Thursday, August 30, 2007

US Open Tennis

I'm on the couch watching the US Open, and it occurred to me: Tennis is doing well as a sport right now.

In the men's game there is the dominant and sure-to-be-legendary Roger Federer chasing history. Right behind him are the very marketable figures Rafeal Nadal, Steve Blake, Lleyton Hewitt, and Andy Roddick.

The women have Maria Sharapova, who at the age of 20 is already one of top paid female athletes in the world, if not the highest. Her success combined with her looks have turned her into an advertising machine. The biggest question concerning her going forward is whether she can stay focused on her tennis having already proven her talent and banked millions of bucks. Will she be motivated and able to continue her dominance or will she become complacent?

Serena Williams is as fit as ever and back playing well after a stint of being too focused on other "hobbies". Venus Williams, Serena's older sister who was the first Williams sister become a champion, is back after a few down years. She won Wimbledon this year and is a force to be reckoned with once again. Justine Henin has been competitive for years as well. When she is playing her best she has proven that she can beat anybody, even on the biggest of stages.

Older players like Marina Hingis and Kim Klijsters still compete, but it is clear that their time has come and gone as tennis's biggest female stars. I could be wrong but I think Lindsey Davenport, Mary Peirce, and Jennifer Capriati have all recently retired after long and fairly successful careers.

With this many famous faces all playing great tennis, networks are able to show intriguing matches every night. As the tournament moves on hopefully this will culminate into some heavyweight battles between the biggest names in the game. Tennis is a sport built on rivalries, and with Federer and Nadal's great Wimbledon final and Nadal still being the one guy between Federer and a French Open title, it seems they have formed one. I still ultimately root for Roddick, but he seems to be at this point a notch below both Nadal and Federer.

With John McEnroe leading the charge, the commentator cast is entertaining as well. The former player known for his frequent on-court tantrums is joined by fellow ex-tennis star Jim Courier, who is well spoken and insightful, and Ted Robinson, who lives in the bay area and often fills in for Tom Tolbert on monday's for the 'Razor and Mr. T Show'.

Growing up it was Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Becker, and Edberg. Then the torch got passed to Agassi and Sampras and a few others. Now, the torch is safely and proudly in the hands of a worthy group of male tennis stars, perhaps even more well-rounded than the group before them.

The women's side has been entertaining all along, but right now there seems to be a spike with so many big names playing well and motivated to win at at the same time. The one thing I don't like seeing is the William's sisters playing each other in the finals of a tournament though, so hopefully that won't happen.

Here's my predictions. I'd like to go out on a limb, but I just can't see these two losing to anybody:

Men's winner: Roger Federer
Women's winner: Serena Williams

We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oh, The Life of a Pilot

On Saturday night an old roommate of Darcy's from college paid us a visit. After studying math at Cal Poly she headed to Florida for flight school, and is now a pilot for for a small airline. She does most of her flying in California and along the US west coast. Her schedule had her stopped for the night in San Jose, so we made her dinner and did a lot of catching up.

I found myself very curious in the life and career path of a pilot, and also what it takes to become one. Flying has always fascinated me, and I'd love to learn to fly a plane someday. However, if you want to fly a plane there are two options, be a pilot or be really rich. Unfortunately, I am neither. Will I ever fly a plane? I sure hope so.

So this is what I found out... Becoming a pilot takes from 1.5 to 2 years for training, and roughly $60,000. However, she said once you become a pilot, finding a job is fairly easy since pilots are always in such demand.

Then, there are the pros and cons associated with the pilot lifestyle:

- 15 days off per month, including some weekdays when golf courses aren't crowded or as expensive
- Get to fly a plane for a living
- Good money, especially as you become more tenured and get in with a bigger airline
- Free flights for you and your family
- Get to see the country/world

- Four, four-day trips a month, so lots of hotels, and time away from the family.
- Work weekends so schedule wouldn't line up with friends and family who work during regular business hours.
- Scheduling seniority is earned over time, so initially schedule would be the undesirable shifts.
- Airline Industry constantly battling for profitability, which effects job security and opportunity to make a lot of money, even though tenured pilots are paid fairly well.

As a married man who hopes to eventually start a family, I don't think being a pilot would be the best lifestyle choice for me. Not being home half of the year would be a hard way to raise kids. What if I missed the first steps? Or the big game?

However, if I was single, I think being a pilot would be a lot of fun. You could suffer through the low seniority and lower paying early years without concerns of what was missing you and what you were missing back home, and could enjoy all the other perks of the job mentioned above.

