International Competition

Lunch today involved a very interesting discussion. I happen to have a very good friend who was actually born in Korea and moved to the United States when he was a young child. We both enjoy the same types of TV shows and movies which often involve some form of martial arts theme – As previously mentioned, I have spent almost 18 years studying martial arts and my friend has been immersed in the genre from his heritage. A significant portion of our lunch time conversations generally focus on critiquing shows/movies we have recently seen or our progress on Rock Band (yes, we are both hooked ever since he introduced me to Guitar Hero I on PS2). The conversation today started with my summarization of the previous night’s American Gladiator. Okay, okay, let me confess – I did my run routine on the treadmill and ended up pushing myself a little farther than I wanted to. I ended up laying down on the couch and was literally too exhausted to reach for the remote, so I ended up watching whatever station was on. To my disgust, it ended up being the new American Gladiator show.

After watching it for about 15 minutes, I figured out the formula – this ultimately led to a distinction between the Asian culture and ours – but first I’ll explain my observation.

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The Build Up to Deflation

I was in Best Buy today to pick up some more external storage.  As is always the case, I have to traverse all the way to the back of the store to get the only item I was in there to acquire.  This tends to annoy me, but has the side benefit of giving me lots of opportunities to make other observations.  One that stuck out on this trip occurred as I was passing by the Rock Band display.  For the 1% of the population that might not be aware of what this is, think of it as a console game (Xbox 360, PS2/3 etc.) that allows the players to simulate being a musician or singer through a plastic controller that at least looks like an instrument – the guitar plays nothing like a real guitar, but tries to emulate fretting one string while strumming with the other hand – the drums are a little more realistic in the sense you have a kick pedal and four contact pads.  Walking slowly past the display, I noticed a guy excitedly talking to his wife (assumed) about the game and how fun it looked.  His eyes were as wide as Christmas day as he tried to explain all the things you could do with it.  His enthusiasm reminded me of the Red Rider BB gun plea from Ralphie.  Just before I went beyond earshot, I heard her say “Well, ask him” in a much less enthusiastic voice.   I pondered that a few more paces while finally reaching the storage isle. 

My assumption was he wanted to ask the clerk something but it turns out I was wrong about that.  I actually took about 20 minutes trying to decide how many gigs of storage to buy – do I go with the Terabyte for convenience and accept the risk of losing a greater amount of data, or do I go with twin 500Gs and cut the loss risk in half…. My IT career has trained me to assume the worst on anything computer related so I went with the 500s… but I have strayed from topic.. Retracing my steps back to the front, I once again passed the display and sure enough they were still there, but this time their child (probably 10-11 or so) was with them.  The Dad tried to keep his excitement in check as he asked if he “would like to get Rock Band”.   While he reached down to pick up the box in anticipation of the answer, the kid replied with a firm “No”.  In that split second, I saw the man go from real excitement to complete devastation – his face lost color, the eyes drooped and the shoulders shrugged under the now heavy weight of the box.   To be honest, I haven’t seen a high to low moment like that in awhile.  Clearly the excitement was based on the fun he was going to have, but he needed the child’s assistance to make that happen.   It actually made me wonder back on the times my Dad may have needed an assist and I failed to deliver.

The worst part of it all…. I know exactly how much enjoyment he is missing out on since (sad to say) I am completely addicted to the Rock Band drums.


Sorry for the delays between posts, work has made for some rather long days as of late.  In fact, I have some reports due tonight so I only have time for quick entry.  Last Sunday, I witnessed something I have never seen before.  No, it wasn’t the overconfident Patriots being overwhelmed by the 12 point underdogs.  At around 3:15pm central, thunder and lightening rolled in.  This seemed a bit odd, but panic soon set in because we were having people over to watch the “Big Game” – rain has the potential to disrupt our satellite signal and that is the very last thing I wanted to happen.  The good news is it did not rain… nope.  it starting snowing.. that’s right, I’ll let it sink in.  So the cloudy sky was lighting up, the thunderclaps were shaking the house and the snow was coming down so hard you literally could not see more than 50 ft.  – not to mention it was accumulating fast.  We ended up losing half our guests (some even had to turn back after half way here – we live in the country and the roads were blowing shut), but we luckily did not lose our HD signal the entire game (ended up using an antenna to pull in the local over air signal (Dish doesn’t carry local HD stations yet).

I am not sure how much we ended up getting that night (at least 3-4 inches), but we did learn by example from my nephew,  when added to the 5.5 inches already on the ground there is no way a rear-wheel mustang is making it through – ended up having to push him 300 feet out our neighbor’s driveway (long story, don’t ask 8^)

Anyway, it is the first time I’ve ever experienced Thundersnow – and do not bother commenting on Global Warming since it is currently freezing outside.

