Monday, March 31, 2014

A Clichéd Opening Day Post

Today the baseball season officially started. Well, as a Phillies fan, the season officially started. After a long spring full of minor league performances it was surprising, to say the least, to watch the Phillies take the season opener in Texas. Having been shut out in their last three pre-season games, I guess the offense decided to wake up as they realized that these games actually count.

While the opening slug fest was a great way to start the season, I am still heading into this drawn out campaign with a considerable amount of trepidation. Given their performance in recent years and the questionable roster moves that have been made during the offseason, I doubt that they will be able to seriously content. However, there are always those seasons when things just seem to click and, out of nowhere, a season to remember comes to fruition.

It wasn’t long ago when the Phillies headed into a season having finished dead last the year before only to find themselves in the World Series. When you look at that 1993 roster, especially when you compare it to the competition, there is no way that anyone could have anticipated the season that they had. It was one of those instances when the right players found themselves on a team during the right season, at the right time in their careers.

It is for that reason that I still have an ounce of hope for this roster. When you look at the players on an individual basis, they are clearly better than that team but the question is whether the players feed off of one another and push (or pull) in the same direction. It would also be a great way to both honor the late Jim Fregosi and encourage the ailing Darren Daulton by shocking the NL East and running away with the division.

Either way, I think this is going to be an entertaining team to watch. They could come together or they could turn out to be a dugout full of McMurphys waiting to Amaro to shove a pillow in their face at the trade deadline. I guess we will just have to watch, wait, and see what happens. Of course, if you don’t have time to watch a protracted game full of replays, warnings, and pitching changes you can always read about it on my other blog.

So, how do you think the Phillies will fair this season? Will they pull things together and finally return Ryno to the postseason or will Bowa be calling everyone Private Pyle as they struggle to resemble a major league ball club? Of course, they could always end up in the middle but that wouldn’t be interesting to think about so let’s hope for the extremes. With this team, I can’t tell what is going to happen which makes for an intriguing beginning to the season. What do you think?

The real reason why we now have instant replay!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Investing In The Little Things

With so many things going on at the office and outside of the office with all of my other commitments and responsibilities there are some days when I spend very little time with my wife. While it is not an ideal situation, I have to keep busy and I enjoy the constant pace of life. Fortunately, my wife is very understanding of this recent shift but every once in a while I make sure that I step back and show her, in some way, that I appreciate her and support her in her work, her hobbies, and her education.

I try to listen when she needs an ear, embrace her when she needs a hug, and offer the little knowledge I have when she had a question but there are also other time when I just decide to do something a little more. When I am able, I try to include her (or at least offer) in some of the activities that I have going on constantly. I try to make her laugh as much as possible because she tends to get caught up in things and loses sight of the good things that happen every day. I try to do all of these things on a regular basis.

There are times when I wish I could have done more and other times when I try to think what I could have done differently to make things better but I am still a husband with flaws, as we all are, and so I am not always on top of these things. However, there are instances when things go right and all the other stuff going on kind of melts away. Sometimes it is as simple as relaxing with my wife laying on the couch or going out to a reasonably price lunch or dinner.

However, there are more extravagant moments (well, for us at least) when we go away for the weekend or occasions, like today, when we find an item on clearance that I know that my wife will get years of use out of. While searching for a number of things at Wal-Mart we walked by the electronics department and noticed a camera on clearance. We have been talking about replacing her Pentax for a while and now, seeing the severely slashed price, we had the opportunity to upgrade her. While there is a little bit of investment up front just the fact that we no longer have to buy packs and packs of AA batteries anymore will recoup our money in just over a year.

More importantly, it made my wife happy both in the moment and as she goes out on her little excursions during the warmer weather to take pictures. I have my hobby which I invest in on an ongoing basis and it is nice to invest a little in her hobby every once in a while. We both found the things that relax us and take our mind off of things for a little bit which makes the limited funds put into each of them worth the financial commitment. I can’t wait to see the amazing photos that she gets with the upgrade in her equipment!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

And The Process Officially Begins…

Today began early this morning. Well, at least early for me as I slowly staggered out of bed at 8:00 am. Because of a few issues at the post office yesterday (on top of the fun I was having at the office) I had to get out the door early, stop by the post office, and see if the Saturday morning shift could find the invisible package that eluded the staff yesterday. So, following a few grumbles from my wife for my alarm cyclically sounding, I was out the door with plans to meet her at Barnes & Noble in Montgomeryville for our weekend activity, our regularly scheduled program.

Surprisingly, when I got to the empty post office, there wasn’t a single issue getting the mail as somehow overnight the packages had rematerialized. With mail in hand I headed across the street to the lodge and got the couple hours of work done that was about a week overdue at this point. Still, it didn’t take as long as I was expecting so I was on the road and heading north with about an hour to make the 30 minute drive. Thirty minutes if I didn’t miss the turn(s) and the large bookstore in front of me. With that said, I was still about 10 minutes early.

After grabbing a quick coffee and a horrendous quiche (never again) we made our way to the first apartment on the list where my mother in law was waiting to show us the space. It has been over two years since we last seriously did some apartment shopping and I can’t say that I missed the process. While I do enjoy seeing the different spaces and attempting to envision how it might work for us, it is still a lot of effort with no guaranteed outcome.

We saw four places throughout the day. The first was the second floor of a duplex situated next to a library with a young owner living on the first floor who seemed to be in over his head. While it is more space than we have now you could tell that it was the second story of a converted single family home. On top of that it was a little way from the main road so, while a decent start, it wouldn’t work for us.

The second stop was at a single family home in the next town over. It was a quirky little house with double the space of our current apartment (including an extra half bathroom) but there were a few things that didn’t really work for us. First and foremost, there was a commuter SEPTA line running right behind the house (maybe 10 feet away) and, like I said, the amount of usable space was far less than the square footage due to low ceilings and odd walls. The property was also much further from the highway. If it were in a different location it would have been perfect but, as it stands, it doesn’t work. Next.

