Monday, October 13, 2008

Y I like SBux

I like Starbucks because they hire the best caliber people who really can recognize the positives in their customers. It is not enough that they provide such a high-quality product, but they also give superior customer service.

The other day as I was leaving for a flight to Ohio, I stopped into the Starbucks at the airport. They asked me my name. I told the barista. Sometimes they will clarify my name - "is that with a 'y' or an 'i'?" Not this time; maybe they knew already or maybe they did not care. Either way, I just waited for my beverage. To my surprise they saw something more about me and decided to give me a little validation on the side of my cup.

Thanks for the R-E-S-P-E-C-T Starbucks!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dad Lesson #2255

Yesterday I got what I estimate to be my 2,255th lesson as a father. I determined the lesson number by taking the number of days since Drake was born. I figure I have learned at least one new thing about being a father since his birth. Honestly, I think this number is very low. I could easily add a lesson for each day each one of my 4 kids have been in my life and that would put the lesson number at 4,611. But who is keeping count of lessons. This was just one more lesson of many that I will have during my life.
So, here is the lesson. It was a simple math lesson in the form of a word problem. Not 2 + 2 kind of easy, but still easy. Follow along.

My father bought Emmy Kay a goldfish for her birthday and she named him Chum. It promptly went fins up within a few days so I went out and bought her a new fish. She named him Chum too. I figured Chum Too would find a ride on the porcelain train within a few months and we would be going into Wal-Mart and spending another $.28 on Chum III. There was only one problem, Chum did not go belly up as quickly as we believed. Instead, he kept eating and growing. 9 months later and he is still around.

Here is the problem. About a week or so ago, Chum started to get a bit lethargic. Then he started to just look bad, kind of distressed. I am not a fish whisperer so I did not really have any clue what was going on. For three or four days, we thought Chum would take his final gulp (?) and be done with it, yet every morning we would wake up and Chum would give it another day. I changed his tank water and he started looking better. Then, Chum's tail started to look bad and it began to fray. Next thing we know, it has all this "fuzzy" stuff on it. I looked online and found out that Chum had fin rot. Great. I did not know what fin rot was or did, but it sounded bad. It has rot in the name and reminded me of trench foot. I read online that I could get some medicine to put in the water and hopefully make it better. Now for the math. I went to Wal-Mart to buy the fish rot fixer stuff and there I stood...I could buy the "stuff" for $3.00 or a new fish for $.38 (yep, inflation has even hit the goldfish market). If I could bring myself to send Chum on the porcelain train alive, then I would just buy a new fish, however Emmy Kay wants her fish to feel better. That means Even though the math would dictate buy a new fish, I went ahead and spent 8x the value of a new fish on the medicine. Why? Because Emmy Kay wanted it. Dad math don't make sense.

Now, I have brought the stuff home and put it in the tank. It appears that it made Chum take a turn for the worse. Yesterday, his rear fin fell off. It came off in pieces during the day, but it is now gone. We have a goldfish with no rear tail. It is a funny looking fish. Not haha funny, sad funny. He is still able to swim around, but he is not moving around a whole lot and I think his days are numbered. I now call Chum..."Stumpy."

I fear that when my test gets graded (and Stumpy is gone) I will find out that I should have just bought a new fish.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

C'mon, give me a smile

I have been in Amsterdam for the last few days. It really is an old and beautiful city. The buildings are all stone, with narrow streets and canals.
I arrived early on Sunday morning and could not check into my hotel. I finally got a room around noon and had enough time to take a 30 minute nap and a quick shower. More sleep would have been better, but I had to get out to the trade show for work. It was feeling like a long day already.

I went to dinner at an Indian restaurant that had wonderful food. I have not had a whole lot of Indian cuisine and all the people traveling with me said to forget this evidently will not always be this good. After that we found a sports bar with American Football and watched a little bit of the games. Although it was 9pm in NL, the early games were still on back in the US. I finally got back to my hotel around 10pm and went to my room. When I tried my keycard, nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing. No lights, no sounds. Nothing. So I went back to the front counter. After a brief conversation with them - "Yes, I tried to do it slowly. Yes, I tried quickly. Yes, I even tried it backwards. Okay, thanks for making up a new key."
Back up to the room. I hadn't really slept in almost 2 days. I was tired.

