Saturday, December 27, 2008

Imperial Star Destroyer

1366 pieces and 2 days later, we finally completed Caleb's prime Santa gift.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

Already been to Circuit City and came up empty. Now I'm at Target at 6:55am.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Attention College Basketball Recruiters...

Please see the following video of my 10 year old son Seth. We will be accepting invitations to visit ACC schools offering full scholarships. There is also a teammate and 5 year old brother whom you will also want to consider to round out your back court. I'm sure they will provide you years of conference superiority, as well as raise your scholar-athlete rankings. Unlimited XBOX and PS/3 access will be required, as well as an account on iTunes paid for by your booster club. Their agent and deal-maker will be the 7 year old brother. He usually gets what he wants.

Monday, November 3, 2008

If Caleb Could Vote...

Tonight, I was helping Lori by setting up a temporary tent at the school - and voting location - to raise money for the PTA on election morning (via coffee and donut sales). I took Caleb with me, and was assisted by some other friends. Also at the school were some folks putting up a sign right next to our tent. It said
To Vote for Change...
1. Vote Obama
2. Vote a straight Democratic ticket
3. Judges
I bit my tongue and did my PTA spousal duties.
Caleb didn't. He read the sign over and said in his usual loud powerful voice, "OBAMA! Why would anyone vote for OBAMA?! We're going to vote for the OTHER GUY!" to which I said "We've ALREADY voted for the other guy."
To point #2... I would question how voting a straight Democratic ticket in NC would result in any change. This state is largely controlled and run by the Democrats and has been for the length of my adult lifetime, as best as I can remember. And each year there is more and more corruption, much of which ends up in prison sentences for high-profile politicians. So not sure what kind of change would occur with a straight Demo ticket. Maybe different Democrats can go to prison in the future.


To point #3... Judges. Where's the verb? Is the sign-maker suggesting that we do away with verbs and just use nouns to change things? You've got to have verbs, no matter what party you're with.

Pictured is Caleb voting for change in the fish acquarium at Marbles Childrens' Museum.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Vote!

I AM VOTING EARLY!

This election will certainly go down in history as historical. It's great to see soo many people interested in the process. I am still shocked that I can go in and vote by just telling my name and address. No ID required.

Friday, October 24, 2008

At the NC State Fair

Here we are at the NC State Fair. We just had some footlong dogs and now we are going to ride some more and see if we can get sick!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Remembering Dwayne Cross

Last night I heard the very sad news that a friend of mine and brother in Christ, Dwayne Cross, had tragically been killed in a car accident on the way home from work. According to the news report, Dwayne was 35, which is much too young to lose your life, but reminds us that each and every day is precious, and tomorrow is never promised.

Dwayne and his family attended church with my family for several years starting around 2001. They moved to Indiana a few years ago and Dwayne worked as a security guard at the University of Notre Dame.

I didn't know Dwayne very well when we attended church together. I took a lot of photos for the church, and as I looked this morning for images to remember Dwayne, I found him in the background more than the foreground. He was a quiet guy who was not out in front of the camera very much. But even more so, I think Dwayne was a guy who was just humble, and who worked very hard to provide for his family.

In the years I knew him, I remember him as a new Christian, whose faith was growing year after year. We attended Promise Keepers together in 2005, and I remember Dwayne growing in his desire to know the Lord and serve others. One thing in particular that impressed me about Dwayne was his focus on keeping things simple and on what's important. He wasn't a lofty theology teacher by any means. He was plain-spoken and matter-of-fact. He was secure in his relationship with Jesus, and had a sense of "realness" about him, imperfections and all.

In one particular instance, Dwayne and I were in a men's group together. I'm not sure what the connection was, but Dwayne was very instrumental in our group adopting an orphanage one Christmas and taking gifts to the children. I recall that because the orphanage was associated with an organization that some did not agree with, and because it was 30+ miles away from our church, some argued that we should not take on this project. I remember Dwayne being vocal and adamant about supporting the project, and saying basically (I am paraphrasing)... "It doesn't matter how far this is or who ELSE supports these kids - WE need to do something here, and help them." And so we did.

Dwayne was a tough guy. He was strong. He worked as a guard at the prison for a while, and I'm sure his life was often in danger. But he could handle it, through the strength God gave him. I know he used those hard environments to share his faith. While the rest of us stayed in the comfy suburbs, Dwayne lived out his faith in a very hostile world.

I believe Dwayne was a big teddy bear inside. I'm sure he wasn't the perfect husband and father, nor are any of us. But I am sure because of his faith in Jesus, that he is with Him now and for eternity. So maybe I knew Dwayne more than I thought.

Every moment is precious - let's not forget it. Goodbye Dwayne. We'll miss you.

Backyard Campout

Tonight we bought a tent and had our first big campout in the backyard. I remember my dad camping out with me when I was about 6. The tent was green and canvas and had wooden stakes and room for I guess 2 small people. We didn't have power in the tent with a DVD player, lights, a cell phone with a camera, and room for 7 people, but I still remember it. I think my dad's feet stuck out of the tent and we went in before the night was over, but it was still memorable. Time for bed now. Good night.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Seth and Me at NC State

Today I took off work and will be attending my accounting class in person. Seth came with me so he can get a taste of real college life. Here we are outside of my old dorm, Tucker Hall. The top left room was mine ... 359 Tucker... "Corner room at the Y." The dorm looks to be co-ed now.

We were walking past Reynolds Coliseum and Seth noticed and asked about some man-hole covers. "What's in there?" he asked. Ironically, from my memory, the one he had asked about was one of the entrances to the steam tunnel system underneath the campus. I had told him about the days when we would climb down underground and then wander the maze in the "otherworld" beneath NCSU. So I guess he found it. Upon searching the web, I found something that indicated the tunnel entrances have been secured since after 9/11. So I guess he'll never know the fun (or fear) in running through the tunnels after midnight.

Then we went to the brickyard area where we had lunch in the "atrium." Back in the old days, the choices includes burgers, hot dogs, and fries. Today, they have Chick-Fil-A, some pizza vendor, and of course, burgers, hot dogs, and fries. I was tempted to get the burger, just to hear some person say "Want cheez on that?" but I opted for the CFA stand-by, as did Seth.

Out in the brickyard, there was what was known as "the brickyard preacher." Not sure if it's the same person year after year, but the message is the same, "Turn or burn, you worthless evil drinking sleeping-around college-aged sinners!!" (click on picture to read the sign) The crowd usually stands clear of the guy, but in this case, I think an athiest was getting into a shouting match with the Most-Righteous One, and so the audience moved in closer. I have to wonder how effective this method of evangelism has been over the years. Perhaps they should try actually meeting people and telling them "You know, none of us are perfect. We all screw up and do the wrong things sometimes... Even so, God loves each and every one of us, and wants us to know him." Nah... that would just fill up our churches with a bunch of sinners and people with problems.

Then we walked around the brickyard some more and got the picture with the upside down NCS brick logo. We went into the incredible DH Hill Library, which was alive with students and collaboration and computers and studying... It was amazing to see the bustling and lively environment. It was peak season on campus.

We then walked down "engineering row," passing the buildings for nuclear, mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineering (at least that's what they used to be in the 80s). Then, when I pointed out the chemical engineering building, Seth commented, "Yea - I thought I smelled something." So that was a good laugh for me. Those Chem-E's and their noxious experiments.

Hopefully all my boys will make it to college somewhere, perhaps even to NC State University.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Caleb's Big Ice Cream Cone

This is what happens when Caleb makes his own ice cream cone at Jason's Deli. Everyone in the restaurant was amazed as he walked back to the table.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Made it to 64

We made it all the way to highway 64 in Apex!

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American Tobacco Trail Bike Ride

Here we are on the American Tobacco Trail enjoying a nice Saturday bike ride. That is Brandon, not Luke, along with Caleb and Seth.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Luke and Me at Lunch Last Week

This is a test from my cell phone directly to my blog. I like learning a new technical trick every weekend. Hopefully the picture will show. That is Luke and me at his lunch last week. He's in kindergarten now.