The final two stops of the day were in the same development. Both apartments were mirror images of one another with the first stop having not been updated in some time with the second seeming like there were newer fixtures but still dated. The second was, overall, in better shape but it was also more expensive and the previous occupant had a cat which does not bode well for my wife’s allergies. The first apartment of the two, while it had a few issues, is a great space for what we need. With 50% more space than our current rental, faux hardwood floors throughout, and all the ancillary aspects that we have in our current building this place was clearly our first choice and the one we will pursue a bit further. Clearly it wasn’t my mother in law’s choice but it was the decision that my wife and I made and we will see how things progress.

After a few hours, it was time to call it a day so we all went out for a late lunch and discussed what we liked, what we didn’t, and the things that we would like to see in future showings. The quick lunch behind us, we headed back out into the rain and headed in three different directions. I guess we will just have to wait and see how things progress on this front over the next month. I will keep you posted and hopefully have a few pictures the next time around.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lack Of Communication

No matter how much you plan there are some days when the phone is just not your friend. Not only for what does and doesn’t happen over the phone but because of what happens while you are on the phone. Being connected to three phone lines during the work day, there are moments when I am working on something just waiting for one of them to ring like a communications form of Russian roulette.

It all began in the morning when my cell phone decided not to ring and sent someone directly to voice mail. Understand that I always answer my phone and when this happens it is highly annoying at the least and, when it is a call I am waiting for or generally a call I should take, it bugs the crap out of me. That was just the beginning. When the phone chimed to let me know I had a message (about ten minutes later) I picked up my office line and tried to return the call… voicemail. It would have been nice to have answered the phone as I was unable to get a hold of the publication for the rest of the day.

As the no ring scenario was playing out, I was also sending meeting requests and trying to fit all the pieced together to get another call scheduled for the early afternoon. Juggling three time zones is not as challenging as people want you to believe. With all times and the dial in confirmed it was stored away on my calendar until the reminder popped up to alert me of what I had done earlier in the day. I dialed in and found that one person was missing… can’t staff an interview when only half of the people show up. So back to the beginning. It turned out to be an email issue but I think the phone put it up to the task.

Two hours later, staffing a call to help out a double booked colleague, and this time the reporter was not on the line. At this point I was getting quit frustrated having had absolutely no success on the phone. Finally, toward the end of the day the rescheduled times were coming around and my colleague, for some reason, had me cover the call again despite no conflicts during the new time. We are all busy so I dialed in and everyone was on the line!

Thirty minutes later and the other interview, the one I scheduled, was about to begin. The problem was that the first conversation was running long. Time to multitask and get all forms of communication going at once. I got the second reporter on standby and as soon as the first call ended I brought in the next interviewer and pushed through the next thirty minutes. After over an hour on the phone and multiple follow ups (mostly sending promised files/documents) it was time to circle up with my colleague to make sure everyone was on the same page.

However, there was a slight problem as, while I was on the phone, they decided to duck out the back door and not let anyone know that they was leaving. I literally asked around and no one knew where they were or when they left. It’s one thing if you have to leave a little early, I understand that, but you have to let people know that you are heading out the door (emergency situations being the obvious exception). Well, as I found out later in a 45 minute delayed reply to my text, that they had to be somewhere at 6. No emergency, no client meeting, just somewhere, someplace where their phone is rendered useless and a lackadaisical mentality is acceptable.

On the verge of demolishing most of the phones in the office, my departure for the week was overdue. I packed my things, walked away from my desk, and assisted one of the younger people in the office as they cleaned out their desk, turned in their key, and headed out the door for the final time. I know that feeling and I really felt for them as they packed up their personalized space into a few small bags. I forgot about the phone issues and the long day as I tried to offer my limited wisdom and encouragement. Sometimes things aren’t so bad at the end of the day when you know that the next day has the potential to be much better.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

WTF Of The Week: California Hypocrisy

Hey look, another quality California politician and official donkey cave.
Seems as though talk radio was blowing up a little more than usual this morning. I can’t really say I blame them for ranting the way that they have been doing lately. In addition to the national scams and acts of severe dishonesty there are also the local debacles. And I really don’t know which one is worse at this point.

First you have the overblown traffic jam from New Jersey which started as just that, a means to try and blow a traffic jam way out of context in order to make Christie look bad. Honestly, I don’t even know why the other party even started this whole thing. Christie is one of those people that if you just let him talk for long enough he is going to hurt himself. Just like with this ‘scandal, the longer that it has gone on the more crap that Christie gets himself into. Recently he decided to spend over a million taxpayer dollars to hire his personal lawyer to prove his innocence. Let me see if I understand this… you hired someone you know, from a firm you are affiliated, to conduct an unbiased investigation which in the best case demonstrates that you have limited control over your own staff. You have got to be freaking kidding me.

The other situation going on is, unfortunately, in my state as the attorney general is lawyering up and threatening a defamation suit in order to ‘prove’ that she did not sweep a corruption investigation under the commonwealth’s carpet. This is the type of over-reaction that almost proves that you are guilty. What gets me is that this was allowed to just go unchecked for so long and that no one said anything, especially those in higher political offices.

While Kane and the fat man are enough fodder for a blogs worth of rants, there is another story that broke early this morning that easily overshadows all the aforementioned BS and so much more. Here is the first two paragraphs from the Forbes story by Greg McNeal:

California Democratic State Senator and candidate for California Secretary of State, Leland Yee, a gun control advocate, has been charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption.  The charges are part of a 26 person criminal complaint and a major FBI sting operation.  The full criminal complaint is a massive 137 pages that tells the story of Yee’s involvement with a broad ranging conspiracy that includes firearms trafficking, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes, money laundering, and honest services fraud.

Yee is charged with “conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms” as well as six counts of honest services fraud.  Each corruption charge is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while the gun-trafficking charge is punishable by up to five years and $250,000.

