily practice would do it.

Fast forward 14 months. The guitar has remained out of its enclosure and either in my bedroom or the living room this entire time. I have done fairly well at daily practice- sometimes 2-3 times a day. I have now far exceeded the level of play I ever did when I was 16 years old.

A couple nights ago my two youngest girls, R (6yrs) and A (9yrs) gave me the encouragement and affirmation I needed. After I played and sang a couple goodnight songs for them at bedtime (“Good Night” by the Beatles, and a second tune I am writing) A said “daddy, you are so good. You should make a CD. I would buy it.”

Yes I know- A doesn’t even earn her own money to buy a DigitalRich CD- she would have to use mine- and neither girl has ever really encountered true talent sitting right in front of them to properly form a learned opinion about guitar playing, but the words were sweet anyway.

Perhaps I will make a CD for my two fans. I better hurry before they find a new favorite artist.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Verbal Pet Peeves

It's not too uncommon to see a blogger unload with a top ten list of pet peeves. I've done it, I think, or at least I've piled on as a comment on someone else's post bellyaching about this or that.

I thought I would try a different tack: Verbal Pet Peeves- the things people say that drive me nuts.

I have no doubt if I googled this I would find other and perhaps better lists, but this is the best I can do on a Blackberry sitting in the Cinncinnati airport shoving down two Auntie Anne's Nathan's pretzel dogs and a bottle of water in the few minutes I have between flights.

10. ...and soforth.
And what? Just say it already! Is life so short they don't have time to finish their sentence? And what if we're not following them and we have no idea what soforth is soforth? Hate it.

9. The powers that be.
Well, this one really drives me nuts. Its often used like this: "well, all I know is that the powers that be decided it will work this way and we just have to deal with it even if we know its wrong.". First of all, anyone that uses this phrase is giving you two gihugic clues: 1) they have no idea whatsover how and why things work. 2) They don't know who the powers are, what their names and titles are, what they do or why they do it. Run from people that use this phrase. They are stupid and usually dangerous.

8. This won't hurt much at all.
This is what my dentist says. It is a very clear indication that I am about to experience great pain.

7. So and so.
USE THE NICE PERSON'S NAME already, geesh.

6. Whatnot.
What in God's green earth does this mean? Who came up with this nonsense word? When I hear someone say this I see an imaginary dunce cap affixed to their head with super glue.

5. Oh Snap.
This is a very trendy (at least it was in 2003 or so) word made popular by Raven (inane character on a Disney Channel show) to ostensibly substitute for the always lovely and poetic profanity "Oh S**t."

4. The seven forbidden words.
I hear people having otherwise completely normal conversations about their day, their work, family, football game, mowing the lawn and whatnot, laced and sometimes brimming with the most obnoxious language imaginable. I was in the airport with my wife and four girls last week and as we waited in line to check our bags the guy in front of us dropped his bag by accident and said rather loudly "fu**!" Then he saw me and my family, and the look on my face, and he appologized. Rather poorly though. He said "oh, goddammit, sorry about the language sir." At least he was sincere.

3. Let me make this perfectly clear.
This is usually uttered by blow hard politicians that think we are so stupid we didn't understand them the previous 7 times they told us the exact same thing.

2. To make a long story short.
When this is said, every single time, without fail, its far too late.

And last but not least, my number 1 verbal pet peeve:

1. To tell the truth/To be honest/Honestly (or any of the other variations).
When someone says this what they are really saying is they are often not being honest or open in their communication. It amazes me, but the people that say this actually don't even realize they say it and that it clues us all in that much of the time what they say is not complete, honest or truthful.

So there you go. Honestly, I could have come up with a dozen more but the powers that be are telling me to turn off my phone. Oh snap, I really wanted to get this plus a few emails done befopre take-off. Dammit.

Sorry for any typos. Regular problem for me when typing on my Blackberry.