Friday, December 22, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Best Laid Plans -- One Year Later

Last year during Holidailies, I wrote about the night of Hanukah on which we gave Monkey Boy and Peanut some money, and then presented them with a bunch of options where they could donate that money online.

They both ended up donating to an “Adopt a Manatee” program and all was good. They felt good about doing something for another living creature, and MLB and I felt like we had scored one in the category of instilling an appreciation for charity.

Fast forward to this year –

The other night after lighting the Hanukah candles, we presented the kids with some cash and a bunch of printouts (including from “Adopt a Manatee”) with options for this year. What would it be? Sponsoring a “Save the Whales” program? Buying a bunch of chickens for a village in some third world country? Red Cross?

We were surprised by the response: “Do we have to give the money away this year?”

We explained that while we’re by no means rich, they have many things and take for granted things that many people around the world do without. A safe, secure home. Clothes. Food on the table. Toys.

After a bit of reluctance, they finally came around. We had visited the Florida Aquarium last year and the kids decided to donate their money to the aquarium to sponsor the care of marine life. OK, that was on par with last year. Mission accomplished.

An hour or two later as Peanut was preparing for bed, she lamented to me that she didn’t want to give the money away. She’s five so the lesson may be a little tough to get through to her.

I gently explained that she and her brother have so many things. They still had toys they received as presents on their birthdays this summer that still hadn’t been opened. Some children are homeless, hungry – not knowing when or where their next meal will come from. To them, the holidays are no different than any other day because they won’t light menorahs or decorate Christmas trees. They won’t receive presents. Some are so poor that when they get sick, they can't even afford to go to the doctor or to get medicine.

She seemed to contemplate this -- grasping the full meaning of my words.

Then she turned to me with a serious expression and asked:

"I still have toys from my birthday that I haven't opened??"

Guess we'll have to try again next year.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

TIME Magazine's Person of the Year



In a surprise move, TIME magazine named all of US as its "Person of the Year". Why? This was a year in which the individual came front and center. With the incredible rise of user-generated content on the computer, this year more than any before now demonstrated individuals becoming publishers, broadcasters and filmmakers. Not to mention the growth of social networking sites like MySpace where people created pages dedicated to themselves. Now anyone who knows your screen name can locate you on MySpace and find out about your favorite songs, TV shows, movies, hobbies. They can view your pictures and videos. And if they like, you can become virtual "friend" on the platform, where you agree to link to each other's pages.

Apparently this only the 4th time in TIME's history in which it shyed away from naming an actual person as "Person of the Year." In 1966, the 25-and-under generation was cited; in 1975, American women were named; and in 1982, the computer was chosen.

Congratulations on being selected!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Chinese Food on Christmas

This is an instant classic. An original song by a Jewish boy lamenting that he has nowhere to go on Christmas. It's so true and very well done! A must-listen for any Jew who has spent Christmas at the movies.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Santa Laughed At Me

My town does this nice thing where you can submit a form in early December with your phone number and some information about your kids and on a given date, someone calls the house and talks to your kids as Santa. We did it two years ago and it was a huge hit with Monkey Boy (now 8) and Peanut (now 5). We didn’t do it last year because we were out of town the day they were making the calls.

Which brings us to last night. The call came in and my wife, expecting the call from Santa, told Peanut to answer the phone. Now we don’t know what the Santa on the phone said but his voice must be deep like Tom, my brother in law’s.

Peanut listened intently into the phone but didn’t say anything.

MLB: Who is it, Sweetie?
Peanut: It’s Uncle Tom.

Monkey Boy pops up to the phone and says “Can I say Hi?”

Peanut listens a moment longer and then hands the phone to Monkey. He says "Hello?" and listens and reports back "It's not Uncle Tom. It's Santa Claus."

Peanut shys away from the phone, feeling embarrassed about confusing Santa for Uncle Tom, and says to MLB in her sad, little girl voice "Santa laughed at me!"

As Monkey chatters away with Santa listing the 500 things he wants for Christmas, MLB tries to solicit more information about the laughing.

Then it dawns on her:

MLB: When he laughed, did he sound like "HO HO HO?"
Peanut: Yes.
MLB: Santa wasn't laughing. He's just JOLLY. Santa laughs that way with everyone!

As Monkey finishes with the list he's been preparing since last Christmas, Peanut finally agrees to get back on the phone and manages to tell Santa one thing she'd like for Christmas -- a Barbie fashion showcase.

Poor little Peanut, thinking Santa was laughing at her. He better come through with that Barbie Fashion Showcase.

