Friday, April 30, 2010

Lessons in Baseball

It's no secret that I have been assistant coaching with our son's little league baseball team.  While I have wanted to do this for many years, my 3-hour-per-day commute (1 1/2 hours each way on average) just wouldn't allow the time necessary.  I guess I can chalk this up as one great thing that has come out of being downsized in November.  Some of you are football people.  I like football.  I LOVE baseball.

Our team is very young this year, with only 4 of 11 players aged 14 in a 13-14 league.  Our coaching staff includes the head coach and myself at all practices and games and a "running" coach for just the games.  Our entire coaching philosophy revolves around the "we don't have a lot of rules, but listen to what we're telling you" strategy.  So far, that seems to be working very well for the team.

Of course that's not to say that we don't have our occasional moments.

A few of the phrases I've learned to never use with the team:

"Grab some balls and head out to the infield"
"That's the way to get some wood on the ball!"
"Find a hole and shoot for it" (that one also got a "that's what she said" from about 3 of the kids)

So it seems that in addition to teaching a few things to the kids, I'm learning a bit as well.  I call that a win-win.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Throwing caution to the wind...

** Please note that this is a copy of the post on my "career" blog, but I thought it was just as relevant for my "personal" readers to post it here **

I already know what many of you will say before I even make this post, but I still felt the need to get a little bit off my chest. You may (or may not) know that I am currently seeking a position in either the public relations or marketing field. In that quest I have been presented with several "opportunities" that, while I don't want to call them outright scams, have been questionable. At best. A recent email I received went something like this:

We have seen that you are someone who would bring strong abilities to our company. The interview process is entirely for your benefit to find out more about our company so that you can make an informed decision as to your interest level. None of this can be done in an e-mail properly. This would be a great time to detail exactly what we do so you can make a much better decision. We would love to have you join us for an hour and a half on Wednesday, March 17th so you can see and hear all the details. It would definitely be an hour and a half well spent to possibly change your future. I have an opening, should I schedule you?
"Ms. X"
Area Vice President
"XYZ Company"

Normally, I would just hit the delete button on my keyboard and move on, but something about this email made me pause. With my resume posted on several different locations and having become more active on various industry-related boards and communities, could this possibly be a legitimate inquiry? I wrote back:

Good evening "Ms. X",
Before I could commit an afternoon for an interview, I would need to know a little bit more about the position you are seeking to fill. Is it a public relations or marketing position? A sales position? Commission based or salary or a combination? I am sure that you understand my hesitation to immediately walk into a situation with such limited information and I look forward to your reply.
Thank you in advance,
Burl Gregory

The way I looked at it, if the interest was for a real position, "Ms. X" would be happy to provide these basic items of information and even appreciate my interest. The reply I received:

You have to ask yourself if you are worth spending some time to pursue whether this opportunity can help you change your life? You will never know unless you come out and listen. Out of respect to my company, I am not going to try to describe ten years of success in a few short sentences in an e-mail. We have seen that you are someone who would bring strong abilities to our company. The interview process is entirely for your benefit to find out more about our company so that you can make an informed decision as to your interest level. None of this can be done in an e-mail properly. This would be a great time to detail exactly what we do so you can make a much better decision. We would love to have you join us for an hour and a half on Wednesday, March 17th so you can see and hear all the details. It would definitely be an hour and a half well spent to possibly change your future. I have an opening, should I schedule you?
Ms. X
Area Vice President
XYZ Company

Ok. The Area Vice President of a company can not (or will not) disclose they type of position that she is contacting me to interview for? Is the company a front for the CIA or organized crime ("I can not disclose the nature of our business because others may be listening...")? For a company that has "ten years of success" why can I not find a listing for it on Google? And I realize that an interview is also an opportunity for the prospective candidate to learn more about a company, but isn't it primarily for the company to learn more about the candidate?

Needless to say (but I will say it anyway), I will not be attending this "interview" with XYZ Company. I actually didn't even bother to reply to the second email.

