Sunday, January 31, 2010

One Laptop Per Child

I was driving through San Jose the other day and I saw a billboard for OLPC and I got an idea for a new regular blog posting. I do pretty OK for myself, and it’d be nice to give back in some way shape or form. At the same time, it’d also be nice to start highlighting different charities that are maybe off the beaten path but who do good work.

The basic concept is this – once a month I’m going to donate to and highlight some charity. The only restriction is that it can’t be a famous charity – so no Red Cross, Goodwill, etc. Not to say they don’t do fantastic work, they do, but they get enough press. There’s also no restriction based on religion. If they do something worthwhile, they’re worth acknowledging. And if you have a suggestion, by all means let me know.

It only seems fair that the first charity I highlight is the one that was the inspiration for this category – OLPC. The goal of the organization is to donate laptops to children in developing nations, a need that desperately needs to be filled. Often times developing nations seem to get squeezed out when it comes to charity dollars. Everyone donates to third world countries that are battling just to stay alive, but once a nation progresses beyond this, or is simply already beyond that state, they are sort of forgotten. In order for nations to develop on the world stage they need technology; they need laptops.

The normal way OLPC works is you buy a laptop at $200 which is donated. They’re certainly not the most powerful laptops, but the important part is merely that children are exposed to technology. You can also simply donate to the cause, which is what I chose to do.

You can donate (if the spirit moves) here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Five

The Excuse

Once again – none needed. W00t! I’m hoping to get to a point soon where I can finally get rid of this spot.

The Week

Because I knew the way, I wound up going to San Jose this week. The nice part of that trip is that it’s quick, and I get to see friends up here. The downside? Well, have I mentioned how much I love flying Southwest?

The week itself was good, and rather productive. Tons of loose ends are now tied up. Class went well. And on top of it all I got to do dinner with a handful of good friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I really can’t complain at all. It almost makes me forget that the Chargers weren’t playing this past Sunday. Almost.

The Exercise

Irony (n): incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.

I’ve finally begun the journey again to getting back into shape. Things are headed in the right direction. And I’m making a couple of changes here that seem a bit odd.

First – I cancelled my 24 Hour Fitness membership. I know what you’re thinking - “You had a gym membership? And now that you’ve recommitted yourself to working out you’re cancelling it?” As a matter of fact, yes. I’ve been to too many cities where I wasn’t able to find a location, and the $30/month was just becoming a drain. It was time to cancel that. Plus I’m focusing on running and exercises that can easily be done in a room, obviating the need for a gym.

Second – This section is going away. This section had started off its existence as a way to give myself some level of accountability. As you’ve no doubt discovered, in reality it’s become little more than a running gag. It’s time for it to go away.

In it’s place will be a new blog entitled No More Snooze Button. I’m still not exactly sure of the format of that blog, or what will be on it, but I wanted a clean break from the Exercise section here. This will be the first and last time I will ever mention the blog (outside of a link on the left), as I’m not doing this for any form of public acknowledgement. I just want somewhere to log my workouts and journal my thoughts. I’m making it public mostly on the off chance that someone wants to read it. (That, and I’m sure there’s a bit of vanity there as well.)

The Restaurant

I went out to dinner with 3 lady friends on Tuesday. They took me to a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place called “La Fiesta”. The first thing you’ll notice about the place is the parking – it’s a bit tight. On a busy day your only option when leaving is to back out of the parking lot. As for the place itself, it’s got a great mom & pop feel to it. The servers are friendly, if not overly attentive. The food was good. I went with the shrimp/chorizo dish – I’m not sure how you can go wrong with shrimp sauteed up with chorizo – which was very tasty, and the shrimp wasn’t overcooked.

The Travel Note

There’s certainly something to be said for the extended stay hotels such as Residence Inn, where I was this week. It’s nice to have access to a full kitchen. Makes breakfast very easy, and simplifies lunches. And the extra space in the room is also a very welcome change.

The Five

With Kurt Warner retiring (and great for him!), I figured I’d dedicate this five to five things or people who’s time has come.

  1. The X-Games. Be honest – unless you turned on ESPN right now would you know the Winter X-Games were on?
  2. Junior Seau. Stop hanging on. You’ve had an amazing career. Enjoy retirement in San Diego.
  3. Shawne Merriman’s time with the Chargers. Based on what I’ve seen out of him since getting caught doing steroids, I’m convinced that’s the only reason he was the linebacker he was. You don’t have to go home, but you’ve gotta get the heck out of here.
  4. TiVo as a standalone box. I love my TiVo’s. But unfortunately due to a lack of marketing, and a couple of other bad decisions, they’ve lost the battle for set top boxes. It’s time to sell the software, and quickly.
  5. Chris Berman. Look, I have as much love for Boomer as any other straight man. But I can’t think of the last time I saw him on TV and he made me laugh or even chuckle.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Five

The Excuse

Three whole weeks in a row! W00t!

