Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Presentation...Hopefully A Good One

If you have been a faithful reader of DigitalRich Daily, or if you are new and have perused some past stories, you may have happened upon a short 3-part series I wrote called My Worst Presentation Ever.

Monday morning I fly out to LA for a new presentation, with a bigger opportunity than my last big one, and I just finished the PowerPoint deck 10 minutes ago. It is actually Sunday night 4/1/07 at about 9PM, and I have been working on it non-stop (except for sleeping, eating, church and softball practice with my girls) since Friday.

As a result, I did not post a daily story here for Saturday, nor have I done one for today. the last time this happened, I will back-date this post to make it look like it came online Saturday, will hammer out a quick Sunday post too, and all will be well and I will have tricked myself one more time into thinking I have kept my very simple commitment to myself to write daily.

It's so easy to lie to yourself.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Victory And Defeat. And Victory. Then Defeat. Now Victory...

This has been a week of oscillating victories and defeats. Amazingly almost completely even score for each. Monday morning was a victory. Feel great. Top of the world. Monday afternoon defeat. Frustrated.

Tuesday morning started with a failure, only to be reversed with a huge score on a project. Feeling dizzy. Wednesday morning- bad news on a report. Frustrated and wanting to quit. Wednesday night- awesome late night meeting and progress with a clients project idea. Brilliant! Leave the meeting- dead battery and 2 hours before I’m in bed while my car is lonely without me in a parking lot 20 miles away. Depressed, tired and hungry. Jack in the box tacos at 11:30PM while my wife drives me home in the van.

Thursday morning got sweaty and grease stained buying and installing a new battery and battery connecters on my car. I show up for my lunch meeting with greasy jeans and hair all sweaty and crazy. No fun at all. Thursday afternoon- awesome progress on another project and a bright light is at the end of that tunnel.

Friday dawns with an email carrying some bad news. Another weekend with a ton of work to get things buttoned down. Friday afternoon was a touchdown. A sought after meeting finally happened and the gates opened up on a project for another client. Major progress. Feeling great.

I’m dizzy. I really don’t know what to think of this week. Part of me longs for the weeks with a clear message, one or the other- Win column! You did awesome! Things happened and stuff got done, the ball was moved down the field and you did a great job. Or- loser! Mistakes, project stiffed, mark it off, pick yourself up, take the grass out of your mouth and start fresh next week.

At least you finish the week with a focus. An understanding. You nailed it or you blew it. This past week I have no idea what to think.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Late Night Meeting

A few of the clients I work with are start-ups. One in particular is made up of a team that all have day jobs, so the regular conference calls and meetings all have to take place in the evenings or during lunches.

Last night was our big meeting- several hours spent hammering out the details of the first product to be launched. The meeting was set to start at 6PM and expected to run for 3 or 4 hours. We wrapped up about 10PM, and I headed out to the car. I couldn’t figure out where I had parked- the building we were meeting in was massive and byzantine, and I feared I would spend the next 20 minutes walking the circumference of the complex looking for my car. Fortunately Keith, one of the team members, offered to drive me around the building to find my car.

I turned the key- and nothing happened. Not a click, not a light, no sign of life whatsoever. I pulled out my cell phone and called Keith asking if he had jumper cables. He did, and turned around to help me.

I carefully set up the cables and tried to get it started. Nothing. No sign there was even a drop of electricity running through the system. Not good. I played with the cables again to make sure there was good contact, and climbed back in. Nothing. Well, that’s not exactly right- there was something. A not good something. Smoke.

A wave of smoke and a foul smell started to waft through the air illuminated by Keith’s headlights. I climbed out of the car to see something really not good. A single flame flowing out of the negative terminal of Keith’s battery. Then smoke from my battery. I think I said “yikes” and Keith said “wow.”

I approached Keith’s car and had one of those flashes- I could read the headline on the Drudge Report: “Two Men Permanently Blinded By Two Simultaneously Exploding Car Batteries.” I grabbed onto the jumper cables, noticed they were burning hot (another ‘not good’ sign), and ripped them off each of our batteries from as much distance as the cables would allow.

The flames and smoke stopped after a few seconds, and we escaped the maiming that seemed so imminent. Keith headed home after I called my wife and asked her to come pick me up. While waiting, a man offered to help and identified himself as a mechanic. He checked out my car battery and noticed that the positive terminal connector had literally melted off my battery. My car was going nowhere until I purchased and installed a new battery. So, I have a new item on my agenda for today.

Michelle picked me up (my meeting location was a full hour roundtrip from home), and we got back home and to bed just before midnight.

Yesterday goes in the bad column.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

We’re Planning To Murder The Easter Bunny

The modern day attempt to remove Christ from Christmas has largely succeeded due to the ‘logic’ of the story of St. Nicholas. You can almost make sense of it all. A kindly man, loves children, celebrates the birth of the Messiah by giving gifts to children. After all, Jesus himself said “Let the little children come to me.”

The whole thing falls apart of course when you have to explain three giant leaps in the religion of Santa:

He is somehow still alive and lives in one of the most inhospitable places on the earth.

He has an army of elves that somehow have the money and resources to build toys and gifts for more than 5 billion people.

He has a sleigh and a gift bag that will hold all those gifts, 8 reindeer (9 if you are of the denomination that believes in Rudolf) that can not only fly, but support the weight of all those gifts AND fly at an amazing speed to get Santa to all the homes in the world.

When children reach the age of understanding, and either figure out Santa is not real or the parents get around to telling them, at least one can fall back on this: St. Nicholas was a real person, he followed Christ, and he celebrated his birth with gifts to others, and today that tradition of giving gifts continues as we mark the birth of the Savior.

Easter on the other hand is out of control.

The Easter Bunny is supposed to visit our homes, bring a basket of candy and gifts for each child and hide eggs for the kids to hunt. I hope he at least wears a cross around his neck while doing all this. I’m sure there are stories out there that somehow, in someway, can connect this rabbit to the crucifixion and resurrection, but I haven’t heard them.

So he’s a giant rabbit that walks on his hind legs, and somehow has been gifted with an opposable thumb on his paw allowing his to carry and handle things. He has no elves that I’m aware of, so I guess by himself he manufactures vast amounts of candy and gifts. No one knows where he lives, but goofball logic would assume he lives in the South Pole, right? Either there or perhaps Keokuk Iowa. He somehow carries billions of Easter baskets and eggs- perhaps in his mouth? And when children reach the age where the logic of the Easter Bunny’s existence can not be sustained, we tell them what? How do we connect Mr. Rabbit to Jesus?

Perhaps there was a rabbit that was to be served for the last supper, but it was decided to spare him and instead eat bread and wine. And today, that rabbit is so thankful that he travels the world giving baskets of …I give up.

Michelle and I have always enjoyed keeping Santa Clause alive with our young kids, though the two eldest have moved on. We are sure to focus the majority of our energy on the true meaning of Christmas. As for Easter, we have fallen into the trap and half-heartedly kept Mr. Rabbit alive too, though we keep mentions of him to a strict minimum.