It's 1:48am...

... and I don't want to go to sleep. I feel like my work weeks are so laid out for me. Up at 6:15am. On a call at 7. Try to get to work before 7 or soon after. Back to back calls all day - even through lunch. Back home around 6 or sometimes later. Then back online after the kids are in bed - 10pm or later. The weeks like that are flying by. Right past all of summer. So I don't want to go to sleep - because I don't really have to. I need some time to myself and I guess this is it. I really need a decent vacation. But it's just not in the budget. Things were so much nicer when we didn't have a budget.

I can't imagine if I ever did get to go to Duke for my MBA. How would I possibly do that? I don't think you can work 12 hours a day, AND do that program. It's probably a good thing that my division is not supporting me in this. So that leaves me in a job which is pretty interesting, and perhaps some good reward can come from it. But what's next? I will have to play my cards extremely well to avoid a travel job after this project is over (YE09).

I guy I work with expressed some interest in commercial work, and right away, he got sucked into a role in Colorado. He lives in Boston, and will have to travel Mon-Thur each week. His kids are grown so it's not so bad. But is that my future, too? I really need to find some niche areas that are "home based".

I've been listening to Boz Scaggs lately. Not sure why. I think it reminds me of when we first moved to Charlotte and I had no friends and all I had for entertainment was to look for golf balls (we lived on the #8 fairway). I can remember the Lido Shuffle song, and going to 6th grade across town to University Park Elementary, and then going home and looking for golf balls... hoping to exceed the record of prior days. Was 56 my record for one day? Seems like it. Some bad golf on that course.

The diet has floundered. I have started to run a bit more since returning from Manila. After slacking off for just a few weeks, my running times are off by about 2 minutes (24 min vs 22 before), so that is significant. I am surprised how quickly I lost that momentum and gained back a few pounds (back to 242 now). I still am determined to make 225 by 12/25. I will always remember this summer as the time when I ran at nights and listened to podcasts from MBA Podcaster and from Duke and online executive summaries of business books. I really was over the top there for a while... And I'm still encouraged, but certainly I can't be but so excited, with no prospect of going.

Now I'm actually getting sleepy. I really would like to leave my alarm set for 615, just for the pleasure of turning it off and sleeping through. But what will happen is that I will be wide awake at 5:45am and will struggle to get 6 hours sleep tonight. How's that for optimism?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Accepted to Duke

I am back in the U.S. The flight home was uneventful, which was good! It's great to be home.

I got the call from Duke today. I got accepted. I'm really honored and happy that I went ahead and applied. They are FedEx'ing me the official letter (all the way from Durham 15 miles away). If I understood correctly, I have 3 weeks to respond. I have a meeting with my next VP this Thursday. I've accepted the fact that my group is not going to support me on this. But I am meeting with him anyway, just to get coaching on the future steps. It was very timely that I got accepted this week.

I have my first Accounting 210 test tomorrow night. It's really weird studying again!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Somewhere Over Canada

As I write this, I am in air over Canada, having recently passed a town called Yellowknife. The seats in business class are equipped with displays which allow selection of movies, games, music, or an informational map showing the plane's progress. The "follow the plane" view is always my favorite channel to watch.

It's nothing short of a miracle that I am on this flight, much less sitting in business class. I am traveling with 2 other people, Avon and Joe. Due to me trying to outsmart the weather, ie. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Hanna, I had changed my flight earlier in the week to leave Raleigh 3 hours earlier than the other. When I made that change, I instinctively thought, "I bet I am going to regret this." And I was right. What I didn't realize is that my travel agent had changed me from the 12:38pm Raleigh - Detroit - Nagoya - Manila to the 8:55am Raleigh - Detroit - Tokyo - Manila flight. I only wanted to change the RDU-DTW departure time, not the whole route. Joe and Avon were still on the later Raleigh - Detroit - Nagoya - Manila flight, with the RDU-DTW leg being 3 hours later at 12:38pm. I didn't discover that we were on different international legs until yesterday when I changed back to the 12:38 flight. Attempts to get back on the Nagoya flight were failing, as that plane was, by then, full in business class. So as we all got to the airport this morning, our hopes were that either they could get on my flight, or vice versa. We would fly together to DTW, but then separate.

Unfortunately, when we checked in at RDU, we were met with a ticket agent that couldn't possibly have been there more than a week. He told us our flight was not even going to arrive to RDU until after 3pm, and therefore there was no way we could meet our connection in DTW. And both the Nagoya and Tokyo flights are the last ones out of DTW for the day. He checked various options, including, rebook for tomorrow, fly via Amsterdam, which would put us into Manila about 10 hours later on Monday morning - but that would be 2 grueling international legs in COACH. Business class was sold out. After trying to come up with more options with him for about 20 minutes, we had decided that we would just head home and rebook everything for tomorrow. We asked if we could take the 8:55am flight tomorrow (Sunday) and he said that the earliest flight was the 12:38pm one. There was no 8:55am Sunday RDU-DTW flight. So as we prepared to rebook everything, we overheard the next agent say "Can I help anyone else going to Detroit on the 1pm flight?" And so we asked, "Is there a 1pm flight?" After a few keystrokes and confirming with the other agent, he concluded he had read the screen wrong, and our flight was just slightly delayed, not delayed by HOURS as he'd told us. So we checked our bags and went to the gate, thinking that with a little luck, we could catch our connection(s) in Detroit, and if not, we at least would be that far, could get a hotel, and for sure get out of Detroit on Sunday. Did I mention that the status board for the RDU-DTW flight was still showing "on time"?

So we got to the gate, and waited. Our connections in Detroit were at 3:30 pm (me) and 3:50pm (Avon and Joe). The RDU-DTW flight was 2 hours, and by leaving at 12:38 or even 1:15, we might have enough time to catch our connections. For sure Avon and Joe would have a better chance. Well, lo and behold, the RDU-DTW flight finally got posted as delayed with a departure time of 1:24pm. So I headed to the gate desk. I was told right quickly that I was out of luck. I would miss my connection. She said that when I arrived I would only have 10 minutes and you have to have 30. Joe and Avon would be OK, as they would have the minimum 30 minutes. I said, well I'll take my chances. I would just go to DTW and if I made my connection, fine, and if not, I would get a hotel and go tomorrow. At least Joe and Avon would make it. Nope. Can't do that. They will not let you on a flight if they know you will miss the connection. I pleaded to let me go anyway. Surely the DTW-Tokyo flight would be delayed a FEW minutes to allow me a 50/50 chance to making it. NOPE. On international flights you cannot be separated from your bags, and so they cannot let me go and stay in Detroit while my bags continue on. Whatever. There were no options. We discussed the coach route to Amsterdam again, and I declined. I wanted to get there soon, but not that bad. She checked Joe's flight and there was no availability. Not even in coach.

So she re-booked me on a flight for Sunday. She put me on the 8:55am Sunday flight out of RDU - the flight that the agent downstairs said didn't exist! All first class. So at least I got an upgrade. I felt like there was some consolation. So I took my tickets and walked away. She had my checked luggage sent back to the front ticket gate, where I could pick it up on the way out. The line behind me had gotten pretty long and the agents were helping other people deal with their various upcoming missed connections. I was talking to Joe and hatching a plan for meeting up with them a day later in Manila. As I was about to walk away, the agent ran to me and said, "Wait - Don't go yet!" She ran back and finished up the guy who was behind me. Turns out he was in the same predicament as me. He was trying to get to Manila, and was on the same Tokyo route as me - the connection that we would miss by 20 minutes. Turns out that when she checked again, she WAS able to re-book HIM onto the Nagoya flight. So she put my data in again, and sure enough, there was now availability on the Nagoya flight - even in business class! So she booked me there, and then had my luggage returned to the plane. Wow. Apparently what had happened in the 5 minutes from me to the next guy, was that other people had been indicated as missing their connection on the Nagoya flight, so several seats must have freed up. So I was very thankful and amazed at all the close calls that made this a lot more dramatic than it should have been - all because I changed one leg of my flight to try to miss the storm.

