Friday, February 29, 2008

Can I Get a Witness?

Well, it's Friday and as promised, I'm going to end the week with a little gospel music. I'm going to give you two versions of the same song, "This Train Is Bound For Glory". The first arrangement is the more traditional style of "The Staples Singers", the second arrangement is for those of you who don't think a harmonica is a solo instrument. Yes it is!!! Can I get a witness? Enjoy.

I've got my ticket. What about you?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen No. 18

My 13 Favorite Chain Restaurants

I truly love one-of-a-kind, mom 'n pop restaurants. Whenever I travel I seek them out, kind of like "Drive-Inns, Diners, and Dives" on the food network. It's one of my favorite shows. However, I am usually found at some chain restaurant when on the road. Nope Mickey "D" is not on my list. I would never take my daughter there when she was little, and she wouldn't take her kids there. Unfortunately my son-in-law lived off of McDonald's so, the grand kids are there more often than I care to mention. Here are thirteen of my favorites in no particular order or price point.

1. Cheesecake Factory: The name says it all. All of the food here is great. The salads are wonderful and the portions are huge. Dessert speaks for itself.

2. Sonic Drive-Inn: This is my favorite burger place. They're done the old fashioned way, and there is nothing better than the foot-long coney. WoooooHooooo!!!!

3. Wendy's: Wendy's makes the list because of their chili. It's probably the best fast food chili around.

4. On the Border: I love Mexican food and this is one of my favorite places. I got hooked on their salsa years ago.

5. Abuelo's: Another Mexican restaurant. The menu is a more diverse and upscale than On the Border. It is my wife's favorite Mexican restaurant.

6. Papadeaux: "Holy Cow Batman!!!" This is some of the best Cajun food I have ever had. Again, great food, huge portions, and spiced the way I like. You gotta order the Crawfish Trio.

7. Joe's Crab Shack: Again, good food, large portions, and generally good service.

8. Slim Chicken's: This is so much better than Buffalo Wild Wings that there is really no comparison. The chicken is fresh and never frozen. That ensures that it is much juicer than BWW.

9. Jim N Nick's BBQ: I don't know how big this chain is, but I do know it is in Alabama, and I will seek it out anytime I am in that state. The pork is the best.

10. Texas Land and Cattle Co.: Yep, it's a steak joint, and it is great food.

11. Granite City Food & Brewery: A little on the upscale side, but a great menu, great atmosphere and good service.

12. Mimi's: Big time comfort food restaurant. The portions are huge. Many items can be a meal for two.

13. Copeland's: Based out of New Orleans, this is more upscale than Papadeaux, but the food is excellent, the portions are great, and the service is always outstanding. This is a great place for a special occasion.

Honorable Mentions: Chili's, Ruby Tuesday's, Outback Steak House, and Pasta House, Johnny Carino's, Chipolte's.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Square Watermelons

A friend e-mailed me this article. I found it facinating and thought I would share it with you.

Lessons of the Square Watermelon
Japanese grocery stores had a problem. They are much smaller than their US counterparts and therefore don't have room to waste. Watermelons, big and round, wasted a lot of space. Most people would simply tell the grocery stores that watermelons grow round and there is nothing that can be done about it. That is how I would assume the vast majority of people would respond. But some Japanese farmers took a different approach. If the supermarkets wanted a square watermelon, they asked themselves, "How can we provide one?" It wasn't long before they invented the square watermelon.

The solution to the problem of round watermelons wasn't nearly as difficult to solve for those who didn't assume the problem was impossible to begin with and simply asked how it could be done. It turns out that all you need to do is place them into a square box when they are growing and the watermelon will take on the shape of the box.

This made the grocery stores happy and had the added benefit that it was much easier and cost effective to ship the watermelons. Consumers also loved them because they took less space in their refrigerators which are much smaller than those in the US meaning that the growers could charge a premium price for them.

