29 October 2008

When MTV Played Music

A really boss old song asked the following question: "War, what is it good for?" It's a question that has spawned tons of other questions, like this one: "MTV, what is it good for?" That would be nothing and certainly not music videos. Until now...thanks to the Web.

Matt, husband of Heather, coolest.cousin.ever., sent me a link to a website that brings MTV to its glory days. Oh 1983 and 1984, you are back! MTV Music is where to go to see all those old videos that made high school tolerable and that made you think you could get a cool girl dancing at the Palace (the Star Palace, that is). It's been a total kick to find videos from a hundred years ago and laugh. And to be appalled. I realize, looking back on these videos, that the musicians from the 1980's are single-handedly responsible for the hole in the ozone layer. I've never seen so much teased, shellacked aerosol misted hair in all my life (except for maybe BYU in the summer of 1984).

This has given me a great escape from the election. Make it stop. Isn't it November 4th yet? Is this, the longest campaign EVER, over yet? Just make it all stop. We, as a nation, have got to move on, regardless of who is elected. So until then, I am just going to keep scouring the MTV site to find old video gems to dust off and play.

27 October 2008

BYU Parents Weekend Recap

I am now on the West Coast, in Portland, prepping for a presentation to the Travel Industry Association tomorrow, but wanted to give a recap of the rest of the weekend with Our Lady of BYU.

I didn't meet up with Our Lady until Saturday morning for the 5K, which, may I remind you, I ran alone since she pansied out. Two of her really good friends joined us as my support team and off we went to the Richards Building. Normally at races, you hear the sounds of either "Eye of the Tiger" or "Rocky's Theme." Not at BYU, mis amigos, oh no. What greeted us? "It's A Sunshine Day" by none other than the Brady Bunch. I KID YOU NOT! I liked to have died. I will admit, though, that it did make you want to run, fast, so you didn't have to hear that musical offense fest any longer than necessary.

(Quick flashback - after registering, I saw someone I recognized. It took me a second and then I realized that it was a guy who had been in my district/room at the MTC. Have not seen the guy in more than twenty-three years but believe it or not, we both recognized each other. As I recall, I was not particularly nice to him. As an eighteen year old missionary, I had an overabundance of confidence, can you believe it (?) and wasn't afraid to tell people what I thought of them. I've tried ro get better in the ensuing years. That being said, it brought back a ton of memories to see him. He's got a freshmen son at the "Y.")

The race was all around the outer ring of the campus and it was tough - tough because of the elevation. My lungs were screaming by the end of the first kilometer. It was not pretty. But I got it done. Came across the finish line to the cheers of Our Lady and her two friends. It was a good time.

So then it was off to the game after that. Sat in the student section with Our Lady and that once again reminded me that I'm old. We did have a brush with BYU fame when Cosmo the Cougar blew through our section. We got this picture:

It was an ugly win, but a win just the same. We headed over to University Mall after the game to get Our Lady some more cold weather gear, which seemed odd since it was 70 degrees out. Anyway, we did it.

Saturday night, I took Our Lady and her friends to dinner at Cafe Rio. It was fun to be with them. I laughed a lot with these girls. It was good to see our friend Natalie:

And here's a shot of the whole dinner posse:

So then Sunday rolled around and I once again found myself driving down Memory Lane before going to meet Our Lady for Church. I went by my old condo, indeed where I met the incredibly patient Shari all those years ago. The years have been kinder to us than they have been to the condo:

Lots of good memories and good times there.

Our Lady has church in the JKHB, where I spent my entire senior year. Bizarre to be back in that building. It's been totally renovated and looks nothing like what it did. Church was funny, as it always is in student wards. Those Bishopbric members are saints, that's all I'm saying.

We had lunch at the new Cannon Center after that. Bottom line - it's still cafeteria food. You can build a new building and have various cooking stations, instead of the prison lines like the old Cannon or Morris, but it's still pretty bad food. I could not help but laugh as we were eating as I watched the ballet that is selecting the "cool" tables. I realized that absolutely nothing has changed since I was a freshman there. It's the same cast of characters (the guys who were the BMOC in high school, the princess girls, the dorks, the sweet spirits) trying to make it all work - it's just that now they are our kids. Finished the day seeing Sarah's dorm room as well as that of her friends. They are living the life. I laughed so much with them.

