Friday, November 28, 2008

This was a good day.

I woke up this morning with a massive headache and almost went right back to bed. I am glad I did not. For, you see, today was the day I had plans with The Coolest 7-Year-Old I Know, one Mr. Trevor Tracey. And also The Coolest Boss I Ever Had, Ms. Kathryn Tracey, AKA "KT."

Trevor is KT's nephew, and he is awesome. In fact, he is my best seven-year-old friend.

I got to see Disney's new movie, Bolt, with Trevor and KT this morning. We saw it in 3D, which is getting amazinger and amazinger. We also saw Speed Racer in 3D earlier this year, but I think Bolt was even better: the story is great, the art is beautiful, the 3D effects were cool, Susie Essman as Mittens the Cat is hilarious, and Rhino the Hamster is "...beyawesome" and steals the show.

After the movie, we went to Trevor's favorite, Steak-N-Shake, where I had a fantastic double steakburger with cheese and a Cherry Diet Coke. Seriously, is there a better meal? Not for under seven bucks, my friends...not for under seven bucks. Throughout the meal, I quizzed Trevor on NASCAR -- who drives what number car, what color their car is, who their sponsor is, etc. He knows it all. This boy is the Encyclopedia Nascarica. (And did I mention he's seven?) I predict a future in either auto racing, sports commentating, or art & architecture for this guy -- he drew me a picture of the racetrack at Daytona, too. Either that, or some sort of superheroism, because "Trevor Tracey" is an awesome secret identity name.

When I got home from lunch, I didn't have a plan. I logged on to local social network (remember my beef with them? I'm over it.) and found some craziness about Dinosaurs and the Bible, courtesy of one of the nicest, but slightly crazy, SI members. I downloaded a two-and-a-half-hour video on her recommendation, just, you know, to see, and about 30 minutes into the video, I fell asleep. Friends, believe me when I tell you: if you're running a video about the Great Flood, dinosaurs, the Dawn of Man, and the Garden of Eden while you're sleeping, you're going to have some weird dreams. And not all dinosaur-related, either. But just trust me on this; your dreams, they will be odd. (Also, I remain unconvinced that dinosaurs coexisted with humans, but I suppose that's another blog post altogether.)

After waking up from my freaky-dreamed nap and convincing myself that I wasn't in eighteenth-century Spain waiting to ride my electronic pillow-chariot in the race for the grand-prize hot fudge sundae (I told you), I took a shower, made some dinner, and chilled out for a bit. Then I watched "Air Force One" on Hulu, which brings us to now. I am enjoying the post-holiday quiet, watching Milo hop around, reading Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" and reflecting on a pretty good day.

How was your Black Friday?

FOR THE RECORD: Yesterday was a good day, too. I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family -- awesome deep-fried turkey, and Aunt Charlotte's rice, and all manner of other starches, and a delicious apple pie prepared by my sister-in-law, Beth. And then I went over to Will and Carolyn's and we watched "Tropic Thunder" with Earl and LuBea (Carolyn's parents) and all of us except Earl played a couple rounds of Apples to Apples. I was exhausted when I pulled into the garage at half past midnight, but it was a great day!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope it all works out for you the way you want it to!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

That's ... um ... specific

I somehow found myself on this afternoon and was browsing the casting notices just in case they were looking for, you know, an unemployed, mid-30s goofball, fluent in Spanish and Starbucks, for a new reality-show pilot about a former Eagle Scout who turns to a life of crime. (Not that I've done that ... yet ... but I could be persuaded, if the price is right and there are cameras to follow my every move.)


I was browsing and saw the harmless headline, "Host for Hot New TV Pilot." I saw that it was only open to people who live in California, so I was about to click away, but then I saw even more requirements that I did not meet. To wit:

In case you're having trouble reading and/or embiggening it, let me transcribe:

YOU: Midget with contractor's license. Must have car, own tools. No dopers, scammers or whiners.* Irish accent. Tagalog fluency a plus.

* It was really the "no whiners" part that wouldn't allow me to make the cut. The rest of it, I could fudge.