That’s right, the gun control advocate is essentially an arms dealer. If he is so comfortable with dealing firearms, it makes you really wonder about his motivation to ban and control firearms. After all, I am certain that he didn’t restrict himself to selling six shot revolvers. There isn’t much more I can say to highlight the hypocrisy and heinous acts. However, I will say this… why is there such a light sentence for gun trafficking? While I am against the restriction of the legal ownership of firearms of all kinds, I am a firm believer in the harsh punishment of those individuals who so blatantly break the law and deal in illegal firearms. If anything, the penalty should at least be equal to the sentences doled out for the other corruption charges.

Well, with the mid-term campaigns about to warm up along with the weather, put some thought in to who you are really voting for. Don’t let a despicable donkey cave like Lee hold public office and open your eyes to the hypocrisy that might be as blatant. It is all around you and, in fact, you probably voted for some of the ones that pride themselves on this practice. A traffic jam doesn’t seem so important now, does it?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mil Spec Is Not Always Best!

That title will have some firearms enthusiasts writing long responses about the fact that I must be full of it. All of their words penned before they even read this sentence. But, unbeknownst to those raging individuals, this post has nothing to do with firearms beyond the brief mentions in this paragraph.

Mil Spec in this instance stands for ‘Mother-In-Law Specifications’. Having a MIL as a realtor and looking for an apartment can either be a valuable asset in our search to find a new place to live or it can be a challenge. While I don’t anticipate any problems in the process there is always the possibility but I guess you can say that about any realtor.

My wife and I have our list of what we want in an apartment and it really isn’t complicated. However, it is the gray area that usually determines the final outcome. I guess, for me, it comes down to treating my MIL as a realtor and, in this instance, setting aside the fact that we are part of the same extended family. There is a particular saying about opinions which will not be repeated at this time. Sometimes the opinion of a family member (weighted based on how closely you are related of course) makes a difference but there are other decisions that have to be made differently.

As a realtor, I will take her suggestions but once it goes beyond that and there is an attempt to add extra weight to those opinion, that is when we could run into some problems. It is for this reason that I have stated quite clearly, and I am now repeating, that I have no qualms about changing realtors during this process. I definitely know, and have them saved in my phone, other realtors in the area who would be happy to help.

That may seem cold to some but it allows for the separation of what needs to be done and the relationships I have with family members. I have done this my whole life and, up to this point, it has kept my professional life out of my family life (for the most part). Another thing to keep in mind is that this is more for the protection of my family as I am a different person when it comes to work in comparison to my personal family life. Some may use a certain unpleasant descriptor at times similar to donkey cave.

So, while there is nothing really wrong with Mil Spec, sometimes it is not the best option. You have to find what is right for you and what fits your needs. After all, Mil Spec represents one person, one view, and one way of doing things among a plethora of potential options.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

That Didn’t Last Long…

Moments after I posted my last blog the routine workday was cast aside for the scrambling that all too often occupies my work days. It is one of those frustrating cogs that may slow the progress but nothing that can’t be cleared with some hard work and, in this case, putting forth the effort to keep the opportunity alive. This, among other things, is what occupied my day… a day that was anything but routine but one that, in the end, balanced out. After all, the goal is to maintain balance.

In this instance, a customer decided to back out of a story with a large publication due to the potential exposure that comes with a high profile feature. On one hand I completely understand, on the other I am left with a ‘what the heck’ feeling as it is an opportunity that came about after considerable effort. Many would even say “I would definitely do it if given the opportunity” but that is not what I do. I can recommend from a strategic standpoint and highlight all of the benefits of such an opportunity but it is ultimately not my decision.

We work on behalf of our clients and, in this case, their customers. Our job is to balance the media opportunities with their goals, find the best matches, and pursue them until they happen. At the same time, there is a tremendous amount of trust that companies put in us to do what is in their best interest and that is what we do, not what we aim to do, this is what we do on a daily basis. Routine or chaos this is always the underlying current to the work that is done on any given day.

While many may see this as a somewhat restrictive position to find yourself in, it is anything but that and, in fact, there is great freedom in the work that I do. Both the strategy and creativity that we employ are limitless and has led to complete shifts in both perspective and approach of certain topic internally and, more importantly, in the media. How else are you going to keep it interesting when you speak to the same industry publications time and again about the same company?

You need to bring strategy, creativity, and energy to the process. All feed off of one another and being in an open work environment and with clients that understand, or attempt to understand, our role, support our process, and value our expertise. When you step back and look at the job, routine has nothing to do with schedules. Routine, in the best sense of the word, is bringing those three drivers with you to work, into meetings, and convey over the phone every day because those three things equate to passion. Passion is what you need to work in PR because passion is what gets results.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Back To The Monday Routine

After the craziness last week it was nice to the usual Monday routine. Come to think of it, we haven’t had a ‘normal’ Monday for some time now as we have been jumping from one project to another which pushed back our usual slate of Monday internal meetings to later in the week. While things are still as busy as ever, the lineup of meetings seems to have returned to their usual timing.

However, heading into this week I feel as though I am finally returning to normal and the deteriorated PR skills from my extended time away from the industry are beginning to regenerate. They have been there from the time I started this current job in one form or another but now there is marked growth with a return to my former productivity and efficiency within reach. It is hard to explain but I think the best analogy, and a clichéd one at that, is that if you let a car sit for a year it is going to take some time before you getting working efficiently again like it’s supposed to. Sure it will probably run as soon as you turn it on but there is going to be a lot of things wrong with it that you are going to have to address one by one. Eventually everything is fixed and things begin running smoothly again, like they should be.

Awkward analogy, part of one. Awkward analogy, part of one. Your blog post is ready.

After the success of last week now in the past, it is time to work on the other projects that have been put off or passed off over the last couple of weeks. With that said, there are still many opportunities that have come about from the work done and the meetings held last week with will be in addition to what is usually in the growing pile on the desk. But now there is a schedule that I can rely on until it is drastically changed over and over again. Hey, that is the business and industry in which I strive and what keeps things interesting during the week.

