Wednesday, January 31, 2007


A quick post today to keep a promise to myself to post once each day. I have 5 minutes before having to jump in the shower and start a day of meetings and then a five hour drive home.

I am in Indianapolis, and arrived here at midnight after a long drive as a passenger in a nice warm car, leaving Nashville’s relatively warm weather behind. It is cold here. I thought I would write a Haiku about it- what could be quicker?

cold is a pin prick
waking me from sleep and warmth
prodding me to life

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Did I Say That Out Loud?

Allow me to set the stage- Its several years ago and I’m at a table of 25 people all of whom work for me. We are getting ready to have a serious discussion about planning for the coming fiscal year, and at the outset of the meeting, things are still a bit light-hearted and jovial. Ms. R walks in (the primary planner and analyst) and someone notes gleefully- Hey, you’re not blonde anymore! You dyed your hair! It looks awesome.”

So there it is. In volleyball its called "set, spike."

I wish my mind worked as fast in figuring out investments or doing my work half as fast as it works when there is a opportunity to spit out a well-timed quip or good-natured barb. It literally pops in my mind and out of my mouth in one second.

Earlier that same day I had a conversation with Ms. R and several other folks that were in this later meeting regarding concerns about the accuracy of data that Ms. R’s department was issuing. It was expressed to her, kindly, that these recurring problems needed to be fixed. Neither Ms. R nor her department were primarily at fault for the problems, we just needed them to be more vigilant about fixing the flawed raw data that was flowing in from another area of the business.

You may have already figured out what I said next after Ms. R was greeted as she walked into the meeting- it escaped my mouth without getting permission from my brain: “Wow- no longer a blonde! Maybe your reports will be more accurate.”

It was one of those well-timed “meeting jokes” that while causing uproarious laughter in the world of fluorescent-lit meeting rooms with bad coffee, it would hardly elicit a slight chuckle in the real world. I thought it was funny. Even Ms. R thought it was funny. Everyone in the room knew I greatly appreciated and respected Ms. R, so I didnt think it would be taken wrong by anyone. Apparently, some other blondes in the room did.

Human Resources contacted me the next day to read me the riot act. As soon as I got the call, I knew exactly what it was about. While some might think the joke was harmless, it hurt some feelings. No more blonde jokes from me. I have a good record of not cracking jokes at the expense of others, but we all fail sometimes, don’t we?

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Carnival of The Storytellers 2nd Edition

Here we are at the Carnival of the Storytellers 2nd Edition, and I am pleased at the increase in submissions.

My goal for the first edition was to get 5, and while technically I met that number, I had to eliminate one due to some very graphic language and had to throw in one of my own to get to a final count of 4. This edition my goal was 10 and I got 12 without having to pull out one of my own. Cool!

I hope you enjoy the work of these fine bloggers- be sure to stop by and leave a comment.


I love to read things that make me think. That challenge me. That point out inconsistencies and problems in my life that maybe I hadn’t noticed before (or more likely, noticed and then quickly forgot). Charles H. Green's Trust, Freedom and Resentment posted at Trust Matters is a great post that reminds us that we can- we must- control anger. Anger is always a choice, and one that more often than not brings no life or benefit to it's owner. His post is reflective and though provoking, and he set's it up by asking this simple rhetorical question: "Trust requires the ability to get outside oneself. Why do I find that so hard to do?"

Andrea Dickson opens the kimono in a brutally honest soul searching way. A twenty-something struggling with growing up and the challenges that cause us all to ponder our long term financial security. Read her post Bourgeoisie Guilt: Can I Conquer My Vanity for the Sake of My Sanity? posted at Wisebread, and have fun- I enjoyed her writing style. I do have two pieces of advice for Andrea, even though she didn’t ask for any: 1) Check out - it is one of the best free sites around for building wealth and making good financial decisions. A friend of mine writes it, and he's not out to get anything from his readers except their respect. 2) Marry your boyfriend. From the brief description you gave, I predict he will be a millionaire in less than 10 years. If he doesn’t propose to you, then you go ahead and ask him. Trust me.

CabSav presents What do you do if you know the novel you are writing is already out-of-date? posted at A novel idea. So- it seems I've found someone else that thinks out loud through their typing. Get inside CabSav's head by reading his short post as he ponders how he should either save or kill his online novel.

I loved this post! Madeleine Begun Kane talked about heading down the river in a ‘tube’ in Tubing Blues posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog. As a man, husband of a wife that does not enjoy life-threatening activities, and a dad of four girls, I can empathize with her husband and totally understand why he egged Madeline into the journey. The hope- the big payoff- is if at the end, at least a couple members of the family had a good time and want to do it again- the wife is the key of course. Too bad for Madeleine's husband. I'm not sure he is aware that nevermore will he head down the rapids with his wife.

Just this morning someone mentioned a quote to me that ties in with Karen Lynch's presentation If You Can Breathe You Can Do Anything. He said "encouragement is the oxygen of the soul." Karen has jumped into a long lost hobby thanks to her child, and is finding a new passion that you can tell she is quite excited about. Posted at LivethePower.