Tip for (legitimate) employers looking to hire: You find a decent candidate's resume online. Send them an email or give them a call, but give at least a basic idea of the field you are looking to employ. You will set yourself apart from the many "get rich quick" scams offers and you may be surprised by the quality of your results.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


There is a particular event in my high school life that still affects me in a very deep and emotional way.  You see 24 years ago, at 8:30am (Pacific time) I was sitting in one of my favorite teacher's classes watching history about to be made:  in just a few moments, the first civilian (Christa McAulliffe, a TEACHER!) was about to be launched into space aboard the space shuttle Challenger.  What made this even more exciting, at least to us, was that our teacher, Mrs. Beamer, had been in the final 25 applicants to be considered for this mission.  Needless to say, she was VERY excited and had been talking about this day for weeks, if not months, prior.

Mrs. Beamer (biology) had all of the qualities of a world-class teacher.  She was warm and caring.  She was tough on the students, raising the expectations at each level of learning just enough to make you work for it without becoming discouraged.  She was also an interesting teacher.  You actually wanted to hear what she was talking about in class because she brought the subject matter to life.

So here we were, watching the tv that had been brought into the room specifically for this day and also watching Mrs. Beamer bounce around the room in joyous anticipation as we awaited the launch.  You really couldn't help but feel swept up in the moment.  Even some of the other kids that were, shall we say, "less than scholarly" were pumped up.  As the lift-off time approached, the entire class chimed in on the countdown:  10...9...8...7...6..5...4...3...2...1...

8:38:00 PST.  The space shuttle Challenger began it's ascent into the morning sky of Florida.  At exactly that time, a round of shouts, applause, and giddy laughter erupted in our classroom, with Mrs. Beamer being one of the biggest sources in the room. 

8:39:08 PST.  We hear Mission Control inform the shuttle crew that they are "go for throttle up" and the response from Commander Dick Scobee, "Roger, go at throttle up."  Mrs. Beamer is talking out loud about how thrilling it must be for Christa, knowing that her students are watching her make history.

8:38:13 PST. With the camera focused on a side view, we watch the space shuttle Challenger dissapear into a massive white cloud that begins at the rear and almost immediately envelopes the entire craft.  The camera switches to a wider shot and we see the cloud is filled with flames and two seperate smoke plumes in opposite directions.  There is complete silence in the classroom.  Nobody knows exactly what we have just witnessed.  Everyone stares at the screen. 

As the weight of what was happening began to take effect on us, eyes slowly turned to our teacher.  For a few moments, Mrs. Beamer stared straight ahead.  Not moving.  Not speaking.  Then, as if a door had been suddenly opened, we watched a teacher break into tears and rush from the room.  Many of us, myself included, were in complete shock.  In the space of 10 minutes, we had gone from joyous celebration to utter despair and loss.

When she returned to school a few days later, Mrs. Beamer spoke very little about the tragedy.  When she did bring it up, she did so with tears welling up in her eyes.  That more often than not prompted the same reaction in much of the class.  One thing that she did tell us, and it will live in my memory forever, is that the quest for learning involves more than just what you read in a textbook.  People risk their lives so that others may learn from what they do.  Sometimes, the ultimate price is paid for that lesson.

"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"  - President Ronald Reagan, January 28, 1986

Remembering the crew of STS-51-L today:  Commander Francis "Dick" Scobee; Pilot Michael J. Smith; Mission Specialist Ellison Onizuka; Mission Specialist Judith Resnik; Mission Specialist Ronald McNair; Payload Specialist Gregory Jarvis; and Payload Specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe.  God speed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Adventures In Testing (or Things That Freaked Me Out)

I want to clarify something for everyone.  This is my second (yes, you read that right) blog posting in a single week.  I do not intend to frighten anyone, but this just may be another sign of the apocalypse.  Or I just have way too much free time on my hands.  Nevertheless, I felt compelled to share my living nightmare a few things from my experience downtown yesterday. 