Saying good-bye wasn't as hideous as I thought it would be. I think it's because I got to see just how well Our Lady is doing. She's doing beautifully. She has good friends. She's happy. Couldn't ask for more.

26 October 2008

Soft Sounds of Sunday

If it's the "Soft Sounds of Sunday" coming through the radio of my crappy Chevy Malibu rental car, piping in contemporary Mormon music (really?) mixed with a little Mo'Tab, it must be Sunday morning in Provo. If piles of college kids are walking to campus to go to church, it must be Sunday morning in Provo. And, indeed, it is. I am back in Happy Valley. And it is still all kinds of unreal. And I still find that I love it.

It's day two of the BYU Parents Weekend and it's been a blast. I am currently "borrowing" a wireless signal in the parking lot of Sarah's dorm, waiting to meet her for Church. It'll be a kick. We've had a wonderful time. She's doing great.

I'll post some more pictures later but just a couple now - here the BYU Cougars take the field on Saturday against UNLV (we won buy boy was it ugly...)

And here's a shot of Our Lady of BYU taking in the game:

I'll post later about the things I've done with Sarah and her friends, as well as some notes on the nightmare that it is to run a 5K in Provo. Um...it's a little different than Chicagoland. Who knew just how big an impact elevation is....

23 October 2008

Parents Weekend in Happy Valley

Tomorrow I leave for the land that time forgot, Happy Valley, Provo, UT - home of BYU. It's Parents Weekend and given that this is the first one for Our Lady Of BYU and us, her parents, there's no way I am missing this!

When the subject of Parents Weekend came up, we decided I'd go out for it and it worked out beautifully as I have to be in Portland on Tuesday to speak at a conference. It's going to be an awesome weekend - 5K on Saturday (which, I'd like to point out, our Lady of BYU weaseled out of), a football game (it's UNLV, we better spank them something fierce) and then a night out with Our Lady and her friends. I'll go to her Student Ward on Sunday, which will no doubt age me another hundred years, and then I'm off to Portland on Monday.

I am really looking forward to this weekend! I've finally gotten over, for the most part, the shock of having a child in college and having her move out, but it's been too long since I've seen her. I'll say it again, this has been much harder than I ever anticipated. They should offer a class for parents on how to deal with this. Seriously.

22 October 2008

Working from home

When I took on my new role with my employer, I also took on working from home three days a week. My first two months in the new role precluded me from working from home due to a massive project. Well, now that the project has ended and I'm back in the country, I am in the second week of working from home three days a week.

I haven't worked from home consistently since 1999 - 2000. I've got an office set up in the basement and the Company has set me up with everything that I need to make work, well, work. And it is working. I do find myself working longer when I am at home, but I do find that I have more time to address pressing issues. I think this is going to work out well except for the Public Radio Fundraising.

What? I like public radio, even NPR. Our local NPR station, WBEZ, does a great job but the pledge drive is killing me. Killing me. It almost makes me wish they ran commercials. These earnest employees begging for money is insane. And this morning, they had some doctor, a sometime commentator, shilling for donations by essentially saying constipation was caused by NOT donating. My take is that he's just a little bit senile. He better be...that's all I'm saying. This much I'll tell you - the on-air pleading just makes me not want to give them a dime. It's awful...and it's not just the Chicagoland station. It was just as bad in LA. Actually it was worse...I think, given the length of my commute there, I could listen to no fewer than four public radio stations and imagine all of them shilling at once for money. How I didn't shoot myself escapes me.

19 October 2008

Did the Palin parody jump the shark?

I stayed up last night, with some anticipation, to watch how SNL would handle Sarah Palin's appearance. I'll cut to the chase - I turned it off after the opening sketch. Tina Fey looked positively pained to be portraying the Alaskan Ice Princess yet again. It was wooden at best and that was before Her Honor even made an appearance. Suffice to say, the Palin Parody has jumped the shark. Jumped the shark? Click here for mas informacion.