We are ready for him to die. It’s just too hard to have the story of the Easter bunny co-exist with the real meaning of Easter. The Easter Bunny is like a giant furry sponge that soaks up the glory of the day, whereas at least Santa provides an example that allows an easy transition to the real Christmas story.

We haven’t decided 100% yet, but I think Michelle and I will be knocking off the bunny this year. I’ve got my BB gun ready.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Born To Sing And Dance

Our 5 year old daughter R arrived on this planet on a hot sunny day in June 2001. Not long after, she started exhibiting the traits of a performer.

All of our kids, and if you have kids most likely all of yours as well, have a bit of performer in them. They like to get and keep your attention with shouts of “Watch me do this! Watch me do that!”

What stood out about R to us is that all of her performances, even at 2 years old, involved performing a loosely choreographed dance to a song on the CD player. She collected dance moves and strung them together into impromptu performances whenever she could convince us to play Jump5 or Hilary Duff. The golden moments for her were when we had friends or family over to our house. At a certain point in the evening, a moment she no doubt was waiting for like a cat watches a mouse choosing the exact moment to pounce, R would ask our guests if she could perform a number for them.

The music would play, and she would lip sync the song while dazzling the crowd with her latest dance moves. A few new ones sprinkled in with the re-tread moves her 3 older sisters had seen ad nausea.

One night she kind of freaked Michelle and I out. We had friends over- Chris and Brooke- and R insisted on performing for them. She chose “So Yesterday” by Hilary Duff- her specialty. Often times when she performs, we are sitting in the great room giving her tons of space to do her best work. This night we all happened to be standing around the kitchen island and R’s stage became the kitchen floor. I guess she decided to do some improvisation and use the props the kitchen provided her- about halfway through the song, amidst her familiar dance moves, she pulled out a move not seen in our house ever.

We have one of those big built-in stainless steel refrigerators, and the handles to the two side-by-side doors are long perfectly smooth poles that run the height of the refrigerator. They are relatively large and protrude a good 5 inches or so from the doors. This was key to R’s new dance move.

She sashayed over to the refrigerator during the chorus, and pulled out her big move. She grabbed onto the pole and did a 100% authentic hoochified sexy pole dance. She lifted her legs off the ground, and sort of spun on the pole all the way to the ground, threw her head and hair back, and gave us all her best glamour look. She was 4 years old.

Michelle and I were stunned. Chris and Brooke erupted in laughter. At the end of the dance move Michelle jumped in and said “ok, that’s all for tonight” while I went and turned off the music. We casually inquired of R where she learned that particular dance move, assuming she had seen it somewhere- perhaps on a music video on Disney, or who knows where else.

She insisted that she had made it up herself.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Sam The Fireman

Yesterday started out slow, but got busy quick. We arrived home the night before after a long road trip- we spent the Spring Break week at the beach.

We woke up Sunday morning groggy and slow, and couldn’t get out the door for church. We decided to watch our service live over the internet, only to realize that our church doesn’t stream the service live- it comes on line the next day.

I jumped on the mower at 11AM to get a quick 90 minutes in before taking L to fast-pitch lessons, week 3 of 4 as she gets ready for her first season as a softball fast pitcher. After catching for her for an hour and a half, it was back home and back on the mower. After finishing the yard I cleaned the mower and then went on wasp patrol. Pulled out the 27-foot jet stream can of wasp killer and circled the house eliminating any red wasps that were unlucky enough to be seen by me.

After shower number 2, and a short nap, the family went out for Mexican. Michelle was at her sister’s house helping pick up and deliver a couple outdoor chairs Jackie purchased, and the two of them met us at the restaurant shortly after 7PM.

I got there with our 4 girls about 15 minutes before Michelle and Jackie did, and noticed 2 huge full-size fire engines in the parking lot. Interesting. We walked in, and sure enough, there was a table full of firemen- about 10-12 in all. They were all smartly dressed in identical black dress shirts, black pants, and big radios on their belts. I wasn't aware fireman took their big rigs out for dinner.

The fun started after Michelle and Jackie arrived. Jackie is Michelle's younger sister, unattached, and like Michelle she's a looker, and a few of the fireman were a lookin.

There was one in particular that kept eyeing Jackie, and smiled at her a few times. Michelle and the four girls were giggling and thought it was cute. I was a bit annoyed- why would he bother with all this cutesy stuff and not come over and talk to her? Chicken. I was waiting for him to pass a note that asked Jackie to check the YES box if she liked him too.

The firemen finished their meal and got up. I noticed that they took a LONG time to pay their checks and leave. They finally did, and two huge fire trucks loaded with firemen headed out of the parking lot. As the second one went by our window, the fireman that had been watching Jackie stuck his hand out of the truck and waved to her. Jackie waved back, along with my 5 and 8 year old daughters. I thought once again- chicken.

Michelle and I remarked that the fireman had lost his opportunity to meet Jackie. They would probably never see each other again...too bad.

We finished our meal and the whole family left the table and gathered around the front counter waiting for me to pay and picking out their preferred treat- a chocolate mint or a lollipop from the candy jar. As I was dolling out the appropriate cash for the cashier the phone at the front counter rang. One of the waitresses standing nearby answered it and a confused look came over her face. She looked around the restaurant while holding the phone to her ear and said "red sweater? No, I don’t see anyone wearing a red sweater."

Jackie, wearing a maroon sweater suggested to the waitress that perhaps she was the one she was looking for. The waitress handed the phone to Jackie, and Sam introduced himself.

His story was that he didn’t think it was appropriate to interrupt our family dinner and talk to Jackie to get her number. I knew better- No doubt he couldn’t get up the nerve to come over and talk to Jackie. I am guessing that the long delay in leaving was due to Sam's buddies egging him on to go over and introduce himself. He probably chickened out, left in his fire truck, and was unmercifully roasted by his buddies for his lack of bravery.

He must have finally come to his senses, realized his missed opportunity, and hurried to fix the mistake. He probably looked up the restaurants phone number on his mobile phone and called. He barely caught Jackie. The whole episode reminds me of the movie “Roxanne” starring Steve Martin.

Jackie and Sam chatted for a few minutes while the rest of the family waited patiently at the front counter. Jackie gave Sam her phone number and said goodbye.

Let's hope Sam's timing during a fire rescue is a bit better.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

How To Decrease Traffic To Your Blog

Anybody can write a post about increasing traffic to a blog. Blog carnivals, tags, visiting and commenting on other blogs, blah, blah, blah. As an aspiring contrarian, my post will be all about decreasing traffic. Here are 10 tips for decreasing traffic to your blog:

1. Include in a post some off-hand comment that indicates you are not a cat or dog person.

2. Reveal something about your political bent.

3. Occasionally touch on matters of faith. A dash here or there is enough to drive away the atheists, and not enough keeps away the pure-play faith bloggers.