As you may have gathered from my Project365 postings over the past few days, I have been testing for several job openings with various state agencies.  These tests are designed to qualify my skills in addition to what is listed on my resume.  It's a process that actually makes sense, and so far I've covered everything from typing speed (64 wpm official, TYVM!) to reasoning skills to knowledge of current employment regulations.  And I get to go back next week for a few more.

I think one of the other tests that I took yesterday involved my ability to operate under a stressful situation.  As I am in the middle of one of the tests, the building's fire alarm was activated.  That's right.  Alarm bell, strobe lights on the wall, and a voice over a loudspeaker stating the fire department is investigating an "incident" and everyone in the building is to remain in their office until further notice.  While the testing administrators were telling the 10-15 people that were heading out the door to remain in the room, I quietly continued with my testing.  Never broke a sweat.  In fact, I completed the 64 question exam with over 30 minutes to spare, missing 2 questions total.  I am a master of my knowledge.  But I digress...

That isn't really what I wanted to make you lose sleep over share with you about my downtown adventure yesterday.  Nope.  That wasn't it.  As I am making my way home I realized that the 2 coffees I had consumed had necessitated a pitstop.  When I got to the Metra station, and having more than enough time before the next train, I made my way into the station's facilities where I found 1 out of the (sorry ladies, no other way to put it) 4 urinals unoccupied.  To further set the scene, these aren't the type that have even that tiny little divider between them.  Just 4 open fluid relieving spaces, side by side, with barely enough room to stand without rubbing shoulders.

First rule of urinals: Never look anywhere but straight ahead or straight down.

As I take my place, my peripheral vision picks up an unusual movement to my immediate right.  I try to concentrate, but the movement has now built up from a slight distraction to a full "hear the sound" rustle of activity.  I break the rule and move my eyes slightly to the right only to be greeted by a display of pleasuring that is normally reserved for the back of a darkened adult theatre or a pubescent boy's behind-a-locked-door shower activity.  *Eyes IMMEDIATELY straight ahead again!*

At this point, I was stuck there for at least another few seconds...some things just can't be rushed.  Unfortunately, the guy to my right was trying to rush things along.  *cue a slight moan to my right* Apologies again to the ladies, but I don't think I have ever finished my "business" zipped up and made my out of a restroom as fast as I did right then.  As I boarded my train, I felt like even a shower wouldn't have made me feel clean.

Whatever got this guy so worked up that he had to take care of himself in public, in semi-plain view...well...let's just say he may want to fill his mind with less exciting visuals when he's outside his home.

Like Hillary Clinton.  Or Julia Child.  Or Dr. Ruth.  Or meat grinders...wait...bad analogy. 

Lessons of the day?  I need to ease up on the coffee when I'm testing downtown, and there are certain types of stress under pressure that I just can't handle.

Oh yeah...the fire scare?  A false alarm.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Sunday musing...barely

So I just realized that it's 15 minutes shy of being Monday but I thought I'd go with that title for this entry.  Why am I posting a blog at 11:45pm on a Sunday night?  Well, to be honest, this is really the first chance I've had to actually sit down and I'm flogging myself making a serious effort to make at least one more blog post before the month of January is over.  I've actually been on my hands and knees for the vast majority of my day.

No, I'm not taking up "THAT" profession.  I've been attempting to finish the new flooring on our second floor, specifically in the master bedroom.  While I've had some great help from The Boy, the task has been one of the most daunting that I've undertaken in terms of home improvement.  As of right now, there is only one pseudo-room that has carpeting in the entire house, and that's the office area.  Soon, that too will undergo the transformation to a hardwood laminate floor.