The incoming flight arrived around 1pm, and they got the people off and us on, right away. We took off - probably before 1:24pm - and it only took ONE HOUR to get to Detroit. We landed in Detroit a full hour before the connection was to leave. Indeed, I could have made the Tokyo flight, but as it turned out, I got on the flight I wanted. We even had time to grab food at McDonald's. When I went to the gate to see if I could get my seat in the upper deck of the 747, the agent said, "You're already there - In fact you're in my favorite seat - 80K!" She said it's on the back row of the upper deck, and is somehow better than the other 29 seats up here. OK, whatever. I really gotta think that God helped me out here today. So here I am... on the way on the right flight, and with my colleagues, about to enter the great state of Alaska.

Here are some other boring pictures of the flight enroute. Total was about 13 hours from Detroit to Nagoya, then another 3 1/2 to Manila. I'm in the hotel now: 12:45am Sunday night. Ready for some sleep.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Off to Manila, Philippines

About to take off for the airport for a 1 week business trip to Manila. It will be a long flight through Detroit, to Tokyo, then Manila. Almost 24 hours total trip time. Should be a tiring busy week. Will try to post more as time permits. I'm taking plenty of Accounting work to read and homework to do. Plus 800+ emails I'm behind on at work. Plus 5 episodes of Seinfeld on my iPod. The long flight will be somewhat nice to relax and disconnect, and catch up on work, rest, thinking, praying... not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is There an Online "Free Expression Tunnel?"

First of all, updates on the diet. The diet is on life support. Due to my consuming work schedule of late, I have been able to run only about once in the last 10-12 days - and that was right after buying NEW running shoes! I am still not eating terribly bad, but I know I am at risk of falling off the wagon. I have stabilized around 240 pounds. I still have my "225 by 12/25" goal... and I think that if I can get work under control and then back to running by fall, I can still make that goal. I still have some level of motivation and will power... but my schedule is not helping. I think I called that a skipportunity a while back!

I must be crazy. Amidst a new job that is taking every waking non-showering hour, I now have something else on my plate... Accounting 210. To continue to get myself ready for entering MBA school (in the event that miracle occurs), I concluded that I needed to shore up my accounting skills. This is actually not a bad idea, even without the MBA aspirations. This class teaches about reading and preparing financial reports, which is something that I could have used when we had our business.

So here I am taking the online version of ACC 210 from NC State. So while I don't get to walk through the Free Expression Tunnel on my way to class daily, I can still remember the sights, smells, and sounds of rushing to class through the tunnel, or back to the dorm for a quick break.

By the time I got online to the course this week, I found that I needed to purchase an online book, read 2 chapters, and turn in homework within 2 days. So while I didn't need the added stress this will invariably bring to my life, it will certainly be preparatory for going into an MBA program, both in knowledge, and study discipline. I figured that if I couldn't handle this undergraduate class, then there would be no way to handle 4 graduate classes. So this is a test... but not only a test.

So when do I get my student ID so I can camp out for basketball tickets?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mentally Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

I'm tired. I just feel blah. I feel like the summer has passed me by, and without nary a true week - much less day - of rest. I guess that will be the story of my life for the next few years.

Right now, I'm uploading a huge file on our work teamroom so that is tying up the Lotus Notes application I need to do everything else I need to be doing today.

I feel like the diet has plateaued. I drop down to 235-ish, and then back up to 240-ish, over and over. Running is becoming more difficult it seems, though I have run just about every other day for the last 2 weeks. I feel like my endurance should be getting better, but it's not. The weather hasn't helped. It's still usually in the 70s when I go, which is not bad, but the humidity is often not good. And the air quality just seems poor. It's like I can't get in a full breath of air as a normal course of breathing.

Yesterday I took Seth & Caleb to the Styx and Boston concert at the Carolina Crossroads "amphitheatre?" in Roanoke Rapids. This was both the first concert I've ever been 10 minutes late arriving to, and also the first concert that has ever had the opening "name" act start promptly on time. By the time we got through the parking line, the ticket gate entry line, and the "assigned seating only - wristband required" line, Styx had already performed about half their set. Anyway, that place could have been run by the DMV, and gotten us to our seats quicker. The weather was nice, and I was close enough to get some decent pictures (Tom Scholz of Boston shown). The show was OK, as each band only had 1-2 original members and sound-a-like lead singers. Makes me all the more keen to catch another Rush concert before they finally retire. They're still the originals.

Anyway, I got my official GMAT scores. No change in the 620 I had, but I was pleased to get 5.5 out of 6 on my analytical writing assessments. This is scored on a 0.5 scale, so the next highest score is 6.0. I am starting a business case on determining if it's worth paying for the MBA myself, as if we could have a few yard sales and raise $103k. The thought of ever getting into and out of that program seems like a distant vapor now. I just feel like without making this move, my career future will be relegated to unwanted excessive travel doing something I'm not interested in but qualified for, an inability to move laterally to other divisions or companies, and experience-based learning void of academia. While that may marginally pay the bills, it doesn't sound very appealing for the next 20 years.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

GMAT is DONE!

Well, that was humbling. After scoring 650 on the practice test last week, and feeling like I did better today while taking the GMAT this morning, I was a bit disappointed to end up with a 620 (out of 800). This puts me in the 72nd percentile. I was really thinking I could get near 700, but I didn't make it. Surprisingly, from a percentile basis, I did better on the verbal than on the quantitative (66 vs 63). It's not that I couldn't do the math problems. It's that I couldn't do them fast enough. I guessed on many of them, realizing that I could either spend 5 minutes and possibly be wrong and guess on other problems later... OR guess on the super hard ones, and spend time on the others I could do quicker. I guess that was a bad strategy. Anyway, it's over. It will take a few weeks to get the AWA scores back. I feel like I will do well on one and average on the other. We'll see.

So, having done that, I completed my Duke application tonight, and submitted that online. Maybe I'll get an acceptance letter from them, suitable for framing, and I'll just hang that on my wall for the next few years while I figure out how to get to actually attend and pay for the program.

All I know is that I am tired and glad to be through these 2 hurdles. To some extent, I've done all I can do now. Now I have to wait on Duke, and my job situation.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Weekend Update

This was a long, but productive weekend. First... I hit a new low in weight, thanks to bringing home leftovers Friday night (versus eating it all), and then a Saturday morning run, I captured a weight of 235.4 yesterday (nearly 44 lbs from the beginning). I'm not able to run as much as I would like due to the weather. Right now it's 10pm and 84 degrees. Can't run now.

Then I worked quite a bit Saturday preparing for a big meeting I have at work this Mon-Wed. This is the first big event of my new job, and so I hope that I am able to facilitate the meeting well, and establish some positive momentum.

Come Wednesday, I will be fully exhausted, just in time to take the GMAT on Thursday AM. I studied during the balance of my time this weekend, and took the official practice test. Surprisingly, I felt more comfortable with the verbal section than the math. I got stuck on a few math problems early on, and that caused me to have to guess at many math problems because I was running out of time. My practice score turned out to be 650 (out of 800) which is about 80th percentile. I will be pleased to get that on Thursday, though I would like to get closer to 700 just to feel like "I still got it!" I think I'm much improved in the verbal sections now than I was some 25+ years ago taking the SAT. I still need to study for the AWA (analytical writing assessment), but I will wing that to some extent.