 Oh, and my vote for best “Big Game” commercial…. the stock trading baby who bought a clown…. the “understimating the weirdness” line killed me since I absolutey dislike clowns!

A Kindergarten Refresher

Today’s topic is all about spatial relationships.  Since the source of the observation probably never took an ACT or similar competency assessment, I will try to generalize the key point with an image of a familiar toy everyone hopefully had as a small child.  Yes, I am talking about the Shape O Toy which apparently Tupperware decided didn’t need the most gimmicky name to market – at least they didn’t use Stickie One Thingy into Another Thingy.  I fired up Paint Shop Pro and created some quick images to help everyone out.  Ironically, this is about spatial relationship and some of my bevels are a little off, but I was rushing it.  Anyway, let’s say this is our toy:
Shape O Toy

The object of course is to get all of the shapes into the center of the toy.  To do that, you locate the object, match up to an opening on the ball, align the shape to the direction of the cutout, slip it through and clap your hands while proclaiming your mastery of all things geometrical.  I think you get the picture, but unfortunately, there are people out there that apparently don’t understand it.  I am not sure if this is just arrogance on the part of individuals or we have a kindergarten epidemic that must be addressed immediately. 

Why have I come to this conclusion, well, let me tell you about the same observation I have had over and over and over. 

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Yeah for Wal-Mart

Something incredible was happening to Peoria on December 4th 2007.  Were we welcoming home our military cargo/transport heroes home from Iraq.. nope.  Were we completing our multi-year revamp of one of the oldest sections of I-74 to enhance the driving experience for our visitors.. nope.  Hold on to your seats now…. Michigan State’s glorious basketball team was coming to play our Bradley Braves.  I know, I know you’re giddy just thinking about it.  So, Michigan State, representing their 46,045 students ,was coming to take on the Bradley Braves with a 2006 enrollment of 6,127.  Truly a David and Goliath moment.  It was so big that ESPN was going to carry it.  We’ve hit the big time now.  The big night came, the lucky ones got tickets to Carver Arena to witness the historic event in person, while others popped their popcorn, poured their drinks and settled into their favorite chairs.  It was a close game, but the Braves fell short of toppling the mighty Spartans 66-61. …. and then things started taking an ugly turn.

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Etching Behaviors

I am closing out the last remaining hour of my birthday and figured I would go ahead and comment on something I witnessed yesterday.  As I was exiting my workplace I caught a lady out of the corner of my eye (loving the LASIK by the way) on the opposite side of the street.  She was holding onto a young child (probably around 5) and bending down to talk to him.   For an unknown reason, I quickly formulated what was going to happen and this discussion that was taking place was to make sure everyone knew the game plan.  They were actually standing between two parallel parked cars just off the curb in the street.  She pointed to my side of the street a couple of times and motioned her arms in an exaggerated running manner obviously trying to convey speed.  This she reiterated a couple of times until she felt the kid understood the mechanics of what was about to happen.  Keep in mind, that this is a three lane one way street in the middle of downtown and used pretty heavily (flowing from her right to left).  She looked to the right, looked to the left (probably a good thing since more than once I’ve seen someone coming the other way), looked back to the right, clinched the kids hand and they started to sprint across the street. 

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I Trump the Soft Card

I woke up the other day, flipped on the TV and witnessed someone reaching deep inside themselves to reveal a sensitive, emotional, caring soul tortured by all that is wrong in the world.  As this person struggled to overcome the stress of the situation and hold back the tears of frustration, I found myself thinking about two things.  

The first of these centered upon public displays of emotions.   I do not consider myself a cold person,  but I was not raised to let emotions control my actions or influence my decisions.  My father is a role model for rock steady and always a voice of reason or support in any tough situation.  I am sure there were times when he felt scared, saddened or uncertain, but I do not remember a single time when he showed that side of the situation when my brothers and I needed guidance, a helping hand or calming in an uncomfortable situation.  Did he inherit this trait from his parents, is it a byproduct of tougher times, a necessary characteristic of being a soldier in the Korean War, a conscious decision to raise his children to meet the demands of life or a union of all of these?  I honestly don’t know the reason, but what I do know from past experience is to trust the calm, focused and confident individual who found the door out and not the person crying in the corner.  I have also spent many years in martial arts and competed against numerous opponents.  During the seconds we were touching gloves, I was focused on one and only one thing.   If he was looking down, he didn’t want to be there, if he was raging in my face he was likely to fall victim to every feint …. but the guy who locked on to your eyes and seemingly stared right past you had a mission and a confident plan to get there and therefore … a dangerous opponent…

 And then there was the second thing ….

