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Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Bad Day Golfing...

My senior year in high school, after lettering 4 times in cross country and 3 times in track, I decided to skip my senior year as a track stud and go out for golf. I liked playing golf and had a bad case of senioritis, so I played lots and lots of golf and lettered in that sport too. Of course, like any golfer I had my days that weren't so good. Instead of getting frustrated, I would remind myself that it was better than running quarter mile repeats on the track.

Fast forward my life 14 years and I'm still playing golf and still not running on the track. Tuesday I subbed in on a golf league for a colleague of mine and Wednesday I went to Denver to play in a potential sponsor's golf tournament. Both days I played like... well let's just put it that I had to continually remind myself that I could be sitting behind my desk staring at the computer.
In all honesty, the saying is true. A bad day golfing really is still better than a good day at the office.

By the way, that's Jim Fallon (not Jimmy Fallon) my team member from Wednesday's tournament. Looks like a great shot... nice form... but here's his second shot.

Fortunately I had the camera and you couldn't see my shots.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Sky Might Fall... Maybe

I had the opportunity to have breakfast with Ms. Tucker Heart-Adams, who is the Chief Economist of Aquila Funds. Despite a dismal C+ in Econ back in college, I was thoroughly fascinated with her insight.

She mentioned some interesting facts and predictions for the future of our economy.

We are in a time of "Stable Disequilibrium" she said. This means we look stable on the surface, but give it a bump and things destabilize and things are volatile.

We look stable because:
  • Corporate Profits are at a record level and have large cash sums, which makes our economy strong.
  • The US has 5% of the world's population and 32% of the worlds consumption, which suggests we are wealthy, but also a bit overboard with spending.

We are in Disequilibrium because:
  • Consumer debt is increasing.
  • Homes are mortgaged two times for full value.
  • Spending stayed steady through recent job losses.
  • We use our homes as an ATM instead of an investment
  • Interest rates are rising
  • Housing foreclosures are increasing
  • 2005 was one of 3 years of US history when savings was a negative. (The other two were 1932 and 1933 which was of course the depression era.)
The big news was her prediction that 2007 will be a year of recession.

My reaction isn't to go bury my head in the sand during 2007, but rather figure out how to make money off of other's failure. For this I like the check cashing business... but not the bullet proof glass you have to stand behind.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Baseball, Ice Cream and Dads

My first major league base ball game I saw was the New York Yankees at the Kansas City Royals. I was maybe 12 and my dad took me with some of his friends to go see the game. It had to be the most boring game of the century as the whole 9 innings consisted of two hits resulting in one home run, a solo. But, I remember spending time with my dad and eating ice cream from a baseball hat.

Saturday, my wife and I took my two boys to see the Rockies host the Rangers at Coors Field. I have to admit I was a little concerned that their first game would be as boring as my first game and they would never want to go back and somehow I wouldn't measure up to my dad so they wouldn't even have that memory.

Fortunately, when the sky stopped dropping raindrops and the rain delay ended, the sky started dropping baseballs all over the infield, the outfield and even the stands. My boys loved it as they ate ice cream from baseball hats. It was everything but the apple pie. (the good kind - not the Jason Biggs kind)

Here are some more pics of the evening.

My boys enjoying the evening and as always taking an opportunity to ham it up a bit. I think they get that from their mom.

"Take me out to the ball game..." Yep the 7th inning stretch

A little pitching action in the 11-6 victory over the Texans.

Some memories I hope my youngest will hold onto for long time to come.

I think baseball has remained America's pastime not because we enjoy the game, though I understand some actually get into the whole statistics thing, but because it creates an experience for us. We eat ice cream from baseball hats, crack peanut shells and kick them under the seat in front of us and spend time with friends and family where we aren't distracted by work, the phone or the thought that the yard still needs to be mowed.

I love experiences.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tappity Tap T.A.P.

