Just a little rant on a random Wednesday…

So… I realized it has been awhile since I got off on a little bit of a rant, aired some pet peeves, or basically rambled on about things ‘I just don’t get’… So, here goes…

Grape Jelly.  Who eats this stuff?  Apparently not too many people, which is why it is usually the only jelly left standing in the baskets at breakfast restaurants, masquerading as the much more widely coveted Blackberry Jam.  And while we are on the subject about ridiculous jelly…Apple?  Really?  Orange Marmalade?  A sweet looking little gem that has just enough orange rind in it to make you make a face when you eat it.  Judging by the name this was created by the French…Enough said.  (When I raised the question of Grape Jelly at work the other day, I was quite matter-of-factly told by two of my co-workers that they love the stuff…Go figure)

Raisins.  In my opinion, the absolute best way to screw up a perfectly good cookie, or anything else for that matter.  Strangely, I don’t feel this way about craisins… I just object to their name.  Does the cranberry a disservice in my opinion.

Healthy Food.  Does it bother anyone else that it costs much much more to eat healthy food than it does to eat non-healthy food?  I understand the whole organic thing (How can I not, living just 75 miles from Austin?  :)) and I know that eating things grown without pesticides…blah blah…hormones….blah…free-range…yada yada yada is probably a better thing to do health-wise, but it shouldn’t cost exponentially more to do it.  I think it is a secret plot brought to you by the makers of CrossFit (see previous Kool-Aid rant if you have any doubt about my feelings about this stuff) to milk even more dollars out of the average person’s pocket.  ‘We are broke…but damned if we aren’t healthy!’

Smokers.  I have always loathed smoking, growing up in a household where everyone smoked but me.  My mother died last year of a stroke after successful lung cancer surgery.  There wasn’t a day that I spent in her presence that I didn’t try to convince her to quit or show my disdain for the habit.  I lived in California for many years and always cringed when I visited other states or countries without indoor smoking bans.  When I first moved to Texas, I avoided bars especially because smoking was still permitted (it is not, now).
Here are a few thoughts about smoking:

  • It ruins patio dining.  I understand that people have limited places where they can still smoke but it is not what I want to deal with when I have chosen to sit outside at a public establishment to enjoy ‘fresh air’.
  • Smoking in your car.  If you want to smoke in your car, feel free.  But don’t stick it out the window and share it with the rest of us because you don’t want to stink up your own car.  I think I am going to start carrying a spray bottle in my car, roll up to someone sharing their bad air, and calmly put out the fire.
  • Cigars are the worst.  The best way to prove that you are an inconsiderate douchebag is to flare up one of these flaming turds in even a semi-public place.  I realize their history and the fact that they are supposed to be sophisticated blah blah blah… (see aforementioned reference to douchebaggery)
  • Vapor or electronic cigarettes.  This is an improvement but it still irritates me.  People started bringing these to work and using them indoors.  Luckily, the powers that be put a stop to it.  But it still happens in public places all the time.  I have seen it in restaurants, bars, airplanes etc.  It still has a smell, depending on the ‘flavor’ and it still has chemicals in it, water vapor or not.

Smokers are very high and mighty when it comes to their ‘rights’ to their habit.  The way I figure it, if I did something that endangered someone else’s health, I would expect them to be ticked off about it and I shouldn’t have an attitude about it when they asked me to stop doing it around them.

‘Oh, you are worried that me punching you in the head is bad for your health?  Oh sorry, my mistake, it is a bad habit and I will stop doing it because you asked so nicely!’

Bathroom Habits.  People who talk on their cell phones in bathrooms.  Is there a reason for this that has escaped my attention?   Cellphones should come equipped with an ‘Indisposed’ button that you can press when faced with the inevitable call that comes to you when you are taking care of some pressing business.  Holding a conversation with someone in a public bathroom is….  Polite words escape me.  Let’s just say that whenever I hear this going on, that I flush the toilet at least three times as loudly as I can.  Maybe the person on the other end of the phone will be flattered that their call is so important as to interrupt bodily functions…. I also hope they realize that the chances that the person they are talking to actually washed their hands during or after the call are probably pretty slim.  Yeah… I’m right there with you… (grimace)

Anyway, I feel better now.  Now be sure to put some grape jelly on your organic, gluten-free, raisin toast that you paid entirely too much for… 😉


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A trip down Memory Blvd…(It used to be Memory Lane, but that was years ago)

Have you ever had the opportunity to revisit places from your past?  What was the experience like?  Did the places live up to your memories of them?  Had they changed?  Was the visit a disappointment, or did it feel like a conversation with an old friend you talk to far less often than you would like….Like the time in between was insignificant because you pick up right where you left off?

It may sound weird, but sometimes I feel like my memory has a mind of its own.  I remember most things, many with ridiculous detail, yet sometimes can’t remember what my purpose was when I entered a room.  Why is it that some memories are so strong and others never make the cut?

