31 December 2011

Well, this was a wasted year on Duey's Brain

2011 has been one hell of a year.  So many things as life whizzes by.

Unfortunately in August, things went a little haywire with life and in early September my Father-in-Law passed away suddenly.

Since then it's been even more hectic as this came totally out of the blue.  I've tried to be supportive to my wife and her family and a lot of time has been spent helping out my Mother-in-Law adjust to all of these changes as well as some personal ones she's going through.

So I do love posting to the blog but I have to be honest, it will likely stay quiet for a little bit longer until we can get things finally under control.

I am very thankful for all the support, love, laughter and insight that my family, friends and co-workers have given to me in 2011 and I endeavor to give back to them, more than they give to me in 2012.

Happy New Year everyone.  Be safe and enjoy life.

05 October 2011

Ode to a Genius (one of a million going out tonight)

Steve Jobs, you were intelligent enough to probably realize the impact you've had on so many lives.  If you didn't, well, you're FB/Twitter feeds are blowing up to prove it.

I will never EVER forget the impact of the commercial your company made for the 1984 Superbowl.  I was a Senior in High School and had about 2 years of BASIC programming skills under my belt which I unfortunately learned NOT on Apple products.

My first Mac was the Mac Plus (1988) with an external 45MB Seagate hard drive.  Imagine my jaw dropping moment when I pulled the shroud off that Mac Plus to upgrade the RAM (anyone remember SIMM cards?) to see the signatures, engraved in the resin, of the Apple employees who created it, including YOURS.

The YEARS I spent arguing MacOS v Windows are years I'll never get back, but at the end of the day, you made a box full of capacitors, electronics and complexity accessible for ANYONE to use.  The fact that your product opened an entire world to my Father at 55 years of age that now allows he and my Mother to have Skype calls with their Grandson every Saturday or Sunday during the winters is just pure magic.

These things, which to some may be small, shaped my life and made me into the early technology adopter that I became and continue to be.  Although at times, well, many times, I cursed your business model, you stayed the visionary that you always were and when you went back to Apple, you saved it and made it even better.  I still argue with the business model, but who the hell am I to argue with that level of success....  clearly I had no clue.

02 August 2011

Time is fleeting...


We got a letter from Aidan's school that by the end of August he's going to move on to the next room, Pre-school II. Sort of came as a surprise because we though that he wouldn't move on until his 4th birthday but it's making sense that the changes now will happen in line with the normal school year schedule.

As much as we want him to stay this loveable little boy, which, he challenges us about every single night as of late with antics to avoid going to sleep, he's growing and it's going much faster than we ever thought it would. EVERYONE tells us this but you just want to believe that he'll stay this adorable little man forever.

And it has been challenging. One minute you can have almost an adult type conversation with him and the next he's making silly noises to try to drown you out as you talk to him about getting in his pj's to go to bed.

We continue to try to instill loving, thoughtful behavior into his life and he reflects that with things he says and does. But he definitely has the fighting spirit of his Mommy and Daddy. I know I can be tough on him but it's just me holding on to the last shreds of hope that I can protect him from everything bad in the world. Unrealistic as hell but yet, based on my own life experiences.

Don't get me wrong, we're not trying to change him, nor are we the worst stage-parents in the world, but we all know that these formative years will set him on his path and we just want him to have the best shot at it all.

You know when your Mother threatens you that she wishes you have a child "just like you"? Well, I'm glad he's just like us.

28 July 2011

Has the banking industry learned?

Likely not, but I was presently surprised at the outcome of two calls to credit card companies yesterday.

In one case we were closing out a card we've had for many years, with a high credit limit, but one that carried a $60/year service fee.  We were prepared to be begged, beaten and fought the whole way but instead, the customer service rep gave us a solution to a problem we mentioned, gave it one try to keep us on and then listened to the customer and immediately closed the account.

In the other case, in a response to an email that offered 12 months interest free if making a purchase by May 31st, we made a large purchase.  2 months into the deal we received interest charges on the most recent statement.  Customer service rep looked at, said it made sense and immediately filed an internal claim to get things fixed.  Even when I offered to send the proof, she said that it likely wasn't needed and that this has happened before.  The only issue was that it could take up to 10 business days for the solution but yet, there was no arguing or repeating the "obvious" problem that happened (which is that the vendor billed our card each time they shipped part of the order versus billing it all when we made the purchase).

Maybe I'm punchy tired, but for a moment I thought that the Financial Industry is actually being thankful to the public for bailing them out and treating people they've extended credit to as human beings.

Who knows, we can only hope.

07 July 2011

Review: U2 360° Tour - Chicago, Soldier Field, 5th July 2011

Well, it had been 24 years, 2 months and 6 days since I had seen U2 live in concert.  They continue to amaze me and it was worth the wait.  This was only the 3rd time I've seen them live.  I saw them on the Unforgettable Fire tour in March '85 (UIC-Pavillion) and saw them on the Joshua Tree tour in April of '87 (Rosemont Horizon), both indoor venues.  Seeing them with the gigantic, 7-story multi-media space ship set in a stadium is something that shouldn't be missed.

We had the fortune of being guests of Citicard for this show and that meant a 2-hour VIP party prior to the show with loads of excellent food in the United Club at Soldier Field and an open beer/wine bar.  The garlic hummus was top notch as was the Apple & Chili rubbed pork loin.  This definitely is not how I'm used to going to concerts.  We got special VIP laminates, a program and a nifty U2 360° Tour blanket which isn't available in the regular merch stands.  Cool swag.