Everywhere around us are people that could inspire and challenge us if we just took the time to ask them about their life and their most challenging or rewarding experiences. Nael C. Robes in Women who inspire me - part 2 posted at Another Door Opens finds just such a person right in her own family – her grandmother.

Dr. Jane Chin presents What Moves Us posted at Jane Chin PhD, saying, "We do not always know what moves people. This is why it is important to share what you are inspired to share, even when in retrospect you wonder how what you wrote would make any difference." In the post, Jane says "Ignore your assumptions and your self doubt when it comes to sharing your creativity with others." That reminded me of a friend who took up oil painting a few years back. She had never done anything like it before. And I will admit now, the first few months she did it and showed off her work, I didn’t think she should have picked it up. Now, years later, her work is wonderful. Great colors, shapes, concepts. What would have happened if she wasn’t brave enough to have opened up and shared her creativity?

Karen Shanley's story of her relationship with her father is incredibly touching. So much of who we are, what we believe, what we think about our own value and abilities stems from our relationship with our father. In Painting the Air posted at Karen Shanley, she gives us a glimpse into her personal life, her father's heart, and how well-chosen words backed by actions can give a child a foundation that enables them to change the world- or simply change another's life. The only thing bad I can say about her post is that it's just one more pressure point to add to the arguments from my four daughters to get a dog. Ugh.

This next post is a very well written exploration of the power of the mind to limit us. I do think Craig Harper should connect with Karen Shanley and Karen Lynch (see their posts above)- they might provide some good positive stories to counter the sad one's he presents in Beliefs posted at Renovate your life with Craig. He says "We handicap ourselves if we're not regularly re-assessing all, or some, of our beliefs. Don't believe something just because your dad did. Maybe your dad was wrong! Too many people struggle through life, crippled by their destructive beliefs and self-imposed (totally unnecessary) limitations." Proof again of the power of parents to build up or tear down their children.

Maureen presents Marching to the Internet · Empty Nest posted at Empty Nest, saying, "How the youth of two generations changed society." I enjoyed reading her post, and respect her opinion, but I don't agree with her at all. But that's ok- it's cool to have differing opinions expressed, and I encourage you to stop by and check out what's on her mind.

Laura Young presents More on Life Purpose: Sometimes You Leave Clues posted at Dragon Slayer, saying, "Ever wonder what your purpose is and who you really are? Me too. Seems I'm always the last to know but if I look at the stories I tell in my photography, my poetry and even how I ate soup as a kid, the clues are everywhere!"

Mark A. Rayner presents Fiction Fridays: Any Port in a Storm posted at the skwib. It's a creepy and very violent tale of Sam and his wife Linda, and how their life was dramatically changed over drinks while sitting at a quiet neighborhood Irish Pub.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of the Storytellers using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Technorati tags: carnival of the storytellers, blog carnival.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Follow The Leader

Yesterday I did something I RARELY ever do. Something I despise. I would rather have hot irons poked in my eyes. I went to the mall.

It was a special occasion of course. What else would bring me there? Three of our girls pulled awesome grades in their ½ year reports. Our youngest, R, didn’t qualify as pre-schools have not yet started handing out grades. A is in second grade, and while good performance in that grade is wonderful there is something not quite exciting about getting an S (satisfactory progress) versus an NI (needs improvement). Somewhere around fourth grade the As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Es start to kick in.

K & L nailed wonderful grades yet again. We are very proud of them. K pulled an A in algebra (the final I helped her study for and wrote about in Write This Expression In Point Slope Form put her over the top)- that was the one subject that threatened the fait accompli.

The reward for the girls (including R- we couldn’t just leave her out in the cold just because she’s in pre-school) was a shopping spree at the mall. And so the fun began.

I brought my trusty Blackberry and so was able to occupy myself checking e-mail (honestly, 95% of the time was spent playing Texas Hold’em and Chess), and spent most of my time standing in front of each store, on the couches our mall has mercilessly installed for men, or hanging both arms on top of a garment rack while wondering if a pair of Jacks would win the pot.

While waiting in front of yet another store, I witnessed a three year old girl completely directing and orchestrating the life of her family. She decided she wanted to press the elevator button. Her dad allowed her, and mom and two other kids waited patiently. She then decided she wanted to continue pushing the button, non-stop, until the second-coming.

By the time the people on the second floor had loaded into the elevator and were ready for the adventurous journey to a lower level of hell, their departure was delayed by this sweet little three year old that was trying to save their eternal souls and keep them from their decent. Doors closing, button pushed again, doors open, repeat. (By the way, after thinking about this a few minutes, I think the parallels between a mall and hell are amazingly numerous. Perhaps I will delve into that another day).