I did manage to make it to the pool a few times this weekend, changed the flood light bulbs, and mowed the weeds, uh, grass. I ran that one time on Saturday, and rode my bike a bit today. While in the pool I threw, tossed, flipped, and launched my kids and others between 20 and 75 times. I posted some new pictures to picasaweb. I watched half a movie (College Road Trip), and went to church. Had a church picnic and a bunch of baptisms. I also watched an Andy Griffith episode from the color post-Barney era. I even kept the kids a bit while Lori hit the Saturday AM yard sales. But she kept the kids entertained the rest of the weekend. Then I wrote this blog post. And now I'm going to bed. Tomorrow is the 2nd first day of school for Luke. This time it's for real.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Prospective Student" Visits Duke

Today was the big anti-climactic day for me at the Duke Fuqua School of Business. Today was the "prospective student" campus visit. I also had my application interview. I say "anti-climactic" not because I came away disappointed (I didn't), but because I knew that instead of this step being a few steps - and months - away from actually entering the program, it was instead still very much an uncertainty, with no definite path to fruition.

I was hoping that I would leave today with a sense of "belonging" or not. Did I fit in? Or would I feel out of place? Knowing that the chances are slim and none that I will be entering school in the next cycle which begins March 2009, would I still be interested in Duke? Would Duke still be interested in me? How patient am I?

Undoubtedly, as of today July 25, 2008, I believe that I will someday attend Duke's business school and work towards an MBA. Two months ago I would have never thought such a thing. Not because I didn't think it was possible, but it was not even a consideration then.

Today I experienced many unexpected things. First of all, SHY and QUIET me... as I sat at my table with the construction business owner from Asheville, the entrepreneur from India, the young executive from Wake Forest, and a Vice President of a brick company in Charleston, I found that it was me that was initiating the conversation and asking the questions of others. I also got out of my shell long enough to approach total strangers who were current students, and start talking to guys who looked like alternative band members, but who were so articulate and intelligent, I could not help but be engaged by what they were saying. I attended an actual class on Negotiations. I took in the material and answered in my head some of the questions the professor asked, as they discussed a film clip from the movie Wall Street.

I was impressed. And I felt at home. I felt like there was challenge there. Earlier in my education life, I sought more depth in Computer Science via advanced education at Ga Tech. The MBA is an advanced degree where I would broaden my scope and knowledge. I want that. I am eager for it.

My interview went very well, and I think I would be accepted should I apply. I showed my colorful business case charts to the interviewer. He seemed surprised - or perhaps flattered - that I would spend so much effort on a case to get myself into Duke. He complimented my "consultant" deck of charts, and then we were done. So I hope that showed my level of due diligence. At this point, my essays are done, and I have 2 of my 3 recommendations submitted. The last one should be posted this weekend. My plan we agreed to was that I would apply, without the letter of company support, and without any means for paying. And then they would send me a letter of conditional acceptance, provided I was accepted.

So I have done my homework. I will get the GMAT out of the way in 2 weeks, then I will leave it to God and IBM to decide what comes next and when. I am beginning to contemplate the thought of paying my way 100%. After buying DUKE shirts and/or shorts for everyone in my family, I can't possibly not go.

So what about the picture shown? While I would say that is "how I felt," the reality is that is Caleb (age 7) minus 2 front teeth, superimposed on a cellphone photo I took today at the student center. And right now, he and I are both just prospective students.

Time for Some Campaignin'

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Disappointing 24 Hours

Bottom line. My line VPs will not take my case forward because it is weak in their opinion due to my division's opinion that only a person clearly demonstrating himself as an executive would be under consideration. And since I have not had that level of exposure, the point is moot.

On the bright side, my VP offered me a new job reporting to him and leading a highly visible project. So, provided that goes well, I hope they will have a different opinion of me next year.

I still have the GMAT on August 7, and those scores are good for 5 years. I have the campus visit and interview this Friday. If, come January, I still have fire in my belly for the MBA, then I will consider applying into the last round (due Jan 15). I then may inquire again about sponsorship, or perhaps I will strike it rich by then and can pay my own way. I think the odds are slim that I would get company sponsorship AND be in a position to start in 2010. But maybe I'm just not patient enough.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Setback

Talked to my VP today. Not the one that has to approve, or the one below her who I think will be supportive... but the first VP in my mgmt chain. His assessment was that our company would only send someone to a program like this if they were already an executive with high potential to be a senior VP. It was a very discouraging conversation. Basically the message was, "are you crazy?" The fact is that all the people I know from my company who've gone into this program, with one exception, have been 1st line managers.... One guy was not even a manager yet. That's the difference in being in my division and the other. Anyway, I knew this would be a fight and so it is.

Hopefully, I will look back on this day as the day I had 2 flat tires. This was one. And the other happened 2 miles from home on a bike ride. I got back on track and made it back home in the latter case, and intend to do the same in the former.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Funny Things the Kids Say: Seth at the Swim Meet

At the swim meet this week, I noticed that Seth (and many of the other kids, for that matter) spends a lot of time looking around at the competition while he's swimming a race. That evening, I gave him some advice. "You shouldn't look around while you're swimming. Just swim hard and don't worry about what everyone else is doing," I said.

Seth said laughingly, "Yeah. I was swimming, and I looked around and I didn't see anyone in front of me, so I thought I was in first place! But then when I got done I realized everyone had already left the pool!" He's such a good sport.

For the record, he was 5th place. Out of 6. He's got a good build for a swimmer. So he'll get better if he practices.

Busy Week

Just a quick update. I picked up a few pounds during my week off, despite exercising every other day. Trying to get back down to the "new low" range again.

I've gotten all 3 essays for Duke application nearly completed, and all 3 recommendation invites sent out. Duke has given me the green light on pre-qualification.

I am worried about company financial support. Specifically, my organization is not the organization that tends to spend money around here. Ironcially, we are the ones who carry the comany when it comes to revenue and profit. Go figure.

I've yet to find a person in the last 9 years from my org who has been supported in such a program. I found one from 10 years ago, but we have changed quite a bit in 10 years. And that person said they knew of one person in my org who applied for the Duke program a few years ago but the org told him they would not pay for that, and to go somewhere cheaper, and so he went to UNC. I checked online, and UNC's b-school is about 22% cheaper, which is not that much of a difference, honestly. My next plan of action is to make a case that I can use to convince my vice-president to support me.

This has been a rough week back at work. I've not studied for the GMAT at all. I worked until 2:30am Tuesday night, then was up at 6:30am for a shower and 7am call.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Off This Week, But Busy

I took off all this week, and have been trying to move forward the MBA ball. Here are the main planets (aka dependencies) on my list that need to align:
  1. Conduct discussions with trusted colleagues (done)
  2. Convince myself that this is the right thing to do at this time in my life and career (done)
  3. Need sponsorship from my company (application submitted)
  4. Do well on the GMAT (scheduled for August 7 - I'm studying now)
  5. Get 3 letters of reference (3 people identified and informed)
  6. Write 3 essays (I have topics in mind)
  7. Transcripts ordered and sent to Duke (done)
  8. Resume updated and sent to Duke (done)
  9. Pre-qualification by Duke (pending review of resume and transcripts)
  10. Campus visit (July 25)
  11. Interview (TBD)
  12. Get my application in on time (August 13)
  13. Get accepted (4-6 weeks later)
  14. Get my job restructured so that it can be done in 40 hours a week starting in March, not 60
  15. Last but not least, get spousal support (I think I have that)

I have been studying the GMAT math portions the last 2 days, to brush up on some of the basic geometry and algebra needed. I've taken many practice questions, and have gotten to the point where I'm not missing questions because I don't know (as was the case last week), but because I am being careless. And so, I can fix that.

I'm switching gears to study verbal sections now. Hopefully, I've gotten better since my SAT days! Fun fun.

We just got back in town tonight after being in Richmond and/or Danville since Sunday. So the vacation is half over.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The New Goal: 225 by 12/25

In keeping with the "goal" by rhyming "date" model, I have looked at the data and see that I have averaged about 1.6 pounds per week from the beginning of this diet, and 1.2 pounds per week over the last month. I don't see that pace continuing, but I want to set a motivating goal. So I am looking for about 15 more pounds, bringing me to 225 by 12/25. That gives me enough buffer to cut that 1.2 average in half and still make 225 over the next 180 days til Christmas.