What does this have do with anything besides square watermelons? There are a few lessons that can you can take away from this story which help you in all parts of your life. Here are a few of them:

Don't Assume: The major problem was that most people had always seen round watermelons so they automatically assumed that square watermelons were impossible before even thinking about the question. Things that you have been doing a certain way your entire life have taken on the aura of the round watermelon and you likely don't even take the time to consider if there is another way to do it. Breaking yourself from assuming this way can greatly improve your overall life as you are constantly looking for new and better ways to do things. This was one of the most difficult things for me to do because most of the assumptions I make, I don't even realize that I'm making them. They seem perfectly logical on the surface, so I have to constantly make an effort to question them.

Question habits: The best way to tackle these assumptions is to question your habits. If you can make an effort to question the way you do things on a consistent basis, you will find that you can continually improve the way that you live your life. Forming habits when they have been well thought out is usually a positive thing, but most of us have adopted our habits from various people and places without even thinking about them. I have changed a large number of habits that I have had after taking the time to question them and continue to do so. Some of them I have know idea where they came from while others I can trace to certain people or instances in my life. It's a never ending process, but by doing this, you can consistently strive toward making all aspects of your life more enjoyable instead of defaulting to what you have now.

Be creative: When faced with a problem, be creative in looking for a solution. This often requires thinking outside the box. Most people who viewed this question likely thought they were being asked how they could genetically alter water melons to grow square which would be a much more difficult process to accomplish. By looking at the question from an alternative perspective, however, the solution was quite simple. Being creative and looking at things in different ways in all portions of your live will help you find solutions to many problems where others can't see them. I am not a creative person, but I've found that the more that you look at things from different perspectives, the more creative I have become. It's a learned art and builds upon itself.

Look for a better way: The square watermelon question was simply seeking a better and more convenient way to do something. The stores had flagged a problem they were having and asked if a solution was possible. It's impossible to find a better way if you are never asking the question in the first place. I try to ask if there is a better way of doing the things that I do and I constantly write down the things I wish I could do (but currently can't) since these are usually hints about steps I need to change. Get into the habit of asking yourself, "Is there a better way I could be doing this?" and you will find there often is.

Impossibilities often aren't: If you begin with the notion that something is impossible, then it obviously will be for you. If, on the other hand, you decide to see if something is possible or not, you will find out through trial and error. Take away the lessons from the square watermelons and apply them to all areas in your life (work, finances, relationships, etc) and you will find that by consistently applying them, you will constantly be improving all aspects of your life.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's Been a Long Week

We'll discuss the picture later. Right now I just want to whine about my week. Typically, I am not a whiner but it's been a long week, a short week-end, I'm tired, and the work week starts all over again tomorrow.
Last Sunday my wife came down with the flu. She was really sick for four days. She is just now getting almost back to normal.
Tuesday my dad called. His sister had to be admitted to long term care facility. She is 92 and no longer able to care for herself. This apparently happened while my wife and I were in Las Vegas at a seminar. Anyway, my dad, who is 87 and his cousin have spent that last two weeks cleaning out my aunt's one bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility. Dad had one item that he wanted to transport to his home and needed my assistance moving the item.
By Wednesday I was beginning to feel like I was coming down with the same flu bug that had leveled my wife earlier in the week. I went to a meeting at the construction site of our new building on Thursday morning and then returned home to rest.
Friday, after work, I drove the two hours to dad's house. When I got there he was in the den watching television on this ancient 13" set. I'm talking about a "pre remote control era" television. If you want to change channels, you have to move out of your chair! Yeah, people actually used to do that. His semi-ancient 25" set had given up the ghost the day before. Well, at least we don't have to worry about the transition from analog to digital signal on cable next year. We will go shopping for a new set in the morning.
Saturday morning we drove over to my aunt's apartment and loaded the two items that dad wanted to bring home and then we went television shopping. After checking out KMart, Target and SAM's Club, I decided that for dad, the best deal was at SAM's. So, now my 87 year old father has a 32" wide screen LCD TV. It's the one you see at the top of this post. He's a happy camper. After I got it hooked up, I packed my bag and headed home, driving two hours in a cold rain, mostly in the dark. I got home about 7:00 p.m., rested for about an hour and prepared my Bible Study lesson for this morning.
Since our Bible study class was going to have a pot luck lunch after class, my wife and I needed to be at the church around 8:15 to get a few things ready. Of course there is some clean up involved after the lunch, so we got home around 1:30 and went to separate rooms for a nap. Now my nose is stopped up, and I can feel a cold coming on.
It's been a long week, a short week-end, I'm tired, my nose is running, and the work week starts all over again tomorrow. Sorry about the whining. The next post will be better, I promise.
Maybe a song will help.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Phone is Too Smart

