Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Mud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Man For This Time

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

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

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

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

Check out this clip:

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

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

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

Monday, October 29, 2007

Drinking During the Workday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 26, 2007

You Should Make a CD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Verbal Pet Peeves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I’m Alive

The rumors of my death, and that of my blog, are greatly exaggerated.

To say I have been busy just does not do justice to my inability to spend even one moment writing. I haven’t even visited my blog or any other blog, much less posted anything, in almost 2 months. I guess not much has changed recently- the only reason I am posting today is because of a few comments and several emails from people that seem to enjoy reading my stories and meandering thoughts. They are asking if I am ok, alive, still going to keep the blog going.

I am, I am, and I will.

There is an old saying and a true one- that a person makes time for the things most important to them. When I started this blog, it was very important to me. I was going through a mini mid-life crisis. I had made a major career change, left an amazing job and a great group of staff and peers to strike out on my own. After a year of doing so and finding little success, this blog was a much needed outlet to take my mind off work (and the lack thereof).

When I think about my life, in light of that old saying, it’s a bit uncomfortable. Why have I not ventured out on a missions trip? Why don’t we play more family board games? Why do we not take more weekend family trips? Why don’t we go camping? Why don’t we seem to have time to do more things together?

A person makes time for the things most important to them. I seem to be able to get most all my work done. And there is the painful insight.

So, I am trying to make some time again….even if it’s just a few minutes…to jot down my thoughts here. Not for anyone really other than myself and my family, but if someone else gets any enjoyment or anything of value in the mix that’s good. I started out with this blog to create an electronic journal- something my kids, and possibly their kids, will be able to read through and learn from. This collection of a few hundred posts and about half a million words is far more than I have ever been able to read from my parents, grandparents, or anyone else in my family. How amazing is that? What would I give to be able to read the stories and thoughts from my precious grandmother Dorothy or her husband James? Or grandma Astrid? A goodly amount, that’s for sure.