Category Archives: blog

Why I’m Going Back to An Actual Kindle

I used to have an original Kindle (my Dad still uses it actually). It was an amazing piece of technology and went with me everywhere. And at the time, I traveled a lot.  Then I got an iPad. And the tech in my bag started to become cumbersome to carry on my shoulder for 100,000+ miles a year.  So I ditched the Kindle and went full bore to the Kindle app on my iPad. But lately, that just hasn’t been working for me.

Don’t get me wrong, my love affair with my iPad hasn’t changed. But with regard to reading, it’s just not performing as I need it to.  The Kindle app is amazing. I can read on planes, in restaurants/coffee shops, hotels, etc.  It’s also great for reading in bed.  But there are 4 little words that are pushing me back to an actual Kindle from Amazon: I have a pool. Coupled with the fact that I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to, having 2 devices is back in the realm of “acceptable” for me.

All summer I’ve been TRYING to make my iPad pool friendly. I drape a shirt over my head so it gets shaded. I turn the brightness up as high as it will go. I try black background/white text.  But nothing works. Simply put, the iPad is not for use in direct sunlight. As such, I’ve found myself reading on my couch on a gorgeous day just because I didn’t want to deal with the glare on the screen. As someone who loves being outside, this is unacceptable.

So I broke down and bought a Kindle. It arrives today and I’ll promptly charge it, sync it and stick it in my bag for our quick 4-day weekend in Cabo where, yes, I’ll read it by the pool. Or on the beach. Because Amazon’s e-ink just WORKS in sunlight. The iPad, unfortunately, does not.

Anyone else have the same experience? Sporting both an iPad and a Kindle? What are your thoughts?

My Perfect 4-Hour Body Lunch from Rubio’s

I love, love, love Rubio’s. Seriously. Fanboy of this food. And it really kills me that most of the menu isn’t allowed on my diet. Tortillas? Nope. Not even corn. Cheese? No way. Fried fish? Definitely out. While I will cheat and get the Original Fish Tacos on occasion, I have been pretty good at sticking to my modification of their Grilled Grande Bowl – which I believe falls well within the confines of the 4-Hour Body diet. Since a lot of people are curious (biggest question I get when I tell people what I can’t eat is “what DO you eat?”) here’s what I get and how to order it.

Above is my modified Grilled Grande Bowl. Just ask for it by name, pause a second, and then ask for no cheese, no rice, substitute guac, extra black beans.  That’s it.  What you get is the following:

  • Shredded Cabbage (probably not enough to really qualify for the 4-Hour Body but I fudge here)
  • ~4 oz grilled chicken (I’ll sometimes get blackened Ono for variety)
  • ~1/2 cup black beans
  • chopped tomato/onion
  • ~4 tbsp guacamole
  • I add: a cupful of onion and about 2 tbsp hot salsa (for flavor) from their salsa bar.
  • Optional – squeeze a lime wedge on it
There’s also a little sauce that is sometimes on it, sometimes not (today it wasn’t present). It probably is also a violation of the diet, but there is so little of it, I don’t worry about it.
So that’s it.  My Rubio’s meal.  They’ll also take any taco plate and give it to you without the tortillas – which comes close to sticking with the diet – and they have a salad you can modify as well. They’re happy to customize, so just ask.  It’s about the most flavor I’ve found in fast food while on this diet, and the closest to sticking with the program.

Observations on Selling My First Home

I’ve purchased two houses in my life (thus far) and become quite comfortable with the process. Right now, our first home in Denver is on the market – and it’s the first one I’ve sold.  So far the process for getting it ready to sell involved a lot of things we should have done long ago.  Mismatched wood floors? Need to match. That crappy carpet upstairs that’s 8 years old and was worn out when we BOUGHT the house 4 years ago? Needs to go. All of that chipped paint here and there? Patch it up.

Overall, things are going well – we put the house on the market last Thursday and in 9 days we had 14 showings.  Overall, people have been impressed. And they should be – it’s a great house and looks better than it has in 4 years.  Some things I’ve found funny:

  • People steal things.
    We’ve had 2 things stolen. A glad plug-in air freshener (was by the front door) and the keys to our filing cabinet.  While I get the air freshener (still rude people), the keys were in a drawer, in the bedroom, in the back under a bunch of socks.  Who goes through your sock drawer during a showing?  What the hell?  Nothing was taken from the filing cabinet (thank goodness) but the keys are gone, so we have to break the lock and probably get a new cabinet at some point.
  • Some people are clueless.
    Of the 14 showings, only 1 had negative comments.  Apparently it was a young couple with a younger realtor – and they felt they shouldn’t have to pay for our choices in upgrades to the house. Um, newsflash – you don’t.  Go buy another house. Or build one. And good luck with that.  See, we’ve put in wood floors in the main level, new carpet upstairs, gutted the standard builder kitchen and put in a high end kitchen with solid surfaces, stainless steel appliances and 42″ castled cabinets.  Don’t like it? Thanks. Move on.  And by the way, if we were charging you for all the upgrades, the house would be $405,000 not $374,900.  We’re giving you a significant discount on what we put into it, dude.
  • Actually “living” in a show-house is almost impossible.
    Our house looks great in the pictures. It looks great for open houses. We’ve done everything HGTV has said you should – de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter. Then remove 3 things from the room. Then go back a day later and remove 2 more.  We’ve tucked away things needed to live (need hand soap in the master bath? It’s below the sink now. Need body wash? Try the linen closet.) It’s worse than living in a hotel.  The thing that I find the most odd is it looks like Bree VandeKamp from Desperate Housewives came through our house – I’m sure if she could, she would approve. There’s nothing out. No clutter. It’s almost unlivable for the people living there. But it shows great!

In fairness, our realtor (hey Alex!) has been great. And he did warn us on a few things:

  1. People will look in any drawer, cabinet, closet, hidden space they can. They will sift through your shit.
  2. People will steal things. Usually small stuff but don’t leave ANYTHING you couldn’t part with out. Hide it. Lock it away. Move it to another location off site.
  3. People are picky and weird and want a deal. And they will have opinions on things that baffle you. Just let it go.
  4. Ultimately, someone out there will find this house perfect. Or perfect-enough. Just hang in there.

Honestly, we’re thrilled with 14 showings in 9 days. That’s ridiculous. And we apparently have a few people “thinking about” making an offer (though I really don’t hold my breath until an offer is in hand). Ultimately, the process will move on. And someone will want this house. I just can’t stress about it.  And I know that much like buying my first house (which was an ordeal) that selling this one will make selling the next one even easier.

I am here.

As I was landing in San Diego on Monday morning, I saw someone wearing a shirt with the Google marker symbol (you know, the one on the left there) and underneath it said “I am here.”  Witty.  Of course you are.  But as I gave it more thought, I began to wonder – sure you’re here. But are you HERE.

A lot has changed in my life in the last 6 months. I’ve lost a close friend. I’ve made several new friends and gained an adopted family. I’ve left a job I’ve had for over 5 years. I’ve contemplated a relocation.  So although I know where I am physically at all times – it’s made me wonder where have I been mentally?

I came to realize that there are people who are never here when they’re here. You know who I’m talking about. And at times, more than I care to admit, it’s been me. And I’m sure it’s definitely been you. All of us at one time or another are in a meeting, with a friend, sitting with family and simply not paying attention.  At my last job, email was my vice. I’d be at my desk talking with someone and the second a new email came in I would instantly look over at the computer – and sometimes even start typing. All while being present with someone else.  It’s a behavior I knew I was doing at the time, I even APOLOGIZED while doing it to the person across the table. But after you’ve done that to someone 3 or 4 times the apology becomes hollow. I wasn’t really there.

I see phones becoming the new teleportation device.  You’re sitting across the table from me, but I know you’re not there. You’re in your phone. You’re tweeting. You’re Facebooking. You’re texting. You’re doing anything but listening to me – even though you’re doing a GREAT job pretending.  I imagine everyone could name at least 5 times in the last day when they’ve done that. Or had someone do it to them.  Have we really become that rude as a society? Have I become that rude as a person?

The last 2 weeks I’ve had nothing but time on my hands. No multitasking. No doing two things at once. No pressure to accomplish 400 things in a day that can handle 200.  It’s been a short time, but I’ve noticed 2 behavioral changes that just sort of occurred. Neither is rocket science, but I want to call them out – as painfully obvious as they are – because I notice more and more that doing just these two things would inject a little respect back into our lives:

  1. When I get a phone call (or make one), I stop what I’m doing. Close the computer. Mute the TV. And take the call. I’m 100% present for the person on the other end of the phone.  It’s a refreshing step forward in breaking a bad habit.
  2. When I’m live with someone, unless I’m expecting a very important phone call, I turn off the ringer on my phone.  I don’t put it on vibrate. I put it on SILENT. Occasionally the screen will light up and distract me, but more often than not, the call, text, Facebook update or tweet can wait until I’m finished with my lunch/dinner/interview/conversation.

Those two simple things allow me to absorb more of what’s going on around me, participate more fully in every conversation and interaction and generally, be a better person to those in my life. Eventually I’ll be busy again with work, life and other things but I’m going to make a very hard effort to keep both of these new behaviors in tact as I get back to a more normal routine.

But it’s amazing what a little break can do for you, isn’t it?

Getting Lost in a Mystical Place

Sometimes when you do what I do you find yourself somewhere absolutely breathtaking.  I always try to capture it on film if possible, and sometimes I’m successful.  I think this was one time when I was definitely successful and wanted to share it with you.  This place won’t exist like this for another ~100 years given the rare weather conditions that have to happen to make this effect.