Several years ago, I had a job where I traveled quit a bit.  One of my clients was in Arlington, VA which put me close to the area where I did my early growing up.  I spent my 1st through 4th grade years in Kettering, Maryland and I still had some old family friends who lived in the DC area.  It has always been important to me to see old friends in places that I travel if I can and to explore landmarks and places from my past that were important to me.  I expressed this to my friend in DC and she offered to drive me back to my old neighborhood, one that was a source of strong memories for me, good and bad.  We got out of her car on my old street and looked at the house I had lived in and I was immediately struck by how much your perspective changes as you grow up.  The house looked very much the same but I was not ready for how small everything looked to the man I had become.  My memories of it from my boyhood were of a big place with a big yard and a big hill in back to sled down in the winter…it did not look that way to me that day.  The people who lived there then were home and came outside to figure out why their house was an object of our interest.  It turned out that they were the children of the woman who bought our house from my parents and they invited us in when they realized who I was and why I was interested.  It was wonderful and very strange all at the same time.  My sense of wonder came from the memories that flooded back … my time there…things I had done…adventures I had in the woods behind the house…building tree forts…friends I had had (my best friend’s parents still lived next door).  That said, it was very strange too.  The neighborhood seemed much smaller.  Houses looked different…It brought to mind Thomas Wolfe’s famous quote ‘You can’t go home again’.  It also supplied me with new memories of an significant place.  I valued my glimpse back to my boyhood and reflected on the man I had become.

This happened again to me recently.  My daughter and I took a great trip back to California, starting in San Diego (my old home town) and driving up the coast, finishing 8 days later in Sacramento.  It was one of great nostalgia for me, an opportunity for us to bond, and mostly a chance for me to show her places and introduce her to important people who have played important parts in the story that is my life.

I had written in a previous post, dedicated to my dad and his memory, that I had a sobering moment after his death as I went through his personal effects.  I found that I only ever knew a small fraction of the man my father had been.  For much of my life he was a very private man, lost in his own thoughts and strong drink, trying to forget the atrocities he had seen in the Vietnam War.  To see pictures of him and to read his correspondence with friends and loved ones prior to his military service added color to the portrait that exists of him in my mind and it was something I was very grateful for then and now.  Part of the reason I planned this trip with my daughter was to share parts of my life with her…things that she might never have known about or have thought to ask.

We visited the town that my late mother had grown up in….we paid our respects at the graves of my beloved grandparents on a hillside overlooking the ocean, leaving the flowers we had picked out.  I marveled at the grown up demeanor of my young daughter at that site…so grown up and respectful at such a young age, telling me that she had never been to a cemetery before (as if I didn’t know that) and placing a reassuring hand on me when I got emotional while remembering my grandparents.  Hopefully these memories will be with her for a long time as she learned more about who her family was and how and where they had lived.  I stopped short of taking her to the place where her great grandparents had lived for 50 years of her life.  In retrospect, I am still glad I did, though it might have been for selfish reasons.

I remember my grandparents house with great fondness.  It was a magical place for me and the memories of the place itself and the times I spent there are some of the most vivid ones I carry with me to this day.  When they passed away, the house was sold and demolished and a new house was built on the highly prized land it was on.  I could not bring myself to drive the 15 or so miles into Carmel Valley to show my daughter where the house I remembered ‘should have been’.  Perhaps I was afraid that it would seem too alien to me and that it would somehow diminish my memories of it…  I don’t think it mattered much to her, but I did share with her why we didn’t go there and even at 10 years old, I think she understood.

As we worked our way up the coast, we did take a detour to Novato, CA and stopped at what had been Hamilton Air Force Base (now called Hamilton Field).  I had lived there for grades 4-8 and had moved again mid-semester of my 9th grade year.  Everything was different.  All the houses had been torn down in my old neighborhood and replaced with houses and apartments…none of the roads worked the same with the exception of one…the road to my old baseball field.  This carried with it one of my fondest childhood memories…the memory of the magical summer of my 12th year when I set the league record for home runs in a season.  I stared for a long time at that field.  This was, I felt, a more important sight for her to see because I knew she would be able to relate to it….especially since she is almost that age and involved in sports herself.  The detour was well worth it because much as the trip itself, I feel like it brought us closer together and added some color to her own picture of her dad.

My girlfriend recently told me that sometimes she thinks I think too much about the past.  Perhaps she is right (just don’t tell her 😉 ).  I can blame it on being cursed by a vivid memory for such things…I can even justify it by taking the position that it was important for shaping the person I am today.  But realistically, I think the trick is to realize the lessons you have learned… but only so much as they apply to the here and now and beyond.  Something I think I need to try to get better about…and I am glad I wrote it down…in case I walk into a room tomorrow and forget what I was supposed to remember 🙂

I hope this resonated with some of you… and if not…thanks for indulging me and letting me get it out.



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Spare me the details…please!

So I was sitting in traffic today… What a shock!  Living in San Antonio, it is a fact of life.  The city is becoming more and more crowded and despite the work that they are doing on the roads (which seems perpetual), traffic just gets worse.   I suppose it is because people think that it is a nice, affordable city.  But that too seems to be changing judging by the rising prices of just about everything…but I digress…

So, sitting in traffic…Right!  Behind a well appointed Toyota Sequoia with a 26.2 sticker in the back window.  Gets me to thinking again about how many of those I see lately, along with all the adventure race stickers, and half marathon stickers, and Crossfit stickers…ugh.  And I think about how, between social media (Facebook) and conversations I hear at work, at the grocery store etc. I get constantly bombarded with people mouthing off about their workouts.

