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Friday, March 31, 2006

Business Initiative Podcast

Today I went to lunch with insurance guru, entrepreneur and radio host Scott Stafford. Scott hosts a radio show called Business Initiative on 1460 AM KRZT here in Colorado Springs where he and his guests discuss important business aspects.

I had the opportunity and privilege to be a guest on his March 4th show. One thing I learned quickly is that I love being on the radio. Perhaps it’s because some say my voice resembles Casey Kasem, although I didn’t hear it in this broadcast. Actually, I think it’s because of the rush of being live and facing the unknown. What if I’m asked a question I don’t know the answer to? How will I respond? Will I sound like an idiot? I love that possibility.

So, if you’re the entrepreneurial sort, there is a lot of great information in these 45 minutes. If you’re a Casey Kasem fan, you can listen for the resemblance. Or, maybe you just have 45 minutes to kill and want to listen. At any rate, click the link and enjoy.

Listen Here - it's a large file, but it streams pretty well (thanks Brian for the hosting)

I’ll answer the questions for you before you have to ask.

  • Yes, I realize afterward that occasionally I say mildly cheesy things, like “soooper”
  • Yes, I did use the word “sexy” to describe business. My wife made me aware of that almost immediately.
  • Yes, I did get asked a question I had no idea what the answer was. Bet you can’t tell what it was. To my credit, I can fake it with the best of them. It’s not what you know, it’s how well you hide what you don’t.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Give Me Golf Or Give Me Death

Reading my latest issue of The Deal, I came across an article that quickly got my attention. It seems that the New York Times has decided that John J Mack, CEO of Morgan Stanley, should be ostracized for playing golf. Worse than that, they think by appointing two of his 'golf pals' to his board he is 'less acute' than he ought to be. (read the article here)

I realize that I am probably not a newspaper quality writer (yet) and thereby can't legitimately criticize reporter Landon Thomas Jr. But because Mr. Thomas tread heavily on sacred ground, I'm going to give it a go.

First of all, golf is a great place to go for business. According to a 1996 study reported in this article:
  • 93% said golfing with a business associate is a good way to establish a closer relationship
  • 80% said golfing is a great way to make new business contacts
  • 35% said some of my biggest deals were made on the golf course

Second, let me say that after the onslaught of articles trying to diminish one of the games greatest courses and receiving criticism for how much bad press they were giving to this course, I find it funny that 3 years after publishing 40+ news stories, columns or editorials in 6 months, according to press critic, Jack Shafer's article (here), they still find cause to continue to bash the game that 25 million American's play.

Finally, let me say that my family has been back in Iowa visiting family and friends and I have been alone for almost a week. While I miss my wife dearly, and long to hug my boys, I have a certain level of relief knowing that they are bringing with them my golf clubs. I had to leave in Iowa when we moved to Colorado because we didn't have enough room for them. I can't wait to hold my wedge, cuddle my putter and stroke my driver. Perhaps I'll play a round this weekend. Perhaps I'll even conduct some business and place my chewing gum in a copy of the New York Times and toss it in the garbage where it belongs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My Fantasy of Going Back To College

It happens maybe once or twice a year, and it happened today.

I went to eat lunch at the Lodge (my new favorite place to eat in town... the college cafeteria). I invited Becky, the Assistant Director, to come so we could talk business over lunch. She agreed and we went only to find out that because it was spring break on campus, the normally luscious spread of food was replaced by a skimpy "brunch" menu. Becky quickly sized it up and left. I made the journey back to the office with her and upon her leaving for home, I grabbed a few things to read and headed back up. Sorry Becky - I know you didn't think it looked that good, but I ate until I was full.

On the way out of the cafeteria it happened. That strange isolated moment of pure fantasy where my imagination began to run wild about the joys of being back in college. I've had it happen about all kinds of things. Some strange, some odd and some just a little disturbing. Like the time I was parked at a stoplight, listening to the radio and the theme from Smokey and the Bandit came on while I was behind a semi truck and facing east into the sunrise. For a brief time I wanted to be a truck driver. "We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there..."

Today the warm smell of pine and the fresh air combined with the beautiful scenery (pictured above) and perhaps the thought of being the alternative culture made me want to go back to college, skip class and play Frisbee golf.