So, the routine survived today which is not bad. Sometimes you have to have a predictable day that allows you to cope with the insanity of the ‘normal’ schedule. I don’t know how long this planned out week will last but until the schedule falls apart I am going to enjoy the predictability for as long as it can hold out (or until we can’t take it anymore). Hey, we are a unique group of people, those in the PR industry, and sometimes we are at our best when the schedule goes to pot so when things are calm for too long we have to switch it up to maximize our productivity. I never said we were a normal bunch.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Home, Home On The Range…

As I mentioned yesterday, I discovered a range up where my wife and I are considering moving (Target World in Chalfont to be exact). Well, I had to check it out and see if it really was a bonus consideration or whether it was a non-issue. So, today, I had to head back up there and check it out. Besides, it is an easier drive than heading down to the Delaware boarder to my usual stress relief center. Plus, it actually worked out as I was able to get out of the house making it easier for my wife to get some classwork done. Got to love having a reason placed upon a tee.

The time that I spent on the range was more about getting my technique back rather than any sort of accuracy as I have only recently returned to the sport. In fact, many of the magazines were highly frustrating as I continued working on my grip and getting my sight picture back. Needless to say, the target was not kind to my efforts as my eyes, grip, and finger placement threw the lead all over the red and black. While the results may have been acceptable to some, it is not what I am capable of and therefore there is no picture of the target to share.

By the end of the session, I was just getting things to come around putting the bullet through the same hole at ten yards on many occasions (mostly with the last magazine). At that point I could have shot all day but there was a constant crowd waiting for a lane and I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’. Having packed everything into my range bag it was time to walk down the firing line and see what everyone else brought with them. Much of what I saw was the usual collection but one really caught my, and everyone else’s attention, which was the beast known as the Desert Eagle. Now I know that the recoil from the .44 Magnum chambering feels much like a 9mm. I’ll let you know when I am, finally, able to shoot the 50 AE version (now that has some kick).

From the range I walked into the shop and was just browsing around looking at all the magnificent engineering and machining in the cases when some of the sales people and customers alike began to ask me questions. This is normal as everyone wonders what guns people shoot, what your preferences are, and what you might think about another make and/or model. Of course, I was happy to discuss all of these things and before long I found myself in an interesting position when one of the men behind the counter offered me a weekend job.

This was a first and while I politely turned the offer down (which is still available if I should change my mind) it was a good feeling knowing that people believe I know enough to do the job. I know that I have more knowledge than some but recognize that I have far less than others. At the very least, it has motivated me to learn a little more and continue to work on the fundamentals so that my marksmanship is at least on par with what I know about firearms. It is just going to take some time and a lot of practice. Maybe there will even be some competitions in my future. But, for now, I just have to keep going back to the range and working on the fundamentals.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Where To Go? What To Do?

I have been having the constant debate with myself lately of whether or not we should move once our lease is up or whether we should stay where we are with the hope of saving enough money to buy our own place next year. I know which one makes the most sense but I also know what the best thing is for both of us. However, even with both of those considerations, it is not a clear cut decision as it would seem upon initial glance.

Where we are now is not a place where we are comfortable… we don’t enjoy the community that is around us and it leaves us needing to escape whenever we can by getting in the car and going somewhere else. The rent is great and the people we encounter in our own building are nice but the congested location and overall discomfort that we feel in the area doesn’t allow for us the relaxation that a ‘home’ should have. We know the area and it is close to family and friends but there is only so much that can tie us to a place where we are not comfortable.

We have looked for a place to move, somewhere that checked the majority of the boxes on our lists of what we are looking for in a community and a home. It has been a time consuming project that has occupied our minds and has put a number of miles on the car but it seems as though we have finally found a location for serious consideration north on Route 309. The prices are reasonable and the land, overall, seems less densely packed, both positives in our view. It is also close to all the stores that we would need on a regular basis which my wife prefers.

In the times we have visited is seems to be a comfortable area and also a location that meets our commuting requirements. While it keeps my wife’s commute the same, maybe a little shorter, it cuts my commute by nearly a third. However, when it comes to driving to work there are many more alternate routes for the two of us in comparison to our current location. As a bonus, there is at least one range about 5-10 minutes down the road which my wife is indifferent to by a definite perk for me.

What is overlooked time and again by many people is the simple cost of moving. We want to move north and be somewhere that is comfortable and convenient for both of us but it would seriously put a dent in our home owning aspirations and delay that goal by at least an additional year. But, the most important thing about a going home at the end of the day is being comfortable and looking forward to walking through the door. For that reason, it may be the most prudent to delay homeownership and move somewhere where we are comfortable and feel like we are at home.

But, really, it is still up in the air as I am sure my mind will go back and forth many times every 24 hour period. So, you are going to have to keep reading to find out if the move happens or if I will continue to write from the same apartment where this all started. What would you do in this situation?

Friday, March 21, 2014

I Ain’t No Spartan!

Hard to believe but we have already reached 300 blogs. Whether there has been 300 things to write about is a different story but somehow we managed to get through it. It is almost like an odd curiosity this blog. There are times when the posts reflect the things that happened during the day while there are other times when I just rant.

Writing every day has not been the easiest thing to do at times (just ask my wife) but it has kept me writing which was the whole objective of this endeavor. While there has been a lot of posts put up that I really wouldn’t miss if they happened to disappear, there are a few articles that I am glad that I took the time to record the day, my thoughts, stories from my family, or pictures from our numerous trips throughout the past 300 days. All of these things pretty much sum up me. The good and the bad. The interesting and the boring (boring is kind of tipping the scales at this point though).

Knowing that I will be recording my daily life has made me focus on what is going on around me and has motivated to do more rather than let the days just pass by unceremoniously. While that doesn’t always guarantee that I will be out and about going from one place or event to another, it has at least required me to stop and think. And while it may not be evident in some of the ramblings that you have encountered over the past 300 days, I have had to organize my thoughts on a daily basis in order to move on to the activities of the following day.