I'm pretty sure he will.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Matt Damon Does Matthew McConaughey

Saw this video clip and it made me laugh. Wouldn' have imagined Matt Damon and Matthew McConaughey were buds but Damon does a great impersonation of his friend.



Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Santa Question

CAUTION: Don’t read this if you don’t know what question I’m referring to.

Monkey Boy is 8 years old. Last year, one of his friends told him the secret about Santa. We were fascinated by his reaction.

Disbelief? No.

Sadness? Not that we could see.

Anger? No sign of it.

Instead, he told us that his friends had told him that Santa was really your parents. But he didn’t want us to confirm whether this was true or not. He simply wanted us to know what his friend had told him. We think he knows the truth. He just wasn’t ready to acknowledge it out loud.

Which brings us to this year. And we haven’t the slightest idea where he is on this subject. We’re watching him carefully for clues about his current state of mind. Is he ready to come clean about knowing? Does he want some sort of confirmation from us? We watch him and wait.

I think he’ll enjoy being in on the secret and keeping up appearances for Peanut who is only five. We’ll see.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Easy To Follow Instructions

We bought ourselves one of those portable basketball systems for the driveway. It’s a basketball pole and hoop on a stand that can be wheeled around on the driveway if you want to change its location. Monkey Boy had a gift certificate to Modell’s and he picked it. “Great idea” we thought. Maybe we’ll all get some exercise.

Little did I suspect that the exercising portion of the basketball system would begin just trying to get it out of my SUV. The thing weighed a ton. And once I got it into the garage, I knew I would have to park my car outdoors for the week until I got it all together because there wasn’t any way I was going to move that thing again.

Between the lethal wide plastic bands that encircle the box (next time I’ll know to wear protective eyewear when I snip them off).to the poles and pieces. I realized that this was a gift that would give us much more than practice on our layups.

We laid all of the screws, parts and pieces on a tarp on the driveway. The box came with an inventory. There were easily 1000 pieces (OK, maybe 100 but it felt like way more).

Next we skimmed the instruction booklet. All 500 pages of it. In FRENCH. OK, I'm exaggerating again but it certainly felt like both 500 pages and French.

5 hours and 8 bleeding cuts on my hands later (yes, 8 is real. Peanut actually counted them), we finally got it assembled. Now I'm off to fill it with 400 pounds of sand (again, no exaggeration).

Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sleeper Cell

Very compelling television. Worth watching if you get a chance.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Departed

Finally caught The Departed tonight.

I'm late to the party but definitely have to say it's the best Scorsese movie in a long time. He switched over to high brow fare to try to get some respect from Hollywood but didn't get any. It's wonderfully ironic that he goes back to the territory of cops and organized crime that he does so well (e.g., Goodfellas) and produces something that is worthy of a lot of respect.

The movie is tight and great performances abound. DeCaprio, Damon and especially Nicholson shine. Even Mark Walberg and Alec Baldwin give nifty peformances.

Definitely worth a shot if you can catch it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Chad Vader

Not sure if you've seen this or not but its a very fun concept. Chad Vader is a series of shorts on YouTube about Chad, Darth Vader's brother, who is the day shift manager at a grocery store.

He gets no respect from his employees, keeps calling his boss Randy, "Emperor" and hits on the check-out girl.

Fun stuff. Check it out:



Of course, given LucasFilm's vigorous stance on litigation, my guess is it will get challenged as copyright infringement. From where I'm standing, it feels a lot like parody but who knows how a court would decide.

In any case, it's worth a look before it gets taken down.

And to the creators, May the force be with you.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Yo, Rocky!

Today I caught the trailer for the new “Rocky Balboa” movie. I’ve pasted it below in case you missed it.



Now before you start scoffing and running off at the mouth about how Stallone’s career must’ve been so over that the only acting job he could get was to go back to a character he created in the 70s, I want to remind you that the original “Rocky” won the Academy Award for Best Picture. That’s right, Best Picture. It belongs to an elite club that counts among its members “The Godfather,” “The Godfather, Part 2,” “Gone With The Wind,” “Unforgiven” and “Crash”. Not bad company.

And like this one, it was a movie that Stallone not only starred in but wrote. While Stallone’s acting range may be limited (“Rhinestone Cowboy”, anyone?), Rocky (like Rambo) is in his DNA. In many ways, he is Rocky. Came from nowhere, took a shot at the title and came home with the belt.

In this movie, a computer program pits Rocky against the current heavyweight champ and determines that if they fought while both were in their prime, Rocky would have won. So of course, Stallone, er, I mean Rocky, gets back in the ring for one last shot at the title.

