Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Now I Know For Sure…I’m Old

Last night Michelle and I went to parent orientation at Franklin High School. Our oldest, K, is starting high school next year.

I really didn’t think much about the meeting prior to going. I figured it would be the standard boring stuff- bathrooms are over here, school starts at this time, students get out at this time, they are allowed so many excused absences per marking period, etc.

What I didn’t expect was to enter a high school that was much more massive inside than I expected, to walk an impossibly long and complicated maze to get to the auditorium, and then sit in a room filled with parents old enough to have kids going to high school. Wait. I’m one now too.

I was uncomfortable from the start. The principal and president of the parents-teachers organization got up to speak. The words were from my distant past, long forgotten- college prep, planning for college financial aid, mandatory courses, electives that will line up nicely with your child’s plans for the future, blah, blah, blah. Gone were the simpler days of elementary and middle-school orientation. Reminders from the kindly principal about arts and crafts fees, lunch tickets and the car-rider/drop off lane rules and etiquette.

There are times that seem reality smacks me in the face harder than others. There is the 'everyday' kind that creeps up on me and says ‘boo’ in little ways. Bills due, broken refrigerators, a new ache or pain. Those are the times reality and the unpredictability of life can knock me for a day-long loop. Other times, reality rears its ugly giant head and wobbles me a bit on my ‘center.’ Last night was one of them. A reminder, yet again, at how quickly life is flying by.

I remain more sensitive to this than normal as I am continuing to archive all of our old photos on our home network, and so have been bombarded the last week or so with hundreds and hundreds of images of K as our little first-born girl. Petite, cute, funny, smart. And little. Most definitely NOT a high school girl.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Passing

I didn’t know her very well, but that didn’t stop her from loving on me the few times I was able to be with her. Growing up, she was always far away from where I was- like most family.

My father was in the Air Force so we were in far-flung places.

She had a mystique about her… had the poise and grace of earlier times. She reminded me of my grandfather, mostly it’s the eyes. She was my Great Aunt Lorraine.

Aunt Lorraine passed away on February 21st, 2007, in Arlington, Virginia. She was born on February 5th, 1924 in Brooklyn NY, and was the youngest daughter of Dominique and Thomas, my great-grandparents. She lived in Queensbury, New York for most of her years, was the widow of James , and was also predeceased by her sisters, Anita and Virginia, and two brothers, Tony (my grandfather) and Richard.

Before moving to Queensbury, Lorraine lived in North Carolina and also in Lake Placid, New York. Professionally, she was a talented Decorator/Consultant and also a Buyer, in both the clothing and furniture industries, and for a short time owned her own design consulting firm “A Touch of Class.” That was a very appropriate name for her.

For fun, Lorraine danced, golfed and traveled. After her passing, the family received calls from friends expressing sorrow from Italy, Switzerland, other parts of Europe, Canada and as far away as Saudi Arabia. She was a beautiful and truly elegant woman.

I wish I knew her well enough to have written all this myself. Unfortunately I didn’t, and had to pull most of Aunt Lorraine's personal information from a note from family. Shockingly I learned from this note the names of my great-grandparents. I didn’t know before I read this. My parents or grandparents had probably told me years ago, but if so, I had forgotten.

It is amazing, really, how modern life pulls us away from a family center. The educational and economic opportunities are so many, and this country is so large, that many have lost, or never had, a hometown- a place where your family is rooted, and where they stay in touch, and gather for special times, good and bad.

I hope to be building that here, where Michelle and I are now.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Carnival of The Storytellers 4th Edition

Welcome to the 4th edition of Carnival of the Storytellers.

Spring is around the corner. It’s the time storytellers love. It reloads the story file for another year. No more cold days and nights indoors- instead, its time for barbecues, walks, water, outdoor sports and parties. The things that bring about a higher volume of human contact, and thus, more chances for conversations and observations that provoke learning, new thoughts and ideas, and new stories.

One of those things for me is softball. I coach several girls teams and spring will be spent on various softball fields with friends, parents, and players- precious girls discovering that if they apply themselves they can do great things. Each of the past few years I have head-coached or assisted on three different teams, and played in a co-ed league. This year, with my 5 year old girl starting up, I will be bringing a pup tent and porta-potty with me to the fields.

This carnival is a bit shorter than I had hoped. This is mainly due to people that can’t seem to express themselves without various profanities. I did not include their posts- a surprisingly high number. Creativity and care applied to writing removes almost any need to use profanity except when quoting. And even then, that’s because the speaker being quoted doesn’t care to be purposeful in expressing themselves. It’s a damn shame.


Karen Shanley details one of those precious nighttime conversations with a child- when they seem to be the most open and honest, ready to question, to learn, to understand, ready to pour out what they are really thinking about or what concerns or scares them. Im not sure if they are 100% into the resulting conversations, or just happy to have tricked me into biting the hook and putting off bedtime a few more minutes. In The Steering Wheel posted at Karen Shanley, an incredible past experience is shared between mother and child that is very well written and captivating . A great truth is laid bare in the story- faith, family and life itself is freedom, and treasure can often times weigh down.

Linda Freedman presents Saying Goodbye posted at Everyone needs therapy? Lessons from a family therapist, saying, "Not everyone has the luxury of taking vacations that leave them feeling "vacated." This doc tells about getting more than she bargained for when she went down to Miami in January."

I have always heard that life is fragile. It hangs on a thread inches away from its nemesis- death. There is another side of life though- a squall of will- a burning desire to do everything and anything possible to sustain itself. Barbra Sundquist presents one small example of just that. Growth Happens, Even In Less-Than-Ideal Conditions posted at shows that even when forgotten and neglected, life goes on, or at least desparately tries to.

Years ago I worked in a womens shoe store as a manager. I don’t think I have ever been presented with so many fascinating and strange people and situations as I did while there. Sometime soon I will document a few of these on my blog now that I sit here and recall them. 100 Words presents Plates of Meat posted at The Centurion Diaries, and describes how he became a funny story that is now, no doubt, told amongst the staff of a shoe store he recently visited.