I've already mentioned on this blog that I love technology, but am not technosmart. Just before Christmas I bought a new desktop and I am still in transition. When I moved my "contacts" to the new machine, all of my e-mail groups disappeared. I have no idea where they went, but I hope they come back soon. I have already expressed my displeasure with Word 2007. It looks nothing like Word 2003 and I'm not really in the mood for the learning curve. I would much rather spend my time learning PhotoShop Elements and playing with photos. That brings me to my newest technotoy.
I upgraded to a smartphone a couple of weeks ago. It's a Blackberry Curve 8310. I got a RED one!!! Any true OU fan would opt for red over black or grey. Since I am on an AT&T account, I had the option of a Samsung smartphone or an IPhone. A friend of mine has an IPhone and loves it. I just didn't want to pay $299 or $399 for an IPhone when I got mine for $99 after rebates. I think I'm really going to like it as soon as I figure out where all of the stuff is that it can do. One thing that really took my back was the profiles setting. The profile tells the phone how to act under certain conditions. For example, when you set the phone on Normal, it will have a certain ring at a certain volume, etc. That is the Normal profile. My phone has a two part Normal profile. You set the profile for when the phone is in it's holster and when it is out of it's holster! How does it know? I can set it for a ringtone while it is out of the holster and for vibrate while in the holster, both under the Normal profile. This is too cool! I can put a 2GB micro SD card in it and save a million songs in MP3 format. It has a camera, which I find pretty useless. If I want good pictures, I'll bring a real digital camera. I can add up to 10 e-mail accounts and sync my Outlook calendar to this thing. That is next on my "to do" list. I have my home e-mail account added but not my office or my yahoo e-mail account. Like I said, I think it's smarter than I am.
Well it's Friday and I said I would start a new tradition of closing the week with a Gospel song.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Message in a Bottle

I was tagged by a fellow blogger to do a message in a bottle. I have always admired Sir Winston Churchill and I found this quote that I believe is appropraite to us and the world in which we live. It's a little more serious than I usually post, but there is great truth in these words.
I am not going to tag anyone because virtually every blogger that I read, has already been tagged multiple times, so I will just leave this quote in the blogosphere to wash up on the shores of your monitor. On the other hand, maybe I will randomly tag five blogs that I have never read before.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Am I the Only One?

Have you ever drafted a post title, and not put any inital thoughts in the draft? Two or three weeks later you look at the draft titles and you have no idea what that title means. You have no idea what your intent was when you came up with the idea. There it is, staring back at you on your monitor "A Home For The Boomer." I have no idea why I came up with that title nor what I intended to do with it. Maybe it'll come to me. Maybe not. Am I the only one who has ever done that?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Word Up

I just installed MicroSoft Office 2007 on my computer. I had Office 2003 on my old computer and could not bring it to the new machine. I opened up Word tonight to do an outline and some notes...Good Grief!!!! Who's been messing with my word processing program? Where is everything I am used to? Who moved the buttons? Who decided this was a good idea? Who put all of that junk at the top of the page? Who made changing fonts more difficult? Who did this? Who, Who, Who?

Friday, February 15, 2008

A New Tradition

I'm thinking about starting a new tradition on this blog. Since my dad worked the evening shift, I was at the mercy of whatever my mother wanted to watch on television each night. There were only three channels, so it's not like there was much choice. Mom loved Perry Como, Andy Williams, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Dean Martin, Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton, and Jack Benny. Those names are probably not familar to many of you, but they were the pioneers of variety shows on television in the late 50's and early 60's. I remember when I was a kid that two of these televison variety shows ended each week with a special feature. Perry Como and Tennesse Ernie Ford would always end the broadcast with an inspirational song. Regardless of what other acts may have been on the show that night, the last few minutes were devoted to something for the soul, a spiritual or hymn. Ernie Ford was the best, but there are very few videos of him to share.
Those of you that read my Thursday 13 a couple of weeks ago know how much I love inspirational music. I especially love the hymns of the Faith. I may not do this at the end of every post, but for a while I will look for a hymn to close the post. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I believe I may end each week with such a post. Friday's would be a good time for a little "Soul Music". I hope they make your day a little better.
I am going to start with the best of the best, Tennessee Ernie Ford. The video is not the best quality, nor is the sound, but this voice is timeless. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

