Friday, August 31, 2007

Nothing in life was ever settle on a conference call

A large part of my job involves working with people to solve some of their problems. Frequently, this work is done on the phone. Sometimes, I'm solving the problems, other times, I'm getting someone else involved who can solve it.

The last two days, I've been on conference calls with 10-20 people and someone on the call tried to solve the problem. This meant that 2 of the 10-20 people had a deep technical problem, when the other 8-18 of us sat there, bored. To make matters worse, the person solving the problem (or trying to) argued with the other person. And of course the other person argued back, dragging the call down to a shouting match.

I'm firmly convinced that nothing in life was ever settle on a conference call.

(Can you tell I'm frustrated?)

The Facebook generation

Recently, a young girl from a town close to mine died while jogging. It was her first week at college. I didn't know her and she didn't go to my son's high school, but she went to a school very close by and there were likely some friends in common. I told him about it as I wanted him to hear from me first, not from his friends

Later, out of curiosity, I went to see if she had a facebook page. Silly question, all kids that age have a facebook page. Hers was open and I could see comments and messages that other people had sent her.

Several people left her comments after her death. They knew she was dead and were saying things like "we will miss you" or "I can't believe it's true". Some messages were spiritual and offered hope for the girl or hope for others who read the messages.

This struck me as very odd. I would never leave a message like this. After all, we know the person won't get the message. But I thought it was very neat.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Second Empire

Last night I had dinner at one of those fancy downtown restaurants in Raliegh. One of those built into an old house. It was a nice dinner, but it wouldn't be my first choice for a place to go.

Our first question was "what happened to the first empire?" Well, we obviously showed our ignorance, the first empire was the Roman Empire and the second was the Napoleonic Empire. The restaurant was named for the style of the house.

This was the type of place where, when dinner arrived, several waiters/waitresses decended upon the table and placed the meals down all at the same time. It was sort of like synchronized swimming.

If you get to Raleigh and want to impress someone, this is a nice place. Plan on a long evening, it was relaxing and quiet (we were loud). Bring a big credit card, it was expensive...

Monday, August 27, 2007

To Vegas and back - without losing my shirt

My Vegas trip was a success and I'm back safe. The return trip was interesting as we diverted to Knoxville due to weather, sat on the ground for two hours, then went to Atlanta only to sit on the taxi-way for another hour. Needless to say, I missed my connection. I stayed overnight in a hotel, then drove back (the earliest flight I could have caught would have had me waiting for another 12 hours).

I confess I played slots a little, I lost a total of $14 or $34 depending on how you count. Compared to the dinners I had, that was cheap.

We had some wine one night with dinner, over $300/bottle. I'm glad I wasn't paying. It was good, but so was the $30/bottle stuff.

I also saw two shows, The Blue Man Group (excellent show!) and The Wayne Brady Show (good, but not as good as the Blue Man Group).

Everything in Vegas is over the top. I was going to say extravagant, but that's not descriptive enough. Even for extravagant, it's over the top. The hotel lobby with about 12 dozen fresh roses on display, the elaborate costumes (Caesar's palace), all of the artwork. I got upgraded to a suite and there was even a baby grand piano in my room. I keep wondering about all of the things we could have done instead of spending $300 for a bottle of wine and money on all of the stuff.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Viva Las Vegas

I'm heading to "Sin City" for a week long conference and not sure how much time I'll have to post updates here. Most people hear you're going to Vegas for work and they say "sure, I bet it's work".

I'm not attracted to either to the common sins in Vegas. Sure they can have a woman in your room in 30 minutes, but I have a beautiful woman at home, why would I want anything else? And as for gambling, that's a "sin" that's wrongly named. Gambling implies there's some chance of winning, when I do it it's called "losing".

So I get up east coast time, catch up on work, go to conferences all day, entertain customers at night and come back worn out. Lots of fun.

Churches in Vegas....

I've been to Vegas before, but it's been about 7 or 8 years, so I did some research into the town. It may come as a surprise to you, but there are more Catholic churches than casinos in Las Vegas.

Not surprisingly, some worshippers at sunday services will give casino chips rather than cash when the basket is passed. Since they get chips from many different casinos, the churches have devised a method to collect the offerings.