The dad was trying to gently direct the little one away from the elevator and back to the circular path to nowhere everyone else on the second floor was mindlessly walking. She would have none of it. She had mastered the squinch-down, drop, twist and roll maneuver that popped her out on the backside of dad and made a bee-line for the elevator button yet again as the doors were closing. Mom and the other kids just sat there watching, most likely accustomed to delays caused by this wonderful little girl.

This continued for a couple minutes, and as dad tried to get a bit more forceful, the girl got more emotional and started crying, screaming and throwing a tizzy-fit. As it continued, and as I watched a growing crowd of onlookers lose patience, it took all that was in me to hold me back. With every ounce of my being I wanted to walk up the man and say “For the sake of all that is good, man, get control of your three year old, pick her up and administer whatever discipline is necessary to get control of your families life back into their own hands. If you don’t, I will.”

Of course I said nothing. I just observed and was amazed. What finally got the girl to give up on the elevator button? She spotted something that was interesting in the opposite direction the family was originally headed and shot off. The rest of the family dutifully obeyed, reversed course, and fast-walked to catch up to the head of the household.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Church Sign 1 - The Premier Edition

I hope this isn’t over the line, but I can’t help myself. There is a church not too far from where I live that I suspect has assigned the task of choosing and posting a weekly message seen by thousands of cars that drive by each week to a member that is eerily like my mother-in-law (just kidding K- love ya!).

This person seems to love wacky messages that he or she must pick up from some insider newsletter probably called "Church Sign Messages That Are So Cheesy They Are Sure To Keep Pesky Newcomers From Darkening Your Door.”

The sayings on church signs have their own little community of readers and posters. I have even seen books dedicated to nothing more than displaying the most interesting, uplifting, funny and poignantly pithy quips found at churches around the country.

Not this church. They go for good old fashioned goofy.

I don’t mean to offend (so I have at least obscured the church and pastor’s name on the sign), but I have to start posting photos of these signs. I think what pushed me over the line was last weeks message: “Jesus Uses The Cross To Turn a Negative Into A Positive!"

So here we go with what may turn into a regular series:

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Life Is Full Of Contradictions…I Know. I Am One

So last night I re-read my post from yesterday, Priorities. I though it was a well delivered statement pointing out a wrong that is about to be perpetrated by our Congress.

Then, something in the back of my mind popped up…an irksome thought about the words I used not being in alignment with some previous words I wrote.

From my post on December 11th 2006:

It was a well delivered call for love and kindness online, and a warning that the internet in general, and blog’s specifically, are just an extension of our tongues. Through our words we all have the power to
give life and lift up, or bring death and tear down.

The conflict? I guess calling the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee “weak-kneed traitorous fools” would not qualify as constructive language even when taking someone to task, confronting wrong or rebuking.

Check out Matthew 5:21-22 from The Message:

"You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother 'idiot!' and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell 'stupid!' at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.”

So allow me to restate the opening remark from yesterday’s post. I am officially changing it to:
“Yesterday the US Senate acted like cowards. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution condemning President Bush's surge plan in the war in Iraq. It will show up for a vote soon.”


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Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm A Bit Upset Right Now...

I am apologizing in advance for going political again.

Yesterday the US Senate acted like weak-kneed traitorous fools. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution condemning President Bush's surge plan in the war in Iraq. It will show up for a vote soon.

It is a non-binding resolution that will give our enemy hope. It is a slap in the face to our President and troops. It is unpatriotic and cowardly.

Before you assume my stance on the war, please be sure you clearly understand my view point: A non-binding resolution is NOTHING. It means NOTHING. It does NOTHING except push a political agenda and weaken the President and our armed forces.

The US Congress should do one of two things:

1. Embrace the plan, support it, and stand on the side for victory in the war on terror


2. State clearly their opposition to the plan, and vote to de-fund the war in Iraq

There are only two sides to a line drawn in the sand. Those that are backing a non-binding piece of paper with words that say "We don’t like you. We don’t like what you want to do. We won't do anything about it, but we just want to let you know we don't like it one bit" aren’t even near the line. They are somewhere on another planet not doing anything that requires a spine.

Victory or defeat. Support or oppose. Back our President and troops for victory, or vote to de-fund the war in Iraq, end it now and bring our troops home. Those are the only choices for a true patriot- one willing to act on their beliefs.

Back to happy things now….

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Right now, this very moment, there is need and suffering in my circle of concern. Beyond that circle, a far greater and unfathomably larger world exists with even more that I’m not even aware of.

In my circle of concern, RIGHT NOW…

  • There is a man that just lost his wife to breast cancer and is spinning out of control.

  • There is a woman whose father passed away and is carrying the weight of the family business and its overwhelming her.

  • There is a woman that is broken and crushed by the fact that her loving, kind and thoughtful son is in jail for a night of recklessness- he was driving drunk while on spring break and killed a young woman.

  • There is a man who just found out he has cancer and is fighting for his life.

  • There is a sick three year old boy with a terminal illness who has little time left.

  • There is a boy whose brother, a policeman, was shot and killed by a motorist he pulled over on the highway.

  • There is a family that has lost all they had to a fire, just after the husband lost his job- they are broke.

