Friday, December 22, 2006

Great Walls of Fire

Today I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Great Wall of China in Badaling, which is about 90 minutes by car from Beijing. This portion of the wall, and most of what still exists was built by the Ming Dynasty, which rules China from 1368 to 1644.

I've seen pictures of the wall, and have seen it on TV, but until you actually see it you cannot imagine what an amazing effort that is must have been to build. At almost 4000 miles long it is almost incomprehensible how much work must have gone into it. What is even more amazing is that the wall is built in the mountains...I'm not talking hills here, but full fledged mountains. In fact, the terrain is so steep in places, that walking up the wall is, itself, a very difficult task.

My hosts and I traversed up several hundred yards from the entry point before we had to give in. Not only was I incredibly short of breath, it was exceedingly cold, about 25 degrees. I'm sorry that I couldn't make it to another couple of watchtowers, as that would have earned my 'HERO' status. Common belief in China is that if you walk the wall you are a hero.

Hero or not, I'm just so grateful to have had this amazing experience.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

You want me to eat that? Parts 2 & 3

I've had a whirlwind day in China today. I started my day (after sleeping for only a couple of hours in Shanghai). I met with a prospective vendor and had a fruitful two hour visit. Because we ended early, my hosts suggested that we have a quick lunch before my trip to the airport. Because I hadn't had a meal in over 24 hours, I accepted.

We went to a Chinese restaurant, as your would expect. My hosts ordered, and we ate shrimp, fish, pork and vegetables (eaten in a doughy pocket) and several other dishes. The meal was excellent, and my hosts were amazed that I was proficient with chopsticks. I mentioned my love of the American version of Chinese food and how we used to go to Chinatown in NYC to eat every so often. As the food kept coming, I waited for the dish that would challenge my sensibilities - and if finally came. A soup was brought out and it had some kind of weird looking meat and little mushrooms. As you may know, mushrooms skeeve me, so I was hesitant. I asked what it was, and they said I probably should try it before they answer. My "shouldn't eat this" red flags and alarms were going off full bore. I tried a piece of the meat and it was fine. I thought it was chicken, except that it had this strange skin on it. I ate some more, and politely asked my hosts what it was. I had just eaten frog. All I know is that it really does taste like chicken, and I will never turn frog legs down again...

After the meal and our goodbyes, I was on my way to the airport. After a 2 hour flight, I was in Beijing, the China capital. I went directly to my hosts site (my second site visit of the day) and had a short, but effective meeting. It was then suggested that we go to eat, which I accepted. Since we are in Beijing, which was formally known as Peking (as in Peking Duck), I was informed that the name of the restaurant was "The Duck House". After declining a fork (which again, amazed my hosts), we had Peking Duck (wrapped in a crepe like thing), chicken, shrimp, veggies, sweet and sour beef, etc. The only plate I didn't know what it was had vegetables and minced meat. It didn't look bad, so I took some. After eating it, and asking what it was, I came to learn that it was mushrooms. So much for my disdain for all things mushroom. It was good.

I'm finally back in the hotel and looking forward to some sleep. I get up early tomorrow to become a hero....more on that tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shanghai Surprise

Actually, not much of a surprise. I've landed in Shanghai this afternoon and then proceded to wait. I waited an hour to get to the passport officer, and then waited for a half an hour while he and his supervisor inspected my passport (I think there was some belief that it was altered or something - they never said). I then waited for my driver and then waited in traffic. So I've been here for almost 12 hours and have basically just waited.

I've seen my hotel room and the skyline (which is absolutely tremendous, by the way) and that's it. I get to sleep for 5 hours, go to a site visit, and then wiat some more for my flight to Beijing. I can't believe that I am all the way around the world and I get to sightsee my hotel room. Ahhh - at least it is a nice room.

I guess you'll just have to wait for an interesting post...


Thursday, December 14, 2006

You want me to eat that?

Had an interesting experience this evening. One of the vendors I'm meeting here has a rep who has been here often and is on more of the adventurous side. So, when he told me that we need to go out to eat at this "different" kind of restaurant, I was a bit concerned.

My concerns were a bit abated when I was introduced to their driver, a hulk of a Filipino man if I ever saw one. He was at least 6' 5'' and he was introduced to me as 'Hercules'. That was his REAL name and it was aptly given. We got into his Expedition (which is a monster of a car on this side of the world) and began our trek. We drove down the main drive for a long while, passed the US Embassy, the waterfront, and began to enter a more seedy side of town. While we drove, Hercules let me know a little about it. His unofficial title is "client ambassador", which means he helps hosts clients in from out of town - he is also a driver and a bodyguard for the bigwigs when they are in Manila.

We finally got to the restaurant, which looked more like a seafood market than anything else. There were seating areas, and a kitchen area, as well. Fish, Clams, Crabs, etc. etc. were all out packed on ice. Additionally, there were numerous tanks of fish and some of the largest lobsters I have ever seen. Lastly, there were these little versions of shopping carts. We had entered "The Seafood Market and Restaurant".

Here's the deal. You pick what you want to eat, you tell them how to cook it, and they serve it to you. It's that simple, especially when you have a Greek Hero to help you. Hercules walked up to the lobster tank, grabbed one by the antennae things and hauled in out of the tank. The next thing I know, they were putting him in a plastic bag and into our cart. Hercules then proceeded to pick out clams, vegetables, fish, and shrimp. As I taunted a jumbo crab, he asked if I wanted it and I politely declined.

We went to our seating area (which ended up being a private room in the back) and enjoyed Mango shakes until the food came. First the clams in a soy sauce, then the vegetables, then jumbo shrimp tempura, lobster (Filipinos serve it cut up - shell and all - and stir fried with a chili powder), fried rice, and the fish. We finished the meal with some fresh mango.

The meal was absolutely outstanding and the company interesting. All in all, a great time.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The big P - I

I've recently arrived in Manila, Philippines. I had uneventful travel from KL. In fact, it's been rather pleasurable. KL has an express train to the airport which cuts travel time in half (to 30 minutes) AND, if you are flying Malaysia airlines, you can check your luggage at the rail station. Very cool.

Although I've been in KL before, this is the first time I've taken the train, so it was a bit of sightseeing for me. Malaysia seems to have a significant amount of palm tree farms. It is green and lush and has some hills. It was just really beautiful country. So close to the equator, you can imagine that it looked like a tropical paradise, and you'd be right. At the same time, however, there was significant construction in some areas. The government is seemingly fostering an atmosphere that is business friendly, and the country is prospering. It just goes to show you that not all Muslims are what they portrayed in news clips from Iraq and Iran. In fact, I found all of the people in Malaysia, whether Muslim or not to be extremely friendly. Friendliness is something you'll find the the Philippines, as well. My driver and all of the people I've interacted with in the hotel so far have been very pleasant.

My flight from KL to Manila was three and a half hours. For some reason I received a business class ticket, so I had a nice big seat, got some work done and had a meal with a couple of drinks. All's good. Interesting thing on the plane. If you've traveled internationally or on a big plane, you may have seen the map showing the location of the plane and the duration of the flight. However, on this flight, it also showed a graphic of a plane with an arrow coming from the center and the word "Makkah". It also said "5300 miles". I couldn't figure out what it meant and then it hit me...the graphic was pointing to Mecca so that the Muslims on the flight would know what direction to point for their prayers should the flight cover one of their five daily prayer times. Technology is awesome.

I spoke to Angie before I left KL and she is doing well. She's been a little under the weather, but seems to be hanging in there. I spoke to Cassie, as well, and she misses her daddy. I miss her too, but I've been so busy it hasn't been nearly as bad as previous trips of this length. Unfortunately, I rarely go over 10 days, so I'm only halfway done.


Sunday, December 10, 2006


I've had some downtime in KL, so I've been able to enjoy the city a little bit. Sunday, after a long nap, I met some hosts for dinner. I was taken to the Suria KLCC (or Kuala Lumpur Convention Center). Although there may be a convention center there, I didn't see one. What I saw was a huge mall with high-end stores and restaurants nestled in between the two Petronas towers. We walked around for a while and then found a Thai place to eat. Now, since I am in southeast Asia, I couldn't pass the opportunity for good Thai, and I wasn't disappointed. The food was great. I had a shrimp phad thai that was excellent. We springrolls and other appetizers and washed it all down with a couple of Coronas....yes, Corona - the didn't have any Tsingha (Thai beer).

Yesterday, after work, a prospective vendor took me to the Hilton Sentral Hotel. We had a cocktail and generally laughed our butts off. Imagine a table with a couple of Aussie's, a Singaporean, an Indian America, and an America. Truly a blend of cultures. After cocktails, we had an awesome Japanese dinner. There is nothing like local food. We thing we have good ethnic food in the US - and the fact is that we do - there is nothing like the local stuff. We had:

wagyu wafu beef (a marbled beef like kobe that didn't even need to be chewed, it just melted)
unagi kabayaki (freshwater eel grilled with soy sauce - my choice and awesome)
ohtoro (prime belly tuna sushi - that like the beef did not need to be chewed)
hamachi (young yellowtail sushi)
and several Saporo beers.