As I made it back to the office for the second time, I was faced with the reality that fantasies can be fun to think about as long as you don't ever follow them. Frisbee golf is one thing, writing term papers and final exams is quite another.

In an industry filled with people following their dreams/fantasies, I offer a few ways to evaluate following your fantasy. Ask youself the following:
  1. What will the cost of following my fantasy be?
  2. Am I willing to pay that price?
  3. What will I lose if I don't pay that price?
  4. In addition to finacial payment, what other forms of payment will I incur? (i.e. family, stress, health)
  5. Is my fantasy today going to be replaced by another tomorrow or will I hold onto it for years to come?
  6. What kind of support do you have for your fantasy? Does your spouse / friends think your nuts to follow it, or nuts not to follow it?
  7. What regrets might you have for not following your fantasy?
  8. Can you live with those regrets?
So, should you follow your fantasy?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Funny But No

My family tells me I would be perfect for a number of different jobs. My mother says I would be great as one of those crazy ad guys locked away in the basement throwing spitwads or shooting nerf guns at co-workers while generating a creative moment for the next big ad campaign. My sister probably thinks I'd be great as one who fills in for one of those crash test dummmies while they go on vacation.

Thanks for the career advice... I think.

One job I don't think I'd do very well at is a greeting card stylist for Shoebox. My sense of humor is off just enough that they've created a classification of cards just for humor like mine. It's called "Funny, But No"

Here's an example. I read this one and thought it was perfect. Obviously not everyone did.

"When someone tells me "Into each life some rain must fall" I like to dump a bucket of water on their head and say "You mean kind of like that?"

To me, that's the perfect greeting card. So that's why I'll never be a greeting card stylist.

Article on Shoebox Greeting Cards: Funny But No by Associate Press

Monday, March 27, 2006

Leadership Lessons from Cheech and Chong

On our way out to Iowa, we arrived to the Denver airport and began to look for parking. The surface lot, for $5 a day seemed like the way to go, so we drove and drove and drove until finally we got to the surface shuttle lot. We were given instructions to go ahead and park anywhere. Seasoned veterans of shuttle lots, we surveyed the closest shuttle, surmised its path and pulled into a slot which would allow us time to gather our bags, walk to the shuttle stop and directly step onto the approaching shuttle without breaking stride.

As I was almost ready to put the car in park I noticed a white cargo van speeding toward our position and the driver waving her arms.

“What is her problem?” Deann asked.

I rolled down my window and the driver of the white van stuck her head out the window and… - Let me pause right here. Have you ever seen the Cheech and Chong movie where they smoke that huge doobie, which is actually a paper towel tube wrapped in paper and smoke is pouring out of the windows so you can’t even see them inside the car? Well, I think she had seen the movie multiple times and idolized the ganja smoking duo because (un-pause) as she stuck her head out the window, I could see her eyes were quite glazed over and her speech wasn’t the crispest. Her first words were “Hey – you can’t park here” Looking around at the 20 or so other parked cars I was surrounded by, I immediately vocalized my thoughts.

“Why not?” I said as I simultaneously read "Denver International Airport Authority" on the door of her van and the matching words and logo on her hat and jacket and probably the ID badge I could only see the top of.

A dumb question (obviously she had the authority to make me do whatever she wanted) asked to a dumb person (at least I felt chemically induced dumbness) gets a dumb answer.

“Uh, because we’re having a speed race tomorrow and we don’t want any damage to occur to your car.”

I thought about it, but refrained from asking any more questions about what kind of speed test can you actually conduct in an airport shuttle parking lot. Whatever she wanted to do in this parking lot, or in that van was good enough for me, I’ll just quietly move my vehicle to wherever you specify and be on my way.

Obviously I obeyed her authority and moved my car. Obviously I didn’t respect her authority. When you are given authority, it doesn’t automatically come with leadership status. Don’t assume it does.