Opening band was Interpol and to be honest, no matter how much I've been up on current music, I had no idea who they hell they were.  I had seen on some of the U2 message boards people bitching about this choice but to U2's credit, they had Interpol booked last year when the tour was halted due to Bono's back injury and they stayed faithful to them and brought them back to honor their original offer.  Okay, so prior to Chicago it was Florence and the Machine who is more 'known' at the moment but after listening to Interpol, I've become a fan.  They are a very punk-influenced/indie type band and really put on a nice set.  I'll spend the next couple of days checking out their discography.   I'd say they were a nice mix of Green Day and Franz Ferdinand if I had to put them in a "group".  Funny thing about them is that although they are supporting U2 on the next 8 cities (remainder of the North American tour), they are playing a place called Bogart's in Cincinnati tonight.  Last night playing before 63,000, tonight 1,500.  The life of a road musician!!

As for U2's performance, although I wasn't a fan of the Zooropa/Atomic Bomb albums, their full portfolio will always stand the test of time.  Maybe it's just because it was part of the main soundtrack to my college years, but the 80's songs are still incredibly strong to this day.

I couldn't believe my ears to hear Out of Control performed live.  For you youngsters out there, that's off their 1st album and is now a song over 31 years old!!  I had never heard it performed live and it was amazing and early in the show.

Pride (In the Name of Love) is just, and always has been, amazing and belting out Sunday Bloody Sunday stirs emotions down deep knowing that it was written about the Irish/British struggle and bloody day but now is sung with images of Iran, Egypt and the Middle East in the hopes that Democracy can continue taking its foothold.

The Edge still remains one of the most amazing guitarists in the world and that sound is unique to his own.  Larry still hits the drums as hard as anyone and Adam remains the heartbeat of the band on bass.

Of course, no U2 show would happen without a little political discourse and as they have done the entire 360° tour, they pay tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi, freed Burmese pro-Democracy leader which led into the final song of the main set, Walk On.  Of course, she was released last fall and a video from her thanking all of the voices and of course all of the U2 fan voices that kept her going and helped to eventually free her.  Quite an emotional moment which had people from Amnesty International walk out with giant luminary lights to surround the circular part of the stage.

The encore and show ended with a tribute by the band to the subject of the song One Tree Hill, Greg Carroll who had passed away almost 25 years to the day.

Amazing night overall. Click below to see my pictures from the show.

U2 360 Tour - Chicago 2011

23 May 2011

The next time you tell someone it must be fun they travel for business....

So, although I've had a bit of a hiatus on the business travel front, I had to head to North Carolina today for a quick, one-day meeting with one of our Kantar OpCos.

I always love how, when people find out you travel for work and they don't, they usually ponder out loud, and right to your face, how fun it must be to travel for business.  Going all those fun places, having it paid for....

And so all of my friends who DO travel for business, and some of you put me to shame with the amount you do, have our war stories from the road and here's mine from today.

Day started out pretty normal although there was "weather" in Missouri and the thoughts were that it would head towards Chicago thus putting flight departures in jeopardy.  But by the time I got to O'Hare, things were running fine and my flight still showed as leaving on time.  But that's where it starts going a little funky.

I was able to go through Premium Security which usually means a shorter line and with people who normally fly for business, know the routine and don't take long to get through.  But not today.  It was backed up something fierce and well, given that we shot and killed the #1 leading terrorist in the world, I could forgive it.  Until I got up to the conveyor belt and started pulling out the laptop, taking off the shoes, etc.  There was this couple who was traveling with their cats (in those little pet carrier type duffel bags) and I guess one of the cats decided to share with everyone his nervousness by having some explosive, target-spraying liquid joy which went all over its owners and on the floor.  THANK GOD the woman in front of me yelled back to me to look out because I damn near stepped in it in my stocking feet.  I heard one TSA agent drop some nasty language and there was another unlucky TSA guy who had to come over with spray and paper towels to clean it all up.

I overheard the one owner saying "Well, she's a nervous flier".  A TSA agent standing by her said "Well, some people just don't understand these things".  Really?  Look, I'm a pet owner and even _I_ realize that my dog is a schizophrenic traveler which is why we don't bring her to the airport.  If your pet can't take it, don't you think you're doing a bit more damage to them?  ughh.  Drive a damn car already.

So the incoming flight (to my one leaving) pulled up at the gate about 15 minutes late and the gate agent was too busy schmoozing with some of the Executive Premier Platinum 500K World Rulers to go down the jet way and get those waiting, off the plane.  Eventually our pilots and flight attendants show up and head down to turn around the aircraft and whilst the pilots were looking over the plane, they've found a "mechanical issue" that needed attention.  At least they found this before we all boarded.  Well, you likely won't be able to see this in the picture, but the "mechanical issue" was a huge gouge that was on the front nose fuselage.  Yep, they must have hit a bird or space shuttle debris.

Here is a lovely mechanic plotting (with a black marker) the area that will eventually need to be replaced.

So thankfully since Chicago O'Hare is United Airlines global hub and headquarters, there was a spare plane sitting around and with only about a 35-40 minute delay, we pushed back from the gate.

The flight was uneventful thankfully and we landed in Raleigh-Durham about 20 minutes later than originally scheduled.  My pre-arranged ride to the hotel was waiting and ready to go and off we went.

We arrive at the Courtyard Marriott, I wave goodbye to my ride and go to check in.  Oh, Mr. LoCicero, we have this waiting for you.  We unfortunately have overbooked and we've arranged for you to stay across the street.  Now this can go one of two ways, either a worse location or a better location.  Thankfully I've been here before and the suggested new place is a big step up.  It's actually a conference center that's run by the UNC-Chapel Hill Business School.  Good room, good digs, free pantry for all guests that has unlimited free soda and Dove Ice Cream bars....what's not to like?