Tim Frazier thinks he wrote a post about about a funny adventure he had doing what men do best- trying to do things themselves. In 4Fraziers - TimBlog » The Great Capacitor Explosion - er, Explosions posted at TimBlog, what he really wrote about is what men most often hate to admit- their wives have an intuition that can save men time, money, worry, and in some cases, our lives.

Watching children watch the world is one of my favorite pastimes. To see them almost overwhelmed by the wonder and beauty is so much fun- it rekindles a lost excitement and passion for what grown ups often take for granted. Mama Duck presents Where all the fish were Nemo…. posted at Lil Duck Duck, detailing the wonder her little one had in experiencing the vast undersea world.

Not seen this one before- a love affair, and a Valentines Day note to the beloved, all based on an imaginary relationship. Interesting, and a bit unsettling. Reading it, you want it to be about a real woman in love with her man. It turns out to be true in a way- a creepy way. Nneka presents My Not-So-Secret Love Affair posted at Balanced Life Center, saying, "A story about my love affair with blogging."

Brad Bits placed this post in the carnival under the category of “fiction.” After reading it, I sure hope it is. There is something dark and desperate about the story. It’s a long read, but somehow it keeps you hooked- for me, because I kept reading hoping that this wasn’t true. Brad's Bits: I sleepwalk, posted at Brad's Bits: Stories of slacking in corporate America, is descrbed by the writer as a "Sad and weird story about sleepwalking." Let’s hope it’s a story. How could anyone desire to be a mindless unconscious animal over a thinking and conscious human being? It kind of holds your attention the same way roadkill does as you're driving by. No offense Brad.


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.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Power-using, Multitasking & Disaster

This morning I hit the absolute limit of my PC. I was simultaneously rendering a video clip for a client, scanning old pictures, listening to music on Rhapsody, uploading images to a website, running three monitors, syncing my Blackberry, transferring files from my network to my hard drive and typing up a post for today’s DigitalRichDaily.

The system crashed. Crashed hard. The Blue Screen Of Death kind of crash and burn. I lost all the data that was in open files, and corrupted 2 programs that had to be reinstalled. Why am I telling you this? Because I have no desire to try to reconstruct and rewrite the post I was writing and lost. I learned my lesson. Again.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

What Does It Mean To Be A Human Being?

That's one of the questions I had to fill out on an application I submitted to an organization that seeks volunteers to help teach English as a second language.

They are located in Europe, and look for people to not only teach, but to also bridge the culture gap between two different peoples- the native people of the country and Americans.

The question hit me hard- how on earth do I answer that? On what level do I answer it? Physiologically? Socially? Spiritually?

I stopped thinking and started typing, free flow, and this is what I got on the first try:

To desire, try, fail, and try again. To sometimes think we are great, when we are really broken, and at times feel worthless, when we are truly priceless. To seek security and inclusion, to be tempted to love ourselves more than others. To spend our life on a search for meaning and purpose. To be hard-wired to know there is Someone greater than us, and to seek Him for protection from what we deserve, and the gift of what we don’t.

There you go. I think it's a pretty good shot at a very, very hard question...

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Vodka, Chili, Panties & The Glory Days

A few weeks ago my former employer, actually my former-former employer, was forced to layoff a large number of people due to the continuing changes in the industry. The music business is in turmoil and going through a painful metamorphosis that is taking a toll on many, many people.

A couple days ago I called a few of the people that were affected just to say hello and encourage them as they figure out what they want to do next. On one of those calls I learned that a small group of those folks were coming to Nashville for a wrap up meeting to hand off company materials, account relationship details and other things necessary to bridge the changes with customers. He mentioned that a group of former staff were gathering Thursday night for dinner and to hang- the sad fact is that it may be the last time several of them see each other. He invited me along.

We showed up at a local sports bar/restaurant- Jonathon’s Grill, but it was too loud to talk, so we decided to head to a nearby hotel restaurant. No one ever goes to those places for a good time, so we knew it would be quiet. It was.

It was great to see the guys- a couple remaining guys still at work in the industry, a few scheduled to end their position in a month, and a few more that had left a month ago and even one that left a couple years ago. It was a blast. A decent Absolute Gimlet, a bowl of horrific hotel chili, and great conversation. Its always fun to hang with friends and talk about the glory days- there is something comforting and supportive about a group dynamic that makes reminiscing fun instead of sad or pathetic.

All was going well until one gent begged me to tell my ancient story about Chris. I refused, assuring him and all the others that they had heard it at some point over the last 16 years and I wasn’t going to bore them with it again. Several spoke up insistent that they had never heard it, and I was implored to tell. And so I did. And I will tell it once more again here, and then I’m done with it.

It’s really not that funny unless you know/knew Chris, so you might as well stop reading here. Have a nice day.

Ok, for anyone left, here we go. Chris is a big guy. Bigger than me, and what someone would call lumbering. He has a heart as big as Texas, but his brain processes everything out in the open. Where most people filter out the thinking process when they go through ideas or options privately, spot the glaring errors or problems, and then decide on a course of action, Chris plods through this by speaking out loud so everyone can peak inside his brain. While he usually ended up making a decent choice or decision, he suffers much ridicule and teasing on the way. Hope that paints a good picture of him.

Many years ago, on one of many sales conferences that brought the far-flung sales reps together for meetings, I waited in the lobby of the hotel during check-in to see who I was to room with. I was told my roommate was Chris, and so headed upstairs to unpack and then head out to dinner. The sales team gathered for dinner that night, and afterwards we all headed back to our rooms- we had an early start the next morning- 7AM meeting start.

Chris and I walked to our room, and I immediately collapsed into my bed and turned the TV on. Chris, who had arrived late from Florida, started unpacking. He then headed to the bathroom, and when he came out and walked in front of the TV I caught a glimpse of him- he was committing a no-no when rooming with a co-worker. He was completely naked except for his undies.