At least from the trailer, it looks like it has some nice moments of Rocky grappling with the reality that he’s old and past his prime. Who are we to deny Stallone one last shot at glory. I hope he goes down fighting.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Trouble With Superman, Part 2

Did anyone catch this video on YouTube? It’s worth a watch.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.



Done?

So if I understand this correctly, Warner Brothers is playing with the numbers on YouTube to make video clips about Superman Returns look like the most popular videos. He's the Man of Steel for goodness, sake. They couldn't let him stand on his own red-boot clad feet?

Superman stands for truth, justice and the American way. If this story is really true, then what does Time Warner stand for?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy F&%!@ New Year

As mentioned in my post the other day entitled "Merry F&%!@ Christmas", To many December brings thoughts of the holidays, gift giving, time spent with loved ones and vacations.

For some in the wonderful world of corporate America, it also brings layoffs. Fortunately I wasn't effected this time (knock wood). But some people I really liked were.

Layoffs are not unique to my company. I know the realities of the business world sometime suck. The end of the year is coming and some great big corporate parent in the sky is putting a lot of pressure on its baby companies to MAKE THE NUMBERS.

The VIPs feel the pressure. October comes and they're still feeling confident. November rolls around and they start checking and double-checking numbers.

But by December, unless it's a slam dunk, they start the holy-mother-of-God-this-is-gonna-be-close process. The night sweats, the movement of as many costs into the next year as possible. Still, it's not gonna be enough. We've either got to pull some extra revenue out of our asses or we're going to have to do some serious cost cutting. And unless someone's waving a secret weapon to bring in the revenue, it's off to the cost cutting board.

Now management knows that to keep their jobs (and get some nifty bonuses), they HAVE to make the numbers. Failure is not an option. So they do what they must to make the numbers. We MUST make the numbers.

Happy F&%!@ New Year to the numbers and to the friends that are being "let go", so long.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Trouble With Superman

“Superman Returns” is out on DVD. Generally, it’s the type of movie I’d want to add to my collection.

But reflecting on the film (which I saw while it was in the theaters), I realize that it left me wanting more.

I like superhero films. They generally sport nifty special effects and occasionally hold the power, even if it is just for 90 minutes in a darkened theater, to make you believe.

I also generally like Bryan Singer movies. He’s a smart, talented director and has shown the ability to take subjects that run the risk of being “regular” to the next level without turning them campy.

For me, the problem with this Superman movie was the dude himself – Superman.

Brandon Routh did a fine job in the title role. But that’s just it. It was “fine”. Superman is arguably the greatest of all superheroes. He’s the leader of the Justice League, for gosh sakes. I can’t imagine Brandon Routh’s Superman leading the Junior League, let alone the Justice League.

Kevin Spacey was flashy as Lex Luthor. And I’ll grant you that playing the villain is often the flashier role than the hero.

But people came into the theater loving Superman and left only liking him. There was nothing special about him personally (oh yeah, other than those nifty powers). All we did was watch him. We didn’t connect with him in the way we connect with Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman (especially in Spiderman 2).

I hear they’re working on another Superman film. I hope they help us find a way to connect in the next film.

Maybe then I’ll buy the DVD.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Surprise!

Close your eyes.

Are they closed? No peeking.

Just another second.

OK. Open them.

SURPRISE!

How ya feeling about that? Some people love surprises.

"Want to know what I'm getting you for your birthday?"
"No, surprise me."

Is that you? Some people like situations like this. Someone has thought enough of them to take some initiative behind their backs and do something that they think you would like. How nice is that?

What's the downside? I guess if you really hate what they got you, you have to flash a happy face, tell them you love it, and figure out whether it's something you need to really keep (because they'll look for it when they're at your house next time or ask you about in the future) or whether you can toss it in a dumpster in the parking lot outside. Them surprising you puts you in the situation of now having to tip toe around them to avoid hurting their feelings.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have those folks who hate surprises. I know people like that. When their birthdays or holidays roll around, they give you a page ripped from a catalog of the thing they'd like you to get them. You get them a gift that you know they truly want and they get the gift. Win-win situation, right? For some, maybe yes. For others, it takes away some of the joy of giving a gift. My grandparents always wrote us checks for our birthdays. Were they around when we bought something with it? Nope. Did they see the look on our faces when we opened it? Nope. They simply sent a check. Worked for them but I can't say those checks made me warm and fuzzy inside.