However, my 0.4 mile trip between the two locations was an adventure from hell.  After being given my "walk" papers, I was told that they had called a ride to take me over there and it was just 10 minutes away.  10 minutes became 15, became 20 and finally this broken down taxi-van showed up.  The front desk clerk ran outside to ensure this was the right ride for me and it was.  I got in and he looked at me and said, where are we going?  That's my first warning sign.  I told him the Rizzo Center across the street and he looked at me like I was speaking Hungarian.  So off we go.

I asked him if we were in the wrong lane and he said know that he knew where he was going.  About 2 minutes later we pull in, to the aLoft hotel?  Um, this isn't the place dude.  I told him once again, I'm supposed to go the Rizzo Center.  Oh, he knows now and off we go.  I don't think we turn the right direction and I make him stop.  He says he DOES know where he's going and now he's getting mad at me for questioning him so much.  I pull out the iPad and fire up the Google Maps GPS and see that he's totally going in the wrong direction.  He promises me he knows how to get there.

We pull up at what looks like a regular apartment building and he jumps out getting ready to dump me off and I tell him that I'm not getting out until I call back to the Courtyard.  I talk to the front desk guy and tell him we're not even close to the place.  He asks me if the driver has taken me to the aLoft hotel and I laugh saying that we've already been there and this is the second place.  He lets me know that he'll call back to the driver and tell him where to go.

We finally get here and from this point on, everything has been grand.  I can only imagine what tomorrow will bring.  Fingers, toes, eyeballs and hair crossed.

30 March 2011

Indian updates

Okay, so I have plenty in my journal that I need to transcribe to take you all on my Indian journey but I had to laugh heartily at getting THIS today from Groupon.
Fantastic! And for a restaurant we love to go to for lunch at work.

But someone let the owners get creative with writing their copy for the daily deal.  Lost in translation?  You decide.  Here's the text that came with the offer today:

"Indian food is quickly becoming one of America's most popular ethnic cuisines, as evidenced by the upsurge in new restaurants and the nationwide fervor over chutney trading cards. Get a seat on the bandwagon with today’s Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of Indian cuisine at the Indian Harvest Restaurant, located in Naperville.
The restaurant's expansive menu takes taste buds on a tour of India’s famous, mouth-drenching dishes. Rev up jowl bones with appetizers, including dahi bhalla, soft lentil puffs soaked in spiced yogurt and topped with coriander leaves ($4.95), or vegetable samosas ($3.50). Lamb specials such as gosht chili masala, cooked with hot spices, herbs, and green chilies ($13.95), and tandoor -roasted items that include tandoori chicken ($14.95), let patrons use their canine teeth for more than snarling at mail carriers. Herbivores can dive into vegetarian dishes, such as the eggplant-rich baghara baingan ($10.95), and employ naan ($2) as a makeshift visor while catching scenic lake views from the dining room."
Now, I need to know what this nationwide fervor over chutney trading cards is!!  Also, given my weight, I'm not a fan of the world jowl but hey, I get what you're groovin'.  But when you start digging into my canine teeth, I need to stop you right there because I only snarl at the mail carrier when he delivers me bills.  I'll leave the rest of the time for snarling by my beloved golden retriever.

Lastly, I've been to this restaurant several times and unless the scenic lake views are new paintings on the walls, there's only a retention pond across the street by the Wonder Bread outlet store.

I love it.  So there is the arc in my blog.  Two entries ago was about the Groupon craze and I've brought a little bit of India into the mix.

Therefore, "Look with your glazing eyes soon to the wondrous words of a babbling idiot who will beautifully summarize his daily, mysterious adventures in the homeland known as India.  It will be material you can sink your molars into like a masticating big black bear in the open spaces of Montana"  ;-p

20 March 2011

The next Airline bailout

The next time US-based Airlines ask for a bailout or for increased fees and tariffs, I think we need a little collective bargaining for the passengers.

So Congress passes the Passenger Bill of Rights, but ultimately that's window dressing on the core problems.

Running an airline supposedly means that you're expertise is logistics.  Logistics, in this case, of moving human beings and cargo around America and the world.  Supposedly.

Well, people, we're an ornery bunch and since we all have brains in our heads we can pretty much make sure that we're getting on the right flight and usually end up in the right place.  But our luggage, well, those poor bastards don't even have a brain.  They are helpless bug kill on the windshield of airline transportation.

As you can guess, my luggage has been lost on a relatively important trip to New York City.  I have no idea how one bag, checked in at the AA Premium Status desk at the 2nd busiest airport in the world (ORD) on a direct flight to LGA doesn't make it there.  In fact, all the bags made it except mine and another poor fella.

How can people who are supposedly masters of logistics be so poor at it?  How, in a day where someone's blow-up doll being shipped by FedEx or UPS can be scanned and tracked multiple times across this fine land of ours with almost GPS-like precision, do the airlines who make infinitely more money have no clue where my bag is after it was put on the treadmill at O'Hare?  They just don't give a rat's ass AND you have to pay for it (unless you have status, are flying business class or flying Southwest!)

I watched with amazement how, in almost Third Reich fashion, people were getting their carry-ons pulled out of line when boarding this afternoon.  In fact, even I thought a few of them were questionable.  But the airlines are forcing people to go this way.  Since a carry-on bag stays with it's owner (see above where I mention that we have brains and make sure we get from one place to another in spite of the airline) it too makes it to its destination and there's no careless behavior going on behind the doors we're not allowed in.

It's truly a catch-22 of travel.  Can't bring that huge carry-on that you know will make it there, so you have to check it where it'll get lost, so then you'll have to bring carry-on again.

What I can't fathom is that they put stickers on every piece of luggage that have bar codes and unique bag-tag numbers.  When I check out in ANY retail store nowadays, they have hand-held scanners that are wireless and they can scan the UPC codes on larger, awkward items in my cart.  There are numerous softwares that can be used to manage logistics.  How, in the millions of dollars they charge for flying can an airline not afford to put these all together?  If I had the wherewithal, I'd be banging on boardroom doors proposing a new system and charging a fair price for it.

