Saturday, March 12, 2011


On a day when Japan is still reeling from the enormous disasters that have hit it--and the aftershocks continuing to pummel it--I feel a bit odd talking about what a gorgeous day it is here in North Carolina. I'm going to do it anyway, though, for two reasons: good news sometimes make bad news easier to take, and, well, it is absolutely wonderful here.

Perfect, in fact.

When I walked up to get the mail, the temperature was 68 (Fahrenheit), the clear sky was glowing light blue, a slight breeze was rustling the leaves, birds were singing, and you could almost hear every tree and flower and blade of grass whispering, "Life, glorious life."

In this view up the driveway, the blossoming tree is betting that Spring is here. (As always, click on an image to see a larger version of it.)

Not to be outdone, the bushes shouted yellow greetings.

The pines and the sky joined in that they had always known Spring would not desert them.

Holden, the World's Greatest Dog, even deigned to pose. His questions: Is it time for a walk, maybe a game of fetch? Can a brother get a biscuit?

Even Cone Man donned a garland to greet the season.

We'll have more cold days, more gray skies, more moments when we wonder if winter will ever end, but today we have all this, and with it we gain the bone-deep certainty that Spring will come.

It's not yet time for this song's subject, but soon enough it will be, and that is a perfect, glorious, wonderful thing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Some music you should check out

The following is not a paid endorsement; in fact, the people involved might be a little embarrassed about the pimpery I'm about to lay on you. I must, though, confess to extreme bias: the music comes from Ben Azevedo, a great guy who happens to be Sarah's boyfriend, and it includes a song she co-authored and for which she plays piano and sings.

In his not-so-secret identity as the band, The Camaraderie, Ben has created an online EP that you should check out. The site lets you play any of the songs for free, and you can download any song for a buck or the EP for any amount you choose to pay. I'm a big believer in paying for the work of artists--hey, I do like to sell those books I write--so I bought a copy (in lossless format, of course) and have to recommend that approach. You even get the lyrics right there on the site.

I enjoy all five songs, but my favorite is their duet, "The Ladder." I know, I know: of course I like it because Sarah is in it. Really, though, I don't think that's it; I genuinely believe it's a strong tune.

Check it out. Support Ben's music. He's good enough that I'd like to see him keep it up.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three stupid mistakes smart hotels make

I spend a fair amount of time in hotels. Most of them are upscale establishments with rates to match. They work hard at delivering the levels of service and luxury that their clients demand from them. The intelligence behind their approaches is always evident.

Despite those attempts, they all make the same three stupid mistakes.

Crappy bandwidth

On weekdays, most rooms in most nice hotels are full of business travelers. Those folks--heck, almost all Americans today--need high-speed Internet connectivity to do their work in the evenings. I understand that commercial bandwidth is expensive--we spend a great deal on it for our company--but at the prices these places charge there is no excuse for making people wait five and ten times as long for downloads in their rooms as they would at home.

Worse, these luxury hotels typically charge through the nose for their bandwidth. Stay at a cheap Super 8, and the bandwidth is likely to be free, but in a nicer establishment you can expect at least $9.99/day and often $12.99/day.

Charge me a "resort fee" if you must, but give me decent bandwidth.

Stupid device assumptions

I travel with at least two devices--a smart phone and a notebook--that require connectivity. Many people also bring a pad. Worse, many rooms contain two people. Despite these obvious facts, the nice hotels are set up to allow only one Internet-connected device per room.

Come on, folks, step into the 2000s and start supporting all the devices a room's occupants happen to have.

Ice bucket roulette

I love ice. A soda isn't right without it. Neither is water if I have the choice. This mania for ice may come from growing up in Florida, but it's one my brother and sister share, as do my kids. We're not alone, either; many people love ice.

So, one of the first things I do when I settle into a room is wrestle with the always tricky ice condom, manage to get it into the container, and fill the ice bucket. I don't mind doing that, though I'd prefer to dispense with the ice condom and just have them clean the bucket, but therein lies the rub: Once you're in a room, hotels are just as likely to pretend the ice bucket doesn't exist as to do anything with it.

You leave in the morning, expecting them to clean it as they do the rest of the room. Nope. When you return, the melted ice is there, you have no new ice condom, and the thing is wherever you left it. Or, they've take out the ice condom but obviously not touched the bucket, and now you have to decide whether to use the bare container. (I always do, because I will not go without ice.)

