Barcelona on my mind

backpack-1482611_640The leather strap first caught my attention. I next noticed the intricate flower design cut into the side of the handbag. We had been walking down Las Ramblas, the tree-lined 1.2 kilometer pedestrian street in Central Barcelona for only a few minutes but I had promised my wife that I would bring her back something special from the trip. Spain is famous for its homemade leather products, including wallets, belts and shoes so the handbag jumped out at me right away.

When I attempted to ask the the woman manning the kiosk about the price of the handbag with the little bit of Spanish I still remembered from high school and college, she gently rolled her eyes, gave me a mischievous smile and told me in the in the best Queen’s English that the handbag would be priceless to the right person.

She went on to compliment me on my exquisite taste and extolled the craftsmanship of the handbag maker. We went back and forth for a minute or two, but I inevitably ended up passing on the bag. I was looking for a different style of bag and her asking price, as I suspected, was too high. However, the woman and I continued to talk for another five minutes with a familiarity that surprised me. She joked with me that I looked like a shorter Harry Connick Jr. — she obviously needed glasses, my wife will get a good laugh at that one — and in a motherly tone, warned me to watch out for the hordes of people and the occasional pickpocket in the street. While relatively safe, Las Ramblas still has its share of pickpockets who feast on the tourists wandering aimlessly up-and-down the street.

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Seeing 20/20

The optometrist clicked on the lens and asked: “Which is better, line 1 or line 2?” We had been at this game for ten minutes, but to me it felt like an hour. I squinted my eyes together hoping it would help and, when it didn’t, I admitted to the doctor that I had no clue. In mock frustration, I added, “you’re the doctor, you tell me.”

glasses-928465_640The young doctor laughed at my lame attempt at sarcasm, but I really wasn’t joking. Getting your eyes checked annually is a good thing and I appreciate my eyesight, but I’ve come to dread the test. If you’ve been to an optometrist or ophthalmologist lately or wear contact lenses or glasses, you know what I’m talking about.

The doctor enters the room and runs through a flurry of tests all with the purpose or goal of seeing you fail. And oh, how I fail. Yes, I get that they have a “method to their madness,” but they need to test and prod for your weak points. Where is your point of failure?

For someone with poor vision like me, I spend the entire visit straining to be perfect and second guessing myself. I can make-out the third, fourth and fifth letters in the fifth line, but I’m guessing on the first two letters. Was the first letter an O or a Q? And what about the second: an E or a C? Does that count?

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Killing time

iphone-518101_640I love my iPhone. I wouldn’t say that it’s attached to me at the hip, but I definitely rely on it for a multitude of tasks that I never would’ve guessed just a couple of years ago.

In particular, I love that it’s turned me, a one-time technophobe fearful of all new apps and social media outlets, into a lover of all things technology. I can’t get enough of it, mainly because it helps make life easier.

However, saying all that, there’s one simple app that I’m ready to kill. It’s not really an app per se, but I hate it all the same. I hate the alarm clock on my phone. If I could, I would eliminate it, but, of course, if I deleted it from my smartphone, I would need to go back to a real-live alarm clock and I hate them even more.

Like most people, I need my alarm clock to exist, to start my day and get off to work. As I blogged recently, we purchased a new bed and that has made a ton of positive improvements in the quality of my sleep, but I’m still not getting enough sleep.

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Thinking like a millennial

I’m jealous of the millennial generation.

I’m not jealous of their thirst for technology, freedom, or age. Oh it would be fun to be 21, 25 or 30 for a day, to take another spin or two around the clock, but I’m comfortable in my own skin, approaching middle age.

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With more than 92 million of them, millennials rank as the largest in U.S. history and have come of age during a time of extreme global, technological, and economic change. Thanks to that change, they have a unique set of experiences and expectations different than any other generation.

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Finding myself in the silence

The long tree branches block out the sun’s hot rays — and on this day when the mid-day temperature hits the mid-90s, it is most certainly hot — but I’m most appreciative of the gentle breeze that runs through the woods.

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I tread carefully through the wooded area, moving from tree to tree, watching where I put my foot down. I take a step or two, stop and look around, and then then start up and take another few steps, before stopping again.

