Monday, March 31, 2008

Spring has Sprung

The cherry trees downtown in D.C. are not the only ones blossoming. Take a look at what's happening around our very own house! Most of the trees we planted in the first couple of years after we moved in 11 years ago, and now they have grown tall and proud.

More photos? Click here.


Old Post Office Pavilion

In downtown D.C., there is the Old Post Office building, which today houses offices and a shopping mall, including an eatery. In all my years here, I had never stepped foot inside. In fact, from the outside, it's hard to see that it's anything but an office building and when you go inside, you actually have to go through security...you know, put all your metal objects through the X-ray machine and walk through the metal detector.

Click here for more photos.

Dinner at Tabaq Restaurant

We had dinner Saturday evening after the cherry blossoms with our friends, most of whom are from Russia, including Garry, Irene and Arthur, Anna and Sasha, and Ofeliya. Tabaq restaurant is very good and we had a great time together. Nicer people you'd have a hard time finding!

Click here for more photos.

Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossoms

Saturday was the peak of the cherry tree blossoms in Washington, D.C. and the day of the Cherry Blossoms Festival. We didn't have a chance to take part in all the festivities but of course we had to see the main attraction, the cherry tree blossoms themselves. There are 3,000 of them in and around the Tidal Basin and other nearby areas and they really are a site to see.

We went with Ofeliya and were met there by Irene, Garry and Arthur. We had a very nice time. The blossoms only last a few days, after which you have to wait another year, so make plans to go next year if you haven't seen them yet!

Click here for more photos.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pet Expo

Ivana and I went to the pet expo at the Dulles Expo Center yesterday. People were allowed to bring their dogs into the center and there were a lot of them (people and dogs!). We didn't bring ours was because we were en route to DC to see the cherry blossoms and have dinner with friends.

You can see more photos here:

Click here for more photos


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Our Guinea Pigs

Once again, another episode of Guinea Pig theater. That's Nibbler on the left, Quibbler on the right i the first photo. They love romaine lettuce, carrots and celery. They also like hay and other stuff. The cage they're in was made by me after I went to Home Depot and bought a large thick plastic bin and other supplies.

They now have grown pretty big. That blue igloo that they like to sleep in was at one time too heavy for them to lift but now they can easily. They also trust us now and will sit for an hour on my shoulder while I work at my desk. Quibbler now will actually touch his nose to my face a lot, as if he's hunting for buried treasure, but it feels as if he's being affectionate. Who knows? You can see a lot more photos (I know you're dying to see more, haha):

Click here to see more.



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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Coffee or Cocaine?

My wife says that I drink too much Starbucks coffee, that it costs too much money and that, despite the fact that I always get the no-sugar, lite coffee Frappuccino's, it doesn't help me lose weight. I said, "Maybe I should do cocaine instead then!" She said, "Well, at least it would help you lose weight!"

I've never done cocaine. For those of you who have, I have some questions.

  1. Is it true that it helps you lose weight?
  2. Is it addictive?
  3. Isn't it true that it's illegal or something?
For the time being, I'll stick with coffee. Let me know, though.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What's Good About New York City?

The food! For breakfast, my cousin provided us with bagels and because it was close to St. Joseph's Day (and my name is Joe, as is true of many men in my extended NYC family), sfinges and zeppolis. Yum yum yum!

Oh, one other thing...yum!!

Saved....From Nuclear Radiation!

Found on the school I attended as a child...a very large cross and a fallout shelter. They have both your body and soul covered!

How to Give Up Caffeine



This is from Scott Adams' book called Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! He's the guy who does the Dilbert comics:

If you want to give up caffeine, here's what you do. Sit in a chair for a while and stare into space. Then keep doing that forever because life has no meaning.

Somehow that makes sense to me.


Detroit Airport is Cool

Michigan is one of the seven states that I have not yet visited outside the airport. I need to get there and do it right, but for now, I have seen the airport and liked it. It's well laid-out, not too big, and it has this cool tram you see here that is open on the terminal side so you can see it easily, perched up high just like those choo-choo trains that are often seen up high in supermarkets or toy stores. Kind of cool. Can you see where I stopped? Oh, some of you know me well. Yes, look at the green sign.

