25 February 2008

Shrillary, Cuba, and the Old Man on Campus

Ever since the Pandering Presidential Politico, the Mittster, got out of the race, I've not had much to say about the presidential campaign. Until now...we are, I believe, watching one of the greatest political meltdowns in history. And that belongs to you, She Who Must Not Be Named, oh Bride of Satan.

Oh Shrillary, was it not just last Thursday that you reached out to Obama as he sat next to you at the debate, declaring how proud you were to be sitting next to him. So Shrillary, who was that SheBeast that was shrieking into the camera two days later about Obama, essentially challenging him to a brawl on the streets. And Shrillary, who was it on Sunday that was on a campaign stage, openly mocking Obama's speaking style and campaign rhetoric?

It was you, Shrillary. Three classic signs of a campaign that's imploding: Act One - excessive pandering to your opponent; Act Two - outrage toward your opponent; Act Three - tossing any last shred of dignity you had and mocking your opponent's strengths. You reap what you sow - and Shrillary, you're getting yours.

As our administration is changing, we see changes just 90 miles to south of the southernmost tip of Florida - Fidel Castro has retired as comadante of Cuba. Who'd a thunk?! I figured it was going to take death to get him out. Having served my mission amongst the Cubans in Florida, I certainly was exposed to more than my share of anti-Castro rhetoric. And I certainly worked with enough people who suffered under his regime. Sadly, our policies toward Cuba have not done anything to reverse his impact. I only wish that we had lifted the embargo enough to see the free flow of U.S. dollars into the country. That would have changed it for Cuba. Fidel would have been gone a long, long time ago had we loosened the economic sanctions and allowed the average Cuban citizen to get a taste of economic freedom. The Cubans are an amazing, resourceful people and I'm certain we will still see change on that island.

Finally, it's Day Two of my executive education program at Wharton. I am staying at a hotel right in the middle of campus and have been walking back and forth across campus. This much I know - I'm an old man. Or college kids all look like they are about twelve years old. It's a very different scene than when I started college twenty four years ago. Although, check out the place on campus, right next to my hotel - a cereal bar called Cereality. It's a kick! Of course, I'm not getting the Froot Loops or anything like that - I need the old man oatmeal.

Anyway, I miss my family. This has been a long trip. I'll be glad to go home this Friday. And of course, Chicago is supposed to get pounded with snow tonight. Thanks for serving me yet another large helping of guilt, Senor Weatherman. Gracias.

23 February 2008

A Trip 30-Plus Years in the Making

For as long as I can remember, my dad talked of taking his family to Philadelphia to see where he grew up. For lots of reasons far too numerous to detail here, that never happened. However, over the course of the years, my siblings have made it Philadelphia and have seen where Dad grew up. But not me - until this weekend. When this trip to Philadelphia presented itself, I thought of Dad and asked him if we wanted to join me here before my class started.

The weather tried to block both of us. Dad's first flight out of Phoenix was cancelled and then his second looked like it was going to be heinously delayed and I've already detailed the exodus from DC that I had, but we wound up arriving at the hotel on Friday night within 30 minutes of each other. It was good to see my dad! We were both pretty tired from a long day so called it quits pretty early Friday night.

We are both early risers and we were on our way by 8:30AM today. I drove as Dad navigated. As we drove towards the Penn Wynne area of Philadelphia, I sensed Dad's excitement. As we drove by an enormous Catholic diocese, he talked about getting in trouble as a youth for trying to play football on the grounds with a bunch of his friends. I immediately thought of Parker - I knew he'd want to know that about his grandfather.

As we turned down Manoa Road, Dad started pointing out houses and recalling the names of the friends and families that lived in those homes. Here's a picture of the home where Dad grew up:

I even recall seeing pictures of this house and it didn't look much different than I remembered. Dad asked me to drive around back and the brother of the house's current owner was there. He was very gracious towards Dad and it was something else to hear Dad talking to this man, pointing out the patio was something that he and my late grandfather built together. I felt incredibly honored to have this chance to get this insight into my Dad's life. We then drove around his old neighborhood. Here's his elementary school:

I can't get over how much this day meant to me. All of Dad's stories from his childhood had now come to life for me seeing his old neighborhood. Dad was raised by wonderful parents and had a really idyllic life and I'm really grateful for how that has impacted me.