Now then. I don't know what kind of "hot new TV pilot" this is going to be, but I. Want. To. See. It. So if you know of any midget contractors with Irish accents who are also fluent in Tagalog, please to be referring them to the aforelinked page.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

When I was growing up, I remember very specifically a Carpenters tape (which seemed to be copied from, perhaps, an LP) that I enjoyed playing over and over and over again. And though I have downloaded "The Carpenters: The Singles, 1969 - 1973" on iTunes, there are some songs I remember which aren't on that masterwork. One of them is this one:

I have no idea why I enjoy this song so much, but I think it has something to do with the way it calls out to the communal, we're-all-in-this-together, caveman part of my brain in a very strong way. They may not have much (although jambalaya and crawfish pie and filé gumbo do sound quite filling), but what they do have will see them through. These Bayou people know what they're going to do and they know how they're going to do it: together, and with song.

I kind of think that would be part of my own brand/motto/perspective on life: "Together, And With Song."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Mascelle" is Italian for "Jaws"

Shark in Venice is the movie I have waited my entire life to see...

My friends, I have never been more serious about something in my life than right now. Not only do I want to see this film, but I want to own an autographed copy on DVD, and I want to rent out the Dolphin Pavilion at the Indianapolis Zoo for a special underwater showing in the Dolphin Adventure Dome, to which I will invite, in addition to my 30 closest friends, actor Stephen Baldwin for a pre-show talk and post-show prayer circle. We will have an authentic Italian Olive Garden meal, complete with unlimited salad and breadsticks, and together we will marvel at how this film so deftly combines The DaVinci Code, Deep Blue Sea, and BioDome.

If you think I am kidding, then you do not know me very well.

UPDATE: My brother got me the Shark in Venice DVD for Christmas!

UPDATE UPDATE: The DVD has arrived!

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: There seems to be some debate as to whether it's Shark in Venice or Sharks in Venice. I will tell you that the DVD is labeled Sharks in Venice, and the title sequence confirms it. Should I label that a spoiler alert?

Memo to Dad: Don't Forget 24 Tonight!

In the year and a half since the finale of the sixth season of 24, the story of the wacky adventures of four old ladies in Miami the story of the wacky adventures of four boarding-school students in upstate New York the story of the wacky adventures of six young people making their way in life and love in mid-90s New York City the story of the wacky adventures of five children forced to live on their own when their parents are killed by a drunk driver the story of the wacky adventures of Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer filmed in real-time, my father has had no adrenaline outlet, no weekly rush of excitement, no regular jolt of vicarious energy.

Truth be told, this has been good, as Dad has channeled his energy into other constructive projects, such as building residential wheelchair ramps for the less fortunate, re-tiling the kitchen floor, and watching House. In a way, though, it is clear that tonight's brief return of 24 and the new season's beginning on January 11 are very positive steps for the Mom-and-Dad household. Dad will soon be back to carving out an hour each week to shush Mom so he can "help Jack" and Mom will soon be back to having an hour each week when she can watch QVC uninterrupted. It's win-win.

Tonight's 24 minibite is but a prelude leading up to the season opener on January 11 -- ahem, "24play," if you will -- but it looks good. Apparently it takes place over two hours when the first female US president (timely! topical! sort of!) is about to be inaugurated while, at the same time, an imminent violent coup ("How imminent?" "Very.") with the potential to lead to genocide is about to take place in the fictional African state of Sangala (also timely! also topical! mostly!). Fortunately -- I mean, come on -- Jack is in Sangala and we get to see how he spends those two hours saving the world...or does he?

(See what I did there? Now you have to watch it.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tree-based-graphic memo to self: Here's what's important

Hollywoodizing my life

  • If my life were a Will Smith action comedy, right about now is when the CIA would show up and call on me to serve my country in some far-fetched, yet ultimately redemptive and endearing fashion. Something involving, perhaps, stand-up comedy on a cruise ship, say, or driving a cab in London (on the wrong side of the street!). BUT the CIA has not knocked on my door yet.

  • If my life were a season of 24, I wouldn't have to be concerned about receiving my last steady paycheck from my former workplace tomorrow, because there would be a plot already written out that would resolve that...and who knows if I'll even make it to the end of the day? Also, I wouldn't need to bathe, go to the bathroom, stop for groceries or gas, or get the mail. BUT I do, in fact, still have to do all that stuff. Because, luckily, it's likely that I'll make it to tomorrow.

  • If my life were a chick flick starring Sandra Bullock and Queen Latifah, I would have a wise-cracking, yet supportive, friend who would help me see the silver lining and encourage me at this difficult time. BUT I have about 17 wise-cracking, yet supportive, friends who are helping me see the silver lining and encouraging me at this difficult time.