Our government can detect whether or not I have 4 oz of shampoo in my carry-on but a big logistics company has no f*@&ing clue where a 38lb bag is??

Oh Wilbur and Orville, why have you cursed us so?  Flight was BORN in this country and the current US entities are doing everything they can to kill it a very slow, painful death.  Please note in the following graphic, there is not ONE instance of a bag going astray due to the customer/passenger.  And they want to know why everyone is cramming on their carry-ons?????

This is likely where my bag is, although I highly doubt US-based airlines would even know how to get above the Earth's atmosphere.

19 March 2011

Half-off overload - let's not kill a good thing please

No one can say that Groupon hasn't been a wildly successful venture and as a Chicago-based company I'm super happy for them and it sheds more light on some of the great, creative thinking that comes out of our region.

Of course, where there's huge success follows all the copycats and knock-offs.

One could argue that Groupon already was a knock-off from restaurant.com or from a lot of local, extremely local radio stations who used to run the 50-70% off gift certificate programs on Saturday mornings and that would be fair.  In fact, anyone who has bought an Entertainment book in the last 20+ years knows that deals can be found everywhere.

But nothing has taken a foothold more quickly than Groupon.  Beyond the billions of dollars being thrown at them from Google and others, they probably get a VC offer once a week that could be enough money to feed Haiti for 5 years or longer.

They've definitely had their missteps and this past week at SXSW one of their clients (Uber) decided to air some of those grievances on a panel.  Interestingly enough there were several Groupon staffers in the audience who took exception to this and addressed some of the issues, in fact, admitting that they've likely grown faster than their operations can handle.

However the latest issues I've noticed aren't with Groupon itself.  It's with the hyper-aggressive sales forces that Groupon, Living Social, Yelp, OpenTable and soon to be Facebook, etc. have been hiring.  They are out in huge numbers as commissioned sales folks tend to be.  As admitted at the SXSW panel, in fact, the sales model and volumes are growing faster than they can grow the operations side which is causing major issues.

My biggest fear though is that there are businesses who really like this idea and are jumping on board left and right.  Good for consumers, however, when these businesses sign deals with ALL of the services as a user/consumer/target I'm getting multiple deals, frequently within a two day period for the same store/restaurant/service.  From a marketing plan stance, this isn't very smart and I'm realizing that the "sellers" aren't figuring this out and trying to control it.  It's a runaway boulder running down the hill.

Not only are the deals coming in successive days, they frequently aren't the same, most likely driven by the revenue share/service fee model for each company.  Again, as an end user this is sending a mixed message to me.  So I can get $50 of food for $25 today, but tomorrow I can only get $30 for $15??  Sure, EITHER option is nice during this economy but it starts cheapening the offer and muddying the message that the "seller" likely wants to its patrons both existing and new.

So what set me off on this rant?  Two specific events:
  • The fact that I got an offer for Botox treatments (same vendor) from Groupon and Living Social a day apart.  I guess at almost 45, I'm becoming the target market but it irritated me enough and,
  • One of our favorite restaurants, Claddagh having multiple different deals across THREE of these sites within 4 days.  Upon cashing one of these in the waiter humorously said "Well, I see we have a Groupon deal here".  I can't imagine the glut of these that the staffs are seeing.  Again, it's a good thing as it drives business but it could also be a bad thing for staff who might get screwed on tips by those cheap-asses out there.
So where does this leave us?  I'm not sure but given that the various services will not work together like an online publisher to space out the offers across the various networks (they are in competition and won't play nice) I think it's really important for businesses drinking the Kool-Aid to manage their own marketing plans AS WELL AS trying out only ONE of the services first to see the revenue/operating profit impact on their business.

Deep discounts are great for foot traffic but with 2000 50% off coupons sold on Groupon and 1500 40% off on Living Social and so on, any decent level of conversion could hit a business hard in the pocketbook until the true level of repeat triers can be validated.  Meaning, the Groupon got them in the door the first time, do they come back without a Groupon the next time OR were all the Groupons already bought by existing customers?  If you cannabilize your existing revenue stream without a fairly decent uptick in NEW revenue it's ultimately a bad deal.  See Navy Pier issue from December 2010.

Usually it's buyer beware, but this time around I truly feel it's seller beware!

25 February 2011

I'm off on the road to India....

Cue Hope and Crosby with the rest, well, substitute India for Morocco.

So now within 18 hours of take-off for an 18 hour set of flights to Hyderabad, India.

Lots of stuff running through my head, none more important than the instability in the Middle East and the fact that I'll be half a world away from my loved ones.

Freedom is a wacky thing, innit?  To get it, you have to fight like hell and it's never easy, lives are lost and there is a lot of pain.  Then when you have it, you fight like hell about what kind of version of freedom is best (see Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, etc. etc. etc.)

So I'm trying to pack lightly and think I won't have a problem with that.  Most of my days are in business-type meetings and for the few days I have to my own I can pretty much wear the same pants, just change shirts.  Although I'm gone for 8 calendar days, you basically spend 2 in the air, so it's not a difficult pack to do.

I also bought something on the advice of my friend Thomas who is also on this trip with me.  It's called a SteriPen and it's a rather small device that uses Ultra-Violet light to sterilize quantities of drinking water.  The link is the version I bought (Dick's Sporting Goods only had 2 choices) and it can take care of 0.5L and 1.0L quantities in something like 24 seconds.

I've started downing my malaria pills as well.  One a day for two days before being in-country and then one each day there and then one a day for 7 days after returning home.  I also have some Ciprofloxacin in case I get a case of Montezuma's revenge.  Although since I'll be in India what would it be called?  Ghandi's revenge? But he was a pacifist so that doesn't work.