4. Leave comments on other blogs that are in conflict with the basic premise of the blog. Here are a few examples:

-Blog about knitting: Comment- Cant machines do what you all do better and cheaper? Why do you even try?
-Blog about cats: Comment- I don’t understand why people like cats. Dogs are much smarter, better companions, and a more meaningful part of the family.
-Blog about dogs: Comment- I don’t understand why people like dogs. Cat’s are much better house pets. They’re smarter, play more gently and don’t stink to high heaven.
-Blog about horses: Comment- Just wondering, why don’t they allow the sale and consumption of horse meat in the USA? Our family had it in France and loved it!
-Blog about…you get the idea. Just be creative and have fun with it.

5. Drop in multiple AdSense units, and put all the widgets at the top of your blog and save all the content for far down the page.

6. After every comment left on your blog, respond in the comments section with something like “Why did you leave a comment? Did I ask for one? Please don’t do that again.”

7. Start a new series of posts where you publish one word per day of a really good story each day for 1000 days.

8. Start a new series of posts about toilet cleaning techniques.

9. Create a cute set of special days of the week that drive the content of your posts:
-Sad Sunday: A sad story that is sure to depress.
-Masticate Monday: Submitted pictures of chewed food.
-Tooth decay Tuesday: Submitted pictures of real life tooth decay.
-Worry Wednesday: A top 10 list of what you’re worrying about on that day.
-Thighbone Thursday: Submitted pictures of the biggest and best turkey and chicken thigh bones before and after eating.
-Freckle Friday: A series of posts that document your freckles one by one with stories and pictures.
-Sarcophagus Saturday: Submitted pictures of the coolest looking large stone coffins in neighborhood cemeteries.

10. Create a post called “Top 10 things I hate about bloggers” and submit it to all the big carnivals on

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Beach

The DigitalRich Crew just got home a couple hours ago from our Spring Break trip to Okaloosa Island- just west of Destin Florida. Destin is known affectionately as the Redneck Riviera.

It is our preferred beach location- 8 hours from our home by car, and graced with sugar white sand, clear water, and our favorite Italian restaurant in the world- ‘Ciao Bella.’

It was a successful trip- no major sunburns, no vacation-stress arguments, plenty of beach-chair relaxation and a huge sand castle completed. It was a much needed break, and the long road trip back today is my excuse for this lame post.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Weak Link

House, car, television and now a kite. These are things I wanted to buy, and tried to buy, but the experience was ruined by the negative power of a single person.

So much goes into the production and sales of things. Teams of product developers get the ok from teams of financiers and visionaries. They start to make or build stuff. They hand those things off to marketers that strive to identify the proper demographic targets and how they can be reached. They then craft the marketing message and decide how, when and to whom that message is delivered. The sales teams take the product and message to retailers, dealers and distributors. Manufacturing and operations people then take over and make sure the product is available at the right places and the right times to meet anticipated demand. Then some person receives the product, unpacks it, sets it on the shelf and waits for the sales.

All the work and passion that has been put into a product is resting on the last person in the chain- the last link. This person has an amazing power to make or break a deal simply by the nature of their attitude and demeanor as well as product knowledge. This is the retail clerk.

Yesterday I was dead-set on buying a new kite. The whole family trekked with me into a kite store right on the beach in Okaloosa Island in Florida. The cash in my pocket was screaming to be spent and our plan was to have a delicious breakfast at The Breakfast Club restaurant at Okaloosa’s Boardwalk, and then walk a short distance to the Kitty Hawk kite store.

It was a disappointing morning. Turns out The Breakfast Club closed after hurricane Ivan, never to open again. We got back into the car and went to IHOP instead. After eating we came back to the Boardwalk and went into the kite store. I was overwhelmed with the selection.

I had no idea what I was doing. The last time I bought a kite in a place other than a mass merchant retailer that had 2 to choose from was…never. I wandered around confused by all the different types of kites and knew I needed help. The one employee on duty was wearing a name tag that indicated she was the Assistant Manager.

Apparently the retail management training she had undergone practiced a whole new non-conformist curriculum. They must have taught retail managers how to break the mold and stand out from the crowd. She looked angry and bitter, avoided all eye contact, and was too preoccupied unpacking boxes to help me spend my money and fulfill the hopes and dreams of visionary kite creators waiting each week to see how many of their creations were sold around the country.

I wanted to see how long it would take for her to ask me if I needed help. I gave up after 20 minutes or so. I approached her with a kite I thought would work for me and asked where I could find extra string. I brought it up to the fort she had been guarding non-stop since I came in (also known as the sales counter) and set it down in front of her. I asked her what type of string was included and where I could find another 500-1000 feet of it to add to this purchase. Here is our dialogue best I can recall:

AsstMgr: “You want to buy THIS kite?”

Me: “Umm..yes?”

AsstMgr: “Do you know how to use one of these kites?”

Me: “I think so”

AsstMgr: “Well I don’t think you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking for more line. This is a stunt kite. It uses a set length dual-line and the manufacturer puts the right amount of line in the package.”

Me: Thinking, not said out loud- HALLELUJAH! Information from on high! I’m finally getting somewhere on my journey to buy a kite today even though right now I feel like an imbecile that doesn’t even know how to BUY a kite much less fly one.

Me: Waiting for her to say something else. Nothing coming. Still nothing coming. I give up- “ok, then could you help me find a…umm…normal kite?”

AsstMgr: “Well what exactly are you looking for?”

Me: Trying to lead her away from the fort and towards the kites, her not moving “I guess a normal kite. You know, a regular one you fly. I’m not sure how else to describe what I’m looking for. Could you help me?”

AsstMgr: Didn’t say anything, but she finally put down her clipboard and walked out from behind the counter. I was amazed to see she had movable legs.

She walked with me to where the kites were- thousands of them. She asked me which one I wanted. I almost yelled at her “that’s exactly what I need you to help me with!” I pointed out one hanging from the ceiling I thought looked cool. “That one is out of stock” she said. I pointed out another one that would probably be my next pick. “I sold the last one of those last week.”

I then asked her if I could buy the display model of one of the two kites I liked. She said no- they don’t sell the displays. She seemed very interested in getting this conversation over with and back to her clipboard. She had work to do.

I left without buying a kite. Our plans to go to the beach later that day to fly our new kite were dashed on the pounding surf of Okaloosa Island Beach. I could almost hear the silent screams of a million designers, investors, manufacturers, distributors, retail store owners and their families that need to pay for braces and college deprived of yet another few dollars of income.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pizza And Pedestrians

Last night was in impromptu pizza night. Those are usually reserved for Friday night, and afterwards we usually break out a movie and shift from pizza night into movie night.

I don’t recall exactly how our dinner table conversation moved to a story that happened 20 years ago, but it did. I told the girls about the day Poppy (their grandfather/my father) plowed into a young girl while driving his Ford Taurus, and sent her flying through the air. I should probably mention now that she was not seriously hurt, but we sure thought she was when it happened.

