Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stealing from Santa...

It's Christmas time!  The much anticipated holiday when we all (old and young) eagerly await the arrival of our cherubic hero, Santa, seated regally on his magical sleigh ever committed to that impossible task of visiting each and every home and showering us with the magic of the season - gifts and stockings laden with the returns from our holiday wishes.  Our families and friends all gathered together to celebrate with feast and fellowship, for this is Christmas!  Everywhere you turn there is evidence of the season - inflated snowmen and lit reindeer adorn front yards; lights, wreaths, and bows outline many homes; and decorated trees, garland and holiday candles furnish many of our homes and offices as witness to our participation in this grand event.  Across the country, Salvation Army representatives - "Santa's Soldiers" - collect donations and ring their magical bells.  Our nation's malls, bulging with frantic shoppers, herald their masses with music celebrating Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph.  Inside you can almost picture the veritable miles of lines of children awaiting their hopeful chance to sit on Santa's lap, share their magical wish for Christmas, and receive a candy cane and picture with jolly ol' St. Nick.  Truly magical!

Imagine a poor family arriving into your town just prior to the holiday from a faraway land.  A family that has never participated in our festivities and holiday celebration.  A family to whom each tree and wreath and Santa is foreign and not understood.  Imagine seeing them staring in disbelief and wonder at the flurry of activity before them - the lights and the music and the crowds.  How would you explain to them our holiday preparation and celebration?  How would you convey the story of Santa dressed in his red and white?  Of reindeer and chimneys and gifts wrapped in bows?  Of snowmen and Christmas elves and red nosed-reindeer?  Imagine the parents, curious and humble and awe-struck by the decorations and music and parties and food.  Now picture their son, almost a man, quiet and observant, his hair long and slightly unkempt, his hands and feet rough and worn from the journey.  And as you go to shake his hand, you feel the imprints of nail marks that once brutally pierced his palms and wrists.  What would your explanation be?

I propose that we could all benefit from being a bit more naughty this year in the eyes of Santa Claus.  That we dedicate ourselves to stealing a bit of his thunder and his celebration and giving it instead to this family of foreigners.  I think their story is equally magical and awe-inspiring - worthy of our time, attention, and praise - perhaps even our celebration.  Let's take a closer look at each of the members of this special family:

The Woman

It's like a headline from any newspaper in the country.  A young woman, single and not working, engaged to be married - finds herself pregnant.  The man she is to marry is not the father.  She lives in a land and at a time where such an act and offense is punishable by stoning, or death, or banishment.  Imagine having to explain your circumstance and condition to your soon-to-be husband.  Imagine the fear and frustration and faith needed to have such a conversation with him, with his family, with your friends and neighbors.  She's with child and faces a future of uncertainty, potential ridicule and public humiliation, and pain.  This is Mary.

The Man

Now picture the man, employed and respected in his community, in love with a woman he looks forward to marrying.  And she comes to him prior to the marriage and she's pregnant.  And she claims it's a miracle as she's still a virgin and that the father is God.  Putting this story and situation in modern-day perspective, what reaction might we expect from this man?  Anger?  Heartbreak?  Disbelief?  Now see the man believing the woman and taking her as his wife.  See them departing their homeland to travel over mountain and plain for tax obligations.  And the man is unprepared - he doesn't have lodging for their journey.  His wife is tired, hungry, in pain and he has neither the means nor the reservations to provide her a bed or pillow, scarcely enough for a meal.  He's forced to seek shelter in a barn, placing his wife amongst the cattle and sheep, the musty and dank smells of hay and poop and barnyard animals.  But he loves his wife and does his best to make her comfortable and warm.  This is Joseph.

The Child

And their baby is born.  There in that small town of Bethlehem in that barn near an inn, in those poorest and humblest of circumstances.  No bed, no blankets, no epidurals, no sterilized equipment, not even a doctor or nurse present to assist.  Miraculously he makes it.  And he's healthy, and happy, and strong.  And he's different.  He is perfect, without blemish, without flaw, without complaint, without sin.  And almost immediately he is hunted by those in power, believing in signs and prophecies that he poses a risk to their claims of nobility.  And other children around him are murdered by soldiers owing loyalty to those in power.  So Mary and Joseph, loving their son, keep him in hiding, fleeing their homeland and country to protect their young son.  And he has few toys.  And he has fewer friends.  And he is often alone.  This is Jesus.

Room for Both

So let us keep our traditions, our celebrations, our festivities.  I don't suggest that there is harm in Santa, or Rudolph, or Frosty.  I simply believe we need to steal back a little of the time and attention granted to St. Nick and return it to its rightful owners.  To remind ourselves of the miracles that occurred on this day of celebration, and to recall the cast of characters that played an important role in that miraculous story.  To remind ourselves of that foreign family visiting us at Christmas time - the mother, the father, and child.  And to make sure our holiday season and the traditions we offer our families and children are more than just snowmen and stockings and Santa.

Away in a manger,
no crib for his bed,
The little Lord Jesus
laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the heavens
looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  May the spirit of the season touch us all.  May we pause to remember and pray for those 26 souls and their families, including 20 precious children, whose lives were cut short.  But may we also take comfort in the fact that they are returned to their Savior, whose birth we celebrate this season.  God bless...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Restless about cruise ships...

Greeting, readers!

Did you miss me?!  Were you longing for some rhetoric and banter?  It's funny how therapeutic and medicinal these entries have become - I only hope you miss reading them during my absence as much as I miss writing to you...

So I've recently returned from my first-ever cruise experience.  Departing the Port of Galveston, my brother and I sailed on the Carnival Magic for seven days at sea in the Western Caribbean with stops in Jamaica, Cayman, and Cozumel.  Rather than regale you with details about the ship, itinerary, and experiences, I thought instead it might be fun to share a few of my observations on human behavior whilst traveling at sea in a floating hotel.  It'll definitely be more juicy with the added possibility of some sarcasm and cynicism thrown in.  Let's begin...

