Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sanity versus Fear

I'm pleased by the attendance numbers for yesterday's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. While I fully expect those numbers to be debated, debunked, and denounced in the days to come by the media and pundits, it appears that 100,000 would be a very conservative estimate.

The exact number doesn't matter to me. What matters is the attendance shows that a significant portion of the U.S. is tired of the numerous forces in the country which are using divisive techniques to set us against each other.

I don't have any illusions that the rally will have a significant impact this Tuesday when we go to the polls (or vote by mail), but I do hope that the rally can help to shift the tone of political discourse in this country in the near future. Yes the rally was frequently silly, but I'd like to think that it could make a difference in how we communicate with each other in highly polarized country.

Full disclosure: I have been proudly registered "Decline to State" for the entirety of my two plus decades as a voter.

On a personal note, I was highly amused by the skit when Steven Colbert emerged from his "bunker of fear". I burst into laughter when I saw Steven emerge from the depths.

Sure the juxtaposition of the rally and the Chilean miner crisis was funny, but what made me burst out in laughter was the fact that the patriotic uniform Steven was wearing was a repurposed Evel Knievel costume. Those of you who watched the rally noticed that they removed the "EK" belt buckle, right? I know that the costume was repurposed from recent research that I conducted for the Halloween party I attended recently. I saw Steven's costume available for purchase online, but I opted to make my own.

There, I said it! I made my own costume. While I'm sure my grandmother would be pleased to hear that I applied those sewing skills I picked up during summer visits to Fort Wayne, Indiana (while my brothers were playing baseball), I suspect that when they catch wind of this, my buddies like Blewis, Tee, and Scottie will revoke my "man card".  ;-)






Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween

Our driver picked us up at 5:30 a.m. for the ride to O'Hare. We didn't get to sleep till 2:30 a.m., so I'm only operating on three hours of sleep. Add an ORD-->SFO flight, plus a drive from SFO-->Aptos, and then a drive from Aptos-->Palo Alto (where I'll be working this week), and you get an inkling of what my day has been like. If you are harboring some hope that this post will be coherent, I suggest you discard that foolish notion.

Why were we up so late? Last night was John & Sharon's annual Halloween party. I don't know what the final count was, but I'd say there were easily two-hundred attendees this year. The party just gets bigger each year.

Each year the theme of the party changes. This year, the theme was "dead celebrities". Some of the costumes were a tad bit more morbid than others (understatement). What I found interesting was the number of times that I heard people fondly reminiscing over celebrities who have passed on.

I lost count of how many guys came up to me during the party and told me that when they were kids they wanted to be the person I dressed as. Several insisted that he lives on. I'm not quite sure how, but they sounded convinced of the veracity of their claims. Who was I? Find me in the photos below and find out.

Mr. Rourke and Tattoo (a.k.a. John and
Sharon) make arrangements for the party
behind the scenes. What, did you think
Fantasy Island just happened by itself?

Brian (a.k.a. "Blewis") and Ivonne were in
Chicago this week, so we scored them an invite.

Frida Kahlo (a.k.a. Alicia) shows off the latest in
fashions at Chalk. Frida and I were at the boutique
to pass out clues in the scavenger hunt.
Alicia was a great sport to wear the unibrow!



Rapunzel (a.k.a. my niece Chloe) Rapunzel,
let down your hair.




The cutest Jessie (a.k.a. my niece
Elodie) ever!


video
Check out Elodie's moves on the dance floor!
JFK (a.k.a. Fritz from an earlier post) having
a bad day.

My nephew Connor terrorizing Aunt Alicia!

King Tut
Let's liquor up Colonel Sanders
and see if we can get him to
divulge his secret recipe. 

Natasha Richardson shows off her ski wear.

Evel Knievel (Me), Frida Kahlo (Alicia),
Carnac the Magnificent (the other Brian),
and Audry Hepburn (Ivonne)

The curse of King Tut

My nephew Ethan did a superb job of promoting
his candy count guessing game.

The whale trainer who died at SeaWorld.

Michael Hutchence of INXS shows off his neckwear.