My father, mother and sisters Natalie and Carla and I were packed into the family car and headed to a pizza joint for dinner. We were headed south on route 355 in Gaithersburg MD, going the speed limit of course, and as we approached an intersection my father noticed that the two cars in the two lanes to his left slowed down very quickly even though the light was green. My father slowed down a bit, and then suddenly a girl- perhaps 18 years old or so, appeared in front of us. Everything went in slow motion at that point. She was carrying a grocery bag and jamming to some music pouring out of her Sony Walkman- the earphone wires clearly visible. What wasn’t visible to her apparently was the big DON’T WALK sign and the traffic bearing down on her at 40MPH.

My father let out a howl and slammed on the brakes. The impact shook the car, and she was propelled skyward in a tumbling, spinning ball, hitting the sidewalk 20 feet away. My mom and I were out of the car before it came to a complete stop and ran towards the girl. My father was paralyzed. He could barely move or speak. He was sure he killed her.

Amazingly the car in the far left lane that barely missed her was a policeman. Across the intersection moving in the opposite direction was an off-duty ambulance. We had police and medical on the scene in about 30 seconds.

As the policeman approached the girl my father emerged from the car. The policeman’s first words were ‘Don’t worry- it wasn’t your fault. I almost hit her too.’ Good words I guess, but that only seemed to matter if she survived. She did. The paramedics mentioned that the girl was so obese that there didn’t seem to be much damage. They said the fat softened the blow to her leg as well as provided a relatively soft landing when she hit the sidewalk.

After recovering from the shock of the impact, she stood up with little more than a bruise on her leg where she was hit and a slight road rash on her forehead from the sidewalk. She wanted to continue her walk home but the medics insisted she go to the hospital for observation. By the way- the bruise on her leg was in the shape of the Ford logo from the front of the Taurus. No kidding.

The policeman took our information, and we returned to our previously scheduled night out of pizza and fun. It was a rather somber dinner.

To this day my father will remark on occasion that he has never got a speeding ticket. He seems to recount this right around the time I get another one. I am forced to remind him that while I do drive a bit fast, I have never, ever, hit anyone and sent them to the hospital. That usually does the trick.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cool Duds

To this day Michelle and I recall and giggle about something her brother Nathan wrote on one of his school book covers years ago. I think he was in 4th or 5th grade. Michelle and I were in high school and were dating at the time.

It was one of those homemade book covers we all used to make made out of a brown paper grocery bag. They were a blast to customize- you could write all over them in pencil, pen or marker. My favorite things to draw on mine were things like the Styx and Boston logo's, a TransAm, and various other cool things from the late 70s.

Nathan wrote in giant block letters on the front of a text book "NATHAN IS A COOL DUD." We teased him incessantly for forgetting to add in that last E. He made the letters so gigantic there was no room to squeeze it in.

Yesterday our whole family watched two real-life 'cool duds' in a sports car. As we were leaving a parking lot we watched them saunter to their sports car. They were too cool for school. Pants dropping down towards their ankles, goofy shades, pissy looks shot at anyone and everyone. They got in their car and started to head out of the parking lot right behind us. I watched in my rear-view mirror as the driver gunned his accelerator in the parking lot in the hopes of emitting an immense squeal and catching a few glances from several attractive young girls in the area. They achieved their objective and thick black smoke poured out accompanying the spinning screeching tires.

The parking lot empties into a long access road with a chain link fence on one side, ending at a major thoroughfare where, after a stop sign is observed, you can easily turn right. If you need to turn left you must wait until traffic clears on both sides, then cross over 3 lines and a median.

We were at the stop sign waiting to turn left when the two duds finished their exhibition in the parking lot and headed to the access road on their way to hurry up and wait behind us.

As they turned left onto the access road the driver must have thought it would be fun to burn some more rubber so he FLOORED his super-cool sports car accelerator, screeched a hard left, and then lost control. His back end skidded out to the right, he over-corrected, and then slammed front end first into the chain-link fence with a loud bang and a cloud of smoke. He backed out quickly, slamming the accelerator again in reverse, and then popped back into forward and rushed full-speed at us. As they approached they slammed on their brakes, skidded out of control again and missed hitting us by a couple inches. They were not happy some suburbanite mini-van was blocking their way to a cool looking death.

As we prepared to turn left they shot out from behind us to our left and tried to cut us off, but when they got to the median they realized they couldn’t see through us to check traffic. They had no choice but to wait until we took our turn. After we did, they sped up on our butt preparing to swerve out and cut us off. Their bravado was short-lived.

I heard it first. Rattling and clanging. I looked in the rear-view mirror and then saw it. Bits of plastic and metal hanging off the front end of the car. Strips of car guts starting to flow out and get caught up under the front tires. They had to call it a day, and pulled off to the side of the road. I really enjoyed myself. Watching duds and goofball idiots is the best kind of people-watching.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Carnival of The Storytellers 5th Edition

Welcome to the 5th edition of Carnival of the Storytellers.

This edition of the COTS was delayed a day due to my guest-hosting the Carnival of Family Life. I had a scheduling snafu and ended up with both to be published on March 19th. I decided to fulfill my commitment to the Family Life Carnival and delay mine a day.

To say I get fewer entries than the other carnival is an understatement. I heard from a friend that hosts a financial carnival that he gets 70 plus submissions every time. I rather like having just a few. It allows me to easily exercise my complete sovereignty over the carnival. I read every word submitted, and introduce each one with my honest opinion of what was written. Several submissions never make it to the carnival. I revel in my absolute power to include or exclude each post. I, in my sole opinion, may decide a post is not appropriate for my audience (namely family and friends that I know read this blog). I may decide to not include it because it’s simply bad.

King George III once said "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." Gotta admire, to some degree, honesty like that. Even though he was wrong, and quite possibly insane, he ruled his kingdom. My kingdom is my small little blog. And I may also be insane.

I may lose a few future contributors that are offended, and for that I'm sorry, I’m compelled to tell you what I honestly think about each post before recommending you go off and read them.


When I went to review Praveen's post two things struck me- the headline of the blog states "Taoism, Zen, Simplicity, Gentleness" but the page is cluttered with AdSense and Amazon ads. And he says he says his interests include stock trading. Interesting. Not simple, but very interesting. He presents a (very) short story about a simple mouse and a complex bird. Check out Tao of Simplicity: The Mouse, Bird, and Fox posted at Tao of Simplicity. It reminded me of a story/lesson I learned once about a frog and a fly. I posted it a couple days ago.