Click on graph for larger view.

I Did It... Minus 40.6!!

I guess my metabolism kicked in yesterday, since I didn't eat particularly well, and had not run since Sunday. I woke up this morning at 240.0 and knew that was within 0.8 pounds of my goal... So I went for a 2.5 mile run, had a shower, and then tipped the scales at 238.6, which is 40.6 pounds less than when I started on January 4 at 279.2. That's about 7 bricks (6 shown in picture)!

I made my July 4 deadline by a week and a day! After a trip to Taco Bell to savor my reward for this past 6 months of Lean Cuisine and unsweet tea, I will establish a new goal, so that I don't fall off the wagon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why I Want an MBA

That title sounds so definitive. It should say, "Why I think I want an MBA." Today I found out that in order for my company to pay for this, it would have to be funded by my business unit. That will be tricky as my business unit is rather adverse to spending money. On a brighter note, I talked to someone in a different business unit, who is in the program at Duke, and he commented that several other people in his organization have also been through the program.

OK so here goes. I began my career with a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science from NC State and Georgia Tech, respectively. I was very technical then, and I did well in my career early on. I enjoyed solving hardcore technical problems, and developing strategic and tactical solutions. It wasn't long before I was a team leader, a role that I performed with enthusiasm and vigor. I began studying creative ways to motivate and lead teams. After a significant international deployment of a solution I architected and helped develop, I changed jobs to a position where I was an engagement manager for a program product. In this capacity, I got to work directly with clients worldwide, building relationships with both clients and the product developers. It was clear that my skills were evolving to be more relationship- and management-based and less technical-based.

After that stint, I became an official project manager, and went through the Project Management Institute certification process. I subsequently was certified in my company's rigorous Project Management Professional program. Soon afterwards, I left my company on a leave of absence for 3 years to run my wife's stay-at-home-mom business Celebration Cottage which ultimately became a 14-employee company operating in 2700 square feet of prime office space. In this capacity I served as president, CEO, CFO, CIO, IT department, marketing manager, graphics department manager, printer repair technician, and building maintenance services technician, all in one. Oh, the joys of entrepreneurship.

So here is where I first realized I needed an MBA. I knew how to run that business - just based on common sense and my PM training. What I didn't know was how to MANAGE that business, or GROW that business, or OPTIMIZE that business, or TRANSFORM that business. After 9/11, our sales slumped, as our product line was exclusively a high-end discretionary expense. The technical barriers to entry into this type of work were also becoming fewer and fewer. We weathered the 9/11 downturn, but in 2003 I decided to return to work after my 3rd year of leave. I wanted the security of a constant paycheck over the flexibility and thrill of running my own business. There were other factors, but indeed, our business had grown to the point where it would require a more advanced set of business skills to maintain or grow, and I simply did not have those skills or confidence. So, I went back to my corporate job in 2003, and then we sold the business in 2004, at what I would say was its peak in value. All in all, it was a good thing.

I've been in first line management ever since, but most recently have a position as an operations manager for a large portion of our internal IT work. In this capacity, I am involved in strategic initiative rollout, overall financial management, and organizational strategic planning. I am being exposed to and have influence with larger and larger aspects of our business, including many global programs. I have continued to build relationships with people and hone my communications skills.

With the business we had, I experienced a taste of true end-to-end business management, though on a small scale. In my current role, I am working with senior managers and executives in influencing global business decisions and activities. I believe that I have the interpersonal and communications skills to succeed at many organizational levels in my company. What I lack is the technical business foundation that would allow me to think and lead strategically, to optimize and grow a business, and to manage an organization. I believe that an MBA will give me the formal knowledge and confidence to tackle greater career challenges.

I liken myself to the amateur golfer who never had any golf lessons, but excelled in baseball from T-Ball through college. He knows the physics of golfing, how to swing a stick at a ball, and has studied "How to improve your short game" articles in various golf magazines. He has played many fine courses over his lifetime. He scores OK, but that is really more on natural talent than anything else. It's time to go to golf school. How much better can he be if given proper instruction with the right experiences? Quite a bit, I believe.

FORE! I'm playing through!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Moving Forward

The progress towards the MBA consideration continues. I haven't had much time to study for the GMAT in the last few days, but I do have transcript requests for NC State and Ga Tech ready to go in the mail tomorrow. I also have found my company's website where I can apply for the "Degree Work Study Program."

I initiated an online application at Duke. It's quite involved. There are 3 essays along with lots of other material. I've been listening to some MBA podcasts and they say to spend 60-100 hours on your essays, and 2 months studying for the GMAT. The application initiation prompted a note from the admissions coordinator, who said "We see you have started an application, though we have not met... won't you please give us a call sometime." So I wrote back and said, "Sure!" and gave them a little info about me. The the response was, "Send us your resume and transcripts and GMAT scores and then let's talk." So, hence, I have initiated my transcripts, and will work on my resume update this weekend. GMAT will be later - but I will take it soon.

Between my company's application, and Duke's application and/or interview, I know that I am going to have to address WHY I am wanting to do this. So I think I will write about that here, though it is a bit late to write about it tonight.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Random Updates This Weekend

Right now I am running in import in Hyperion and figured I would blog something while it ran.

Caleb's front tooth is hanging on a thread.

This AM I weighed and was 2/10 (3 ounces) from my "40 by the 4th" goal of 239.2 pounds. What's 3 ounces? A piece of toast? So close.

I have been studying for the GMAT. I can handle the math. The Critical Reasoning is blowing my mind. Haven't gotten to the other stuff.

How can I change career directions, study and pass the GMAT, and complete my application to MBA school (including 3 essays by me, and 3 lengthy written recommendations by others) by mid-August? Only God knows!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back to School?

Last weekend I had this crazy thought. Without sharing too much personal information here, I have recently, and very quickly, been transformed from someone who was not so concerned about his salary, to someone who is. So I am now contemplating what I can do in my career to make sure I am competitive and paid well. And while I sort of like what I am doing right now, the simple fact is that I am going to need to become more aggressive in planning my work future. Formerly, I don't think that I was very driven. I got my job done and did it well. I didn't, however, aspire for greater position. I think I need to change that mindset, or I will be henceforth stalled. I am almost 44 years old, and I have at least another 15-17 years I need to work to get the kids through college.

Over the past many years, I've struggled with my career choice. A Computer Science B.S. and M.S. served me well for the first 5 years of my career when I was in technical roles. Since then, it's been leadership, project management, management, and most recently, operations & program management.

I've been content in my recent positions, though sometimes bored. That has changed in the last year as I've had more orgnizational scope and executive visibility. I was recently working closely with my director, who was an outstanding leader who has taught me a lot. He has now changed jobs, and I'll be helping the new guy get used to his new turf.

My "next moves" are potentially to get promoted and stay in my same role. Or promote to a 2nd line management position in my same division. Or I could craft a position for myself as a part of a global program I am involved with. Or move laterally to a management position in another division. Or I could leave, which is always the biggest unknown. I think there are plenty of opportunities at my company, and going elsewhere would entail riding on my current credentials more so than my "potential" that may be valued higher where I am.

So the crazy idea was this... What if I went back to school? Specifically, what if I went back to school in Duke University's Executive MBA program? Afterall, they have the #4 ranked Executive MBA program in the nation, and they're local.

On a whim, I mentioned this to my manager. She was encouraging and thought I would do great in such a program. But did I want to be an executive, she asked. Huh? Why would I want to do that? Oh... It is the Executive MBA program. Her words encouraged me a lot. She said "I've always told you - you can do anything you want to do." It comes down to "What do YOU want to do?" she told me. That conversation has haunted me all weekend long.

So I have been pondering and contemplating this for the last 4-5 days, and for the first time in many years, I am starting to feel excited about my career. For years, when I had to define my "individual development plan" I had a hard time conveying anything of interest 3-5-10 years in the future. I have been ambivilant and indifferent about my future career options.