The Week

Well, as I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, the week did not start off as well as I had hoped. Bill Parcells once famously said “We’re too stupid” in response to the question of why his team didn’t win. That’s about the best way to sum up the Chargers day. Between idiotic penalties (Shaun Phillips with a headbutt to extend a drive), dropped passes, and two missed field goals (I’m not holding the 57 yarder against Kaeding), we simply didn’t do enough to win the game. And I find myself back in a very familiar place – dealing with the disappointment from yet another early exit from the playoffs for the Chargers.

My travels this week took me to Baltimore, MD. Or more specifically Linthicum, MD. While for the most part I just tried to focus on getting work done during the week (as is usual), Thursday night did see me actually leaving my hotel room at night. Abram (Juicebox) took the train up from DC and we ventured into Baltimore for some dinner and a little entertainment.

The Exercise

As I mentioned last week, I am training for the Warrior Dash, as well as trying to lose weight (of course). I started off my exercise with three days of running this week. Once around Fiesta Island with Jumbo, and then once more during the week around the campus I was in. My last run was replaced by 20 minutes running up and down stairs as it was 35 degrees out and I only had shorts and a t-shirt to run in. Bit by bit…

The Restaurant

Over on the corner of University and Park is a little restaurant called Cafe on Park. It’s a breakfast/lunch only joint, and they’re serving up some of the meanest breakfasts in San Diego. They have a tremendous collection of hashes and scrambles, large (but not insane) portions. Great food, friendly atmosphere, and packed on any weekend morning. The best compliment I can pay to the place is that it looks like it should be featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

The Travel Note

I don’t normally complain about the TSA or TSA agents. As I’ve mentioned before, I realize they have a very difficult and thankless job. But Monday morning had me breaking my rules when it comes to complaining.

I’m going to assume he was new[1], but the agent working the xray machine in Lindberg Field had to be the absolute slowest agent I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life. It took him no less than 20 minutes to work through the 8 or so people in front of me, calling for no less than three manual bag checks and sending countless items back through the xray machine. I understand everyone has to start somewhere, but 6a, when there’s a line literally out the door, is probably not the best time.

The Five

Didn’t intend to do it this way, but here’s 5 skills I have or don’t have.

  1. One of my greatest skills is the ability to sleep almost anywhere.[2] Being able to sleep on a plane comes in handy.
  2. While I’m a very good technical trainer (or at least I like to think I am), I don’t have the ability to teach “apps” classes – products like Office. There’s a certain skill there. I don’t know what it is, I just know I don’t have it.
  3. To go off something Jumbo mentioned today, juggling is a great skill to have. I need to learn some day how to juggle pins, as I’ve learned that juggling produce while shopping with one’s wife generally only serves to unnerve her.
  4. I can make farting noises with my hands. It’s still a skill even if it’s completely useless and childish, right?
  5. For lack of a better number five, I guess I’ll toss my cooking skill down here.

[1] Either that, or I just happened to be behind the longest string of people ever with suspicious bags.
[2] Assuming I’m not battling insomnia.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Five

The Excuse

None needed. W00t!

The Week

This week was a rarity for me – I traveled, but not via plane. My class this week was up in Anaheim. The situation worked out rather well for me.

First, I was able to do dinner with an old friend (Tamiko) who I hadn’t seen in quite a while. One thing I’ve found about true friends is that regardless of the time apart, you can pick right up where you left off. My relationship with Tamiko falls into that category; we had a wonderful dinner with conversation flowing the entire night.

Second, I was able to sneak down to San Diego for a reuben at The Linkery. I’ll talk about the reuben in my restaurant section, but I’ll mention here that it’s the best reuben I’ve ever had.

Third, I was able to see Liam for dinner on Wednesday. He’s doing well, working his way through college.

Lastly, it was only a three day class, so I’ve spent the last two days at home. Not only did this give me time to spend with Karin, but it also gave us a chance to finish off season 4 of Dexter. I know I have at least one reader who hasn’t seen it yet, so I won’t say anything except to say that it was an incredible season.

The Exercise

Well, it starts tomorrow. In April there is a Warrior Dash just north of here. Jumbo and I are going to run the race, and I need to get in shape for it. This gives me something to work towards.

The Restaurant

I’m rather amazed I haven’t yet featured The Linkery here. I know I’ve mentioned it in the past, but as best as I can tell it’s never been my featured restaurant in a Friday Five. Time to fix that.