I got to my room and tried again. Insert, slide out....nothing. I tried it again, slower. Nothing. I tried a few more for good measure and went down to the lobby again. I walked up to the counter and told them it did not work, so they sent me up with security to give it a try. Back on the elevator and back to the fruitless swiping. The security guy called maintenance. The problem was that the lock only took keycards, no physical keys, and the battery was dead so the whole lock needed to be removed. It was now after 11pm. More swiping and nothing, but this time with master keycards. The security guy sent me down to the cafe for a cup of coffee. After a few minutes, he came back and told me I had two options. 1) I could wait at least an hour for some one to arrive and remove the lock or 2) he would put me in another room. I opted for #2.

Did I mention that everything I had with me was locked in that room? My clothes, my computer, my phone charger. I had a suit, a cell phone and my passport - that's it - still, I just needed to sleep, so I didn't care. I got into my new room, crashed on the bed and slept till morning. When I woke up, I realized that I had been moved into a much nicer room. I went from a shoebox to a larger shoebox, but this one had a semi-balcony and overlooked a neat town square. Look at the was cool.

I decided that this was going to be my new room at the old room rate. Squatter's Rights. So, I went down to my old room and grabbed my stuff since they had fixed the lock and went to my new room. On my way out that morning I stopped by the front desk, gave them my old keys and let them know I had moved my stuff. No one questioned it, so I headed out. Mission Accomplished.

I got back to my room later that afternoon and some one from housekeeping stopped by my room to make sure "everything was okay" and then left. About 10 minutes later, another person from housekeeping came by and asked the same thing. I knew something was up. Then the phone started ringing, and ringing and ringing. It didn't go to the frontdesk, so I figured it was the frontdesk. I answered the phone. The manager on duty informed me that I was only supposed to be in this room for one night and I could either return to my other room or pay to upgrade into the new room. Evidently a shoebox with a view in Amsterdam is considered an "Executive" room. I declined both options. I then reminded the manager that the evening before her hotel locked me out of my room, away from my stuff and it was very inconvenient. I also told her that I had no intent on changing rooms again and would not pay a higher rate. Thanks for checking with me. She protested. I decided to hit her with the big guns...I heard the words come out of my mouth..."you are charging me $450 a night AND you forced me to sleep in my underwear last night. I am not making any changes!" I heard her frantically typing and then she realized the reason I was in this room and she apologized and let me know it would be taken care of. Done.

So, I have been able to sit in my room with my balcony door open enjoying the sounds and cool breeze from the city. It is really awesome. I am sorry that I missed out on some sleep the first night, but I think this may have made it worth it.

BTW, Amsterdam is a great city to walk and travel by way of public transportation. There are trams all over the city and everyone, I mean everyone, travels by bike. I heard there was an average of 2.3 bikes per person in the Netherlands. It is flat. At sea level and people ride their bikes everywhwere. I was here once February and they were biking in a blizzard. The other thing is that they park their bikes anywhere. Every pole has a bike attached to it and the train stations have thousands of bikes parked out front. It is really something to see.

So, back to the title of my blog post...I only have one complaint about this city; the people don't smile. I have sat in town squares and stood by canals, just watching people and no one (except obvious tourists) are smiling. Now, it is very overcast here most of the year, but still, can't they eek out a "tee hee hee" once in awhile? I just don't get it.

I have a meeting tomorrow near the airport and then I head out to Paris. I have enjoyed my stay in Amsterdam and I hope to make it back here one day in the spring to tour the countryside and see the windmills and tulips.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eeeeek, a Lizard!

This month I am doing lots of traveling, so my plan is to take pictures along the way and post them to my blog. Kinda like a travel journal. We will see how long it lasts. I am not sure what will come first - losing interest in writing the blog or growing weary of uploading the photos from my phone. I guess we will all have to tune in regularly to find out.

Today, I am in Phoenix. Typical for the desert it is very hot - 100 degrees hot. Of course it is a dry heat so it is not really that bad, mostly when I am used to the humity of ATL. I flew in yesterday for a meeting today and then I am heading out on a red-eye tonight. This all seemed like a much better idea before I found myself sitting in a Starbucks at 8:30pm local time, feeling like it was 11:30pm on my internal clock and knowing I had 3 hours before I could even board my flight. At least I was upgraded to first class so the 3 hour flight (and hopefully 3 hour nap) will not be too bad.

I love the desert. I love the jagged rock mountains, the vibrant colors, the rugged plants...all of it. Rachael and I had seriously considered moving out here when we were looking to leave VA Beach. I am glad we landed up in ATL, but I still yearn a bit for the western US and the desert.