Caste system on a cruise-ship

The first thing that becomes readily apparent is the social darwinism evident on a cruise ship.  There are various levels of experience quality, depending on how much you're willing to pay, that impact enormously on every facet of your experience at sea.  Price determines the quality of your stateroom, its size and appointments, which deck you'll be assigned for said accommodations (apparently higher up is better), where you are seated in the dining rooms, your eligibility for certain onboard experiences, and the list goes on and on.  Every passenger is issued a card which they must keep on their possession at all times and the cards are different colors, depending on your class of stateroom.  It felt like some twisted socio-political experiment - like something out of an Ayn Rand novel.  I couldn't help but think of the movie, "Titanic", and wondering if my blue card meant I would be offered space in the lifeboats or if I my brother and I would be used as ballast.
Didn't have one of these...
Gluttony is alive and well

One of the more fascinating aspects of being on a cruise ship is the meal system.  Breakfast and lunch are typically served in a massive buffet-style dining room with open seating where you come and go as you please and eat whatever you like.  Dinners are taken in a restaurant where you are seated by a hostess and order from a menu.  I was shocked at what I observed during breakfast and lunch - there truly are no other words.  I occasionally read or listen to news reports about the overconsumption habits of Americans with respect to food but to see it on such a large-scale was downright scary.  I observed persons literally eating 3-4 large plates of food in one sitting, each stacked 8+ inches high with everything imaginable, all drowned in ketchup or syrup or barbecue sauce or whatever condiment suited the situation.  It almost appeared to be an unspoken contest to see who could consume the most with records silently being set daily.  And the gluttony knew no age - there were adolescents easily keeping pace with their parents.
This guy would have fit right in...
I contrast this observation with the lack of overcrowding in the ship's fitness center all week and it was for me sad and a bit depressing.  It brought to mind visions of previous civilizations (like the Romans) with obese toga-laden nobles prostrate with trays of meat and fruit unable to so much as walk a flight of stairs without assistance whilst being entertained by gladiators or some other spectacle.  With that in mind, let me share that the ship offered a casino, daily bingo, and a "hairiest chest" contest (thankfully with only male participants) - and you can understand why Caesar would've been proud.

Different strokes for different folks

It was also fascinating to observe the cruising habits (and priorities) of different passengers.  Not surprisingly, there were several sub-communities as evident by how and where they spent the majority of their time.  The gamblers literally never left the casino area of the ship during operating hours and migrated for food/sleep when the casino was closed.  The sun-worshippers were found in constant vigil around the pool, having picked out the ideal spot to receive direct sun from 10am-4pm daily.  The gluttons rarely left the buffet dining room.  The gamers spent most of the day on the top deck with table tennis, pool, and miniature golf.  The bingo-fanatics (well, you get the idea).  It was funny how I would run into the same passengers sitting in the same sections/seats literally morning, noon, and night throughout the cruise.  Then there were the "Carpe Diems", like myself, who wanted to try literally everything - for me because it was my first experience on a cruise ship and I refused to miss anything.  Shows, casino, pool, dance club, fitness center, spa, art shop, comedy club - there was so much to do and so little time.  The ship offered an extremely varied itinerary of activities to choose from - even workshops and lectures for the educationally-minded - and you were never bored.

What I enjoyed most...

Time with my brother, the gentle movement of the ship, sunsets from our stateroom, reading on the balcony with the sound of the ocean, swimming with stingrays, holding baby sea turtles, massages at sea, frosty drinks with a good book and the sun on my face, towels folded into animal shapes each day in our stateroom by the housekeeping staff, being back in the Caribbean, checking another item off my bucket list...

A different animal each day - very cool!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Restless around Thanksgiving...

Happy Thanksgiving!!
Greetings, everyone!

Just a quick note to wish all of you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  I successfully survived not one, not two but THREE Thanksgiving meals this year - another reminder of how blessed I am to have amazing family and friends who are hell-bent on keeping me from achieving my weight goals (I'm trying to avoid looking like the turkey pictured above).

On Wednesday night we had a Thanksgiving celebration with my grandmother who has traveled the world, working in embassies and for the military attaches overseas.  She's still going strong and insisted I have seconds of everything (I love grandmas!).  On Thanksgiving Day my dad flew mom and I to Winnsboro, SC in the Cessna 182 to spend a lovely afternoon with my grandfather who suffered a stroke two years ago the day before Thanksgiving.  He still hasn't regained the power of speech but the love and wisdom that pours from that man requires no voice.  We zipped home (only an hour flight) and I was able to join Miaka and Rich (best friends) in the home of Steve and Sheelagh Cafferky (volunteers at the horse rescue) for yet another amazing feast.  It was great to spend the holiday surrounded by people I admire and adore and who have been so good to me for so many years.  I pray each of you had similar experiences this holiday.  And then, of course, my beloved Cowboys choked royally and lost to the Redskins.  There is no justice!

I'm leaving for the airport shortly to embark (with my older brother) on my first-ever cruise.  Leaving port from Galveston, we'll spend seven (fingers-crossed) sun-filled days aboard the Carnival Magic (pray for no food poisoning) where we'll hit Montego Bay, Jamaica (ATV jungle tour); Grand Cayman (swim with the rays and sea turtles); and Cozumel (two scuba dives) before returning back to Galveston.

My bags are packed, dive bag is ready, and my new camera promises photo-documentation of the adventure.  Stay tuned - details from the trip to the follow...


Are there icebergs in the Western Caribbean??

Monday, November 12, 2012

Restless about drivers behaving badly...