Disclaimer:  I admire the way that the running community supports each other, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Boston.  I also respect people who are fit because I know the effort it takes to get there.  I respect people who run marathons, triathlons, etc because I don’t think I could do any of them, mainly because I don’t have the desire to.  I am not denying people their pride in their athletic endeavors.  That said…

My question is…Why do they have to talk about it all ad nauseum?  If your greatest achievement in life is the fact that you ran a marathon or completed a particularly intense WOD, you probably should aim higher.  Unless of course you are physically (or mentally) challenged in some way other than the fact that you finally got up off of the couch.  Train for it, do your best, compete, say you did it and move on!  I am sick of seemingly intelligent people who turn into myopic, one-dimensional lemmings who feel like they need to prove themselves to the world by doing the latest adventure race in the mud.  Prove yourself to yourself and leave it at that.  Nobody cares!  Except for perhaps your circle of ‘friends’ who can’t seem to hold a conversation about anything else either.

I have competed in athletics all of my life…some I was suited for, some I was not.  I gave my all in many sports with good results and sometimes disappointing results.  It helped to shape who I am as a person.  The point is, I didn’t find it necessary to scream to the outside world every time I did something noteworthy.  It was enough for me to have competed, given my best, left it on the field and shared it with my teammates.   I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone but myself.

Several months ago a guy I know was trying to talk me into doing an adventure race.  The race in question is one of the tougher ones.  He was all fired up about doing the race and along with ‘checking in’ on Facebook everyday from the gym, it was all he could talk about.  I told him that I wasn’t interested in the race.  His rebuttal was, ‘Don’t you want to prove how tough you are?’.  I looked at him and told him that I didn’t need to prove that to anyone.  I played rugby for 10+ years with a lot of great men that I call friends and comrades and I don’t feel that I have to prove my toughness.   Every day I go to the gym, I do it with headphones on, challenging myself…trying to get stronger and to maintain a healthy balance in my life.  I don’t crow about it.  If someone asks me about it, I share my thoughts or my stories…but I don’t feel it necessary to inflict it upon anyone.

That is one of the things that I like about rugby.  It is a sport where team is hugely important.  You rarely see showboating, you rarely see people beating their chest, you don’t ever see anyone faking injuries.  What you see is hard work, determination, crazy physicality, and intense competition.  You also see the gathering of guys you played with and guys you played against afterwards at the bar.  There is an air of mutual respect, fatigue, camaraderie, songs and good stories to share.

I had to chuckle the other night.  I went with my daughter to a festival that her school attends every year.  She is part of a club that sets up a table for the kids to make Spin Art pictures.  On one side of her table this year, one Crossfit outfit had set up their own table and a competing box (I think that is what they call them) set up about 50 yards away.  All of the very fit looking people affiliated with the gym were working the table, talking enthusiastically with all the passing people, getting people to do pull ups or toss a weighted pillow back and forth.  The thing that made me chuckle is that I never got more than a sidelong glance.  I clearly was not the couch-potato type that they wanted to attract.  I clearly have spent many years of physical activity and know my way around the gym.  They had no use for me.  I didn’t look like I wanted to spend time at their kool-aid dispenser.  I guess I didn’t fit the demographic…which was fine with me 🙂

Maybe this is just my philosophy on life.  I don’t feel the need to inflict my politics on people (I really hate politics anyway).  I don’t feel the need to talk about my spirituality (unless someone is interested).  Most people who want to talk about their religion or their beliefs want to do just that…talk about their beliefs, not yours.  I guess I just try to live by example.  If all that anyone can say about me when I die is that I was a good father, a good friend, a good partner, a good teammate, a good brother and a good human being…I will be satisfied.  I doubt that anyone will care about the other stuff.  I could be wrong, but if I am I guess I don’t really care… 🙂




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Echoes from an unlikely place

A few weekends ago I spent a fantastic weekend in Fredricksburg, TX.  The weekend was an important one for me for many reasons, many of which I didn’t understand until the weekend was over.  Don’t get me wrong…I accomplished what I had planned: Spending a stress-free weekend in an authentic German, Texas Hill Country town with my girlfriend where we ate good food, listened to good music, drank good wine at wineries, climbed the beautiful (and steep!) Enchanted Rock and generally just relaxed.  What I hadn’t planned was the opportunity that I got to experience echoes from the past and remember people who I loved dearly.

Oh great, Wil is waxing nostalgic again… Well, you’re right, but I hope that you will bear with me…

My family (both sides) has a rich history of serving this country in the US Armed Forces.

Father’s Side

My grandfather was an MP in the US Army during WWII and brought many Nazi soldiers to justice.  I inherited some of the things that my grandfather had collected during the war  and it helped to add color to the man who I knew as a strict, but loving former soldier.  He was of German ancestry himself, so I often wonder what must have gone through his head as he served our country in the land from which his own family had come.  He passed away when I was in college.

My father retired as a Major, US Army Intelligence.  He server 4 tours in Vietnam during his service and was never allowed to talk about the things that he saw there.  I lost him right after Thanksgiving in 2011 and I described his honorable burial at Arlington National Cemetery in one of my previous posts.

Mother’s Side

The grandfather I knew best was actually my mom’s stepfather, but I will always refer to him as my grandfather.  He served in the US Air Force during WWII in the Pacific Theater and was captured.  He spent 3 1/2 years as a POW and survived the infamous Bataan Death March, where thousands of captured soldiers met their deaths.  After all the horrors he had experienced, he lived well into his 80s.