Of course, there are many people who fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, both on the giving and receiving end. I've had people ask what I think Monkey Boy or Peanut might like for their birthdays. I've had people say "don't get me any clothes for my birthday, I'm planning to lose weight this year".

Different strokes for different folks, as far as I'm concerned. Whatever works for you. I'm just thankful that I've got people in my life for whom I want to remember special occasions with a gift, and visa versa.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thumbs Up for Happy Feet!

Any parents of young kids out there have shared the agony of taking your children to see a movie they were dying to see, but is so dreadful you check your watch every five minutes and try to will yourself to sleep just to make the most out of having to sit there for 90 minutes.

I've been there. I feel your pain.

When we first saw the trailer for "Happy Feet" many months ago with a boisterous, in-your-face Robin Williams penguin front and center, I thought for sure this was going to be another wasted 90 minutes.

Tonight we took the kids to see the film, and while I don't know that I could call it life changing or anything (and there are several gaps in logic), I'm happy to report that this was a fun, funny and original movie that had something for adults as well as kids. There was great music and dancing and spectacular CGI. I had to repeatedly remind myself everything we saw on screen was computer generated.

So if the kids are begging for "Flushed Away" (about a rat that gets flushed down the toilet -- enough said), try to convince them to see this one instead.



Friday, December 01, 2006

Merry F&%!@ Christmas

Ah, December. To many of us, it brings thoughts of the holidays, gift giving, time spent with loved ones and vacations. It's a time for self-reflection and re-dedication to the things that are most important in your life. Sounds pretty good.

Now of course you have to filter everything I say with the knowledge that I am an optimist and a generally positive person, but to me, all of the things in the first paragraph make me all the more optimistic and positive in December.

For some people, though, this is not the case.

Maybe they believe the holidays have fallen victim to crass commercialization. Maybe they're just dissatisfied with their own lives. Whatever the reason, some folks become so nasty and negative in December that I can't help but want to whack them upside the head.

We took the kids to sit on Santa's lap the other day. MLB and the kids got ahead of me on line. When I caught up, I asked the people between us on line if they would let me pass because my wife and kids were up ahead. One guy on line responded in a nasty tone -- "Well, that's your story, at least". To him I responded "Merry F&%!@ Christmas". I didn't really but I should have. Did he think I was jumping the line so I could sit on Santa's lap myself??? Sheesh.

It's people like this guy and the ones who won't let you change lanes in traffic, push past you on the escalator, put down a gift idea you have planned for a friend.

They're all around us.

Let's lighten up, people. It's December.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

So Bad It Might Be Good

A friend just sent me the link to the trailer for "EPIC MOVIE" -- a spoof film from "two of the six writers" of one of those other silly spoof movies. Still, if you look at how all encompassing the trailer is, I wonder how they could possibly fill two hours at this crazy pace. Not sure if I'll actually get to see it in the theaters (we don't get out much without the kids these days) but it piqued my interest enough that I thought it was worth sharing.

Here goes:

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

You Can't Make This Up

I'm probably the last person to catch this news story but I must admit I was blown away by the story of Jason McElwan, the autistic high schooler from Athena, NY, who managed the high school basketball team. With 4 minutes left in the last game of the regular season, the coach put Jason into the game where he proceeded to score 20 points -- in 4 minutes. Six three-point shots included.

Here's the link to the CBS News coverage in case you missed it: CBS Evening News video.

I could be in for the full game with nobody on the opposing team in my way and I wonder if I could score 20 points.
You watch the video coverage of the game and it's easy to see that Jason was loved and admired by his classmates. They cheered when the coach decided to let him into the game for a few minutes.
But when this kid caught fire and nailed basket after basket, you can feel the energy in that gym explode. Jason missed his first two shots and the coach, who has an autistic son of his own, just prayed that Jason would get a basket so he would know what that felt like. What happened was pure magic. If it were a movie, it would be so unrealistic a fairytale ending that the audience wouldn't believe it.
The irony of course is that the news reported this morning that Jason and his parents have been flooded with offers from the movie studios to turn his story into a feature film. Maybe with the words "A True Story" flashed all over it, the audience will buy it. For me, I'm not sure what the studios could do to make this more dramatic, or to shoot those 4 minutes in a way that make them any more electric than the live footage in the CBS clip.
Pretty amazing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Forty

Sorry I've been so absent from this place. Needed a break after a crazy December and January.

Stopped in today and realized I couldn't let the whole month of February go by without a single post so here goes:

I turned 40 this month.

Yep. Fabulous 40. The big "four oh".

