Archive for the 'Random' Category

Not as good as you think

I was talking with someone last week about the consulting work he’s doing. He mentioned he is doing some work for a start-up company that has very little money, so he is doing the work “persona non grata.”  Hmmm.  Seems like a start-up with little money doesn’t need an unwanted person doing consulting for them. 

Maybe we should learn the difference between the Latin persona no grata, and gratis.

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Olympic Withdrawal

I admit I was addicted the Olympics.  I had to watch all swimming, and actually jumped up and cheered at times.  I watched our dissapointing track team and our surprising gymnastics teams.  I was outraged at some of the scoring although I have no idea what I should be looking for.  I am 100% positive that at least 2 of the Chinese gymnasts are under 15. 

After 2 weeks of knowing exactly what I was going to watch, I’m now suffering withdrawal.  The new season of my favorite shows (especially Dexter) has not yet started.  Therefore, I got to thinking about the next Olympics.

First of all, there is no way London can even come close to the opening or closing ceremonies that Beijing put on.  I’m thinking it’s going to be 5 guys drinking beer and fighting over soccer. 

Second, there need to be a few changes to some of the events.

Fencing – there is too much high-tech crap for what is essentially a sword fight.  Make the competitors dress up as Zorro and the Dread Pirate Roberts, and go at it with real swords.  There won’t be quite as many quick points.

Rhythmic Gymnastics – I have no idea how this became an Olympic sport.  It’s dancing around with a ribbon.  It’s something kids do in their rooms when no one is looking (not that I have any experience with this and say…socks).  If it’s going to stay, we need to make it more interesting.  There should be a grab bag of items.  The contestants should have to blindly reach into the bag and pull out their prop.  It could be a ribbon, it could be a machete, it could be a bowling ball.  Enjoy!

Team Handball – I watched this for 10 minutes before I figured out what sport it was.  It bears absolutely no resemblance to individual handball.  Team handball is like indoor soccer, but you use your hands.  It seems like a game you play in elementary school when running the mile gets rained out.  Why not make dodgeball an Olympic sport. 

As long as we’re rewarding medals for kids games, we might as well add a few. 

Spread Eagle – How great would it be to see someone get pegged in the nuts, and lose out on a medal because of it.  Adding insult to injury.

Marco Polo – Wouldn’t this be a great call?  “And that’s it!  It’s over!  The Americans win on a last-second Fish-out-of-water call.  What a great strategy to save their last Fish-out-of-water.  And look at the emotion from Lance Smith, the captain of this American Marco Polo team.  36 years old.  Said this would be his last Olympics, and he finally gets his gold medal.  And Blaine McKaskel.  The youngest member of the team.  Learned to play the game in an above ground pool.  Trained in community pools and lost his hair from chlorine poisoning.  A great story.  The United States takes gold in Marco Polo.”

When does Dexter start again?

My Friday

My wife and I were staying at a friend’s ranch near Bozeman, Montana.  We arrived Thursday evening (after a full day of travel), and had dinner prepared for us.  We awoke Friday morning and went for breakfast at a small diner in Manhattan, Montana. 

After some digesting time, my wife and took the family’s Suburban to check out the town of Bozeman, and possibly do some hiking.  We saw the beautiful Main Street, and stopped to get some snacks at the local Safeway. 

We set off to find the trailhead for the Sypes Canyon hiking trail.  Our hike started at 1:30 pm – not a smart idea considering it was about 88 degrees and the sun was nearly directly overhead.  The hike is mostly uphill – about 4 miles round trip and rising about 1000 feet during the hike.  Luckily, near the middle of the outbound portion, we were mostly in the shade until reached the top of the mountain for some incredible views.  We rested for about 30 minutes before heading down the mountain.  Downhill is always easier, and there was more shade by this point. 

Near the end of the hike, while taking a short water break, I noticed a call from my mother.  I didn’t answer because I was out of breath, and would call her back when we got to the car.  10 minutes later we were at the car, and my wife told me she had 2 missed calls from my mother.  Just then, my phone rang again.  I answered to hear my mother crying.  I knew something was wrong.

She told me my dog, Ace had had a heart attack.  Luckily, she happened to be at the vet with him when this happened.  At the time, she did not know if he was going to make it.  My legs were weak, but I couldn’t tell if it was the hike, or the news.  I told my mother we were heading back to the ranch, and would immediately try to get home. 

After my mother talked to my wife, I was handed the phone again.  This time I was talking to the vet, who was giving me the update.  Ace had a heart attack, they had done various medical sounding things that I couldn’t process as I sped back toward the ranch, and he was now stable.  The plan was to wait until the after-hours emergency hospital opened, cool my mother’s car, put him in, and take him to the hospital where he would be monitored all night.

Now it was time to try to change my flight, and the frustration really set in.  I dialed 1411 to get the phone number for Delta.  Usually with Verizon information I give the city I’m looking for to an automated voice, then I get a human.  I guess that’s changed.  Here is the exchange:

Verizon automated voice: What city?
Adam: Houston
Verizon automated voice: Are you looking for a business or residence?
Adam: business
Verizon av: What listing?
Adam: Delta Airlines
Verizon av: I heard China Airlines.  Is this correct?
Adam: No
Verizon av: What listing?
Adam: Deeeeeellllllllttttttaaaaaaaaaaa Aiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrlllllllliiiiiiiiines
Verizon: I heard China Airlines.  Is this correct?
Adam: No
Verizon av: What listing?
Adam: If you don’t put a fucking real person on the lone right fucking now I’m going to rip someones fucking head off!!!
Verizon av: I did not understand the response.  Can you please repeat the listing?