So what am I planning to write about for the next 65 posts? I have no idea. Like many of the previous posts, and this one, I don’t know what I will be posting. I don’t even know if I will continue posting on a daily basis once I have his the one year mark. Although I am pretty sure that my creative OCD won’t let me take a day off. Maybe there is something that you want to read about, maybe you are curious about my thoughts on a subject or places that you would like to see pictures of (keep it local people). Well, I have just over two months of guaranteed content that I have to fill so don’t pass up the chance.

And now, because it’s Friday and I can, I leave you with a drunk monkey!

Talk to you all tomorrow.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wrong Tense

Our Atlanta airport adventure was one that was filled with some interesting characters. It all began during my slow crawl through security where, for a change of pace, the TSA officers repeatedly instructed us to keep our jackets, shoes, and belts on; keep electronics in our carryon bags, and only remove items from our pockets that would set off the metal detector (really that meant only removing cell phones, keys, and loose change. This was much easier than the usual process so I was ready to go in no time.

However, this wasn’t good enough for the woman in front of me who stubbornly refused to walk through the metal detector. First the excuse was that it was an invasion of her privacy. When that didn’t work she moved on to the ‘it causes cancer’ argument. When both of those failed to achieve her desired result, she mumbled countless complaints under her breath as she darted through the checkpoint like a cat caught in the rain. PITA’s like that shouldn’t fly.  

A little later during our time in airport limbo, having just been notified that our departure was delayed due to bad weather in the Philadelphia area, my colleague and I readjusted our luggage and hunkered down for an extended stay at the Atlanta airport. By this time, evening was beginning to creep over the horizon and everyone was eager to get on the plane and in the air. This was only exacerbated by the fact that we just witnessed the flight to Phoenix just complete the boarding and close the doors to the terminal. At least someone was going somewhere.

Needless to say the restlessness and slight boredom was slowly taking hold of the awaiting passengers. What we needed was a distraction. Something to occupy our minds until the decision to board was finally announced over the speakers. As if on cue, a flustered and disheveled woman walked quickly to the gate on the opposite end of the waiting room. We all knew where she was going but sometimes the greatest entertainment is in the reaction.

Someone missing there flight is nothing new but the uniqueness of the response is something that I have never witnessed firsthand before. You could tell by the mumbling, pacing, and anger that this was going to be good. With the situation building and the knocks on the gate door echoing across the terminal, we all shifted in our seats to get a better view as the drama unfolded. And you know what, unlike a lot of movies that clog the theaters, this performance didn’t disappoint.

As soon as we all turned, got ourselves comfortable, and began looking for the popcorn the woman slamming he fist on the door decided to change tactics. After a quick check out the window to make sure the plane was still at the gate, she returned to the desk near the door and instead of using her fist she decided to use her voice so she picked up the microphone and made an announcement over the load speakers… “US Airways personnel needed as Gate D23. A passenger is about to miss her flight!”

This ‘announcement’ was repeated, as if in an OCD loop, for about ten minutes. The one thing that kept running through my mind is that she might want to consider changing the tense in that statement because your butt isn’t getting on that plane. Her voice was a mix of both panic and pissed. You could tell that she desperately wanted to get on that plane but you could also sense that this wasn’t the first time she has found herself in this situation. Just when we thought the vain throbbing below her neck tattoo was about to burst, a woman opened the gate door and stepped behind the desk making sure that the door was closed securely behind her.

I give the US Airways employee credit because she managed to hold her ground while calming the incessant passenger. In what was an anticlimactic conclusion, the woman hovered above the computer screen while alternate arrangements were made. Before long, the matted haired woman stormed off and made her way to some other part of the terminal (either the new gate or the bar). And in a moment of perfect choreography, the announcement was made for passengers to begin boarding our flight home.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Last Call: Time To Head Home

After an exceedingly long night, I woke up an hour early to begin my last day in Atlanta. While the show seemed to be winding down a bit, the day was packed from end to end with meetings and potential meetings. With little sleep the past three nights I was at the point of nearly staggering to our morning breakfast meeting. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and make it seem like you just slept for ten hours and you are fully awake and rearing to go for a new day.

I made it to the restaurant in the hotel lobby right on schedule and immediately found a couple of people to reconnect with from Monday. While I am sure they are pleasant individuals anyway, the editors were very friendly and greeted me more like a long lost friend than simply a PR person who set up a meeting earlier in the week. This is the kind of meeting that really motivates me to go back to their publication with great stories. You can be sure that I will be talking with them again in the near future.

The meeting was, to say the least, productive and could potentially lead to many more trips down to the Atlanta area over the next year. Not sure how my wife will feel about this but it is a darn good business opportunity and I am glad that I was able to be a part of the initial conversation. After breakfast, my colleague and I headed back to our rooms, packed our bags, and dropped them off at the front desk so that we could pick them up later in the afternoon when we were finally ready to begin the journey back home.

We got back to the show floor just as the doors were being opened and it didn’t take long before we were pulled aside to speak with a few more reporters and analysts that decided to stop by this morning. This was the final push that put the event over the top and what finally allowed me to check this off as a success in my own mind. The total finally got into the double digits and met he expectations that have been constantly been running like a banner in Times Square in the forefront of my mind. Even though we were only on the floor for a little over two hours, it was well worth putting that extra effort in to the morning.

While all of this is happening, Classroom Day was in full swing as multiple groups made their way around the convention center speaking to those booths that decided to participate, including ours. When these high school students come around you can't help but wonder if years from now they will be at this very same show working for one of the companies. If that is the case, I hope that their stop at our booth played some small role in their life trajectory. Who knows, if could happen.

From the show room floor we made our way back to the hotel and into another meeting. This time we were meeting with an existing client that, while keeping us a little extra busy as of late, she has been a great person to work with and one that completely understands what we do (not everyone understands PR). Being able to meet the client does add another dimension of motivation when it comes to the daily grind that can sometime try to get the best of us. Knowing the person behind the projects makes you push a little harder and a little longer.   