What you’re looking at isn’t a lake. It’s a salt flat with about 2″ of water over the top.  It migrates across the flat with the wind going bone dry in the late evening and fully wet every morning. It was truly breathtaking to be here for work of all things – and the people I was with made it even more enjoyable.  I’ll post the TV spot we shot here when it’s available (mid-February).

Remembering

I met my friend Jake in October of 2000 when I moved to Chicago. He was an up-beat show-tune loving copy writer at an agency. And I was moving there to work at an agency.

That December I received his Christmas letter. In his letter, he had a good portion dedicated to his friend, Miriam Wolfe, who was killed in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  Every year since I have been reminded that Jake will never forget Miriam. Or the other 269 people aboard that flight.

With the influx of Social Media, Jake’s status update today was the reminder of this important person, whom I never had the pleasure to meet:

Jake is remembering Miriam Wolfe and the other 269 people murdered in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, 22 years ago today. If you were still here, Miriam, we would totally be spending our days making fun of Bristol Palin on Facebook. I just know it.

The thing about Jake’s updates that I love is that last sentence.  Every year for the last ten years I’ve had a glimpse into Miriam’s personality via something socially topical that would have given her a laugh, an eye roll or a tearful hug with Jake.

This year, Jake’s update took on new meaning for me.  On October 31, 2010 I lost my friend Jason. Though we still don’t know what took his life, the loss has been profound.  As I commented on Jake’s status, he reached out via email to give me some advice on loss.  In doing so, I had the opportunity to share my previous posts about Jason and give Jake a sense of who Jason was. Just as Jake has given me a sense of who Miriam was – every December 22 for 10 years.

A few minutes ago, after a few emails back and forth, Jake left me with this:

It’s better to suffer the pain of loss than to have nothing to mourn when it’s gone.

I’m glad I knew Jason as well and as long as I did. I’m glad I was overcome with emotional and physical pain when we lost him. I’m glad I have something to mourn. I’m also glad it gave me something to share with so many new friends and old friends alike.  And it reminded me that as long as I have stories about Jason – and can paint a picture of who he was with my words – he’ll never really be gone. And his influence will continue to reach more and more people.

I don’t need any better Christmas present than that.

To read more about Miriam see Jake’s current blog post here.

22 Years Ago Today

To read more about Jason please see my previous posts:

The Measure of a Man

Unbearable Grief and Overwhelming Love

On Loss, Life & Learning – 8 Things Jason Schippers Taught Me

The Chipotle Cat Gaffe

While I’m very tempted to write my own blog post on this topic, I can’t really do it any more justice than was already done at So Good Blog. If you haven’t heard of this, count yourself lucky.  But I think it’s worth a read as a case study. The short of it is:

  • A Chipotle employee posted something on her own Facebook page.
  • A customer ported their thoughts over to Chipotle’s Facebook page.
  • Chipotle made several critical mistakes in handing the story.

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you need to mitigate negative word of mouth or a PR story gone wrong, you’ll be a bit sympathetic. And may learn a thing or two.

Indulging a Seasonal Guilty Pleasure – The McRib

Oh yeah. The McRib is back baby. And I’m having one RIGHT NOW.

I have very few guilty pleasures… Desperate HousewivesMillionaire Matchmaker. Vodka. But the McRib is near the top of the list. Honestly, I don’t know how I resisted this long. I’ve been busy I guess – lots going on.  To help emphasize what a big deal this is, I normally stick to about 300-400 calories for lunch. Period.  Usually sushi, or a rice bowl with a diet soda, water or some other lowcal beverage (the beverages kill you).  But today – oh today – I’m indulging in a full 880 calories.

McRib: 500 calories*
Medium Fries: 380 Calories*
Diet Dr. Pepper: 0 Calories

That’s 1/2 the calories I allow myself per day (trying to lose weight responsibly).  But oh so worth it.  The tangy sauce. The scattered onions. The meat patty with bone imprint but no bones.  Da-lish!  No moral lesson here. Just me raving about the McRib.  Yum!

*McDonald’s nutrition information.

Narrow Views of Problems Drive Me Crazy

I’m in the airport in San Diego right now – and the girl beside me was just typing away in her Keller School of Management forum about taxes. I couldn’t help but read over her shoulder (don’t like it? Get a privacy filter).

The gist of her question she was posing (back to her professor) was: “How is it that Texas, a fiscally responsible state (her words, not mine) has no state income tax and is doing fine financially yet California which has one of the highest income tax rates in the country is nearly bankrupt?” She then went on to paste a piece of propaganda from a Texas business web site about how Texas is good for business because there is no income tax.