So you might ask yourself why I am reflecting on the service records of men from my family.  Well, the reason is that Fredrickburg is the home of The National Museum of the Pacific War.  This is a place that I had often wanted to visit but had not had a chance to until that weekend.  I was floored by the size, layout, and rich experience that the museum has to offer.  I thought that I had previously known a lot about the war based on the reading and research I had done about my grandfather.  I was mistaken.  I left the museum on both days humbled by the sacrifice that the soldiers in that and other wars have made for our country.  I was overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the information that was available about all aspects of the War in the Pacific.  It made me appreciate more completely the struggle our country went through as well as the personal struggle both my grandfathers experienced.

In addition, the weekend reverberated with memories of my father.  Not so much due to the museum, though thinking about the military in any capacity takes me back to my childhood and being raised in a military family.  Instead, memories of my dad came back to me at a restaurant where we had dinner during our stay.  My dad was a gourmet cook and he loved to make the German dishes that he had grown up eating.  One of his favorites was sauerbraten.  It is a type of German pot roast that has a pickled or sour taste based on the fact that it is usually made with vinegar or wine.  For many years of my childhood, I could not stand this dish.  But gradually I gave in and came to enjoy it every time my dad made if for us.  I ordered it, wondering if it the restaurant could do it justice.  Every bite was one to be savored, not only because the chef did a great job on the dish, but because each filled me with thoughts of my father.

Many of us walk through our busy lives on a daily basis and don’t necessarily reflect on our parents, our grandparents or the instrumental people in our lives that have come before us.  Some of us are the exact opposite and think about these people often.  Many times though, it is the memories that come from unexpected sources that are the most rich and most poignant.  On a weekend where I expected to make new memories with someone special, I was also honored by some I hadn’t thought of in quite some time.  For both, I am very grateful.


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The 2013 San Jose Budget Games

Recently I was asked by Luke Hohmann, CEO of The Innovation Games® Company to help out as a facilitator for the 2013 San Jose Budget Games.  For those of you unfamiliar with either the company or the event, let me provide a little bit of background…

In the past few years at my workplace, I have had the opportunity to become a trained facilitator of Innovation Games.  Innovation Games are structured games used by organizations to foster brainstorming activities, prioritize requirements, or get to the root of issues or problems.  Putting players into ‘game situations’ with a clear set of rules allows them to stretch their creative limits a bit further than they normally would, usually with more dramatic and interesting results.  I have used Innovation Games very effectively several times in the last few years to really dig down into design or product issues and extract some really good information from those participating.  When I saw Luke several months back, he told me that the City of San Jose, California was using one particular game called ‘Buy a Feature’ with great results.  The game was used to help the mayor decide, with the help of hundreds of citizens, what budget proposals would receive funding for the coming year.

The concept intrigued me instantly.  First, I am a huge proponent of Innovation Games as a way of drawing intuitive and creative thought out of the target audience.  The world is full of things that aren’t designed particularly well and full of processes that flat out don’t work so getting people to drill down into what is important to them is essential for improving the design.  Second, I dislike politics intensely.  I feel that we elect leaders and are never sure if they are doing the right things or spending their allocated budgets in ways that represent the feelings of average taxpayer.  Bringing the two together struck me as a very interesting and rewarding exercise, especially when Luke told me of the great and promising results from the first two San Jose Budget Games.  With that in mind, I was determined to try to use my facilitation skills to help the effort.

I was joined by dozens of people from other companies, some of whom (like me) had been facilitating games for a few years, others who had just been taught game facilitation two days before at The Innovation Games® Company Summit.  We were each assigned a table of 5-8 people who didn’t have much in common other than they were concerned citizens of San Jose who were taking part in this exercise to try to make sure their voices were heard on the subject of the city budget.  At my table we had two bright young teens who were part of a junior leadership group, senior citizens, and people active in their homeowners associations.  In the game they were given a bunch of materials that would help them to  fuel discussion and make decisions on the various budget proposals up for consideration.  Each was given some seed money and the ability to raise money from tax increases or cutting of current programs.  The game is designed in such a way that they players do not have enough money to buy everything on the list.  They must work together, discuss the importance of certain issues, and pool their money to fund the proposals on the list.

Needless to say, the conversation was intelligent and spirited.  After they were done, my group had funded the things that were important to them and were able to stand up and share with a group of hundreds of people what they funded and their thought process on why each was important.  The results  showed that if presented with clear direction, clear descriptions of the issues, the ability to ask questions of city leaders (all of whom were in the room), and the opportunity to make their voice heard, these people could identify what they felt needed to be a priority for their city.

The event was a huge success.  This was mostly due to a city government who recognized that they need to get the average taxpayer more involved.  A huge amount of effort went into this event and the team  from The Innovation Games® Company and Every Voice Engaged who put it on should be very proud of their work.  In addition, it was incredible to see so many professionals from companies all over the world donate their time and knowledge of the games for a great cause.  It was a very rewarding experience for me and I know that if I can,  I will continue to be involved in the future.  My hope is that more city and even state governments will use these techniques to gain valuable information from their citizens.  I know I wish my city would adopt this process…hint hint…

The group of trained facilitators and observers who donated their time for a great cause.