The painful sketches are further proof that this election cycle (or foreshadowing of how long an eternity in Hell feels) has got to end. And mercifully, we are now in the home stretch. It would appear that the McCain-Palin took another hit with Colin Powell's endorsement of the Obama-Biden ticket. This endorsement really hits at the heart of the Obama refrain that a McCain campaign is another four years of failed Bush policies in Iraq. Powell is a very smart man who was in the thick of the Bush White House at the beginning of the Iraq debacle. One can argue that he knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction or that he was completely misled. Either way, it is clear that his Obama endorsement says staying the course is NOT the way to go.

It's been a slower Sunday than normal, one that does not find me in a suit for twelve or thirteen hours straight! It was Stake Conference today and so no regular block of meetings. Enjoying the day at home as a result. Have added two more books to my pile to read:
The White Tiger
I have no idea when I am going to finish all this stuff. Maybe by Christmas. Maybe.

18 October 2008

The BKK Trip Report

As you've been reading and seeing from the previous posts, I recently made my first trip to Bangkok. I spend some time on another site, airliners.net, and its audience is the commercial aviation-obsessed, the perfect outlet for my aviation-related disorder. I post stuff there from time to time. Here's a review of my flights to/from Bangkok that I recently posted (with some edits):
I started my journey out of ORD on Mother UA. Nothing special to report - typical 757 service in First Class. I did have a friend of the family on board the flight. I should have given up my seat up front to her, but she was in a middle seat, non-economy plus and given that I was staring down the barrel of a 17-plus hour flight upon arrival at LAX, I just couldn't do it. I did buy her Minimeal and took her the chocolate cake from my tray to assuage my guilt.

Upon arrival at LAX, I walked over to the Tom Bradley International Terminal-TBIT-as it was a nice night. It's been years since I've flown in or out of the TBIT. I'd forgotten it, or better yet, repressed it in my mind. What a hole! It's not even Third World. It's just awful. All it takes is one step inside and you'll know what I mean.

Once I made it through the sea of humanity and crossed through the construction to check-in, there was only one agent handling Royal Silk passengers, and there were far more Royal Silk customers in line than Economy. After a long wait, I was checked in and on my way to the Star Alliance Lounge. The Lounge is no great shakes. Although they do have a mean, spicy ramen available.

Just prior to boarding, I made my way down to the gate. It was insanity. The gate area was under destruction/renovation and it made for a chaotic boarding experience. A delegation of Thai government officials didn't help either. Once on board, it was nice to see the Thai crew adorned in the traditional Thai uniform. It was interesting to note the seniority of the crew. While nothing like the dinosaurs working transpac on a US carrier, I have to admit I was surprised. To be fair to Thai, average age of the cabin crew was equal to just the seniority of the most junior US cabin crew working transpac (45 years, by my estimates). The crew was efficient but not friendly at all. I settled into 12B and shortly thereafter, doors closed. I had 12A to myself. That would be the only empty seat in the forward cabin of the A340 that seats 30.

The Royal Silk seat on this aircraft is identical to the Japan Air Lines Executive Class seat - shell seat, decent size monitor, slanted lie-flat. Having flown JAL many times, I was at home in this seat. We backed out on time and began a long take-off roll shortly thereafter. Given our distance, I was happy to have an aircraft laden with fuel.

Shortly after take-off, the first of three meals began. Although it was midnight Pacific time, eating sounded right. I had the Thai offering - again the service was efficient, bordering on cold. As soon as dinner was over, I fell asleep. I awoke about seven hours later for the second meal service - again went with the Thai option. The crew could not get a handle on the "mood lighting" on this plane. It was almost like a child playing with a dimmer switch. I watched a couple of movies and then had the third meal about 90 minutes out of Bangkok. Again the Thai option. At this point, the crew had changed into their Western uniforms.

We landed in Bangkok shortly after 6AM on the 5th. It was all kinds of foggy that morning. The airport was quiet as we disembarked and getting through Passport Control was a snap as I was invited to use the Diplomat line (in spite of having no Diplomatic credentials). My bags were essentially last off - so much for "Priority" tags.