The meal was absolutely outstanding, the company entertaining and the night altogether fun.

Today - completely different story. I am working and catching up on some work that has piled up. Tomorrow, I'm off to the Philippines. I haven't kept up with the typhoon situation, but I'll look into it soon.


Kuala Bear

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this morning after a 4 hour flight from Chennai, India. All is well, although I think something I ate on the flight didn't agree with me. Not all out sick, but my stomach isn't very happy with me. The hotel, as expected, is very comfortable.

I did spend a couple of hours in central Bangalore walking with my host. He explained to me how the city has grown and what's what in Bangalore. The nice thing about our time, is that we went to places that most tourists would not go. Our first stop was the Bull Temple. It is here where Hindus go to worship. It was explained to me that the area is meant to instill peace and good tidings. Every temple area will have a walking path that allows the faithful to walk around either the temple or the idol within the temple. Again, this is to obtain good will.

We then walked through several streets of Bangalore. I was told that this was a older area of Bangalore and somewhat affluent. It was very crowded and very interesting. Most were shopping or eating. I was stared at by most (I was the only westerner that I saw).

As we walked past a guy pissing on the side of a building, my host made a statement that describes one of the differences of our respective cultures. He said,

In India, we piss in public and kiss in private. In the States, you do the opposite.

One of the great things about being able to travel is to experience different cultures. None better - just different. Just watch where you walk.


Friday, December 08, 2006

In with a Bang(alore)

I've safely arrived in Bangalore. Like the rest of India it is crowded and traffic-ridden. I spent less than 24 hours in Hyderabad, and that's unfortunate, as it looked like the prettiest city in India that I have experienced. I'm sure I will have the opportunity to come back.

As you may know, Bangalore is the IT capital of India. Although there are outsourcing centers throughout the country, Bangalore is much like Silicon Valley in California. If you aren't in Bangalore, you aren't in high-tech. Many find it surprising that I am in software, have been to India many times, but haven't been to Bangalore previously. It is the only city in India where McAfee has an office.

I have three site visits to do this evening, and will be extremely busy through tomorrow morning when I wrap up at 5AM (it is currently 3:20PM as I write this). That means I'll be going nonstop for about 24 hours. I can't complain, however. I've caught up on sleep (got 6.5 hours last night) and am feeling fine. For that, I am greatful.

In case you are curious, I am staying at another beautiful hotel in Bangalore, the Oberoi. My hotel in Hyderabad was amazing, as well. I stayed (just slept really) at the Taj Residency. I did, however, receive an upgrade to a suite when I arrived at 3:00AM.

I've already received an invitation to go sightseeing and shopping tomorrow. I will tell you all about it.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The glamour of it all

Dylan once said to me that I have the coolest job because I get to travel. In some ways he is right. I have been to a great many places and seen many things that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. I've been very fortunate to have been able to travel so much. I've been to every continent except Africa (and I even had some chances to go there) and Antarctica. I've seen some of the most popular landmarks in the world (eg., the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, Rialto Towers, the Petronas twin towers, and others.) On this trip I will be able to add downtown Tokyo and perhaps the great wall of China. I am indeed blessed. Because my international trips typically involve seeing the vendors we use, or vendors that are trying to get us to become clients, I am often very well hosted - going to nice restaurants, being taken to see the sights, etc. And, because of company policy, we typically stay in very nice hotels. In Delhi, I am staying here.

That's all the good parts - the parts that Dylan thinks he knows about...but he doesn't really know any of the bad, so here goes:

1) Flights and layovers. There is nothing glamorous about 14 hours flights in coach or 10 hour layovers. I've done both and they SUCK.

2) Heat. I've been to places so hot that it was 100 at 7:00AM.

3) Fatigue. The expectation is that your regular day job will continue to get done. This means that you do your 8-10 hours (why you traveled) and then another several hours catching up on all that US work. Being sleep deprived and working at night is a particular challenge.

4) Homesickness. The worst of all travel maladies. Sometimes I miss Angie and the kids so much it physically hurts. I'm trying not to think about the last week of this trip. I've never gone that long and I'm not going to like it.

Am I lucky? You bet. Will I stop? Nope. Can it be a pain? Absolutely.


Sunday, December 03, 2006


I am in the middle of a four hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany and I am bored. I mean really, really bored. I usually take the direct flight to Delhi from Chicago, but my company had an opportunity to save $1800 by putting me on Lufthansa flights (Dallas to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Delhi).

I am starting out on a 21-day Asia trip that will take me to three cities in India (Delhi, Hyderabad, and Bangalore); Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; and Shanghai and Beijing, China. Oh - I'll also have an evening in Tokyo as a layover on my way home.

This is the longest that I'll be away from Angie and the kids and I'm dreading this trip. I have 20 vendor evaluation visits to perform while I'm on the road. Mostly, I'll be doing two a night while I'm here.

I did want to share an offer I received the day before I left. I have a great friend (whom shall remain nameless to protect his man-card) that offered to do Christmas shopping for me while I'm away. How awesome is that? The worst thing a guy could have to do...and he offered to do it for me as I wouldn't have time. That is a true friend. Thanks, Bob...ooops!

I'll keep the blog up to date about my travels...


Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like...

...I can see the house from space!

As you can see, we spent the better part of this long weekend getting ready for Christmas. I am leaving for a three week Asia trip next Saturday, and this was the last weekend that we had to get everything done for the holiday.

Because of the crazy week I have in front of me, we had to pretty much do in three days what normally takes me all of December. Dylan and I spent all day today on the roof, running back in forth to Wal-Mart, and hanging lights. The picture doesn't do it justice, but we really went overboard and the house looks awesome.

The lights in the windows and around the garage door and front are framed, so I just have to snap them in. Unfortunately, a string was out around the front door, so I had to pull them off the frame and glue a new strand on. Fortunately, that was the only hang-up. The lights on the roof, the wreath, and the candles in the windows were bought at a significant discount after last Christmas. They look really cool. We are having someone come in the hand the rest over the second story eves...I have a tremendous fear of heights. In fact, just getting on the first story roof to hang the wreath and the candles was a real accomplishment for me.

It also gave me a chance to try out my new Little Giant...the best purchase I have ever made (and why I have conquered a little of my fear of high places).

Lastly, it gave me a chance to bond some more with Dylan. Amazing how we talked about how important I think it is that the kids have great memories of the holidays. It's a real driver of why we have so many lights and a 12-foot Christmas tree.

I just hope they don't mind not getting presents. I think all of our money is going to the electric company this year!


Monday, November 20, 2006

Blue Collar Man

What does it mean when your woman tells you that she likes the way you look? What does it mean that she says this when you are camping and all decked out in cammo, jeans, unshaven and wearing a ball cap? What does it mean when she tells you that she likes the look better than the slacks, shoes, and dress shirts that are commonly worn to work?

My answer - who cares? All I care about is that she said it.

We camped up at Texoma this weekend. Cassie, Angie and I did the tent thing with several couple friends of ours and their kids. We had a great time. We talked and laughed, we ate, we fished (a lot - and no, I didn't catch anything STILL). We made a huge fire, we ate s'mores, we fished some more, and we tried to sleep (it wasn't the cold - that was manageable. It was the half deflated air mattress that did me in).

Ultimately, we had a great time in the out doors. Back to my original point. I hadn't shaved in a couple of days and saw the camping as an opportunity to wear a lot of my hunting clothes. All I know is that I was warm and comfortable - and that Angie liked the way I looked. I guess I looked "MANLY".

If you see me wearing GUY clothes, don't be surprised. My woman likes it!


Thursday, November 09, 2006

12.2 for $87.50

More numbers...

I've basically starved for the last three days. Since I just completed a light lunch I can now laugh about it. I was able to lose 3 pounds on my last day - yes, that's THREE pounds in one day. Not only did I eat little, but I took a 40 minute walk last night just to make sure I made it.

This means that I lost a total of 12.2 pounds in 31 days. So far, I'm one of four to have made goal, which makes my cut $87.50 of the Lard pool.

One of the nice benefits of my walk last night was that Dylan accompanied me. We spoke the whole time and it was nice. We talked about astronomy (he's covering that in school right now and the moon was HUGE), duck hunting, basketball, and Christian Rap. It was GREAT!

Next step is 5% body weight loss by the end of the year. We are proposing a $100 payment if you don't make it. If we end up doing this, I'll need to lose 14.12 pounds by December 29. That's only 2 pounds a week for 7 weeks, and I'll probably be in India for 3 weeks of that, so it shouldn't be too difficult.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

62 and 12

I guess I'm a little fixated on numbers these days...perhaps a future blog entry.

I'll start with 12, since that's shorter. 12 (in ounces) is the weight I need to lose in 36 hours to be on the winning side of the "Chub Club". I've lost a pound each of the last two days, and if I can do it one more day then I've hit my goal. Since there are several here who have already communicated that they haven't made it, that should mean some money. I think I'm going to buy a nice lunch for me and Angie with it. Next is 10 lbs in 5 weeks.

