29 July 2009

The TAR Countdown Begins

It's a red letter day. Why? I just discovered that the best reality show on television, The Amazing Race, returns on Sunday, 27 September. Suffice to say I cannot wait. So for those of you who are counting, and I am one of them, 60 days to go. Those 60 days can't pass quickly enough.

Bring on the Race!

24 July 2009

The Dentist and Deseret

After a long, long work week, Friday was a most welcome relief. Got an early start in the home office, knowing that I'd need to use my lunch for a dream date with the dentist. Mercifully it was just a six-month checkup, no big thing. Why is that whenever you go to the dentist you envision nothing but pain? Or awkward results, like this:

Now unlike Lisa Simpson, who wound up with this hideous contraption as a result of being without dental insurance due to Homer's latest fight with his employer, C. Montgomery Burns, I did not come out of the office worse for wear. It was an effortless check up, with almost no lecturing about flossing. That's always a bonus. So another six months until I return to the dental chair. Fine with me.

Today, it should be noted, is the 24th of July. So what's the big deal with that? Well, to most, it's just another day. To members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is a day rich in history and significance. On this day, 162 years ago, the first team of pioneers, (refugees, really, since they were hightailing it out of the States to escape persecution) arrived in what is today known as Salt Lake City. Brigham Young declared, famously, "This is the place." And the building of a home, a city, and a way of life began immediately. If you've been to Salt Lake City, you know it's become a beautiful place, but imagine arriving there 162 years ago...desolate is a better description, not Deseret as it came to be known. I can't help but worry had I been there with Brother Brigham when he declared that this was the place, that I wouldn't have said, "Really? Can we rethink that? Seriously." The fact of the matter is had I been along for that ride, I think I'd have been an early casualty. But I digress. Yet thousands upon thousands had the faith to stay and to build up what was to them, Zion. I am very grateful for their sacrifice. I cannot imagine being in their shoes, or in some cases, in their bare feet. What they did was an incredible testament and lesson in faith. Around the time of the 150th anniversary of their arrival, a book was published. It was a compendium of journals of many Saints who crossed the Plains over the course of many years. It brought me a sense of their incredible sacrifice and it was an amazing history lesson. It's called "Journey To Zion" by Carol Cornwall Madsen.

Every page was a revelation. Whether you are a member of my Church or not, it's worth the read.

I'm off on my own little adventure tomorrow - a four-plus one-way drive to Wisconsin to drop the Boy off at camp. So eight, nearly nine hours of driving tomorrow. I've got about five hours of "This American Life" podcasts to catch up on, so it'll be good. And two more days until the stunningly patient SML returns. Woo and Hoo!

21 July 2009

One of those days

It's not like today was horrible at the office. It wasn't. It wasn't great either. Not that I believe every day in the office has to be a walk in the park. It really was just one of those days. Got some things done but not all that I would have liked to have done. An important discussion didn't go exactly the way I had hoped. That only added to the sense that it was one of those days. And it was.

I was glad to get home. The Boy went on my run with me. He rode his bike. Word to the wise - don't go out for a run ten minutes after finishing a homemade chicken enchilada. Suffice to say, it made for an uncomfortable run, albeit faster at the end. I shouldn't have to draw a picture as to why...

The stunningly patient SML is packing up for a few days away. She's off to see her sister and her new baby, our new nephew, Jack Ryan. Boss, boss name. I'm glad she is able to do this. I'm even happier that Mother United had mileage seats open for this trip. Frankly, scoring award seats has been a snap. I booked four more last night for a Labor Day trip last night. Good us, bad for Mother United's revenue bottom line.

Let's see what tomorrow brings. Hoping it's a bit better than today.

18 July 2009

Asia does not disappoint again

My apologies for being under the radar this past week. I was in Singapore and Hong Kong and my schedule was batty, although all my hotels had free WiFi and I should have found the time to update the blog. Nice, nice move on the free WiFi, Shangri La Hotels!

I was in Singapore and Hong Kong to teach a couple of management classes. I won't bore you with a lengthy blog version of watching someone's hideous slide show of their vacation to Great Aunt Esther's house in Wyoming. I will say that I really enjoyed Singapore. It's like the "It's A Small World" at Disneyland - minus the crappy song and cheesy water ride. Very, very clean and people queuing in an orderly fashion all over the place. It's a beautiful place. Plenty hot and humid in July. That made my morning run through the Singapore Botanic Gardens just a bit sluggish. I ran around this gazebo thing:

The orchid garden was pretty amazing as well. I was able to meet up with some friends while there and had dinner at a seafood place on Dempsey Hill. The chili crab was potent and delicious. Singapore reminded me of Hong Kong, just way more orderly, cleaner, and less riotous. I never felt like I was in danger of a caning while I was there.