Five days later, I was on my way back to Los Angeles. I got to BKK at around 445PM and was swiftly and kindly checked in at the dedicated Royal Silk checkin. Passport Control was a snap. From there, you almost trip into the Royal Silk Lounge. Nice lounge. Large. Free WiFi. Decent array of snacks. I hung out there for awhile and then decided to check out Suvarnabhumi. It's a big airport, but how many duty free shops can you really see? Seriously. So I headed down to the gate. Cleared Security on the C Concourse - got the patdown. Not two seconds later, got the patdown again at our gate to LAX. Kind of lame to get two patdowns and no one bought me dinner!

We boarded on time. There was no PA announcement - an agent just walked around with a sign in order to announce boarding. I was seated again in the forward cabin. I did have someone (an American woman all adorned in tattoos, including the ever-popular and ever-visible 'tramp stamp' - can I go on record on how much I HATE tattoos?) seated next to me this time, but after doors closed I did see that there were four empty seats in this forward section. The crew this time was a bit friendlier. We backed out smack on time and were off shortly thereafter. The take-off roll was even longer than the one out of LAX.

Dinner was served shortly after takeoff. Three meal services were scheduled according to the menus. I again planned to go Thai for all three. I had dinner and then settled into a fitful sleep. Slept about five hours. Kept waking to the smell of bananas. Tattoo Lady could not sleep and ate a pile of bananas during the flight, leaving the skins out for the crew to collect. Apparently that wasn't done all that often. Nor was there a second meal service. If you wanted the second, you had to ask for it. I watched a few movies after that and then about two hours out, another dinner was served. Again, the crew seemed challenged by the lighting system on the plane.

We landed early - about an hour early. Sa-weet! But that dumped us into TBIT again along with several other international flights. Getting to Passport Control required a hardhat, some faith, and a jackhammer. Did get through Passport Control quickly and then waited about 40 minutes for bags. Again, so much for Priority. And then the line to get through Customs was unbelievable. I kid you not....one agent posted to look at each of the Declaration forms. It was an hour to get out. Ridiculous....no wonder people hate coming to the States. I'd avoid LAX like plague if you can.
So there you have it. It's been a good day. Got a 6K run in this morning. Weather turned beautiful. Helped set up chairs at the Church for Stake Conference. CAL went up to Six Flags with friends and PTL ran around all day. Made him and his buddies Thai fried rice for lunch. The ever patient Shari and I ended the evening at the Saturday Session of Stake Conference.

And now I wait for SNL to start. Will Palin make an appearance? I haven't wanted to stay up for SNL since about 1980, I think!

17 October 2008

The rest of the Bangkok pictures FINALLY!

I have not been able to resolve the issue of being able to get the last of the pictures I took while in Bangkok off my stupid Blackberry but thanks to the mobile Facebook app, lo and behold, I managed to get the rest of the pictures downloaded. So here they are:

This was taken from my seat, 12B, on Thai Airways TG795, as we were on short final into Bangkok. There's a lot to be said for the seats upfront!

Upon arrival, I jumped into a cab with a few colleagues from NBTA, and were off to an ENORMOUS weekend market called Chautuchak, just off the last Skytrain stopped called Chit Lom.

It is stupid huge. Literally acres (they print maps of the place!) of stalls, selling everything from silks, to light bulbs, artwork, pets, and food. Some of the food on sale:

I don't know what it was but it was some serious fried goodness!

At another market, I happened upon the most colorful rice I've ever seen. Each is supposed to have very specific health benefits and curative powers. Amazing!

And the colored rice wasn't unique to one market. I saw it in the outdoor markets as well as in the food halls in some of the fancy-pants mall that have sprung up all around Bangkok.

Food drives me pretty much everywhere I go (which explains why I run now) and Bangkok was paradise. One evening, a couple of colleagues from Australia and I happened upon a restaurant near Pad Pong (avoid Pad Pong like the plague unless you are interested in catching something akin to the plague...).

And here's me in heaven...pad thai for less than $2.00USD! Our entire meal (three of us) was $10.00USD!

From the earlier post, you know the highlight of this trip was my day at Baipai, the boss Thai cooking school. This picture is of me working the grill, prepping my chicken satay (brushing the chicken with coconut milk using a palm frond):

And finally, a class photo:

I'm glad to get these posted...it was driving me nuts, having them stuck on the 'berry.