I was invited to be part of a panel discussion at the Air Force Academy earlier this week where a room full of individuals who were either separating from, or retiring from the military were assembled to hear us talk about options other than going to work for a major corporation - Options such as starting your own business.

As I watched these 30 or so individuals watch us talk, I realized what a value this Transition Assistance Program or TAP for short was. Having spent, in some cases, 20 years being programmed to think, act and react a certain way according to policy, rules, regs or direct orders has to be a benefit when you leave military life to become a civilian. You're whole way of life is about to be turned on end, so it makes sense to provide such assistance.

However, have you ever heard of a corporation offer such a service? Me either. I wonder why???

If I spend 30 years working for a corporation and then retire with my gold watch and pension, why doesn't the company help me transition into non-working life? I even asked the lady at AARP in Washing DC when I visited there earlier this year if they offered any assistance to their members to make a smoothe transition into retired life. She looked at me like I was crazy and suggested their members could always volunteer their time at AARP.

So, in your company or organization, what can be done to help people transition more smoothly from working to non-working roles, or even from one department to another within the organization? Or... Should anything be done?

By the way, I don't reccommend standing on the end of the runway while A-10 Thunderbolts take off.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Finding a "So and So"

Why is it that whenver someone gets into an argument they do a great job of backing up what they say with all kinds of support? "You were an idiot last night because so and so said such and such and even what's his name agreed." Somehow this validates the point that you are an idiot and all you can do is say "Well - Huh!"

Why is it when people bring business ideas to a bank for financing they often times think the banker will read their mind and have the same energy about their business concept and just automatically give them all the money their asking for? And what makes you so sure that your idea is a good one? What support do you have for it?

You need to have a "so and so" say "such and such" about your business idea if you want to win this argument too.

Whether you need money or are just planning out your entrepreneurial endeavour for your own satisfaction, research is a key component that can help you immensely. Now understand that I absolutely hated research when in school. I couldn't even stand to do a stupid book report, much less dig through endless stacks of books in a library.

Fortunately for me... and you, you no longer have to immerse into public dorkdom by spending the afternoon in the library. Now you can get virtually everything you want online from your own home.

For example, want to start a check cashing business? Did you know that the Hispanic population is a great market to seek out because where only 4 out of 10 Hispanics have bank accounts, 8 out of 10 use banks to cash checks according to this study. Most public libraries have this kind of info available online. Also, check university websites. Many allow access without a student ID.

Point is - if you have something to say and are trying to convince someone you are right, use research to support your position. Instead of saying "Well - Huh" Say, "Actually, I surveyed the crowd last night, and 12 of the 16 people I questioned said I looked a little tired but other than that was quite pleasant to be around." Not only is it more convincing, but you don't look as stupid either.

A word of caution - don't try this with your wife. If she says you were an idiot... accept the FACT - you were an idiot.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hiding the Powder

Our house selling and buying has gone relatively well. Little, if any controversy occured during the process. However, there was one thing we didn't consider when deciding which house we would buy and that was the name of the street we live on. This oversight would light a fuse.

Street names, if you stop and think about it, tend to be an emotional tie to where we live. When I think of Timber Dr., I think of my child hood, and the fun I had as a kid. Walker was the first place my wife and I lived together, then Southdale, then Broadway and on to Corry CT. Not that street names are defining points in ones life, but they do have some tendancy to define a tiny, small portion of our lives.

The day after signing all the paper work to make the offer official on our new house, I realized I didn't know what street our new home was on. This is where the controversy began to ignite.

The street name is Poudre Way. Pronounced by my wife as "POO-dray". Yet locals tell us it's pronounced "POO-der". Of course that rang pretty close to a particular slang term I haven't used or even thought of since early middle school.