She told us one more thing that is pretty interesting. Pilots are paid by the hour from the time the plane door closes until it opens at the jetway of the destination. This is why many pilots would rather make us passengers wait in the runway than at the jetway. So next time you feel you are unnecessarily waiting in a plane out on the runway, it may just be so that the pilot can pocket a little more coin!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Golf Round Sunday, August 26th, at San Juan Oaks in Hollister, CA

Mid-week I got a call from Dan Wilcox, or as it says on the caller ID of my cell phone, "Tile Dan". You might remember Dan is the guy who did our tile a few months back, which is when we met and discovered we both love to play golf. Once again he wanted to see if I was available to fill the fourth spot in his Sunday foursome. This round was to be played in Hollister at a nice golf course called San Juan Oaks that we had played once before.

After slight hesitation I agreed to meet him for the 8:30am tee-time on Sunday. Looking back on it I can't even believe I even hesitated.

Here's how my round went. It may be boring to read through if you skim, but if you pay close attention to the outcome of each hole, you will be able imagine the way my confidence and emotions swayed throughout the round.

FIRST HOLE: Par 4, on in two, birdie! (-1)

SECOND HOLE: Par 5, on in three, three putts, bogey. (E)

THIRD HOLE: Par 4, second shot in bunker, flew bunker shot over green, chip and a two-putt, double bogey. (+2)

FOURTH HOLE: Par 4, on in two, long lag putt close, par. (+2)

FIFTH HOLE: Par 4, close to green in two, chip on, two putts, bogey. (+3)

SIXTH HOLE: 186yd Par 3, close to green in one, chipped to 7 feet, two putts, bogey. (+4)

SEVENTH HOLE: Par 4, first drive out of bounds, re-hit third shot from tee, fourth shot on green, one putt, bogey. (+5)

EIGHTH HOLE: 165yd Par 3, on in one, two putts, par. (+5)

NINTH HOLE: Par 5, second shot in water, 4th shot after penalty on green, two putts, bogey. (+6)

Front nine score of: 42

TENTH HOLE: Par 4, on in two, two putts, par. (+6)

ELEVENTH HOLE: Par 5, on in three, two putts, par. (+6)

TWELFTH HOLE: 165yd Par 3, bunker in one, flew green on bunker shot, two bad chips, chip on, one putt, triple bogey. (+9)

THIRTEENTH HOLE: Par 4, close to green in two, chipped to ten feet, one putt, par. (+9)

FOURTEENTH HOLE: Par 4, on in two, two putts, par. (+9)

FIFTEENTH HOLE: Par 5, 8 feet from hole in three, two putts, par. (+9)

SIXTEENTH HOLE: 142yd Par 3, barely over green in one, chipped on, two putts, bogey. (+10)

SEVENTEENTH HOLE: Par 4, rightward drive, second shot back into fairway, third shot pin-high right of green, chip on, two putts, double bogey. (+12)

EIGHTEENTH HOLE: Par 4, 15 feet short of green in two, chip, two putts, bogey. (+13)

Back nine score of: 43


Overall it was a very good round, with a lot of memorable shots and smooth swings. However, I did have some hiccups that had me wishing for a time machine. I'm especially referring to the three holes (3rd, 12th, and 17th) where I went a combined plus 8! If I'm ever going to consistently achieve rounds in the 70's, I'm going to have to remove these bad holes from my game by turning them into pars, or at worst two pars and one bogey.

I would like to complain that I missed some very makable putts, but I also made some good ones so I guess they balance out.

I hope I play again soon. Man I love Golf.

Friday, August 24, 2007

DVD Movies: NO - DVD Seasons: YES

I'm always bewildered at Best Buy or Costco when I see people buying a handful of DVD movies at once. I think to myself, "What a waste of money. They've probably already seen most of those movies, and if they haven't, they'll probably only watch them once before leaving them to collect dust. Why don't they just join Netflix or head over to their local Blockbuster or Hollywood Video?"

I guess I could be wrong, maybe these people are buying these DVD's to watch them over and over again. Or perhaps they love these movies so much that even if they don't watch them repeatedly, they want them for their collection because the ownership of particular movies somehow forms their identity. But let's be serious here, with the exception of small children who can watch the same Disney movie over and over again, movies are typically seen once (maybe twice). It's not like music that in many cases will be listened to over and over again until and even after every last word and beat are memorized. Once you've seen a movie you've seen it, and dedicating another two hours of your life to watching it again in most cases is not a desired use of ones time.