I find this amusing because the FIRST thing I think of when I hear a state has ridiculously low or no income tax is – how much is property tax? Dallas property tax is around 3%. Most cities in California hover around 1% (San Diego is 1.1%). One other big difference? In California your tax rate is based on the purchase price of your home.  So if you bought your house in Beverly Hills in 1932 for $40,000 – and it is worth $2.2 million today – you pay 1% on the $40,000. Seriously.  In Texas, like most states, it’s based on assessed value. So not only can the tax rate go up but if your assessment goes up (improvements, neighbors sell high, etc.) your base goes up as well.

I don’t mean to make this a lesson in taxes – I’m hardly qualified – but her narrow view of the world seemed to purport that states only get income from income tax.  While it may be true that Texas is far more fiscally responsible than California, her argument is ridiculously incomplete. She would need to look at a host of other ways states make money.

Aside from income – she would also need to look at how each state spends its money. Quality of roads? Criminals in the system? Social programs? Size of government? Parks maintenance? I could go on.

As people try to make the case for their way of thinking, they need to be more responsible in the information they present, look at all sides of an argument and try to gather relevant data to draw a conclusion.

I’m definitely not a data-driven/analytical person – so the fact that I’m floored enough to write about this speaks volumes.

And did I mention she’s a GRAD STUDENT? Seriously. I hope she comes out of the program with a broader view of the world and its problems.

On Loss, Life & Learning – 8 Things Jason Schippers Taught Me

It’s  been just shy of 2 weeks now since Jason died (yes, I say died – as a good friend put it, he didn’t “pass away.” That’s too passive. He went kicking and screaming). And I’ve been doing a lot of thinking; Sharing some here, sharing some with people in person and some only with myself.  But the thing I realized this week is that Jason taught me a LOT. For a 29 year old, he sure had his priorities straight.

Here are 8 things I learned from him:

  1. Friends matter. A lot.
    Jason made time for his friends. Always. Even when he was in pain, he would make time for you. He never refused a dinner invitation and worked his schedule to maximize friend time.  In doing so, he left a huge number of people behind (you’ve heard me say this already) who can remember him, cherish him and help one another through the rough times dealing with his loss.
  2. Shitty stuff happens. Move on.
    Jason didn’t let the crap in life stick to his shoes. Bad things would happen – to him or to us – and he would be the first one to say “You know, it sucks. But let’s look at this next opportunity.” He didn’t dwell on the shit in life.
  3. Be who you are. Always.
    Jason was always Jason. You got 100% Jason whenever you were with him – take it or leave it. He didn’t compromise his love of superheroes, comics and tattoos when seeking a girlfriend or friends. He told it like it was whether you wanted to hear it or not and he didn’t apologize for his tattoos, his love of TV shows or any other aspect of who he was. And he didn’t expect us to either.
  4. Equality Matters. Period.
    I’m a gay man who grew up in Iowa and try to stay abreast of political issues, but it was Jason, a straight 29-year old, who kept me up to date on the Iowa Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage. He was a fierce advocate for equal rights for EVERYONE and a true friend of the gay community. As a mutual friend of ours noted – Jason is a 100% straight dude who is just very homo-friendly.  He loved everyone and felt everyone should be treated equally.
  5. Telling people you love that you love them is critical.
    Jason was never shy about telling those close to him he loved them. Every single time I saw him our parting ended with a big hug, and a “love you.”  One of the best things I remember is being able to remind him I loved him when I saw him a week before he died.  And him responding “Love you, too.”
  6. Funny doesn’t come at someone else’s expense.
    Jason was hilarious. And he did funny things – sometimes to his friends. But I never once saw him in a situation where he was laughing at someone or cutting someone down to make himself or others feel better. Even if the joke seemed to be at your expense, you were a part of it. You gave him permission to let you in on it – and you were always laughing with him.  He was never laughing at you.
  7. Superheroes exist.
    This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from Jason – and one that was eloquently stated at his funeral.  Jason was a superhero. He didn’t fly or bust through walls (as far as we know) but he had a power to connect people. And a power to persuade you to do things that were good for you – or things that were just amusing for you, him and everyone around. He lit up a room when he entered and people WANTED to be close to him. You just wanted to hang out with Jason. And you felt better doing so.  If that isn’t superpower, I don’t know what is.
  8. Count to 5.
    Since I was a huge LOST fan, you could say I learned this from LOST. But honestly, the significance didn’t really hit me until Jason and I were talking about his tattoo. It was Jason who taught me how to put this into practice in life. When you’re scared, let the fear in. Let it take over. But just for 5 seconds. Then move on and do what you need to do.

So that’s what I learned from Jason – and what he leaves with me for the rest of my life. I think those 8 things are a pretty good companion to the scar I’ll always have on my heart.  But while the scar will get smaller and smaller as time goes by, I hope these 8 lessons get larger and larger – and I’m able to pass them on to others. And keep them in mind every day.