Friends and family who realize this usually follow up birthday wishes with the inevitable, "So, how does it feel?"

My answer?

Pretty freakin' good.

I've got MLB and the kids, a good job, a decent home, good friends, great family. Yes, for a milestone birthday, it came with much less trauma than 30 did.

At 30, I was living in an apartment, finishing graduate school, changing careers. Too much of life was in flux. While life these days feels anything but settled, at least it feels like a life on track. I've accomplished some, have goals to strive for and plans (however loose they may be) for getting there.

The only thing that gets to me about 40 is the fact that I'm now older than all those folks on the show Thirtysomething who I used to think were so old. This year's college freshmen were born the year I graduated college. Sheesh! I'm still a kid.

I was recently told by one of my friends who is right behind me on the trail to 40 that someone published a paper saying that based on the current life expectancies of people, 40 is the new 25. So really, I'm just turning 25.

Can't wait to see what I'll be like at 40.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bowl Me Over

I went bowling yesterday for the first time in a long while. When getting our shoes and paying for our games up front, the chiquita at the desk asked for all of our names so she could input them in their system for us. We were 12 people so one less thing standing between us and bowling sounded good.

We get to the lanes and find that the desk in the center has been replaced by a computer screen. Not only did the computer screen already have all of our names, but, we soon learned, the computer automatically KEEPS SCORE!

You go up and bowl, the lane talks to the computer and tells it how many pins you knocked down. Then after your second ball, it tallies your total for the frame. If you get a strike, spare or split, you get a cute little movie on the screen.

Now for all of my friends who believe math is hard (and you know who you are), this is probably a dream come true. No more need to tally scores and compute strikes and spares. Come to think of it, I'm guessing my "math is hard" friends are also probably the least likely to go bowling in the first place so maybe this was never a source of stress for you at all.

Personally, I have fond memories as a child of bowling with my family (my folks were avid bowlers) and learning how to do math by scoring the bowling games. It was a physical activity coupled with some mental stimulation.

Ten plus the next two balls. Ten plus the next ball.

It was a math exercise. And even if I was a crappy bowler as a kid, I was often distracted from this fact by rushing back to the desk after my turn so I could fill in my score with that short little pencil with no eraser.

No such luck for my kids. The computer has taken over.

I'm guessing there's only so many times I can have them count the number of balls in the ball return.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Breaking Away

At last, I’m on vacation for the next week. Hallelujah!

I say that not so much for the vacation at this moment, but the fact that I’ve finally left the office. Has everyone realized how ridiculous it is to take vacation from work these days?

“I’m gonna need these 30 projects done before you go.” – Of course, if you weren’t going away you’d have 3 months to do them but what if you get hit by a bus or your plane goes down? It’ll take us at least 3 months to find someone to replace you.

“I just want you to look at this” – It’s something you had nothing to do with but just in case I decide I might have wanted you to look at it while you were away.

“Where are we with everything you’ve touched for the last year?” – code for I don’t want to be caught without an answer on something while you’re away.

Or better yet – “Write me a status memo on every project you’ve touched in the last year.”
OK, sure. I’ll get right on that. Ah, hell, maybe it’s just easier if I don’t go.

As good as I think I am at what I do, I am a firm believer that nobody is indispensable. Beside for the fact that you’ll have my cell number and I have my Blackberry wherever I go so if need be, you can always find me.

Then why, oh why, must it always be so freakin’ hellish getting out of the office before vacation?

No matter how much planning goes into it, it is always this way. I’m always so stressed by the time I leave the office that the first two days of vacation are always spent just recovering from the last day at work.

And let’s talk about when you get back…

Many of the items you were working on were courteously held in check until you returned because you’re the best guy to do it (code for “I’ve got enough of my own work to do, thank you.”)

Now in all honesty, I must admit that my colleagues where I work are a better-than-the-average-bear group. They enjoy their vacations as much as I do. So when I'm out, they do everything they can NOT to have to interrupt me. They know I'll do the same for them so it works out for both of us.

We also generally share assignments (e.g., no one person is an island) expressly for the reason that we CAN step in for one another.

When assignments are courteously held until my return, it's usually the case of my clients deciding that they'd rather wait a week until I return than to brief someone new on the subject from scratch.

I just wish it wasn't so freakin' hellish to leave. I swear. By the time I drag my sorry ass onto the train to head home, all I want is to drink heavily and veg out to some music on my new iPod.

The music is on. The drinking will come later.