Many long and potentially explosive discussions of word origins went on between my wife and I. POO-dray vs. POO-der "Fire in the hole!" Even Friday night at a church gathering, it came up and another lady said "People pronounce it both ways, but she couldn't bring her self to pronounce it "POO-der." My wife, still hanging on to a spanish origin, claimed it had to be like Padre pronounced PA-dray only the "ou" made it POO-dray. Deep down, I knew she was wrong and this short fuse had to be put out quickly. So to settle any dispute where do you go??? That's right - Google

Googling "Poudre" I discovered that our road is most likely named after the Cache la Poudre river located in northern colorado. More research discovered that the river got its name from French pioneers who got stuck in a snow storm and decided to bury large amounts of gun powder by the river's bank and travel lighter. Cache meaning "hiding place" in french and Poudre meaning "powder" led me to the tie breaker for our 12 round bout.

Click here for the official pronounciation of Poudre according to Bartleby.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I Can't Help Who I Am

Granted I'm not a full blown geek, but most people know I'm a self proclaimed "closet geek". I think techie stuff is way cool, but fortunately for my social reputation my wife keeps me in check with how geeky I'm allowed to be. That being said, I wanted to share one of my core geek websites with you.

Ever sit down at a computer to surf the web and think, " Wow this connection seems really fast"? I do all the time. I'm always evaluating the speed at which my Internet connectivity moves. Often times I'll run a test and prove just how fast (or slow) my connection is. Sometimes I even do it at different times of the day to see how much it varies.

I just ran it for my machine at work and got this as a result.

That top line... the blue one... yeah, that's me. I know the numbers are real hard to read so I'll interpret for you. That's 11.041MB/sec. According the results I loaded 754,928 bytes in 0.547 seconds from Go Daddy server. What a way to start my weekend - not just fast, but darn skippy fast!

Want to run your own test and compare yourself to other providers, go to here to the Toast.net Internet Speed Test.

Can anyone be my speed?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Judgement Day

Wow, what a day yesterday was. I left my office at 3:15 to run downtown and pick up my judging packet from the Chamber of Commerce so I can judge who the best businesses in Colorado Springs are.

Then I drove home to meet the realtor so we could go judge which house we liked the best. We chose the one in the top picture from yesterday's post and submitted an offer... still waiting to hear back. The picture of the one we didn't pick is definitely better, but the inside and back yard testifies that our ruling was correct.

While in the middle of filling out all the paperwork to submit our offer, we got an offer on our rental house in Iowa. We quickly judged that it was a good offer and we will accept.

Grabbed Chick-Fil-A and a cherry-limeade slush from Sonic for dinner and drove home to put the boys to bed and watch the rest of the Stanley Cup game before the final verdict of exhaustion hit me and I fell asleep for a short recess.

Awoken at 3:06 AM by my 4 year old saying he was thirsty, I got him a drink and told him to go to the bathroom so he wouldn't wet the bed. Would that be considered "wetness tampering"???
Hopefully today will be a little slower, but I have a feeling it probably won't.

*** Update ***
While finishing this post, my wife called and informed me we have a deal on the house here in Colorado Springs. Looks like we're off and running again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

This One... Or This One?

I hate eye exams. I hate anything touching, dripping or blowing into my eye. That's why I don't wear contacts. I just can't bring myself to touch my eye. But what I hate the most about eye exams is all the pressure associated with that crazy device they make you look into and decide which one is better. "This one, or this one?"

Well this afternoon, I get to experience the same thing on a much bigger level. My "eye doctor" a.k.a. my wife has narrowed my choices from about 300 houses down to 2 and I get to accompany her and decide which one I like better. (not that my opinion has a whole lot of weight in this decision)

This One:

Or This One:

The one on top is the leading favorite by driving by last night. Bigger back yard, more finished square feet - and as handy as I like to think of myself, I ran the numbers and in this case the difference in price isn't enough to let us finish the basement in the bottom one and still come out even on price.

But it's hard to tell. What gives all the pressure from the eye doc is that third choice of "Or about the same" This is a life altering decision for my future eyesight and I'm supposed to choose "About the same?" Obviously if you have two lenses there has to be some kind of difference, I heard you flip the dial before you asked me the question. They can't be the same... Can they???