And that’s when I saw them. Big, droopy, silky, ruffled panties. Way too big even for Chris’s massive frame. Things were hanging out that shouldn’t have been.

“Chris, what are you wearing?” I asked incredulously.

He then informed me, with absolutely no hesitation or embarrassment that he had run out of clean underwear right before the trip, and had no choice but to wear a pair of his wife’s panties. He said they rushed to get his clothes washed and packed, and fortunately had just enought time to pack his own clean underwear for the upcoming week although they were still a bit damp.

I suggested to Chris that next time, if this ever happened again, quietly and without commentary, slip a pair of your own clean underwear out of the drawer, head into the bathroom fully dressed, then change underwear, get dressed for bed (that would include some sort of pajamas or robe so as not to freak out your roommate), and never mention that you wore your wife’s panties. Chris said “Yeah- that probably would have been better.”

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Should I Call The Police?

I am not a car buff, but several years ago I bought an antique car on a whim. I had heard that eBay sold cars and so checked it out online, and the web page logo for the online store featured an image of a car I had never seen. It was amazingly cool.

After some research, I found out it was a 1956 Austin-Healey BN4 100/6 and decided I wanted to buy one. It was a sizeable amount of money and it took some convincing to get Michelle to feel ‘ok’ about the purchase. I reasoned that it was an investment- something that would grow in value and provide some really fun spare-time driving.

I found one on eBay in my budget, watched the auction, and then jumped in with 2 minutes to go and bought it. The car was coming from Florida, and they drove it up on a transport within a few days. It was thrilling to drive and a wonder to look at. The curves and lines were stunning.

Again, I’m not a car buff or a weekend mechanic, so my justification for the purchase as an investment was out the window the first time I needed to have it serviced. I found a mechanic nearby that specializes in antique British roadsters, and he put his youngest through college on me. Each year I owned the car represented one major repair and another year of college funded.

I decided to sell it after a particularly bad mechanical failure. It was a beautiful spring day, but held promise of afternoon rain, and Michelle warned me I probably should drive my everyday car to work. I really wanted drive the Healey, so pulled out the bad weather gear (the canvas and vinyl top, along with the polished wood front rim all reside in the trunk) and assembled the convertible top in the garage. On many old convertibles the process can take 5-15 minutes- not something you can do while stopped in traffic when the rain drops start. Off to work- no problem. On the way home in massive winds and torrential rainfall? Really, really bad.

I was driving down a back road when the pressure of the rain and wind caused the front of the convertible top to buckle and break. It popped halfway off, and turned from a protective covering into a giant intake valve. Its hard to describe exactly what happened so I will give you this picture- imagine in a horrific rainstorm the front section of the roof of your car lifted up 2 feet, and convexed out efficiently scooping massive amounts of wind and rain, and depositing it all nicely on your head. There you go.

I pulled over to try to fix it, but the structure was bent and broken and could not be fixed or removed without tools. I drove the rest of the way home- about 20 minutes, and arrived with a foot of water in the bottom of the car, and soaked to my underwear and socks. Hahaha. It’s funny now.

So…Shortly after that fiasco I listed it on eBay, and sold it for about what I paid minus my dignity.

The gent that bought it, among the hundreds and hundreds of watchers/bidders, turned out to live only 10 miles away. He arranged to come see it during the auction, and ended up as highest bidder. We picked the day for him to come over and drive away my car. He showed up with a friend, we chatted for a bit, and then he handed me a big manila envelope- the 8.5 x 11 kind. It was bulging and about to burst the frail paper seams. “Here’s the money” was all he said.


I opened the envelope, and inside were stacks and stacks of $100 bills. “Go ahead and count it” were the words I imagined him saying, right out of the movies when bad guys are transacting drugs or weapons. Sure enough, those were his exact next words.

I dutifully counted the stacks of bills, arrived at the right number, and then pulled out the title that has a place on the back to transfer it during a sale or a lost drag race. As I filled it out, he leaned over close and quietly asked if I could remove a zero from the sale price so that he could keep the state sales tax low. Yikes. I politely refused, tightening my grip on the money and making sure his friend wasn’t reaching for a weapon.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why More Parents Don’t Participate In School Activities

I hear complaints about why more parents don’t participate in the PTA/PTO organizations in their schools. As far as it concerns our local school, this could be one reason:

Yesterday we got a phone call that there was a PTO meeting last night (one of those automated mass-calling types). At 4PM when our girls got home from school they had a note informing us that the meeting was at 6PM that same night, and the main purpose of the meeting was to elect the officers for the next term. The note had a place to write down nominations (officers include president, treasurer, secretary, etc), and a reminder that you should make sure the person you are nominating is aware and interested in serving.

An election season of 2 hours.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

K & Queen Elizabeth

Yesterday Michelle, K and I watched “Elizabeth” starring Cate Blanchett. There were more than a few scenes and bits of dialogue that made us uncomfortable watching it with our 13 year old girl, but K is very mature for her age and seems to understand that unfortunately the world is full of people that use coarse language and seek their own welfare above others (this resulting in horrible conduct such as theft, deceit, murder, plotting and all sorts of court intrigue- both in ancient times and the modern age).

K seems to hold a fascination with history. Just like her old man. She has traveled to Rome and surrounding areas, wants to travel the rest of Europe, and enjoys reading and learning about history.

Watching Queen Elizabeth in the film, as she matures from a young girl with barely a care in the world into a woman with strength of character, a clear vision for what is right, and developing immense power and influence, has to be encouraging to a young girl wondering what it is to be a woman.

Same thing happened when we watched Joan of Arc. These are women, no doubt as flawed and broken as any woman or man is, pursuing what they believe is right, called by God- or at least used by Him- to make an impact and change the world.

We talk to our girls about purpose and destiny. It is important to remind them that they have the power to change the world. It is also important to remind them that can take many shapes. It could be as grand as discovering a cure for a disease, or as simple as writing a book. As rewarding as starting a business that provides income and stability for others that allows them to raise and care for a family, or as private as serving a local ministry. As publicly lauded as being a doctor or nurse and saving a life, or as quiet and faithful as building up the life of a child as a mom.