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Weather Alert: γκρίζος

Today I had to drop by an OSF Prompt Care to have something checked (for those that know me, it was not because of another sports injury, but based on my history, that was probably a good guess).  Strangely enough, it was actually about 60 degrees out in the midwest.  I do not believe in Global Warming (along with at least 400 other top scientists), but this just happens to be a little strange for early January, particularly since it was suppose to rain and some dark clouds were rolling in.  While waiting for the nurse to take me back to see the doctor, a piercing siren blast came over the intercom followed by the statement “Weather Alert Grey, Weather Alert Grey” … followed by another siren blast.  I noticed that the various employees really didn’t take any action or for that matter show any real concern.  Curious, I started looking around in hopes of seeing some form of Rosetta Stone to help my decypher what exactly a Grey level alert was.  No such aid existed (at least that I could find during my cursory investigation).  I sat back down and sure enough the exact same alert came over the speakers again.  Finally catching a nurse’s eye, I gave the universal “what gives” command (you know, shoulders scrunched, palms up) in hopes she would give me some kind of clue.  Her response was to not be concerned until in gets to BLACK.  Now I am fascinated.  Not only did I not know what Grey was, there is apparently another color that is even worse – based on the color wheel I am guessing the darker the color the greater the threat to my well being.  “So what is Grey?” I asked and promptly learned that it meant a Tornado Watch…. yes I followed up, Black is a Tornado Warning.  So there you have it, if you are ever in a situation that uses a similar warning system, you can simply refer back to this entry.  I say refer since I doubt you will remember what the two colors I gave you are and what is more alarming to me is that it is not even intuitive.  Would it be too difficult to simply call out the specific alert…. Weather Alert: Dangerous Swirly Wind Thingy Possible.  I guess I may not understand the details on this scale, but what I do know is Grey in this context might as well have been Greek which is not exactly my language of choice in emergency situations.

Any Which Way But In

Last night I decided I require consistency in my life.  I came to this conclusion while attending the incredible Trans Siberian Orchestra concert at the Peoria Civic Center – which by the way is hands down the best rock concert you will ever attend – lights, pyro and high distortion shredding all at a reasonable price.  I’ll probably have an article in the future about my 3rd time seeing them, but my awakening came from a trip to the restroom.   If you recall my first journal entry, pedestrian traffic in the U.S. tends to follow the vehicle traffic which is rightside in, leftside out.  So as expected there are two doors to the men’s bathroom and by habit directed myself to the right side.  Just before entering I notice there are white letters painted on a yellow background that read “OUT”.  At first I was a little startled since I didn’t see them at all from the other side of the hall – then again, white on bright yellow is not the most genius color selection.  Having seen it though, it was very apparent I was about to go in the wrong side which has a tendency to get those waiting in line pretty irate (including yours truly if you have not already noticed my attention to line etiquette).  So, I was left with a self-conscious diversion to the left side door and took my proper place in line. 

Slowly this began nagging at me.  What would compel an architect to design against the standard?

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A Line Violation

Happy New Year’s Everyone!

 I thought I would cover a topic that is generally more prevalent during the holiday season but something we all run into at least once or twice a week.  That topic is waiting line etiquette.  I have always argued that the only fair approach to merchant lines is a single line with fan out.  Specifically this means that there is a single line that all customers begin in.  At the end of this line you disperse out to an open register.  This insures a true FIFO (first in first out) that insure a fair treatment of all customers and no one is victimized by a particularly slow checkout employee, unacceptable price checks because the merchant failed the customer by not effectively labeling or programming the price of an item or god forbid the two parties decide it is chat time.  Unfortunately, only a few merchants appreciate their customers enough to impose this order at the registers (note, failure to plan enough space to do this in the register area is not an acceptable excuse).  I will give Best Buy, Taco Bell and Burger King props for consistently using this checkout model.   Often times I will attempt to initiate this myself by standing back a couple feet from the registers in hopes that at least two other people understand that this is really the fastest approach in the long run (there is a chance you might pick the fastest checkout, but I’ll bet you will fail more than you will succeed).  Note, I say two people because I have found through trial and error that this is the key number – as long as those two other people hold the line, others feel obligated to conform – and thus everyone wins. 

 My recent observation not only did not have the optimal line approach, there was clearly what I call a line violation – translated – someone decided they were more important than the other individuals waiting in line before them.

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