31 July 2008

Home...but for only a minute

Thanks to a couple of flat tires on a United Airlines Airbus A320 in Denver, I didn't get home until 1AM today and then it was out of the house by 430AM for a meeting with my team in London and Hong Kong. It's not been a pretty day, let's put it that way. And I leave again in the morning, heading west to Oregon, Illinois to spend the night with Parker for his last day of Scout Camp.

Lots to update - meeting Cyndi Lauper and Alec Baldwin, the earthquake, the whole NBTA shebang, and a funny book - "Shut Up, I'm Talking" by Gregory Levey. So I'll update things this weekend.

30 July 2008

Fleeing LAX

It's Wednesday afternoon and I've just made it through the scrum that is the TSA security line at Terminal 6 at LAX. A model of efficiency it is not. Apparently, I had the joy of being there during the mandatory ten-minute period of discussion that must go on between the monitor reader and the boarding pass inspector. It happens every twenty minutes and it prevents all from going through the line. It's awesome and it makes me hate traveling even more.

Anyway, I am on a plane in about twenty minutes. It was fun to be back in LA. The NBTA conference was outstanding. Our best numbers yet and lots of great feedback. The earthquake was a highlight. Nothing like trying to calm down a few very nervous Brasilians when the earth started to shake!

I'll be back up to speed on posting sometime this weekend. I'm out - need to go board the Old Gray Mare and head home. Wonder what's for dinner? Lasagna or pastrami sandwich?

25 July 2008

Quick note while packing

It's just after midnight and I am leaving for Los Angeles in about five hours for a week of conferences. This is the big one for me - the NBTA global conference. Going to be crazy, crazy busy. Not sure I'll be in comunicado for the next several days.

Went jet-skiing on the Illinois River after work tonight. In a word - FANTASTIC! Warm water, glassy conditions. All kinds of fun. We had a great time with wonderful friends. Illinois continues to surprise me.

Now it's back to reality and all kinds of busy. I'll try and touch base.

20 July 2008

Some Sabbath Learnings

Who knew that I'd learn something at church today? Of course I am exercising some sarcasm here. Who knew?! In theory, each Sunday should be an opportunity to feast in the teachings of the Gospel and learn a thing or two. Unfortunately that doesn't always happen for me and that is entirely my OWN fault. I'll readily admit that. Sometimes, I'm just not focused and some Sundays the scent of the Devil comes into the building in the form of the McDonalds that's right behind our church building (the harshness of that geographical twist of fate comes into clear and painful focus on Fast Sundays). Those fries, bubbling in their toxic, teasing fat, and their scent are a siren song of temptation and when they hit the building, suddenly a doctrinal discussion becomes an epic battle of good learning versus satisfying my primal urge for a Diet Coke and fries (although, I am pleased to report that I've not touched a fry in more than six months)!

A lack of focus was not the case today. During our Sacrament service, I was reading from the Book of Mormon and read a familiar verse from 1 Nephi 8 - Lehi's vision of the tree of life. It was the 23rd verse - "And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lost their way, that they wandered off and were lost."

I've read this verse countless times and it was the simple word "wandered" that got me. It's another warning. We don't slip from God's path in one fell swoop. Think about it - when one wanders away, it's slow and you hardly realize that you've gotten lost. It struck me that we must be ever vigilant to temptation and the ways of the enemy himself. It's not like we haven't been taught that for years - we have. As I read it today, it was a powerful reminder. One of the Lord's tender mercies, which, ironically, is mentioned in the 8th verse of that same chapter. Good, good stuff.

So it's been a good Sabbath - Sundays are a good day. I have to give props to Justin B, a friend of Courtney's - Bro, forget the personality debacle with the KMart. You have more personality than the folks at Blue Light Special land would ever know what to do with. I nearly lost an organ laughing today because of you and your timing. Bro, you rock!

18 July 2008

Another Day at the Office

I had planned to work a half-day today. It didn't happen. I won't go into all the typical corporate machinations as to why, but suffice to say, no way was I bailing at noon today. Aren't Fridays during the summer supposed to be a little more manageable? Sadly, no. They make me bitter - Patty Bouvier, DMV hostile bitter. See below:

Just all kinds of bitter and odd. That being said, you gotta love Patty Bouvier. The lady, and I use that term in the loosest possible terms, is a little rough.