The group of trained facilitators and observers who donated their time for a great cause.

Graphical representations of topics and conversations from the 2013 San Jose Budget Games.


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Thoughts on self-help and seeing the forest for the trees

It strikes me that if I look back at some of the books I have read in the past 5 years they are all over the map…Mysteries, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Travel Journals, books on Spirituality, books on Thought, and even some Self-Help books.  I used to be a more voracious reader and still can be when the topic strikes my fancy, but sadly it is something I need to make more time for…heck, that isn’t even honest…it kind of defeats the purpose to have to ‘make time for something’, I just have to get off of my butt and do it….kind of like writing this blog!

I am reading a really good one right now, in my opinion.  The title is a little off-putting, but that really is the point…

Shut Up, Stop Whining & Get A Life: A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life” by Larry Winget

(Thanks to my girlfriend Stephanie for letting me borrow her copy :))

Larry is a no-nonsense ball of unique energy who tells it like it is and isn’t worried if it offends the establishment minded people who have bought into the traditional coddling, victim-centric message that the self-help industry bombards us all with daily.  Personally, I find him very refreshing.  Someone who actually rebels against the victim mentality that we seem to have become so adept at in today’s world.   His methods are direct, simple, and very honest and based on some of the following principles:

  • Personal Responsibility
  • Work Harder
  • Be Authentic
  • Figure out what is important, why it is important, and sacrifice to get it
  • Work Harder

Yes I know I listed something twice…it is important

A lot of people are attracted to self-help topics because they want to read a prescription of what they need to do in their life to be successful.  They want to make use of this prescription to tell them how to get something they are missing from their own lives.  They want someone to sympathize with the fact that they think their life sucks.  The problem is, life doesn’t come with a manual.  Life takes hard work.  Life takes sacrifice.  Life is not a spectator sport.  Life takes personal responsibility.  The best thing that you could get out of a self-help book is that it gives you ideas, not prescriptions.

I had a professor in college once.  He was a visiting professor from France and he taught Differential Equations.  The subject matter was very dry and his accent, at times, was a bit hard to decipher.  What really annoyed everyone in class about this professor was that our grades relied on weekly quizzes, the sum total of which (along with the final) comprised our grade.   Sounds standard, right?  Yeah, not so much.  The problem was that the quizzes every week did not often resemble the material that we had learned the previous week in class.  When asked about this by angry students, the professor flippantly replied that he expected his students to take what they had learned in class all week and apply that knowledge to the unfamiliar quiz questions.  He felt that they could be puzzled out by people who really grasped the concepts and had not just memorized the practice problems.  As with many of my classmates, this was not too popular with me at the time, but I have always remembered it…and at the times in my life where the answer seems elusive and life doesn’t seem to be ‘going by the book’, I take a deep breath and realize that: 1) I know how to think and 2) I have probably learned something in the past that I can apply to parts of the problem.

We are all where we are as a direct result of decisions we have made in the past.  This may be the source of argument for some.  Some will argue that they would not be where they are in their life if it weren’t for some outside influence that they had no control over.  I would agree.  The key there is that each of us chose a path to take when that thing we had no control over happened.  Based on what we have experienced, we have created our own reality.  Very often in life we cannot control what happens to us, but we are in complete control of how we react to it and what we do next.

Each of us is who we authentically are.  Sounds profound in a Buckaroo Banzai/Zen sort of way, doesn’t it?  It isn’t.  If the person you portray on a daily basis is not who you really are then that is a problem.  You are the only one who can change that.  It isn’t as big of a problem for everyone else as it is for you yourself when you look in the mirror everyday and don’t necessarily like or recognize who you see.  There is a reason that everyone always says being true to yourself is important.  I know it when I spot authentic people…I also know that it seems to me that these people shine brighter than most other people.  I don’t even have to like or agree with them, it is just refreshing.

I have written before about the whole ‘Victim Mentality’ and how we as a society seem to gravitate towards it…How it is always someone else’s fault.  How ‘woe is me, I was the oldest/middle/youngest child and my parents didn’t love me as much as my siblings!’…blah, blah, blah.  We are often humbled by people we hear of everyday who have been in a situation far worse than anything we have ever faced and who have persevered and been successful based on their attitude, their unwillingness to give up, their faith in themselves, and their hard work.  The problem is that most people hear stories about these types of things and are briefly inspired but don’t stop to consider the things in their lives that they want to aspire to, the changes they would need to make, and the sacrifices necessary to get there.  Sacrifice is sacrifice and work is work.  They both take effort…


Anyway, enough of the soapbox routine.

I would encourage you to visit Larry Winget’s site and see if his message speaks to you.   www.larrywinget.com

Thanks for reading….


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Signs that I am getting older…I guess

I suppose we all feel our age from time to time… The feeling of indestructibility fades for a bit and we have to grudgingly admit that time is passing faster than we want it to.  I have had some fairly humorous glimpses of this recently.  Some are physical, some are intellectual, some are attitudinal (yeah, that is not a word, but roll with it).  Along with these glimpses, however, has come the perception that no matter what my age, I still can appreciate the humor in the strangeness of my fellow man.