The Linkery is unique in many ways. They do sausages in-house, something I’ve never seen in a restaurant before. They don’t accept tips; instead they add on an 18% “service charge”. They offer “farm to table” food, meaning they work directly with farms and feature food that is fresh and in season. This means the menu is constantly in flux, and every trip is unique.

Periodically, they’ll offer up a reuben. Keeping with the spirit of the restaurant, it’s all made in house. House cured corned beef. House made sauerkraut and Russian dressing. House made beer bread. Local gouda. After having one of these it will ruin you to reubens for the rest of your life.

The Travel Note

Because my class was in Anaheim, I was able to just drive up there, which gave me a chance to actually drive my Miata for a change. I’ve owned it now for 3.5 years – and I’ve just now crossed 15,000 miles.

The Five

I’m sort of teasing a part in next week’s Friday Five, but Karin and I have tickets to the Chargers/Jets playoff game on Sunday. This will be the first time I’ve ever seen a playoff game. In honor of that, I figured I’d list the five best sporting events I’ve ever seen live.

  1. IMG_1047 In 2008, Karin and I saw a Red Sox/Yankees game in Yankee stadium. While ESPN and FOX show the Sox/Yanks games on television too often, I can attest the rivalry atmosphere is as advertised.
  2. IMG_0952 Basically any Padres/Dodgers game, but in particular the game when Kevin Brown came back to San Diego after jilting the Padres for the Dodgers.
  3. rose bowl 6 While I’m still not a huge soccer fan, there’s something to be said for being there live. Especially if it’s the championship game of the Women’s World Cup in the Rose Bowl.
  4. IMG_1696 This is more about the seats than the game itself, but one time Jumbo and I were lucky enough to get the “How did you get those seats” seats to the Padres game – dugout seats. They’re $350 face value, and while I wouldn’t necessarily pay that, they give you plenty for the price, including free food and free drink. It was an awesome experience, and I owe a special thank you to Brent & Ron for thinking of me when they heard about them.
  5. Christopher Harrison 4 This is all about the picture. One of my clients has a luxury box for the Houston Rockets. During the game they send a pair of cheerleaders to each box. Needless to say I had to get a picture. Did I mention I love that picture?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Five

The Excuse

Well, I don’t need one for the past few weeks as I did say I wouldn’t be back doing this until after the holidays. Now that it’s the new year, I guess I can start off with a streak of one.

The Weeks

I got three weeks worth to get caught up on here.

For Christmas week I decided to celebrate in a very traditional format – by having my wisdom teeth pulled. Now I know what you’re thinking - “Chris/Jersey, you’re 37. Why did you still have your wisdom teeth?” I could give you a long, drawn out explanation, but it really boils down to one simple fact – I loathe going to the dentist. Couple that with the fact that I’ve spent the last two years on the road, and it becomes hard to find a week when I’d be able to sit down and have it done. I knew I was going to be home Christmas week, so Christmas week it was.

The surgery itself went very well. I had it on Monday, and was pretty much in a daze the rest of the day. Karin was very supportive when I was at the oral surgeon’s office; as I was waiting in the recovery area she nearly passed out. All teasing aside, Karin was fantastic in taking care of me, including running out to get sherbet and tea bags (to help clotting) that night. The timing did mean that I wasn’t able to eat solid food, which also meant for the first time since I can remember we weren’t able to go out for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. But I was able to enjoy lasagna on Christmas Day (thanks, Donna!) and cheer the Chargers on to a blowout victory over the Titans.

IMG_0360 New Year’s week featured our traditional (7 years running for me and Abram) trip to Las Vegas, NV. We pretty well have this trip down to a science. One night while we’re there Abram and I will suit up. This year it happened to be the first night we were there, and there was no adult supervision yet in town (read: Karin, Donna or Marie). We had what can only be described as a man’s day: Hot shave, suits, steak dinner, cigar, blues bar. Short of killing something with our bare hands I don’t know how we could have injected more testosterone into that day.

IMG_3518 The rest of the trip was your typical New Year’s Eve trip to Vegas. We watched bowl games (I went 3 for 3 on the 30th), we gambled, we watched fireworks from our room which overlooked the MGM Grand, and we of course went to the Hofbrauhaus. (Did I mention my review of the place was chosen as Review of the Day on Yelp?) Any trip to the Hofbrauhaus involves a paddling (you take a shot, and then, well, take a shot). The Jagergirl had a swing on her (look at those biceps!). In all it may have been one of our best trips to Vegas (although we seem to say that after almost every trip (did I mention we have this down to a science now?)).