So, when I booked my trip I was able to get into a swanky resort called The Phoenician for a few dollars more than the Courtyard I usually stay at. My intent for this blog post was to put up some pictures of the view from the hotel, like this one:
And this one: And they even had a "Cactus Garden" with some beautiful cacti, like this one: This one: And the one that became my friend:
After I went to the hotel lounge for dinner I came back to my room to watch a little TV and go to bed. As I got closer to my room, I noticed a hotel employee hanging out around my room. As I walked up, she said hello and asked me if I was staying the in "this room" and pointed to my door. I said yes and she informed me that there was a little problem in my room. Problem? What could that be? There was no "problem" when I left the room. I gave her a look that said go ahead and expand on that a little. She told me she was in the room turning down my bed (a nice service I might add...maybe I should teach my kids to turn the bed down for us before they are sent to bed each night) when she noticed a lizard running across my floor. Excuse me, did you just say "a lizard" because I could swear you just said "lizard." She assured me that it was a small one. Fortunately, she was able to catch it and was waiting for building maintenance to come and deal with it. I don't like bugs (please see I caught a bug) and I am not fond of lizards or really any type of critter. God made all these things to scurry away from me, not for me to have to touch them or deal with them.

We stood outside my room door with an awkward moment of silence when she asked me, "do you want to see it?" Well...I guess so. So into the room we go to find my new roommate, the lizard, on the middle of the floor under a glass cup. Now, I expected it to be small; I mean I would have noticed if there was a Komodo Dragon in my room but I was not expecting anything this small. This lizard was teeny - I don't even know if I would have noticed it or even cared if I did actually see it. It is hard to see in the picture below because he was flipping out under the glass when I took this photo, but if you look closely you can see him.

The thing about it all is that I usually do not stay at 4-star resorts when I travel. I mean I stay at decent hotels but this was out of the ordinary. However, even at a cheap hotel you do not expect to find a lizard sharing the space you are paying to occupy. And just like that *snap* this trip became memorable.

I did not sleep very well that night and I am not sure if it was the bed or the lizard, but regardless, I did enjoy the chocolates left on my pillow. :-)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Goodnight and Sweet Dreams

I believe late last night, she let out a big sigh and said goodnight. She hoped it would turn out better, but her hope was wavering. They were doing their best to show her their admiration and respect, yet it was just not meant to be. They still have their memories, all our memories, and they will not drift apart. We just wanted to see it work out better as the next chapter was turned. This is just the way it will will become part of our history.

Last night, the Anaheim Angels defeated the New York Yankees and knocked the Yanks to 10 games behind in the AL East to make it to the playoffs. Of course there is always hope that it will turn around, but the Yanks elimination (or magic) number is also 10. At this point, for the Yankees to make it into the playoffs about 6 teams in the AL will need to crumble; starting tonight. That is not likely to happen. So, after a 14 year run in the post-season play-offs, the Yankees will be sitting at home watching their big screen HDTV's this October. Wishing they were in the big show and I hope figuring out how they can get back there in 2009.

The really sad story is that after 85 years this is the last season for Yankee Stadium. The House That Ruth Built. I am guessing that last night she also recognized that the season was all but over. After hosting so many championship teams, she will have to go into October empty. No fans in the seats, no players in the dugout, no pitchers in the bullpen and no one on the field. Quietly and proudly, she will stand her last October, alone, but full of more wonderful baseball memories than any other field in sports history.

Goodnight Yankee Stadium and Sweet Dreams.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

"Get to bed - it's a school night"

This is the first time these words were spoken in our house. Drake is starting Kindergarten tomorrow and Emmy Kay is starting Pre-K. A big day in our house...literally. Both kids will be home-schooled so the walls of our home will take on a new role, school-house. Everyone is really excited around my house so I hope everything goes well tomorrow.

We have planned to home-school our kids for a long time. We have thought about this a ton and feel like we are doing the right thing. People always like to weigh in with their opinion about it and it runs from support, to people thinking we are doing the worst thing for our children. I could say a thousand things about it but I think the bottom-line for us is that we will take it one year and one child at a time. Regardless, I believe we can provide an education for our children that is at list 1% better than the government or a teacher with a room of 20 - 30 kids. Time may change my mind, but right now we are getting ready for school tomorrow.