The Singaporeans know how to do an airport. Changi International is unbelievable. You don't even think you're in an airport. It's beyond comfortable. Event the jetways are air-conditioned. It's loaded with water and green features throughout. It's pretty impressive. See for yourselves:

After Singapore, it was on to Hong Kong. I love, love, love Hong Kong. Riding the Airport Express was like a ride home. I stayed at the Island Shangi-La this time. It did not disappoint. I had a tremendous view of the Harbour. I was able to have dinner with a friend that has relocated there and that was great. We went for Thai and the red duck curry I had should have come with a heat warning. It was amazing though. Speaking of heat, it was just stupid, stupid hot and humid in Hong Kong. Simply standing near a window while inside an air-conditioned meeting room made me sweat. When I went out trampsing through the Mid-Levels on Thursday night after my meetings, my white shirt quickly became transparent with sweat. I looked like a loser from some sad wet t-shirt contest. This leads me to ask a question...why do none of the locals pour sweat like we do? It was the same in Singapore. The Asians...no sweating. The Westerners...we looked like we'd walked out of the deep end of a swimming pool. I don't get it. I really don't. I'll look it up on Wikipedia or Google it. Anyway, I did not let the heat/humidity combo platter stop me from getting a run in though. My hotel was across the street from Hong Kong Park, so that was my route of choice.

It was cool (the location and the atmosphere, let me make that perfectly clear) to run through the park in the early morning as many people were there doing their tai chi exercises. I was sorely tempted to join them, but then figured I'd probably create some kind of international incident by doing so. Instead, I ran down to a bakery and enjoyed a warm egg tart. Nice way to top off a run through the hills of Hong Kong.

This trip did give me the chance to sample Mother United's new International Business and First Class products. Now, I scored big time on this trip as I was able to upgrade all the wicked long segments to First Class (thanks, global economic crisis, for making it easier to clear waitlists!) so I only did one leg in the new Business Class (Singapore-Hong Kong). It gets thumbs up from me. The rear-facing seats are a kick. It's a really good product. As for the First Suites, judge for yourself:

Let's just say sleep came easy in the Suite.

This is a very comfortable product, can I just tell you? The service was nice, the food has improved. Mother United has a winner here. The entertainment system is a huge, huge improvement. Lots of movies, shows, music to choose from so it was difficult to get bored. I have to give a shout out to one of the movies I watched - "Fanboys." Now, let me first say, it was recommended to me by a 17 year old. He told me I'd love it. Turns out I did. I watched three times during the trip. It's clever, funny and in moderate poor taste. You'll never look at uber-fans of "Star Wars" in the same light again.

If you've ever seen the Conan O'Brien clip where Triumph the Comic Insult Dog attends the premier of a Star Wars movie and you died laughing at that spectacle, this movie will make you laugh.

Anyway, it's good to be home. Six days on the other side of the world is enough. I'm a fortunate man to have these opportunities, I know. I also know how lucky I am to be able to come home to a great home and family. I'll say it again, it's good to be home.

10 July 2009

Make it stop

From time to time, I get fixated on a certain song and I can't let it go. Usually it's a song from my college or high school years and it causes a flood of good memories. I'll play it over and over on my iPod. I'll watch the associated video on YouTube. And then, as quickly as I got fixated, it goes away.

Lately, things have taken a weird turn. For weeks, recently, I could not stop listening to "Underneath" by the ever-pretentious Alanis Morrisette. I could not let it go. Then a few days ago, while listening to a story on NPR, a song was played as a bumper to the story, and that was it. I was instantly transported to the late 70's and an 8-track tape and hanging out on the beach in San Carlos, Mexico. For those not familiar with the legendary 8-track tape, here you go:

In the late 70's, we spent part of our summers in San Carlos, Mexico. It beat the heck out of the nightmare that was Scout Camp, can I just tell you? It was an exciting time but as it was the late 70's, it was also a weird time, especially musically. I recall sitting on the beach at night, listening to 8-tracks. One of those that we listened to was a Carpenters tape. They did a bizarre, bizarre song about aliens called "Calling Occupants of Interstellar Craft" and I remember listening to it on the beach. It was a nutty song for a brother-and-sister team to be singing. But then again, one could argue that a lot of what the Carpenters did was nutty, even creepy. But then again, there's precedent of creepy brother/sister duos: Donny and Marie, Pimpenela. Say what you will about them, though, Karen Carpenter had an amazing voice.