Fall has hit Chicagoland - it's raining and cool. Didn't get out of the 50's today and it was chilly this morning. Half the trees on the street are now bare, while the other half are still exploding in yellow, orange, and red, but they'll all be bare soon too.

15 October 2008

The Thai Cooking School Experience

Well, I've fought the good fight for far too many days now trying to get the rest of the pictures I took in Bangkok downloaded off my stupid Blackberry...to no avail. The ones that I did manage to get off were all related to my cooking class at Baipai, so here we go.

On Friday, 10 October, after nearly five days in Bangkok, most of which spent in conferences and meetings, I was able to take the day off and enjoy a cooking lesson at a Thai cooking school. My flight back to the States did not depart until 7PM and I really wanted to get a sense for Thai cooking, so a cooking class made perfect sense. I had found the school, Baipai, online after researching and reading recommendations.

Let me just say that I can't recommend the school highly enough. It was the highlight of my trip. The staff is incredibly friendly, the facilities great, and the food was delicious. And the value - outstanding. One of the greatest parts is that the cost of transfer to/from your hotel to the school is included in the rate. You can't beat that - not having to worry about a cab in chaotic Bangkok!

Baipai offers a morning and afternoon session and I took the morning session, with ten other guests. We were four Australians, two New Zealanders, two Brits, a Venezolano, and two Americans - a veritable UN. Our menu included chicken satay, prawn salad, cashew chicken, and mango sticky rice. Our hostess, Wan, was very friendly and got us organized quickly.

We started our morning in the markets - and not the Thai version of the Jewel, Albertsons, Safeway, Tesco, or any other grocery store that you may know. We went to one of the countless outdoor local markets that dot the landscape in Bangkok. Here's a look at the poultry section:

This was a little different than the wet markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai. These chickens were already prepped - not so much in the wet markets. There you pick your live one and let the butchering take place right before your eyes.

And I loved the air-dried beef section:

There were three trucks lined up like this, their beds chock-a-block with drying beef.

It was an incredible experience to walk through the market with Wan and to meet the local vendors and to be able to touch, smell, and taste so much of what was for sale. It was a party for the senses - the colors of the various fruits (explosive reds) and vegetables (deep, deep greens) on display were amazing, the tastes - lemongrass, coconut sugar were unforgettable, the smells - some indescribable, for a reason, others stunning. Don't let what may appear to be unsanitary, to Western standards, conditions get you. There is something so satisfying to walk through these markets and to get to know the culture at its most normal - going to the market for the daily stuff. It was amazing. We also went through one section that sold nothing but Thai fast food:

Who needs a value meal when you could walk away with a meal here for all of about .75 cents?

After the excursion through the market, it was back to class where Wan introduced us to our teacher, Nam. She was a lot of fun. We gathered around the main table as each course was demonstrated and then we would go to our individual cooking stations and prepare our own. Here's a shot of Nam and Wan in action:

Nam is on the left and Wan is on the right.

We cooked with woks and over open flame when we made our satays. I can't say enough about how well organized the class was. We were given recipe books and were able to take notes along the way. Our stations were prepared in advance of each course. There was plenty of time to ask questions and very importantly, time to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Here's a shot of our final course, the mango sticky rice:

This is what I prepared - the decorator flourishes, like the flower, were added by the school, but that's my rice. FYI - the sticky rice liked to have killed me. It was the most challenging of the four things to prepare!

I'm excited to give this all a shot here in Chicagoland. Fortunately, I can get all the ingredients here. Especially since there's a huge Asian market right around the corner! Anyway, I can't recommend this experience enough. If you are ever in Bangkok, beat a path to Baipai. It will be a highlight.