After the lunch meeting we retrieved our bags, got in a cab, and returned to the chaos of the airport. We arrived a little earlier than we both prefer but it allowed us to take our time and not rush for the first time all week. After a slight delay that left my yawning in the US Airways waiting area, we boarded the small plane and took off knowing that the turbulence upon arrival was going to make this an interesting flight. Surprisingly, the landing in the rain was uneventful as my stomach decided to relax for once and allowed me to feel human as we disembarked from the cabin.

By the time we got to baggage claim my wife was already well on her way to pick me up and it wasn’t long before my colleague and I officially concluded our productive trip in high spirits and I was in the car on my way back to the apartment. Today I woke up in Georgia and went to bed back home in Pennsylvania. Tomorrow things will return to normal as my routine resumes with an early wake up and commute to the office. The difference being that now is the time to follow up on everything from this week rather than the past two weeks which has been focused on prep.

Weeks like this may be the most tiring part of my job but it is also part of what I love about what I do for a living. It is a time when I work hard without working. While I am sure there is a definition or at least a more concise way of expressing this sentiment but what really defines it is the experience which can’t really be conveyed accurately in a way that would be universally understood. It’s just one of those things that you know when you are in the middle of it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Modex Day Two: I’m Beat!

Day one at Modex was a success and, while exhausted and walking slightly above a stumble, I was looking forward to day two at the show. Today was ‘stop by’ day when I was looking forward to meeting the media members who were not able to set up a specific time during the week but assured me that they would stop by at some point during the show. Actually, there was also a scheduled video interview in the early afternoon that consisted of preapproved questions and some uncomfortable makeup.

By the time we departed the booth in the early evening we had added three more media interviews to the six from yesterday. Having spoken to nine publications in the past two show days, we all made our way up to sublevel three to partake of unique cocktails and relaxing conversations. This, of course, extended our day well into the evening and we were all ready to head off as a team and enjoy what has been a, so far, successful event.

It should also be noted that the attendance at the show today was much greater than that of day one and the constant waves of people reverberated back and forth across the hall with many of them stopping at our booth to find out more about the company and the technology. It is actually commonplace for the first day to be the lead up and the event to peak over the second and third days but something else coming into play was the fact that it wasn’t raining when the doors opened at 10:00 am. It may have been cold this morning but it wasn’t wet.

Sitting around the dinner table, at a restaurant right near the hotel and show location, it was the first time since we arrived on Sunday that I began to relax. I wasn’t, and still am not, at the lean back stage but we passed the point today of all the work previously put in starting to pay off. The interviews were happening, the coverage was beginning to come to fruition, and the client seemed satisfied with our efforts. It was time to breathe just a little bit.

Maybe the best part of this all is that this is already at a point that it has set the new standard for us to surpass next year and we still have a half day to go tomorrow. While I don’t expect a lot more, it would be nice to check one or two more media members off my list. Tomorrow will really determine if I will be able to lean back on the flight or if I will be wondering what could have been done differently in order to get one or two more people in the booth. I wonder which one it will be.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cloudy With A Chance Of Modex!

I woke up this morning in Atlanta, Georgia and the sun is nowhere to be found. Honestly, I didn’t realize that fact until I made it down to the lobby and walked into the restaurant to have some breakfast to begin the day. Not having an extensive track record with trade shows, I was quite nervous about the day and also eager to get things going. Of course, that might have been the lack of nicotine as well.

After a breakfast that was actually pretty tasty, I ran back up to the room to grab my badge for the event and made my way back down to the ground floor to try and ease my nerves. With freshly washed hands and a mint tingling my tongue, we gathered in the lobby and braced ourselves for the dash to the convention center next door through the bitter rain which seemed to plan its fall to coincide with the beginning of the show.

We were right on time in our decent below ground to the showroom floor and the closer we got, with each successive escalator, the crowd seemed to become denser and denser. The local weather combined with the natural events in other parts of the country delaying and cancelling flights, it was a shadow of the 25,000 expected to attend but it was still a healthy flow. Finally on the floor, we turned left and headed to the booth arriving just as the first of many scheduled interviews was to begin.

Without a wasted second, the introductions began as soon as my foot hit the booth carpet. That first interview set the tone for the rest of the day as everyone was on time, the conversations we all productive, and it left us with a great relationship that we look forward to building in the future. The sum it up, the media thus far have all been fantastic and I am looking forward to speaking with each and every one of them again in the near future.

With meetings booked throughout the day, from the 10:00 am open to the 5:00 pm close, the day was over before we knew it and we were all walking out of the convention center wonder where the day had gone. We all went back to our rooms to recover for an hour before reconvening across the street for some wings, burgers, and libations. The evening was filled with relaxing conversation and was a great opportunity to get to know everyone a little better.

I enjoy these times when I am able to learn a little bit more about those I work with each week. After two hours of entertaining conversations where we were able to find both differences and commonalities with one another, we finally called it a day. Time to go back to the room, get some work done, and try to sleep as much as possible. Day one done and things couldn’t have gone any better. The fact that we didn’t have to deal with Philly snow again was just a bonus.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Where Am I Going Now?

Anyone recognize the location?

Today was one where I struggled to stay on schedule. While my flight wasn’t scheduled until 2:15 pm, there were a lot of things that needed to be done before I could head out the door. I stayed up late last night in the hope that I could get everything done but I kind of knew going into it that it was more of a hope than a reality. So, half conscious, I got myself out of bed in the mid-morning and immediately started to get a number of pushed back projects done.

I am always slightly surprised at how quickly I am able to pack my ravel bag. It does help that I have gotten myself into the habit of only taking a carry on and my work bag with me but it doesn’t prevent me from trying to pack as much as I can into these two pieces of travel gear. While I was getting my clothes together and pairing down the overflow of paper in my daily work bag, my wife was busy in the office. She wasn’t working on any of her projects, rather she was making the copies of the briefing book that would be needed at my final destination.

We got out the door slightly behind schedule but still within a reasonable timeframe. Even though we spent the entire trek to the airport dodging potholes (at least most of them) and dealing with the countless drivers lacking in common sense, I was still getting out of the car at the US Airways terminal with about an hour and a half before takeoff. Thankfully the kiosk and security were nearly deserted and I was able to make it to the departure gate in a record 15 minutes.