The photobooth is fun every year!

Joan of Arc feels the heat
from the costume contest.

The Bahá'í made for an easy landmark
with which to find the party!

Catherine the Great and her... uh... "friend"
JonBenét Ramsey Now that's wrong.
That's just wrong.

Elvis (a.k.a. Burt from this earlier post) and Evel

Thursday, October 21, 2010

RunKeeper

Alicia turned me on to RunKeeper about a month ago, and I've been having fun with it. It's an iPhone app that tracks your workouts. I've been using it to track my running and walking activities.

I like the fitness reports that it provides, and I like that it motivates me to keep active. But what I really like about it is that it lets me take pictures (albeit with my sadly low-res iPhone camera) along my route. This lets me engage my photography skills, lets me share what I'm seeing, and lets folks see the fun places that I get to travel to.

Bahá'í templeToday I ran to the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois (then nursed my ankle on a leisurely CTA ride back home). Along the way I went through Northwestern University and past the Grosse Point Lighthouse. Click to see the route I took. Better yet... While looking at the route, click on the photo icons to see some pix I took.
The icons look like this:  






Other recent activities with pix:



I travel a lot, so expect to see other interesting locations in the future. I've got an especially interesting destination coming up in November. More details to follow. Suffice it to say for now that Alicia and I are very excited about this trip!  :-)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Who Is Brian Watrous?

Growing up with a name like “Watrous”, you don’t encounter many people with the same surname. In elementary school, having the name meant continually being alphabetized into the back of the classroom. But the world has changed considerably since my days at West Antioch Elementary School. The school, which opened shortly before I enrolled in kindergarden, was demolished years ago. Little in life is immutable.

Occasionally I like to Google myself – is it pragmatism or narcissism, you decide – and explore my online identity. I’ve been online for over a quarter century in one form or another (e.g. the Bulletin Board Systems of my 300 baud youth (that's "baud", not "bawdy"), the online forums at UCSC, email, the Internet, etc.), so there are traces of me here and there.

One of the ways that the world has changed is that I’m not the only Brian Watrous on the Internet these days. It is getting increasingly difficult to distinguish me from the other Brian Watrouses, so I thought I’d make the effort to help disambiguate me from my online doppelgängers.

Yes, I was the founder of ATCS, Inc. which I owned for ten years.

No, I don’t own Watrous Bros. Machine Shop in Mystic, Connecticut.


Yes, I currently work for VMware.

No, I didn’t work for The SCO Group. I did work for The Santa Cruz Operation (now defunct), but those are different companies. The SCO Group got into a bit of a legal tussle, tarnished their reputation (to put it as politely as I can), got me targeted by some rabid members of the Linux community (long story for another time), and destroyed the company. Last person to leave SCO: Please remember to turn the lights off on your way out.


Yes, I like watching movies.

No, I didn’t co-star in the short film “One Night Stand”. I know I've been on some bad dates in my life, but this one takes the cake.


Yes, this is me on Linkedin.com.

No, I’m not this guy on Linkedin.com. Another Watrous in Connecticut?


Yes, I’ve heard of Facebook, but I don’t use it.

No, this isn’t me on Facebook. I’m not really the loves-hockey kind of guy. He’s somehow affiliated with the Jokers of Doom. To his credit, a post on their Facebook page reports, “Congrats to Brian Watrous (30 points in 8 games) for leading the league and setting a new franchise record in the process.” But I’m not that Brian Watrous, nor am I a member of the Jokers of Doom.


Yes, I’ve heard of Twitter, but I don’t use it. Don’t we all have enough twits in our lives already?



Yes, I’ve heard of MySpace, but I’m not there either.

No, this isn’t me on MySpace. This guy is also from Connecticut??? What’s up with all these Watrouses in Connecticut? My favorite quote on his page is, “Only so long you can work in the asylum before it starts to feel like home.” No, that guy isn’t me.


Yes, Alicia and I are married.

No, Stacey Sprague and I never married. Perhaps that could be because we’ve never met? BTW… The wedding took place in Milford… wait for it… Connecticut. Here’s another wedding announcement. More info about Stacey and Brian here.