Stuck in Rochester, Aftermath

This is a picture from inside the airplane, facing the terminal. So as you can see, I made it out. Minnesotans know how to get planes flying in the winter, otherwise they would be able to fly only 3 months out of the year (haha). The plane I was on got in late by half-hour. Just before the plane arrived, they plowed the runways. Because it was snowing, they really couldn't let too long a time pass between plowing and landing otherwise the roads would be slick again. They also had to turn the plane around quick so as soon as people were off, they got us on, de-iced the wings, and got us out of there!

However, I only had a 50 minute layover in Detroit and our plane did get in almost a half-hour late. Of course, I was seated in the back of the plane, so I was a bit worried, though I've learned to take all things in stride, especially while traveling. So when I got off the plane, I checked the monitors. My flight home was leaving on time and the gate was all the way at the end of another terminal! I ran like a banshee (do banshees run? don't know) and got to my gate about 10 minutes before departure. Once there, I found that my flight was...not yet there and was going to leave about 45 minutes late. Aahhh....well, at least I got my exercise. Still, it would have been nice if the monitors had shown the flight was leaving late instead of saying it was on time so that my psyche could have been more at peace with the universe.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Stuck in Rochester, Part 2

The runways are being cleared! The runways are being cleared!

Stuck in Rochester?

We'll see. I'm ready to leave Rochester, Minnesota, changing planes in Detroit, to get home. This is a picture of the runways from where I sit. Uhm...will we make it out of here without too long a delay? We are already told we're delayed 15 minutes and I only have a 50-minute layover in Detroit!

Update: Oh-oh, we're up to a 30-minute delay in leaving. Patience, Joe, patience, you'll get home somehow.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Scenes Made Entirely From Food

These scenes are incredible and are made entirely from food. Do yourself a favor and click the images to see them full size. They are extraordinary!

These were created by Carl Warner. See his site:

http://www.carlwarner.com/



Sunday, March 16, 2008

Minneapolis Greetings

I arrived in Minneapolis, where I will stay until this evening when my colleagues arrive and we drive to Rochester. The airport is wonderful, very easy to navigate and with a great light rail system that goes downtown or to the Mall of America with lots of stops in between for only $1.50. I'll be heading to the Mall of America where I will have lunch with a friend today and wait out the day.

I found it interesting that the first thing with which Minneapolis greets visitors is the cemetery. Not necessarily very comforting to know that they feel the need to keep the cemetery so close to the airport!

Guy on a Plane

This week I'm in Rochester, Minnesota again. On today's flight to Minneapolis from DC, which was quite full, I was sitting in the window seat. The man sitting in the middle seat next to me pulled out his laptop, which was so big that it encroached quite a bit into my personal space once he opened it and started working on it. It was quite easy to see what he was doing on it and quite hard to avert my eyes considering how it was practically right in front of me.

He was writing a to-do list. The first item on the list?

Search for a bride. Find her by Dec. 2008.

After that:

Obtain perfect health
Minimum talking
Prepare a perfect press kit.

Overall, I was impressed! That's quite an ambitious to-do list!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Starbucks and Politics

My local Starbucks has some cute young lady baristas who will be able to vote this year for the first time. They know me pretty well by now so today they engaged me in conversation as for whom I was going to vote. One of them told me she was a feminist but that she was uncomfortable voting for a woman for president. When I asked why, she said, "What if she gets bad PMS and then decides to bomb a country?"

I had to inform her that Hillary Clinton is 61 years old and way past menopause by now, so I was pretty sure she was NOT going to get PMS!

"Oh, good point," she said!

Besides, with that excuse, how can women ever advance any further? This from a self-professed feminist, no less!

Just so we're clear, though, this is a question of being young, not being less intelligent. This young lady strikes me as very smart, just learning still!

Skool is Gud

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It drives me crazy when I see misspellings on public signs. How hard is it to open a dictionary? When I was filling up my tank at a local Exxon, I saw this message (play the video). A misspelling and a typo? Sheesh! In case you can't see it because of the scrolling, if you're hungrey you can go into the snank shop. Okey-dokey!

Self-Confidence

At my local Starbucks, there is a small chalkboard where the barista is able to write his or her drink recommendation for the day. I liked what Brian had to write - that shows self-confidence!