The churches send all their collected chips to a nearby Franciscan monastery for sorting and then the chips are taken to the casinos of origin and cashed in.

The one going to the casino to retrieve the cash is known as the chip monk....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Divorce American Style - Part 2

This story doesn't exactly involve a divorce. At least not yet.

Seems Mike Moore (not the movie guy) is a deputy in Elko, Nv who arrested a woman for DUI. Normally, this would create much of a stir, but this time he arrested HIS WIFE. TWICE!

You can't make this stuff up. See the article here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

NPR is not known as the most conservative radio station in the US. That's why I wanted to reference this program titled "Cautious Optimism on Behalf of the Iraq Surge". You can listen to it here.

I heard other references to writer Kenneth Pollack's op-ed in The New York Times, titled "A War We Might Just Win." (bytheyway, he had trouble with the word "win"). Pollack spoke out against the war early on, but in his editorial, he argues that U.S. troops are finally making progress in Iraq.

If you don't want to listen online, you can read some of his comments in an article titled "Pollack: ‘Surge’ Producing Real Progress in Iraq" at this webite.

Interesting reading...

Proof that the right saves more gas than the left

With gas prices (back down for the moment), everyone wants to save gas. And some are concerned about global warming and all should be concerned about polutting less.

So if you knew a way to save gas (and $$) an pollute less that didn't cost you anything, would you listen?

Seem UPS has found that making right turns instead of left turns saves gas. Company reps say it decreases the amount of time idling, which will, in turn, make each vehicle more fuel-efficient. On an individual truck-by-truck basis, the difference in fuel efficiency is minimal, but on a fleet level, the increase in fuel economy becomes quite significant.

Additionally, making right turns leads to less accidents than making left turns, thereby increasing your life expectancy and reduces the need for goverment sponsored health care.

So, UPS has given us proof that the right is better than the left.

See the article here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Divorce American Style

You may have seen the story featured on NBC's Today. (Some of) the women that read this will love it. (Some of) the men will snicker. Personally, I think it's funnny and sad at the same time. Pardon the subject line, a bad take-off on an old TV show (shows my age).

Seems Leroy Greer and his wife were on the outs. Their marriage was headed to Divorce Court. During the separation, unknown to his wife, Leroy found a new friend, surely for emotional support. But things with the wife improved and they got back together. Until.

Leroy's wife received a thank you note from 1-800-FLOWERS. Realizing that she hadn't received any flowers, she called the office and asked for a copy of the receipt. Not realizing the predicament (or maybe some scorned admin realized it and wished to cause Leroy more pain) she received a copy of the receipt along with a copy of the card which said "Just wanted to say I love you".

I'm sure Leroy explained that it didn't really mean anything and that she (his wife) was the only one for him, but she didn't accept the story. Instead, she increased the amount she was asking for in the divorce settlement. Of course Leroy says that worse than the financial impact, his marriage is now soured and he's suing 1-800-FLOWERS (it's the American way).

You can't make this stuff up. Read one account here. Your comments welcome

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Great post in another blog

One of my sometimes-readers had a humorous post that I loved. I hope you'll love it too.

Look at his blog here.

I intentionally pointed to his whole blog, not just the post that got my attention. Look for "The Love that Dare Not Speak its Name..." it's hilarious (note that he says it's a parody).

The post after that (or before that depending on how you look at it) is done in respect for equal time.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Call to treason

If you like Tom Clancy and just don't have the time to read one of hus 600+ page books, but can handle 400 pages, this Op-Center book is a good read.

If you are into politics and you've ever wondered how much change politics can implement, or how much government agencies should carry out political changes, you should read this.

If you're concerned about Homeland security, CIA involvement in politics, etc, you should read this.

In all cases, remember that it's fiction.

Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Call to Treason is a good read. As with all of the Op-Center books, this is not real Clancy, but it's close. Clancy sketches an outline, passes it to some "junior" writers and then reviews it. As with other Op-Centers, this book is exciting.