The 62 is much more interesting. It represents the number of kisses that I got last night from Cassie. If you've ever tried to get a 4 year old to give you affection, you know that 62 kisses is a very big deal - and it was to me. When I discussed it with Angie, she said that it made sense, that I've been available to Cassie, I've spent time with her doing goofy things and playing games, and that it is showing AND Cassie is responding. I think there is a message here - and certainly not one that I haven't gotten before. When I make myself available to the kids, it is the right thing to do. I've been trying to do it more since this summer and I think that the kids are responding - and frankly, I've enjoyed them so much more, as well.

Clearly, however, I can do more. Dylan and Cassie are somewhat natural for me to "hang" with. Marissa and Justin are more difficult. What do you do with a 10 year old pubescent girl? Or a moody 19 year old young man? I'm not sure I know what the answers are, but I know that whatever we do it needs to involve my time. It's good for them. It's good for me!


Monday, November 06, 2006

3 in 3

If you've tracked my blog, than you know that weigh in for the "Chub Club" is coming soon. On Nov. 9th, I get weighed in and have either lost 10, or not. I weighed this morning, and am 2.8 pounds away from goal.

The good news is that I've lost 7.2 lbs in less than 4 weeks. The bad news is that if I don't lose an additional 2.8 in 3 days, than I'm out $50.00, and I don't really want to throw out that money. I'm pretty positive that I can make it, as I've been able to lose 10+ pounds in a week when I am very strict on my diet, so I should be able to lose a pound a day for three days. I just need to start exercising. I haven't all month, and it has kept me down (or should I say up?).

I'll let you know the results on Thursday. I plan on doing this again, even if I don't make it. I'm suggesting 12 pounds in 6 weeks as our next $50.00 level.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Too busy to blog...

Sometimes we just don't have enough time in a day. I wish I could create a few more hours a day with God-like powers, but I can't - and that means one thing - something has to suffer. Unfortunately, I have to go to work everyday. Unlike my mother-in-law, who celebrated her retirement a couple of days ago - and for the first time in forever, didn't have to get up to report to the office this morning, I still get up every day. I could leave earlier, and I do that every so often, but with a monster project underway, I don't have the flexibility to do that. In fact, because of my absence in the office on Tuesday to attend said retirement party, I'll likely be in the office until 8:30 or so, tonight. I could blow off school, and I do that on occasion, but we only have 4 weeks left, and I need to secure passing grades. No sense in wasting the last 10 weeks by getting lazy in the last third of the semester.

That leaves two things that I can take from, my family and sleep. Now, I try my best to be active in the kids lives, especially at events that are going on in the evening and on weekends. I do end up missing some stuff, so I really can't pare down anymore there. That leaves just sleep - and frankly, I haven't been getting enough. I need MORE!!!

When I don't get enough, everything suffers. Angie knows when I'm cranky worst of all, but everyone else does, too. That's why I am planning a couple of hours all to myself this weekend. A Saturday afternoon nap will do wonders, and I am going to take one, even if it means giving Angie a couple of dollars out of my budgeted spending money to do it. "Honey, here's $20, go to a movie on me, and take Cassie with you, cause I'm taking a nap." That two hours apart will do wonders for our marriage.



Friday, October 20, 2006

Suicide Watch...

My family has me on suicide watch...I went to bed in tears...I'm moody and despondant. I've received condolences from friends and family - including this e-card from my sister.

Sympathy Card

Did my dog die? Did my best friend pick a fight? Did I just get fired from my job? Nope, Nope and Nope.

What did happen is that the baseball season ended for me and the New York Mets last night. The Mets lost a heartbreaker game 7 to the St. Louis Cardinals - a game that was tied going into the 9th inning.

Truth be told, the game was a great game and the series was entertaining. Unfortunately, the great Mets lineup just didn't get it done, and they lost 3-1.

The only solace I can take is that baseball season is only 5 and a half months away and they have a core of very young very talented players. We'll see you next year.


PS: Endy Chavez made perhaps the greatest play I have ever seen in the playoffs last night, stealing a home run...check this out!


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Biggest Loser...

Some things that I wish were 300...a) My salary in thousands of dollars, b) the number of days off I get off every year c) The number of times daily Angie told me she loved me. One thing that I wish wasn't almost 300 - MY WEIGHT.

Yesterday we started a "Chub Club" at work. Basically, 10 guys and 1 woman have vowed to lose 10 pounds over the next month. The ones that don't succeed must pay $50 into the "Lard Pool". Those that do make it share in the money. We all weighed in, and I tipped the scales at a whopping 294.6 lbs, the highest I have ever weighed.

So today, I'm eating a salad, some fruit, oatmeal, and a Weight Watchers entree. Tomorrow, I take a walk or hit the Community Center for some basketball and racquetball. Not only do I want to lose these 10, but 85 more, and get close to 200. I'll keep track on the blog.

Now, I just need to watch out for that e-coli in my lettuce!


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Married in Galveston

No, I'm not into polygamy. I did however marry my good friend Ron and his wife, Jo Ana this Saturday on a weekend getaway to Galveston Island, south of Houston. I know what you're thinking and I'll explain.

Angie and I have been planning on attending the wedding for several months. Angie made all the sitter arrangements (Thanks Stacey & David and Carrie & Chris) so we were going to enjoy two days away. Then, about a month ago, Ron called me and told me that the person they had to do the wedding had to pull out and would I be willing. Now, you need to understand that Ron is the type of guy with endless generosity who would do anything for anyone, and has been there for me in a pinch once or twice, so I told him I'd look into getting ordained and that if the time requirements weren't too great, I'd do it. Well, that's all they needed to hear, because they apparently did all the research and leg work prior. Jo Ana sent me a link to the Rose Ministries and voila, I was ordained.

Now, let's be honest. Although the ordination that I have is legally binding in all 50 states, it is not the same thing as someone who's spent years in study becoming a pastor or other clergy. It seems that due to the 4th amendment, and the separation of church and state stipulations, that the government has some pretty "loose" laws regarding the legality of religious ceremonies. Since the Rose Ministries is a recognized church (and pretty much any church MUST be recognized) and they allow their "clergy" to become ordained through completing a web form, then I'm recognized as authorized to perform a legally binding wedding - I even signed the marriage certificate to prove it.

So, my first wedding is done, and I'm officially retired. I'd rather not do that again, but I am very happy to have helped a friend. I think I was asked because they knew I'd take it seriously, and because of my work, I'm comfortable speaking in front of groups. Truth be told, I was nervous, VERY NERVOUS! Thankfully, Jo Ana had scripted the whole ceremony out except for the wedding prayer, which I gave some prior thought to, but basically winged it when the time came.

Ultimately, everyone there was extremely impressed with my performance and everyone said I did a great job. All I know is that I didn't screw it up, we had a great party with friends, and Angie and I had a seafood filled weekend. Now I just need to find out what the normal honorarium is for performing a wedding, in case anyone else asks.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Weather in Texas

Although the weather has been warm and pleasant, this joke is not far from the truth...

May 30th: Just moved to Dallas, Texas. Now this is a city that knows how to live!! Beautiful sunny days and warm balmy evenings. What a place! I watched the sunset from a park lying on a blanket. It was beautiful. I've finally found my home. I love it here.

June 14th: Really heating up. Got to 100 today. Not a problem. Live in an air-conditioned home, drive an air-conditioned car. What a pleasure to see the sun everyday like this. I'm turning into a sun worshiper.

June 30th: Had the backyard landscaped with western plants today. Lots of cactus and rocks. What a breeze to maintain. No more mowing lawn for me. Another scorcher today, but I love it here.

July 10th: The temperature hasn't been below 100 all week. How do people get used to this kind of heat? At least it's kind of windy though. But getting used to the heat and humidity is taking longer that I expected.

July 15th: Fell asleep by the pool. (Got 3rd degree burns over 60% of my body). Missed 3 days of work What a dumb thing to do. I learned my lesson though. Got to respect the ol' sun in a climate like this.

July 20th: I missed Morgan (our cat) sneaking into the car when I left this morning. By the time I got to the hot car for lunch, Morgan had died and swollen up to the size of a shopping bag and stank up the $2,000 leather upholstery. I told the kids that she ran away. The car now smells like Kibbles and shits. I learned my lesson though. No more pets in this heat.

July 25th: The wind sucks.. It feels like a giant freaking blow dryer!! And it's hot as hell. The home air-conditioner is not working and the AC repairman charged $200 just to drive by and tell me he needed to order parts.

July 30th: Been sleeping outside by the pool for 3 nights now. $1,500 in damn house payments and we can't even go inside. Why did I ever come here?

Aug. 4th: It's 115 degrees. Finally got the air-conditioner fixed today. It cost $500 and gets the temperature down to 85, but this freaking humidity makes the house feel like it's about 95. Stupid repairman. I hate this stupid city.

Aug. 8th: If another wise ass asks, "Hot enough for you today?" I'm going to strangle him. Damn heat. By the time I get to work the radiator is boiling over, my clothes are soaking wet, and I smell like baked cat!!