  • There is a man and woman with kids, divorced, struggling each on their own to provide for their families through a time of financial struggle and personal pain.

  • There is a young girl whose parents are not engaged in her life who is experimenting with anything she can find to get attention and fulfillment.

  • And on, and on, and on.

Tell me again why I should care one bit what politicians say are the things Americans should be most concerned about?

Please don't read into this that I am somehow a greatly thoughtful and caring person... I am not.

I have a LONG way to go. I am humbled when I hear of the struggles people are going through, and THEN hear of the people around them that are really doing something about it. That's what I need to start doing. Sharing concern and praying for these people are good- don't get me wrong, but I need to start putting legs on those and get in gear.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Almost Great Leipers Fork Fire Part 2: "Two Person 500-Foot Fire Bucket Relays Rarely Work"

Yesterday I started out to write a brief funny story of how I almost burned down my new town shortly after moving in. As I got into it, and finished off my second giant mug of hyper-caffinated Starbucks French Roast, I let loose almost 1700 words.

My friend FMF (Free Money Finance) mentioned once on his blog that my posts are long, but at least I only post once a day. So, I figured I would cut this story into two 800+ word posts. I hope you enjoy the conclusion.

The Almost Great Leipers Fork Fire Part 2: "Two Person 500-Foot Fire Bucket Relays Rarely Work."

I looked down and to the side and noticed that the hot engine of my lawn tractor had ignited the dead grass being rolled into a giant cigar under the chassis, and flames were starting to lick up into the engine lighting the stray dead grass tucked into every nook and cranny on the mower. Then the dead grass around the front of the mower caught, and that is exactly when the panic kicked in.

I jumped off with one thought in my mind- “This mower is going to explode, and I will die.”

I ran several feet away and watched as the fire grew, engulfing the front of the mower and starting to spread in a surprisingly well-defined growing circle. Then another thought crossed my mind- “I paid $2000 for this stupid thing and I’m going to sit here and watch it burn up? No way!”

I ran back to the mower, grabbed the back-end (flames were shooting up from the ground in the cock-pit area, and sitting on the mower was not an option), and with all my strength pulled it backwards. Adrenaline kicked in, and the performance was almost super-human, though the effects of the feat were not all good. I succeeded in accomplishing two things: I pulled the mower to relative safety, and I also spread flames over another 10 feet of dead grass. I grabbed my full water bottle and half-empty beer bottle and doused the fire burning under the mower, and the now burning and melting front wheels.

The fire in the field continued to burn, and started accelerating. I screamed to my wife and kids that were in the backyard playing in our blow-up pool- “Fire! Fire!”

Looking back now, I’m not sure that was productive. I panicked Michelle, and the girls all started crying as they looked up and saw daddy awkwardly running towards them navigating foot high dead grass in flip-flops, high-stepping, and wearing a sweat-soaked Hawaiian shirt and holding an empty beer can and water bottle, set to the back drop of a smoke and fire grass inferno.

Michelle and I scrambled for ideas. She suggested we call the fire department to keep from burning down all of Leipers Fork and wouldn’t that be lovely for the new neighbors to do. I considered it for a moment, and couldn’t imagine suffering the embarrassment and humiliation of having several fire trucks in our yard with Michael, Sally, other neighbors, and the constant flow of Sunday cyclist that navigate our road stopping to watch the action. Especially after the stuck-in-the-mud fiasco.

Michelle and I grabbed anything that could hold water, dipped it into the pool, and together jogged the 500 feet to the fire site. Remember the party game where you run with a spoon full of water to see who fills up the cup first, and you spill half of it getting there? This was just like that, only with a feeling of panic and the fear of perishing in a dramatic explosion replacing fun.

After a couple of rounds of this we realized we needed something bigger. The fire was growing, now to a circle roughly 30 feet in diameter with no signs of slowing. There was enough fuel in the form of dead mounds of grass spread out over 11 acres to provide the start of another Great Chicago Fire. I grabbed a plastic storage bin and filled it with water from the pool, and then on the next round tried to lift the whole stupid pool. I had lost my mind and imagined I could somehow lift 100 gallons of water in a flexible blow-up pool.

Finally, at a point of desperation, standing on the outside of the circle trying to stomp out the fire in flip-flops, Michelle said “Do you think I should get the fire extinguisher from the kitchen?”

“OH MY GOSH YES!!!” I said, just then recalling we had bought one and placed it under the kitchen cabinet. Michelle ran to the house and fetched it while I continued to fruitlessly shuttle storage bins of water back and forth from the house. Michelle returned with the fire extinguisher, I popped the safety tab and got to work. The fire was out in another minute, leaving a black smoking circle probably visible from space.