We can always trust the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities....Winston Churchill

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things About Being an Only Child

I know it's Valentine's Day, but the wife and I sort of celebrated that last week. See previous post about our trip to Las Vegas. A few weeks ago, I had nothing for T13 so I shared thirteen facts about myself. One of those facts being that I am an only child. That's right, no brothers, no sisters, just me. I know, some of you are saying to yourselves, "that explains everything."
So this week, I thought I would share some of the unique qualities that I believe many of us who are the only child have in common. Life is different when you grow up without siblings. If something is broken, guess who did it? If there is a mess, guess who made it? There was no one to blame but us. Well, not exactly, there were two brothers across the street and two more down the street that I could always push some of the blame off on...and their brother would take my side of the story. Enough background, here is my thirteen unique qualities of an only child.

1. We've always had our own room. That's not our fault, talk to our parents about that only child thing.

2. We are quite capable of entertaining ourselves and often prefer it to crowds.

3. We're an independent sort. We are used to traveling our own path in this world.

4. We are loyal. We don't have much family, so we value the friends that we have.

5. We know what we want. We didn't have older brothers and sisters telling us what we should want or settle for.

6. We tend to explore things that interest us. We may wander from the crowd at the mall because we found something in a store window that we would like to know more about.

7. We can keep a secret. We've never had anyone to share secrets with before, so why should we start now?

8. We probably have a different sense of humor than those with siblings.

9. It's not that we don't like to share, we've just never had to. That's not our fault, talk to our parents about that only child thing.

10. We are quite capable of managing for ourselves. It's that independent thing again. We are very good spouses, but if the single life suits us, we are very good at being single. I was 27 before I married Mrs. Driller, and I wasn't looking for a spouse when I met her. That was 34 years ago and I don't regret a minute that we have been together.

11. We are usually pretty good communicators. This post may prove me to be the exception to that rule. But, think about it... we never had brothers and sisters to communicate our needs for us. If we don't speak for ourselves, no one else will.

12. We are generally good friends to the opposite sex. I've never had a sister, but I had several friends in high school that were female and not involved in a relationship.

13. We can be a little moody, but stick around, we'll get over it.

Extra Credit;
14. We like pets. "I don't know mom, I guess the dog did it."

Ok, that's it for me. If you're an only child, you can probably relate to this list. If you know an only child, what traits have you seen them express?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Viva Las Vegas...Part Deux

The plane touched down at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport last night at 6:00 p.m. I gathered our bags and headed for the car. When the doors opened and I stepped into the cool crisp air all I could think of was that it was GOOD to be home. I had spent the previous seven days in Las Vegas attending class and taking an exam. The class lasted from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. everyday. On Wednesday we went until 6:30 p.m. After being in classrooms, casinos that smelled like a smokers used car, and the artifical atmosphere of an airplane cabin filled with passengers, the 42 degree air, with a light breeze out of the Northwest, was a Godsend. Home, Sweet, Home!!!

However, we did see two Cirque du Soleil shows while we were in Vegas, and that is the subject of this post. Tuesday night my wife and I saw "LOVE" at the Mirage. For those of you who watched the Grammy's last night, you saw nothing!!! Cirque du Soleil theatres are customized to their needs, and the Staples Center has nothing that this troupe needs. For those of you who are familiar with Cirque du Soleil, the show "LOVE" is far and away the least acrobatic and athelitic of their shows. It is much more music, dance, multi-media and theatre. "LOVE" is a tribute to the music of "The Beatles". For those of us who grew up in the sixties, this tribute to the greatest band of our era was absolutely wonderful. The sound system is incredible. There are even small speakers in the seats for an additional layer of sound. The show features much of their music that had political and social undertones rather than the traditional feel good, love songs. This production is theatre in the round. Actually it's an "X", so some of the seating has stage elements on on two sides of the audience. The costumes and performances are as imaginative as you would expect form Cirque du Soleil. You will leave the theatre feeling good, and for us that are children of the sixties, we leave feeling very fortunate to have lived with that music when it was originally created. The Beatles belong to the Boomers.