Some differences between authority and leadership:
  1. Authority is obeyed but not always respected; Leadership is followed as well as respected
  2. Authority can be given; Leadership must be earned
  3. Authority uses consequences to enforce its rules; Leadership doesn’t use consequences to motivate, instead it uses common goals, encouragement and momentum to accomplish the same things.
  4. Authority can create a feeling of resentment and spite towards the individual, a larger group represented by the individual, or both; Leadership creates a desire to belong to a larger group.
  5. Authority gets compliance; Leadership gets commitment.

Follow Up On My Meeting

Last week I mentioned my lunch with the EDC in the post titled "Big Impact with Big Effectiveness". Among other cool things, like finding out that a lady who came to lunch named Kara, knows Guy Kawasaki personally and even hooked him up with some CC hockey tickets when he came to town, we discussed my ideas of focusing on potentially explosive companies.

Our goal, as we discussed it was to take a relatively small company with slow or stagnating growth and turn them into a gazelle.

A gazelle company can be defined in several ways.
1. 20% growth annually
2. Revenue greater than $1M / Positive growth in revenue for 3 years

The outcome of the meeting was that we needed to establish our qualifying criteria for a potential gazelle company and determine a selection process. The project is, as I hoped, growing beyond the scope of my job and is on the way to including other organizations to help support this effort. In addition of the EDC, talk of including several other organizations like ours will soon become a reality.

In the mean time, I have scheduled appointments with two companies that are going to be my gazelle projects. I can't wait to get things started.

Friday, March 24, 2006

So Much Going On

There is so much going on in the world that I have to give abbreviated headlines to get it all in.

First, Frank Zamboni (1901-1988) of "I want to drive the Zamboni" (click to hear the best song ever) was honored at the Figure Skating Hall of Fame. (article) here in Colorado Springs.

Second, Deann and I fly out to Iowa where my youngest son has been spending the last few days with my parents. He turns 4 tomorrow. Happy Birthday Tyler!

Third, my oldest son left Wednesday on an airplane all by him self to spend a few days in New York / New Jersey with my sister and brother-in-law. He flies into Iowa and joins us for birthday celebrations. Here he is at Freds, a resturaunt where you bring a picture of your dog and they hang it on the wall for you. Jacob and my sister, Elizabeth hung a picture of our family dog Baxter on the wall with the others.

Fourth, without the kids for the last three days, what is a couple supposed to do? Well last night we went to watch the sweet sixteen and eat wings at Buffalo Wild Wings with Deann's brother and sister-in-law.

If you can't tell by Mark's face, I caution you against anything hotter than Sizzlin'. Mark had Hot BBQ and I had Mango Habanero. Burned last night... burned this morning.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends

  1. (n) A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.
  2. (n) A person who doesn't like to admit they need help.

As I've recently studied and made note of my target market (entrepreneurs) I've discovered and confirmed with colleagues and partners that the traditional entrepreneur doesn't like to admit that they need help. This, almost to the extent that they are fearful of acknowledging they are not knowledgeable in a certain area.

For example, a business owner becomes slow paying on a bank loan. Maybe they got too deep in a contract and cash flow tightened up, or an economic shift left them drying up. I rarely see a business owner in this position come running to all of their friends and neighbors saying "Hey, I could really use some help. You see, I'm about ready to lose everything I've spent the last 7 years working for and, shucks I just don't know what to do next. Got any ideas?" Instead I see business owners try desperately to hide their problems. They talk like things have never been better, or at most say things like "I'm covered up, things are really busy." Implying that they just seem stressed to the point of calling the suicide hot line because they are so incredibly busy, which in the end is a good problem anyway.

The cause is psychological. They depend on themselves and haven't learned how to depend on another, or they are afraid of receiving help because it will make them look weak. I'm sure Freud would say it has something to do with their mother not breast feeding them long enough, but what ever the cause, the result is often times failure.

Trying to market a free service to the entrepreneur in this situation has become a bit challenging. How do you instantly earn the trust of the individual who needs, but on the surface doesn't want your help? Maybe this is all part of natural selection as Darwin described it. Survival of the fittest. If you possess the trait that allows you to ask for help, your chances of survival increase. If you don't, you most likely fail.