So on the drive home, I started thinking about what 80's gems would go into the blog tonight. I thought that would distract me and it did. I had quite a list going by the time I got home. Upon getting home and logging on, I made my way to stupid YouTube and it was there that I was reminded why it's a tool of corporate devils (so much for the "do no evil" motto, Google owners). Apparently, it is now nigh unto impossible to embed music video content from YouTube. I tried a half dozen videos that are under the watchful eye/greedy hooks of SonyBMG, Universal and a couple of other companies and all have embedding restricted. That's a recent restriction. Way to go, YouTube, for cracking under the pressure. You blow. I find it ironic that they (stupid YouTube) can restrict embedding legitimate music videos but have no problem with all manner of borderline and blatant porn being posted on their site ad nauseum. Nice behavior, you corporate tools. Awesome job, Google, with living up to the "do no evil" theme.

Anyway, there's still plenty of music content out there, and so tonight I give you the first video ever played on MTV (there was a time when MTV played nothing but music videos instead of the steaming pile of who-knows-what they program now - my 40's are showing, I know). I give you the Buggles and "Video Killed The Radio Star":

This also ends the Summer of 80s Videos posts. I hate to end it early but stupid YouTube gives me no choice.

15 July 2008

"Final Salute"

During the excitement of the last few days - celebrating Shari's grand entrance into her 40's, having her sister Jill here, as well as my parents, I did find some time to read an amazing book. "Final Salute - A Story of Unfinished Lives" by Jim Sheeler is an intense, searing look into the impact of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before I lose you, this book is not an indictment of President Bush and his decision to take the nation to war, nor is it a cry for us to run screaming from the conflict either. It's a look at what happens when soldiers come home, but when they come home in a casket draped in the American flag.

This photo was taken by Todd Heisler of the Rocky Mountain News and is featured in the book.

This is a stunning, extraordinary book. Sheeler had intimate access to the families that got the dreaded knock at the door. But even more compelling is the story of the Marine Corps major who had to knock on far too many doors. Major Steve Beck is everything that is right with the Marine Corps and more importantly, every thing that is right with a man who realizes that these families are hurting and that they are entitled to agonizing, hurting, and healing.

I defy you to read this book without shedding a tear or wondering how you would react if you ever got that knock. Or how would you handle the task that was given to Major Beck? Regardless of your feelings about the war, this book reminds each of us in a most compelling way of what sacrifice really means. I'm afraid in all the screaming about the validity of this war, we've lost sight of the fact that lives are ending too soon that sacrifice is being forgotten under the weight of a lame duck presidency, a never-ending presidential campaign, and the photo war over the Pitt-Jolie twins. Seriously...read this book. It'll make you think and it will remind you of how fortunate we are to live in a nation like ours.

12 July 2008

40...it's just another number for Shari

The number 40 takes on a special significance here in Chicagoland today as we celebrate Shari's 40th birthday. Yep, 12 July is her birthday and we welcome her to the 40's (kiss your vision goodbye as well as your knees, sister). This is a great day. Even Mother Nature seems to be aware of it - she brought in the day with a rousing thunder and lightning storm that got me out of bed at 5AM to make sure the stupid sump pump was doing its thing, which is was - had it not, the lovely Shari's birthday would have gone south in no time flat.

I am really pleased that Shari's sister Jill is here. About a month ago, Jill and I called each other with the same idea - flying her in to celebrate Shari's big 4-0. Thanks to an excess of Mileage Plus miles on the Old Gray Mare, United, it made getting Jill up here easy. She was able to leave her kids too and have a bit of getaway herself. (Thanks, Wes, for taking one for the team, bro!) Surprising Shari was awesome and could not have worked out better. It's a whole other post in itself, but suffice to say it worked beautifully. I'm so grateful for the relationship (thanks to my mother-in-law Julie for doing an amazing job creating that bond!) that Shari and Jill have and I'm thrilled that we're seeing the same develop with Sarah and Courtney.

Shari has been with me for half her life now. By world's standards, we were really young when we got married (but those of you entrenched in our Mormon culture know it wasn't so odd) and we've grown up together. Well, most would argue correctly that Shari has raised me to what I am today, which is an arrested adolescent who can function in the adult world. My own parents remind me continually how lucky I am to have married her. And they're right. I am beyond lucky. She is amazing and I am honored every day that she still puts up with me.

I love this picture of her, even though she doesn't. We took this a couple of years ago at the top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. This is one of the things I love about her - she'll go anywhere with me, not knowing what I'm dragging her into and we've always managed to have great times.