My whole life I have regarded women as equals, though I believe men and women have their own uniquely God-given traits that are designed to support work with each other. But helping my wife raise daughters has brought on a whole new appreciation of girls as they grow into women. To see them process life and all that happens, to see their hearts and minds develop is awesome. It is so important to lift up examples of women that are kind, virtuous, intelligent and caring, starting with their mother, to counter all that the world has to show- what it presents as what a woman is, is about, and is good for.

Side note - As I prepared to post this and read back through it, It seems to me that my words make me out to be more than I am. To be clear so as not to leave any false impression, I can be an ass like the next guy. But at least when I am, I’m a self-aware ass.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

The Best Laid Schemes Of Mice And Men

This morning I was ready for the normal Monday holiday routine- Get up late, make coffee, write a stunningly deep and thought provoking post for DigitalRichDaily, do the bills, and enjoy the free day.

This morning I knew something had gone awry when I made the coffee and went to get the half-and-half from the refrigerator to tone down the extra-strong espresso I prepared. As I approached the refrigerator I caught a strange smell- almost like rotting food.

When I opened the refrigerator door, a blast of summer heat hit me, as well as the putrid stench of food gone bad. The refrigerator hadn’t just stopped working- it actually turned into an oven. The temperature report looked like a thermometer in Phoenix, in the shade- a lovely spring day of 106 degrees. The freezer was fine at leat- a still icy 0 degrees.

There went the morning. Michelle spent the next couple hours dumping hundreds of dollars of food in the trash, mopping up pools of butter, scraping off pounds of biscuit dough that had exploded out of canisters, while I burned up the hours researching what in the world could cause a refrigerator to go 70 degrees in the wrong direction. GE service man will be here tomorrow between 9AM and 5PM. Should be a nice $200-300 worth of parts and labor I’m sure.

Have a happy President's Day.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pardon Me Whilst I Puke

I don’t think I have turned off television and radio and clicked off websites more after hearing lame excuses for news than I have this past week.

“And now an update on the Anna Nicole Smith saga (click). Stay tuned for an amazing story about Britney Spears cutting off all her hair (click). Algore is planning a huge concert to save the planet (click). Nancy Pelosi said (click). Jack Murtha said (click). Giuliani said (click). Obama said (click). Prince Harry will be serving in Iraq (click). Rosie and the Donald are at it again (click).”

I can’t take it anymore. I will still check the Drudge Report briefly each morning to make sure some cataclysmic act of God isn’t bearing down on my house AGAIN, but other than that, I need a break.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Love Letter

We use the room on the bottom floor of our house as both my office, and a guest room when out-of-towners arrive for a stay at the DigitalRich Inn. I just pack up the notebook computer and bring it upstairs when I need to do work.

I have been on a two month journey to get the space completely organized. There’s plenty of room for guests, even with my desk, Brooke’s desk (we still call it that even though she doesn't work for me anymore), a queen size bed, treadmill and entertainment center. The room has tons of storage space too- 2 walk in closets that now store a massive amount of miscellaneous items- neatly categorized, boxed and labeled.

Michelle was with me one night when I was working on storing old pictures, letters, cards and notes. She found an old note from her sister J to a friend of hers when she was only about 15 years old. It was a status report on affairs of the heart to her friend, detailing how she was absolutely crazy about the guy they met at the mall. We gathered from the note that J and her friend had been at the mall, and they each met a different guy they liked, broke up into two groups, and spent time with each of their “finds.”

In the note she was telling her friend what an amazing kisser he was. She detailed her undying love for him, wondered if he thought she was a good kisser too, wondered when she would see him again, worried whether their love would stand the test of time and distance, and hoped this would be the guy she would always love.

I remember being a 15 year old guy. If back then guys wrote notes to each other, which under no circumstances did they ever do, no one would have mistaken the two accounts being about the same meeting or relationship. I would imagine if there had been mobile phones and text messaging at the time, the gent would have sent a message to his buddy that looked alot like this:

dude-met hote 2day @mall awsme bod-got XnYs-thats all. mayb nxt time more.hope so.she had frnd n I culd go4 eethr 1. think other 1 might have dun mor.u?

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Friday, February 16, 2007

All About Kids

In February each year there are some amazing events that take place in New York City that are all about kids.

First off there’s KidScreen- a conference with some of the best and brightest in children’s media. Filmmakers, animators, illustrators, producers, directors and content delivers (television, cinema, internet, distributors). If its media and it’s for or about kids, it’s probably there.

Following that ToyFair starts up. ToyFair to me is the 8th Wonder of the World. The Jacob Javitz Center in NYC is jam-packed with almost every toy and game manufacturer in the world. Endless aisles and floors of the most amazing toys, games, bikes, scooters, clothing, sporting goods and much more. Floor to ceiling 30 foot high booths from Mattel, Nintendo, Hasbro and others. It’s a blast to walk through except for one thing- it is eerily like that town in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” No kids allowed. Just men and women, smartly dressed, walking around shaking hands and making deals.

And after that? An exclusive and very small gathering of influencers in children’s media in a meeting room high above Times Square. They come together for two days to challenge, encourage and update each other on what is happening in their businesses. It is a chance to connect into what others are doing, get ideas that can be applied to each attendees own business, and learn about what “works” in the marketplace of ideas.

Last year I did the whole set of three, and found the last to be both the most inspiring and the most depressing. It is a long story of how I was invited to this exclusive meeting. It was somewhat of an accident. I didn’t fit it, and it was apparent to me very quickly that I was out of my league.

I didn’t know what to expect, and so had laptop out for notes, and brain wide-open for input, and listened. Over the two days speakers poured out information and ideas, taking questions throughout each presentation, with plenty of breaks for meals, coffee, networking. I thought I would share the most enlightening points from those two days here.