So for right now, my trusty laptop and blog will have to serve me to blow off some steam.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Mouths Of Babes

MLB was readying Monkey Boy and Peanut for their swim classes the other day when Peanut happened to mention that if she gets thirsty during swim class, she just drinks from the pool.

Somewhat dismayed, MLB tried to explain to Peanut (who is only 4) that although the pool has chlorine in it, it might not be very clean.

Peanut was unfazed.

To try to make her point, MLB went on to explain that it is quite possible that some of the little kids who take lessons here might actually pee in the pool.

"It's OK," replied Peanut.

MLB and Monkey Boy looked at each other dumbfounded.

Monkey decided to take a shot.

"You know, some of those kids probably fart in the pool."

Peanut blinks calmly. Monkey Boy persists. Maybe she didn't hear him.

"It's fart water. You're drinking fart water."

At this point, Peanut shrugs and simply responds, "I don't mind."

While mildly gross, and no doubt constituting one of those stories Peanut will hate us telling her dates when she grows up, I'm thinking we ought to get this young lady an application to compete on Fear Factor.

Those wimps have nothing on my little girl.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

When Worlds Collide, Part Deux

Sorry about the clipped ending to the last blog. Apparently there are limitations to the size of fields when you’re entering them from a Blackberry.

Anyway, where was I? Right. The two trade shows.

OK, so you have the Consumer Electronics Show with 140,000 geeks in Vegas during the same week as the Adult Entertainment Expo.

I wish I had a camera here with me. But having none, I shot some footage with my mental camera. So if you’ll dim the lights, I’ll roll the film.

Picture, if you will, the scene caused when the impossibly, inhumanly (bordering on absurd) buxom porn star strolls down the convention center thoroughfare. CES attendees stop, gawk, lower their cell phones and blackberries and part to make way.

Or the moment when the bald, handlebar-mustached and ridiculously tattooed “producer” of quality adult films excuses himself to get past the gearheads riding the exhibition hall escalator.

On this beautiful, mid-60s day in Vegas, dozens of techies sit on benches and grass dining on salads and sandwiches. In their midst, nonchalantly sits a large white man with dreadlocks (I didn’t know white people could grow dreadlocks?!) and more piercings on his face than you’d think could be possible. (How do you keep food and drink in your mouth when you’ve got multiple holes in your cheeks?) Beside him stands two platinum blondes who keep adjusting their skirts because, let’s face it, there isn’t much skirt there. One has to imagine that’s why they’re standing and not sitting with him.

OK, last one.

As I’m standing in the very long taxi line with Consumer Electronics fans from many nations, I notice up ahead in line two young boys, probably 12-13 and their dads, arms full of “fan materials” collected at the Adult Entertainment Expo. All four have spiked hair and tight t-shirts. They laugh, clearly having enjoyed a day of wholesome father-son bonding.

You can turn the lights back up now.

Just a few thoughts about the Consumer Electronics Show:

Do you remember as a kid going to Disney World and riding the “Carousel of Progress”? As the show progresses, you watch the same family go from turn of the century (and I don’t mean 2000) up through modern day and then into the future. You watch grandma play virtual reality video games with her grandson. Mom cook a Christmas dinner with a voice-recognition oven. The kids calling from somewhere far away on their video phone.

The CES is the last scene of Carousel of Progress. From computers to phones to portables to cameras to cars to anything else you can think of, the latest, best, fastest, most amazing of their kinds are on display. It’s a little bit of H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury and Star Wars rolled into one.

Our first video game as kids was Pong, by Telstar. How cool was it that each player could move his white vertical line up and down to hit the little white “ball” back and forth. And we thought video games had really quantum leaped when we got an Atari. I mean, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pac Man. Loved ‘em. They were the coolest thing and kept us busy for hours.

Today I saw a demo of Playstation 3.

I’m not a big video gamer anymore. Monkey Boy got a Gamecube this year so I’ve played a few of his games and thought they were pretty impressive.

But I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the Playstation 3 demo at the Sony booth had hundreds (yes, hundreds) of grown adults standing there with their mouths open. We turned to each other as if to say, “are my eyes really seeing what I’m seeing?” OK, we were watching the next generation of gaming on a 70 inch high definition plasma TV, but still.

I defy anyone to see this and not be blown away.

If you’re one of those folks who get scared by technology, this show isn’t for you. The future is coming faster than we think. So if that concept stresses you out, you can go ride the Dumbo ride.

Me? If Playstation 3 is a glimpse of what’s to come, I’m getting back on the Carousel of Progress.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

When Worlds Collide

So I'm in Las Vegas attending some meetings Ford work at the Consumer Electronics Show. 140,000 of the world's biggest techies, gearheads and geeks in one place. Pocket protectors abound.