I've been tremendously blessed in my life but nothing compares to the blessing of this woman. I really do marvel that she said "yes" so many years ago to me. Twenty years ago, I knew the minute that I saw this stunningly beautiful 20 year old young woman that I would marry her. She was not of the same persuasion, but persistence/stalking paid off and here we are twenty years later, celebrating her 40th. It's all good, it really is.

Now this day does deserve an 80s throwback video, as that music really is the soundtrack of our early life together and like most people from that generation, we're still stuck on it. So I thought about this, and many of you who know the lovely Shari know that her hearing challenge can make song lyrics a bit of a gamble. One of her classics is "Ocean Blue" by ABC. Honey, this one is for you. I give you "O Shamu":

Happy birthday, I love you forever.

11 July 2008

Can Jesse Jackson Please Shut Up?

Was it just me or were the headlines getting a little stale? Things seemed to have gotten too quiet on the political front. Shrillary remains, for all intents and purposes, in the silent corner (however, don't think for a minute that the Bride of Satan isn't plotting something) still stinging from the implosion of her campaign. The Angriest Old Man in the US Senate is managing to avoid gaffes and Obama had overcome the scrum of the Jeremiah jeremiads. And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...(queue the ominous "Jaws" theme)

It's Jesse Jackson! Wow! Kudos Jesse to demonstrating just how virulent and petty you really are. You sure brought a ton of class to your title as "Reverend." I'm sure that's what people are looking for in their spiritual leader - someone who has enough class and style to threaten to essentially castrate another man because he's saying the same things you've said to the same audiences before. That's right Jesse - you've given the same speech many, many times. You've called on the African-American man to step up and care for family, but you've forgotten that haven't you? I guess that's what happens when you become completely irrelevant, when you fall out of the limelight and are cast aside as a symbol of the past that needs to be forgotten. And something tells me that your income has taken a hit too as a result of Obama's rising star and ability to do what you could never do - unite. So kudos for demonstrating what you really are all about. Jealousy is sure fun to watch when it unravels on a hot mic.

It is good to see that while class clearly skipped Jesse, it has not escaped his son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. He quickly repudiated his father and should be commended for doing so.

And Obama has done yet another masterful job of staying out of the fray and not letting petty attacks take him off message. He has demonstrated an ability to not make this campaign about race. He has fended off nasty attacks from the Clintons (modern-day Gadianton robbers) and various sundry talking heads, pundits and inbreds (see the primary results in West Virginia). There's substance in the message of overcoming this kind of garbage.

So in ruminating over a good 80's video to accompany today's post, it really could be only one thing with Jesse in the headlines again. I give you Rick Springfield and "Jessie's Girl":

06 July 2008

Pulling the Hamstring

As an FYI, I'd like to report that the pulled hamstring really blows. And thanks to the wonder of Wikipedia and WebMD, who needs a doctor?! I can just self-diagnose and self-treat. Of course, I'll probably wind up crippled applying the RICE method to my recovery, but given the state of the American medical system, I won't get into to see my doctor until early 2009, unless of course I'm bleeding out an eye or having a real boss heart attack and then I can go to the ER, only to be told to wait in line behind some uninsured folks that are there for the sniffles. The issue of medical care in the US can be relegated to another post for another time.

Anyway, here's what led to the pulled pork muscle:

That's me crossing the finish line at the Mundelein July 4 5K (gracias to Shari for whipping out the cell phone cam and for getting up early and driving nearly to Wisconsin to support me in her new role as Race Supporter Extraordinaire!) where I finished my third 5K and it was a great race. Mundelein did a fantastic job with organization and volunteers. BTW - they gave away the best race shirts! Anyway, I'd been having some pain in the back of my left leg earlier in the week as I'd been running, but in typical male, over age 40 fashion, I ignored it. Further I ignored the fact that when I started the race, my left leg was kind of flapping in the wind, as if it was ignoring the signals my brain was sending it. Is that bad? Well if it was, I didn't care. I went on to finish my race. The leg didn't bother me as I ran. As soon as I stopped though, it was screaming like an eleven year old girl at a Jo'Bro's concert (for the uninitiated or torture-free, depending on your perspective, of course I am referring to the Jonas Brothers).