So as I read this next post several comments popped in my head and I immediately started to think about how I would introduce TherapyDoc's Popularity posted at Everyone needs therapy? Lessons from a family therapist." As I got through it, I realized that I shouldn't say what I wanted to say since the post was all about being nice and kind. So...I will leave it to the author's own words- "Can we REALLY expect kids to be nice? The popular kids probably are nice, really nice. This story highlights how hard that is. Basically, we all want to huddle together with our best friend and ignore everyone else." I believe her main assertion that being popular comes about from being nice is patently wrong. I can quickly rattle off 50 'popular' people of past and current days that would be anything but nice. Maybe its just me, but I have a hard time figuring out exactly what she is saying. I'm just chalking it up to not being smart enough to understand her.

I am intrigued by the relatively new phenomenon of novel writing online. Using blogs to start, add to, edit, change, and evolve a story is a very cool concept, and a far cry from the old days where a person locked in a room with a typewriter completed an opus from beginning to end and then sent it to a publisher to be rejected. So much wasted time and effort. Christopher Kinniburgh presents The Preacher And The Author - One posted at Emotion Part One, saying, "The beginning of a novella length story." It is the start of a tale about a man and a woman that are living very separate lives, that once in the distant past shared one together. A very nice start to a potentially interesting story.

Interesting. Not a post with a story by a story writer, but a post about a story in a newspaper about a story writer writing about his stories. Al Nye presents Stephen King on the Writing Life posted at Al Nye The Lawyer Guy.

Awesome! That's the word I have for this post. How I love a great dramatic retelling of a real life experience. Stephen Kuusisto presents Don't Pop That Critter! posted at Planet of the Blind, saying, "This wasn't funny at the time..."

TherapyDoc is in for a second round, and this one I got. Great post about everyday life and dealing with extraordinary events while navigating the daily routine. Very interesting read. The Living and the Dying posted at Everyone needs therapy? Lessons from a family therapist, saying, "Bittersweet isn't all about chocolate, actually."

It is rare to find someone that will open up to the core. Blogs have helped this to some degree, but often you just find people telling you about things they really shouldn't. In most cases these disclosures result in nothing for the reader other than a passing thought that the idiot they just learned about really should have kept their mouth (or rather their laptop) shut. Not the case with Stephanie. Her post Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood: I am posted at Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood, is a truly insightful and valuable exploration of who she was, and who she is. You can sense from her past and present who she will become. Loved it.


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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Monday, March 19, 2007

Carnival of Family Life 46th Edition

I have the distinct honor of playing the role of guest host of this weeks Carnival of Family Life, the 46th edition. I host my own carnival, Carnival of The Storytellers. I usually have 8-12 submissions every other week. The number of regular submissions for this carnival is amazing to me. I bit off a bit more than I could chew on this one :)

Enjoy! DigitalRich

Things To Do, Eat or Play

Mama Duck presents Edible Easter Baskets posted at Lil Duck Duck.

Lori Cooperstein presents Family Life in the 21st Century is Like a Mulligan Stew posted at Fun Playdates.

Tips & Advice

Karen Weideman presents Save Your Receipt or Else . . . posted at Thrifty Mommy, saying, "This article tells of the problems that are occurring with new return policies at stores. Buyer beware - save your receipts!"

Karen Weideman presents Thrifty Mommy.

Hsien-Hsien Lei presents Cheap Toys Aren’t Worth the Danger posted at Play Library, saying, "Thanks!"

Lisa Mitchell presents Are They Ready? posted at Let's Talk Babies.

Alan presents It gets lonely at the top - How to handle rejection posted at Made to Be Great.

GP presents Enjoy the Journey posted at Fish Creek House - INNside Innkeeping, saying, "Our Ten Commandments to enjoy the journey of stress reduction.""

Kevin Heath presents Nine Ways To Be Your Teens Best Friend posted at More4kids, saying, "This article submitted to More4kids by Julie Baumgardner offers great advice on getting closer and communicating with your teens."

Megan Bayliss presents Who is your Child Innocently Telling Too Much To On-Line? posted at Child protection: serious business..

Super Saver presents Our Saving Plan For College posted at My Wealth Builder.

Jennifer Remeta presents Welcome One, Welcome All! posted at Parenting Toddlers.

Melissa Wiley presents I'm Too Busy NOT to Homeschool posted at The Lilting House.

Amy Allen Clark presents Fighting The Continous Battle of the Cheerios posted at MomAdvice, saying, "Thank you!"

Niki Anders presents Let?s talk cloth posted at The-A-TEAM.

Matthew Paulson presents Should Parents Pay For Children's Colleges? posted at Getting To Graduation.

Praveen presents Refrain from Active Teaching posted at Tao of Simplicity.


Really enjoyed this next post. How great it is when we can claim a victory, even a small one. Laura presents waving the white flag posted at Adventures in Juggling, saying, "after being mommy to 4 kids one would think getting the 5th and final child to drink milk would be a breeze....then again you try getting a kid who ate using a feeding tube the 1st 3 years of his life to do it and get back to me. today i FINALLY did it.

Hal Sommerschield, Ph.D. presents Good Bye Pacifiers posted at North Star Mental Fitness Blog.

Leisa presents We’ve done it again! posted at

Julee presents A Dream Come True posted at Homeschool Daze, saying, "Getting the kids out the door - perfected"

Kids Being Kids

MyBestInvest presents The toughest kid in town posted at My Best Investments.

Rad presents Princess Going from Walking to Crawling? posted at Financial Zero to Hero Husband and Dad, saying, "My baby girl figuring out how to get around"

Karen Flores presents By the word of their testimony posted at Karen Flores, saying, "this article is about my son's take on an old nursery rhyme."

Cara presents Challenges of Motherhood posted at Baby Talkers, saying, "common challenges mothers face"

Stephanie presents Car Farts posted at Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood.

Mike Miller presents Career dreams can be tough when you are afraid to be alone posted at Be A Good Dad.


skeet presents A long, long time ago posted at skeet's stuff.

Karen Lynch presents Live The Power posted at LivethePower.

Real Life Issues & Questions

Patricia presents Immediate Gratification posted at Patricia, saying, "Take care of your family, your marriage, and your life when you decide to respond rather than react to circumstances."

Maureen O'Brien presents Trinity Prep School - Do You Have Smart Kids? posted at Trinity Prep School, saying, "Is it possible I've been praising my kids in the wrong way all these years?"

TherapyDoc presents The Living and the Dying posted at Everyone needs therapy? Lessons from a family therapist, saying, "Sometimes it's hard to choose. Do I attend to the living? Or the dying."

Amy Donovan presents Positive Psychology, Party of Two posted at Positive Psychology News Daily.

Jeremy Adam Smith presents Mom vs. Herself posted at Daddy Dialectic.

Kate Baggott presents 5 for Feminism posted at Babylune, saying, "Feminism is about family."

Jeremy Adam Smith presents Housework vs. the Rest of Life posted at Daddy Dialectic.

Megan Bayliss presents Droughts and Flooding Rains: Home School Australian Drought Relief posted at Home Schooling Aspergers..

Fun & Funny

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Sibling Trickster posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.