Yes, we are one of those couples that doesn’t have children.

No, I don’t have a secret love child with Jillian. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!


Yes, I know what an elk looks like.

No, I’m not a lifetime member of the Montague Elks Lodge #2521. The minimum age is 65. I’ve got a few years till they’ll consider me for lifetime membership.


Yes, I ran track (but preferred cross country) in High School.

No, I don’t appear in this list of high school all time best 800/880 times. Just a guess here… That’s probably because I didn’t go to high school in Massachusetts or New England for that matter.


Yes, I ran 5K (and 10K) races in high school.

No, I didn’t run in The Mini Meet at Stanley Quarter Park in New Britain, Connecticut on October 20, 2007.


Yes, I would have liked to have won one of my races back in high school.

No, I didn’t win the 800 meter and I’ve never run a relay race.


Yes, I know a thing or two about root.

No, I didn’t teach “Tea Tasting 101”. To quote, “In this tasty tea class, we will join Brian Watrous of Missoula¹s Bitter Root Acupuncture & Herbarium. Brian is trained in the Chinese gong-fu style of tea service and will be teaching the differences between white, green, oolong, pu-erh and black teas.”



Yes, I have changed sink faucets in my home, but I prefer to call a plumber.

No, I’m not a plumber at Northfield Mount Hermon School (established 1879). If you need a plumber, go ahead and give Brian a call. His phone number is right there on that web page. And no, I’m not an apprentice, journeyman, or master plumber.


Yes, I have a life – a rather exciting life full of travel and adventures.

No, I don’t have want to sign up for an account at mylife.com. I’m probably listed there, but I can’t bring myself to divulge to them my email address (let alone give them my credit card number). Besides, what’s wrong with just using my browser’s “View Source” to see beyond their annoying “Create Free Account” popup window?


Yes, I am a home owner. We bought at the height of the market. Woohoo!



Yes, I enjoy art.



Yes, I love music. I enjoy a wide variety of types from Albinoni to ZZ Top and from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2 Adagio Sostenuto to Rock Lobster.

No, I didn’t design CD artwork for Metalica Reload.


Yes, I rarely miss an opportunity to visit New York. I’m heading to Rochester in November, but alas it’s a day trip and I won’t have time to go to Manhattan. :-(

No, I didn’t graduate from FHS in Farmingdale, New York.


Yes, I’ve had some patently stupid ideas in my life.

No, I did not file United States Patent #5807153 (Ice Rescue Vehicle). I didn’t even know that ice needed rescuing. Is this related to climate change? If we save the ice, then we won’t need to save the polar bears, right?


Yes, I did a bunch of the demo work when we remodeled our house.

No, I don’t own a home improvement company.


Yes, I had a BB gun as a kid.

No, I’ve never participated in an Interleague All-Star Pistol Team Match. Maybe I’m a little too literal, but their theme, “A head-to-head shoot-off for League supremacy”, sounds a little too gory for my tastes.

The Internet is comprised of a limitless quantity of tubes (or so I hear), so it shouldn’t surprise you that the list above is only a partial sample of what Google has to say about me and my online doppelgängers. Hopefully this post will help you to distinguish when it’s me you’re reading about online.

By the way, if you look for me outside of the Internet and you find some guy in Santa Cruz county with my name, please don’t mistake me for the blonde, dreadlocked, stoner surfer dude who also went to UCSC. That’s definitely not me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Keeneland

Compared to some, I lead an exciting, glamorous life filled with exciting travels around the country and around the world. But compared to others, I lead a dreary life confined by the drudgery of commercial air travel. On Friday, I got to hang out with those latter folks and get a taste of their life.

My father, brother, and I met Burt, Fritz, and Rock at the Atlantic Aviation FBO at Chicago Executive Airport (a.k.a. Palwaukee) around 8:00 in the morning. We boarded a Cessna Citation Sovereign 680 for the forty-eight minute flight to Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, KY for our day trip to Keeneland Race Course.