Speaker 1 was an executive at a major childrens television network. She talked about strength through evolution (what does that mean?), knowing what you are doing at the center without over thinking the details so there is flexibility to change and adapt on the edges and details of your kids content. That all sounded reasonably good until she followed up with this tidbit- they want to attract more 13-16 year olds and seemed very excited about developing shows that “push the envelope including gay and lesbian characters and stories.” She said their research shows "17% of 13+ year olds would not classify themselves as straight", and seemed somewhat pleased at that. She is also excited about a new show they have developed that “deals with kids facing date rape, drug use, suicide, and other important issues.”

Speaker 2, a leader within a well-known organization that purports to police media to help keep kids safe had some interesting things to say. He warned that “the blue states” are hampering quality kids television and film by “complaining like they have for 30 years about too much sex, violence and drugs on TV.”

Speaker 3 spared me the envelope pushing and politics. He shared a few interesting observations about children:

  • The conventional wisdom about kids are getting older, faster, is nonsense.
  • Current thinking: 8-12 year olds stopped playing with toys and all they want is video games, music and iPods.
  • Reality: 8-12 year olds haven’t really stopped playing with toys…they just play with their Barbies, GI Joes and transformers privately and alone. A new generation of closet toy players.
  • Survey says- What’s important to kids: Family #1, Friends #2.
  • Kids just want to be kids, and they like being kids. They only aspire to be 1-2 years older, not 5+ as many 'experts' report.
  • Kids today represent a trillion dollar market. Personal spending $200B (snacks, food, drinks, clothes that parents don’t want them to buy), direct influence $300B (food, snacks, beverages, toys, family entertainment), Indirect influence $500B (recreation, vacation, family car and home).
Speaker 4 talked about the power of MOM. Your Mom is so….

  • Happy (vast majority love being moms, helping kids, being needed).
  • Powerful (they control 80% of family spending).
  • Smart (they can smell a sneaky marketing tactic a mile away).
  • Wired (they love the internet and websites. They are forming vast new communities and healthy relationships with other moms online).

Speaker 5 was my favorite. Former head of a huge kids cartoon company, he had just a very few things to say, but they hit me hard:

  • Start a blog now. If you don’t have one, you’re stupid.
  • Start podcasting and videocasting now, if you’re not, you’re stupid.
  • Start giving away more of your stuff for free, if you’re not, you’re stupid. You will sell more if you do this.
  • Stop researching and focus studying everything. There is no innovation in this. You will only set yourself up to fail by trying to repeat past successes.
  • Go with your gut, try things, tweak them. Let creativity drive your business.

There were many more speakers, and some really good information, but most of the rest of the stuff was very business-focused. I will spare you all those notes.

I will close with this- If you are concerned about the quality of media for kids, if you have a sneaking suspicion that there is an agenda behind some of the shows, and worried that someone out there is trying to teach values and lessons to your kids that are not in alignment with yours …you’re right.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Unanswered Questions

Our daughter L, the former middle-child until we had number 4, has a project due later this month for school. She has to give an oral report on someone that made a contribution that changed the world.

The project is fairly straight-forward, but still overwhelming to an 11 year old. Decide on your person and their contribution, get it approved by the teacher (the letter home to parents urged them to make sure their children did not pick football stars or American Idol winners), come up with 3-4 different sources (letter said they cant all be from the internet), and address 4 core questions.

The questions are: Who is the person (include detailed biographical information), what was their contribution, how did the it come to be and come to be known, and how did it change the world.

L chose Anne Frank. She read her diary/book, researched her on the internet, and we rented the movie “Anne Frank: The Whole Story”. We decided to watch it as a family for movie night, and settled in to experience the 3 hour saga.

It was interesting to see the entire family engaged- even our 5 and 8 year old girls. The film is very well done, and the girl that portrays Anne Frank, Hannah Taylor-Gordon, did a wonderful job. L completely identified with her- she bears more than a slight resemblance to Hannah as well as Anne Frank (I guess that makes sense), is about the same age, and enjoys reading, art and stories. She was literally pulled into the film, and I observed her living it.

Because of the length of the film, we had to end it with about an hour to go, right after the Frank family was discovered and arrested. The tension was intense, and L was upset and heart-broken. She was actually weeping and Michelle and I had to comfort her for some time when we tucked her in. She was scared, angry, confused. How could this be happening? Why would anyone want to hurt Anne and her family? She could not grasp the evil that was not yet seen. She could feel it though. Sense it- cold, deep and approaching. She knew it was there. She knew the ending of the story, and that added to the fear.

The next night we finished the movie. L was not as emotional as the night before. There was a rhythm to the final hour that could be understood- the evil was known now, the end is near, the things that L could identify with (beauty, art, friends, family, security) were long gone. All that was left was death, destruction, and then the victory of Anne’s contribution to the world being discovered. And then life once again.

Bedtime was filled with questions and conversation. Why would Adolph Hitler do what he did? Why did the soldiers follow his orders? Why did that lady call the police about Anne Frank’s hiding place? Why didn’t the German people do anything to stop it? Why didn’t the United States do something faster to help all those people? Why do some people hate Jews? Why would God let something like that happen? Are there any more people like Hitler or the Nazis that are alive now?

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Word Association

Walgreen’s charges 75 cents per strip of negatives to turn them into digital images, plus another $6 or so for each CD needed to hold them. After spending $600 in the last few months turning our old family Super8 video’s into DVD I decided to take a less expensive route this time and scan them all into our home network while working.

The upside is obvious- it doesn’t cost me anything. The downside? It's costing me time and attention (continually loading new photos while I am trying to get work done), and the quality is not near as good.

During this process I have had many long-forgotten memories pop into my head- sort of like the old word-association game, but using images instead. I guess more like a Rorschach Inkblot Test but with old family photos. One of the pictures I loaded yesterday was of Michelle and me standing next to our first ‘family’ car. Gone was the 1974 Midnight Blue Nova 350 small block of my single years, and in was the Chevy Geo Spectrum for the married years (it was actually Michelle’s car, but I adopted it).