It's the same with these houses. The bottom one is in a much nicer neighborhood and is on a cul de sac. Does that make up for the smaller back yard and less living space? Is it the same? We saw a lot of kids out playing in the streets of both neighborhoods last night, but what if the one neighbor kid just had a lot of friends over to visit from out of town and they'll never be back again to play with our boys? And what if the one kid left is a total brat and we wouldn't let our boys play with him anyway because he's a bad influence?

Oh the humanity! Why can't we just get past this part and get on to my favorite part of buying a house - the negotiation of price.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Things In Common

In business, you are often faced with opportunities to talk to someone whom you'd like to do business with. But, the present environment doesn't always lend itself to holding out your business card and saying, "Hi, I'm Matt, how can I earn your business?" Perhaps that approach is more appropriate in speed dating, but never in a social setting, like a resturaunt or in line to the movies.

One thing I've found that works very well is starting with what else, a personal conversation. But again you can't just start with topics like religion and politics. "Hi, I'm Matt. What do you think the moral implications of the war on Iraq will be on our future generation?" is probably not a good opening line either.

Instead you have to find the right topic. My favorite thing is to look for things that I have in common with the person. Perhaps a similar sports team we both like, or a recent trip we both may have taken, or I am planning to take.

Bottom line to all of this, you have to search for something that will get them talking so you can morph the conversation into something you want to talk about. Something in common is rarely a bad place to start.

If I ever had the chance to meet Fuzzy Zoeller, I'd bring up the fact that we share the same birthday and then ask him how come when my tee shot goes in the rough, it never comes back like his did.
Watch this video

Thanks Brian for the video

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

What Could Be Better?

This afternoon I get to do 3 of my favorite things while on the job.

First, I get to go meet a bunch of business people in the community. Presidents of banks, CEOs, leaders in the business community. I always enjoy doing this because I can always learn so much from the people I meet. Whether from observation or direct conversation I find I always come away with a new perspective on something.

Second, I get to be out of the office. As much as I love the view of Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods from my office, I would rather be out in the scenery instead of looking at it through glass.

Third, I get to go play golf. I'm substituting for another person on his weekly golf league who is out of town. The great part of it is, I get to go play what is perhaps Colorado Springs most exclusive golf course... for free! The Garden of the Gods Club is a beautiful resort club that offers much more than just golf, but I'll have to suffer this afternoon and limit myself to golf only... and perhaps dinner too.

Oh yeah, did I mention we got an offer on our house back in Iowa? We're going house shopping over lunch today too.

I ask you what could be better?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Can You Dig It?

At work I get to see a variety of business ideas. Some good and some not so good. Last night I began teaching the NxLeveL Business Planning course. 13 weeks of how to write your business plan and start your business. As the students went around introducing themselves and the businesses they wanted to start, one in particular caught my eye.

For 18 years, this student / author developed her idea for a book and has now written and self published it. "Can You Dig It?" teaches young children about planting and growing a small vegetable garden. Perhaps I was intrigued because I can't grow a garden to save my life, or perhaps because I wish I had learned to garden as a child and now wish I was a child again. Either way, I looked through a copy of the book last night and loved what I saw. A great idea packaged creatively and ready to hit the market.

You can find more about "Can You Dig It? here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Enjoying the Crags

After last week's long and tiresome events we decided to join Deann's brother and his wife on a leisurely hike at the Crags, located just south of Divide, Colorado. We had a great time walking and talking and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Deann and I on the top- Mark and Teri on the bottom

The 3 mile hike took us to the top of the mountain where you could see for miles and miles. We sat on the rocks, ate our PB&J sandwiches, granola bars and apples and then retuned down the hill.

Two questions for you:

  1. Why can you travel twice as fast with half the energy when walking down hill? I understand gravity and all, but shouldn't you still be aerobically working to move your body that fast???
  2. Why has no one invented a way to keep penut butter and jelly sandwiches from getting mashed when you pack them in a back pack?