I do own about 20 movies and they just sit there collecting dust. Most of them I bought back in college. This was before I owned a DVD burner, before I had 'real' bills, and apparently before I had enough sense to realize I was wasting my money.

I have a completely different attitude toward buying entire seasons to a favorite show on DVD. Even though these are typically more expensive than a single movie, they are worth it. There is much more viewing hours and it's broken into smaller segments. Darcy and I like to watch an episode or two in the evening before bed. It's fun. It all started back in college when I bought the first season of The Osbournes.

Since then we've watched many season's (both drama's and sitcoms) on DVD, and continue to feel that they are worth the money. Even though once they are finished it is unlikely they will ever see the inside of our DVD player again, they offer enough entertainment to merit their cost. In addition, friends and family are very likely to want to borrow them when we're done so it feels good to loan them out. For example, my mom is currently borrowing both season's of Lost.

I will attempt to list off most of the season's we've watched over the years in chronological order but do not claim this will be 100% accurate.

24 season 1:

Arrested Development Season 1:

Entourage Season 1:

Entourage Season 2:

Lost Season 1:

Lost Season 2:

The Office Season's 1 and 2:

Seinfeld Season's 1 and 2:

We just bought the third season of Seinfeld and will be starting it soon!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bocce Ball

Almost every Wednesday evening this fall, I play in a bocce ball league in Los Gatos at Campo di Bocce. You may have heard of bocce ball before, and probably think of it as an old person sport like shuffleboard. This is actually true, but that's because the seniors pay only $35 per month at Campo di Bocce for unlimited court time.

The rules of bocce are very simple. There are different types of courts, but in our league we play on an epoxy court. The courts used to be crushed oyster shells, but they recently upgraded. There are four members on each of the two teams, two members from each team on either end of the court. The first team throws a small silver ball called the "pallino" down the court, followed by their first throw of the regular ball. The goal is to get one or more of your teams' four balls closer to the pallino than the other teams' balls. If one team has one ball closer to the pallino than the other teams closest ball, than the team with the closest ball would score one point. Once both teams have thrown their four balls, they evaluate who is closer, mark the score, and then the members on the other end take their turn going the other way down the court. Okay, okay, that description may not sound simple, but once you play it's easy to get the hang of, I promise.

Tonight was the third night of the fall league, the second night of which I've played. (We have 8 team members so we rotate since only 4 people per night play). We play on Wednesday night, which is "expert" night at Campo di Bocce and unfortunately for us, we are not experts. In the last four seasons since we started, we have never finished better than second to last. Luckily, the second Devcon team (Deuces Wild) always manages to slide into last place with a worst record than our team which is called Devcon One.

Well, tonight we actually had a chance because the team we were playing wasn't exceptional. Jeff was invited to play with our team tonight to fill in, and he did a great job. Unfortunately, the other team beat us 12 to 6 the first game, and then 12 to 5 the second game. I was disappointed, losing every week is starting to get really old. It's still a fun time though, it's a great atmosphere and a great game.

There are two Campo di Bocce locations around here, one in Livermore and the other in Los Gatos. I encourage you to go check it out sometime if you haven't been. It makes for a great birthday party or get together, or even just something to do on a Saturday when the weather is nice. I promise you will enjoy it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'm a fast email person. Are you?

Some people aren't responsive to email, and some are. Some very good talented people are not responsive to email and some untalented people are very responsive, so this trait by no means is a direct indicator of how good of an employee you are. However, all things being equal, I much prefer working with quick responders who don't make me wait for the results to a quick question or request.

I am a fast email person. When people email me I typically email them back quickly. I have always been this way, even in my last job when I was extremely busy, many times on the phone with a customer while two other customers waited for me on hold. I don't like to keep people waiting just as I don't like to wait for replies, and I know my likelihood of responding is much greater if I do it promptly.

I recently got a Blackberry for work so am now even more available via email. Even though I was already a quick responder and checked my work email from home, Blackberry's take real-time availability to a whole new level.

As for those who are not quick via email....

Why aren't they? Do they just not check it? Do they check it and ignore it? If they ignore it then what compels them to sometimes reply 36 hours later randomly or is that really when they first noticed it? I realize that some people get more email than others, and that the more email you get, the harder it is to stay on top of it. However, I still feel that it's just a matter of what kind of person you are. In this world there are fast email people and slow email people.

Which kind of email person are you? For the sake of the people you work with, I hope you're a fast one.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Goldman Sach's Guy made $70 Million - in one year!