We then went into downtown Philadelphia, checked into our hotel, and started exploring the city again. First stop was the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. It's kind of like a Disneyland of Food. In spite of losing 18 pounds since January, I was determined to enjoy this place. I did all right by eating at a Middle Eastern place for lunch. I got derailed by the Amish though! Curse the Pennsylvania Dutch and their hot Apple Dumplings! Check 'em out:

I spent about twenty minutes justifying this taste treat to my dad, like a drunk justifying one more drink. Well, Dad and I shared this and it was awesome! And so worth the afternoon of heavy walking that I put in in order to burn some it off!

After lunch, we toured Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell. It's an impressive thing to stand in the same place where our nation's founding fathers were, struggling to create the foundation our country. What it must have been like to be a part of that! Wow! Finally, here's the Liberty Bell:

It's been a good, good day. It's been so good to connect with this part of my Dad's life. It's been an opportunity to count my blessings and be reminded again how lucky I am to have been born of goodly parents.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

So I finally managed to find a hotel where I don't have to pay $12.95 for 24 hours of wireless access and I can get caught up! Just a quick recap of where I've been:
  • Wednesday - flew to Mexico City. Had a dinner scheduled with my company and could not get to said dinner due to a huge protest that shut down one of the main drags through Mexico City - la Reforma. My dinner was at a club in the Centro Historico and not a single cab would take me. Gracias. So I wound up eating tres tacos - dos de chorizo y uno do chuleta at El Caminero - I love this taco shop!
  • Thursday - do a presentation in the morning and run to the airport for an afternoon flight back to Washington DC via O'Hare. My upgrade cleared and I had time to stop at my favorite panaderia in the Mexico City airport and I'm thinking all is well. And it was until I got to the gate for my connecting flight to DC. It was like a scene out of the last flight out of Saigon. All flights to BWI and Dulles had already been cancelled due to weather and this flight to Reagan National was the last flight out. People were trying anything to get on this flight. Of course, the inbound aircraft was late, which the gate agents "forgot" to announce. Just before they finally announce boarding, they say to make it quick becuase a monster ice storm is going to hit National. Umm..ok. So they invite First Class to board and on I go, only to discover that they had done an aircraft switch and there was no First Class on this flight. I was too tired to get irate and it's only an hour and 20 minute flight to DC. One guy essentially had a cardiac in the jetway when he saw that there was no First Class and wound up not flying. Well, the urge to get us out was insane. Again, "last flight out!" mentality. Get to DC after midnight and into my hotel by 1AM. Friday morning meetings starting at 7AM. Great...
  • Friday - it's icy in DC and it's going to be an ugly day for flying. By 12:00 Noon, United called me to tell me my flight do Philadelphia is cancelled and they can get me to Philly Saturday afternoon. Check here for "no." So it's Amtrak to the rescue. Who'd a thunk!? After my board meetings ended, a buddy of mine who owns a chauferred car company had a Town Car for me and got me over to Union Station in no time flat. I was on the 4:00PM Acela Express to Philadelphia. Have to admit the train was a pretty darn civilized way to go. Yet another cab upon arrival and I meet my dad at the hotel.

So now that I am in Philadelphia for a week, I'm looking forward to the weekend with my dad and starting this class at Wharton. I'm really glad to not be flying for a week!

19 February 2008

Packing Up Again

Long, dang long, day at the office - didn't get home til nearly 6:30PM. Lots to do in advance of leaving tomorrow on this nine-day trip. Mexico City, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. I do the first two cities tomorrow through Friday and then Friday to the next Friday, it's Philadelphia. I will be at the Wharton School attending a week-long Executive Education session, like an MBA "boot camp." It should be quite interesting. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm also looking forward to this Friday as I am meeting my dad in Philadelphia. He has been trying since about as long as I can remember to get his children to Philly to see where he grew up. My sibings have been but he and I have never been able to make it happen. And now we are. It will be just me and him for the weekend and I am really looking forward to it. It will be fun to reconnect and I am looking forward to seeing where he grew up. It will be interesting to see the environment that helped shaped Dad into the man he is and the father that he has been to me.

