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.


Off to Mumbai

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Delhi to Mumbai: Sahara Airlines Flight 105
Departs: 3:55PM IST Arrives: 5:50PM IST
Duration: 1:55 Miles: 708
Total Duration: 18:56 Total Miles: 8984

Traveling domestically in India is sort of descriptive of the Indian people – basically, it is a study of two extremes. Until relatively recently, India was made up of two classes – the small number of “haves”, and an overwhelming number of “have nots”. Interestingly enough, with the emergence of BPO and other outsourcing, the Indian culture has been going through significant changes, with a rather large and affluent middle-class emerging.

Back to the flying – there is the experience at the airports (that’s the have nots), and then on the plane itself (the haves). You see, being on a domestic Indian flight is incredibly comfortable. In fact, there service is similar to ours USED to be before 9/11, actually even better. I’ve come to understand that Indians expect a meal on a flight. You could be flying 35 minutes to a nearby city, but guaranteed, you are going to be served a meal, coffee, candies, and a cold towel. And, you are going to be served this by a rather attractive young attendant who is dressed in a traditional sari wearing a lot of make-up. I think it is the law in India .

It’s a good thing that you are treated well on the plane, because getting there is a nightmare. My flight today was delayed about an hour, and then all of a sudden, it is final call for boarding. I hadn’t even left the waiting area for security, yet. The waiting area is just completely packed with both people and mosquitoes. I’m convinced that I’m one bite away from Malaria or Dengue.

By the way, there are two meal choices in India – veg or non-veg. I always go with the non-veg, I like meat. Today’s meal was, you guessed it, a Subway sandwich. It looked good, but went uneaten. Unfortunately, it had lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber on it. To eat uncooked vegetables in India is to invite disaster. Why? The vegetables are rinsed with water to maintain some semblance of freshness in the heat. I’ve seen it on the streets. The water is reused, and probably would pass for sewage in the States. Needless to say, I’m a little hungry and a little tired, but enjoying my flight – at least until we land at the airport in Mumbai.

One last note regarding Mumbai: I think the population is 16 million, or so – it is a very highly populated city. However, it also houses India’s largest slum. It is an AMAZING site flying into or out of Mumbai. You cannot imagine the poverty and the conditions of the shanty-town surrounding the airport. Flying in is an experience that is never forgotten and it just makes me thankful to have what I have.


Goodbye, Delhi

11:58 AM IST

I am hurriedly eating breakfast and packing to prepare for my departure from Delhi. Last night, I was in the office of our partner from 6:00PM through 5:00AM, so needless to say, I am a little tired. Unfortunately, when I arrive in Mumbai, I will be dropping off my stuff at the hotel, and proceeding directly to the office. It promises to be a long night.

Last night, however, was very productive. We held our quarterly review with our partner, spent some time on the floor with the agents, recognized several for quality, and did a new product training. It was a busy day, but since I slept so much yesterday, I was actually not sleepy at all.

The temperature in Delhi is supposed to reach 102F. I don’t think I planned my travel real well, since I will be traveling through the heat of the day.

Next stop – Mumbai.