  • If my life were an episode of Law & Order, I'd have stumbled over a dead body or two on my newly-initiated morning walk-jog. BUT the only dead things I've seen recently have been a cat and a squirrel. Still, that's pretty sad, right?

  • If my life were a sitcom, I would be having wacky, inconsequential adventures, sometimes on my own, sometimes with one or two trusted friends. BUT -- oh, well, wait. That's kind of happening.

  • If my life were a movie musical, right about now is when I'd break out into song in place of dialogue. BUT -- oh, yeah, that too. I do that now.

How would your life be different if it got the Hollywood treatment?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Rule: No Death Songs, Please

When I die before you, dear reader, you are not, under any circumstances, to write a song about the circumstances of my death, nor about any does-heaven-exist death pact which we may or may not have made with one another.

And you sure as hell are not to tell our story on the Fourth Hour of the Today Show. Honestly. If neither of us is famous enough for at least the Second Hour by the time I die, then what's the point, really?

Enjoy Broadway (the musical theatre capital, not the church where I used to work) singing sensation Cheyenne Jackson, as he musically tells the story of this dude (seated on the couch next to Kathie Lee Gifford, nee Epstein, who wrote the song in question) who made a pact with his mother that whichever one of them died first would indicate the presence of heaven by sending a red balloon to the living one within 24 hours. (Got that? Me neither. Just watch.)

via Best Week Ever

Giving Water

If two of your five best friends didn't have a sanitary place to go to the bathroom, you'd probably do something about it, right? You'd let them come over and use yours, or you'd work with them to build something suitable for their own household.

Over on the new Giving Water site, I just learned that two out of every five people in the world don't have access to basic sanitation: a sanitary place to go to the bathroom. And over a billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water.

Now. Say what you will about "GO WHERE THE FOOD IS!" and its applicability to the global water crisis, this strikes me as a pressing issue for humankind today. Giving Water was founded by the head of Ethos Water -- the water you can get when you go to Starbucks -- with the mission of helping people around the world in need to gain access to safe water, improved sanitation, and hygiene education.

I learned about Giving Water when I was bootlegging live-streaming the annual Blackbaud Conference and boning up on the latest in philtech (that's "philanthropy technology" to you and me). Peter Thum, founder of Giving Water, announced this new initiative at BBCon and I think it's something that we can all get behind.

Giving Water focuses mostly on East Africa -- Kenya, specifically, which seriously must have the best voluntourism marketing ministry of the entire developing world because, my God, it's all happening in Kenya. My own experience of water scarcity stems from my experience last year in Sierra Leone and Liberia and, five years ago, in Ghana (all located, for the geo-impaired, in West Africa). Seeing how precious the resource was -- and feeling a little guilty for having an almost unlimited clean-water supply for our team's use -- really made me think differently about how I use water here at home.

Whether you make a donation to Giving Water (which you should) or not, one thing you can do to make a difference is think critically about how you use water. Here in the US, we're probably good to go, water-wise, for our lifetimes -- and, probably, for a long time beyond that. But around the world, that certainty isn't true. Think about what it might be like if you only had clean water after hiking two miles (uphill, both ways, in the snow, barefoot, ha ha -- but seriously) to get it. Think about how you might live differently if the bathroom was a latrine out back instead of the restroom down the hall from your office. Think about how you would wash dishes differently or bathe differently or care for your garden differently.

Just think.

That's what's going to make the difference: thinking about how and why we do the things we do and making intentional choices about doing them in the way that makes the biggest positive impact with the smallest negative trade-offs.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I am afraid of heights and will be stepping down off my soapbox. :)


I attended a webinar (and -- come on -- "webinar"? I hate that that's a word now...) about blogging this afternoon.

The guys at Compendium Blogware (Chris Baggott and Doug Karr) shared a ton of information about why blogging should be a part of any company's marketing strategy, how to measure return-on-investment for corporate blogging, etc. One of the things they shared was Doug's 200 Blog Post Ideas, one of which struck a chord with me: What's the latest mistake your company made? How did you recover?

From a personal perspective, this is an interesting question to me right now, as I recently left my job -- and while my departure was mutual, it wasn't, shall we say, entirely voluntary.

Looking back, I can see a lot of mistakes that I made, but I think the biggest error I made was not trusting my own instincts better. I allowed distractions to get between me and the job I was hired to do -- distractions like embracing the talk that I wanted so desperately to walk, like providing a listening ear to those who hadn't been heard, like letting personalities get in the way of my more effectively asserting myself for the good of me or the good of those we served. I knew there were things we needed to be doing to move my job forward, and I allowed others to distract and intimidate me away from those things.