In keeping with the theme of CES, I'm writing this on my Blackberry so please excuse any typos.

Maybe I'm the last person to know this but I discovered that each year during the geek convention, the Adult Entertainment Expo is held.

More to come.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Goldens

Conventional wisdom says the world is divided into Leaders and Followers.

It’s also commonly said that any group can’t exist with only Leaders (too much fighting over jurisdiction) or with only Followers (nobody to lead the way).

I think there’s a third group that falls somewhere between the Leaders and Followers. And these people are pure gold.

The Goldens are a group who are happy to lead but are equally happy to follow if an acceptable Leader steps up.

I guess you could distinguish a Golden from a Leader in that some Leaders are only happy if they’re leading. It’s kind of like driving. Some people must drive the car because they hate the lack of control when they’re a passenger. These types of Leaders are NOT Goldens.

On the other hand, you can distinguish a Golden from a Follower because no matter how a group might be flailing about in the breeze, a Follower will not step up to lead. The Follower might notice the disorganization. Might even be able to recognize the need for leadership. However, a true Follower will not lead.

I’m involved in a bunch of groups/organizations from Boards, professional committees, civic and political committees, interest groups, committees for activities my kids are involved in, etc.

I constantly watch the dynamics in these groups and it’s gotten so that now I can pretty quickly determine who in the group falls into which category.

The most successful of the groups I’m involved with are comprised exclusively of Leaders and Goldens. Better to have Goldens than Followers because you can lop of areas of responsibility and delegate them to a Golden and THEY WILL GET DONE. Not so with a Follower. In the Follower’s case, unless we’re talking a single discrete task, it will usually require a bunch of reminding, prodding, etc. of the Follower to make sure the task gets done.

What constantly amazes me though is that you can have someone who is the most base Follower you can imagine in one context, and then find that the same Follower is a Leader in another setting. I don’t get it.

I mean, you can’t lead unless you’re willing to take on the responsibility of making sure something happens.

Followers don’t do this. They can sit around all day until there’s someone to follow.

But when someone you know is a Leader joins your group and then just sits around, or worse, allows deadlines to be missed or tasks not be accomplished, I just find it shocking. I mean, how can their “Leader” side let things fall to pot?

I’ll take a Golden over a Follower any day. Goldens have enough Leader in them that when they’re assigned a task, you just know it’s going to get done. It’s almost like doing it yourself.

If you’re part of a group, aspire to be a Golden.

They’re pure--, well, you know.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Dirty Secret

I am the leader of a local chapter of what I have come to learn is viewed in many circles as a disgusting, despicable organization. Just plain evil.

The organization used to be chartered by the high school PTA. It was dropped several years ago without notice.

People who find out I’m involved suggest we change the organization’s name so that it’s not recognized as a local chapter of the larger organization.

I should feel dirty, cheap, even ashamed.

Skinheads? KKK? The Taliban?

Nope, nope and nope.

I’m the Cubmaster of Monkey Boy’s Cub Scout Pack.

There, I said it.

I bet the FBI has been alerted and I’m no doubt under double secret investigation in 14 states.

Look, I’m a very liberal person. Somehow, in some way, I’ve come to learn to be respectful and tolerant of people with differing views than my own. Could have been due to my East Coast college education. Could have been genetics. In either case, I know that there are times that my opinions and perspectives may be very different than this country’s majority (heck, I learned that when I thought it was a sure thing that Dubya would not be re-elected). I still get to live here even though I didn’t vote for the guy.

To hear some people talk about the Cub Scouts, you’d think it was the Taliban farm team.

Yes, I know that Scouting’s main establishing organization is the church (one of several I believe). I also know that Scouting has taken some intolerant views with respect to sexual persuasion. I think the views are narrow minded and probably driven by ignorance and arrogance.

There are plenty of gay men with sons who are model fathers to their kids, model citizens and great role models. There are also plenty of straight men who are deadbeat Dads and criminals.

But when I learned tonight that someone in my community suggested that we change the name of our pack from Cub Scouts to the Outdoor Club, I wonder if we’ve gone too far.

As a national fundraiser, Cub Scouts sell popcorn. It is to Boy Scouts what cookies are to Girl Scouts. I’ve heard people refer to the product these kids sell as homophobic popcorn.

As far as I can tell, popcorn has no views on sexuality. And frankly neither do the Dads involved in our pack. We couldn’t care less.

