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We get to the lanes and find that the desk in the center has been replaced by a computer screen.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?


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!