There's a whole lot of stuff I could share, venting-wise, about my experience, but that really doesn't have a place here. I've tried to keep the negative work stuff off this blog (except for a couple times and even then I didn't get specific). If you would like the whole story (from my side, of course), you may invite me to dinner (on you, seeing as how I am currently unemployed).

BUT! The question from Doug Karr's list is a two-parter and, much like a Dallas cliffhanger or a stuffed-crust pizza, it's the second part that makes the difference. How did I recover? is a question that is probably more appropriately worded How am I recovering? for, you see, at this point I still am recovering -- and from a couple standpoints.

From the career standpoint, I'm working on finding a next thing, and in the meantime, I've been fortunate to find a couple freelance writing projects to keep me in frosting and Nilla wafers for a while. I'm not exactly flush with cash, but I do think that I'll be able to Tarzan this vine until the next one appears. If you know of anyone seeking an organized, talented project manager or writer or editor or fundraising guy (events and annual campaigns, because I'm giving myself a vacation from capital campaigns for a while), let me know.

From a personal standpoint, I'm doing a lot of reflecting. Questions of doubt and ability plague me, but that's really nothing new.

One of the greatest things (for me, not for where I used to work) is the number of people who know me and know that place and wonder at how long I was able to last there. I feel like the way I was experienced there -- and, correspondingly, the way people treated me there -- was so different from anywhere else I've ever worked, served, or whatever, that the problem certainly couldn't have been all me. And sadly, I've had a fair number of folks share with me their experiences with my former workplace that have had a similarly negative tone as my own. Some have stuck around; some haven't. I pray every day for the people who've shared their negative experiences with me, and also for the folks who, though troubled and flawed humans (just like all of us), are just trying to do their best for that place and for each other (just like all of us).

How am I recovering? I'm doing a lot of forgiveness work (myself, others, myself, myself, others, myself, myself), and I'm spending a lot of time writing. I've got a couple ideas for new adventures, including a new web concept that will offer you the opportunity to give me lots of money. So, you know, ha ha, watch for that.

In the meantime, I'm focusing on the silver lining around this cloud. I've learned things, I've grown, and I did a lot of good stuff in the almost-two-years I was there.

The reality is that my working there was not the right thing for that place, nor was it the right thing for me. There were too many other issues getting in the way of my (me, specifically) success there.

And sometimes it just doesn't work out. If you had asked me three years ago if I could forge and maintain a working relationship with anyone, I would have told you, "Absolutely." Now, I know that's not true, and I know that that's OK. It's not the end of the world not to be able to break through to one or more individuals ... it just means the fit wasn't right.

So, what was my latest mistake? Not trusting myself. What were the consequences? Missed opportunities and regrets, lost time and hard feelings. How did (am) I recover(ing)? By learning from the experience and keeping my eye on the lessons and the positive achievements, not the remorse and the letdowns.

And, really, I guess the next 40 or 50 years will tell the rest of my answer to How did you recover? And in that context, two years in the wrong job for me doesn't seem all that bad, after all...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hmm. Well, OK. One Child Left Behind.

Again, via BWE

"How big is Will?" ... Will is HUGE

via BestWeekEver

I love this spontaneous group response to this little boy. It shows that both great love and great sense of humor can emerge from a crowd of humans.

We need more "Yay!" mobs.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I am NOT Extreme Anything

There is absolutely nothing that you could videotape? film? visually record me doing that would look impressive when backed with a techno soundtrack. To wit:

The sad truth is that, even after 35 years on this earth, I am not pierced, I am not inked, I cannot jump over things or use things on wheels to perform daring acts of derring-do...pretty much, I can only do that thing with my tongue, which is a genetic trait anyway.

So is there a place for me in 2008? Is there an opportunity for a man to live the simple, non-body-modificationalized life these days? Is there any "normal" any more, or is "normal" the new "abnormal," is "crazy" the new "sane" now?

Video: "Contact Juggling" via Uncover the Internet

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Best Escaped-Rhino-At-A-Zoo Drill Ever

In which we learn what to do if we're at the zoo when a papier-mache rhinoceros, with two men inside, escapes

McCain Fine Gold on QVC

In which Cindy McCain potentially clinches the election for her husband, in spite of him and his running mate