It was a good way for me to end my trip to Bangkok. I struggled with Bangkok. It's the first city in Asia that I don't feel like I need to see again. It's a big city, polluted and hot, but that's not bad. The Thai people are absolutely amazing. Gentle (and not in the weak sense of that word) and serene. What turned me off about Bangkok is the pervasive and perverse influence of Western culture - and not just American culture. Sadly so much of the Western culture that has made its way into Bangkok is Western culture at its worst. I won't get into it but some of what you see, completely inadvertently in Bangkok, makes Amsterdam look almost holy and pure. And that's what saddened me and made me not want to go back to Bangkok - you have a wonderful people and there are many of them that have been grabbed up by these vicious influences and those influences have destroyed them. It was tough to take.

That being said, I'd go back to Thailand in a minute - so much more to see. I've barely scratched the iceberg that is Asia. I look forward to seeing more and more.

12 October 2008


As I begin to write this post, it is 0245. I climbed into bed at 2230, fully intending to enjoy a good night's rest in my own bed. 30 minutes ticked by and it was clear that wasn't going to happen. So two Tylenol PM were at the ready and I downed those. And here I am...hours later, still awake. I don't blame the Tylenol, as they have worked like magic the entire I was in Thailand and have always worked on all my other trips abroad. But not tonight...

So I've balanced the checkbook, cleaned out my Church bag in order to get ready for Church in what is now today. I couldn't help but think of the Primary song about getting ready for Sunday...c'mon, you know which one. Hum or sing along, people... "Saturday is a special day/It's the day we get ready for Sunday" Good times, people, good times. I'm also downloading all the talks from LDS General Conference onto my iPod so I hear what I missed while in Bangkok. I wish the Church made it easier to download those. Or maybe I'm wishing I was smarter because it's been a chore to get it downloaded.

Speaking of technical chores, I wanted to get my pictures posted from Bangkok and let many of the pictures capture the essence of what I did while there. My Blackberry is holding the bulk of them hostage. I've managed to get five (5) of the thirteen (13) off the device. The other eight (8) don't seem to be budging. I'm going to give it a bit of a "time out" and see if I can't get the rest of them off later today.

I think I'll try and go back to bed now. Maybe I can grab three (3) hours of fitful rest before I have to get up to get ready for Church...

10 October 2008

From the Thai Royal Silk Lounge

My seven day trip to Bangkok is coming to an end and this is the first chance I've had to connect to the Web from my laptop. I've had Blackberry access all week so that's kept me on top of work but I've been disconnected. My flight to LA leaves in a couple of hours and I'm all checked in for that sixteen (16!) hour fiesta.

I have lots of pictures to post - Bangkok is pretty interesting (nothing like government protesters getting killed and having to walk through another protest to get to my tailor). It's different than other cities in Asia that I've visited. Had the greatest experience at the Baipai Thai Cooking School today. I'll be posting more about it when I get home but suffice to say, it was awesome! So look for more posts and pictures later this weekend.

I don't even get back to Chicagoland until 2PM local time on Saturday. I am glad to be going home. I love coming to Asia, but it's always good to get home!

03 October 2008


I leave for Bangkok this afternoon, as mentioned previously. I am still hideously behind trying to get ready. I am ready for the presentations I am doing but I feel really behind in terms of what to expect (although I am completely prepped for the food and I am ALL kinds of happy!), what cultural faux pas' to avoid, etc., so I am cramming. Am wondering if I can really learn anything from Murray Head and "One Night in Bangkok"

I know I posted this back in July during the rush of 80's nostalgia and accompanying videos, but given this afternoon's destination, it seemed right to post again.

I hope to post while in Bangkok. And more than anything, I really hope the Cubbies can pull it out against the Dodgers...

02 October 2008

One good thing about Halloween

Halloween, like most holidays, is lame. Always has been and always will be. I have discovered, though, that Halloween does bring out some cleverness in corporate marketers and it feeds (no pun intended) a certain generation's (mine) need for nostalgia. I give you Frankenberry!

I loved this cereal when I was little. It was awesome. And then either it went away or I grew out of it, but it seemed like it was off the shelves. And now, in the last couple of years, right around Halloween, look what seems to make itself back on the shelf. In its horrible goodness. Give me a couple boxes and I'll get through the Halloweenie season.

So just flew in from two days in Buffalo. Don't ask. And I leave tomorrow for Bangkok. I could not be less ready for that trip. Tomorrow is going to be challenging - making the 515PM flight to LAX is going to work my last nerve.