After I got out of class/exam on Saturday around noon, my wife asked me what I wanted to do that evening. Wednesday evening she and the wife of my collegue went to see Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian, so she said she would like to do anything I wanted. We pondered the idea of a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, dinner at Bobby Flay's "Mesa Grill", or dinner in Hugo's Cellar in the Four Queens on Freemont Street (these dinners were going to exceed $150.00 per couple). The truth is, I have always wanted to see Cirque du Soleil's presentation "KA" at the MGM Grand. So we got tickets at the last minute to the show and I am sooooo glad we made that choice. The KA theatre seats around 2000, there is not a bad seat in the house and is an incredible piece of architecture. It is the most intricate Cirque du Soliel theatre I have ever been in.
Then there is the performing platform...OMG!!! One section of the platform raises and lowers to various heights while the other (larger) platform rises, lowers, rotates 270 degrees, and tilts 90 degrees!!! Words simply cannot describe the technology, architecture and engineering required to pull this off. The story is based on a Chisese Prince and Princess that are separated as children and the journey they take to reunite. The music is fantastic, the acrobatics are unbelievable and there are even major pyrotechnics at the finale. At the end of the performance, I found myself walking out of the theatre and asking the question, "How do I explain or describe to anyone, what I just saw." I can't. The only thing I can tell you is that these are the only shows that I have ever attended, that cost me over $100 per ticket, and I would galdly pay to see them again and again. So far, we have seen "La Noubia" in Orlando and "O", "KA", and "LOVE" in Las Vegas and I think that my order of preference is "O", "KA", "La Noubia", and "LOVE". That's primarily because I like the acrobatics. The next time I go to Vegas, I will see "Mystere" and that will wrap up my tour of Cirque du Soleil. The next time you are in Las Vegas make every effort to see one of these shows. You will not be disappointed.
So, I leave you with this promo and performance clip of the last act in the "KA" show. The clip is a little long, but it's the only way I can begin to answer that question, "how do I explain to you what I saw". Enjoy!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

Tomorrow my wife and I are leaving for Las Vegas. I have to take a class and she is coming along for the R&R. The class I am taking is related to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Enviornmental Design). I know, go figure that there would be a class on energy design in Las Vegas. The city uses enough energy to power ther remainder of the country every day. Anyway, at the end of the week, there is an exam and if I pass, I will be a LEED commissioning agent. That means that any client that wants to build a LEED certified building can contact me to manage the paperwork required for the certification process. I know you're thrilled about this and can't wait to read more about LEED. Maybe I'll do that another day.
One thing that we intend to do while in Vegas is go see the Cirque du Soliel show "Summer of Love", tribute to the Beatles. I have reservations for Tuesday night. For those of you unfamiliar with Cirque du Soliel, they are quite possibly the most amazing troup of acrobats on the planet. Ther performances consist of a combination of live music, dance, acrobatics, and story telling. It is done within the framework of a European circus. The technology required to build thier sets, stages, and some of their aparatus is mind boggling. A couple of years ago we saw "O", which is a water themed show, and I am still amazed at the engineering required to make that show possible. The entire performance platform is a pool in which the depth can be adjusted from virtually zero to over fifteen feet deep. One simply cannot describe it.
Earlier this year I saw a Larry King interview with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Their reaction to the music in this tribute show was that it was better than anything the Beatles ever did. The advance in electronics has made it possible to hear instruments that were in the original recordings but not heard. As a teenager of the 60's, I can still remeber when the first Beatles song "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" had its debut in this country. I was not a Beatles zealot. At the time, I was still a fan of the Beach Boys, Johnny Rivers,The Animals, and The Stones (Rolling Stones). A couple of those names will mean nothing to you younger readers (under 40), if I have any younger readers. I liked the Beatles music, I just didn't buy many of their albums. Now, some forty-five years later, I'm going to take my wife to see a musical tribute to their work. I can't wait.