I am very fortunate that my wife is extremely organized. She has the kids schedule planned out for the next 3 months with lessons for each day. On top of that, I can go to our shared Google calendar and see what their school schedule is for each day. Changes will happen, but I am glad we are going into this with a plan. At least with a plan we have somewhere to adjust and we can figure out what to change. Becoming a parent of 4 kids has been a crash-course learning-curve on so many things. It has been a fun and exciting 6 years. Now I am very excited about adding a totally new dimension to our family...this is taking it to the next level.

Tomorrow morning the school bell rings at 9am and the fun will start. The challenge will be to learn how our kids learn. So far, we think Drake is linear and Emmy Kay is...well, she is...Emmy Kay. She once told me that she did not want to go to church because the people at church keep trying to teach her "new stuff" and she didn't like it. I am not a very abstract thinker and Rachael tends to think in straight lines so most likely, Emmy Kay will be schooling us on thinking outside the box. Quite honestly, I think it will be good for both of us. Also, for anyone that says home-school kids aren't "socialized" - spend 15 minutes with Emmy Kay and you will understand why we are not concerned.

So find a seat, sit down and get ready for class.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rest in Peace Micah

I had to put my cat to sleep today. He had liver disease and the medical options were limiting. We probably could have spent a small fortune and kept him going, but it was not the best alternative. Now he is gone and we have to move on.

Micah was not a nice cat. In fact the term we used most often was nasty. However, he was a very entertaining cat. Weighing in at about 20 pounds and with more hair than Rapunzel, he was a very pretty cat. And I believe that was his biggest issue. He wanted to be a tough cat but he was caught in a pretty-boy's feline body. Micah lived everyday with inner turmoil. We considered therapy, but he would not open up. Instead he would just lash out at us and hiss or growl. A terrible and gutteral growl. Unfortunately, coming from his fluffy face, the growl just wasn't very menacing. He had wiskers that curled around his face like a clown cat. Micah would then try to scratch you with his claws. We had removed his front claws for the safety of the furniture, so he was left with soft mittens that actually had tufts of hair growing between his foot pads. He would swat at you with paws that looked like cotton balls. Again, he would get angrier. That is when he would begin to come at you with the sharp teeth. By then, I just wasn't interested and would walk away. I think Micah was one to bottle his emotions until the right time to snap.

The emotional "uncorking" always seemed to come at his brother Joel's expense. Joel is his exact opposite. Joel weighs in at about 20 pounds, but he is short-haired and sweet as could be. He really is a lap cat (if you want a 20 pound cat in your lap). Every once in awhile, for no apparent reason, Micah could not contain the nasties anymore and would pounce on Joel. He would bite him, swat him and get the back claws up to scratch him. You could see the look of confusion in Joel's eyes like "what is wrong with you!" After a few minutes of chasing Joel around, Micah would feel like the pressure cooker valve was sufficiently vented until the next time he just had to let go. Sometimes he would try it with me and swat at my leg when I walked by, but those incidents usually landed up with me shadow boxing the cotton ball paws until he became worn out and frustrated. Or at the very least a little more angry.

Let me also add that Micah did not have the best grooming habits. Cats are supposed to groom themselves, which he did for the first few years. But after awhile I think he just could not keep up with the amount of hair he was producing. This led to knots and mats on his fur that were the size of a kitten. Not surprisingly, he did not like to be groomed by me. I think I pulled a few litters of kittens worth of fur off him over the years. I wasn't gentle and given my perception of his need to be a "tough cat" I think I was a little harder on him. Typically when I would groom him, there would come a point where he just couldn't take it and would turn and go feline on me. This usually ended with a number of scratches and scrapes on my hands and arms...not pleasant. On the bright side, at least his hair will be with us for a long time. When we went to China last year, we found his hair in our luggage. Whenever I travel for work, I find his hair in my bag or somewhere on my clothes. We keep a clean house, but Micah was a very hairy cat and it will not be gone anytime soon.

I got to be with Micah for his last few moments and he seemed settled for the first time since he was a kitten. It may have been the heavy dose of drugs the vet gave him or maybe he had made peace with his inner turmoil. Either way, I don't believe that animals have a soul to live for eternity, so that was my goodbye to him. Plus, if I did believe that animals did go to a heaven or hell, the rules would have to be very "loose" to get Micah through the Pearly Gates.

Micah left us with lots of funny stories and interesting conversations. He was the kind of cat that would make visitors double take and ask us if he was so big because there was something wrong with him.
Oh, there was something wrong with just had nothing to do with his size.

Rest in Peace Micah, we will miss you.