This is a long time to be gone from the family though. I hate long trips like this. I haven't had one like this since 2000, as close as I can recall. I'll miss Shari and the kids tremendously. I just hope that we don't get a pounding snowstorm. It's no longer funny but whenever I leave on a trip of more than two days, we get pounded. Pounded. Right now, it's just stupid cold and only trace snow in the forecast, but I'd really like to go knowing that Parker isn't going to have to spend his life shoveling while I'm gone.

Courtney and Parker are at Mutual (Courtney drove again - gaining more and more confidence each time she's behind the wheel). Sarah is home - she's out of Young Women now. Strange to have her home. This is a whole new dynamic at Casa Lyons....

17 February 2008

Just for the Dell of it...

Quick update on our computer trials and tribulations....per Dell.com, our two new laptops are in production! This is good news. They should arrive while I am on my nine-day trip which starts this Wednesday. Shari and I can't wait to get these new computers. The kids will be supremely relieved! Sarah's watching me like a hawk right now, waiting for me to get off their computer.

Better news is that our hard drive and its associated data is salvagable. That process is underway as we speak. It's crazy how dependent we've become on computers. Our lives are almost at a standstill with this breakdown!

16 February 2008

It Happened 18 Years Ago Today

I know that the title of today's post sounds a bit confessional in nature, but it's not. It's much more reflective in nature. Eighteen years ago, on this auspicious day, 16 February, a very young couple, (OK, it was Shari and me) marched into that famed factory of mass baby-birthing, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, in Provo, Utah, in order to bring our first child into the world.

I think it's safe to say we were pretty clueless on that day. We were, however, brimming with excitement. We didn't know if we were having a girl or a boy (student health insurance was not especially generous then and so ultrasounds were out of the question). We just knew someone great was coming. It was a Thursday (I remember this because this was the heyday of "LA Law" and Shari was in the middle of some heavy contractions when it was on so I missed most of that night's episode) and then, very early in the hours of Friday, that someone great arrived. Sarah Ann was born the morning of 16 February 1990. What a wonder and a blessing she was! I remember the first time I got to hold her. I could not believe that Shari and I had been blessed with this little girl. I was overwhelmed, to the point of sobbing, at the thought of having to now be responsible for this baby and her mom. I was a senior at BYU at the time! But then as panic began to envelop me as I held her and watched the doctors tend to Shari, I was flooded with a sense of love for that baby that was all encompassing. It filled every fiber of my being! I sensed then that we'd be OK.

So here we are, eighteen years later, celebrating Sarah's birthday. I'm not going to recount the last eighteen years in this space-that would be completely lame. As I watch Sarah today, I am filled with a sense of pride (and not the evil pride, people!) and admiration for this young woman. I still can't believe that I have been blessed to be her dad. She is a testament to the amazing mothering skills of her mom. Fortunately, she's got a lot more of her mom's tendencies than mine (I think that can be said of all three of our children). As I've reflected on the last eighteen years, I almost feel the way I did when she was born. Eighteen years ago, she joined us to embark on an adventure of growing up. Today, she's on the precipice of leaving home, going to college, finding out what this world is all about. She's ready. She's smart, she's tough, she speaks her mind, she's amazing. She's solid in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am comforted by all this.

In spite of it being a big day for her, she's chosen to spend it at home tonight. She's asked Shari to make her favorite meal, chicken croissants. We'll probably watch a movie and just hang out. Next year, she'll be at school having fun with her roomates, etc. I am excited for her, but man, I'm going to miss her.

Happy birthday, Sarah. Love you, Dad

14 February 2008

In the seventh ring of Dell

In looking to see if Kelly had responded to my challenge to take my pending libel action against her and her other "Moms4Mitt" cohort Naomi to a cagematch on "Judge Judy," I saw that she has gone offline due to computer problems. I thought that was some sa-weet justice for her Photoshop shenanigans, but no sooner did I begin to delight in said thoughts that the computer that Shari and I have shared for years, essentially gave up the ghost. Karma is a cruel taskmaster. So's a fried hard drive.