My suggestion is to make sure you don't become a coyote who wildly chases a road runner without the foresight to see the curve in the road and runs off the cliff because he didn't ask for any help along the way.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Big Impact With Big Effectivness

I've been reading (okay - listening to the book on tape) of Permission Marketing by Seth Godin while driving to and from work. I have to say, I've been a bit of a skeptic about several concepts he has, but when he mentioned the part that smart companies fire 70% of their customers I about jumped out of my car and screamed, "See world, I told you I was right!"

His point was that a smart company, through his permission marketing concepts, takes the best 30% of its clients and increases their sales volume so that the company actually profits more than with all 100% of it's clients while servicing them better. What really struck the chord with me when I heard it is this is exactly what we are attempting to do here at work.

My job is to take a start up business and help them become successful, or an existing business and help them expand. My difficulty is that we have to serve 276 clients in a year. Well obviously you can't generate success in 276 businesses in one year. However, I can take 10-15 businesses and pour my efforts into helping them become successful, and make sure that we service the remaining 260 clients to their satisfaction and requirements of the government.

The same concept that Seth uses when he says fire 70% of your customers. He is really saying become more effective with the other 30%. Don't shoot from the hip, look through the scope and line up your target.

As I meet today for lunch with the President and CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation, this is going to be the thrust of my conversation: To help grow the economy in Colorado Springs, we need to focus on that smaller percentage that we can help become successful.

If you want to make a bigger impact, do it by being more effective with fewer companies.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Get Organized

Some days are better than others. Yesterday, for example, was great. I woke up to discover lots of new snow and a weather report that said everything at UCCS is closed... including my office. So, I did some work from home and enjoyed my day out of the office. A truly wonderful day.

Today - not so great. With a significant lack of new snow, I came in to the office and realized that somehow my desk had turned into a virus spreading its infectious clutter all across my office. So with a deep breath and as much courage as I could muster, I've been cleaning and sorting, filing and straightening all morning. Not so wonderful, but still necessary.

That leads me to the three steps to organize your office. (I found these 10 steps, but let's face it, 10 is to many. If you can't keep your office organized, do you really think we have time to read all 10?)

3 steps to organizing your office:
Article by Susan Rich of Get Organized, Get Rich!

Step 1 - Shedding - Get rid of the stuff you don't need.
Step 2 - Sifting - Rearrange the furniture and equipment to suit your particular needs and purposes.
Step 3 - Sorting - Sort what you are working on into a priority system and create a streamline filing system.

Sounds simple, but how many of us will actually do it?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Moist Lips May Mean Trouble

With the weather out in Colorado much drier than in Iowa, I've become accustomed to using lip balm. Primarily I use Blistex. Just my personal preference. I noticed my brother-in-law Mark and his wife Teri use it all the time. In fact they are continually smearing it over their lips.

In 1998 the industry was over $225 million in annual sales. Blistex was number 2 with 29.3% of the market. So it's nothing to smack your lips at. (sorry - bad pun)

I didn't give any of this much thought until I stumbled across this site. Now I'm a little worried. Am I an addict?
Do I need a 12 step program?
How can I find out if I am an addict?
I like Blistex, and don't use that cancerous Carmex stuff, so I'm okay... right?

I g-g-g-otta go. Need ta-ta-to put more lip balm on my lips. Can't stop the sh-sh-shaking. Don't want to eh-eh-end up like this guy.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

In 2 the Loop

I know, 2 posts in the same day, but I have to share this. I watched what would become my new favorite comedy, but my wife hates it, so I'll probably never get to see it again.

The show is The Loop. It premiered last night right after American Idol and re-premiers tonight at 8:30/7:30c. My prediction is that this is the next Friends. It is a group of 20 somethings just new in their careers and each with their equally funny personality quirks. A great cast.

My favorite character is the boss Russ (Philip Baker Hall) His character posesses that same "say what we all are thinking even though it doesn't have much tact, and say it boldly" quality that Alan Shore or Denny Crane have won my heart because of.

So, if you get a chance tonight, watch it. I'm giving it a huge thumbs up, and my wife is cutting my thumb off.

The Days of College

Remember college, when pizza was a commodity? I was once given explicit instructions on how to make the most of pizza when at a party.

"You should take two pieces and fold them together so the toppings of each piece
are facing in. Then you can eat twice the pizza at the same time and when
you take 4 pieces, it only looks like you've taken 2."