I continued to ignore that little red flag in order to go to Indiana for the rest of the holiday weekend. We met up with friends at Michigan City, IN where we camped (note to self - if you sleep on a California King mattress at home, upgrade the camping air mattress from a queen to the king for you and your wife, I'm just saying) and jet-skiied on Lake Michigan. Weather was amazingly good and we had a great 4th in little LaPorte, Indiana watching their fire works show. Indiana is a funny place...it only takes about three seconds to be in the middle of nowhere from anywhere in that state.

So it's Sunday and I am contemplating the hike up the stairs now. Each step on the stairs is an invitation to jabs o'pain. I can't wait. One thing I won't be doing is any significant movement, like spinning. And that makes an appropriate selection for today's 80s throwback video. I unleash on you the horror that is Pete Burns and his/her band Dead or Alive and "You Spin Me Round":(note to JML - request granted. Any others, just let me know!)

03 July 2008

Is this a great country or what?

Tomorrow our nation celebrates its 232nd "birthday" and what a country this is! Think about it...we live freely, brothers and sisters. We really do. On our nation's birthday, there is no such thing as compulsory attendance at dictatorial-inspired parades (see Cuba and North Korea as examples - good job with those parades, Papa Fidel and Dear Leader Kim Jong Il) where soldiers goose-step and those in attendance cheer wildly at the display of military might (you'd cheer too if you knew you were going to be summarily shot if you didn't).

No, we don't face that. Instead, we are free to do what we want to honor our nation. So in the true American spirit of going big or going home, we have competitive eating challenges and the 4th of July seems to be a pinnacle of competitive eating. It's capped by the throwdown of hot dog ingesting that goes on at Nathan's Famous in New York. It's reached such a frenzy that ESPN covers the event. Scores of hot dogs are consumed by the competitors and then projectile vomited - that part of the spectacle usually does not make it on ESPN, although I'm sure you could find it on YouTube. Take a look at the expression on the face of last year's winner, Joey Chestnut (I'm not lying about the name either) of Nathan's ride on the vomit comet:

Seriously, he looks like he's having a stroke.

Believe it or not, books have been written about this genius and competitive eating. I've read one of them and highly recommend it. Read "Eat This Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit." The author is a guy called Ryan Nerz and it's a hysterical take on what, only in America, is becoming a real sport.

Now I am no fan of the hot dog in any circumstance and I can't even imagine eating them competitively. Living here in the land o'encased meats, saying you don't like the Dog is borderline sacrilege. Take a look at what they've done to the Dog in Chicagoland:

That enough is to turn me for good on the thought of eating a hot dog, so I won't. Not tomorrow, not at Wrigley Field, not with my dad having his favorite meal of hot dogs, onions, and beans (thanks, Great Depression, for that contribution to the American diet). So if that makes me unpatriotic, so be it.

The 4th brings a 5K up in Mundelein (a little town that is basically Wisconsin-adjacent) and then we head over to Indiana until Saturday night. We'll be jet-skiing and camping with friends at the nuclear power plant beach. Eating butter burgers on the 4th from Culvers and watching fireworks along Lake Michigan. It's going to be a great weekend.

Celebrate well!

02 July 2008

One Night in Bangkok - No, Five

It seems fitting on what is our first really steamy summer night here in Chicagoland that I am working on my visa paperwork for Bangkok. Steamy Bangkok. I've been invited to speak in Bangkok in early October and looking at my calendar over the next few months, I need to get my visa secured now. I've got about four weeks where I can be without my passport. So I'm working on that tonight. I'm pretty excited about this opportunity in Bangkok - it will be my first trip to Thailand. It's also the chance to speak at a session of this conference as well as facilitate an open conversation session with my peers from across Asia. Very much looking forward to it.

I'm flying over on Thai Airways and they've put me on their nonstop from LA to Bangkok. A mere seventeen and a half hours in flight. That's going to be a little rough...seriously. It must be my day for contemplating long flights. I'm also securing the flights for Shari and I to go to Sydney at the end of next month. That'll be fourteen and a half hours of fun from San Francisco to Sydney. We'll be on the old Gray Mare - United - and that's going to be tough - the old business class seats don't lend themselves to serious comfort on that long flight.

I'm not working tomorrow - taking a floating holiday. Looking forward to that. Parker and I going to run some errands and hang out. Friday is a 5K first thing and then it's over to Indiana to camp and jet-ski in the shadow of our nuclear power plant. Can't wait!

In honor of the trip to Bangkok, tonight's video couldn't be more obvious. I give you Murray Head and "One Night in Bangkok":