Well, that song played at the end of that NPR story and it's been stuck on me ever since. It's been downloaded to my iPod. I even found a video on YouTube. This thing is a train wreck. It's clearly taken from a TV special they did and it's a 70's mess. It was made around the height of "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" mania. Jon Davidson and I swear the blonde is Suzanne Somers. I'm guessing their special effects budget was about $17.00. It's awful. And I can't get this song out of my head. Make.It.Stop.

So I've decided to share my pain. Here it is:

Like I said, Make.It.Stop!

05 July 2009

Another 4th has come and gone

Sunday night and the weekend is drawing to a close. It was a good long weekend. Our camping/jetskiiing bash went well. Weather was really good, especially for our night in the tent on Friday. While no one will ever mistake Michigan City for luxury, it has everything we needed. Especially good friends and a nice place to put the tent. After a day on Lake Michigan, which was surprisingly not hypothermia-inducing cold, we gathered around the fire and relaxed.
Me, Our Lady of BYU, and the stunningly patient SML
CAL and The Boy hanging outside the tent

Yeah, that's our big tent in the background of the above-referenced photo. Indeed, we have two, count them two, tents. It boggles the mind, I know. We also have two queen-size air mattresses fully inflated in there. No reason to be uncomfortable.

And speaking of uncomfortable, how's this to make a Dad proud of his two daughters:
Our Lady of BYU and CAL hamming it up!

They are good. They really are and it was good to spend the weekend with them. One thing that I witnessed this weekend at the Lake prompts a question of my good readers - if you saw two jet-skis anchored off of a beach, would you automatically assume that they were free for the taking? Well, this vexing question had to be posed to some dolt who climbed up on one of our friends' jetskis. He was getting ready to haul off on it when we noticed it. When the simple question of "Dude, what are you doing?" was posed to him, this mental giant was perplexed. His retort..."I thought they were the beach's." Did you also think the contents of the safe in the bank were yours for the taking, simply because you were in there? Umm, no, Looter Boy, just because it's there and locked up, doesn't mean it's yours. Nice.

So now Sunday, as I said, winds down. We did have some excitement while getting religion today. About a five-foot piece of crown molding from one of the skylights in the chapel ceiling came crashing down during ward business. I wasn't conducting today but it certainly was exciting. Our building is a little old, okay, a lot old, and it's well-worn. We think that since the air hasn't been working and has turned the chapel into a Turkish bath that the wood, or whatever said piece of molding was tacked into, has expanded. It'll make next Sunday all the more exciting. As they should be. Getting church'd needs to be exciting.

03 July 2009

Enjoying the 4th

It's early Friday morning and I'm delighted to not be working today. We're packing up as we speak so we can enjoy a couple of days away to celebrate our fine nation's 233rd birthday. What a young nation we are!

We're off to the shores of Lake Michigan for a couple of days of camping:

And jet-skiing:

All five of us are going although Our Lady of BYU is insistent that she leave earlier in order to maximize her time in the sun. Apparently her desire to get skin cancer, I mean a tan, outweighs common sense. We're going up with some good friends and are looking forward to spending time with them. We'll see how it goes, as the weather looks a bit dodgy (welcome to midwest summers), but it promises to be fun anyway.

I'm grateful to be a citizen of the United States. If one looks at the US from the lens of an outsider, say one who resides in another country, the US can look like one big dysfunctional mess. And in many ways, it is. But it's a mess that works. It works in spite of itself. I am free to live as I choose. I am free to worship as I choose. I am free to say what I choose to say, without fear of recrimination. Well, at least, no government recrimination. I'm also grateful that I live in a country where I can travel freely. One of the choicest things I have from the government is this:

That blue book has allowed me to knock on the door of countries around the world, to see and taste the cultures of so many different places. I've been very fortunate. But those travels have also allowed me to recognize how fortunate I am to be a citizen of the United States. It's good to be free.

Enjoy the 4th!