Before I begin today's entry, allow me a brief departure to comment on several observations I received this past week from readers via Facebook.  A few of you expressed concern that I seem unusually upset as a writer or that I carry a lot of anger evidenced by the content or themes of my posts.  Let me assure you that I'm as happy as a puppy in a fire hydrant factory.  My rants are, for me, an alternative to exhaust a little frustration (and yes, at times, impatience) with the world around me.  I have little tolerance for ineptitude, inconsideration, and incompetence (surprise surprise) and it's liberating to occasionally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and say aloud what I imagine most are thinking.  I hope you find familiarity or common ground in my rants.  That, like me, you hope for an improvement in behavior from the general populace.  I hope that clears things up a bit.  If not, you might want to reconsider reading on because the remainder of this post ain't gonna be pretty...   : )
Good morning, readers!  I trust you all had a relaxing and restful weekend, took a moment to hug a veteran (if not, it's never too late), and are preparing for a week of new opportunities.  For many of you, this will include preparing for the morning commute.  With all due respect, please accept my best wishes.  I say this for two reasons.  First, I have the luxury of working from my home office and, as such, won't be joining you in this daily exercise.  Secondly, I know what (and worse, who) you'll be facing and it's a most unenviable task.
Needing to wake up, Harry thought a splash of water might do the trick...
The daily commute.  There was a time in my career where I was a reluctant participant in this everyday ritual.  Where with the masses I would enter my vehicle (sometimes alone and sometimes with a ride-share buddy) and begrudgingly share the clogged arteries of our city with countless others from the suburbs to the heart of Atlanta and inevitably reverse the process every evening.  During these processions I would see all manner of lunacy - people driving while reading a paperback, people dozing off behind the wheel, women applying makeup whilst operating their vehicles; people texting, talking, singing, yelling at other drivers or simply yelling at nothing in particular - all part of the daily madness.  On some mornings we would count as many 4 or 5 separate accidents, all within the span of 15 or so miles of interstate.  Again, I feel your pain.

If I had a nickel...
When did we become so overrun with horrible drivers?  It's like the dumbing down blog entry, only this time they're armed with vehicles.  It seems you can't make a quick trip to the gas station or grocery store or movie theater without risking some near-death experience that makes you scratch your head and say a small prayer for simpler times and better motorists.  As a public service, I felt it important to take a moment and categorize some of these morons into groupings.  My hope is this will make it easier for you to identify them early enough in the commute and offer them a wide berth.  Make no mistake - these organisms are dumb and dangerous and most assuredly life-threatening.

Idiots in migratory pattern...
  • The talkers/texters:  The "talkers" are easy to identify as they'll often be spotted with one hand in a fixed position to their head and their elbow resting comfortably on the door.  The texters can be a little more challenging to spot as they often attempt to mask their behavior.  They'll either be seen with one hand on the wheel and the other off to the side (out of view) with their head swiveling back and forth.  Alternatively, they'll have both hands (and attention) focused down in their laps, looking like they've just discovered the existence of their genitalia.  They'll be steering with their knees, their concentration fully on what's in their lap with the occasional furtive glance to the roadway.  Needless to say it's impossible for most people to concentrate on more than one thing at a time (for many, even one object is a struggle) so don't be surprised if they swerve or drive extremely slow/fast, flirting with the bumpers and fenders and side-panels of the vehicles in their immediate vicinity.
  • The pilots: These are the motorists who confuse the highway for a runway, thinking that those little dotted lines separating the lanes of traffic are supposed to be kept beneath the center of their vehicle while driving.  You know the type.  They're half in your lane and half in someone else's with no attempt to correct themselves.  The only problem is that the imaginary plane they're operating is never going to actually take off so they're stuck on the tarmac with the rest of us.  And it's not really a plane, it's a car.  And it's not really a tarmac, it's Interstate 85.  And you're not really a pilot, you're inept.  Pick a lane, please.
Okay, maybe cars CAN fly...
  • The color-blind: Red, amber, green.  Red, amber, green.  Each color means something completely different and is intended to signal a necessary action/behavior for the motorist approaching a stop-light.  Not for these morons!  Apparently for these choice few, red and amber also mean green.  Additionally, each of the colors is to them merely a suggestion rather than an actual law so there's no telling how they're going to react.  This of course means that for the rest of us red, amber and green all essentially mean some form of red or amber to avoid getting T-boned at the next intersection.  Color me unamused...
  • The Lance Armstrongs: I'm not opposed to cyclists.  I have nothing against people committed to their fitness who choose to take out their 10-speed and use it to stay in shape.  Often times, they'll adopt pack behavior, cycling in small to mid-sized flocks.  But here's the thing.  Your bike is not nor will ever be an actual car!  It's not even a motorcycle or a moped.  And my neighborhood isn't the official training ground of the Tour de France.  So take your bike and get over to the far right side of the road (or bike path, or heaven forbid the abandoned sidewalk) and feel free to ride your bike all the live long day.  Don't plant yourself in the middle of the lane like you own the road and pedal 5 miles an hour in a 45mph zone.  Or weave back and forth from the right to the left side of the lane like some NASCAR driver getting a feel for the steering column prior to a race.  You're on a bike.  And I'm in a car.  Being followed by several dozen additional people, also in cars.  And we're not impressed.  By the way, last year's winner of the actual Tour de France - you know, the skinny non-doping amazing cyclist from Great Britain, Bradley Wiggins?  He was recently hit by a car whilst training on his bike in England.  And trust me, you're not as good as him...
  •  The "what the hell are you doing in the fast lane-ers": If you choose the right label, very little explanation is really necessary.  Move over, please.    : )
  • The minimalists:  These individuals are intent on driving the absolute slowest allowed by law in any area.  They are 45 mph on the interstates, 15 mph in 45 mph zones, and they likely get out and push their vehicles from behind around schools and supermarkets.  They're either ultra-defensive, concerned that their reaction skills have dulled and want to allow 5-10 minutes of reaction time for when the vehicle ahead brakes, or they're driving without a license/insurance and are making it too completely obvious that they're feeling the need to drive within the confines of the legal limits.  If you find yourself behind one of these individuals, probably best to pull over, grab a snack for say 15-20 minutes, and resume your journey.
  • (Readers, I need your help with this one): I can't think of an appropriate title for this but have you seen the drivers that are right up against the steering wheel while operating their vehicle?  They have the seat as far forward as possible with maybe an inch of clearance between their chest and the wheel, their noses practically touching the windshield.  I'm not being sexist but they're often female (although I have seen a guy or two in this position) and all ages.  If you know what I'm talking about, help me come up with a label for this group.  And I should add that I don't consider this particular genus to be bad drivers - I simply don't understand how you can be comfortable or able to effectively operate your vehicle in that position.  If you happen to be a member of this genus, please help me understand what this is about.  It looks horribly uncomfortable and it would appear impossible for you to be able to swerve if the need arose.
Need your help to label the "steering wheel huggers"...
So there you have it.  Just a few of the delightful companions you'll encounter on your roads and highways this morning.  So enjoy that soda or cup of coffee or whatever your beverage of preference, grip the wheel just a wee bit tighter, increase the volume of your favorite tunes or radio station ever so slightly, and prepare for the adventure.  Savor the proximity to the worst our nation's DMV has to offer.  And, don't worry, even if you miss them today, they're bound to make an appearance tomorrow.  Buckle up!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Restless about the dumbing down of America...