I've noted on this site before that I subscribe to The Wall Street Journal. It was $100 for one year and I'm 7 months into my first subscription year. I bring it to work every day provided the paperboy has dropped it off before I leave, and enjoy reading Saturday's edition on the couch with a cup of coffee. Some days I read multiple articles, and other days I may just browse the front page and read the headlines. So far it's been well worth my money, and I plan on renewing my subscription come January '08.

This Saturday morning after a great night sleep I walked downstairs, started a pot of coffee, and walked on my front porch to grab WSJ. I sat down to try to find an interesting article and got no further than the front page, to an article entitled, "Why $70 Million Wasn't Enough".


It's a fascinating article about a 48 year old Goldman Sach's investor who recently quit the firm after feeling under compensated for only getting paid $70 million last year! The article states that this equates to $200,000 a day.

This goes to show you that all things in life are relative. Whether someone is a shoe salesman (like Al Bundy), accountant, professional athlete, or a big-shot Wall Street investor, we all want fair compensation for our services. It's human nature.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mildest Weather Year I Can Remember

"Gosh, it sure has been a cool summer."

I find myself saying this a lot lately when discussing the weather. I haven't done any detailed weather research, but I just can't remember a summer with fewer heat waves. True, it's not over yet, but I can only remember one small stretch of heat which way back in June. Other than that, it's been extremely pleasant. This is not a gripe, it's been warm enough and I personally love the cooler temperatures, but it just seems too good to be true how great this weather is! What happened to heat waves? Are they really this rare in the south bay?

Then I think back to this past winter. It was a very light snow year in the Sierra's and I don't remember much rain here in the Silicon Valley either. I went snowboarding one day at Kirkwood in mid January, and there was barely enough snow for the resort to be open! This was particularly surprising because Kirkwood is known for its plentiful snow.

Since Spring and Fall are usually beautiful weather periods, this adds up to over a year of pretty much no concern of bad weather. How long will this trend continue? When are we going to see a bad stretch of weather again?

Who knows... A dreadful heat wave could be right around the corner. Or perhaps we're in for a nasty cold and wet winter.

Somehow I doubt it.

It's Been a Busy 10 Days!

Hi Everyone! It's been way too long since I've given you anything new to read, and for that I apologize.

I spent last week in San Diego attending a trade show for my company, and did not have access to the internet all week beyond my Blackberry. I could have splurged $10/day for the hotel's wifi, but since I was barely ever in my room, I didn't feel it was worth it. Also, I don't want to encourage hotels to charge for this service by giving them my business since by now I feel it should be included free in any hotel stay.

This last weekend I spent Saturday and Sunday in Santa Cruz playing in a six-a-side soccer tournament in which we prevailed as champions. After a lack-luster performance on Saturday, I came back with some strong play on Sunday. I scored goals in both playoff games, and iced the cake with the winning penalty kick in the shootout of our championship game that was knotted 3-3 after regulation minutes. I was the second youngest player on a team of self-proclaimed "old guys" who were mostly ex-Cal Poly players.

I hope they ask me back next year so I can have the opportunity to help them repeat as champions.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Can the 49ers go 8-8 or better this year?

Last night Darcy and I were lucky enough to get to go to the 49er's Pasta Bowl fund raiser at the Santa Clara Convention Center. There was wine tasting, hors d'oeuvres, pasta dinner, dessert, speeches, and entertainment. All free!

The huge convention center was filled with large tables that were sponsored by various silicon valley companies. Each table had a 49er player serving food, filling up wine glasses, and mingling with the guests. Our table was run by Brian Jennings, who is the niner's long snapper. Even though he's not a well known player, we had fun being around him. He is funny and charismatic.

During dinner all the players, especially the more famous ones, as well as Mike Nolan and owner John York, were available for pictures, autographs, and conversation. After being reluctant at first, I finally decided to get in on the frenzy and get photos with some of the players. Others I took pictures of, but didn't bother getting in the picture myself.

Darcy and I with head coach Mike Nolan

49er's owner John York as he made his way by our table

2nd year tight-end Vernon Davis worked the table right next to ours

3rd year Quarterback out of the Univeristy of Utah, Alex Smith

Frank Gore, the 49ers running back who is coming off of a career year. Hopefully he can continue his emergence into stardom with another great season.

I'm hopeful the 49ers can get back to winning ways this year. The last few years they have been terrible at best, but they have showed improvement in the Nolan era. With some key acquisitions and finally some experience at key positions, Niner fans for the first time in many years have expectations. I will deem them successful this year if they can win at least half their games. Anything more will be an over achievement, anything less a disappointment.

Right now the plan is to go to the December 15th Saturday match up against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hopefully at this time they will still be playing meaningful games.