Boarding was uneventful, even with my colleague having to backtrack in the airport to find her forgotten coat, and I was able to find room for my bags, take my seat, and prepare for one of my least favorite activities. While the line waiting to get on the runway resembled the traffic commonly found on the Schuylkill Expressway, we were up in the air in no time or that is what is seemed like as time seems to go by rather quickly when I am chatting up my fellow passengers.

There was a little turbulence in the air but, for the most part, I slept through much of the flight. Unfortunately, my neck and shoulders reminded me later of the fact that I had slept on a plane. Our arrival at the gate was delayed slightly by the refusal to push back by a departing flight but at this point he flying part was over and I was again talking with everyone around me. Once we got off the plane, we immediately headed to baggage claim (not everyone sticks to carry-ons), hopped in a cab, and headed downtown.

What was anticipated to be sunny and warm was anything but pleasant upon our arrival with the building disappearing in the sky. After checking in, grabbing our first meal of the day, and a quick meeting it was time to head to the room to get a few last minute things done and rest for the hectic week ahead. All the preparations now complete, the week was ready to begin. Here we go!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Day In Elizabethtown

Normally I would be sleeping in on the weekend especially with a busy week ahead of me. However, this morning I found myself having very bitter thoughts toward my alarm clock as it repeatedly refused to shut up at 6:30 this morning. My wife wasn’t pleased either.

I was up and on the road by about 7:15 with at least an hour and a half drive ahead of me. It was time to head to the Secretary Seminar in Elizabethtown. I have been to this particular Masonic Village before so I knew which way I needed to go and, more importantly, which way not to go. I arrived about 10 minutes before the session was about to start, wove in-between the brothers rushing to a meeting of the Academy of Masonic Knowledge, and immediately found a seat in the back and pulled out my computer to fill in the repetitive moments with a few items that I needed to take care of for the week ahead.

Overall, mush of the information that was covered comprised of things that I have picked up along the way but there were a few moments when things were clarified and I was finally able to move forward with projects that have persistently been pushed back. The most important aspects included the digitization of lodge records which we can now proceed unhindered in our goal of making our records more accessible, compact, and efficient. In addition to this back office knowledge, I learned more about the efforts to shorten the lodge meetings and, therefore, making my job during stated meetings a heck of a lot easier. It is nothing that is difficult to begin with but now there is a lot less time involved.

The upgrading of the online database and email was the most prominent topic of presentation and discussion throughout the day. While there are many changes coming that are designed to make things more efficient, I am going to hold off on forming an opinion until the beta test which I signed up for. There were many good and dedicated men in the room and I had the pleasure of getting to know a few of them.

One of the most dedicated men that I was fortunate to meet during my time in Lancaster County was not present at the seminar. After the meeting concluded, I stopped by to visit with a three times Past Master of my lodge to pay my respects. His wife of 59 years had passed away during the week and I wanted to make a point to let him know that we, his brothers, are there for him should he need us for anything. It was a difficult visit but one that made the trip worth the effort and made me glad that I chose this day to attend the seminar over all others. After all, we are more than a fraternity, we are brothers, we are family.  

Friday, March 14, 2014


This week was one of constant flow. Not a give and take, there was no ebb present, it was a week of putting my head down and producing. With a heard deadline looming on Sunday, I had no choice but to put the additional hours in at night. Even though I was only at lodge one night this past week, I did not manage to get home before 8 each day of the week. Even tonight.

Just because I was out of the office didn’t mean that the work would stop. In addition to the late nights there were late nights of work which usually left me with about 5 hours of sleep per night. While even during the busy weeks I would have time to crash and recover over the weekend. This was a uniquely overloaded work week that is easily carrying over to the weekend. These tedious tasks will be in addition to the day long travel and training at the annual Secretary Seminar in Elizabethtown (about an hour and a half to two hours away).

You will be reading more about both the Secretary Seminar and the work deadline in future posts. Now, understand, both of these things I have been looking forward to but I would have liked them spread out a little more than they are. The problem is simple in that all the events on my schedule seem to be lumped together. This was not my choice it was just something that seems to be happening as the gravitational pull from these large calendar blocks refuse to fight one another.

These kinds of weeks are not good for me, or for those around me. Not only am I constantly going but I tend to get some serious tunnel vision and anything that breaks that focus is met with some level and form of unpleasantness. I guess you could say that this is where the real similarities present themselves to addition and why they call people workaholics. You get the same type of attitude and reaction when you try and take a drink away from an alcoholic as you do when you break the focus of a workaholic in the middle of a project deadline.

The only thing that has interrupted me from work this week have been meals and other work. For instance, while this blog is written for fun, this week I had to treat it as a job in order to get things done. Sometimes that is the solution to these situations, you have to view things through the work lense, even things that have nothing to do with work like fun projects, meals, relaxation, and sleep have to be treated as necessary to getting the job done. It may not be pleasant, it may not be healthy, but it is something that has to be done on occasion in order to maintain functionality.

It can’t be done all the time but for short stints, like the one that I am currently in the middle of, it works. I may not have been the most pleasant or patient person but it has gotten me to this point which, granted, is still a little behind where I should be but I am much further along than if I treated this week like any of the other 51. However, I am going to have to make up for this in the coming weeks in order to restore some balance. We will see to what extent that actually happens but, for now, back to work.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

That Is The Way To Go!

Part of my duties as Secretary has been to relay the passing of Brothers and, most recently, the wives and widows of brothers. I have shared this aspect of the job with you previously. However, my sister posted something on her Facebook wall a few days ago that brought a little lightness to the subject. The levity comes in the form of the obituary of Walter George Bruhl Jr. Yes, an obituary but this one is a little bit different in that Walter, knowing the certainty of his eventual end, penned the reflection himself. Some of the highlights:

Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach is a dead person; he is no more; he is bereft of life; he is deceased; he has rung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible; he has expired and gone to meet his maker….