So with such a career comes some challenges I fear. One, the time commitment. Well, I'm already working 10-11 hour days doing my current job. It's not that bad, and I don't know that I could do more than that, if needed. Also there's the travel fear. I don't mind occasional travel, but I don't want to get into any role where travel is expected 50-100% of the time. I want to put my family first. I don't want to wake up at age 50 in some significant job on the road and not know who my kids are. I discussed all this with Lori today, and she was very supportive, and even seemed a little excited. She would be a key element to anything I do.

The way the Duke Weekend Executive MBA program works is this: For 20 intense months, you will strengthen core business skills, be exposed to different perspectives on current business issues and build a strong network of peers. Beginning in March, you attend classes all day Friday until 5:30 pm and Saturday until 3pm on Duke’s campus on alternating weekends. Friday night stays are included in the tuition and are considered part of the weekend residency.

So that sounds like a lot, but also sounds like it would be a great experience. Registration for 2009 ends mid-August, so I have about 2 months to decide if this is something I want to pursue this round... and to find out if I can get IBM to help pay for it.

So that's what's on my mind. I will certainly be in prayer about this decision, and I will be consulting several people for their counsel, all of whom are leaders and trusted friends or colleagues.

I guess it wouldn't hurt to go to school at Duke. If the MBA doesn't work out, I still have 4 years of eligibility to play college basketball.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Moon as Seen from Our Front Yard

Seth had some school homework assignment this week that involved drawing the moon each night. I decided to use the tripod, and after 3-4 nights of experimentation, I got this photo tonight. I am pretty shocked that our little amatuer Kodak Z12IS digital camera can zoom this much and get such a nice image. I think I see the flag! Now i'm interested in when the next eclipse is!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

3.5 More Pounds to go!

This last week has been very good, as I recovered from the Memorial Day run-up in weight to achieve a couple of new lows in the past few days. Now down to 242.6, leaving 3.4 pounds to go to reach the MINUS 40 goal. Looking pretty good on the graph. Running is really making the difference, as I typically will knock off 2-4 pounds of water weight with each run. Also the temperature is increasing, which drives even more sweating.
The nice part of this diet is all the new (old) clothes I get to wear. I now have 7 pairs of shorts that are too big for me. I have replaced them with about 13 pairs of shorts that previously did not fit at all! Many of those were brand new, received over the past few Christmases. I have none that are too small. I have about 4 belts that are too big, and 2 that fit, and none that are smaller. I have many pairs of blue jeans that are too big, about 4-5 that fit great now, and about 7-8 pairs that are smaller that I can shrink into. About half my dress pants are too big, half fit just fine, or are almost too big, and one pair is too small. I have many nice XXL shirts that are too big now, some of which are Tommy Bahama (argh!). So if I buy any new clothes it will be from Goodwill or yard sales and will be shirts and dress pants. All my shoes still fit, except my running shoes are about ready to be replaced. Doing good on socks. iPod earbuds still fitting OK.

Once I get to 239.2, I may post some of those silly pictures like you see in the diet ads of someone wearing their huge pants.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wilson!!!!!

Five weeks and three days remaining until July 4, and it's looking a little too close for comfort. But first, let's talk about Wilson.

Last week, while drawing water before giving the kids a bath in our master bathroom over-sized garden tub, I turned on the jets. Unfortunately, the jets were not aimed downward, and the water was not up enough yet. So a large stream of about 128 ounces (1 gallon) of water promptly shot from the tub, all the way across the bathroom, and as far as into our bedroom. It only took a second, before I shut the water spraying engine off.

Later on that evening, Lori commented about the wetness of the bathroom, and noted that my beloved digital scale was pretty soaked. I wiped it off and gave it a test. "Err," it replied back to me. After repeated tries, and even replacing the battery, I still got the same thing. Suddenly this feeling of loneliness and abandonment set in. I immediately connected with Tom Hanks' character in Castaway, when he lost his only company - Wilson - a volleyball decorated as a person. I felt like the scale and I had been through so much, and now, just about a month to go to achieve "our goal," my Wilson was gone! Sure I could buy a new scale, but would it be as accurate and dependable as Wilson?

The next morning, I fiddled with it some more. It got beyond the "Err" message and then showed me a weight of 625.7 lbs. Now we're making progress. Next, it was in the 500's. Later in the 300's, then the high 200's. Lori commented that perhaps it was wrong before and was right now. Well I kept coming back until it gave me an answer in the ball park of where it was the day before... around 245.0.

So that's where I am. Actually, at this moment, I am probably up a few from there, after 5 days of working on the deck and eating not so well and not running. So I have 5 weeks, and 3 days to drop about 6 more pounds from my low of 245. It's going to be close. I may have to plan a road race on July 4 - the Great Raleigh Road Race. That would be a fitting finale since (I think) that was my first race some 22+ years ago while a junior at NC State.

At least Wilson is ready for it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Top 10 Keys to Weight Loss

I spend some time thinking when I'm running. When I'm not thinking about the liklihood of stepping in a hole or tripping over something while running in the dark of my neighborhood, I'm thinking about what song is next on my iPod, or when a dog will unexpectedly appear from the shadows of their owner's picket fence and bark ferociously, scaring the living crap out of me. It's pretty much those 3 things. Lately, I've also been thinking about the key things that have made the weight loss and exercise effort of 2008 a success so far. People do ask me, "How have you done it?" So here's my Top 10 list.

  1. God: Before I started this, I knew I needed to lose weight, and I knew how to do it. I just wasn't motivated. I prayed that God would motivate me, and get me started. I think God has given me a new perspective on diet and exercise that complements my strengths, carries me through weaknesses, and encourages me like never before.

  2. Family: My family certainly pleaded with me to lose weight for many years, when I have been in my off-diet cycles. And of course they have encouraged me along the way. But I do have to give my wife Lori a lot of credit for encouraging me and never giving me any excuse to skip a run. It takes time to exercise, and she has sacrificed some longer hours with the kids so that I can go do a run or work out.

  3. Alli: This pill seems to have helped me lost about 40-50% more than I have lost in the past.

  4. Blog / humor: Writing this blog has allowed me some humor vents and self accountability. Trying to examine myself from outside of myself gives some new perspectives and motivations that were not there before.

  5. Unsweet Tea & Frozen Lunches: I buy a gallon of tea every Monday morning, and use it all week at work. I switched to unsweet, which I enjoy with Splenda and my frozen lunch from Lean Cuisine or Right Ones (Weight Watchers). I've tried Healthy Choice, but didn't find those to be as reliably good. Exchanging trips to the cafeteria for frozen diet food has had a significant impact. I still have the buffalo chicken wrap on Wednesday.

  6. iPod & Bose earbuds: Being able to run while listening to a random mix of 5000 of my favorite tunes in high-quality full range audio is a beautiful thing.
  7. Elliptical - I didn't start running on this diet until about 10 lbs into it. I think that building up my leg strength from 0 to -10 lbs really helped me in running, and has helped prevent injuries.

  8. Weather - Being able to run at night during the winter and early spring was a bit cold at times.... but it beats running in summer heat. The summer is a terrible time for a big guy to start working out outside.

  9. Goal setting - Setting a goal and measuring progress has surprisingly been a good motivator for me. "40 by the 4th!"

  10. mapmyrun.com - This is a website using the Google maps system which allows mapping of the various routes I've run around the neighborhood. It beats trying to drive it like I used to. And it's fun to use too!

So there you have it, in case you ever ask...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I'm a Clydesdale!

I have joked recently that if there was an age/weight division in a 5k road race, then I could win the 250 lb / 43 year old division due to lack of competition. So as I was signing up for the Highcroft Hurricanes 5k next weekend, I noticed they actually have a division for "larger" runners! It's called the Clydesdale and Athena divisions and is for men over 200 lbs and women over 150 lbs. So I'm going for it! Two hundred pounds is not that big for a man, so I'm sure there will be plenty of guys in that bracket faster than me. But it's fun to know there's a division based on weight. Apparently this is not uncommon, as I found many references to Clydesdale / Athena on the web.