We actually started this insanity project at the beginning of November.  Along the way, we figured out that we didn't have to kill ourselves to finish the entire house in a single weekend.  Who knew?  A few of the things that I've learned from all of this:
  • Don't take the salesperson's advice on what type of transition pieces you will need to go from the laminate to tile.  Look up the types of transitions on the internet and then tell them what you need.
  • Don't assume (anyone?  anyone?) that the flooring under that ratty-cheap-assed basic carpet that was there when you bought the house is ready to just put the new stuff down over.  We had to tear out (yes, that's what I said) the flooring of our daughter's room when we pulled up the carpeting because it looked like someone had wet the wood, let it dry and warp, then repeated the process 5 or 20 times.  Just to be sure.
  • Never, and I mean NEVER, have your wife try to help you continue with the work after your slave helpful son has gone to bed.  I love my wife more than life itself, and we actually make a great team with most projects.  I said most.  This was NOT one of those.  We got one row of flooring down before I told her that for the sake of saving our marriage, she could not help me on this one.
I have another hour or two of work on this tomorrow, then I plan on drinking until I'm comotose relaxing with The Boy and watching a movie.  He mentioned that he's never seen Casino Royale but would like to.  Good call, kid...Blockbuster awaits!  And with that, it's 12:04am.

Friday, January 1, 2010

First of the year randomness...

So I figured I would try this again.  You know.  Being that it's the first of the year and all.

Christmas was good for the whole family and included us welcoming our new "adopted" family member Kim on Christmas Eve.  It was great to have an expanded sitting for dinner.  The best part was that nobody was rushed to the emergency room with food poisoning...always a plus!  Speaking of dinner, I had some great help in the kitchen by The Boy who I referred to as my sous chef.  I have to say that he was a HUGE help and the timing on everything came out almost picture perfect.  We should have some video to post as soon as I can get around to editing it.

Time.  Where exactly does the time GO?  Since my position with my company was eliminated (read that as the owner decided to have his family take over the position...but I'm not bitter), I seem to have even LESS time to do things that I need and want to get done than when I was working full time, Monday through Friday.  Even now, as I sit here and see that the clock reads 4:30pm, I can't believe that the day is almost coming to a close.  Ah well...what're you going to do, huh?

I was also peer pressured into convinced to jump on the Project365 bandwagon and started a new blog to facilitate that.  The concept is to post a new photo each day of the year and then look back at the end of the year and see what you've accomplished.  I hope I've actually accomplished something useful by the end of the year!  Anyway, you can check out my Project365 blog here, as well as links to some other friends doing their own posts.

Tonight's agenda will consist of me making some mocha-espressos for the family and watching Demons and Angels on DVD.  I hope everyone out there had a great NYE and got the year off to a good start.  364 days left!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The One With The Rambling

Well, it's been a while since I've been here!  Wow.  How about that, huh?  I really don't have a lot to say but I'm trying to make an attempt at blogging on at least a semi-regular basis.  Call it my pre-new-year's-resolution.

It's Christmas night, and I'm sitting here in the ABL Studio doing some research and planning for the 2009 show schedule.  Trust me when I tell you that we are planning a LOT of really cool things for the coming year.  You might even win something!

If you missed the show last Saturday (12/20),then you missed the newest member of the ABL family's debut.  That's right, our new intern Genevieve called into the show!  Gen hails from one of the prestigious universities here in Chicago and she will be helping us with alot of the behind the scenes prep for shows as well as making appearances on the air with us.  We are extremely happy to welcome her to the ABL staff and hope you will be as kind to her as you are with us.

Last night we ran an "Encore" edition of ABL featuring a reading of "The Night Before Christmas" by RockDog, our interview last May with Craig Shoemaker, Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson, and Nick Strahanowski's appearance.  We also threw in a few of the parodies and some nice holiday themed music.

I must say that it was a bit odd listening to the show but not being on-air.  A little surrealistic even.  All in all, it was nice to have the evening off.  It occurred to me while listening that last night was the FIRST "show night" in over a year that has not had a live broadcast.  Even when circumstances prevented Annie or I from being on the air, the other would take up the slack and run the show.  Annie and I took a Saturday evening recently to attend a live show with Keaton Simons and even then, RockDog and Kat took the show for the night.  I think we might need to look into a "vacation" schedule for '09!