The ice bucket deserves the same regular cleaning as the rest of the room.

I don't expect hotels to address these shortcomings, but I promise that any time I stay in one that does, I'll make sure to recommend it to you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reboot the pumps!

A bit over a week ago, I pulled into my local and favorite gas station for one of my rare visits; I do, after all, drive a Prius. Evening was creeping in, but light still illuminated the sky, the business was clearly open, and cars filled half a dozen other pump lanes. I got out, walked up to the pump...

...and all of the pumps crashed. Screens froze. Gas stopped coming out of nozzles several lanes away from me. All the computers in all the pumps went down at the same time.

What was happening was obvious if you work at all with technology, but apparently none of my fellow gas-purchasers did, because the ruckus that ensued was sufficiently loud and stupid that I had to retreat to my car lest someone overhear me laughing and decide to beat me to death with a now useless pump handle.

A young, small guy emerged from the gas station waving his hands and yelling, "Relax! I got this! I just have to flip the breaker, and then you have to wait!"

I bet the folks who wrote the gas-pump software (Gilbarco--I checked as my pump booted and noted the name and recalled that I had consulted for that company over two decades ago) had another procedure in mind. They had probably laid out key combinations and processes for rebooting in the event of a system crash, but, no, none of that was to happen here. Instead, the guy was essentially pulling the plug on all the pumps at once and then letting them bring themselves up from scratch.

The approach worked, though I learned that gas pumps--at least these pumps--do not boot quickly: the process consumed several minutes, involved three BIOSes, and displayed many different screens that offered the promise but never the reality of being ready for business.

Eventually, though, the pumps came back to life, I filled my tank and collected my receipt. As I pulled away, I heard screaming, saw the guy emerge from the store, and murmured an undirected thanks for being able to load up before the pumps crashed again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Year In Prose comes to an end

For many months now, each Tuesday I would head over to the A Year In Prose blog to see what new contribution Sarah had posted. I'd then read through the other entries as well. Over time, the other folks involved stopped contributing, and every now and then Sarah would fall a few weeks behind, but eventually she always caught up.

The project, and thus the blog, is now complete. Sarah posted her fifty-second entry, finished the year, and capped the blog with a little summary essay at the end of that entry. I still recommend her work to you, including this very interesting final four-part series, not just because I'm her father, but also because her writing is simply excellent. I will miss this opportunity to read her work and to see her writing evolve--an evolution that was evident even though she was working within the artificial but fun rules of the blog.

Check it out.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I knew it!

Having been at TEDActive for the past week, I've written so many serious and wonder-filled entries that I have surpassed my tolerance limit for my own seriousness. So, I will head down the low-brow road and share with you an important piece of medical research that took me way to long to hear about.

Dr. Karen Weatherby is my hero. I can only hope her recent research proves to be correct. If it is, given my bad tendencies, I may well live forever.

Oh, sure, like you never look.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What I (re)learned about myself at TEDActive

I've gone to TEDActive four times now, and each time I emerge having learned the same lessons--again.

I want to spend more time creating.

The conference filled me with creative spirit. Books and stories I want to write, films I want to make--all of it bubbled up in me and yelled for more of my time and attention.

I want to do more to improve our business.

Business inspiration hits me often here, and this year was no exception. There is so much we could be doing, and so much we could be doing differently or better. I'd love to get to it!

I suck at socializing.

People seemed to approach one another with ease and often glee. I do well when someone talks to me, but striking up conversations with others is very difficult--though I do fine once I'm past that moment.

I have social tendencies.

I admire the social ease of others, and I hang out on the edges of the crowds for a little time each day, wondering if I might somehow fit in.

I don't belong here.

The energy level and social commitment and creativity of the TEDsters is daunting. So very often, I feel old and slow and as if I have done nothing.

I do belong here.

When I talk to people about PT or my books or the Children No More charity effort, the look in their eyes makes it clear that I do belong--and that some of them are left wondering if they do.

I must lose weight and become fit again.

As you can see, for every other lesson, I find myself torn, on both sides, wanting more than I can find a way to manage. On this lesson, however, there is no other side: If I want to live a long life--and I do--I must drop a ton of weight and become fit again.

The challenge, of course, is to figure out how to do that and everything else I want--and need-to do within days with only twenty-four hours and a life with far more stress than I am handling well right now.

Clearly, I have a lot to do.


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