The jet was well appointed and very comfortable. The supple seats ruined me for commercial airlines. And on takeoff, the thrust and rapid takeoff was noticeably different. I suspect the takeoff on my next commercial flight – a week from today – is going to be frightening. A commercial jet’s takeoff is comparatively wimpy. It’s a wonder those behemoths get off the ground.

Keeneland is just across Hwy 60 from Blue Grass Airport, but we didn’t go directly to the track. Instead, we were driven to Lane’s End Farm where we were lead by Ben on an amazing tour.
It surely wasn’t my clout that made this tour possible – that honor belongs to Burt, Fritz, and Rock. They own several thoroughbreds and they were discussing adding some more to the mix. The people of Lane's End were pleased to introduce them to the horses.


The farm which was painted in beautiful autumnal colors as fall descended on the landscape. On the tour, we had the pleasure of meeting several amazing horses: Curlin, A.P. Indy, Rock Hard Ten, Lemon Drop Kid, and others. When they were paraded before us, they were magnificent in their strength and beauty.

After retiring from racing, horses such as Curlin and the others get to ‘enjoy’ their days in the company of many a mare. I’m not a horse guy, so check here to make sure I’ve got the terminology right. We toured the facilities where the stallions perform their services and learned quite a lot about the entire process.

After touring Lane’s End, we headed to Keeneland and watched the races. Everyone in our group is far more knowledgeable about handicapping than I am or will ever be, but even I joined in on the fun. I placed a single bet of my own – a show bet – and promptly lost that money. The other guys were placing much larger bets and having mixed success.

When the group agreed to pool ten bucks each into a parlayed show bet on each of the ten races, I decided that was a much better strategy for me. Call it my OPM strategy. It worked like this: We each chipped in the ten bucks initially, and one person would place a show bet on a single horse for one race. As long as the horse was in the top three, we won. If we won, we parlayed the original ten bucks and the winnings into the bet on the next race. If we lost, we each chipped in ten more bucks and the process started anew.

Dad

We went in reverse chronological order – oldest first. My father was first up. His bet won, so we were up from the original $70 to something around $200. Then Ben was up. We Busted. Chip in ten more. Then Rock was up. Bust. Chip in ten more bucks. Then I was up.

“How,” I wondered, “can I possibly be the third oldest in this bunch? Sigh…”





My brother, John
 The pressure was off me since we didn’t have any winnings on the line. I placed a very conservative bet, and it paid off. I don’t remember how much we were up at that point, but next up were Burt, James (who joined in later), and my brother John. Each bet won, so we were up to something over $600.

The problem – you undoubtedly have figured out – is that by parlaying all of the winnings into each subsequent bet meant that just a single loss would wipe us out. And that’s exactly what happened when Fritz stepped up. When his bet lost, the group – as you might expect – gave him no end of grief. But he made it up by treating for dinner later that evening at Dudley’s.


Last up was my Dad again. He had placed the most successful bet out of all of ours, so we were more than happy to have him place the final wager. We had each chipped in $50 by this point, so it would be nice to have a win on the last one. But since we had $50 on the line, he decided that rather than play it safe, he needed to place a more aggressive bet… something that would pay greater odds if it showed (or better).

Alas, it was not meant to be. I was out the $50, but $50 was far less than the cost of this day trip, so no complaints on my part.

Dinner ran over schedule. No big deal. Burt just called up the pilots and told them we were running a little late. Try that with a commercial flight!

It was a dark but very clear night on the flight back. We departed Kentucky, flew across Indiana, and headed northward across Lake Michigan. We had a beautiful view of downtown Chicago, and when we touched down Fritz’s Benz was waiting for him on the tarmac. Our car was in the parking lot, so we had to – egads – walk through the FBO into the parking lot to the car. It wasn’t as glamorous as having the car waiting for us there by the jet, but it helped ease me back into the world where I live. A world where your car isn’t waiting for you on the tarmac. A world where 'FBO' is just another unknown TLA. A world where a flight to somewhere exciting is always exciting, but never quite as exciting as flying there in a private jet.

Their life is not the life I lead, but the life I lead is pretty sweet nonetheless. :-)