Scouting is a fun, rewarding program that teaches boys a ton of different skills, offers leadership opportunities, provides a mechanism through which a 7 year old like Monkey Boy and his friends can perform service projects for the community.

Let’s not destroy or dismiss the organization simply because it hasn’t arrived in the 21st century yet. Heck, I read that some state like Louisiana still has a law on its books that makes it illegal to tie your alligator to a fire plug.

I can’t imagine the local cops issue many summonses for violating the law these days. The law just hasn’t caught up with the times.

I think in time, Scouting will catch up and allow any male without a prison record to be a scout leader. It’s bound to happen. It just may take some more time.

Frankly, I don’t care if you tie your alligator to the hydrant. As long as it doesn’t hurt me or mine, he can stay there all day.

He can even be a scout leader.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Man Of Leisure

Today I’m doing something I’ve never done before.

We’ll I’m sure I did it when I was a kid, probably lots in college, maybe some when we were first married. But it’s been so long that neither MLB nor I could remember the last time. So it feels like we’ve never done it before. Know what it is?

Nothing.

Yes, that’s right. Today we’re doing NOTHING!

We slept until 8:15 – a freakin’ record in our house where we’re usually lucky just to reach 7am before one of the kids or the dog needs attention.

And you know what? I’ve scheduled a nap in for this afternoon.

Yep, got that penciled in at about 2:00 right after my 1:00 appointment to do nada, and before my 3:00 reservation to do zippo. I take my nothingness very seriously.

The kids asked if they could stay in their sweats all day. Our answer? You betcha.

I didn’t shower until about noon and that’s only because our computer consultant dude is coming by later to replace a doohickey on our computer. So I showered. For Ed. Otherwise, I might have considered joining the kids in their clothes boycott for the day.

Sometimes, the lives of 4 people get completely out of control. In a single day, we could face ballet, soccer, two birthday parties, maybe a playdate, a dinner date with another family, and 3 or 4 more things I’m not thinking about. As much as we try to limit the number of scheduled activities we sign the kids up for, inevitably our downtime is always uptime.

But not today.

OK, I know some wiseguy out there is thinking that I’m doing SOMETHING because I’m writing this. Technically correct. But I don’t count it because I can stop whenever I want. And I can pick it up whenever I want. No timeclock punching for us today.

I worked out a little, watched the end of a movie I’ve been catching in bits and pieces (“Paper Moon” – a classic), did some Blo-pen art with the kids. That’s about it.

I might eventually get motivated to sort my socks later while watching a DVD or something. But that’s only because Santa brought me a bunch of new socks and there are too many now to get the drawer closed.

Hmm, sock sorting. Might have to schedule a second nap.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne my dear,
For auld lang syne
We’ll take a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

What the hell does that mean?

OK, I get that it’s a drinking song (cup o’kindness, anyone?). But considering this is referred to on the web as one of the best known songs in English-speaking countries, I wonder how many people really know what it means.

Obviously, people sing the song, by Robert Burns, to mark the New Year but several references I found on the web admit that most people have no idea what they’re singing and that many can only recall a fraction of the words. My guess is that by midnight, there’s been enough cups o’kindness enjoyed that fellow party goers don’t notice.

It literally translates from the Scottish as “old long since”. Does that clear things up for you? Didn’t think so.

The English version is “old long ago,” “times gone by” or “days gone by”. Now we’re getting somewhere. As we know, people in the U.S., U.K. and English-speaking Canada use it to signify the start of a new year. But did you know:

-- in Taiwan, it’s used as a graduation and a funeral song
-- in Japan, many stores play it to usher customers out when it’s closing time
-- in the U.K., it’s played at the end of the annual Trades Union Congress
-- in Korea, the lyrics of the national anthem were sung to this tune until the current anthem music was written
-- in the Maldives, this WAS the national anthem prior to 1972 – words and music
-- in Portugal, this song is used by boy scouts to mark a farewell
-- the University of Virginia’s fight song, “The Good Old Song” carries this tune.

While the Scottish took the song with them as they emigrated throughout the world, its association with New Year’s Eve is most commonly attributed to bandleader Guy Lombardo who used it on radio and later TV New Year’s Eve shows since 1929 (what a guy!). However, newspaper accounts dating back as early as 1896 describe party goers on both sides of the Atlantic singing it to usher in the new year.

Another interesting bit of trivia – the meter of “Auld Lang Syne” is identical to “America The Beautiful” and the songs can be sung perfectly with their lyrics switched.

I feel much better now. How about you?

Happy New Year!