I’m walking as quietly as I can to see what I might find, perhaps a doe and it’s fawn or even squirrel or two rustling through the trees, but I’ve really come to get away. In my job, I’ve been running lately from busy meeting to busy meeting, conference call to conference call. And then my weekends seem to be filled up with trips and excursions, never really giving me any down time.

I’ve come for the silence

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Two types of people: Which are you?

The woman looked like she had just come from a weekend at the spa. If not straight from the lap of luxury, then she looked like she certainly came from the dressing room of Georgio Armani, Saks Fifth Avenue, or Nieman Marcus. Everything about her gleamed and sparkled, from the bangles around her wrist to the gold on her fingers.

I could have easily imagined her stepping onto a runway, modeling the latest designer fashion, or even into a chauffeured limousine, not an office supply store in the middle of Southeastern Pennsylvania. I watched her enter the store ― it was hard not to notice her ― but my interest soon waned and I went back to searching for ink for my printer. I didn’t give her another glance until I watched her jump in line, in front of a young couple with two toddlers. I started to say something but stopped myself when the store manager waved to open up two additional check-out lines.

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I soon was on my way, but I couldn’t get the woman and her thoughtlessness out of my head. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. I thought to myself: “Maybe she didn’t see the line of people snaking around the corner and, yes, the couple she jumped in front of were distracted by their two toddlers.” Of course, the devilish side of me said, “damn straight, she saw the line, how could she not see the line of people waiting to be served, she just thought she was more important.”

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The wisdom of Solomon

In the Bible, God comes to King Solomon in a dream and offers him whatever he wants. The mind explodes with possibilities: wealth, jewels, power, fame, and status all come quickly to mind.

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If in Solomon’s position, knowing me, I’d probably snicker or take on the “doubting Thomas” role, suggesting that God’s offer had to be a joke.  I would more than likely say something sarcastic like: “God asking me what I want? Yea right, when pigs fly.” I would assume it was a mixture of insomnia and a very active imagination.

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Superman versus Batman? Who ya got?

We jostled each other in line to go back into school from our morning recess. The bell always seemed to ring too soon. I’m not sure who started it, but everyone started chiming in with an opinion on their favorite superhero. One kid cried out Superman. Another yelled Batman.

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When together, comic book publisher DC Comics called them “The World’s Finest” as they worked to fight the Joker and Lex Luthor and all that’s wrong in the world. When against each other, they each brought something different to the fight.

The Man of Steel was “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” and to boot he could shoot lasers out of his eyes. On the other hand, Batman possessed no superpowers; but relied on his genius intellect, physical prowess, martial arts abilities, knowledge of science and technology, vast wealth, and indomitable will.

Hence, my classmates’ fight.

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Learning to let go

vials-1781316_640I should be better at this.

My son is attending a science camp geared for middle school students at a local college this week and has come home with stories about the experiments the class has performed each day and some of the antics of the other kids.

I’ve been encouraged by the experiments, not so much by the other kids. In short, some of the boys have been rude to the teacher and other students; played video games when they should have been listening; and misbehaved. The behavior hasn’t been crazy or even extraordinary, just bothersome.

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The art of the negotiation: The shootout at the O.K. Corral

I look him over coldly, head to toe. I pay close attention to the little beads of sweat forming on his brow and the twitch of his hands. He does the same to me. We’re both trying to read each other, to get a sense of the other guy.

We’re two cold-hearted gunslingers from the American Old West. In another time, we would have been in Dodge City, Kansas, or Tombstone, Arizona, facing off in a real life duel. Instead, we’re two men facing off in, well, a mattress store in suburbia.

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He’s a salesman, looking to add to his weekly sales total and push up his commission. I’m a customer looking to make the best possible deal. If we walked outside right now guns drawn, we’d probably get run over on this hot 90-degree day by a pimply-faced teenager fighting for a parking spot in front of the new frozen yogurt stand or by a soccer mom or dad in a huge tank-like SUV going to the LA Fitness gym. Continue reading “The art of the negotiation: The shootout at the O.K. Corral”