I also had to quickly find some adapters for electronic devices.  Because India was long-held a British territory their outlets are UK-like, however, it's not the modern-day UK plug, it's the "old world" kind which most places do not sell.  Thank the Lord that we have a decent sized Indian population in Chicago as I was able to find no less than 20 electronic stores, most on Devon Ave. (Little India) but I did find one out near O'Hare airport.  They couldn't have been nicer people and frankly at $1.79 a piece, I bought 3!

For my last "dinner", we took a somewhat cranky Aidan to Buffalo Wild Wings and they had a new limited time sauce called Thai Curry.  I tried it and it was pretty good.  Might as well get my body ready for the curry (yes, I know Thai is not Indian, that's not the point).

Just synchronizing up my laptop so that all my files are backed up on the corporate network and then I'll finish packing.  Oh hey, and for all my metal-head friends, I'm downloading the Lemmy documentary which would be something only I would watch in my household so better to enjoy it on a long flight.  Here's a 5-minute movie trailer for those who want to enjoy!!  (and you know who you are!)

Until later.......Namaste!

19 February 2011

CSI: Biebs goes down

Kudos to CSI last night who closed out the story of the young Bieber and his bomb making family (last year was first arc I believe) with him going down Bonnie & Clyde style.

Funny take at Funny or Die here:

and a single screen shot of the end here:
Yay to Bruckheimer (even though he's likely not much involved anymore) and Zuicker who after 10+ years on the air crushed teen girls hearts!!

Always a fan of the CSI, you've won me forever, in spite of recent pictures suggesting otherwise, O-M-G!!!

10 February 2011

When is a vacation, not a vacation?

When you bring THREE laptops along.

Yes, sadly, we lugged three laptops on our vacation.  Our normal/family one, my work one, my wife's work one (yes, working vacations, vacations working).

Add to this of course, an iPad, iPod, Blackberry, HTC Evo and two sets of Bose noise-reduction headphones.  Further add in a 35mm digital camera, a pocket-sized digital camera and a Flip Video.

I needed a damn carry-on for just all the cords, wires and chargers!!

We're sad people........ but we're still having fun and by the time we get on the Disney Cruise ship on Sunday we'll be divorced from technology for at least a couple days.

03 February 2011

Snowprah 2011 - an editorial

The more I keep watching the City of Chicago come under fire (mostly from the press, not anyone else) the more irritated I get.

I think we can fault the City for many many things in history but what happened on Lake Shore Drive (LSD) seems to me to lie more with those who were driving on it than the city.

In no way possible does it compare with what happened in New Orleans and Katrina, but the human psyche is virtually the same
  1. "It's not going to be as bad as they say it's going to be"
  2. "This is the easiest way home, I don't care what they say"
  3. "_I_ can make it, I know how to drive in the snow"
  4. "Nothing is going to happen, people are panicking but I know what to do"
For at least 24 hours before it happened, all local major news outlets were warning that there were going to be 10-20 FOOT waves off of Lake Michigan that were definitely going to come up onto the Drive creating an icy nightmare as well as difficulty for the city to clear it.  I saw two specific weather folks voice frustration via their Facebook or Twitter accounts about how people generally don't believe them.  They both recognized that it's tough to always get it right but that it is a constantly moving and changing target.  However, they said that because of the false claims in the past, they were running computer models for days and even several times an hour in the lead-up to the big storm.  As I said in a previous post, Tom Skilling tends to be the most accurate because he truly is a weather geek.  He rarely is so far off that it's ridiculous.

Anyway, the storm had been predicted to be epic enough as early as January 25th and for at least two days prior, the news, including The Weather Channel was gearing up for what was going to happen.  Look, if Jim Cantore is showing up on your streets, you better get ready for one hell of a storm and hunker down.  TWC don't just send him out to spring showers.
 I don't know, I DOUBT I was brought up in a Chicago household that was the minority but when these things start getting predicted there's a simple list of a few things we're all taught to do.
  • Keep your car's gas tank at full/nearly full and don't wait until the night before to do it
  • Always dress for the worst, but if you don't want to then bring it along (see next bullet)
  • Make sure you have the following in your trunk - heavy blanket(s), extra hat/gloves, small rations (crackers, chips), a shovel, jumper cables, extra window washer fluid, de-icer for windows/door locks
  • Keep your cell phone full charged and if you have a car charger or extra battery, keep that along
  • Have both sets of your keys in case you have to leave your car
  • If you get stuck, make sure your tailpipe remains free from the snow and lift your wiper blades up so they don't freeze to the windshield
For the most part, the people they are interviewing on tv who are picking up their cars that were stranded on the LSD most are pretty easy going and are happy that there's no fees being levied on them but there have been a few who are claiming that they thought they were going to die in their cars and that they had run out of gas and were freezing to death.

First, nice dramatic effect for the news to run continuously as A-Roll but shame on you!  A full tank of gas on a car, running while idle, can likely run for more than a day which means you wouldn't have frozen to death doofus.

I'm not sure the City could be blamed for not closing the LSD sooner but if they had I'm sure the people who were driving on it would have screamed bloody murder that they were going to get caught on Clark or wherever.  Could they be blamed for running the buses down LSD still at that hour?  Maybe, but again, people had been encouraged to take public transportation and so they were running them as quickly as they can.  There's now talk that the City should have stationed emergency vehicles near every exit on the LSD, yes, and then if they couldn't mobilize to another area of the City if there had been an emergency they would have been crucified for that as well.

Let's call it what it was:  3 nasty vehicle accidents, relatively close to each other which ended up blocking the entire four lanes of the LSD.  Even in DRY conditions people would have been stuck there for a few hours so not sure what else could have been done.