I'm disgusted.  Confused.  Frustrated.  Upset.  I've woken up and I no longer recognize the country I live in and the people I'm surrounded by.  It's a bit like the scene in "The Wizard of Oz" immediately following the tornado where Dorothy awakes to a completely new world - everything flashy and fantastic and in technicolor - a color-filled dream escaping the black & white monotony of corn-filled Kansas.  Except in my version, I've awoken to this surreal alternate reality where people's interests and priorities are all askew.  Where we amble around like zombies from one nonsensical popular movement to another.  Let the rant begin...
Now, before some of my readers get the wrong idea, this is not about today's election or the candidates or the campaigning - although there's an angle to that issue that factors in here.  No, this is more about what we've allowed ourselves to become in the US as evidenced by the programs we watch, the manner in which we allow ourselves to be influenced in every way as individuals despite our free agency, and the consequences of the choices and decisions we've made as a whole.  

Some examples?  Have a glance at this brief list of television shows now or recently appearing on networks across this once great nation:
  • Jersey Shore (unfortunately NOT about the impact of Hurricane Sandy)
  • Desperate Housewives of (insert city here)
  • To Catch a Predator (televises people getting busted trying to have sex with minors)
  • Living Lohan (chronicles the daily life of a moronic and unattractive partying addict)
  • Who's Your Daddy? (contestant has to choose from 25 adults as to which is the actual parent)
  • Keeping up with the Kardashians (who cares...)
  • Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (I don't even have words to describe this crap)
Much of this I imagine evolved from our country's former fixation with the dysfunctional and disorderly.  Remember "Jerry Springer", "Montel Williams", and "Maury"?  How the hosts of these shows would parade guest after guest to discuss anything from adultery to racial hatred to bigotry to the question of paternal responsibility?  How many episodes ended in a fist-fight, women clawing at each other, hurling explicatives, and being forcibly removed by the same hefty "studio security" henchmen?  I used to hate those shows for the filth they felt passed as entertainment or news when it occurred to me -- these weren't influencers, these were reactionaries.  Circus directors, parading act after act of depravity, merely providing what the masses demanded.  What, then, does that say about us, the viewing public in this country?

When did we become so collectively stupid?  When did the garbage on television become our viewing preference?  What happened to make our society laud and worship idiots like Lohan and the Kardashians and all the rest as people worthy of our attention, our praise, our viewership translating them into veritable icons of adoration?  When did we allow our athletes to achieve a status beyond reproach and above the moral laws and standards we suggest we want for our children?  What happened to allow us as a nation to become so desensitized to young people with guns shooting up a school or a movie theater, to violence and abuse against women, to the sexual predation and violation of our minors, to infants being abandoned in dumpsters?  Is this the American dream?
There's an election today.  How many Americans truly know what's at stake?  What the real issues are?  What the track record looks like for both candidates?  How many in this country will make their election choice based on their own dutiful research vs. the latest SNL sketch or Jon Stewart sound byte?  How few in this country know the names of the cabinet secretaries, the majority and minority whips, the impact of proposed legislation from the past quarter?  

When do we say enough is enough and again retake the mantle of responsibility and accountability?  For seeing most of the reality TV crap for what it truly is - CRAP - unworthy of our attention and viewership?  For taking an active and informed role in the decisions being made by our elected officials and holding them responsible for poor decisions because WE believe them to be poor - not because some moron on a program says so?  For telling the NFL or NBA or NHL or whatever other sport of preference that we're not going to show up to watch juiced-up athletes who are beating/cheating on their wives, selling drugs, or holding out for more money?  That we want to see athletes who play for the love of the game, and owners who don't exploit them (or us) unfairly?
If history teaches us anything it reveals that there is power in numbers.  A giant powerful wave is still made up of individual drops of water.  The power and force comes from those individual drops operating together with singularity of purpose and focus.  We can turn the tide of stupidity and tolerance for what's happening and we can take back our airwaves, our television, our society.  We can insist that our networks report on the actual news and educate and inform us about the things that truly matter - the billion people on the planet without access to clean drinking water, the genocide in Darfur and what's really behind it, potential voter fraud and what can be done about it, how we can help with the recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey, what happened in Libya to our ambassador and the soldiers killed irrespective of who or what it might implicate.  It's their job, it's what we should hold them accountable for.  And if they intentionally mislead us or provide false information, they should be fired - period.  It's supposed to be the news, not the soapbox for partisan opinion or propaganda.

Let's demand shows like CNN Heroes - programming that chronicles human achievement, the best that's within us.  Shows that inspire, that drive us to be better people - not that mock or ridicule the less fortunate.  Let's get back to promoting athletes like Roger Maris, Cal Ripken Jr., David Robinson, Tim Duncan, the Mannings - athletes who strive for natural perfection in their sport, who want to be role models for our young people, who play and live with respect, honor, and work ethic.

I want to wake up tomorrow to the America I once knew - either when I was less tainted or more innocent and naive.  I want to be proud again of our country's collective values and the example we can and should be to other nations.  I want Cheers and Family Ties and the Cosby Show and Carol Burnett and programming that doesn't offend or embarrass me.  I want Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney and truly investigative and unbiased journalism.  

Come on, America.  Let's wake up and go get our nation back...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Restless about being prepared...

By now we've all seen the devastating and life-changing impact of Hurricane Sandy to the northeast.  Images of houses washed away, millions without power, people stranded on rooftops or buried under a veritable mountain of snow - it's a sobering reminder of the fragility of our existence and the powers beyond our control that can instantly affect our lives.  Speaking of Sandy, I'd like to express my best wishes for a quick return to normalcy to those affected by this horrific storm.  You're in my thoughts and prayers.

Ever since I can remember, my parents impressed upon my siblings and I the importance of emergency preparation and having a plan in the event of a catastrophe or natural disaster.  To be honest, I paid little attention to their advice and admonition, always assuming I would be somehow insulated from these types of events.  Catastrophes were something I would see on the news taking place somewhere else.  Surely this couldn't happen to me - not here, not now...