Aug. 9th: Tried to run some errands after work. Wore shorts, and sat on the black leather seats in the ol' car. I thought my ass was on fire. I lost 2 layers of flesh and all the hair on the back of my legs and ass. Now my car smells like burnt hair, fried ass, and baked cat.

Aug. 10th: The weather report might as well be a damn recording. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny. It's been too hot to do shit for 2 damn months and the weatherman says it might really warm up next week. Doesn't it ever rain in this damn desert? Water rationing now, so my $1700 worth of cactus just dried up and blew into the damn pool. Even the cactus can't live in this damn heat.

Aug. 14th: Welcome to HELL!!! Temperature got to 115 today. Forgot to crack the window and blew the damn windshield out of the car. The installer came to fix it and said, "Hot enough for you today?" My wife had to spend the $1500 house payment to bail me out of jail. Freaking Texas. What kind of a sick demented idiot would want to live here?

So keep this in mind when I invite you down to our house. Ya'll come back now, y'here.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Perhaps Older, Definitely BETTER

Today is Angie's 39th (yes, 39th) birthday. If you've seen my post back in May about adult birthdays, then you know how I regard them - they are just not a big deal. Life doesn't stop because today is the anniversary of the day we were born. I was on a day trip to Cincinnati for my birthday. I wish this wasn't the case, as I really do enjoy being "King for a day", just don't get the chance anymore.

Let me first say that Angie is like a very fine wine...she just keeps getting better with age. Better looking, that goes without saying. However, she seems to be developing a wisdom and a comfort with herself that she didn't have before. Her relationship with the Lord is flourishing, and except for the occasional conflict with me around responsibilities, things haven't been this good since courting. She is surrounded by an exceptional group of friends, and we have excellent couples friends. Her relationship with the kids is strong, and she balances her roles are caregiver and disciplinarian well. All said, she's better than ever in every way.

That being said, I've recently been considering how I could treat her better, in a biblical sense. I am called to be a servant leader and to love her the way Jesus loved the church. Sometimes I can do that, but then scorekeeping gets in the way, and I lash out if I feel like she isn't responding to me "selflessness" the way I think she should. Ultimately, I've concluded that I am just not being selfless when I'm keeping score.

My problem is that I don't think I understand what it is to love her in this way, and that I am naturally selfish. What I have been thinking about is what would it be like for her if I treated EVERY day like it was her birthday. For example, this morning, I left a card on her pillow letting her know I loved her. I got out of bed to get the kids up when her alarm went off. I took Dylan to school instead of making her get out of the house. Imagine what it would be like if I did those types of things for her every day. I think perhaps that's what Ephesians means. I also realize that since I call recite back everything I've done for her today so far, that I am still keeping score. Maybe through practice and repetition that the scorekeeping part goes away.

I think I'll try to do that as much as possible, as well. Happy Birthday, sweetheart. I hope that everyday - today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, etc. etc. are like birthdays for you.


Friday, September 08, 2006

For my AMA

Enjoying the great outdoors, and doing some man bonding...


Cleaning the kill...

I'll be thinking of you on Sunday, when I go hunting again...


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Doves 5, Scott 2

I mentioned going Dove hunting in a previous post, and now that it has been completed, I feel compelled to blog about it - especially because I've thought of little since and am trying to figure out how I can go again soon.

We arrived and Angie's aunt and uncle's house in Bonham a little before three on Sunday afternoon. After messing around for a while, Dylan, her uncle Maurice, and I decided to jump in his pickup and drive to the back of the 70 acre property that he lives on. As we drove past a large pond, he pointed to two grey birds flying across, and said "There they are!" At that point, I started to get jazzed. As we continued to survey the property, we saw three white tailed deer flee from us. That was really neat. We came back around the pool, parked under a big tree, and got out. It was a beautiful afternoon, not too hot, and the sun's rays would peak through the trees and reflect off the large pond. I got the impression that hunting is more about the company you are with and enjoying the great outdoors. It's a good thing, too, because we didn't see another dove for over an hour.

At the end of that time, Maurice suggested we drive over to his other property, where he has 40 acres and 25 head of cattle. I thought that was a great suggestion, and we left. Along the way, we saw many doves enjoying themselves on the power lines, so we started getting excited again.
We arrived at the property and Maurice introduced Dylan and I to each of the cows, calves, and bull as we drove around. We headed off to one of the ponds he has on that property, and immediately saw a dove fly in front of the truck, and perch on a nearby tree. I got out quickly and proceeded to load my shotgun, but took too long and the dove flew away. We saw another, but that one also flew away before I could get a shot.

As Dylan and I walked around, another flew left to right in front of me. It was a perfect shot, and emptied my gun (three shots, by law), but missed all three. It is possible that the bird was out of range, as the distance seemed a little far - but no matter, at least I got a clean shot.

We sat for a while longer, and since we didn't see any more we decided to depart. Dylan and I sat in the bed as we drove from one side of the property to the other. When the truck stopped, so Maurice could lock the gate, Dylan and I got into the cab. Then we saw it - two doves perched right in front of us, about 25 yards was looking RIGHT AT ME! I loaded my gun and chambered a shell, got out quietly, and closed the door over.

My heart was beating so hard, and the adrenaline was coursing through my body so fast, that I couldn't line up the shot. The sight on my gun just seemed be moving and I couldn't steady it on the bird to the left. I was sure that they were going to get spooked and fly away. Eventually, I lined up the shot and pulled the trigger. After an explosion of feathers, the next thing I remember is Dylan jumping out of the truck saying, "Did you get them?" I don't remember pumping the shotgun, or shooting at the second as it flew away, but I did, as there were two doves lying on the ground under where they were perched.

The experience clearly satisfied a primal, visceral response in me, but I'd like to think that it just wasn't wanton killing. You'd think that the birds never had a chance, but hey, look at the score. Also, we've decided that anything bagged is getting eaten. After we returned to the house and had dinner we cleaned the birds. Heck, I didn't even want to touch them, so plucking the chest feathers and trying to pop their little breast meat out was difficult. Angie's uncle did the first to show me how, and then finished the second when I broke the breast bone.

Right now, I have two little dove breasts in the freezer - they are not large. We're going to grill them with jalapeno and bacon as soon as we can. And, perhaps, we'll bag some more before the season ends so we can make an entire meal. I'm already looking forward to duck season.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

You Gotta Believe...

As of this very minute, the New York Mets have the best record in baseball. They are 15.5 games in front in the National League East, and have won 10 of their last 11 games. They are primed for a championship this year, and (assuming Glavine and Martinez are ok) should win it all. In 2000, when they played the Yanks in the first true subway world series, my cousins Jill and JP gave up a ticket so I could fly up and enjoy the game (Game 3, which is the only game the Mets won that year). Will they offer another ticket again? One can only hope, and beg, and offer mad money...


NB - Jill wanted me to make it clear that SHE was the one that gave up a ticket. JP accompanied me to the game.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Quick Takes..

A couple of updates from previous blog entries

1) Water bill - we received our water bill for last month. Because we were able to reduce our consumption over 10% from the previous year, we were not charged tiered pricing. Had we been, the bill would have been very high. We reduced from 58,000 gallons to 32,000. Still have more work to do, but everyone is doing a great job pitching in.

2) Justin - Justin is back home already (after not quite three weeks in Austin). He and his girlfriend decided they were too young to play house and be so serious. Sometimes I really wish he'd listen to me. He's got his old job back, but not much in the way of plans (at least that I know of). Will be interesting and sure to be the subject of many blog entries going forward.

3) School - everyone is back in school (Dylan, Marissa, myself AND Cassie). Cassie is going to pre-school at a local church two days a week, and seems very excited. She'll receive instruction in Spanish, Computers, Gym and "Big" church. She is very excited. I wish I had her excitement. I am taking Linear Algebra and Business Law. Not much fun. Dylan has taken up 7th grade football, and Marissa has been inquiring about Volleyball. They are doing awesome!

4) Bitten - I've been "re-bitten" by the golf bug coming off of my weekend with the boys. A good bud of mine and I have a 6:28AM tee time for Friday. Can anyone say coffee?

5) License to kill - I've renewed my Freshwater Fishing license in Texas, AND added a hunting license to it. Add on an endorsement for migratory birds and a HIP registration, and I'm ready for the carnage. Angie's uncle is taking me dove hunting on Sunday (for you New Yorkers, pigeon is a type of dove, so don't feel bad). This is the year I catch a fish down here, too.

6) Love is in the air - Angie and I continue to have a period of closeness, kindness and intimacy. Everything is better when that occurs. Pray that it continues.


Monday, August 21, 2006

A day so nice, let's play twice...

but it was so hot, we only played half of the second one...

I know the beginning does not read as the opening of a love letter, but that is exactly what this blog is all about. You see, I have a wife that understands me and acts on that understanding. Clearly, there are times where her needs are secondary to my own - and regardless of how she is feeling, she let's me come first. This doesn't happen all the time, nor is Angie perfect, but what I am slowly coming to realize is that the things that I would cause fights about (housekeeping, organization, responsibility, etc.) are all secondary to what really matters. And, if I focus on those things that matter, Angie hits a home run consistently.