The diet is going well. I finally crossed into the 240's this past week, so I'm 30 pounds down to 249-ish. Two more months to make the final 10 pounds and meet the "40 by the 4th" goal. I need to lose some more quick. I have very few clothes that fit me now, but if I can lose another 1/2" I have several more pairs of jeans that will fit me. If I can get down to 38, I have a TON of jeans, most of which are 12+ years old!

As for exercise, I've cut back on elliptical use in favor of running. I'm trying to get to where I can run on consecutive days. Waiting 2-4 days in between, whether by choice or by schedule, is not working, as I am having a hard time recovering when I start each time. Last week was very hard to run at night as I had so much work to do, and so little sleep. So yesterday (Saturday) I ran 2.7 miles, and then today, about 1.5. Felt pretty good except that my ankle was having some pain yesterday, along with the sun warming up and beating on me some. Today was just fine, however. The endorphins are kicking in.

I dread the summer. I just cannot run in hot humidity. I remember back in college I would come home from my co-op job and go running around 5pm in the heat of summer. I was living at Avery Close on Avent Ferry Road in Raleigh. It is a wonder I didn't die of heat stroke. Of course, then I was pushing a svelte 220 lbs.... Still a Clydesdale, however.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

GOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL!!

Until now, none of our kids have shown much interest in soccer. I remember entering Seth in a league at age 4, and he just stood on the field and looked around or cried. Caleb cried on the way to the first practice, after we had signed him up to play. At least he got a shirt out of it. Luke, on the other hand, has been through several soccer camps at age 4, and now at age 5 is on his first team, The Raptors. Each "game," they practice for about 20 minutes, then they play a 40-minute scrimmage game with the team on the other side of the field. There is no goalie in this league, so as to allow as much soccer self esteem to build as possible.

We are in soccer mecca for the U.S., where the Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) rules the schedules of many families. We also have the SAS Soccer Park, where the last several men's or women's NCAA Final Four championship games have been hosted. Other than hockey, soccer is probably the other main sport I've never really played, or enjoyed, though I do enjoy watching hockey.

In this particular game, Luke got to show off his offensive skills, scoring at least 4 goals. I think I missed 1-2 additional goals on the video footage I gathered this past Saturday. Others on his team scored about 4-5 combined goals. Though they don't "keep score" at this age, the other team scored one goal, I think. I don't think they had many shots on goal either. It was tough getting past The Raptor defensive wall.

In prior games, where the opponent has had more shots on goal, Luke typically does well to play defense and guard the goal by anticipating shots and sweeping around to block the shots, usually with a diving slide, much like in baseball. This day, he was all offense, though he was playing with a skinned knee from the day before. You will see that he injures the knee further on a slide into the goal, and then limps off towards the camera. He sat out a rotation while I bandaged him up, then he was back in the game, and did well.

I edited the video together, but then had fun adding in some audio clips from various international soccer matches. There are some audio problems at the 3 minute mark, and that goal was the one with the announcer saying "GOOOOOAAAAALLLL".... but I'll have to work on that problem another day. It's quite funny! Enjoy!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I Made It in 31:45!

I made it. It wasn't really a "fun" run. Next time, I will enter the competitive race instead of the "recreational" one. Subtracting out the 30 seconds or so it took to get to the starting line, I crossed the finish line with a time of about 31 minutes 45 seconds.

After Thursday night's butt injury, I was pretty sure I would be able to, at best, walk this event. But I prepared as well as I could this morning. I was already taking a daily anti-inflammatory pill due to an injury from last summer that is still plaguing me. I added a hydrocodone (aka Vicodin) to that. I stretched for about an hour before the shotgun start, and ran a few slow sprints to test out the pain endurance. I prayed God would carry me where I wasn't able to.

I did feel a dull sense of pain throughout the race, especially going up the huge hill that dominated the first mile. However, I took it slow (as evidenced by the 10+ minute miles I "ran") and the pain was not too bad. In fact, by the time I was done, I felt well enough to come home and mow the lawn!

It was a great feeling to stand in the pack, waiting for the start with hundreds of others, most younger, smaller, and more fit than I am now. The sights and sounds of a simple local 5k road race brought back a lot of memories. The occasional cheers from observers. The erratic running of some people weaving in and out, jockeying for position. The water cups being offered near each mile marker, and resultant litter being run over by the pack or blown away by the wind. The undesired head winds and blazing sun. Even in a 72 degree morning, the direct sun was warm. Trying to coordinate the key, the ID, the music, and the stuff you pick up from the vendors, such as pamphlets for future races. The souvenir race shirt which more often than not does not fit well or has crappy artwork. It's all good, and I'm pleased that it's over... and I made it. Now... to schedule the next race...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pain in the Glute!

Dolt!! Well tonight I did something probably stupid. I'm 2 days away from the big race, and it was kinda late for a long run so I figured I would do a shorter, more fast-paced run. So I stretched a bit and decided I would run hard to the end of Carpenter Towne Lane (0.7 miles) and then rest and stretch again, and then do the same back.

Well within 1/10 mile of starting I starting having a pain in my right buttimus maximus. So I kept going until the 7/10 was up, and by then I was in enough pain such that I had to walk back.

I need to figure out how to stretch that and hope it doesn't hold me back from victory lane on Saturday.

On a positive note, I am down about 28.5 pounds. That is about what that change jar weighed! That's a LOT of weight. I keep thinking about that when I'm running. Thank God I'm not carrying around $307 in coins stuck to my body. It makes me all the more keen to lose another 30 pounds.

First things first... I've gotta get my butt back in gear! Hopefully, tomorrow it will be fine.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Great Coin Jar Experiment

Not sure when we last counted the coins in the family coin jar... but it was time this week. The jar was full, nearly to the top, and was at risk of injuring someone or being tampered with. So I made it into a mini-experiment for Seth.

First of all, everyone in the family guessed. Dad: $285, Mom: $375, Seth: $217, Luke: $240, and Caleb (future contestant on The Price is Right): $242. Hopefully, by using a scientific method, we could made an educated guess and get closer than any of our wild guesses.

The approach was to weigh a sample of coins, count the amount of the sample, calculate the $ per pound, weigh all the coins, and multiply. So we scooped out a cup of coins and weighed it to be roughly 1.75 pounds. Subtracting out the weight of the scoop, we were left with 1.65 pounds. Then Seth counted those coins and it contained $18.97. That worked out to about $11.50 per pound. We dumped those coins back in the big jar.

Next was the weighing of the big jar of coins on the family scale. It was a whopping 30.2 pounds. We dumped the coins into 2 pillow cases, then we weighed and subtracted out the empty jar, leaving a net of 27.7 pounds of coins. That's a lot of coins!

So with 27.7 pounds of coins at $11.50 per pound, we have a mathematical guess of $318.47.

The next day, off to the bank the family went. They have a machine that counted all the coins, which amounted to $307.37! So the winners were:

1. Math: ($11.10 difference)
2. Dad: ($22.37)
3. Caleb: ($65.37)
4. Luke: ($67.37)
5. Mom: ($67.63)
6. Seth: ($90.37)

MATH WINS AGAIN!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two Weeks to Cary Road Race

Only 2 more weeks to train and prepare myself for the big day. Yes, I have entered the Cary Road Race as a "5k Recreational Runner". I still plan to compete and win my age weight division. I can't imagine there will be many other 255lb 43 year olds out there!

When I used to run races when I was in my 20's, I would mainly do so to collect the T-shirts you get featuring the race's logo & artwork. I remember the first race shirt I ever got. It was the "Old Reliable Run" which was put on in downtown Raleigh by the News & Observer (the old reliable).