You want to blame the City, okay, DEFINITELY blame them for all my friends who STILL don't have their side streets cleared yet (2 days later!!!)  THAT is something the City should be hung out to dry for.

01 February 2011

Snowprah 2011

Well, it HAS started and continues to amaze me.

The winds are unbelievable and I just took Wrigley, our 85 lb. golden out for a walk, if that's what you could call it. First, the wind just takes your breath away. The snow felt like needles slicing through my face.

We are also having what they are calling "thundersnow" which means we're also having lightening and thunder along with all the fun.

What I can't do is estimate how many inches are down. I'm watching the news and they have totals of anywhere from 8-12" right now. What the hell are they using to measure? The sidewalk leading to our front door has zero inches thanks to 50 mph wind gusts. The end of our driveway looks like it has 8" or so.

So I still don't know what to make of this. I can definitively say that any thoughts I had about making 3-4 attempts to snowblow the driveway to keep up with the accumulation are gone. It would be an epic waste of gasoline.

So it means I can rest easily tonight and just wake up in the morning to assess the situation. Don't get me wrong, it's potentially deadly out there. No visibility at all, brutal wind gusts, and really messy roads.

31 January 2011

Snowprah has her own channel

So this is supposedly one of the storms of all snow storms headed our way over the next two days.
Usually I make fun of the weather personalities in our town but when I want the real schizznit, I only follow ONE man, Tommy Skilling of WGN.
He's saying 14-18 inches for most of the area (2-4 tonight, 12-14 tomorrow night) with an additional 6 for SE side of Chicago and NW Indiana.  He's not just a pretty make-up job waving a sexy body in front of the screen, NO, he's the real deal weatherman folks.  Nevermind that his brother was one of the big guys taken down in the Enron scandal, this one has kept his nose clean and is truly dedicated to his craft!

Fear not, I'm prepared for this, just like I am for any mega snow storm.  I saw that they've posted the top 5 snowfalls of all time in Chicago.  I've been alive for 3 of them:
  1. 23.0" - Jan 26-27, 1967 (I have pix of me in a child carrier on top of a huge snowpile, I was almost 7 months old
  2. 21.6 - Jan 1-3, 1999 (yeah, after a hearty new year's day drunken debauchery, I remember running down the middle of Broadway in Chicago with no cars anywhere to be found and falling on my back and doing snow angels, I think in front of Ann Sather's)
  3. 19.2 - Mar 25-26, 1930 (hell, even before my Dad was born)
  4. 18.8 - Jan 13-14, 1979 (the one that cost Michael Bilandic the Mayoral race in Chicago, enter Jane Byrne)
  5. 16.2 - Mar 7-8, 1931 (wow March in the '30s was brutal, must have been global warming!!!)
So we'll have to see where this one falls, literally.  Some weather personalities are claiming upwards of two feet, yerrright.

I think the thing that'll be worse about this one is the massive winds that are supposed to accompany it.  As I arrived home this evening, they were howling at around 20-25 mph and they are only supposed to get worse.  That could make the drifting as high as 2.5-3.0 feet, even with only 14-16 inches, so we'll see.

28 January 2011

India continues to take shape

Well, I go for round two of the shots today.

Not too thrilled about that, however I am encouraged that it took less than a week for the Indian Consulate here in Chicago to process my Visa and get it back to me.
I've also finally chosen a hotel for my 2.5 day side excursion to New Delhi as well as booked my train tickets to and from Agra so that I can go see the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort.

I didn't skimp on the hotel and am staying at the InterContinental at Nehru Place (jackets not required ;-p)

I will truly get to experience the two extremes of India train travel.  Going, I'm traveling in one of the top classes (AC Executive Chair Class) but my return is in Sleeper Class.  The difference in class of travel is staggering considering the price for each; $18 versus $3.80 and it promises to be very interesting.

3 hours each way so that will give me plenty of time to take it all in.  I had to book the lower class return (gets back at 5:20pm) otherwise I wouldn't get back to Delhi until 9:15pm only to have to head directly to the Airport for my flight home (Leaves at 1:20 am).  God forbid there was any delay on the train, I'd be fighting for my way home and based on a few sources I've chatted with, Indian trains aren't necessarily known for their timeliness.


They look the same from the outside, but ohhhh what a difference inside.  Maybe it's good I'm getting the shots :-)  But I will have my trusty backpack in tow, carrying the essentials.  Sadly it's not the one I used for my extensive Europe trips as that one finally died a miserable death.

It's amazing that once I look at my agenda, I've realized how little time I truly have in India outside of the work schedule but I am going to squeeze every ounce/gram out of the free time I have.

Still have to figure out what I want to do on the Friday in New Delhi as well as the Monday in Hyderabad but I have time for that as there's no train travel or anything that I have to worry about.

20 January 2011

A 3 year old's mind

So last night when I was putting Aidan to bed, I had another interesting exchange with him.

Prior to bedtime he was particularly naughty.  I won't go into details but let's just say that instead of staying up for another 45 minutes it was straight to bed time.

There were lots of tears and not wanting Daddy to put him to bed, but once we got settled down and I started to read it got interesting.

One of the books I was reading to him was based off of The Incredibles movie which is one that we have not seen.  Bob, the Dad, at one point blew off someone named Buddy.  Years later Buddy turned into an evil genius named Syndrome and tried to exact his revenge against Bob and his family.
Aidan repeated to me that Buddy was a child when the initial incident happened and that now that he had "grown up" he turned into a "bad guy".
  • He asked me if "Buddy had been bad to his Mommy and Daddy".
  • I said "yes".
  • He then asked me if "Buddy had been bad to his doggie too".
  • I said "yes"
  • He immediately projected Buddy onto himself and his evening's actions.
  • He then told me that he didn't want to be like Buddy and that he wanted to grow up to be a good superhero.  (remember, we're in this massive Batman/Spiderman phase right now)
  • I told him that "that is a great idea" and that "we want you to grow up and be a good superhero too"
He then let me finish the book.