The Physical

A couple of weeks ago I decided that my bike, which I used to ride a lot, was looking pretty sad and lonely on the balcony of my apartment and I hauled it to the bike shop so that it could be tuned up and made suitable for hauling my large carcass around 🙂  I picked a particularly beautiful Saturday and ventured forth to my favorite park which has a ton of cool trails to ride.  There are some not so ‘bike-friendly’ streets to navigate to get there but I managed to make it there without issue.  So here I was…gorgeous day…had just done about a 2 mile warm-up…had made it to the park and started to navigate the trails.  Now there is one particular part of the park that has a series of dirt paths topped by a very thin layer of tiny gravel and the path travels around trees and obstacles at right angles.  I had just ridden slowly past a young woman and her two young children when the gravel caused my tire to slide out from under me and I laid the bike down…landed on my elbow and knee and managed to somersault out of the crash to lessen the damage.  I got up quickly, a bit embarrassed…and assessed the damage.  Bloody elbow and a knee with a hole in it that was losing blood at a fairly alarming rate.  I dragged the bike over to a nearby block of stone and sat down to see if I could get the bleeding to stop.

This is when I heard the woman tell her kids ‘Did you see that kids…see how he rolled when he crashed…if you ever crash, that is what you should do to protect yourself!’

I looked at her incredulously and had to hold my tongue.  What I wanted to say is…’Miss, would you like to bring your kids over so that I can demonstrate stopping a hemorrhage with direct pressure?’

No, ‘Wow are you ok?  Are you hurt?’… Just an object lesson for the kiddos.

So I took off my shirt, wrapped it around my leg and washed out the wound at the nearest bathroom stop.  It was pretty bad, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to cover the 2 miles back up to street level so that I could get to the local Urgent Care.  Walking into the Urgent Care shirtless raised a few eyebrows but I suppose that I could have put my blood soaked shirt back on…  The deep gash took four big stitches which I figured out took an average of 23 minutes apiece to insert, based on the fact that it had gotten dark outside by the time I went home with a sore elbow, a numb knee, and a fresh tetanus shot.  The walk/ride home over a mile in the dark was an adventure too and I remember thinking that this might make a semi-amusing blog of some sort should I decide to write about it at some point…I survived more than a decade of rugby where I escaped any really serious injury and I am laid low by a bit of gravel…quite sad actually.

The Intellectual

So I was in Subway the other night…ravenously hungry…on my way to watch my Redskins make a rare Monday Night Football appearance.  The local Pub does not serve their own food but allows you to bring your own in…which is weird…but works out.  The Subway was deserted except for the workers and the young couple in front of me that was taking a very long time to decide, with their fist full of coupons, how to maximize their savings on their 6″ sandwich selections.  To the young woman’s credit, she went pretty quickly…Her boyfriend however, did not…  The dialog went something like this:

Young Man:  ‘I would like a 6″ Veggie…toasted…and I would like one portion of cheese, but I would like two different types of cheeses…’

Young Woman:  ‘He can have my cheese too since I am not getting cheese.  Don’t you want my cheese?’

Young Man:  ‘Ok…that sounds good…but I only want one piece of her cheese.  I would like just two small pieces of onion…and I think I am going to splurge today and get green peppers….’  Blah blah blah….freakin blah!

(As everyone knows…I am a pretty big guy and if I wait too long to eat, I start to get a little twitchy.  I was having flashbacks of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… ‘Bueller………Bueller………Bueller……..Anyone…..’)

I calmly asked the young man if he had ever seen the movie, When Harry Met Sally.   He replied that he hadn’t and I joked that it probably came out before he was born… He agreed that that was probably the case… (Jackass!).  When I told him that there was a very famous scene in that movie where one of the main characters orders food in a very similar manner he said…

‘Oh yeah, wasn’t that movie starring Harry Connick Jr.?’….

Needless to say….at that point I was DONE with the conversation.  I chose to hold my tongue and depart with my sandwich, imagining that this would also appear in a blog someday and thinking that I might need to brush up on the Twilight movie series in order to hold a conversation with the current generation….Yeah…that ain’t happenin’!

Signs of the Curmudgeon?

Every week, at least once, I escape work at lunchtime and head to Pei Wei for lunch…It is cheap, it is fairly close, and I have a healthy addiction to their Chicken Pad Thai.  During one of these escapes recently I ordered my food and proceeded to the drink station which also has the silverware and fortune cookies.  I started to doctor up my iced tea and had to wait, somewhat impatiently, for the man who had decided to insert himself to the right of me, digging into the cannisters where they keep the oranges and lemons.  This has always impressed me as a pretty nice feature at Pei Wei…fresh oranges and lemons meant for drinks…like iced tea.  It took me a minute to figure out what the guy was doing….but then it dawned on me that he had taken the standard Chinese Food To-Go container and was filling it up with oranges.  He proceeded to fill it to the top and calmly folded his container closed and walked out the door…leaving a very sad and largely trampled single wedge of orange at the bottom.  I seriously thought about making an open field tackle…rugby style…and getting up to stomp on him if he didn’t release the ball…er to-go container… in a timely manner.  Funny…I had never imagined ever wanting to wear my studded rugby boots to lunch before that day.  Nothing releases my inner curmudgeon like someone trying to take advantage…and as I stated before…hunger doesn’t help.