The instant I looked at that car one thing popped into my head. Turtle pee.

I wouldn’t say I am an animal person, though at times I am moved by the plight of ducklings without a mother, injured birds and the like. Something about their helplessness motivates me to help out. On one day, driving to work on a hilly and winding road, I saw a baby turtle, not more than 8 inches long, slowly making his way across the road while cars whizzed overhead at 50MPH. I barely missed him, and after seeing the little thing still alive in my rearview mirror, decided to pull over and move him off the road.

I was able to safely pull to the side, and walked the distance back to where the turtle was. Fortunately the road was very wide with a nice shoulder- good for me- not for the turtle.

The area was riddled with roads, so I decided to take him to a nearby lake that I knew was full of other turtles and various wildlife, and far away from high speed roads. I walked back to my car, placed him on the passenger side floor board and headed to Lake Whetstone in Montgomery Village MD to drop him off.

As I pulled onto the road, I noticed that the turtle was making a move on where the gas and brake pedals are, instinctively looking for a dark cave like area to hide. I picked him up, turned him around so I could look at his face and belly (while driving), and out poured a surprisingly yellow stream of turtle pee right into my face.

I turned him around quickly, almost ran off the road, and watched as he sprayed out a nice even flow of pee all over my dashboard, radio, glove compartment and windshield. I was so shocked and clueless what to do, and still trying to keep my eye on the road, that I kept pointing him in different directions allowing him to paint the entire front of the car. I wouldn’t be surprised if the pattern spelled out t-u-r-t-l-e in cursive.

I pulled over, yelled at him, rolled down the window and tossed him into the bushes on the side of the road.

When Michelle and I had our first child we needed to get a mini-van, so out with the Chevy Spectrum and in with the Plymouth Voyager (Baby vomit).

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dreams And Realities

Last week I had lunch with Matt- a nice young gent full of dreams. He is an aspiring illustrator/writer/animator that is in a life and death struggle with his dreams and his reality.

He is working for a good company and making a good living to support his young wife and new child. Like many people, he is also wrestling with a dream, or maybe an aching feeling- not quite yet crystallized and clear- that he was made to do something else. He wanted to meet to bounce his ideas, sketches and stories off me to see if I thought he had anything of value buried in the dirt and rocks of what his hands and mind had created.

He let me choose the place to meet for lunch, but I insisted he pick wherever he wanted to go. God bless him- he chose Pei Wei Asian Diner. Extra-Extra Spicy Kung Pao Chicken over salad was my choice (here in Nashville, you have to say EXTRA twice to really get a decent burn going- most Asian places that serve food to an abundance of middle-Tennessee white folks think you mean ‘just a tiny bit past mild’ if you only use one).

We chatted away while eating, and about half-way through our food, the portfolio came out and we got down to business. He slid across several scripts, drawings and concepts talking me through his ideas. As he got into the details of each story and character, he started to light up. I love to be around passionate people. Creators. Dreamers. The energy and sparks fuel me and push and prod me to stir up my own dreams.

He was now fired up, moving at full speed, practically spitting steamed rice at me as he described several ideas for television shows, online comic strips, animated video series and a kids book.

I held all my thoughts, observations and questions until he was finished, making sure he knew that was what I would do for fear he would think I was disengaged. I know from experience it’s best to let creatives mind-dump without interruption. They need to pour out an amazing number of words to make sure you taste the full flavor of what they are trying to communicate. After my comments and questions, I laid out what I thought he should do next with the ideas. I am not sure he will take my advice.

I remember several years ago a young lady that worked for the same company I did. She was one of our regular receptionists that were in charge of getting executives lunches or setting up food and drink for meetings when not on desk duty. After a year or so of saying ‘hello’ or ‘have a nice weekend’ when walking in or out of the front door, I decided to get to know her. She had moved to Nashville because one of her dreams was to become a singer. The other dream was to be an actress. Singing won out, so she was taking her shot working as a receptionist for one of the top music companies in the world hoping to get discovered somehow.

After a couple years, with nothing materializing, she decided to move to LA. Just up and move there- no family or friends to support her. She had a dream, a clear vision and a plan, and by God, she was going to do it.

I last saw her three years ago while in Los Angeles on business. I had a meeting at a major studio and on my way out to my car afterwards, I ran into her, totally unexpected, in the lobby of the building. I hadn’t spoken to her since she had moved to LA and didn’t know what she was up to. She was living her dream. Her current position wasn’t much beyond her former receptionist title, but outside of the office she was an actress. She had managed to get an agent, a series of head-shots, and had landed several spots as an extra on various television shows (including Friends). She was having fun, making progress, and could see light at the end of the long office hallway.

So the question I have is- will Matt take the plunge? Will he really chase his dreams? He is between a rock and a hard place, with a wife and child to support (THE PRIORITY), currently employed with a good income and benefits (COMFORT), but leaving no time to really pursue his dreams and hone his craft (RISK AND REWARD).

That is the challenge. That is the battle we are all in- unless you happen to have landed your dream. It is an epic battle between that what we must do, and that which we dream to do.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Carnival of The Storytellers 3rd Edition

Welcome to the 3rd edition of Carnival of the Storytellers.

Well…it seemed like a good idea. “Hey- maybe I should have people submit stories about how they met their significant other for the next Carnival…”

I had a few nice folks follow instructions, but others not so much. That’s okay, but I must tell those that did not do what was requested that I will be reducing your grade one full level, and you will NOT, under any circumstances, be allowed to participate in the class party at the end of the Carnival.


I am a big believer in a world that is about 5% coincidence and 95% intelligent design. Too many things line up to bring about change and action to be chalked up to galactic accidents. Local Girl came within minutes of possibly never meeting her future husband- all because she just didn’t feel up to a night out. Check out Finally Found Prince Charming posted at Local Girl to get the full story. I would bet though, that if she wouldn’t have met him that night, it most likely would have happened another. They are meant to be together, and something as minor as a night of wanting to stay home and relax couldn’t possibly derail true love.

