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.