Ah well…all signs of getting older I guess… but then … a ray of hope!  Vacation!  A Caribbean Cruise!  Nothing like a cruise to make you feel instantly young again.  You rub shoulders with a a lot of people from all walks of life on a cruise.  But invariably, more than half of the people aboard the ship are much older and after a week of being looked at like you are someone’s kid…you don’t feel quite so old anymore… Thank you to all you old, crabby, upper east coast travelers… Now, thanks to this trip, my perspective has been refreshed and the youthful glow has returned to my cheeks (courtesy of the Aruban sun) …at least until the next bike accident…:)


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Political Pizzas

At last the election is over… Can’t say I am thrilled with the result…I am not a fan of the current administration.   Not sure I would have been thrilled if the result had gone the opposite way either though.  Politics suck…just my opinion…but I think a lot of people probably share it.  Hard to believe in anyone running for office these days…

It is kind of like going to a pizza restaurant with a very simple menu.

The first choice is a cheese pizza loaded with mushrooms.  The mushroom pizza is cooked in a special oven by one chef.  The problem is that all too often it comes out undercooked.

The second choice is a pepperoni pizza.  This pizza is cooked in a special oven by another chef and the oven is turned up too high.  Mostly this pizza is overcooked.

There are many problems with this:

1)  I am very hungry

2) I hate mushrooms

3) I am also not a big fan of hard, burned pizza, even though I prefer pepperoni a bit more

4) No matter what pizza I choose I won’t be happy because it won’t be wholly representative of my tastes

5) I would go to another restaurant but this is supposedly the best restaurant around

6) The owner of the restaurant has no incentive to offer other choices… He swears there is no demand for them and that it would be too expensive to offer any.  Why should he?  People seem to buy his pizza whether they are happy with it or not.  The money in his pocket doesn’t lie.

7)  The chefs, who should take pride in their work, concentrate less on the quality and more on distracting each other, throwing ingredients, and generally acting poorly.

8) Anything you hear about these pizzas is only partially believable and the propaganda is so pervasive, you are not sure what to believe.

So how in my idealistic, problem solving mind do I fix the restaurant?

One could argue that if the pizza restaurant offered a la carte options where a customer could pick and choose their favorite ingredients, could trust the information about the ingredients, could trust the chefs to prepare the pizza to the best of their culinary ability, and could count on the restaurant to offer the pizza at a fair price….just imagine the customer experience.

The problem is that this would be too far to the other extreme.  People generally get very uncomfortable with too many choices.  It is too hard to decide… The concept sounds great in theory, but put into practice it is too hard to manage.

This is the point where the people who find themselves marching straight down party lines light their hair on fire and start ranting and raving about the fact that this is the reason why there are two strong parties…that this is the way it has always been…and it has worked for centuries.  Perhaps in principle, this is true…perhaps not.  I just know that this country and the world in general seem to be a heck of a lot different now than they were when these party lines were drawn. The parties themselves don’t seem to have adapted too well to today’s world, instead they keep trying to appeal to the wide ends of the spectrum.

Seems to me that the restaurant could stand to put some thought into how it could offer a more compelling menu of better cooked, finely crafted food that showcased the talents of the chefs.  More variety at a lower price, each dish standing on its own merits. You don’t have to like all the menu items…just pick your favorite.

Damn…I’m still hungry…but NOT for pizza.  If I hear another pizza ad I might just be sick.  Maybe a calzone…:)



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Hiatus over – Some thoughts on Expectations

So…it wasn’t an on-purpose hiatus…but I guess sometimes life intrudes and shakes up your mojo a little bit.  There have been about a dozen times in the last few months where I thought ‘Damn… I haven’t written a blog in a long time.  I need to write one.  What should I write about?… I have a few thoughts… Are they compelling?  Am I too tired?’  And another day would pass…

So anyway, as is my tendency for things I care about doing, I thought…No time like the present to dive right back in.  So here goes…

One thing that has spoken to me lately is the concept of Expectations.  We all have them.  We can’t really avoid having them.  We can tell ourselves not to have them…but we do anyway.  The funny thing about expectations is that we have them everyday in just about every situation and having them one of about 3 things can happen:

1)  Our expectations are not met and we are disappointed, shocked, disillusioned, angry, sad…the list of bad feelings goes on.

2)  Our expectations are met.  Something happens that we expected to happen and we don’t give it a second thought, because after all, it met our expectations. We experience these everyday and don’t think too much about them.

or 3) Our expectations are exceeded.  We are pleasantly surprised, overjoyed, thrilled, and we can’t stop talking about our experience.

Don’t we all wish that more of life fell into the last category.  How nice would it be to be surprised and delighted on a daily basis?  to be shocked out of your normal routine by someone or something that ‘makes your day’?  It is pretty cool when it happens.

So what do we do about it?  Do we lower our expectations so that we are pleasantly surprised more often?  Sounds plausible…but pretty sad if you ask me.  Because how long do you go with this philosophy until you start to except poorer treatment…poorer service…bad manners…etc as the norm?  At that point you have outsmarted yourself and decreased your standard of living.

Do we become more analytical?  Crunching the numbers in our heads of the likelihood of certain outcomes…expecting the higher probability result.  This doesn’t sound like much fun either (at least not to the average person).

All to often in today’s society we come across things in our lives that fall short of our expectations.  Whether it is food we order at a restaurant, the service we receive from our cable company, or whether it is the effort that a ‘friend’ makes to contribute to our relationship with them, we are all too familiar with being ‘let down’.