Kathy Maister, the wedding crasher, met her future husband in Meeting David posted at Kathy Maister's Being a wedding-crasher doesn’t just get you a fun and free party- sometimes it can get you a brand new mate. I have crashed a few weddings in my time- there is just something so fun about walking in and immediately being able to have raucous laughter and conversation with people you absolutely don't know, while they ply you with fine food and drink.

I will wrap up this special section of the Carnival with my own short recounting of how I met Michelle, after which we will move on to the trouble makers that didn’t follow instructions.

I met Michelle just before Thanksgiving Day 1982 when I was 16 years old. Our family had just moved to the area, and the church we were attending (The Gaithersburg Church of the Nazarene) had a fun tradition. A certain family that attended there would invite anyone over for Thanksgiving dinner that didn't have other plans or family in town. It was insane. A house full of adults wandering around the upper floors of a big house with plates of turkey and dressing, while everyone under 18 was in the basement playing ping-pong, pool and other assorted games. I wandered down to the basement not knowing anybody, and started the ritual work of trying to make friends, fit in, and not look like a loner goofball. Shortly after making the rounds in that massive basement, I spotted an attractive young lady looking to be about my age, and made my move. “Hey there- what’s your name?” I chatted her up and really liked her. After a few minutes of conversation she mentioned that she was 13 years old and in the 8th grade. Yikes! At 16, if you realize the person you are attracted to is more than a year younger you instantly feel sick to your stomach and put the brakes on. “So…umm…do you have an older sister by any chance?” I said with a grin, seeking to end the conversation. “Yes- I do. Her name is Michelle and she’s right over there.”

And now for the class clowns…

I found this next post to be very interesting. An exhaustively detailed and accurate recounting of the history of Valentines Day- Jarod Kearney’s Romance in a Mass-Produced Envelope: The History of Valentine's Day posted at Jarod's Forge. It is so historically accurate and dead-on that is should be uploaded to Wikipedia.

Adam presents us with a rather distrurbing parable of life and death incarnate. I tried my best to read the message within the story, but either I just don’t get it, or I am in total disagreement with what I think the message is. And now, a random parable of my own making posted at Sophistpundit, seems to say to me that there isn’t anything worth laying your life down for. I just don’t agree. Maybe I am missing the point. What do you think?

Jarod Kearney makes his second appearance of the carnival with a fun short story based in ancient and modern day Rome. I loved it- not only do I dig fiction mixed with history, I love to read about Rome and the ancient Roman empire. A fun and quick read. Check out A Historical Short-Story: "The Mechanism" posted at Jarod's Forge

I enjoy learning about any kind of history, and reading about historical places, people and events. This includes the history all around us- generations before that walked the same places we do now. In Tim Abbott’s post, Now and Then at Walking the Berkshires, he takes a photo of his grandparents home from the same location and angle as one taken 60 years prior and talks about all that has changed over the years.

Suldog’s story Solomon The Milkman posted at Suldog-O-Rama, is awesome. It describes his paternal grandfather's adventures as a temporary Jew in a neighborhood in Boston many years ago. It’s shorter than Id like it to be, but a very fun read. I think its got the right stuff to turn into a “inspired by a true story” book with lots of funny possibilities for an nice Irish gent in the midst of his Jewish customers. I can picture in my mind Zero Mostel dancing around with a milk jug in his hand singing "If I Were A Rich Man" in a thick Irish accent. Now that's entertainment.

I enjoy original ideas and concepts, and this blog and the post submitted would most certainly fit into the “original” folder. flic presents Institutionalized but not forgotten posted at American Center for Surreal and Paranoid Life. It is the sad story of a man enduring the consequences of a psychological disorder, who decides he wants to write childrens stories, the first of which is found at the link at the bottom of the post. An interesting and intriguing read.

Sarah Winfrey presents 55 ways young couples can save money for their wedding posted at Wisebread. This is for any readers that will score big this Valentines and have a wedding in the near future. It is a very detailed post with tons of information for young couples. So much so, that after reading through it, I am more thankful than ever that those days are past for me.

Karen Lynch describes so well that life happens while your busy doing other things…it is not something that finally arrives when you are done getting everything squared away. Her post The Joy and the Journey posted at LivethePower are private thoughts laid bare- about the joy of thinking, planning, doing and sharing. It reminded me of two quotes I like: “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labor.”-Robert Louis Stevenson, and “One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”- Sigmund Freud (In my humble opinion, one of the few wise things Mr. Freud ever said).


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.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Gravel, Tea and Eggrolls

Yesterday was a busy day for the DigitalRich crew. After our Saturday morning breakfast tradition, Michelle, K and L headed off to parts unknown for something called “clothes shopping.” I really don’t know what that means other than sitting in front of a computer and shopping at,, and I assume you actually walk into “stores” and buy clothes that are somehow lying around.

A, R and I headed out front in the 38 degree cold, bundled up, with a wheelbarrow, shovel, rake and hoe to attack the growing potholes in our driveway. It is a rather long driveway, just over a 1/10 of a mile long, with a bed of gravel and 4 potholes the biggest of which is about 3 feet in diameter and roughly 8 inches deep. Navigating the driveway has become a bit of a dance that I'm sure our guests, garbage man, milk man and UPS drivers don’t enjoy.

We recently had several tons of crush-and-run gravel poured over it, but all it did was accent the potholes in a lovely new shade of grey. The delivery guy warned of that, and said if I wanted them fixed I would have to go out there and scrape off material from other parts of the drive and fill them up. And so we did.

After that bit of fun, we headed inside to change so I could drive R to her best-friends house for a tea party for all the girls in her pre-school class. We got half-way there when R realized she forgot her doll- a co-invitee to the party- so we returned to pick up the baby doll and got to the tea party right when it started at 3pm.

So it was A and I in the car, with about 90 minutes to kill before having to pick her sister up. I had not had lunch, so we stopped by our local Chinese restaurant for a couple egg rolls and a cup of egg drop soup. A decided she would eat something as well and got her fave- chicken on a stick.