Anyway... back then, I could go and run 4-6 miles daily without a problem. These days, I have to plan days in advance to run 3 miles. I think about the 25 pounds I've lost so far. That's like 4-5 bricks... or 2.5 10lb bags of potatoes... or one Systematic Theology book by Wayne Grudem. So I am hoping that the more I lose, the easier the runs will become.

Last night I ran the 3.4 trek around Carpenter Village. This was, by far, the best run I've done during this era. I started out strong, and felt great through the first mile, which is largely uphill as I make my way to the center of the neighborhood. Usually, the first half mile is treacherous and I want to quit right from the get go. Last night, I was probably over 2 miles before I wanted to quit, but was too close to the end to stop. I finished strong after about 37 minutes, and felt I could have gone further. But running is soooo boring to me. I just hate it. But it for sure is a great exercise, and I usually drop to a new weight low the morning after.

Today I had to drill new holes in my belt, and then couldn't take it off at the end of the day due to an equipment malfunction. Guess I just need to find a smaller belt. I am able to wear some vintage 1988 Dockers now, so I am uber-cool with those and my 2008 Sketchers. All my really cool Tommy Bahama shirts (all 3 of them) are almost too large. (Father's Day - It's just around the corner - hint hint - now I need an XL, not an XXL).

It's been hard to find time to work out AND have a life. I'm working quite a bit at Big Blue, then coming home, having dinner, getting kids to bed, and THEN, after 9:30pm, I can work out (either elliptical or running). Then I need to do about 2 hours of work. So I usually skip the work and go to bed because I have to be up at 6:30am for a 7am call with India almost every day of the week. It's exhausting, and I have very little time to just relax and decompress.

So I am almost 3 months into the Diet of 2008. So far so good. The weight loss pace has certainly slowed the past month compared to the beginning.... but steady progress is still occurring. Based on my complex statistical data analysis, I am about 1 month ahead of my goal of 40 by the 4th. Even so, I am at the point where I have often fallen off the wagon. The kids are about to track out and we might go somewhere, though I don't know where. Travel always disrupts my diets. Also, the slow pace of the pounds coming off is frustrating. But I'm trying to look at the big picture. After all, 30 days ago, I was exactly 7 pounds heavier. That's another brick in the wall I don't have to carry around any longer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A New Low

This morning, after the 3.4 mile dash last night, I weighed in at 255.8, a new low (for this diet). That's down about 23.5 lbs since the starting date of January 4, 2008. Only 16.5 more pounds to go to Taco Bell!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Made It... 3.4 miles

I finally made it past "5k range" without stopping... I got real tired around mile 2... but I kept going and was reenergized once I was in the last 3/4 of a mile. It's been probably 10 years since I ran this far without stopping.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Big Fat Ears

This week I came to the conclusion that I am actually losing weight in my ears. A few weeks ago, I began noticing that my iPod earbuds kept falling out. They used to fit just fine. This week I tried the larger size ear buds and they worked great. Conclusion: my ears are getting smaller, thereby making my ear canal larger!! Sounds great to me....

Mid last week I ran about 2.8 miles without stopping. Tonight I travelled 3.7 miles total. I walked about 0.5 miles of it when I was feeling a little too much pain about half way through. I think I probably need to run more than 2x per week.

I finally gave in and registered for the Cary Road Race which is in April. It's a 5k.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Watch the Video: A Journey to Remember

In recognition of the friends we made and kept these last 2 years at The Journey and Vintage21, I put together a video using a song Mitch Pons wrote when we closed the Cary V21 site.

This video is just a sampling of some of the fantastic memories and victories we've experienced these last two years, by the grace of God. Check it out.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Runnin' Down a Dream

OK I had to use a song title... I wasn't running on empty, at least not until the very end. So tonight I exceeded my earlier in the week run of 1.6 miles, with a decent run of 2.24 miles. Woo hoo. Oh, for the days when I was a 225 lb. 22 year-old running a 5k or 8k, but I digress.

Tonight I went around the outside of the neighborhood. There was a pretty stiff head wind as I ran around the main streets where there were no homes to shield the effects. It really was a big difference once I turned back into the neighborhood. There was not a lot of muscular pain, and aerobically, I felt good. The main factor causing me to stop was fatigue - and of course, boredom. But my endurance is certainly building up.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I Think Alli Works!

I have noted already that this was going to be a pretty well documented diet. I'm keeping score pretty closely using those little index cards I keep in the bathroom drawer.

Today marks Day 50 of the Diet of 2008. So far I am down 21 pounds, and over half way to my goal of losing 40 before July 4! Being over the top in nerdness, I have graphed my 2008 data (cyan) with data from my diets of 2002 (dark blue), 2004 (magenta), and 2006 (yellow). The red line is the straight line goal from 0 to minus 40 in 180 days, so I am well on track there.

In general, this diet is not much different than previous diets, in that I can pretty easily eat well and exercise for 3-4 months, and knock off 20-30 pounds. I don't think I've eaten any better or exercised more on this diet than some of these previous ones.

What I have done differently is try a new product called Alli™. Alli (pronounced al-eye) is a GlaxoSmithKline product, and is the only FDA approved over the counter "weight loss aid." Alli prevents your body from absorbing about a quarter of the fat you eat. Supposedly, you can lose 50% more weight if you take Alli while on a diet. You have to be on a diet for this to work, as there are very nasty "treatement effects" if you aren't. I have been using this since about week 2 of this diet and have noticed NO side effects at all. So after 50 days, I think the data shows... this stuff must actually work!!! The bad thing about Alli is it is quite expensive - about $2 per day for the 3 pills required (one for each meal).

In the first 50 days of my previous 3 diets, I averaged 1.8 pounds lost per week in 2002, 1.7 in 2004, and 1.7 in 2006. Pretty consistent. For the Diet of 2008, I have averaged 3.0 pounds per week! Without doing the math behind it, I think that is statistically significant. Pretty cool, huh? So anyway, I'm about out of my most recent refill, so it's time to head to the drug store for a refill!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Happy Heart Day + 2

This past Thursday, Valentine's Day, was my followup checkpoint 6 weeks after the physical I had back at the new year when my doctor told me my cholesterol was 248. That was a new record for me, that I was none too pleased with. So I was happy that the 6 weeks later number was an amazing 140. Yes, 140. I wish I could say it was all my diligent dieting and exercise, but my doctor had also given me sample packs of Vytorin to take. So what ever it was... It worked. So I got more samples and will hopefully maintain the dieting and exercise.

Speaking of... I just don't understand diet & exercise science. I work out daily and eat well for like 7 days straight, and my weight fluctuates plus or minus a few pounds, but basically, at the end of the week, I've not gone into any new territory. THEN, I have a hectic schedule for 2 days, miss working out for 3 days straight, celebrate my low cholesterol with a sausage and cheese croissant from Burger King, go out to eat Japanese food Thursday night, and end the week at El Dorado, where a basket of chips and fresh salsa await me, followed by The Michael Jordan - aka combination dinner #23 - One taco, One burrito, rice and beans. Then this morning, the scales surprise me. Down to a new low, surpassing the new low from 8 days ago by 1.5 pounds. I guess that salsa had a lot of water in it. It's as if my body was like - "OH NO - The diet is over! Here comes the food! Make room!"

Inspired, and feeling rewarded for my early-week patience, I bypassed the homemade Belgian waffles Lori was making for the kids, and went out for a "run" also known as "a fat guy appearing to jog through invisible Jell-o." I have been working my way up through the stages of running, starting about 2 weeks ago. Run pain walk run pain walk walk walk run pain rest run run walk. Followed by walk run run pain walk run run run walk. And today... walk run run run run slow finally at top of hill run run run pain run pain run walk walk walk. So getting more used to it. It was difficult, but today I was able to get a self photo of my legs as I was running (see left). It's good to get back into good leg shape.

So while I'm running, I get these great ideas like "I should enter a 5k race sometime this spring, and that would motivate me to continue this madness." It's a nice thought, I guess. I really do hate running.