I think King Solomon wrote something similar to that, but I couldn't find the reference.

Well, this guy , a college student, has gone way beyond the "fold the pizza" technique for getting a lot of food.

You have to check it out! He gives a step by step photo illustration of how he got an incredible amount of food off the Pizza Hut salad bar.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What to Wear

At my job, I am continually obsessed with what to wear. Most of my clients come in dressed in jeans or extremely business casual. A lot of that has to do with the "granola" culture here in the mountains. But, when I meet with colleagues they are often dressed in suits and ties.

I hate over dressing and also hate under dressing, but it's not exactly junior high where I can call someone and say, "Hey - what are you wearing to school today?"

So, I try my best to change it up and dress average when I know I'm meeting with clients or suit and tie when I'm meeting with bankers.

I read this post by Bill Snow which addresses the dressing down of American Business. Dressing for success no longer means blue suit, white shirt and red tie. While I look stunningly handsome in a suit and tie, I'm glad I don't wear them much.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Book Worm

I have some how become a book worm. I spent last night reading a book from 8:00-10:15. I have no idea how that happened, but it probably has something to do with Las Vegas getting moved from Mondays to Fridays. So without Vanessa Marcil, what's a guy to do, but read a book. (My wife would tell you the same thing about Matthew McConaughey)

So, I figure when a wave comes, don't fight it - ride it. So that's what I'm going to do.
In the next week, I'm making it my goal to write a few reviews on the books I've been reading and post them. I'll try to keep up on the rest of my blogging as well because I know not everyone cares about what I'm reading.

I do have to share that I have been "commissioned" to review a book by the author. I've been reading Barry Moltz's blog and a couple of weeks ago I left a comment for him, which turned into an email, which turned into him sending me a copy of his book You Have To Be a Little Crazy so I could write a review. I started reading it last night and so far I love it. Straight talk and not that typical Tony Robbins fluff of "You can do it if you focus your energy into the right place and believe in yourself hard enough." Surprisingly, however I have probably been more encouraged by the directness of the book than I would be the fluff. But, more on that later...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

One of the major benefits to living in Colorado Springs is being 2-1/2 hours from the slopes. We left yesterday afternoon and drove up the hill, slept and spent the day making turns in fresh snow at Copper Mountain.

Last 48 hours - 8 inches new snow - Awesome!

It snowed so much all day that you couldn't hardly see infront of you on the slopes.
Here's a picture of us skiing. Aren't we a great looking family?

Okay, for real. Here's the family skiing.

The boys getting fitted for skis and boots before their lessons.

Tyler, the ski bum.

My hot, sexy ski bunny.

My folks enjoying some delicious hot chocolate at the lodge at the top of the mountain. I'd rather make turns than drink hot cho-cho, but their old so I tolerate it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Oil Conspiracy

As if rising costs in gas prices aren't enough to endure, I have to endure the unintelligent individuals hired by the gas stations.

Two weeks ago, while on appointment to a clients place of business, I stopped in to fill up at the local 7-11. I pulled up, swiped my credit card and began to pump gas. After only 9 gallons out of the 13 it should have taken to fill up, the pump shuts off. Confused, I began to assess the situation. The pump says "Please See Attendant" Now concerned that my card was declined, I head in and am met by the attendant who is apologizing from the word go.

She told me that at the same time I pulled in, another customer pulled in, but prepaid for $20 of gas inside. The apologetic attendant credited the $20 toward my pump and not theirs. After almost 20 minutes of trying to get this problem solved, and the manager doing everything but writing new code for the cash register program I finally was charged my $19.78 and drove off.

Not a big deal. Kind of interesting to watch the process at the gas station. I wasn't in a hurry and they were trying to be as nice as possible. I chalked it up to the rigorous mental demands placed on a gas station attendant.

Today, I go to fill up at another gas station on the other side of town. I get to $9.72 and the pump shuts off and the voice over the speaker says, "Can you come in please?"

I walk in and discover that the genius at the 7-11 on the south side of town has an equally challenged counterpart at the Shell station in mid-town. She took $10 from the guy who pulled up next to me and prepaid and stuck it on my pump. So I had to sit and wait while she tried to calculate by counting on her fingers how much money she should charge me.