Case in point (and the reason for the title): This weekend I spent playing golf with coworkers near Lake Texoma. About 12 of us decided a three day, 2 round a day session was in order starting Friday morning. Because I had to attend offsite meetings, I made plans to meet the guys Friday night at the resort.

After working for the day and spending some time with Angie and the kids, I left for Tanglewood. I played tons of golf (45 holes for me), won some money (my partner and I came in second in a best ball round), lost some money (The Choctaw Indians have it), ate some good food and had a great time.

When I got home on Sunday, Angie and the kids were still out, so I caught a nap. When she got home, it was just so evident that she was happy to have me home. It is just amazing that the nicer and more thoughtful we are to each other, the more we want to is just this great cycle that we are in right now, and I'll do as much as possible to keep it going. Unfortunately, school starts tonight, so it will get that much harder - but it's worth it.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Move to Austin

This weekend marked a milestone for Angie and I. We helped Justin move to Austin. Justin and his girlfriend decided to move to Austin to start her schooling at an area school. Although Angie and I do not support Justin's decision, we still love him and needed to help move his stuff for him. I'm surprised Angie hasn't blogged about it yet - she's having a hard time coming to grips that she has a near 20 year old.

We packed his stuff in the back of the truck, and headed out for our three hour ride to the Texas capital.

Unfortunately, I was traveling with three of the fairer sex, so it took a while since we had to make a couple of stops. Had we had more time, I'm sure I would have been requested to make more stops for the multitude of antique stores along route 35 going south. Fortunately, we left late and didn't have all that much time.

We arrived in Austin, and we were really impressed with where they are staying. They found a small apartment right in Longhorn country, and no doubt they will have fun with all the shops, clubs, and small restaurants. Couldn't help being a little envious of what appears to be a really neat place to live.

However, I think that they are both going to learn a thing or two about responsibility, too. Hopefully, Justin will learn a bit about being a man on his own, the same way I did when I was on my own. It's hard, and I tried to teach him that. Hopefully some of it stuck. He seems to be very excited - he secured a job, got a raise from what he was making in Dallas, and even got benefits.

Until then, I'm sure Angie and I will have many excursions into the "weird" city. Should be fun.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Yo! Read 'dis, you'ze guys.

I said I was going to post during our week vacation in NYC, but I didn't because we never really had any down time. From leaving the house here in Rowlett 'till pulling back into the driveway at midnight on Saturday, it's been go, go, go - and every minute of it has been awesome.

We arrived Friday night late in NY. Unfortunately, so did every other plane scheduled to arrive at LaGuardia that night. Apparently, some weather delayed some flights, so it was mayhem at the airport and at the car rental. Took us over two hours to get to AMA's house from when we landed.

Saturday and Sunday was spent with family. Cousins Jill and JP had their annual block party in Long Beach on Saturday and we had a family get together on Sunday. It was so good to see family, particularly my brother and his family, whom I haven't seen in several years.

What was great about the week is that we really never stopped spending time with family, even when doing our vacation things...Monday was spent at the Bronx Zoo with my brother and his daughter, Jessica. Since they go to the zoo often, they helped us get the most out of our time there. Great fun.

Tuesday was our sightseeing day in Manhattan culminating in our surprise to the kids - "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway. Absolutely awesome. We went to the top of Rockefeller Center, walked 5th Avenue, shopped at FAO Schwarz, ate dinner at The Jekyll and Hyde Club, spent some time in Nintendo World, and went to the play. It was so HOT, but great fun nonetheless.

Wednesday was spent with the entire family at Lido Beach in Hempstead, NY. The kids still can't get over the fact that great beaches are so close to the city...

Thursday was spent with family at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. It was fun watching the kids get over their roller coaster fears. Truly a perfect day, until I got tossed from Batman because I couldn't close the seat over my gut. Time for a diet.

Friday was spent visiting with my Aunt Carole Anne who couldn't join us as she recovers from some knee surgery. We spent a couple of hours with her and had lunch. Then, we were off to Shea to see the Mets. We had 27 family members as a group and had a blast, even though the Mets got beat. The family is so much fun - in fact, I think the kids think me and my NY family are a little crazy - but that's ok, we were just enjoying each other.

It was such an awesome week, but I know this much, it is ALWAYS great to get home. Although I've been working today, I've already slept so much better in my own bed. I can't wait to be able to go back and not sleep well.


Friday, July 28, 2006

I can't believe it's here already...

Today we leave for our family vacation to NY (see post of 6/27). At 5:25 today, we'll be en route to New York's La Guardia airport to begin our family fun. I'm so excited to see my family, and more importantly, to have my family back in NY get to know my family in Texas.

I can envision just sitting back and watching those relationships build. The kids (Marissa, Dylan and Justin) have only been to NY once, and Cassie hasn't been there in about a year, so that's what I'm most excited about. I've been just about everywhere in NY that we plan to visit, so that's going to be MY fun.

I'm going to blog about a trip, and perhaps post a couple of pictures, so you can all share the fun with us...

See you in NY. I need a real bagel and a real slice of pizza!


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pool Boy

I've recently come to the conclusion that my beautiful wife (Angie) knows me like no other human being on this earth. What is troublesome about this fact, is that she uses this information to her advantage. Smart? Yes. Devious? Definitely. Expensive? You better believe it. Be careful not to underestimate a beautiful woman.

Here's a recent example; Angie has been bugging me for a while now to get a pool installed. I IMMEDIATELY shut down the discussion telling her that we can't afford it, that we don't have the room in the backyard due to a utility line running through it, and that it isn't in the best interest of our family. Case closed, further discussion averted, right? Wrong!

What does she do? She gets me excited about it. That's all it takes, I guess.

She has scheduled two pool companies to come to the house, to talk about pools, and give us some ideas about price. When I confronted her about having estimates done, she just said she wanted to get some ideas and she thought it would be fun. I think she just knew that getting me involved would start the excitement process. By the way, the best quote heard so far: "We can definitely get you in under $30,000.00" Sheesh, I thought this was going to be expensive!!!

Yesterday is a good example. She had a guy come in, and the next thing I know I'm going through these little plastic templates placing a kidney shaped offering in a drawn to-scale version of my backyard. It was so cool, and what did it do - it got me excited about getting a pool. I inquired about the deck. I asked about the fence. I knew I was in trouble when I offered that I really wanted a hot tub.

Fortunately, the financing will probably bring me down to earth, and we won't do anything stupid, at least not now. However, I now know that Angie knows how to get to me - and that knowledge may be the most expensive thing I can think of.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Am I capable?

As I was sitting on the plane today (I'm in California for a sales offsite), I began to think hard about my career and the leadership positions I am in today and the one I am currently trying to obtain. This thought process was probably brought on because I started reading Winning by former GE CEO Jack Welch. Many consider Mr. Welch as the foremost expert on leadership, management and, well, winning at business.

Several things have come up recently that have continued my quest to understand my leadership capabilities, and where I should be within my career. First and foremost, I interviewed for a Global Director position this week. The interviews went well and I really don't know if I'll get the position, but I believe it is what I've worked toward for the last several years and that it is a position in which I am well suited.

Combined with the quest for a promotion, I recently shared some of my discoveries around self-awareness and its position with respect to leadership at a church conference. My good friend asked to interview me regarding the topic because he knew we spent some significant time on it in the training that I participated in at Wharton. Clearly, understanding yourself is foundational to being able to understand others...which is key in leading others.

Lastly, I've been thinking about what would happen if I actually received a promotion. Am I capable? Can I lead a team? Can I work hard enough to be sucessful? Can I promote others instead of myself? There are many others questions in which I've been working through. Ultimately, I think I can do the job, and with God's help even be successful - even if I'm scared out of my wits.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rain, Rain, Please come here...

...water bill is what I fear!

Remember that old kid's song, the one we sang when it was raining and we couldn't go out to play? Well, the above is my version.

You see, North Texas has been under a drought since 2005 and things are getting somewhat nasty. My water bill is the worst of all the nastiness. (For those of you that read my blog regularly, the huge rain that we had a couple of months ago completely missed the lake in which our water is from).

Last week, the city of Rowlett instituted TEMPORARY price increases for water. If you saw my water bill previous to this jacking of prices, you might agree that the price was already crazy. Now, it is just nonsense. How does a family with 4 kids living at home manage water consumption? The answer is that we don't and we are going to get creamed for it.

The new pricing is based on 1000 gallon increments, and goes up after 15,000 gallons. That is a lot of water, isn't it? Well, it might be, but it is NOT enough for us. Two months ago we used a whopping 58,000 gallons. That would have resulted in a water bill over $640 bucks. Last month, 38,000 - still a HUGE bill. We mostly reduced our consumption by watering the lawn less. Now, as per city regulations, we water once a week - on trash day. I'll give it 20 minutes per zone in the morning, and another 20 minutes in the evening. Gets the lawn a little over an inch per week (recommended by most lawn care services).