This week I wound up in Houston. I wasn’t planning on winding up in Houston, but it just happened. What I was planning on doing was taking an online course on SharePoint. Alas, the class turned out to be a bit of a dud, so when a client called me on Monday morning and said, “Hey, can you come teach?” I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see friends, but it was a pretty low key/easy week on the whole, which is kind of what I needed to get back into the swing of things.

The Restaurant

I gotta give props out to Kirin’s in Houston. I had been craving Indian food for a while, and since it was cold in Houston (about 30 degrees) I figured some good Indian food would knock the chill off my body. The place is just fantastic – a gourmet Indian restaurant. I (as always) settled in at the bar and was greeted by one of the chattiest (yet friendliest) bartenders I think I’ve ever met. I had the tomato saffron soup (just perfect considering the weather), and the lamb roghan josh (which I believe is Indian for “delicious lamb”). It’s a bit spendier than your usual Indian faire, but it was worth every penny.

The Exercise

I’m working on it.

The Travel Note

I’m spoiled. I admit it. I have platinum status on Continental which means I usually sit in first class, or at least get first pick of the seat I want in coach, and I get to cut the security line. Flying any other airline is always a drag when compared to that experience, and no place is that more apparent than when I’m flying Southwest. For those of you who have never had the *ahem* pleasure of flying Southwest, they do cattle call seating – you line up according to number, and the seating is first come first serve. You can do “early check-in” for $10 a leg which will guarantee you a spot towards the front of the line, which helps.

On my flight back from Vegas, I boarded my Southwest plane and discovered the bulkhead window seat, with all of its glorious legroom, was open. As I was about to sit down, with my copy of the Saturday Times, I was informed that I wasn’t allowed to hold anything in the bulkhead seat, including my newspaper, during taxi/takeoff/landing. Now I could sit in row 5 and have the newspaper in my lap and read it the entire time (which I did) but not in the bulkhead. Mind you, this isn’t a security thing[1], but rather a safety thing. I’ve flown more than my fair share of segments over the last two years, and not once have I had to turn in a newspaper while sitting in the bulkhead seat. I guess I have even more reason to avoid Southwest.

The Five

My first Five of the year. Traditionally I’ve done resolutions, and looking back on last year’s I realize how terrible of a job I’ve done. But as the exercise section of the blog proves, I’m nothing if not a slave to tradition.

  1. Read more personal books. The end of 2009 saw a pretty good flurry of reading for me, as I finished off “Traffic”, “Juliet, Naked”, “Total Access” and started on “The Boys of Summer”. Hopefully I can keep that up.
  2. Eliminate the snooze button from my life. I probably spend an extra 40 minutes each morning in bed because of the snooze button. Actually, it’s not even in bed – it’s 4 laps from my bed to wherever my phone is as I can’t have it next to me – I’ll turn it off and not realize it.
  3. Shed that 15 pounds.
  4. Limit the amount of procrastination in my life. I have a propensity for putting something off until I’m right next to the deadline, and then complain about how busy I am. Rock Band can wait.
  5. Blog more often. Or at the very least, publish a Friday Five on, well, Friday.

[1] Memo to the Underwear Bomber and Shoe Bomber – next time, try the bathroom rather than doing it in your seat.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

T. Jarod Martin, In Memoriam

IMG_1529 Many of you who read this blog have either met or heard me talk about Jarod. If you haven’t already heard, and I hope this isn’t how you’re hearing about this, Jarod passed recently after a long battle with many illnesses.

It’s times like this that I wish I had Jarod’s eloquence. Jarod wrote great poetry that he proudly displayed through his house and work. Jarod would know how to write a perfect poem to express his feelings at this moment.martin0-R1-012-4A

It’s times like this that I wish I had Jarod’s gift with words. Jarod read constantly, devouring books like no person I had ever met before. He had a very large vocabulary as a result, which might have been the thing he was most proud of – just ask him, he’d tell you. Jarod would know what to say at this moment.

martin0-R1-046-21A It’s times like this that I wish I had Jarod’s sense of humor. It was biting at times, sometimes inappropriate, but it always made you laugh. Jarod would know what joke to tell at this moment.

It’s times like this that I wish I had Jarod’s love of nature. It feels like the passing of a good friend is the perfect time to venture off and reflect for a few days; to be by one’s self and take inventory of one’s life. Jarod would know the perfect spot to commune with nature.Jeff and Jarod

It’s times like this that I wish I had Jarod’s heart. Jarod often said he didn’t make friends easily, but the ones he did he treasured. When he did open up, you knew you were being let in on something special. Jarod would know how to comfort at this moment.

It’s times like this that I wish I still had Jarod around.