Once, okay it's an accident. Twice and I'm wondering if it's a conspiracy. The truth is out there.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How To Stop Paying Income Tax

What if I told you I met with someone who helped author a bill that would, through alternative sources, generate the same revenue for the Government (i.e. none of the existing programs got cut) As a result of these alternative revenues, you as an individual would no longer have to pay income tax or social security, which you currently pay over 7% of every dollar you make. Better yet, what if in addition to this if you own a business (small or large) you wouldn't have to pay taxes on any year end profits regardless of saving it, paying it as dividends, rolling it forward or reinvesting it?

At that description, who wouldn't vote for it?

Oh yeah, did I mention that the alternative source of revenue comes from every individual paying a federal sales tax? This is in addition to what your state, city and county already collect.

Hmm??? That makes you question it a bit doesn't it?

As I sat and ate lunch with Dan Mastromarco (pictured above on the left) , author of the fundamental tax reform plans and supporter of the Fair Tax plan, HR 25 I listened skeptically, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Regardless of your initial opinion, it is well worth a deeper look to understand why this is, at the least, a worth while consideration to try to fix our screwed up tax system. My prediction is that this will be one of the major topics of debate in the 2008 elections.

You can get many of your questions answered in the FAQ section here

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Insights From Our Nation's Capital

Upon reflecting my recent trip to Washington DC, I want to share with you the insights I gained.

Here are 6 insights from my trip.

  1. I like my memories
    One more reason why I don’t drink alcohol occurred to me when I heard the stories of a man whom was nearly 70 (I’m guessing) walked with a limp and seemed the epitome of an old hard man. He started with, “I don’t drink tequila any more. The last time I drank tequila I woke up in a hotel room not knowing how I got there, and saw my car out the window in the parking lot, not knowing how it got there. I then looked around and saw five women in bed with me, not knowing who any of them are. I jumped up, ran to the bathroom, grabbed my stuff and ran out the door, started my car and drove away. I haven’t touched tequila since.” He said this as we all laughed at his misfortune and he finished his fourth beer of the night. “I don’t drink martinis either, but that’s another story.”
  2. I don’t like being classified as a religious person, although I am.
    Word got out that I used to be a pastor. I don’t hide it, but in business it doesn’t always get talked about. Once this news circulated among most of the group, I think I became overly sensitive to it and began to over interpret looks, whispers and jokes. “You can’t say that here, he’s a man of the cloth.” was one comment that just stuck under my skin. I think mostly because I was so worried that people would then think that I was condemning or too good, perhaps worst of all hypocritical. I truthfully felt the need to gather everyone together for a PowerPoint presentation with graphs and charts that would demonstrate why you can be a Christian and not have to be a hypocritical goodie-two-shoes about the whole think who continually was going to judge and condemn every breath taken. But conceivably it might have been because they felt conviction around me and they were just as uncomfortable about it as I was. Although I don’t like being the one that brings the uncomfortable feeling of conviction to another persons life, I, number one can’t control their feelings, and number two am not responsible for bringing any conviction. God is the one who is responsible for that. (Heb 4:12-13)
  3. There is too much politics in politics.
    While I like entertaining the idea of public office from time to time, There is no way I could be happy doing it for long.
  4. I should order more salad and less dessert when I travel.
    Or maybe buy bigger pants before I leave. “Sure, I’d love the caramel mocha cheesecake, can you cut me an extra big piece?” are not words that one should say… ever.
  5. Good intention is nothing without execution.
    I packed 3 sets of workout clothes and am bringing back 3 clean sets or workout clothes. Maybe if I packed 4 next time I’d actually work out.
  6. Pursue the subtle cues in another’s life.
    When one presenter mentioned an intern from Nebraska, his voice changed ever so slightly from a stiff, almost military tone to one of mild excitement. This cue led me to ask him where he was from. Come to find out, he was from Nebraska, we are both alumni of Nebraska Wesleyan University and both involved in the Greek system there. Now he wants to hook up the guys of my fraternity with internships in DC. It was all because I noticed a subtle cue and pursued it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Two Things To Share

Here are two things I recently saw online that I had to share.