The next few weeks kept me busy- replacing the burnt front tires, slowly and painstakingly mowing the yard with a fire-extinguisher bungee-corded to the mower, and shopping for a new mower that could handle our 11 acres without burning down our town or causing a life-long battle with hemorrhoids.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

The Almost Great Leipers Fork Fire Part 1: "Smoke Between Your Legs"

In my post last week about “The Burning Of The Christmas Tree” I mentioned that a fire-extinguisher is now required for most outdoor activities around our house. I said I would tell the story of why at a later date. That day has arrived. It’s a long story, so I will post half the story today, and the other half tomorrow.

The Almost Great Leipers Fork Fire Part 1: "Smoke Between My Legs"

Shortly after moving into our new home in Leipers Fork Tennessee in May of 2003, we made the decision to keep our 11 acres cleanly mowed. This decision was based mostly on the mess we caused the first time we had it hedge-hogged the week we moved in. At the time the grass had reached chest high and brought life to the old lyric “amber waves of grain.”

We weren’t quite sure what hedge-hogging the grass entailed, but we did know that we had an offer to do it for $200, while a lawn care company quoted $800 to mow it. Bring on the hogs. The next day a tractor was towed onto our spread and it proceeded to slice down all the grass and hay, allowing it to fall to the ground in neat rows about a foot high. While it did “cut” the grass, what it left behind was a foot high grass carpet that looked worse. We needed a better solution.

I decided we would invest in a lawn tractor- the biggest I could find- and so searched Home Depot and Lowe’s. I found one at Lowe’s with a 54” mowing deck, the largest they had. It was delivered the next day and I planned my first big mow the following day, Friday.

By this time the grass had managed to grow again to about 2-3 feet in most places. As I started out on my brand new Toro Lawn Tractor (sounds much better than riding mower) I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be able to cut the grass very short. My solution was to set the deck at the highest setting, cut it roughly in half, and then go back and mow the whole yard again to get it to the desired height.

Have you ever driven past a freight train and stared at it wondering if it was moving or not? I’m sure that’s what I looked like from our road while I was sitting on my lawn tractor amidst a sea of 3 foot grass, moving at about 2mph.

I finished round one 6 hours later. My neighbors across the street, Michael and Sally, came out to say hi and mentioned with a grin on their face that my cool new mower sure was slow. These are the neighbors I had just recently met when I got my truck stuck in several feet of mud and they tried to help me get it out with their tractor (see my post: Our Family’s Off-Road Adventure).

As I started to embark on round 2 I was disheartened. I couldn’t imagine, and my rear-end couldn’t take, another 6 hour stretch. As it turned out, it didn’t matter. Trying to mow 18 inches of standing grass layered with another 18 inches of fresh cut grass is not well ingested by a residential lawn tractor.

My speed was cut in half and I gave up. I reasoned that if I waited a couple of days for the cut grass to dry up, round 2 would go much better. I waited until Sunday afternoon, and then ventured out to complete my mission. A fateful decision.

I love mowing grass. It is an escape. With my earplugs in place it is surprisingly quiet. It is a time of solitude, reflection, peace, cigars and beer. The smells while mowing are one other part of the task I enjoy greatly- the smell of fresh cut grass, of trees and the creek, and cigar smoke. Those are the good smells. The right and proper ones. The smell of grass burning is not one of them.

When there is a foot or more of dead dried grass on the ground most mowers have a difficult time choking down the mess while also struggling with the new grass to be mowed. Mowers deal with this in different ways. Some constantly clog up and spit out huge mounds of grass that look like hair-balls from some prehistoric 10 foot house cat. Some act like bull dozers paving a path through the grass with a constantly shifting wall in front, and high walls to the side leaving a wake resembling the parted Red Sea.

My new mower’s trick was to act like a Havana cigar maker carefully rolling tight cylinders of grass under the front wheels that became increasingly compact and required me to stop the mower, get out, and pull the four foot grass cigars out from the side before continuing.

It was about an hour after I started on round 2 that Sunday, and I was about as far away from my house as possible on our land, that my peaceful thoughts and reflections were shattered by a not-right smell.

These were my thoughts: “Hmm… I smell something burning. It smells sort of like burning grass. That’s weird. Hey, there’s smoke coming up from between my legs. That can’t be good.”

Next- The Almost Great Leipers Fork Fire Part 2: "Two Person 500-Foot Fire Bucket Relays Rarely Work"

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

24 Fever…Embarrassingly, I Just Got It

When 24 first premiered on Fox a couple years ago, I watched it and enjoyed it greatly. I then missed the next few episodes and never went back that first season. I just don’t watch much TV at all unless its news, and even then prefer breaking news around a big issue. After missing the first season, I certainly saw no value in starting season 2, and so on, and so on…

My sister-in-law wanted me to Tivo this season’s 2 day, 4 hour marathon season openers and I made time to watch them. Fortunately. I’m hooked.

In the show, things seem very dark for the United States. I don’t think after the Nuke went off, with the threat of 4 more to follow, that things could get much darker.

I had a flash back to a series of books I read sometime ago about the life of Winston Churchill (The Last Lion Volumes 1 and 2). Here is a man leading a nation that had death at its front door for 7 long years, and for a few of those years was mercilessly attacked by fellow government leaders that believed Britain could bring about peace and tranquility by appeasing and working with Hitler.