A buddy of mine (and, conveniently, our trusty home teacher) is an IT guru for a big ol' advertising agency downtown came over last night and diagnosed the computer as barely clinging to life. He didn't offer a whole lot of hope for saving the old gray mare either. He's handy though - he had a spare hard drive laying around his house and he brought it over to help diagnose what was ailing our computer. So after the bleak assessment, we have plunged into the seventh ring of Dell and are on the hunt for the right solution for our computing needs. And we are leaning towards his-and-hers laptops. I'm thinking that's a very workable solution. This much is true though that we need to do something fast. Shari and I have hijacked the kids' computer and that's not fair to them. I can't use my work laptop either for personal stuff-the Bank no likey likey. So we need to make with some new computers right now. And we'll probably go with Dells again, further enslaving us to their corporate machine. Is it even possible to unhook from corporate servitude?

Speaking of corporate servitude, the ex-Pandering Presidential Politico, Mitt R., flip-flopped yet again today. Less then two weeks ago, the Mitter was running vitriolic negative ad campaigns against the angriest man in the U.S. Senate, John McCain. And what do we have today...Mitt's new BFF is none other than McCain.

So suddenly McCain is, in Flipper's words, "...a true American hero" and that "the caliber of the man was apparent." As Chief Wiggum says when he is frequently stymied, "Wha...?" This much I'll say, at least Romney's consistent. He keeps flipping. I'm just not sure why he's doing so in this case. He can't be jockeying for the Vice President role. Maybe there's a Cabinet position he's got his eye on - who knows?!

I am so glad it's Friday tomorrow. It's been a heinous week at the office. Shari and I have a dinner tomorrow night and then we celebrate Sarah's 18th birthday on Saturday. She's taking the day off and so she gets to take it easy. She deserves it.

11 February 2008

Curse you, La Nina!

It's been said by the weather talking heads here in Chicagoland that we are in one of the worst winters in the past twenty years, if not the worst. And now they have taken to blaming the weather phenomenon known as "La Nina" for all the snow and stupid cold coming our way. Well, little girl, as 'la nina' is translated, I am DONE with you. You need to go away. Parker and I have shoveled more snow than any human should this winter. Go away, seriously.

It was my first Monday back in the office in a week, so it was a long day. This was exacerbated by the fact that the snow began coming down in earnest during my commute home. I then missed my exit because of the lack of visibility and that delayed me even further. By the time I got home tonight, I was done, having cursed "La Nina" ten ways 'til Tuesday during the long ride home.

Shari and I then tried calendaring several family breaks and it's an ugly year. My calendar for work and NBTA is really nuts this year and I have got to find a way to balance this all out. We did get several days slotted and are now working on a couple of vacation ideas.

All I know, as this night slowly and agonizingly draws to a close, that I am finding solace in thinking of the absolutlely stunning pumpkin ravioli that I had last Thursday in Milan. Could it be that I have some kind of illness, knowing that images of food alone can bring such comfort?

But look at that! This is not from the place I ate in Milan (I have not descended into that level of madness quite yet - taking pictures of my meals) but this is good enough! Really, it was fantastic. How can you say no to something that good?

Oh yeah, and one other recommendation from last week's trip...this is from off the plane. I flew British Airways to/from London and in Club World, they offer snacks in between meals. One of those were these AWESOME things called "Honey Flapjacks." They are these dense, sweet oat bars. I loved them. A company in Sussex called Kate's Cakes make them. Little slices of heaven. Take a look:

Really good stuff! Just thinking of them and the pumpkin ravioli has me almost out of the funk of the never-ending winter!

09 February 2008

I'm Back

I am back from a very productive and successful trip to London and Milan. Still trying to get caught up after getting home late last night. But I need to get another good night's sleep before I respond to the gauntlet that was thrown down while I was in Europe.

This much I will say...I was, depending on your perspective, either part of a killer good joke or libeled while I was away. I have to say I have not laughed so hard in a long time when I saw the Photoshopping skills that Kelly possesses (who knew?!) I think the libelous "Chicago Mike loves Mitt" could have been a little flashier...I'm just saying.

Awesome move, though, Naomi and Kelly, awesome! That being said, you never know when I will respond in kind. Or via a libel suit. But then, since Mitt got served with his walking papers this week, I'll perhaps wait. I mean now we are looking at a choice between the winner of the Showcase Showdown between Obama and She Who Cannot Be Named for the Dems and for the Republicans, McCain, the angriest old man in the US Senate. Seriously, he scares me. I really am not comfortable with the thought of him carrying the nuclear football. All we need is for him to have a wicked flashback to the Hanoi Hilton and it's goodbye Southeast Asia. Who really needs that?