First this site titled "Give Us All Your Money" is quite funny with a sense of "wish I thought of that first" in it.

Second this site shows the combination of the iPod and the toilet paper dispenser, called the iLounge. I guess the maker of this has never heard the saying "poop or get off the pot"

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I Was Unaware. Are You?

On Wednesday morning I realized that there was no way I was going to get anything more than a picture from across the room of the speaker of the house, so I opted to check out some of the sights. A group of four of us headed out to walk and look. Our first stop was going to be at the Smithsonian National Space and Flight Museum I knew two of the people in the group from earlier conversations. Kelly, a successful entrepreneur who sold her first company when it went public on NASDAQ and her current business partner Alex. The one I didn’t know was General somebody or other. I only knew him from across the room group introductions. He had a kind of crusty Clint Eastwood aura about him, and I didn’t expect him to be anything but crusty. I was unaware.

As we walked in the museum, we strolled leisurely around looking at various airplanes and exhibits. Occasionally Alex, a retired Navy pilot would comment and the general would make similar interesting comments.

As we walked upstairs the General, whom I now been introduced to as a retired Air Force Two Star General Larry Fortner pointed to a plane, which looked more like a rocket with a couple of stubby wings on it, and said “I flew this one.”
I was still unaware.

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter hung from the ceiling above us.

“Really?” I said thinking that’s kind of cool. Touring the Smithsonian with a hot shot pilot was something to blog about so I wanted some more information.

“Yeah, it was before they painted NASA colors on it though.”, pointing to the tail which had the NASA emblem on it.

I started thinking and almost got out “Why did NASA take all the planes” when the General said, “Yep that’s the tail number. 818”
"You mean you flew that exact plane, not just that type of plane, but the one hanging from the ceiling in the Smithsonian Museum of Flight and Space?"
“Yes. We’d release from the B-52 and take off climbing sometimes to over 100,000 feet.”
He told me later that he also flew the X-15.

The North American X-15A-1 was perhaps more famous for being released from a B-52. While the sign read top speeds of mach 7, he stated it went mach 15. I have no idea how fast that is, but I believe him over the plexi-glass covered sign the museum displayed. It flew over 300,000 feet above sea level.

Previously unaware, but now well aware, I was truly in the presence of elite greatness. One of the world’s best ever.

But wait. The story is not over. We got hungry and decided to get a bite to eat. We ended up at the Willard, a hotel that makes the average Holiday Inn look like a bi-plane compared to the mach 15 speed of the Willard.

We ordered, talked, ate, talked some more and left. I was unaware.

Later that night at dinner, Kelly referenced eating lunch with Elizabeth Dole at the Willard. I about came out of my seat asking “What are you talking about?”

“I thought you knew. We didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but Elizabeth Dole was just a couple tables over from where we were sitting at lunch. Sorry, I just thought you knew she was there.”

In the presence of greatness and unaware; how many times has that happened to you? Maybe you are still unaware. It challenged me to continually take notice of everyone around me, for there is greatness in all of us if you look in the right place.

Visiting the Mexican Cultural Center

Tuesday night we went to the Mexican Cultural Center. I thought we were going to the embassy, but instead the ambassador from Mexico, Ambassador de Icaza, met us at the cultural center. We had great hours d'oeuvres.

A tip to those hungry when all you get is hours d'oeuvres for supper: Hang out by the door that the wait staff walk in and out of with the tray of food. You get a snack when they bring the food out, and the opportunity to grab several off the tray when they are taking the rest back in. A great way to turn a light hours d'oeuvres event into a light meal.

Some pictures of the house. It was built in 1910 by the Secretary of Treasury for President Taft. In 1921 the mexican embassy bought it and in 1990 it became the Mexican Cultural Institute.

This is the music room. At the top a pipe organ that still works. (They wouldn't let me play chopsticks on it though. I was kind of offended by that)
On the bottom the fireplace at the opposite end of the room.

The house has a HUGE staircase that climbs 4 stories. Each story had 12 - 14' ceilings. Along the walls all the way up the staircase was a mural painted in the 1930's that depicts the history of Mexican culture.