At this point my wife took the phone from me and tried to get the listing for Delta.  It took her 5 tries to not get China Airlines. 

Question #1 from this adventure: How can companies in good conscience think the voice recognition customer service systems even resemble something close to acceptable customer service?

I finally got a hold of Delta, and tried to explain what I needed.  Of course, since I had purchased a non-refundable ticket, there was a $100 per ticket fee, in addition to the difference in the airfare.  For my first option – flying to Salt Lake City Friday evening, and from SLC to Houston early Saturday morning, it was going to cost $100 each, plus $400 each for the changing one flight, plus some other amount for changing the second leg of the trip.  I couldn’t get a clear answer as to what the total was.  I hung up and frustration, thinking I could just make the change online.

More frustration.  Apparently, I cannot use my Continental OnePass miles for one-way tickets.  I think this is to disuade terrorists.  I guess the airlines think the terrorists are especially loyal to one airline…enough to plan their missions around when they have enough miles to purchase a ticket.  It makes me wonder if a terrorist were to purchase a ticket using miles, if they also get to cut in the security line, and hang out in the President’s Club.  I think they should…maybe they’ll realize they actually like America.  (side note – who thinks I’m going to be contacted by the Department of Homeland Security for having the words “terrorist” “airlines” and “President” in the same paragraph?)

Question #2 – at what point are airlines going to alter those cryptic, antiquated algorithms they have for assigning prices to certain seats on certain flights based on the time of day, date, wind speed, oil price, etc.?

Question #3 – when are airfares going to stop increasing?  At some point, the price will grind vacation travel to a halt.  Later, it will end business travel.  With new alternatives to business travel, like online meetings, conference calls, emails, etc., somewhere, business travel is going to be inefficient.  This goes teo Question 2 and the need to re-work the algortihms.

Finally, my mother assured me that my dog was relatively fine, and that we could wait until Saturday to come back.  It was “only” $600 to change and come back Saturday afternoon.  We went straight to the animal hospital and picked up Ace.  He was so happy to see us, and is currently lying down next to me, sleeping. 

I’m not sure why I decided to write all this, other than the fact that my vacation was cut short, and I have time today to do so.

I hate Sportscenter

I know this is probably blasphemy to any sport-loving person in this country (of which I am definitely one), but I have finally come to this realization.  I sensed that I hated it for quite a while, but confirmed my displeasure with several friends.  Sportscenter has become the WalMart of sports. 

Sportscenter itself is responsible for what sports have become today.  It is responsible for simultaneoulsy reporting on sports, and their downfall.  As my friend, comedian Ben Mowbray put it – “They are the equivalent of a rapist with a helmet cam.”  (Ben was referring to MTV rather than ESPN)  Sportscenter made athletes into celebrities.  They favor the dunk, homerun, and huge hit in football over the more subtle nuances of the games.  They have a nasty habit of nitpicking and over-analyzing every single tiny little word and gestures, then trying to create an issue where there wasn’t one. – “When your coach grinned slyly and blinked prior to answering a question about you in his interview, did you take that as a sign if disrespect?”

They talk about the same stories over and over again, ad nauseum.  They actually dictate rivalries.  Ask anyone in Boston or New York…Yankees-Red sox was never a huge rivalry until ESPN decided a rivalry was good for ratings.  Then the players believe its a rivalry, start throwing at each other, fight because they think they’re being disrespected, and now we want to tune in because we think there will be a fight. 

The part that really gets to me is when they actually have their own reporters talk about how much better the sports used to be.  YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM!

I have no idea why I got on this rant, except for the fact that I’m no longer capable of watching Sportscenter. 

The Date

This is a short screenplay I wrote about 7 years ago.  This is my salute to the Oscars this weekend.

The Date – A Short Screenplay by Adam Blumberg

My Memory Tags

I was in the car with my wife, and we were trying to determine how old one of her nephews was (she has 14 neices and nephews, so it’s harder than it seems).  It turned out I remembered how old he was, because I knew I missed his Baptism because I was at a Rockets’ playoff game.  It occured to me that many of the things I remember are tied to sports.  I can remember when something happened based on what game I watched that week.  I’m wondering if that means I watch too much sports, or that is a condition of memory. 

Comedy and sales

I used to be a stand-up comic in my spare time, and I feel the need to make the cheesy comparison of a good joke (or “bit”, as we call them) and a good sales cycle. 

A good bit has a set up and a punch line.  Of course, as there are different types of jokes, there are different types and lengths of setups.  I’m sure everyone has had a jooke told to them by someone who really gets into the setup.  They act it out, do voices, drag things on and on.  With all that build up, they better have a phenomenal punch line, otherwise it is a huge disappointment, and waste of time.   

There are also those that have a very understated setup.  You almost don’t even realize it is the setup of a joke.  It seems like just a conversation.  Until the punchline hits, and you take a few seconds to realize “that was a joke, and it was funny.” 

Of course there are those who are terrible joke-tellers.  They tell the punch line which doesn’t make sense, only to have to back track and give more setup.  Completely ruins what could otherwise be a great joke.

Salespeople work the same way.  There is a setup – prospecting and information gathering stage – followed by a punch line – proposal and closing stage.  Each proposal and close has to have the perfect setup with it to ensure a smooth cycle.  There is no reason to go over the top with the setup, if there is a poor service to be offered at the end.  The prospect will feel they’ve been duped, and they’ve wasted their time.  Likewise, there can’t be a great punch line, with no need built up.  It makes the salesperson have to go back and justify the proposal after the all important price has been given. 

A really good salesperson understands how to set up a proposal, just as a really good comic knows exactly how to word and deliver the setup to get the maximum out of the punch line.