We are going to meet with the kids about saving water. We're taking steps that should help us reduce our usage even more than just watering less. We've started turning the water off while we shower, shave and brush our teeth. We are reusing water from the kiddie pool in our landscaping, and running less bath water for Cassie. I don't know how much more we can cut, but we're trying. I'll update when we get this month's water bill.

One last thing - In North Texas, the soil quality is such that we need to keep the moisture content stable around the foundations of our houses. One of the reasons why I watered so often, is that the sprinklers would ensure that this was done. Now, I have to go and buy soaker hoses to do this...anyone know how often or how long I should keep the soakers on to ensure that the foundation stays good? Let me know.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Party at my house...

This weekend we had some good friends over for no good reason other to spend time with them. If you remember, a couple of entries ago, I blogged about how we all gave the house a very good cleaning. Once that was done, it was easy to say, "Let's have everyone over". You see, I love to entertain in our house, but Angie and I (mostly me) really feel like our home has to be inviting in order to do it. This typically means making sure it is clean. Actually, Angie and I have different takes on this, but when you look at it, we are really the same.

In order for us to invite people over, I want my home to be neat, orderly and clean. This is one of the ways that I feel we can convey to our friends that we want them there. Most of them tell us that it is nonsense, and that may be true. Most of us have multiple children, and most of our homes are pretty much in disarray most of the time.

For Angie, she was to decorate when company is coming, not clean. She hangs pictures, rearranges furniture, and basically does a "decorating on a dime" before our friends arrive. Everything typically looks great when she's done, and this time is no different. The house looks great.

One thing we agree on is how the outside should look. We both felt motivate to get the flowerbeds weeded and planted. (Un)fortunately, this year we hired our landscaper to do the work. Between work, school and general laziness, we hadn't gotten it done this year. He cleaned our the grass, planted the flowers that Angie and I bought at Home Depot, and laid down the mulch. It looks great. Everything did and we had a great time with friends.

Now I just need to figure out how we are going to keep all of those plants alive with the water restrictions in place. Apparently, our IMMENSE water bill is going to go up 4X unless we figure out how to lower our usage. I'll blog about that one next time...


Monday, July 03, 2006

S, as is Snake

It was 11:30PM, Friday evening, and I was stepping outside to sit on the porch and enjoy the nice summer breeze. As I opened the door, I saw a snake sitting on the flagstone. It was late, relatively dark and I couldn't really make out too much of it - other than it was the largest snake I've ever seen where there wasn't glass separating the two of us (this doesn't include to cobras and pit vipers I've seen at the Croc-bank in India, but we did have a wall between us then).

Needless to say, I quickly went to fetch Angie. She's from Texas, and has had a more run-ins with our limbless neighbors than I have. She was home when the 5 foot rat snake was on our window sill, and when our neighbor killed a 5 foot copperhead that was on our driveway.

I don't know too much about snakes other than they CAN be venomous. In fact, of the 4 types of venomous snakes in North America, all four can be found in Texas (Water Moccasin (Cottonmouth), Copperhead, Rattlesnake, and Coral snake). I was pretty sure this was either a rat snake or a copperhead, but it was too dark to see it well. Angie knew only one thing - it needed to die.

I killed it, but I've been struggling with that fact since I separated its head from its body. If it were a rat snake, then it posed very little hazard to us, and they are very beneficial (keeping the rodent and snake population down - and since we have a large field and creek behind the house, keeping both in control is good for us). I've spent some time on websites since the incident, and have come to the determination that it was probably a rat snake. It appears that if it were anything else, it should have had "slit" eyes (Coral snakes have round eyes, but I know the coloring of the coral snake).

I think next time, I may just take a little more time and be sure...I could be killing the very thing that would eat that mouse or venomous snake that really wants in the house.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"If I can make it there..."'ll be a miracle, since there are seven of us going! That's right, we've booked our family vacation back home to New York. This month is going to seem so long waiting for our departure. Angie and I are taking the kids back to New York at the end of July. We'll be staying at AMA's house (7 of us, plus her and my nephew Paul in a two story, two bedroom house) and it will be a little "snug", but reminiscent of our family sleep-overs when I was young. There will be sleeping on the floors, couches, and anything else soft.

I'm so grateful that she lets us come up to stay with her. Our vacation is like work for her. Maybe that's why we haven't done it since before Cassie was born (Thanksgiving week in 2001 - right after 9/11). All I know is that I can't wait. It is important that the kids get to know their family in New York and that my family in New York get to know the kids. Also, where can we go that we don't need a hotel, and that I can fly 3 of us for $1000 and use 100,000 miles for the others? Other than a rental and activities, it is a relatively affordable vacation.

On our agenda:
Block party at Jill and JP's house in Long Beach (we'll get to see everyone there)
Family get together at AMA's house (Fiesta Salad, here I come)
Beach (can't get to the shore in North Texas - at least not easily)
Great Adventure (called Six Flags down here)
Bronx Zoo
Day in Manhattan (with a special surprise for the kids)
Met Game (the FIRST place Mets, that is)
Visits with more family

All I know is that Cassie won't stop talking about seeing her cousins (Nat, CeeCee, AmandaMu, Katydid), her "Uncle" Paul, her AMA, her ACA, and everyone else.

I'm getting excited thinking about it. Is it July 28th, yet?


Sunday, June 25, 2006

House Cleaning

Why is it that we keep all of our junk? Are we so loath to give up any of our STUFF? It seems we just keep this crap forever, or at least until we decide that we have no more room, and then we either chuck it, try to sell it, or give it to good will. How can it be that we have so much, but still try to accumulate more and more.

Today, we spent most of the entire day cleaning house. It was a SERIOUS cleaning, especially on the second floor, where the kids bedrooms, the gameroom, and my office reside. By the end of this exercise, we had almost three full contractor-style garbage bags full of garbage. It is insane! I'm not saying that it's only the kids, either. A lot of my stuff was in those bags, too. I keep old receipts, old bills, old insurance papers, old notes from school - you name it, and I just don't throw it out.

The kids are bad, too. What makes it even worse with them, is that EVERYTHING just gets chucked to the bottom of the closets and under their beds. I am telling you, those days are over. Regular checking into the kids rooms to ensure that things stay somewhat orderly.

And me, well, I'm going to start throwing stuff out. But not that (it's important) or that (it's sentimental)....ok, this is going to take some work.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Tall as a Shark

Cassie's been looking forward to this week, as she was making a Father's Day craft for daddy. Like most kids, she couldn't wait until Sunday to give it to me, so she gave it to me last night. I acknowledge that I'm the only one who cares, so this blog is really for me (see my second post about people who talk about their kids).

The gift is a shirt and tie made of paper. The shirt has been colored in several colors of crayon. The tie is blue (my favorite color), and says "Happy Father's Day - I love you very much and miss you when you're in India. Love Cassie"

What is even more entertaining is the back, which has a form of questions to which Cassie obviously dictated answers. Enjoy:

My daddy is 26 years old.

My daddy is as tall as a shark.

My daddy is as strong as he can carry our coffee table.

My daddy is special because he is happy.

I like it when my daddy snuggles with me.

My daddy can do many things! I think he is best at coloring with me.

My daddy is smart. He even knows how to lift a frog.

Daddy always tells me funny stories.

I wish I knew what was going through her head sometimes. I don't know where she gets these answers, but they're fun - AND, I DO LOVE TO SNUGGLE WITH HER!


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Flag Day

Flag Day was originally started as "Flag Birthday" back in 1885. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson established today as Flag Day, and in 1949, Truman signed an Act of Congress marking June 14 as National Flag Day.

Unfortunately, today many people just don't seem to respect the flag as a symbol of our country. I would expect that many don't know the words to "The Star Spangled Banner". I don't know when it became cool to not show respect to your country, or worse, show blatant disrespect for this country and its symbols. That being said, I love this country because you are free to speak badly about it - but I am also free to disagree with that sentiment. That's why you'll find a flag flying in front of my home every day.

Major League Baseball has a clip available today that sums up these freedoms. It is from April 25, 1976, where Rick Monday of the Cubs grabs a flag from two protesters about to burn it in between innings at a Cubs/Dodgers game. It is classic. I don't know if the video will be available for long, but I urge you to look for it. What's amazing is that the crowd began to cheer, and spontaneously broke out into a rendition of "America the Beautiful".

If you cannot share my sentiment, look for the picture of the firemen raising the flag at ground zero. If that doesn't elicit an emotional response in you, I think you might be dead or possibly from France, or both.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Is it already June???

Where has this year gone? It feels like we just were wishing each other a 'Happy New Year', and 2006 is already half over. You can tell it's June in Texas, because we are at 100 degrees, and will continue to be for the next several months. The heat is brutal for this yank, and I'm in the middle of the suffering.

The good news is that Angie doesn't seem to be suffering too bad. She continues to recover very well. In fact, as we head towards the end of her third post-op week, I think she is getting antsy to start doing things. Her car has been in the shop getting an overhaul, and she is starting to complain about it. Hopefully, the CD I'm having installed for her should make the wait bearable.