I find myself thinking differently as I get older.  I guess the passage of time and serving witness to more tragedies like the recent hurricane are finally sinking in.  I don't want to find myself (or the people I love) in harm's way - without the basic needs and means to not only survive but to weather these hardships as comfortably as possible.  This means preparation.  This means having a plan.

I also imagine film and television have played a key role in changing my opinion and thought process on the need for preparation and planning.  Have you seen the TV series, "The Walking Dead" (nice transition, eh?)?  It's a very entertaining show about a catastrophic event leaving the majority of America ambling around as flesh-eating zombies.  Now I'm not suggesting this is the event I feel the need to prepare for but if you watch the show, an interesting sub-plot emerges.  The few human survivors that aren't affected (at least, not yet) by the "zombie gene" must scrape and scramble to survive - not only to escape the wandering hordes of undead - but also to find the basic necessities (food, water, medical supplies) needed to carry on.  And the individuals who society previously scoffed at (the redneck, motorcycle-riding hunters/fishers/woodsmen) are now those best-equipped to handle the dangers and priorities in the "New America".  It makes me stop and think that the skills and occupations of so many in this country will be ultimately fruitless if and when a total catastrophe does take place.  Many of those in professional services will find themselves ill-equipped to offer much value in the wake of a disaster unless they start now to focus on developing some additional skill-sets (first aid, basic construction & maintenance, auto-repair, living off the land, etc.).  It makes me think of other "survival movies" where those additional skills were so essential: "Castaway", "Defiance", "A Cry in the Wild", "Farewell to the King".  The message is simple - adapt and overcome or you'll find yourself pretty low on the Darwinian ladder.

I'm apparently not the only one to recognize this need and express interest in it.  Gary Strauss wrote an article this past summer for USA Today where he chronicled this growing interest in knowing how to survive...well...just about anything.  Here's a link to the article:  Survival shows are now the fittingest on television.  Knowing that TV puts out programming based on demand and interest, it would strongly suggest Americans have increased their appetite in survival topics.  (Nice to know we collectively care about more than just "Desperate Housewives" and "The Bachelor"in this country...)

So take note, readers.  The time to prepare is now.  Evidence and precedent surrounds us reminding of the importance to be ready for whatever lies around the corner.  Having an emergency food supply, access to clean drinking water, basic tools and medical supplies and the knowledge of how to use them appropriately, survival kits that are mobile and easily accessible, an emergency gathering plan with your family members of how to get reunited if an event occurs during the day when parents are at work/home and kids are at school - all critical topics that are important to think about and address while there's both time and opportunity and occasion to do so.

Just remember, readers.  Those zombies are practically around the bend.  And they have no intentions of taking time off.  Will you be ready?  : )

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Restless about politics...

Good morning, readers!  Hope you're well rested and enjoying the start of a crisp Fall week.  After some heavy business travel, I'm happy to once again be at home enjoying the chill in the air, the turning of the leaves, the constant mud-slinging of the candidates, the sipping of mulled apple cider...wait, what?

Yes, it's an election year - another opportunity to be reminded of both the greatness and pettiness of our process of government.  I've intentionally avoided this topic in previous entries but feel inclined to say a few words in the wake of a new trend on Facebook and LinkedIn which causes me some alarm and discomfort.  I see friends, both personal and professional, some close and others distant, using our social  media boards as a form of personal base-camp to throw mindless and hateful rhetoric about one candidate or the other, inundating the social network with post after post about how "so-and-so is a liar", or "the douche bag hates women" or, well you get the point...

Now on the one hand, I do take a measure of comfort in the fact that people are talking about the election and showing some level of interest in what's happening economically, militarily, politically in our country and around the world.  As Americans, we should be involved and committed in the decisions that will impact our lives, our families, our future.  And I suppose it beats the alternative of complete apathy and disinterest in our social media channels on all things political but I would remind my friends and associates that there are other approaches to share your position or to make a political statement.  I offer the following purely as an alternative (I'd hate to have to un-friend you on FB)...

  1. Become informed.  Both candidates have a documented track record and both have websites dedicated to outlining their position on key issues and plans/approaches.  Much of the information there can be researched and cross-referenced with cited sources to offer facts in lieu of banter or speculation.  There's a wealth of information regarding any of the topics being debated and a variety of additional issues of import.
  2. Consider your sources.  Many complain about the polarizing nature of media to unduly support one party affiliation or the other.  I hear constantly of the evils of Fox News for being the biased voice of Republicans and others who retort that the liberals have all the other channels.  If any of that is even partially true, then be careful about allowing the reporters from any of those stations to make your opinions for you.  One of the sweet and simple truths of being an American is we get to educate ourselves, formulate our own opinions, question anything and everything we deem suspect or misleading.  It's one of our unalienable rights - you know - the one between "life" and "the pursuit of happiness".  We are blessed (most of the time) with the power of the internet, the ability to access a virtual library of information, news, reports, studies, that speak louder and truer than the constant barrage of slanted stories, filtered feedback and un-news from the large networks.
  3. What's in a debate?! I find it humorous that the majority of tweets and Facebook updates attempting to slander one candidate or the other occur during the televised debates.  We get it, you're watching the debates, and you need everyone to know you're watching the debates.  You must, therefore, be a good and conscientious citizen.  Sorry, but you've missed the point.  A debate is a sound byte, it's air time for the candidates to score style points with potential voters.  It's like the interview question in a beauty contest.  It shouldn't be the basis for your decision.  If nothing else, the debates have highlighted how often both candidates can (intentionally or accidentally) misrepresent their facts and the other candidate's record on issues or decisions.  You're going to rely solely on THAT to make your choice???  There's more to being President (or Vice President) than giving a good speech or Townhall.  There's actually leading the country that should be considered in the grander scheme of things.  It should take more than a flashy smile or a catchy one-liner to determine someone's vote.
  4. A healthy dose of accountability.  Romney has been the governor of Massachusetts; Obama has served as our nation's president.  Both have to be accountable for the good AND the bad that has occurred during their respective administrations.  Not once have I heard the President account for promises made and broken during his 4-year term.  Everything is "someone else's fault" or "what I inherited".  Governor Romney has attempted to credit himself for things in his state that were the policies of an earlier administration.  While I realize it's an election year, there's something inherently presidential about a man (or woman) who can look another in the eye, or in this case, America, and say, "I was wrong" or "I was overly optimistic in my assessment".  Not once have I heard either candidate express any misgivings over a poor decision - and can we all agree there have been a multitude of them in both camps?  I'll leave it to you to determine which candidate has more to apologize for or which shortcomings affect you the most personally.  I simply submit that nobody is perfect and that I would have greater respect and appreciation for someone committed to a return to accountability in our government.  Where I come from, mistakes are things that happen when you take risks.  You learn from them, you follow by making wiser decisions, and everyone ultimately benefits from the knowledge gained.  And they are inevitable - so let's get it out there in the open, discuss them, acknowledge them, and move forward.
  5. Don't just blab about it.  I voted yesterday.  I visited my local polls, waited an hour through the ID verification process, received my ballot card, and cast my vote for the Presidential election and several of the state election seats and referendums.  This puts me in greater standing than roughly half my fellow citizens.  That's right..HALF!  On average, only 54% of Americans actually show up to the polls to cast their vote on who will lead them.  It makes you wonder if these are the same 54% screaming in chat rooms or complaining in social media.  I hope so.  Because as far as I'm concerned, the remaining 46% don't really have much to moan about.  If you don't have the willingness to follow your words with actual action, kindly shut up...
  6. Be grateful.  I think it's also important to take stock of how blessed we are to be in the United States of America.  No matter how you choose to define it, we are a great country with a rich and storied history, though not a perfect one.  We have amazing freedoms, made possible by brave men and women who sacrificed in time, talent, and often with their lives, building up this concept and notion that a people could govern themselves, establish laws for themselves, and pursue a dream and vision.  In a few days, we'll again have the opportunity to take part in defining how that dream and vision will be carried out by our elected leaders for the next four years.  It's not a small thing, this ability to allow our voice to be heard in how we'll be governed.  It would be appropriate to show some measure of appreciation for that earned right.  