Pet Peeve #821: Voice Mail Systems

Here's one that gets me. I have a voice mail system at the office and a separate one on my cell phone. I also have an answering machine at home that I can check remotely by pressing keys on a phone, just like voice mail. Of course, I also travel a lot and stay in a lot of hotels, and the phones in my room have their own voice mail systems...

AND THEY ALL USE DIFFERENT CODES!

On some systems, I have to press 3 to erase a message, but on other systems 3 means save the current message and move to the next one! On some I use 8 to erase a message but on others 8 means to call the person who left the message! Do you think I can keep all these systems straight? The simple answer: NO. I always end up erasing messages I want to keep and calling people I don't want to talk to at the moment.

On my office phone, I have to press 2 to hear new messages. Where's the sense in that? Most others use 1 for that. But if I hit 1 on my office phone it means start a fire in a random part of the building...I think. I don't know; I'm afraid to hit that one.

So here's my question: why on Earth can't sadistic voice mail system inventors standardize on one set of codes? Make it simple! Oh, wait, it's because they are SADISTIC!

Strange Situation #351 - Elevators

I was with a friend a couple of weeks ago. We were walking down a hall toward an elevator. I told him, "You know what's weird? It seems more often than I would expect I press an elevator button to call an elevator and the elevator door instantly opens. No big deal, right? But then, someone walks out! I always find that disconcerting, as if the elevator had been sitting at that level for a long time and the person inside was trapped until I saved him. But the person never looks grateful or upset, so I have to believe that I happened to hit the button just at the moment when the elevator arrived!" My friend said that was weird and that that has never happened to him.

He then pressed the button to call the elevator. The doors instantly opened...and someone walked out. Not looking grateful or scared at all. But my friend looked a little surprised!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Italian Lynchings

(click the strip to enlarge and read it)
Most people are surprised to learn that the worst mass lynching in American history was of innocent Italians in New Orleans in 1891. In fact, they were acquitted by a court of law but subsequently lynched by a vigilante mob.

From Wikipedia: After a wave of increased immigration to the US in the late 19th century, Italian-Americans also became lynching targets, chiefly in the South. On March 14, 1891, eleven Italian-Americans were lynched in New Orleans after a jury acquitted them in the murder of a New Orleans police chief [16] David Hennessy. The eleven were falsely accused of being associated with the Mafia. This incident was the largest mass lynching in U.S. history.

Follow Up: See http://www.i-italy.org/1348/pane-amaro-bitter-world-italian-americans

Cute Card

I gave this to my son for his birthday. I thought this was the cutest card! He laughed out loud when he read it, the first time I think he has ever done that with a card I've given him. :-)





Me on You Tube


The Boston chapter of ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) has asked me if I would be willing to come speak there later this spring. I said I would and they asked if I could post a YouTube video of myself speaking so that their committee could get a sense of my speaking style. I consented, so I posted the first YouTube of myself last night. If you'd like to see it, click here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJ8H2Ins3Xw


Cell Phone....Back from the Dead

It's hard to believe but I tried my cell phone again last night and ever since then it seems to be OK! I guess I fished it out of the water quickly enough (while cursing) and the cell phone has a tight enough seal that the water didn't make it into the innards before I salvaged it. Yea!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Luck Really Sucks Sometimes

This past Tuesday evening I was in Nashville airport, getting ready to board my plane, and speaking on my cell phone to a friend. Suddenly my cell phone decided to give up the ghost. With its dying breath, it displayed three deep bands of color on the screen and a message that disappeared quickly: Image not found. That didn't sound good at all. No matter how many times I reset the phone, pulled out the battery (which still had a good charge on it), the phone would no longer come back to life. When I got home, I left the battery out all night and then tried it again Wednesday morning: same results. That was it - I needed my phone. I get a lot of client calls on it. I took it to the Sprint store, the one where I always end up waiting an hour in line. When it was finally my turn, I put the battery in, turned it around so that the tech could see it, and turned it on. The shock on his face at seeing nothing but three bands of color....never happened. The phone was working! It was really I who was in shock, but no matter, the phone was working. I told him about what had happened and he told me that if it happened again to come back.