Since it's already June, summer session is in full swing. I'm taking the second semester of Calculus, and man, is that stuff hard. It's so funny, but the course is Applied Calculus, which means that there is 'supposed' to be relevant teaching from the concepts to real-world application, especially for business. But, in all honesty, I've been in business a long time, and I've NEVER used Integral Theory, Area Under a Curve, or the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. I don't think I ever will either.

The kids are also busy with their stuff. Cassie started FROG camp and a nearby church. They do cool activities, have visitors from the neighborhood, learn about God, and do all the summer stuff. She is loving it. Dylan is going to Middle School Madness, which is day camp for middle schoolers, and Marissa is at VBS. (For the family back home - VBS, or Vacation Bible School, is day camp at church where they do many of the things that Cassie is doing in her camp). The kids love it, and it keeps them relatively busy during the summer instead of bored, which they can quickly become.

Lastly, I'm starting to really miss my family back home, so we are looking to see what our options are for coming up. Looks like a late July - early Aug trip to NYC. The Mets are home on Aug 4, so we might use that for planning. I can't wait to see's been too long. What I enjoy most is that my Texas family gets to know my New York family. That's real important to me, and it's so enjoyable to watch while it happens.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back to the grind

I’m sitting at my desk at work and it feels like I’ve never been away. In fact, however, I haven’t sat at this desk in a week. I’ve been home helping Angie recuperate from her hysterectomy that she had last week. Angie has been suffering from “women’s issues” for a while now – seems that she had a very large fibroid that was the culprit. This was the last option for taking care of these issues and she very much looks forward to not suffering from them any longer. She hopes that after she recovers from the surgery, she’ll be much better. She’s been doing real well.

I’ve been home trying my best to take care of her, the kids, and the house. In all honesty, I am not wired up real well for these things. I suffer from much greater levels of stress doing domestic things than I do at the office. It doesn’t matter that I have over 1000 e-mail to catch up on, several fires that were smoldering when I left but are now full bonfires, and all the new work to do – I’m just more comfortable – like when you sleep in your own bed after being in a hotel for a couple of days.

Now my phone is being to ring…apparently word has gotten out that I am back in the office. Ah – maybe I was better off at home.

I wanted to communicate a very sincere “Thank You” to our family and friends that have helped us with watching the kids, feeding us, and praying for us. It is amazing how, in a time of need, there are so many people willing to assist. You are all a blessing.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Good things come to those who wait...and, put together trampolines for their kids

Angie has finally been feeling better, and was nice enough to give me a proper birthday yesterday. After I worked up a real sweat, that is.

On our way home from church yesterday afternoon, we passed a large garage sale. Marissa and I were the only ones who spotted it, but I chimed in about the large trampoline that was out there. I think I said something to the effect of, "I wonder if they are selling that, too?" After being interrogated by everyone as to what the 'that' was, the kids (and Angie) brow beat me into turning around and checking it out. (Angie has been hitting me up for a trampoline for the kids since we moved into the new house).

After looking it over, in a moment of weakness, I capitulated, and told the kids we would buy it. I gave the guy the $50 I had on me, and told him that we'd be back with the rest to take it off his hands..


The trampoline is up, and I am sore as all get out. Every muscle in my body hurts, my hands hurt, and I'm sunburned on my neck...but at least the kids can jump up and down to their hearts content.

Oh - and regarding my birthday, I got the home entertainment system that I've been hitting Angie up for. I can't wait to be able to recover from my soreness watching Jurassic Park, or someone huge loud movie on my big screen with surround sound. Gonna be fun!


Saturday, May 20, 2006

The big "THREE SEVEN" in Cincy

As I get older, I am constantly amazed at how our birthdays are just not big deals. Remember when we were kids and there were two days that we couldn't wait for? Our birthdays and Christmas day. Now, the b-day is just another day. In fact, sometimes our birthday is worse than normal days.

My birthday was Friday, and this is how my day went...

1) Got up at 3:45 AM (that is not a mistake) because I had a 6:40AM flight to Cincinnati.
2) Flew the two hour flight on a small Embralier ERJ-140 jet (has 44 seats).
3) Met with a potential CRM vendor for the day
4) Learned that Cincinnati is famous for three things; ribs, chili, and ice-cream. Had ribs for lunch.
5) Rushed back to the airport for the flight home. Landed at 5:59PM, got home after 7.
6) Answered some well wishes on the phone, picked up Dylan from his ball game and came home.

What should be mentioned is that Angie was sick as a dog with strep. In fact, Angie is so physically strong and has such an incredibly high threshold for pain, that anytime she complains I know it is FOR REAL - so I cannot hold yesterday against her.

7) Fell asleep on the couch watching Resident Evil, which I received for my birthday.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Playing video games pays the bills...

I shared my background, and how I got into the software industry, with some friends recently. They thought that the story was interesting, and one - who shall remain nameless (BOB) suggested that I blog about it. His idea was that playing video games got me where I am today, and he's essentially right.

I've always been computer savvy, and much of that comes from the fact that I've been playing on them since grade school. Computers were relatively uncommon back in the mid and late 70's, yet I was fortunate enough to be exposed to both dumb terminals and Commodore PETs. In fact, the Commodores we had at school were the reason I got a Commodore 64 for home. I could make that machine fly - anything I wanted to do, I could. I programmed in basic, made games, music, graphics, whatever. I even made a customer record program for my sister who worked for a dentists office. You could input records, print labels, etc. I don't think it was ever used, but it was pretty slick. I think the best thing I ever wrote was a bombadier game, where you dropped bombs on the landscape that scrolled by. It had music, sound effects, graphics, scoring, the whole deal. It wasn't professional, but heck, I was only 14, or so.

I finally scored my first PC when I was in my early twenties. I remember that hunk of crap fondly. It was a Canon PC (yes, Canon, the copier people) that had 1MB RAM, and ran at 100MHz (I think). It had an 80 MB HDD and cost me a whopping 2 Grand. I thought that machine was it, until some new games came out. The two that really gave me trouble were Castle Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.

You see, I couldn't play either of them because I didn't have enough conventional memory (that's the first 640KB on machines of those days - we don't worry about conventional memory anymore). In order to play the games, I needed to install a memory manager and MS-DOS 6.2 had just that. Not only did I get VERY proficient on the memory manager stuff, but I learned a ton about my machine, DOS, and compression software for hard drives. All out of necessity. Heck, I even installed my own sound card, CD-ROM drive and additional RAM. (AMA - do you remember me dropping the computer down the stairs because I was so excited to show you I installed the CD? I do.)

Then, on April 15, 1996 I decided to try and get a job with a small software company in NY (then Helix Software which was acquired by McAfee at the end of 97) that was hiring an entry level support guy to join the team. Heck, the pay was only $18,500 a year, but I could play with computers?!?! Sign me up. I got the job because of my extensive knowledge with MemMaker (low and behold the company I was interviewing with WROTE MemMaker for Microsoft, and was looking for an engineer to help support, among other things, their beefed up version called Netroom).

I got hired, worked hard, and have loved most of it ever since. AND, I'm still playing Doom (just the newer version that came out last year!).


Sunday, May 14, 2006

It's always nice getting home

I've been home for a couple of days now, and nothing beats pulling into the driveway after a long trip. It is just so pleasant arriving back home after being away. I upgraded myself using miles for the flight back from Japan (something I rarely do, since I'd rather use the miles to bring everyone somewhere, or family to us). I slept on the flight, so when I arrived home, although tired, I wasn't completely exhausted.

The routine after long trips is that the kids want to see what I brought them. This trip was no different, although I didn't have too much for them since there was limited time to do any shopping. Marissa got a hand carved shell with dolphins on it. Dylan got a hand carved stone ball with different animals on it. Justin got the same thing, but his had Hindu gods on it. Angie got some jade. Cassie got what she asked for, an India outfit (given to her by my host in Chennai), some bindis and bangles. I don't think she's gone a day without wearing the outfit - it looks really cute, and she thinks of herself as some Indian princess.

Since I've been home, we've had some playtime in the neighborhood on Friday night, Dylan's paintball 12th birthday party here(which was amazing fun - up until I got pegged in the neck - OUCH!), our couples small group on Saturday night (it is so nice getting back together with friends), and church this morning. We celebrated Mother's Day at Tin Star (Dylan's birthday choice), and I've been working on the computer ever since.

Back to the grind tomorrow - it's still so nice to be home. By being away once in a while, I really am able to not take everyone for granted so bad.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I'm outta here....almost

For the next several hours, I'll either be working, or flying, so I probably won't have another chance to post while in Asia. It has been a long trip, but productive, and I've stayed healthy, so I am thankful. I've visited five of our partner sites, have seen some interesting things, got a ton of work done, and have generally had a good time. I am real tired, that's for sure, but maybe that just means I'll sleep on the long flight home from Japan. Unfortunately, I have a long layover there, prior to the flight.