Mark at the top of the peak overlooking the beauty of it all.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Photo Blog of Before and After

I tried yesterday to post these pictures, but something with my computer / blogger / me couldn't get them uploaded. Here are some before and after pictures.


The front door. The left window was broken out and the lock barely worked. Aside from that it was a piece of junk.

The garage. Just a quick glimpse at the amount of garbage we dealt with.

The stove and more garbage. Had we saved the grease off the stove and the surrounding walls we could have opened our own McDonald's.

Wonderful artwork! Not sure why they thought we would appreciate this being painted on the bedroom wall, but I'm sure they had a good reason. Thank God for Kilz.

Just to the right of the wonderful dragon artwork is this hole. It's about the size of a foot, so I'm guessing after being inspired by the oriental dragon motif the tenant judo kicked the wall to show their skills.


The kitchen with new 18" x 18" travertine tiles and granite counter tops

We were so inspired by the dragon artwork that we decided to complete it. Yeah it took a lot of time, but we were very satisfied with the way it turned out. Fortunately I was able to restrain myself from kicking a hole in the wall.

The new front door I installed. It came pre-hung with a deadbolt lock to increase the security of the house.

Okay - actually we forgot to take after pictures, but in our defense we were so tired that it was about the last thing on our minds.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ty Pennington is a Wimp

Admittedly, my blogging has been less than habitual. My apologies, but I have a great excuse. Wanna hear it?

Back in glorious Pleasantville, IA, where we moved from 6 months ago, we own a rental house. It's been a great little house and made us decent money. The renters have been the same people since we bought the place. Good people (so we thought). Paid their rent on time. Never the neat freak people, but never destroyed the house either.

We recently got a phone call from some friends back in Iowa telling us that there may be a problem with our house. We do some investigating and here is what we found - and what my excuse is.

  • April - sent a Realtor over to look at the house so we can sell it.
  • April 27 - Realtor says "no way can we sell it like that - it's a disgusting pit"
  • April 28 - I call the tenants and say clean up by May 15 or move out by May 31 and call me by May 1 and let me know what you are doing (cleaning or moving)
  • May 2 - still no call so we send a letter saying bu-bye.
  • May 14 - the call from friends comes warning us of troubles at the rental.
  • May 15 - I get to be good friends with the police department who, along with several others tell me April 30 the husband is arrested (he should have been shot) husband makes bail and parties for a week solid with is looser friends who use crayon to misspell "Sinco de Mayo" on every wall in the house along with some other choice words I won't use.
  • May 25 -31 drove to Council Bluffs, Ia after work to stay the night - Drove the rest of the way to Pleasantville, drop off the kids at Steve and Teri's house and start working - Took 9 loads of trash to the dump, painted every interior wall in the house and a number of other smaller things Celebrated my 12 year anniversary with my beautiful bride by sweating in the humidity while she laid a new kitchen floor and I installed a new front door - Had new carpet installed, cleaned 2 years of dust off ceiling fans, pulled carpet out of the office and cleaned wood floors, installed tub surround, caulked the heck out of everything that didn't move, installed new window, swore under my breath I'd never own a rental house in a town I didn't live in again - Drove back to Colorado Springs, dropping the kids off at my parents house so they could stay and have fun and I could die from exhaustion in peace.

All I have to say is Ty Pennington is a wimp. Takes him a whole week and a crew of hundreds to do what we accomplished in 5 days. I'll take you and your craftsman tools any day of the week.

Special thanks to:
Steve - your ability to say "looks good to me" kept me going when I was frustrated and wanted to quit.
Teri - thanks for keeping my wife sane and helping with all of the detail stuff I hate.
Shannon - thanks for painting so much stuff. I still think ivy stenciled on the kitchen would have looked great, but you did more than enough as it was.
Gary - dude, you rock - thanks for getting high with me off the glue to hang the tub surround. (note to self - may need better ventilation in the bath room)