We had a great time, just the two of us. Chatting about school and friends, about things that made her happy, sad and scared. She mentioned that the rice she was eating was really good and I asked her what her favorite restaurant was. I was awaiting the standard responses I get from the younger ones- McDonalds, Taco Bell, Chucky-shoot-me-in-the-head-Cheese, et al.

She thought about it for a minute and said… “Chlay’s.”

I was shocked. Chlay’s is our local Thai place, owned and operated by a wonderfully nice lady named Saowanee and her family. We go there a couple times a month, and at first it was hard to get the whole family to want to go, but they have all found dishes they like and on several occasions lately Michelle and the two oldest girls have suggested it as we debated lunch or dinner destinations.

I recalled, in this moment of joy hearing my 8 year old say Chlay’s was her favorite restaurant, a bit of scripture from the Bible:

"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it."
Proverbs 22:6

I am pretty sure God didn’t have Thai food on his mind when he inspired the writing of this passage, but I like to think he did.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Daddy's Breakfast

Years ago, while attending college, I worked as a waiter in a couple of different restaurants. The nicer kind- not necessarily 4 stars, but getting there.

I was fascinated by the ability of the chefs to do so many things at once, and still produce fine meals that each were carefully prepared and presented.

I watched them often, probably while you were waiting patiently for your coffee, learning to prepare various foods. I started practicing at home.

Michelle most likely married me because she was under the false impression that I would be cooking steaks with exotic sauces, curry chicken, and home made ice cream with pasty cream puffs prepared from scratch after we married.

Oh how she was mistaken. A few years after I had moved on from the food service industry, and married Michelle, the interest waned. Well, more like ended abruptly in a screeching halt. I just didn’t have the time any longer.

Now, my role as chef only materializes on two occasions: 1) Warm summer evenings when I fire up the grill for my dinner specialties: hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue chicken and grilled Italian sausages, and, 2) Saturday mornings.

Almost every Saturday morning, round about 9AM or so, I fire up the griddle for our traditional “Daddy Breakfast.” I love doing it. My repertoire is somewhat limited, mainly due to wanting to start at 9 and be done by 9:30, but Michelle and the girls seem to enjoy it- and that’s what matters.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Experimenting With Forms Of Government

Each Sunday after church, and one or two other times during the week, our family goes out to eat. I love food, as can be deduced by my big, umm, boned frame, and really enjoy dining out. Michelle and I remind our girls that this is a real treat- when we grew up, going out to dinner was a big event not often afforded, and it was one of the few times we could drink Coca Cola.

Remember what the world was like before free refills? As a kid, if I downed my coke too fast I was forced to drink water while my slow-sipping evil sister smiled at me with a straw between her lips still sipping her coke. Maybe that was just me.

Back to the real story. The only negative to this “family treat” is going through the routine of getting as many of our clan of six to agree on a place to eat as possible.

A few years ago Michelle and I became weary of trying to remember all the different places we could go, so, being the digilicious instant-info at your fingertips freak I am, I loaded almost every bistro, eatery, diner and casual dining outlet in a 25 mile radius into my Blackberry- including name, address, phone number and website.

So it became easier, for awhile, to rattle off the list to get feedback and input from the gang. We still had problems deciding though. I guess reading through a long list of names numbed the minds of our kids and they gave up after places starting with the letter E.

We then started experimenting with various forms of government structure to help us:

Anarchy: The absence of government
We argue and moan about where each of us wanto go in a slowly rising cacophony until Michelle or I got sick of it and we drive home to eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

Aristocracy: Government by the nobility
Sometimes we give into our little princess R, the ‘baby’ of the family.

Autarchy: Government by an absolute ruler
Other times I am bound and determined to eat Thai and I tell the lot of them they can just starve and sit there and watch me eat Green Curry Chicken.

Bureaucracy: Government by civil servants and process/policy focused
On a couple of occasions we came up with complicated formulas and processes for making the decision (Let’s go through the alphabet. Let’s rotate among our favorites. Let’s rotate decision makers…). It was too hard to remember how we were deciding each week, and we gave up.

Confederacy: A union of sovereign states
For a few weeks K & L joined forces to bring a “strength through unity” approach to the process and tried to sway the other family members to their thinking, sometimes with the threat of force brought to bear on their two younger sisters.

Democracy: Government by the people
I reasoned that it made absolute sense to go about it in a democratic fashion- I could kill two birds with one stone. Pick a restaurant AND teach our kids about democracy. It only lasted a couple of weeks. How can democracy work when you have 6 people voting on 200 places to eat? Nine times out of ten we couldn’t even get a simple plurality of two.

Matriarchy: Government by women or mothers
On a few occasions, Michelle will speak up authoritatively and make it clear we would not be going here or there, and lay out a couple of choices that she would be amenable to if the group chose them.

Monarchy: Government by one (usually by hereditary rule)
When Michelle and I are particularly not looking forward to the battle ahead, we kibitz among ourselves, King and Queen, and let the subjects know where we WILL be eating today.

Ochlocracy: Government by mobs
Sometimes the King and Queen’s plans are laid to waste when the masses rise up in protest: “No! We don’t want to eat there again!”

Patriarchy: Government by men or fathers
This one is my favorite. “We shall be eating Thai today. I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t, it will be a long and hungry day for you. So I have spoken, So shall it be done.”

Technocracy: Government by technical experts
Once in a while I pull out the old “I know best” card. I let the family know about a new place I read or heard about, inform them why this new Thai restaurant will be so cool and unique, and why we should go there.

Theocracy: Government by a deity through clergy or by religious law
“Dear Lord, please tell us where we should eat today so that we don’t have to go through the process of figuring it out on our own.”

I am looking forward to new advances in technology that will allow us to try what is sure to be the ultimate solution for figuring out where six opinionated, smart and vocal family members can all go together and eat in peace and tranquility: Robocracy: Government by robots or other artificial intelligence.

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