Now, back to the turning of the leaves and the mulled apple cider...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Restless about Manhattan...

I mentioned in an earlier post about my recent trip to NYC.  Aside from the "Monster in 24E" which we covered earlier, my trip was amazing!  Just another reminder of why I so enjoy my business trips to the Big Apple.  Haven't been in awhile?  Well read on to learn why NY should be on everybody's "must do" list...

I was in town for meetings with Amy Anson, my counterpart from London.  It was a great opportunity to compare and contrast our different markets, approaches, team structures, and processes for recruiting in the professional services arena.  During her visit, we spent some time in our Secaucus, NJ and NYC (Times Square) offices.  It was also an opportunity to hit some amazing restaurants while in town.  This leads me to my first "Why NY is awesome!!" observation:

The Food

In my humble opinion you can't find better quality ingredients or food anywhere else in the world (including my beloved South).  And the variety of restaurants is beyond compare!  If you can think it, you can find it in NY.  Whether you're looking for intimate and family-owned or something right out of Zagats, you better come hungry!  A few of the places I sampled are below:
Amy Anson at Osteria al Doge (Italian)
Churrascaria PlataForma
Sushi/Sashimi from Haru
And don't think you need to hit a fancy swanky restaurant to find good eating.  Some of the best food in town can be found in the small cafes and shops on practically every corner and side-street.

The Views

Another unique aspect of NYC is the skyline and the city streets.  I've been to so many large cities within the US and around the world.  And I gotta tell you - there's just something magical about NY.  I still get goosebumps every time the city comes into view on one of my countless flights to LaGuardia.  And every city block has tremendous potential for a unique and interesting photograph.  I guess it's the anticipation of what you might find next!
Times Square at daybreak...
Typical Manhattan side street...
I love New York at night!

The X-Factor

Another unbelievable and amazing quality of New York is the fact that a place that is so large can often be so small.  Not following me?  Let me offer an example.  During this recent business trip once meetings and appointments were all finished, I found myself with a free night.  For me, that's a no-brainer: dinner out followed by a show on Broadway.  I ran to the TKTS kiosk and secured myself a ticket for "Grace" a new play starring Paul Rudd and Ed Asner.  There were easily a dozen other choices that would have been equally satisfying but I'm a huge fan of both Rudd and Asner so my decision was easy.
Outside waiting for Grace
Following dinner at Haru (sushi!), I zipped over a few blocks to the theater.  Got to see Ed Asner and say hello as his car dropped him right in front and he spent a few minutes saying hi to the crowd and shaking hands (only in NY!).  I entered the theater and struck up a conversation with the person seated next to me.  Low and behold, it turns out she's just recently moved to NY from Nashville with a dream of breaking into the NY acting scene.  I offer to introduce her to the one person I know on Broadway (my favorite Mormon in Manhattan, Natalie Hill).  Well wouldn't you know it turns out this girl is originally from Orem, UT and used to dance with Natalie's younger sisters (again, only in NY!).  She doesn't know Natalie (except through reputation) but would love the chance to connect with her.  So, a few text messages later a dinner meeting is arranged and this total stranger is now a new friend.  I love this city!!!
My new friend!
Not feeling the x-factor yet??  Well, right before the show I texted a former work colleague from Atlanta, Danny Palmer to see if we could connect.  Danny and I worked together (in recruiting) at Sapient and he made the move several years later to NY to break into the stand-up comedy circuit (he's a funny guy).  In any event, I get a confirmation from Danny that he's hoping to get some stage-time later that evening at Comic Strip Live.  He shoots me the address and we confirm to meet following my play.
Danny and I at Comic Strip Live
I leave the theater around 10pm and get to Comic Strip Live in about 15 minutes.  Danny is hanging out in the bar area and we get to catching up on old times, people we know, etc.  And because Danny is a regular, drinks are free (too bad I don't drink the "expensive stuff") and I'm introduced to some of the other "regulars" that Danny spends time with (you guys were awesome!).  Ready for the cool part? We're sitting there for about 15-20 minutes when in walks none other than...Chris Rock!!  Cool as you please as if he's just another regular.  He and several of his entourage want to secure Chris a little "microphone time" to work on some new material and would the club mind if he hops on stage for a bit.  That's right, folks - only in NY!!!  Danny gets me into the theater area where we and about 30 other patrons are treated to a 45 minute stand-up routine by the man behind Nat X who entertained on SNL from 90-93.  And he didn't disappoint (unless of course you were the poor heckling woman who failingly attempted to record his bit that ended up reduced to tears once he worked his art).
Chris Rock performing...
So take it from the Restless Recruiter.  There's no place quite like New York for culinary creations, photographic beauty, and the best of the unexpected!  If you need a traveling companion, I'm only a phone call away...