It's good to see that he's recognizing his bad behaviors and then wants to make amends for what he's done.

Who knows, maybe someday  WILL be a good superhero.  We can only allow him to keep living his dreams.

India plans progressing

So yesterday my process of getting all plans sorted for my trip to India continued.

Airlines are now booked.  I'm flying business class Air India from O'Hare to Delhi to Hyderabad.  We don't have to get off the plane in Delhi which makes this an 18 hour trip.
Hotel is the Taj Krishna Hyderabad and the only pictures I can really find of the place all are taken from the pool area so here you go.
It looks like a huge hotel and it's only about 4 miles from the airport which is good since we get in around 8:00pm and then will have to negotiate customs, etc.

On the way back though, I'm going to stop in Delhi and spend two days sightseeing based out of there.  To get from Hyderabad to Delhi I'm flying on Kingfisher Airlines.

Now, I know they make a pretty decent beer as I've had it COUNTLESS times at all my favorite Indian restaurants, but I wonder what kind of airline they are?  Well, based on the pictures of the owner who looks like a cross between Richard Branson and, well, the kinda guys you find in big-time dance clubs in NYC, I'm thinking it's gonna be a pretty rockin' two-hour flight.

Yeah baby, let's party!

I have my first trip to the doctor on Friday to determine which sets of shots I'm going to need and scheduling when I'm supposed to get them. I also have to book my hotel in Delhi at some point as well. Anyone have any suggestions?

Countdown has begun and it's now only 37 days until I leave.  Stay tuned!

18 January 2011

The Chicago Way

Well, if you haven't heard there's gonna be a little football game that people won't pay much attention to on Sunday here in Chicago.  Yerrrrrrrrright.

Of course, the rhetoric between the two fan bases is at an all-time high and frankly, for the NFL, and sorry to the folks in New York and Pittsburgh, this IS the match-up of the post-season that likely will overshadow the final game two weeks later.

The Chicago Staley Bears are a three point dog to the Green Bay ACME Packers.  They've met 179 times in the regular season (91-83-5 Bears) but only ONCE in the playoffs (Bears 33-14).  The last time that happened was December 14th, 1941, just seven days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

These two organizations represent 18% of the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees (47 out of 260) and the names out of this rivalry are those that are the bedrock of Professional Football in America.

Halas, Lambeau, Lombardi, Grange, Hutson, Luckman, Ditka, Nitschke, Hornung, Butkus, Nagurski, Starr, Blanda, McGee, Sayers, Lofton, Payton, Singletary, Reggie White, McMahon, and that number 4 fella who has a problem with his mobile phone.  Hell most of these guys have football awards that are given annually named after them especially Halas and Lombardi.

To be honest, it's been rare the number of years where both teams actually were really good.  Normally, when one team is good the other stinks it up.  In fact only 13 times over 90 years have they finished either tied or within 1 win of each other and with .500+ records.  Only 4 of those times, both teams were in the playoffs (1941, 1994, 2001, 2010) and as mentioned, only once did they meet.

So yes, we should relish this upcoming battle for what it is, a very rare and special event that will allow one side bragging rights for a long, long time.  The prize, a trip to Dallas to see Jerry Jones' small wiener compensating edifice.  Death to any telemarketer who calls a home in Wisconsin or Illinois on Sunday afternoon. 

I won't get into the east coast biases of the major sports networks but at least this game gets the proper coverage it should have, up against no other NFL game.  Let the world stop and watch the greatest and oldest rivalry in American Football.  I've already had messages from friends in England, Germany and Australia letting me know that they can't wait to see it.

In closing, just remember.... It's the Chicago Way!

13 January 2011

You are your Father's Son

I'm sure many men have heard this as a phrase that basically says "you've grown up to be just like your Dad", which, depending on the family dynamic and your own situations could be a good thing or a bad thing.

As objectively as I can be, I can say that when it comes to passion for work, passion for family and core values, I did grow up to be my "Father's Son".

Where I didn't was in the fact that I don't want to get out of bed on EVERY given morning, I'm a technology geek (which is mostly just generational), I'm relatively A-D-D, my music tastes are radically different, and our political views are quite divergent.  Maybe those last two are related ;-p

But that's where the pay-it-forward generational fun happens.
  • Aidan has quickly adopted the "mornings suck" attitude that his Daddy has embraced since, well, as long as I can freaking remember.
  • He also has his candy addiction "jones" on very early in life, probably earlier than I did but then again, it's MY addiction he's carrying on so access to it is much easier than it was for me as a child.
  • He already loves his technology.  Not only did he know how to swipe his finger on an iPod Touch just shy of two years old to flip through pictures, for Christmas he got his very own first digital camera.  Below are two pictures that he took along with a picture of the camera.  He can frame it well, but he's still moving his hands quite a bit so most of the pictures are Dali-esque.

Blurry Daddy or Daddy's normal look circa 1985
Extreme close-up of Wrigley

So I think we all know this happens but being more aware of it at this point keeps me on my toes.  Some of his mannerisms are very much like mine and he cracks us up with his "overacting" at time when he's trying to make a point.

I love him to bits.

Here's a shot from December of the three generations of LoCicero men.  Damn we're smokin' hot! ;-)

12 January 2011

I put Hyderabad into my GPS...

...and my cyber-bitch said "I can only take you to the airport, the rest is on your own".
So at the end of February/beginning of March I will be taking a business trip to Hyderabad, India.  We have some fairly large operations there and our parent company is sponsoring an Operations Conference.