The characters in this book are passed along from the other Op-Center books. If you've read other Op-Center books, you'll know them and have ideas about them. But if you haven't read those, don't worry, the book can be enjoyed without any other knowledge. This book may encourage you to read all of them (they're always on my list, for lighter reading).

In the book, Op-Center faces budget cuts. The organization is down-sized and one of the guys goes to work for a new political party. The new political party is aiming to win the presidency and change things. First on the agenda are immigration and trade.

But some folks related to the new party have a habit of getting killed (as with most of Clancy's stuff, killed in a spectacular way).

Trying to figure out who the good guys are and who are the bad guys is intriguing. I had trouble deciding if the head of the party was good or bad. And also for the guys below him

One question that was raised was how far is too far to go to stop a bad politician? If you didn't like one of the political candidates, and you thought he/she might win, to what lengths would you go to stop him/her? The book doesn't try to answer that (it's just entertainment, not ethics), but you should think about it.

Overall, a very good read.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

How many children do you want?

The Duggar family have 17 and aren't sure that they're through yet. This family from Arkansas (they father's real name is "Jim Bob" - actually James Robert, but he goes by Jim Bob) has had two sets of twins and 13 individual births.

I've seen their website, it's sure to meet the approval of my pro-life friends. In fact, you could almost say that it's pro-life to the extreme. But what impressed me was that it's not in-your-face pro-life. I got the impression that if one of their friends wanted to use birth control (they obviously don't) they would not chastise the friend.

I did some searching and found that their are some people who don't agree with the Duggars. While the Duggars won't get in their face, they will get in the Duggars' face. They argue that there are too many children starving (not these children though), that they will push their ideas on their children (isn't that a parent's job?) or that they're just weird. They also argue that it's not natural or healthy.

While I agree that they are different, I'm not sure weird fits. And as for natural, what's not natural? A child is the natural result of a healthy marriage. Sometimes it doesn't work that way, but when it does, it's a beautiful thing. The fact that they don't want to prevent childbirth just makes it completely natural.

I'm sure there's a lot I don't know, but I think this is great for this family. Congratulations to the Duggars.

* Update *
The Duggars were on NBC's Today show this morning. They consider each of their 17 children a gift from God. The background searching I did said that they own DEBT FREE a 7000 square foot home. I forgot to mention that the kids are home schooled, on the Today show was a clip of the school-teacher mom teaching bankruptcy law. All of the family looked normal, healthy and happy. My wife said "if you are really happy, you can't fake that".

Side note. We have half that many children (if you count sons-in-law and daughter-in-law).

Friday, August 03, 2007

Just in Time - the world is flat

"The World is Flat" is a book by Thomas L. Friedman that discusses globalization of world economies. The idea is that with globalization, goods and services can flow between nations with little to no problems (I haven't read the book, but it's on my list).

Just In Time is a manufacturing technique (sometimes called "lean manufacturing") that attempts to make good "just in time" for sale. Zero inventory is another term I've heard.

So what happens when just in time is not in time? Customer orders a product, yes sir we can have it here in two weeks. But he needs it now! (Actually needed it two weeks ago, but that's beside the point). It has to go through customs, beware of other countries' holidays, admin is in South America, product from Central America or Central Europe, shipping is outsourced to another company, who knows when it will get here?

This is the way all companies work these days, I've just been caught up in it the last few days.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Life is a function

OK, this will be strange, but stick with me. I was a math major for 2 years in college, but this only involves high school math. A function is something like y = ax + bw + cz + d. It involves coefficients (a, b & c in my example), variables (x, w & z) and constants (d). The thing I liked best about functions was that when you plugged in the right coefficients, variables and constants, you always get the right answer.

It occurred to me yesterday that life is a function. You encounter decisions (variables) and some of these decisions are bigger than others (different coefficients) and you have some constants. The results you get are a function of the variables, coefficients and constants.

It would be nice if you could see this function ahead of time, then you'd be able to solve the function based on the variables and know how life would turn out. Unfortunately, you can't know all the variables and especially the coefficients (the importance of the decisions) at the time you're facing things.

But life is a function. The decisions we make lead directly to the life we live.

(Now why didn't Socrates or Plato or some other philosopher come up with that idea?)