We'll, there is more work to do, so I'm out of here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Manila to Tokyo: Northwest Airlines Flight 20
Departs: 8:10AM Arrives: 1:20PM
Duration: 4:10 Miles: 1879
Total Duration: 32:31 Total Miles: 14799

Tokyo to Dallas: American Airlines Flight 60
Departs: 6:00PM Arrives: 3:25PM
Duration: 11:25 Miles: 6437
Total Duration: 43:56 Total Miles: 21236


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sleep, work and shopping

There isn't too much to do in Manila. In fact, since we have so much work to do and not much time left to do it, I find myself either working or sleeping. The only other thing to do is to shop. Last time here, we went to several shopping areas where there are 3 main products to buy; illegal copies of DVDs, counterfeit watches and pearls. The tight schedule I have this trip won't allow too much time for shopping.

I received the pictures from India today, so I thought I'd post some. The first picture is from the Parrot reading. The picture shows the parrot picking my card that forms my fortune. I'll tell you, those birds were well trained.

The second photo is of me and my guests walking to on of the many temples in Mahabalipuram. You can see that the temple is carved directly into the rock face. It is amazing to see the detail involved, particularly since the temples were formed in 650AD.

The last is another of one of the many temples in the area. Look at the incredible detail that is carved into the rock. I'm amazed by the work, and wonder what they would do if there was a mistake. It isn't like you can just start over. Each of the temples took about 30 years, or so, to complete.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Need some sleep

I haven't had a chance to post, since I've been flying, working and not sleeping. It is 12:37AM Tuesday morning here (11:37AM CST Monday morning) and I'm in the office working on about 4.5 hours sleep over the last 24. I'm tired, but well and safely in Manila. Will blog about it as soon as I can.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Chennai to Singapore: Singapore Airlines Flight 409
Departs: 11:45PM IST Arrives: 6:25AM (Monday)
Duration: 4:10 Miles: 1816
Total Duration: 24:51 Total Miles: 11444

Monday, May 8, 2006

Singapore to Manila: Singapore Airlines Flight 72
Departs: 9:45AM Arrives: 1:15PM
Duration: 3:30 Miles: 1476
Total Duration: 28:21 Total Miles: 12920

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Lunch that almost was

2:34PM IST

I spoke to Cassie and Angie yesterday (it had been about a day since I last spoke to everyone) and their voices were like sweet music. Whenever I am on the road for a prolonged time, Cassie sounds like she ages years. I well-up every time we speak. Yesterday, she gave me a long list of things that she wanted me to bring back for her. Since the only two gifts remaining to buy were for her and Angie, it was good timing. These are the things that she asked for:

A Sari
A Bindi (the decorative dot that Indians wear on their foreheads)
Bangle Bracelets

She knows what a sari and a bindi are because I brought her back an Indian barbie doll on one of my previous trips. So now I had my mission.

The intention today was to go shopping and to go to a colleague's house for lunch hosted by him and his wife. I was to enjoy a traditional Kerala lunch, and from what it sounds like, would have been wonderful. They were planning to pull out all of the stops for their American visitor. Although quite nervous about the visit (I wanted to make sure I was polite, even if I thought something wouldn't have been good or safe to eat). When I got picked up, my host informed me (quite apologetically, I may add), that their landlord had workers in the house and that lunch had been regrettably cancelled. We did shop and ended up at a crafts bazaar. It was here that my host bought Cassie her outfit. Not quite a sari, but traditional clothes for a young lady. We then went to an area mall and I found her cheap bangle bracelets and bindis. The only things she won't be getting are the rings and the earrings. Clip-ons are unheard of here.

Now it is off to bed before my flight to Singapore, my three hour layover, and my flight on to Manila. Hopefully, I will be able to find Angie something there.


Saturday, May 06, 2006


7:08AM IST

It's been a little while since I've posted, and that is because it has been nonstop. Yesterday (Saturday) we got some sleep after leaving the office at about 3:00AM, and then went sightseeing.

Our first stop was Dakshina Chitra which contains recreations of different types of ancient houses in India. We saw houses from different parts of India. One thing that struck me was how cool they were. Even though it was close to 100 degrees outside, they are constructed in a way where strong breezes pass through most rooms. We saw a potter make a vase and a cup, and I had a Parrot reading done. A parrot reading is where a parrot picks a card for me, and someone can interpret my future based on what card it picks. According to my reading, I have withstood demonic forces which means that I am impervious to accident, will live a long life finally succumbing to natural causes. Also, the last five years have been tough, but that this period has ended (as of February), and I will now enjoy a period of prosperity. Lastly, in October, I am to take a risk on a venture that will be profitable for me.

After that, we left to drive south along the coast to Mahabalipuram. On the way, we saw several refugee camps from the tsunami. Once there, we disembarked, and walked the ruins of ancient Hindu temples that are carved directly into the enormous rocks and hills. The structures are amazing, and to think that they were all carved by hand in about 650 AD. After walking and climbing (and sweating), we stopped into a local stone carver shop and haggled our way to some bargains. (I'll post some pictures as soon as I receive them from our hosts).

On the way back, we tried get a couple of beers to replenish from the hot day, but all bars were closed (and alcohol sales prohibited) because Monday is election day. Apparently, Indians get passionate about their politics, and to reduce the conflict that can come about, India prohibits alcohol sales during and before any election.

Once I got back to the hotel, I cracked open a large Kingfisher lager. It was yummy.


Friday, May 05, 2006

In a jam

5:00PM IST

India has some of the worst traffic I have ever experienced anywhere in the world. What took 15 minutes late last night afternoon, took an hour and ten minutes yesterday afternoon, and 25 today.

Imagine every mode of transportation known to man all vying for space on the streets. Imagine, that, with no rules, either. Upon experiencing the traffic in India for the first time, it looks like mayhem. However, after a while you start to understand that there is some order to the chaos. I like to call it controlled chaos. There are two main differences with respect to traffic in India vs. the US.

1) In India, there are no lanes. Actually, there are painted lines on the street, but no on pays any attention to them. In fact, I've seen cars, for no apparent reason just drift from one side of the road to the other with regard for anything else on the road.

2) The horn is used, but more amazingly, is actually heeded. I think that since no one pays attention to the lanes, that having and using and listening to the horn is of great assistance. Whether a pedestrian, bicycle, or whatever, when the car I'm in honks the horn, the slower traffic moves over when possible.

That being said, there is a hierarchy on the streets that is absolutely essential, and must be adhered to. The hierarchy is as follows (from lowest to highest):

1) Dogs (there are a lot of dogs running around the streets in India). Most are limping due to the fact that they are lowest on the hierarchy.
2) Pedestrians (clearly higher than dogs, but not by much)
3) Bicycles
4) Tricycles (used mainly for moving items - produce, etc., and sleeping)
5) Motorcycles
6) Autorickshaws (little three wheel covered taxis powered by what look to be lawnmower engines). They are the taxis of India for the common people. They look very dangerous, and you won't find me in one.
7) Cars
8) Trucks
9) Buses
10) Cows

The last one is not a joke. Cows walk freely in the streets everywhere in India. They are revered and considered both sacred and luck producing. I had a huge cow, and her calf, walking toward our car on the way to the office today (yes, it was moving AGAINST traffic). Everyone just moves over.



12:28 PM IST

I've never been much of a celebrity hound, even in NYC where seeing celebrities is somewhat commonplace. However, when you see a movie star who is the most popular personality in a country of over 1 BILLION people, sometimes you have to stop and take notice.

As we approached baggage claim after our flight to Chennai yesterday, my traveling companions were all excited and had to show us the pictures they took.

"We saw Aishwarya Rai! We saw Aishwarya Rai! She was on OUR flight!"

Because I've spent some time in India, I knew instantly who they were talking about. She's bigger here than the biggest star in the US, by far. In a country where more movies are made than anywhere, Aishwarya Rai's a big deal.

So we had our excitement, saw her again on the way out of the airport and were off to the hotel. That's where the fun starts. I am staying at the Taj Coromandel Hotel in Chennai. It was presented to me as the same hotel that the chairman of the company I am visiting uses, so I knew it was nice - but when I saw Ms. Rai in the lobby checking in as I entered, I knew I was staying somewhere nice.

As I shared this story with my colleagues here in India, they said sure - the three most important people in India are in Chennai; the Prime Minister of the country, Ash Rai, and me. I don't know about that last one, but I feel like VIP in this hotel.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mumbai is the Bomb(ay)

2:38AM IST

I’m sitting through an agent interview with our consultant team. Boy, is it interesting to hear how the agents and the management view our processes, offering, products, etc. A real eye-opener, and boy do I need one because I am dog tired. I’m working on 6 hours sleep from last night, and it is real early in the morning her. It’s 4:10PM in Dallas, so my body clock is helping me keep going – and so has the ton of coffee I drank.

In case you’re curious, we had pizza for dinner. Cheese pizza, with some spicy chicken. It was ok – but more importantly it was safe.

We’ll, a couple more hours and off to bed. I’m sleeping for 10 hours tonight.

Since I provided it for Delhi, I thought I’d share some interesting sites for Mumbai, as well.

Elephanta Caves
Gateway of India
Queen’s Necklace

By the way, Mumbai used to be called Bombay before India changed many of their city names.