When I first heard, of course, my thoughts go to being away from my family and being really FAR from my family for about a week, especially since we're going to be on personal vacation for just about the two weeks just before this.

Then my thoughts went to the almost 18 hours in the air it's going to take to get there and I wondered if I would go stir crazy on either leg of the trip.

I've long been used to the eight hours to mainland Europe but on the last couple of trips I found myself getting very antsy about five hours in.  What in the world will I do for 18 hours?  You can only watch so many movies, listen to so much iPod, sleep so much.  Truth be told, I'm a horrible worker on a plane.  I can never get comfortable enough to work on my laptop plus I usually don't have an electrical outlet near me and for some reason the work laptop's batteries only last about two hours at max!

But eventually it has sunk in how fortunate I am to work for a company who wanted me at this conference and feel that my presence there is important to our longer term strategy and plans.

I'm also excited to take a day or two for personal excursions.  I'm not sure what all is around Hyderabad or even how close some of the favorite tourist spots are yet.  If you haven't taken a look at it in awhile, it's a massively huge country.  It's the seventh largest country (land area) in the world and the second largest by population.  On the Southern end it looks like there's some prime relaxation near a massive coastline and a short hop, skip and jump over to Sri Lanka.  Of course, to the North, you're heading up near Nepal and Pakistan.  What will NOT be lost on me is how close I'll be to Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq and as an American these are important spots in my lifetime.
Today we got a list of things we need to get done before we even THINK about heading to India.  Need to get a visa (what? MasterCard isn't good enough? I keed!) and so I have to submit my passport, copy of my driver's license, money (of course), 2 more passport-type photos, letters from my employer, our operations in India as well as a legal firm who works with the Indian consulate to get all this stuff done, oh and a short power of attorney-type statement for that firm.
 And if the paperwork don't kill ya', I gots to go and get me a whole bunch of shots (not the J├Ągermeister kind either!) to ward off whatever ails me or what CAN ail me.
So hey, if anything, there's gonna be some good blogging material over the next couple of months, plus loads of pictures!!  Stay tuned!

10 January 2011

Negotiations with a dog

He did it again.

That son of ours had us cracking up right at dinner time last night.

He came over to the table and both of us were in the main part of the kitchen.  He had left a whole bucket worth of toys on the floor in the family room.

We asked him to pick them up because if he left them on the floor, Wrigley, our 85 lb. Golden would go chew them up.  We reminded him that recently she gnawed off the arm of the Little People™ Fireman when he left it out.
To which he responded by looking straight at Wrigley and saying, "Wrigley, you promise not to eat up my toys okay?".  He then answered for her saying yes and then looked at us and said "Wrigley promised not to eat my toys".

How could you not laugh?  Of course, other famous people have heard their dogs talk to them.  The Son of Sam comes to mind.  Okay, KIDDING!!

What a fantastic way to justify not having to pick up toys.  My kid's a hell of a negotiator, but we knew this already the way he upsells each request for candy/cookies/gummies on a regular basis.

07 January 2011

POW! BAM! @%&# ZONK!

Well, the joys of Aidan turning three has involved his intense desire to live, breathe and act as Batman.

We really had no idea where this came from other than at school where the other little boys may have gotten into the superhero genre a bit earlier thanks to older brothers.  In fact, Aidan's buddy/nemesis at school is almost always wearing Spiderman clothes and the amount of fake web shooting out of our wrists at home has been at an all-time high for the last 3-4 months.  (This of course took me instantly back to 4th grade at Fairview School and playing with Kyle Bernsten and Stan-can't remember his last name on the playground doing the same exact thing....hmm, the Circle of Life)

But a Batman Cave was top of the list for Aidan when telling Santa what he wanted for this year and lo' and behold, he was just good enough for Ol' St. Nick to come through.
But this has really been a nice throwback for me as not only do we DVR The Batman cartoon on Boomerang (Cartoon Network) which is an updated flashy, but not as dark as Batman Beyond, but we also DVR the original Batman TV series from the 60's.

I remember always making time to catch Batman on either WGN or WFLD when I got home from school.  Now I'm making time for when Aidan gets home from school.  It still amazes me at the big named talent that they would get to play villains on that show given it's campy format.  I usually take a look at what's going to play for the week and then choose which sets of 2 (remember, most of them were always 2 half-hour episodes with the cliff-hanger in between) we're going to record.

I happened to see that early next week they are going to run the ones with Chandell (Liberace) who plays a concert pianist who tries to woo Aunt Harriet to get her fortune.
This likely will not be one for Aidan, it'll move too slow and he won't get it but since there were only 2 episodes, it'll be a great one for me.

At this point, Aidan mostly likes the loud/obnoxious villains who are also more of the "major" ones like Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman.  He also has recently become aware of Mr. Freeze but mostly because of the cartoon version we see.  Somehow these capture his attention more than the cerebral villains like Bookworm, Mad Hatter, King Tut and Egghead.

In a weird way, I'm wondering how Aidan's countless Sheriff Woody characters are dealing with the arrival of several Batmans?

Lastly, Aidan does a bit of association with lists or items I think mostly for memory but also to prove to us he can remember things.  For example, quite some time ago he got interested in what our favorite colors are and he was very proud that he could always remember each of our colors. 

For Batman, he's assigned each of us one of the Batman characters for role play.  He, of course, is Batman (there was even discussion tonight, 10 months in advance, that he'd be Batman for Halloween next year).  I am the youthful ward/boy wonder Robin, Mary Kay is the Catwoman, my Dad is Joker and my Mom is Penguin.  Quite the crew the lot of us.

Until my next post, stayed tuned, same bat-time, same bat-channel......