Despite Hitler’s words about conquering all of his enemies and ushering in a 1,000 year government that ruled the world, there were still British leaders that didn’t take the madman at his word. When someone has the power and weapons to destroy you, and tells you that he intends to, believe him.

What those British “leaders” didn’t understand is that Britain was a primary target of a madman that sought to end it’s influence over Europe and the world. Hitler had resolved to expend the blood, sweat and treasure of Germany to wipe out the British Islands.

We face an enemy as horrific and death-fascinated as Hitler and his SS Death squads. I went back and found one of the speeches Sir Winston Churchill delivered during some of the darkest days of WWII.

This is the closing of a speech he delivered to the British Parliament on June 18th, 1940:

“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire.

The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

Sir Churchill delivered this speech after a horrific two weeks of defeats and failures capped off by the retreat at Dunkirk and the collapse of the French government to the invading Nazi army.

How timely is his message today as we face those that are sworn to remove our heads from our idle, rich, distracted, petty, arguing, preoccupied, partisan and appeasing shoulders.

Sorry for going political…24 got me all worked up.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Leadership Thoughts From An Old Book

I was organizing my home office and found an old book I read almost 10 years ago. While I dont think it made a significant impact on me, it did add some insight and understanding about leadership. Here are the some key points from the book that I highlighted when I read it in 1998:

From "Semper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way" by Dan Carrison, Rod Walsh

  • Recruiting: Marines send out their top performers to recruit the best people. These experienced officers display a missionary zeal, and they personify the values and pride of a Marine. Carrison suggests that sales managers send out star performers who embody values of the organization to serve as role models for new recruits.

  • Training: Marines spend 12 weeks in basic training. When the training gets tough, drill sergeants quote the old saying, "The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war." Boot camp is not designed to weed out people, but to cultivate everybody. While corporate America fires those who don't perform up to standard, new Marines practice until everybody graduates.

  • Leadership: Marine officers lead by example. If a leader asks a platoon to climb a 100-foot wall, he will be the first one to start the climb. Of all military services, the Marine Corps has the highest casualty rate among officers. In corporate America, the best sales managers are not the ones who hide behind their desks, but those who go out to see the toughest customers with their front-line people.

  • Commitment: The Marine Corps credo is DO or DIE. Carrison says that you have to be careful what you ask a Marine to do because he'll die trying. Marines in action show how much a highly committed team can accomplish. What if salespeople adopted such high standards for conquering new territories or introducing new products?

  • Loyalty to the troops: While corporate America often tells employees that they are replaceable, Marines are told that they are irreplaceable. They know that the entire country and their fellow Marines depend on them. It's natural for a Marine to say, "I love my Marine Corps." how many salespeople say, "I love my company"?

  • More and more companies are studying the Marine Corps model for motivation. Their sales teams take more pride in their product and in their companies. Imagine the possibilities. Imagine every salesperson in your company as proud as a Marine. Imagine how many competitive battles you'd win. Every year, thousands of loyal and highly trained Marines retire; why not deploy their talents to win more sales?

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Friday, January 19, 2007

A 'Little' Encouragement

No time to write my own stuff today, so I wanted to share a quote from Sam (Tolkien):

"It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?

But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for."

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

London Wallets Falling Down

My first visit to the UK, that turned out to be just to London, was many years ago (BK- before kids). I had planned everything out- Fly to London, stay several nights in a quaint B&B in Russell Square and see the sights, and then rail it up north to hit Liverpool to do the whole Beatles pilgrimage thing, and then take trains to wherever we wanted on the island, whenever we wanted- Scotland, Dover, anywhere.

The Beatles pilgrimage part sticks out like a sore thumb in the itinerary, but as a Beatles freak it was required.

Michelle and I didn’t have much money. We saved for some time, and had just enough for our core expenses (airfare, accommodations, food, BritRail passes) and a tad more for discretionary spending (Beatles stuff, gifts for family and friends, more Beatles stuff).

Shortly after we arrived- I think it was the second day- we rode a double-decker bus on a tour of London. I took my wallet out to check something, and then tucked it under my leg instead of putting in back in my pocket. Why, I don’t know. When we got to our destination we got up, walked off the bus, and left my wallet on the seat. Amazingly I did see it again.

Inside the wallet was £200 (almost all of our discretionary money) and the BritRail passes. Our planned trip to Liverpool and the rest of the island was shot. Fortunately the B&B in London was able to extend our stay.

A week later, back in the US, I took a small package out of the mailbox. Inside was my wallet, with a note from a semi-nice stranger that said they had found my wallet and thought I might want it back to save the hassle of replacing drivers license, credit cards, miscellaneous other ID and membership cards. The note mentioned the money was taken, as well as the BritRail passes- “sorry about that.”

The incident made an impact on Michelle far greater than me. To this day, when we leave a restaurant, theater and especially a bus, she often asks loudly “do you have your wallet?” Just a little embarrassing, but deserved.