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A funny thing happened...

Greetings, readers!

Yes, yes, I realize I've been checked out for several weeks and I apologize for leaving you hanging, so to speak.  We have lots to catch up on - my recent trip to Brazil, an excellent visit to NYC, and some exciting adventures planned in the next several months.  But first...

I had a surreal experience on a flight home recently from NY's LaGuardia airport last week.  Without question, the most ill-mannered and rude person I've ever met was seated next to me and attempted throughout the entire flight to try and bring me and the passengers seated around us down to her level.  I was going to spend paragraphs describing the horrors of this woman but, quite honestly, didn't want to give her the fanfare.  I've chosen instead to provide a summary of the events to give you a flavor of what transpired for 2 hours in the skies between the Big Apple and Atlanta...

  1. I board the aircraft with an aisle seat.  Find someone in my seat because she's in their seat.  We call a flight attendant who straightens things out (she tried to steal a window seat as she didn't want to be in the middle).
  2. Later on, she tells me I need to switch seats with her, as she had a ticket for that particular flight while I was flying standby as a Medallion passenger (I was booked for a later flight but got to the airport early enough to go sooner).  Says it isn't fair she's in the middle and that I need to move.  I politely and respectfully decline as I'm 6'1" and she's 5'4"after a chiropractor visit.
  3. Keeps closing my air vent immediately after I open it during taxi and after takeoff.  Have to call flight attendant to have her stop.
  4. Intentionally eats a shortbread cookie over the armrest separating us and blows crumbs on my blazer (I kid you not, she's doing it intentionally like a 4-year old).  Have to ask her three times to stop before again calling over a flight attendant who tells her she's being rude and to stop annoying the other passengers.
  5. Kicks the back of the seat in front of her when that passenger reclines his seat.  Causes an incident with this man and his wife throughout the flight for shoving her knees in the back of the seat because she's "uncomfortable".
  6. Tells the man behind her his feet are sticking into her hiney through the seat on several occasions.  The man in question has had his feet on the floor the entire time and tells her she's an idiot.
  7. Drops her water bottle screwtop in my lap and then ignores me three times when I try and return it.  When I drop it on the floor, she gets angry and insists I pick it up and give it to her.  I ignore her.
  8. Tells the man in the window seat that his music is too loud, that it's annoying her, and to please turn it off.  He gives her a classic expression, turns it down for a few minutes, only to turn it right back up.  He begins dancing in his seat, much to her chagrin.
  9. Tells me during the flight I'm not allowed to be using my Smartphone device as it's not authorized for use, despite having an "Airplane Mode" and being connected to the flight's wifi service.  I tell her she's wrong only to have her threaten me with notifying a flight attendant.  I call over said flight attendant who shows the woman in the flight magazine that my device is perfectly legal for in-flight use, again asks her politely to mind her own business and to stop harassing the passengers.
  10. Tries on two occasions to step over me to visit the lavatory, despite knowing full well there isn't sufficient space for that to happen without me first getting up.  I block her twice to be able to actually stand for her to pass - she gets mad both times and says I'm rude.
  11. The flight attendant who's had to address these multiple issues visits our rows while the woman is in the lavatory to offer each of us free drinks and snacks (the paid variety).  All around me accept wine and cocktails while I enjoy two complimentary bags of M&M Peanuts.
  12. When we deplane the aircraft, the passengers around us actually stop and cheer/applause as this woman collects her four carry-on items and deplanes the aircraft.  First time I've seen that happen...ever...
As I'm leaving the aircraft (I had to stay back a bit to secure my carry-on which was placed about seven rows back from where I was seated - see my earlier blog on air travel...), the pilot pulls me aside, shakes my hand, and apologizes on behalf of the airline for my travel experience.  He mentions the flight attendant had notified him of an unruly passenger and they were close to deciding to return to LaGuardia to force her off the plane.  Not wanting to disrupt everyone's travel, they made the decision to proceed.  I thanked him, acknowledged it was the right decision, and insisted they were welcome to read all about the "Monster in 24E" in my recent blog.  The flight attendant was thrilled to learn I had taken a picture of the woman during the flight (without her knowledge) and would be using it for photographic evidence.  You'll see her pictured below.  I warn you all - do NOT approach this woman whilst flying and be very careful if you find her illegally seated in your aisle or window seat.  She drools, spits crumbs, kicks, uses profanity, and carries a NewYorker magazine...
The "Monster from 24E"...
My thanks again to the flight crew for handling this situation so masterfully and for making a horrible situation with a passenger bearable for those on board (you know who you are!).  I actually kept the second bag of M&Ms as a small trophy from the experience.  Stop by and see 'em...

NOTE:  I want to hear about your worst experience with a passenger - be it on a plane, train, bus, or boat.  I imagine there are some real zingers out there so reply below and share your worst!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Restless about random things...

I had to fly to NYC recently on business.  LaGuardia is infamous for flight delays, congested tarmacs, and abusive luggage-handlers.  The 15 minutes or so, however, leading up to final approach offer some of the most amazing views of Manhattan and display the sheer size of the Big Apple.  I captured a few pics of a birds-eye view of the city during the flight (check them out on my Facebook page).

I mention the above because the delays associated with this most recent trip occurred on the tarmac.  On my flight up to NY we landed but had to wait on the tarmac for about an hour.  Then on the return leg, we were forced to sit on the tarmac for about 90 minutes before getting green-lighted to take-off and head back to Atlanta.  Given that I rarely sleep on planes (a curse, I realize), didn't have suitable reading material, and wasn't able to turn on my electronic device, I had plenty of time to entertain random thoughts.  It's safe to say that my head is like a Club Lounge at the airport where the thoughts, like passengers, drift in and out awaiting flights with some meandering for blocks of time and others hurrying in for a swift drink, a handful of peanuts, and a quick flight status update before rushing out to be somewhere more important.  I therefore share some of the random thoughts for your reading pleasure:
Ready or not - here they come...