As with most advice, most of us are better at giving it than following our own.  I was talking to my daughter the other day about dealing with expectations she has regarding a friend who had been acting poorly towards her.  My advice to her, which on some level I hope she took to heart, was that the only thing she can control in this life is herself.  That no matter what expectations she has of other people or the world in general, she won’t realistically ever have control of anything other than herself and the way she reacts to the situation.

Sage advice, right…:)  Now if I could only be better at following it myself.  Instead, I find myself far too often as a frustrated idealist, wondering why the world isn’t more like it should be… at least in my head.

Recently I had my world rocked by expectation…. My mother went in for surgery to remove cancer in her lung.  The surgery was successful.  The doctor was overjoyed that they had gotten it all and it hadn’t spread.  She spent the next 18 days in the hospital.  I tried to visit most every day.  Her recovery was very slow and not without complication.  Some days I visited and she was herself…lucid…funny…on the mend.  Other days she was so under the influence of pain medication that she hallucinated.  It was an exhausting roller coaster ride for all of us.  Every day I went to that hospital with expectation and every day it was different than what I expected.  She came home from the hospital after 18 days and I visited her there.  She was comfortable.  She was healing.  She was snuggling in her bed, with her dog, content to be in her place.  The next morning a massive stroke took her from us.  It was devastating and still is…

Why am I telling you this?  Selfishly it is a form of catharsis for me…. Unselfishly it is a plea for all of you to consider the things in life that you take for granted each day…  To hug your loved ones a little tighter.  To make darn sure at least once a day that you exceed someone else’s expectations.  Whether you provide better service at work, or you are a better friend, or you are more polite to the people you come into contact with…it doesn’t matter.  Just remember that the only one you can control is YOU and the mark you leave on the world and those around you is what you will be remembered for…

Is this wisdom?  I don’t know… but take it for what it is worth to you and thanks for reading.







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Re-focus the focus…

This has been an especially rough week for our country.  The tragedy of what happened in Colorado has left the nation stunned.  It has reminded us again that evil exists in the world.  It has once again focused our thoughts and prayers on the families devastated by the loss and injury of their loved ones.  It has proven to us that terrorism is not confined to acts by other people from outside our country, but exists within our borders and can be perpetrated by anyone.   It has jarred us once again from our slumber and brought into clear focus the fact that we can’t take anything or anyone for granted in our lives.   We have been again lulled into a sense that everything is secure, as we go about building relationships with people through our cellphones instead of being aware of those around us and relating to each other.  Many of us are focused where we should be focused…on the families of the tragic victims…on the realization that we need to live in our imperfect world with eyes that are more open…the realization that there are people out there who live in a delusional world where they can even think about committing an act like this one.

The problem is that far too many of us are focused on other things.  The political machines in this country are using this crime against humanity to get on their soapboxes and talk about gun control.  They are blaming the parents.  They are blaming violent films.  Blame…Blame…Blame.  Oh, how we love to point the finger.  Oh how we love to talk about whose fault it all is… It is just a symptom of what I have talked about before in other blog entries…people always want to blame somebody else and never think about how they themselves act.  Many never think about impressing good values on their children and teaching them right from wrong.  Many never think about what they would have done if they were in the situation that the victims faced.  We don’t want to think about it…we just hope it never happens to us.

The fact is, throughout history there have been evil people…misguided people…zealots…sociopaths.  In older times, a family was responsible for protecting itself.  That is why we have a right to bear arms in this country.  Our history dictated that.  Telling a frontiersman that he could not own a weapon to feed his family or protect it from harm and he would have laughed in your face and odds are, he probably would not have lasted very long without it.  Granted, we would like to believe that we have become more civilized through the ages with our ‘advances’ in our laws and in technology.  But somehow, I don’t think that the bad guys got the memo.

I don’t know what the right answer is, I just know that there are a few things that make logical sense to me.

1) A person should have the right to protect himself/herself and protect his/her family.

2) If this involves owning a weapon, so be it.

3) If someone enters my house and tries to hurt me or my family, they should expect to stop living.

4) Criminals or people who are set on doing horrible things are going to do them and  whether weapons are readily available or not…they will find a way to get them,

5) Guns themselves don’t kill people.  You don’t see people blaming the water for drowning someone.

6) We need to be more aware of the people around us and the situations we put ourselves in, get to know our fellow humans, and develop more of a sense of community.

Like I said, I don’t know what the answer is…I do know that I really don’t want to debate gun control with anyone as a result of this blog.  I don’t really like guns that much.  My dad taught Hunter Safety and Marksmanship when I was growing up and I am a pretty good shot, but they don’t do anything for me.  Apparently, becoming more civilized over time has prompted us to invent more effective ways of killing each other.  This is inevitable I suppose.  What doesn’t have to be inevitable is our complacency about it.

Keep your eyes open.  Live your life.  Develop relationships with those around you.  Be part of a community.  Cherish your loved ones.  Spend time with them.  We only have so many trips around the sun as it is.  Know that we are all imperfect people living in an imperfect world and it is what we make of it.  Feel for those who have experienced loss and keep the focus where it needs to be…on taking care of yourself and those around you.  Not pointing fingers and trying to figure out who to blame.  Seems obvious doesn’t it?



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