Despite many visits to the UK since, I have yet to make it to Liverpool or the northwest coast. Someday.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Car Problems = Ruined Day

On Monday our van started acting up. The engine stalled and skipped when we accelerated. I found that when I drove like my wife (slow acceleration from a stop, keeping under the speed limit, no pedal-to-the-metal gassing) it seemed to run fine, but as soon as I had to gas it harder than a tap it skipped and sometimes stalled.

Last night I decided to test it out and drive out to get the mail (yes- we sometimes drive to our mailbox 1/10 of a mile from our front door). The way I typically do this is to pull out to the left into the oncoming traffic lane, back up 10 feet, and lean out the driver side door and reach into the mailbox while sitting in the wrong lane. There is usually not a problem doing this as there is a hill some distance away and if you do this while no traffic can be seen there is enough time to pull off the maneuver, get the mail, and head back home.

Last night all went well until I backed up to the mailbox, at 8PM in the pitch dark, and the van died. Didn’t stall or skip- it died.

I turned the bright lights on, flipped on the emergency flashers, and tried to repeatedly start it up again. The engine tried, but wouldn’t turn over and start. After a couple minutes of trying this while also going through a plan in my head of how and when to dive out of the car if an oncoming truck came over the hill doing 70MPH (not uncommon) and couldn’t get over due to oncoming traffic in the correct lane, I decided to try to push the van into the driveway.

I got out with the van in neutral, and tried to push. I quickly jumped back in to apply the brake when I realized there was no way I could do it alone. This was very clear to me because the van started to drift backwards towards the 3 foot drop-off on the side of the road and I couldn’t stop it.

I sat there dumbfounded with absolutely no plan whatsoever. Fortunately on the 100th try or so the engine started. I drove back home and Michelle and I made plans on getting the van to the shop today.

Got it there about 9AM, got a shuttle ride home from a nice guy named Sean (Michelle drove my truck to R’s pre-school- she volunteered to help at school today) and waited for the bad news.

Apparently our battery is leaking acid, which has burned through several wires in the wire-harness- one of them the controller to the accelerator. Cost? $2,100. We opted for the cheap fix: hand repairing the specific wires damaged with fresh electrical wire and electricians tape. Plus a new battery. Only $350.

Lovely day.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Our Family Song

Do you remember being a teenager and having a song that you and your girlfriend/boyfriend called your own? "This is our song!" shouted in the car as THE song came on the radio?

Those songs were constantly in my head- sung, hummed, and painfully and slowly worked out on my guitar or keyboard.

Now, married with four kids, my wife and I still have songs we claim as ours, but now they are family songs. Songs that creep out of nowhere and suddenly become a song for a season that each and every one of us find in our minds and on our lips. From our 5 year old up, the songs are just there- everyday- for a month or more until we are so sick of them they don't surface again for a year or more.

One of us, any of us, might have the song just pop in our head, hum a single line, and that triggers the other 5 in the family to start humming it, singing it out loud, or playing the song while reading or doing homework. And so it goes all day, until the next day comes.

Awhile back our song was Jason Mraz's "Please Don't Tell Her." We got so addicted to Jason so quickly, and played his stuff so much, that I think we have recoiled and won’t be back for a long time. This is one of those songs that when the lyrics are read on their own it is not very compelling. When it is listened to, however, there is something moving and emotional about the music. The voice is plaintive and crying out in desperation of an unrequited love that touches the heart in the mystical way music can. You can listen to “Please Don’t Tell Her” here:

Jason Mraz "Please Don't Tell Her"

Our latest “Family Song” is Switchfoot’s “Daisy.” This song came out of nowhere a couple weeks ago. It’s not from the newest release “Oh! Gravity.” It happens to be the last song on the previous record that has been sitting around the house for more than a year. For some reason it has just topped the DigitalRichCrew Billboard Chart at #1. The whole family has this one stuck in the head, and it will likely linger until mid-February.

You can listen to “Daisy” here:

Switchfoot "Daisy"

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Carnival of the Storytellers 1st Edition

So here I am hosting my first blog carnival.

As with most things I try, I am committed to keeping at it for a month or so before deciding to stick with it or quit.

The first self-imposed test was to see if I would get at least 5 submitions for this first edition. Well, I did.

Of course I had to count one of mine to make it, and if you notice below, there are only 4 showing. That's becuase one of the ones submitted was just a wee bit pornographic. All in all, I am counting this first edition a success. I hope you agree.


There is a saying that everyone has a story. I think whoever coined this phrase must have read up on Michelle Mitchell's family. The intrigue and interesting lives presented in Short Stories from Family History are amazing. Her brief outline of what could easily be a book is sure to entertain. She is pondering the possibility- so stop by, and if you agree that she should go for it drop her a note of encouragement. Posted at scribbit.