Athol Kay presents 10 Things About Me, 9 Of Them True posted at REagent in CT, saying, "I missed a week switching to a new blog platform :-o"

LocalGirl presents He Owes Me Big Time posted at Local Girl.

Mom of 3 presents The "M-word" posted at Unplug Your Kids.

MyBestInvest presents But if anyone could pull it off, he could posted at My Best Investments.

Who Knows?

Laurie Bluedorn presents Trivium Pursuit » Blog Archive » Homeschool Family in Western Kansas posted at Laurie Bluedorn.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Frog And The Fly

Here's a quick story I heard long ago. I was reminded of it while preparing the 5th edition of The Carnival of Storytellers due out tomorrow.

The core of the story is recalled, but the exact words, details and flow of it is mine. I looked for some sort of original online but couldn’t find it.

There once was a fly who through no fault of his own lost his wings. He was flying around minding his own business when he realized it was starting to get dark. He set off for home, across the big river, when suddenly out of nowhere a bird swooped down to gobble him up. The beak of the bird just missed the poor fly's head, and latched onto both his wings. With a loud chomp the wigs were consumed, and the fly, separated from his precious wings, fell to earth with barely a sound.

He hid for a time until he was certain the bird was gone, and climbed atop a blade of grass to see which way was home. He saw the river and set out on all six feet to return to his family. When he reached the river he realized there was no way to cross. He had never had to think twice before about crossing the river. It was as simple as a brief flight on his trusty wings. Now, without wings, and with no bridges or dry rocks to travel he was overcome with sadness. He feared he would never see his family again and began to weep loudly.

Nearby a huge green frog watched with interest. He heard the fly's lament about the lost wings and the family never to be seen again. He was genuinely moved, and swam towards the fly to see if he could help.

"My dear fly, I heard your sad story and wish to help in any way I can" said the frog.

The fly was startled and almost fell into the river as he stumbled back in fear. "Stay away frog! I know your kind- I have heard tales about lost friends and relatives to the likes of you. You eat flies- wings and all. You will not help me, you only want to eat me!"

"You have hurt my feelings greatly" said the frog. I only wish to help. Your story has moved me, and while there is no doubt I have eaten a fly or two in my years, I can promise you I will not harm you. I love my family too, and wish only to help you reunite with yours. Climb upon my tummy and I will swim you to the other side of the river so you may continue your journey."

The fly wanted to believe him. Needed to believe him. It seemed the only way to get home. He thought long and hard, and reasoned that if the frog really wanted to eat him he probably would have made a move by now. He talked himself into believing the frog and so agreed, asking for, and receiving, one more promise that there would be no fly eating.

The fly climbed aboard the frog, and the frog set out to fulfill his promise sincerely meaning no harm to the fly.

When the frog reached the half-way point across the river, he realized he was very hungry. He reached out his tounge, and snapped up the fly in a split-second. With one crunchy bite the fly was no more.

The bird that had attacked the fly had watched the whole thing. He was fascinated by the fly's determination to reach his family and had decided to spare the fly. He kept his distance and had watched the fly navigate hills, rocks, grass and all manner of fly eating insects on his way to the river. He watched and listened to the fly and frog discuss the agreement for safe passage, and also watched the frog eat the fly.

The bird flew down towards the frog and introduced himself. He explained to the frog that he had watched and heard all that transpired, and was shocked to see the frog break his promise and eat the poor heartbroken fly. "Why would you do such a thing?" asked the bird.

"You silly bird" said the frog, "I am a frog. And frog's eat flies."

This story suggests that no one can change for the better, can escape the base and evil desires of the heart or change into a better person without a greater power beyond themselves.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

Its here! The day has arrived. The start of the ‘big idea’ season.

Today I begin the 7 month long mowing season. I will climb aboard my super-fast eXmark zero-turn radius commercial mower and commence the first of approximately 30 outings to lay low the grass spread across my 11 acre lawn.

All my friends think I’m crazy for spending 4 hours on the mower each week and ask why I don’t hire someone to do it for me. The answer to those two questions are easy:

1. Why would you spend all that time mowing? Because those 4 hours of relative silence (I wear the same ear muffs tarmac workers do at the airport) are beautiful. From those hours of mindless mowing come a river of thoughts, ideas and projects that help propel my business. Sometimes I put my MP3 player inside the headset and enjoy music. On occasion a beer or two is nice, though I notice the lines and angles on the finished lawn are not as sharp and straight as usual.

2. Why don’t you hire someone to do the lawn? I got a couple quotes on the project when we first moved here. $600 per week. $2400/month for 7 months out of the year. That comes to $16,800 per season, and $504,000, not including inflation and rising mowing costs, over the next 30 years (assuming that is when I will cease to be able to do it myself).

A few tidbits of information you might find interesting:

The mower drives on average about 8 mph. The 4 hour mower job each week means I am traveling 32 miles per mow, 134 miles per month, and 938 miles per season.

I rotate the angles each week- one week straight up and down the lawn, next week side-to-side, next week 45 degree angle to the right from the front of the house, and the next week 45 degree angle to the left. Then start over again.

½ of each beer must be guzzled down standing next to the refrigerator in the garage before boarding the mower. This is to prevent sloshing onto the mower when hitting bumps.

I don’t slow down, swerve or stop if small animals stray in front of the mower- that would result in noticeable imperfections in the cut patterns left on the lawn.

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Friday, March 16, 2007


Failure and I are pretty good friends. I met him some time ago, while still a young kid. He’s not such a bad guy, really, though many people are afraid of him. I have spent most of my life afraid of him but over the last decade I have learned to accept him as a part of life.

About 10 years ago I traveled with a group of men to Arizona for a working retreat. There we were to learn more about each other, do some strategic planning for the future, address some industry problems we were facing, and learn to trust each other more by going through one of those intense obstacle courses. Mixed in with all that ‘work stuff’ was golfing, hot-air ballooning and massages in the spa. Miss those work trips.

Anyway, during the obstacle course session, one of the things we had to do was hook up a harness to our body (with a tether line connected to save us should we fall), and shimmy up a 50 foot telephone pole. There were strategically placed metal steps jutting out a few inches going up to the top of the pole. At the very top of the pole was a wood disc, about 3 feet in diameter, laying flat on the top of the pole but remaining very wobbly- it had one large bolt holding it on in the middle. The goal was to get all the way to the top, and then somehow, without falling, crawl on top of the disc, and while shaking like a tree in the wind, get up off all fours and stand straight up.

I watched person after person fail with only one successful participant before me. Suddenly it was my turn. There was no doubt in my mind I would be meeting my friend Failure soon. Up I went. Amazingly I did it. Got to the top, stood up, and had a wonderful feeling of victory. Victory- even over small things- can create a feeling so intense that it feels like it will last forever. It doesn’t. It is fleeting, and no one has the power to make the feeling stay longer that it alone decides is proper. If they try, another ‘person’ shows up, and his name is Delusion.