He was surrounded by his loving wife of 57 years, Helene Sellers Bruhl, who will now be able to purchase the mink coat which he had always refused her because he believed only minks should wear mink…

Walt was preceded in death by his tonsils and adenoids in 1935; a spinal disc in 1974; a large piece of his thyroid gland in 1988; and his prostate on March 27, 2000...

There will be no viewing since his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so he would appear natural to visitors….

Cremation will take place at the family's convenience, and his ashes will be kept in an urn until they get tired of having it around. What's a Grecian Urn? Oh, about 200 drachmas a week…

While many have found humor and inspiration in the words, I find it entertaining because I can hear myself saying the same thing at the end. It is probably something that I could schedule to be posted on this blog if I knew the time were fast approaching. That would put an interesting twist. Maybe I could arrange a call them all and record something on my death bed. That would be a little messed up but damn would it be funny…

“Hi ____, just wanted to let you know that I’m dead. John Cleese will be by soon to pick me up so don’t worry about making arrangements. I will post additional details about my death later today on my blog. It will include all arrangements that have been made. Oh, and if I don’t respond to your comments right away it’s because I’m dead! Anyway, that’s about all for now. Maybe I’ll see you later. Bye.”

That would be the general message to friends and family. Of course, I would have to keep a few people off of that list because this would be the perfect time to record a message to call out dead from work. Hey, I don’t plan on retiring, so this one is a possibility. Then I could end the call by asking for bereavement time to mourn my own passing.

While none of us look forward to that day, it is the eventual sunset (actually it would be more of a night fall) that we know is on the other side of the horizon we just don’t know how far. It is going to happen so why not have a little fun on the way out. Of course, why not have a little fun every day and enjoy the humor that is all around us if you just pay attention. If anything, by his obituary going viral, that is the real legacy that Walter has left behind.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Think I Agreed With Obama And I Feel Sick!

Yes, I said it. I agree with the President. It occurred a month ago and it felt a little odd, like I was getting sick or passing a stone. I wasn’t sure at the time what to make of the feeling but then I realized that the nauseated feeling churning in the pot of my stomach was caused by me agreeing with one simple statement uttered by Obama at the national prayer breakfast in Washington, DC. During that event he uttered the words "around the world, freedom of religion is under threat."

Obviously, I wasn’t motivated at the time to blog about this strange feeling but certain actions by the Department of Justice have motivated me to finally sit down and write about this one moment when the hell was buried by a blizzard. Actually, it was something I read this week, a local news story that has gone international that served as the catalyst for this post. As was reported at United Press International (UPI), the DOJ is doing wonders for the public school budget in Philadelphia:

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court alleging that the School District of Philadelphia’s grooming policy is discriminatory.

The federal lawsuit claims that the policy discriminates against employees who don’t trim their beards because of religious reasons. District rules currently prevent school police and security officers from having beards that are more than a quarter of an inch long.

According to the suit, school police officer Siddiq Abu-Bakr’s Islamic faith requires him to allow his beard to grow. He had allowed his beard to grow uncut for 27 years while working for the district before being informed that he had to trim it via a written reprimand. Abu-Bakr was told continuing to violate the policy would result in “further disciplinary action.”

Abu-Bakr filed a religious discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the matter was referred to the DOJ.

“No employee should be forced to violate his religious beliefs in order to earn a living,” Spencer Lewis Jr., the director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, said in a statement. “Modifying a dress or grooming code is a reasonable accommodation that enables employees to keep working without posing an undue hardship on the employer.”

While the beard policy is a bit questionable (remember this does apply to religious Jews and Muslims alike) should it really be part of the DOJ’s purview to sue the Philadelphia public schools. Seems more like a waste of time and money, tax payer money. But, in light of my recent revelation, I am moved to support this fight for religious freedom and the expression thereof. While we may not understand many religions it doesn’t mean we should limit them, right? It is a right protected by the first amendment and we know that, as someone who taught constitutional law, the President would do anything to fight for the rights affirmed in the constitution.

Certainly, the DOJ will continue to fight for the religious freedom that we all enjoy and have the full support of this current administration. They would never force someone to do something against their religious beliefs. They would fight for us to make sure those rights are not infringed.

Wait, what’s that? What did you just scream at the screen? Hobby what?  

Oh, that’s right. The DOJ, with the full support of this administration, selectively fights for the religious freedom of the people. Those they don’t agree with they tend to get very angry and judgmental and fight to quash there overly conservative, outdated ideals because if it is not something they believe then it can’t be true and must be suppressed. If that weren’t bad enough, throw in Obamacare and we really have a constitutional CF on our hands. As Ed Whelan write in The National Review:

The pertinent legal question under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause is whether the massive fines that an employer faces for providing an employee health plan that does not comply with the HHS mandate substantially burden the employer’s exercise of religion. As Hobby Lobby spells out (pp. 34-44 of its brief), the answer to that question is clearly “yes” under the Court’s precedents. Indeed, “‘a fine imposed for adherence to religious beliefs is as direct and obvious a burden as one could imagine.” (Brief at 36-37.)… But a victory for Hobby Lobby will not change the fact that the decision whether or not to use embryo-killing drugs or devices will remain entirely with the employees. What it will mean is that employers will not be dragooned to be complicit in conduct that violates their religious consciences.  

Oh, wait, that’s right, Obama doesn’t really care about our rights or the constitution. I am starting to feel much better now. It might have just been gas but I think the origination of the stench was from an external source. All it took was a reminder of how much the President enjoys lying to us all, liberal and conservative alike, as a means to further his own agenda. This is the reason why he picks and choses which amendments to support and which ones he tries to rip from the parchment. And the ones he does ‘support’ only apply to those with whom he agrees.

This is, at the very least, a disturbing stance which has been adopted by both the President and the Department of Justice. We must be vocal in our opposition to such hypocrisy and pay particularly close attention to those who promote ‘ideals’ that are supported by selective adherence to the Constitution! That is our responsibility to ourselves and to our country.