Laura Young gives us a glimpse into a private E-mail conversation with an old friend. The big question discussed is using the concept of 'the heroic act of slaying a dragon' to describe our everyday lives. Determining who we are, our roles and responsibilities, and what may be holding us back from all we can be. When one finds those things, and acts to slay the dragons that hold one pinned underneath their claws, shouldn't there be a celebration? Isn't that heroic? I think it is. Dragon Slayer?! Isn't that a little presumptuous? Posted at Dragon Slayer.

I don't tell many people this, but I guess I am now- I am writing a novel online, on a private blogspot address. Not very brave of me, since I won't let anyone but my wife and daughter read it. Not so Chris Dolley. That's not the only difference between us either. I can spot two others right away: 1) Though it reads like a work of fiction, Chris's story is real while mine is not. 2) His is good. Start a journey that will compel you to read more. Crime and Poetry Part One (The Crime) posted at Author Chris Dolley's Page.

And lastly, a work of storytelling from DigitalRich- a true story that ties together a grand concert piano, a patio, flooding, procrastination, conflict, a home builder, sump pumps and middle of the night strolls in the rain while wearing shorts, a t-shirt and giant black rain boots. Check out Rain In The Middle Of The Night posted right here at DigitalRichDaily.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of the Storytellers using our carnival submission form.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007


"May you live in interesting times” is one of the oldest disguised curses in the world. Interesting is defined as “engaging or exciting and holding the attention or curiosity, arousing a feeling of interest.”

Wars, conflicts, natural disasters, extreme wealth, extreme poverty next to it, political upheaval, lawlessness, death and destruction. The world we live in is indeed a very interesting place.

What is going on in my world? Probably similar to what is happening in yours. A couple days ago I woke up to check the news and learned that the company I worked for from 1990 until 2005 is announcing layoffs and restructuring. The people there are worried. The company I just wrapped up a year with is undergoing big change. People known to me or my family are experiencing great change and shifts in their lives: a young boy in one of my daughters school class just lost his older brother- a policeman shot while pulling over a speeder, a friend and former co-worker just diagnosed with cancer and undergoing intense treatment to save his life, another friend struggling to keep a job and support his family, the list goes on and on.

How do we experience any peace in these troubling times? Peace is conventionally defined as a state of being without conflict. I believe peace is the ability to cope with it.

Some words of wisdom written 2000 years ago: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Burning Of The Christmas Tree 2007

A few weeks before the Christmas of 1989, Michelle and my first Christmas together as a married couple, my parents gave us a nice fake tree that they said would last us for years. It did. We used it for fourteen years straight, and it always looked wonderful.

In 2003 we made the switch to a real tree and we won’t go back. After the holidays, realizing that we no longer lived in the city limits of Franklin (we moved in the spring of that year) and left behind city garbage collection and Christmas tree removal, a new family tradition was born, and was practiced yet again today, January 13th, 2007:

The Burning Of The Christmas Tree

I know what you're probably thinking right about now- "It's the 13th! What took you so long! Christmas was 19 days ago for Christmas' sake."

Well, to successfully and safely execute “The Burning Of The Christmas Tree” you must have certain conditions present: No rain, relatively dry ground/fire pit, no wind, and time available to pull it all off. Over the last three weeks we just haven’t had all those things line up for us. Today they did- just barely.

We were just an hour or two from yet another rainstorm. It has been raining constantly here for weeks with just a few days off between storms. You can see from this radar image taken right about the time we lit up the tree that another storm was approaching. The red arrow is where our house is, and the yellow arrow is where K is- she is at camp this weekend, and missed the family tradition this year.

So, the tradition entails making sure all the decorations are off (Michelle did this the day after Christmas), the water is out of the tree stand reservoir (done this morning), and a clear walkway out the front door is made. We drop the tree onto a tarp, and haul it out the front door and place it on a small trailer hooked up to my mower.

Then off it goes to the fire pit at the back of our property.

I then dig a small hole in the middle of the pit for the tree trunk, and drop it in. You can burn a Christmas tree on its side, but you lose the towering inferno look I always look for in a burning Christmas tree.

Once positioned, it’s as simple as lighting the tiniest little branch sticking out from the bottom, and getting away. You have no doubt heard of the saying "Lit up like a Christmas tree." That old saying has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas lights strung carefully around a tree. No- its all about the nuclear fusion that takes place about 10 seconds after the tree really catches- 20 seconds, and everything is over.

Here is a photo montage of this years action. You can see the small flame that caught with the very first attempt...

Here we are at about T plus 5 seconds...

Now at T plus 10 seconds...

And finally a full 20 seconds after the first flame licked the bottom of the tree, it’s over.

The tradition is fun for the whole family- we all get out there and watch it burn up. One year we did it at night and it lit up the whole back yard.

Oh- this is the fire extinguisher my wife insists we bring out to “The Burning Of The Christmas Tree.” Ever since the fire I started in the yard a couple summers ago she just doesn’t trust me. More on that another day.

The tradition is fun, but there is something also sad about it. The Burning Of The Christmas Tree is the "period" to our family's annual sentence "Christmas is over."

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