Failure on the other hand can stay around as long as a person wants. Rather than Failure deciding when to leave, it’s up to the host to show him the door when he or she feels the time is proper.

The guide at the course instructed each victor that reached the top of the pole to tell everyone one thing they were afraid of, and then jump into the air and plummet the 40 feet before the tether and harness prevented death at the hand of the hard earth 50 feet below. I yelled out “I am afraid of Failure” and leaped into the air.

I wouldn’t say that event alone removed my fear of Failure. Rather, it was that day, and all the days that followed wherein I grew and matured, and learned to welcome Failure as a part of life, greet him, say hello, and immediately show him the way out.

One more thing- he visited last night. I have one goal for this blog- not to get X number of visitors, or to achieve notice or even a Blogger ‘Blogs of Note’ mention. My only goal has been to faithfully publish one post a day. Yesterday I totally forgot and failed. I went ahead and back-dated this post to make it look like it went up yesterday to feel better about my friend visiting.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

In The Mood For A Rant

I’m a bit punchy today. In a better mood than yesterday, but ready to bite if I’m poked too hard. A few things are poking me right now. Here I go:

1. Predators. There are too many stories of wolves that are allowed to prowl unwatched, seeking to devour our kids. If I hear one more story of a child beaten, abused, abducted, violated or broken by some sicko I think I will pop a gasket. That will likely happen, unfortunately, tomorrow or the next day. We have allowed our society to excuse and protect these animals. We need to cut them off. I mean cut them off from society. I guess, “cutting them off” could be good to. We protect free speech in the form of deviant media and behavior, we raise our kids in a world saturated with sex and relative values, and we wonder why there is a growing population of evil people wandering around in search of those they may consume. And when they do? We give them 90 days in jail and let them out again. SICK OF IT. In Dante’s Inferno, the deepest level of Hell is reserved for traitors- those that betray friends. I am hopeful there is one level beyond, undiscovered during Dante’s subconscious journey into Hades, that will hold those that have hurt a child.

2. Politicians. I can’t stand to hear the screech and whine of our politician’s voices any longer. There is NOTHING a conservative can do without raising a chorus of liberal voices screaming foul. And there is NOTHING a liberal can do…period. The whole lot is a waste. Do me a favor politicians- build roads and bridges, train our military to be the best in the world and use them ALL OUT against those that would do us harm, make sure the 911 system works, fund and staff police and fire stations, and serve one term and then get a real job.

3. Pockets. These drive me nuts because its where people tuck away hidden agenda’s, hidden grudges, monologues about people that leave the room, and all sorts of cowardice. Bring it out. Put it on the table. Be bold. Be honest. Lay it out for all to see, and be prepared to eat your words or thoughts if proven wrong.

4. Institutional Idiocy. Large companies that are so behemoth that each department or division is driven by what is best for “their” people, not what is best for the greater mission and purpose. There are times to lie on a grenade to make sure your army wins.

5. Clutter. My desk and office are getting pretty bad. I guess on this one I could for sure do something about the problem fairly quickly. Nevermind.

6. Telephones. My office phone and cell phone would be thrown in the fire-pit in my backyard if it wouldn’t paralyze some people that don’t know how to use E-mail, IMs or face-to-face visits. The worst is when people call and I don’t pick up because I’m in the middle of something..and then they call again in 2 minutes. And then again. And again. LEAVE A MESSAGE.

7. Humidity.

8. Rosie O’Donnell. Nuf said.

9. Taxes. On April 15th I have to pay so much money it would make your head spin. I guess with the war and Pelosi’s new private jet we’ve got quite a bill to pay.

10. Clamshell packaging. I bought a new set of headphones to make Skype phone calls and I almost lost my left index finger to a sharp plastic edge. They were created to keep losers from easily opening the package and stuffing valuable down their pants along with the steaks and CDs already in there. One more way the silt at the bottom of the barrel makes our lives more difficult.

Well. I feel much better thank you. Have a nice day! :)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Just Like The Old Days

Today was like the old days- meeting, after meeting, after meeting. I haven’t had one of those days since leaving EMI Music.

The total count was seven. Seven meetings in 7 different locations…downtown Franklin, Brentwood, back to Franklin, downtown Nashville, then 12th Ave South area, then back to Franklin, then a conference call at my home office starting at 9:30PM.

At least my second to last meeting was over a beer and a burger. That made the day tolerable.

On days like this I feel both blessed to be able to work with so many interesting people, and also overwhelmed at all there is to do and all the opportunities to explore and exploit. There is a trend here…yesterday fatigued. Today overwhelmed. And on both days beer is involved.

I need a vacation. Next week is Spring Break and the beach. Yes.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fatigue Fatigue

Microsoft Word thinks I just made a typo. Two of the same words in a row triggers that little squiggly red line under the second word. Nice to have unless you mean to do it. I do.

I’m tired of being tired. Fatigue is a very interesting word. Much more so than ‘tired.’ Tired summons thoughts of old, dated or out of style in addition to just plain tired. Fatigue at least has some style. It gives you the sense that you still have it in you, you’re just in need of rest.

In college I studied brand fatigue. There’s metal fatigue, structure fatigue, and battle fatigue. Also Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue…there’s even fatigues you can wear. Last Saturday I realized I may have parenting fatigue.

I’ve found that I am breaking up my four daughters into two groups- the oldsters (13 and 11 years) and the youngsters (8 and 5 years old). When I think back at all we did with the oldsters it’s kind of amazing. Softball coaching, basketball, ski trips, tons of travel, dance lessons, brownies, American Girl Center in Chicago dressing Bitty Baby dolls, and so much more. As I stood on the softball field during hour 3 this Saturday I started wondering if I had it in me for the youngsters.

This is the 7th year I will coach 5 & 6 year old girls in softball. It used to be exhilarating. Then fun, slipping into enjoyable and last I checked, it moved into bearable. This year it is taking all I have to watch 5 year old girls catching grounders, looking like little kids bowling in reverse. Instead of leaving their hands and traveling towards the pins at .028 MPH, the ball leaves the bat at .028 MPH and travels slowly towards their bent over little stationary bodies with gloves wide open hoping against hope that the ball will change course 45 degrees and magically slide into their gloves. It doesn’t. It stops 8 feet from them and they stare at it perfectly still waiting for it to resume its travels while the batter runs towards the pitchers mound.

I want to be the on-fire dad I was 10 years ago. I want to be that for the youngsters. I want a beer and a nap.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

While A Man Cannot Serve Two Masters, Apparently He Can Serve 8

So…my DigitalRichDaily blog post for the day is just getting done at 6:48PM at night. About 12 hours later than normal.

Business is good. Blogging…not so much. Working with 8 great clients is tapping me out. It’s a blast- and I am working hard to make sure I pour myself into each one of them 100% when I’m “on the clock” for them. I guess I really didn’t understand the toll that takes.