03 February 2008

Now leaving for London and Milan

Just a quick note as I get ready to pack for a five day trip to London and Milan tonight. I simply can't get enough of London. I can no longer count the number of times that I've been there and I never, ever tire of it. Ever. I'm looking forward to a delightful Cornish pasty (or two) while I'm there.

And then, of course, the obligatory stop at Wagamama, London's favourite noodle house. I have met some great people from all over the world while dining at one of their communal tables:

I'll have to limit myself to just one trip to Wagamama and two pastys the entire trip. The hotel I am staying at, which is adjacent to the Chelsea Football Club, charges an exorbitant 25 pounds a day to use the gym. The weather is crappy in London, so I am going to have to get creative on getting my running in. Perhaps the Guest Services Manager and I will chat upon check-in about that fee..

This will be my first trip to Milan and I am there less than 24 hours, so doubt I'll have time to see/do much in between meetings, I'll endeavor, however, to make the best of it. I'll also try and post a couple of times from across the pond.

Our Sacrament Services today were good (although initially marred by a rumor that Mitt Romney was attending the 9AM Sacrament Service of the other ward in our building, as he is here in Chicagoland for a rally today - I would have had to have left the building were it true). A lot of testimony about the solid nature of God's plan for us and gratitude for the restored gospel, a living Christ, and His prophets. Sunday School was a good discussion on the last chapters of 1st Nephi in the Book of Mormon. We talked about how we, in this day, are often like Laman and Lemuel of old, griping about not wanting to be obedient when it infringes on what we want to do, but then trying be like Nephi and be righteous too. Some wonder why Laman and Lemuel just didn't go back to Jerusalem. No one put a gun to their collective heads to hightail into the wilderness. While Laman and Lemuel at times appear to be the "Dumb and Dumber" of the "Book of Mormon," these two were hedging their bets. I get the sense that although they didn't want much to do with what their father, Lehi, was teaching them, they figured they better go along for the ride, just in case. Of course, it really didn't work out so well for them, but what a lesson to us today - if we are willing to learn from them and their actions.

I'll be on a BA flight tonight as the Super Bowl is being played. Shari and the kids are going to the Taylors to watch the game and to eat Italian Beef sandwiches. I'll miss being with them but could care less about the game. I'm just glad that Spring Training really isn't that far off. Anyway, I'll be curious to see how the English press treats Super Tuesday. Eager to see those papers later this week. The British press makes for the greatest reading around!

02 February 2008

A Fitting Tribute

The funeral for Gordon B. Hinckley was held today and it was a fitting, touching farewell to an inspiring, humble man who exuded living a Christ-like life. There were so many wonderful touching moments during the service. I was caught off guard by a flood of emotion as the camera panned the podium and there was President Hinckley's empty chair. I was so impressed by his daughter's eulogy. She honored her father in a beautiful way. As Shari and I talked during the service, we noted that our sense of sadness is almost selfish. We know that now that he has passed to other side of the veil, there is much to be happy about. But now, we are without him, his leadership, and his spirit. So I guess it is a bit selfish.

The documentary of his life that was presented after the funeral service as the cortege moved to the Salt Lake City Cemetery was one of the most moving, touching and emotional things I've ever seen. It was amazing. It was impossible to stop the tears. I once again felt compelled to count my blessings as I watched it. What a blessing to have had him in our lives for so many years. And what a greater blessing to know that God's plan will continue to roll forth. There will be no leadership vacuum nor will be there be a battle royale. As was said so many times today in quoting President Hinckley, "It will all work out."

(I am going to squelch my overwhelming desire to rage on about the presence of the Pandering Presidential Politico, Mitt Romney, at the funeral. This much - kudos to the Church for not even acknowledging him, or the US Senators that were there for that matter. Anyway, I'll save that ire for another time...except this...Mitt, take a lesson from President Hinckley on how to handle yourself while on "60 Minutes." I don't recall President Hinckley expressing his disgust at anything about the Church's past as he was interviewed by Mike Wallace. FYI - you, Mitt, can't say that you did the same. OK, now I'm done.)