So everything was fine until the phone acted a little strange and I reset it Friday morning. Oops - nothing but pretty colors again. I took my wife to lunch and then we headed to the Sprint store, where after an hour's wait in line, I showed the tech the problem. He told me that they would need to take the phone in the back and get it checked out to see if there was any water damage in the phone. If there was, that would void the warranty. I told him I was sure there wasn't and he told me to come back in an hour. When I went back and waited in line again, they told me the phone had no water damage and they gave me a brand new phone.

Jump to today. I went to the grocery store to pick up some dog food. When I got home, I gave my dog his food and then filled up his water bowl. When I placed it on the floor, my cell phone fell out of my shirt pocket...smack into the middle of the water bowl. No matter where you live in the world, you probably heard a distant liturgy of curses that would make a sailor blush. Water damage? Yah, you betcha, two days after I got the new phone! I knew what I had to do - take the battery out immediately and let it sit for a couple of days to dry out. And that's still no guarantee. The water managed to seal the battery cover well enough that it took me about 3 minutes to get it off. Who knows now if it's going to work again. I suspect not. And this time I'll be liable for the cost of a new phone. My phone costs $550 new. Just shoot me now and take me out of my misery, please.

The Day I Might Have Been Fired

When I was 19 years old, I worked at a small town Holiday Inn as night auditor and desk clerk. This was before computerized reservation systems and other technologies. I was the only one on duty all night.We had actual metal door keys and paper files.

Anyway, one night at about 3 a.m., a tired-looking guy walked in and asked for a room. I signed him in and gave him a room key. As mos people did, he walked back outside to drive his car around to the side door which was closer to his room.

After a minute or two it suddenly hit me: I had given him the key to a room that already had a guest in it! OH NO! I ran down the hallway toward the room to stop him. The hallway had a couple of 90 degree turns in it. Just as I turned the last turn, where I was now about 100 feet down from where the room was, I saw the guest insert his key into the room lock and turn it. Just as I was opening my mouth to stop him, I saw a man wearing only his underwear run out of the room screaming at the intruder, who quickly made a hasty exit out the side door through which he had come in.

I just knew that one or both guests would come to the front desk now and have me fired for my terrible mistake. I ventured back to the desk to take my lumps and gather my belongings so that I could make a clean exit when my boss came in four hours later. Then I waited...and waited...waited. Neither guest came to the desk. So I waited some more...were they playing with my mind? I waited...and nothing ever happened. Neither guest ever complained. The new guest never came back and I kept my job until I quit a few months later. Sometimes things do work out. Read my next blog entry for when things do NOT work out.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Dog's Life

My dog is getting old. It wasn't that long ago that he was a six-week old pup and we were taking him home. Of course, that was 11 years ago. However, in 11 years he has become an old man...uhm...dog.

My dog still shows bursts of energy sometimes but for the most part he likes to sit and lie down a lot more now. He finds it harder to jump onto our bed...joints, you know...and so let's us pick him up now. In the past, he didn't like to be picked up; he liked to feel his four paws were firmly on the ground. Now he doesn't seem to mind because he finds his paws aren't able to leave the ground of their own volition as easily.

Things that used to excite him, for example, "Do you want to go in the car?", now generate an iffy response. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. He sometimes seems a little confused, though he is as loving and affectionate as he has always been. He is still very happy to see me when I come home, still sad to see me leave, still likes to celebrate with me when there's a reason to celebrate.

My dog is getting old, yes, but I hope he still has years to go before his tail stops wagging altogether. However, even now it can be said that no dog has been so loved, no dog has received as much attention, no dog has been loved as well and has in turn filled everyone he has met with so much happiness and joy. My dog is my friend, the best friend I've ever had, and I hope he and I will enjoy more years to come. I wish he could live as long as I but I know that's selfish of me. He has had a good life thus far and when he's ready to go, he'll have led a good life. I can only hope I can say the same about me.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tennessee House Representative and Me

Here I am being flanked by Tennessee House Representative Dolores R. Gresham and her assistant in the old chambers of the State Capitol. They made me feel very special!

Damage in the Tennessee State Capitol

Look carefully and you can see the pockmarks in the main staircase hand rails, created by bullets that came whizzing past the heads of rivals in the Tennessee State Capitol back in the 1800s!

They have never been repaired. I guess they represent history.