My obsessive-compulsive side (that’s about the only side I have by the way) is keeping me hammering at this without much of a break throughout the day. While its fun now, I can see that it will burn me out quickly unless I build in some breaks.

So that’s what I will do. I promise. I will start as soon as I have a few spare minutes. I will plan out the days ahead, allot the proper times for each client, build in some time outside, lunch with my wife, maybe a power-nap after a 2-glass of wine lunch once a month.

I promise I will do it. Tomorrow. Well, actually tomorrow is not good. I am slammed all day. Starting Wednesday. I mean starting Monday. Yep- that should do.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

NT2B Virus

Well, I thought for sure that I would wake up this morning and the mini-Y2K that was supposed to happen would be a joke.

I was right about that, but something terrible did happen.

A totally unexpected new computer virus reared it's ugly head and did impact me.


What has been a tradition for me- keeping my normal late night hours on the days before "Spring Forward" strikes, and then waking up with a lost hour and scrambling to get the morning routine done before church, has failed me today.

What is different about this time change versus all the years past is that now I have a blog. A blog I almost always update in the morning. Other than this 134 word side-note that is all for today.

No Time 2 Blog.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

For Some Reason I'm Craving Grilled Cheese And French Fries

At the top of my list of favorite food sits all things Asian. However, after this past week I need a break.

Monday was take-out Thai from Chlay’s. Tuesday was Chinese salad at a nice restaurant. Wed was multiple dishes with a friend at a Vietnamese place named Miss Saigon. Thursday was Mongolian Beef with fried rice and chili paste at PF Changs. Yesterday? Eggroll and Kung Pao Chicken at FuLin’s in Brentwood TN.

I’m paying for it now in ways I shall not divulge.

At a couple of the lunches, as the check(s) were delivered at the end of the meal, fortune cookies were placed on the table- carefully arranged and matching perfectly the number of diners. As we took our cookies and read our fortunes, I almost took command and insisted we do it the way our family does but thought better of it.

It started with Christmas. To avoid the chaos of having multiple children shredding open multiple gifts in a cacophony of craziness that lasts 11 minutes, we instituted a tradition that draws out Christmas morning while also giving focus to each person and each gift opened. We go round-robin, from youngest to oldest, and each person opens their gift while all others watch. It allows proper attention to each gift, each giftee and giftor. It really does add importance to each, and each gets a chance to shine.

Some years ago we brought that tradition to each meal our family ate together that included fortune cookies. The plate is passed around, from youngest to oldest, and each chooses a cookie. It is very important to do this, otherwise the fortune you get will be invalid. Then, each person opens their cookie and reads their fortune for all to hear and comment on. I know it’s goofy, but it makes the time more fun- it shines attention and consideration on each person and the funny or insightful fortune cast on each.

The little things in life are much more meaningful and enjoyable when we can share them- when others can share in them, and when we take the time to add value by our focus of attention.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Y2K And The Leipers Fork Chili Cook-Off

All this hoopla about a new mini-Y2K tomorrow night is hilarious. Apparently, since Congress has moved daylight savings time up a few weeks, our computers are supposed to freak out when they wake up Sunday morning and find they lost an hour from their system clock. Then, they will proceed to shut down the world.

I remember the craziness of Y2K very well- the endless stupid meetings at the office to talk through contingency plans, the insane dollars spent on back-up, back-up, back-up generators, data storage facilities, even some talk of turning our office building into a refuge for staff and family if things spun out of control and the order of law collapsed. I had friends, you probably did too, that spent large sums of money on emergency food, water, and even weapons. It was a bit too wacky to be funny.

I must admit that I got pulled along with them just a bit. I did buy one thing- a small propane stove to cook with if for some reason the power went out for a day or two. The package came via UPS and was promptly stored, unopened, on the top shelf of our garage storage unit. And unopened it stayed until the day my mom called with a strange request several years later.

On a Friday night mom rang me up and asked if I still had that propane stove I bought for Y2K- she wanted to borrow it to use for the Leipers Fork Chili Cook-Off she had entered. I guess I never pictured anyone from our family being a chili cook-off kind of person. Somehow those people just seem very different than most normal folk. I always picture them as men with massive barrel chests, giant handle-bar mustaches soaked in BBQ sauce, and chomping on a cigar while reaching into a giant cast-iron kettle to rustle up some fixins. The thought of mom going at it was a very funny image in my mind.

Yes mom- I still have it- somewhere- and you’re welcome to use it. The next question she asked- would I please help her cook the chili- was a bit harder to agree to, but I did. I just hoped no one I knew would roll-on up to the chili bar while I had my big chef hat on.

Saturday morning broke perfect- sunny, cool, breezy, with the smell of onions and beef detectable in the air even though our home is almost 2 miles from “downtown” Leipers Fork. Mom arrived on time (as in late) and I grabbed the dusty box containing the propane stove and threw it in my truck. Off we headed to our appointed spot along the main road in Leipers Fork. The road would be closed to traffic soon so the huge crowd that would show up could wander along and sample chili from the 30 or so booths.

We unloaded our boxes of ingredients, coolers of meat, and all the other items necessary to make my moms non-award (we hoped to change that) winning chili. My father unloaded and set up his 10x10 outdoor canopy and tables. As we were unloading our items I looked around at the other more professional looking contestants and noticed the tools of their trade. Massive iron cookers, huge outdoor stoves that made a sounds like jet-engines, and huge vats of steaming liquids. It was quite impressive.

As mom pulled out her giant stainless steel pan (probably 1 ½ feet wide and 2 ½ feet tall), I was glad we had at least ONE thing that would make it look like we belonged here. I then went for the propane stove and cracked open the box. Interesting. All I could see in the box were canisters of propane that looked like large cans of hairspray. I started taking them out…kept taking them out…at a certain point I thought there was no way there was actually a stove in here. Sure enough, it was there. At the bottom. A small white box tucked under all the hairspray cans, approximately 3 inches tall and 5 inches wide. Inside that little box was a giant massive propane stove, assuming mom was Barbie and I was Ken. My heart sank. We had a problem.

The large pan we had wouldn’t even balance on the mini-stove unless someone held it the entire time. It looked hilarious. Our chili cookin’ neighbors could barely contain their laughter. As I held the pan and mom threw in butter and onions and cilantro, dad rushed to his house to load up the only thing they had that could possibly help us cook the chili- their outdoor grill. He loaded it into the back of his truck, straped it on clumsily with bungee-cords, and rushed back. By the time he got back, about an hour later, we had just managed to melt the first pats of butter thrown in the pan using the propane ‘stove.’

We were a sight. One single giant pan. Doll house propane stove. Big broken rusty backyard barbeque grill. 3 goofballs rushing to get the chili done by the 11AM shotgun start. We barely made it.

The chili turned out surprisingly good. We had tons of positive comments from the hundreds of people passing by, and came close to winning the people’s choice award. Not bad. We won’t be doing it again.

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