  • During a physical exam, why does the doctor/nurse grab my testicles and then ask me to cough of all things?  What on earth does THAT measure?  Why not make me moo like a cow or scream in surprise due to the coldness of said medical professional's icy fingers?
  • How did the airlines so subtly manage to remove so many of the traditional services (movies, etc.) and start charging us for the others?  Did you know they're now charging extras for window and aisle seats on some flights?
  • How many people on this plane have a criminal record?  How many are afraid of flying?  How many are looking around like me and asking these same questions??
  • If you're a relatively obese person and require 1.5 seats or 2 seats on an airplane given your girth, shouldn't the airlines be required to offer some opportunity for larger persons to secure multiple seats at a time when flying without additional cost or with perhaps a small up-charge?  The coach seats haven't kept up with the "expanding nature" of many of the passengers...
  • Isn't it funny that the word "lisp" has that "s" in it to make everyone that says it sound like they have one?
  • What is it about people that makes them talk like a 6 month-old whenever they're in front of one?
  • Have you ever noticed how yawns are contagious?  Next time you're talking to a friend (either in person or on the phone), observe what happens if one of you yawns.  It's inevitable - the other person will yawn back and a total yawn-battle will occur.  What causes that??
  • Delta now offers WiFi on most of its flights within the US.  They've retro-fitted all the signage above every seat on the airplane (where the seatbelt and no-smoking signals are) with a little blue WiFi logo that lights up when there's an internet signal on board.  What on earth did it cost the airline to insert that little light-up sign thingy on every airplane?
  • What is the little box-like thingy found under some of the seats on the airplane that makes it impossible to stow a lap-top bag down there?  What was so stinking important that they needed to construct that little plastic box thingy?  It's not a life-vest, or sensitive electronics gear so what the hell?
  • There's a great restaurant called "Ted's Montana Grill" that has become a recent favorite of mine.  The straws they offer with your beverage are actually made of paper vs. plastic.  I don't mean to question the obvious here but how the hell does that work?  Shouldn't the paper go totally soft half-way during the meal and dissolve into your drink?  What are they coating on those bad boys to make them withstand disintegration and is that same chemical leaking into my drink?
  • Getting back to the physical, why do they always measure my height when I go for a visit?  I understand taking my weight and all but my height??  Do they think I might be shrinking in my early 40's?  And what on earth is the charge per visit for hopping up on the scale and using that little metal measuring-stick thingy?
  • How much business does SkyMall magazine (every seat on an airplane offers a little catalog where passengers can review and purchase random products called "SkyMall") do every year?  Is there some obscure psychological connection between air travel and consumer spending habits?
  • Why is the stewardess depicted in the in-flight safety video (the red-head) becoming more and more attractive to me the more I see that video?  And what's up with the smug grin on the one female passenger who's returning her tray table to the upright and locked position?  What was she thinking about?
  • Why do we call the war between the states in US history the Civil War?  Where did that name come from?
  • Why is the water in the lavatory toilet sometimes that crazy fluorescent shade of blue and sometimes clear?  What's that about?
  • Why do they have those silly little handles on the lavatory sink that only dispense like 2 seconds of water at a time?  Isn't it time for an upgrade?
  • How many throw-up bags get used on airplanes on average per month?
  • Do condom manufacturers have someone that tries on a random sample of their product for quality control, etc.?  Is that someone's actual job and what would the title be on their resume?
Sid and Andrew attempt to console their friend
 who was turned down for the job...
Durex needs YOU!!!

I'll stop there for now.  Feel free to respond in the comments section with possible answers to any of the above or to submit a random question or two of your own.  I imagine there'll be future delays on future flights so this might become a regular installment.  Lucky you!!

: )

Friday, July 27, 2012

Who left the faucet on?

Okay, confession time.  I have observed over the course of my adult life that there are occasional seasons where I find myself unusually close to my emotions and often unable to control them from spilling over.  I'm probably risking my Man Card (yet again) but during these "periods" (and I use the term intentionally for you lovers of the double entendre) I find myself laughing or crying to the point of tears following a commercial that hits me a certain way, or a movie that touches a heart-string, or some such thing.

So I'm watching some of the stories leading up to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in London.  And they're showcasing some of the paths taken by specific athletes leading to the UK - stories of family, of friends, of personal and community sacrifice.  And I'm crying like a schoolgirl after her first break-up.  Then, later in the week, I'm watching a movie I've seen at least a dozen times (or at least watched fractionally cause I have the lines memorized) and the ending, which I've seen over and over, still causes me to get all teary-eyed and scramble for tissue.
Do you recall this scene from "Sleepless"?  And they were at least faking it...
Like I mentioned above, this doesn't happen all the time.  I'll go through about a week of this "mushy phase" and then snap out of it for months.  And for the life of me I can't figure out the cause.  There's no identifiable trigger or event that's happened immediately before or during that I can identify.  Perhaps it's a shift in the lunar gravitational pull?  Or solar flares?  Maybe the Mayan calendar offers some arcane explanation?

Whatever it is, it's weird.  And don't get me wrong, I have no problem shedding a few tears when I feel it's truly warranted.  I'm comfortable enough in my masculinity to recognize that grown men can and should cry or exhibit other forms of emotion.  I'd just prefer it not be from watching the housewife in the ADT commercial talk about her newly-regained peace-of-mind following a burglary attempt on her home.  Or seeing a YouTube clip of someone's pet miniature pig.  Or watching through waterworks as Jack Nicholson describes his salvation at Morgan Freeman's funeral in the "Bucket List" (for those of you who are regular readers).
Seriously - this would KILL me right about now...
Maybe, however, it's a good thing.  An internal cleansing of sorts.  A reset button I unconsciously push to reaffirm my humanity, my ability to feel, to hurt with others, to let down my defenses.  While unpleasant and certainly uncomfortable, perhaps it's an integral part of how I'm programmed.  Either that, or I'm simply a complete candy-assed pansy!  Jury's still out...