Concert Time: Devo & Arcade Fire

There I was, just sitting at my desk on what was shaping up to be an average Wednesday, until I get a phone call that changed everything.  Friend Mike, who I oft hosted for lawn beers, asked me if I wanted to see Arcade Fire and Devo perform at the United Center, that day…in his boss’ fully catered luxury box.  The answer was an obvious and enthusiastic ‘yes’, so he picked me right up from work, with the T-Tops down, and we were tearing down the highway.

We were some of the first ones there, and once gates 2 1/2 opened up, we strutted over to our suite.  No one else showed up for another half hour, but that just gave us the chance to lay into the mini fridge and cheese platter.  The box was on the lower level at half court and offered a view from the stage flank that was neither too perpendicular to nor far from the action on stage.  The plebs were milling about as I enjoyed my blue and brie on high.

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Finally, the rest of the group showed up, as did our own personal meat carver.  I really don’t know how to assess someone’s carving prowess, but after tasting what he placed on my plate I was very much satisfied with his work; that was some of the finest meat I’ve eaten in a very long time.  There was also a dessert cart that came by and provided me with a perfect piece of carrot cake, and some sipping liquor in a small chocolate cup.

20140827_185235The music kicked off with Devo, which you may [or may not] recognize as the creative force behind “Whip It”.  They apparently live in Rockford, IL and were willing to join the tour for just this stop.  I must admit that although I knew very little of their catalog, it is always great to witness any icon that has made a lasting contribution to pop culture.  They are quite a bit older now so something about the performance seemed odd – it was just so far from their normal audience.  We amused ourselves by considering that both my dad and I could have seen them open for someone.  They of course wore their signature hazmat suits, and unmistakable red energy domes, along with several other matching get ups throughout the show.  I can imagine that these were some quirky guys back in the day, and worthy of their cult favor.

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There was some DJ entertaining the pit between sets, which I actually thought made a lot more sense than people just standing in silence.  Once the stage was set, the army of Arcade Fire members came on out, 10 in all.  I must admit that I only knew one or two songs by them, but as Grammy winning artists the overall quality of the music was high enough to be entertained throughout.  There wasn’t a whole lot of transition talk between songs, just boom boom boom – music.  At several points during the show, there were people walking through the audience and on stage with enormous heads.  It was bizarre.  I have an awful camera on my phone, but this at least shows our proximity to the stage.

20140827_212853Once everything was wrapped up, I laughed at everyone working, almost competing, to vehemently agree with what our host thought of the show.  Of course it was a great performance, but I can’t imagine that the older members of our party truly felt as they were all suggesting.  I was very grateful to have had such a first experience at America’s largest indoor arena (by size, not capacity), and also to see some live music.  Mike and I wouldn’t get home until after midnight, and I just dumped myself into my bed once I got there.  What a Wednesday.

 

 

Business Tripping – The Morton Arboretum

The other day I was extended the opportunity to take a field trip along with my coworker Ed to the Morton Arboretum for a green industry event.  It is located about 45 minutes south of my work, in Lisle.  I haven’t really seen many of these sorts of green spaces so far, so it was a great opportunity to not only get out of the office, but scope out a potential picnic spot.

The two of us piled into my car and took off, arriving just in time to practice for the Bags tournament.  Ed had never before played this Midwest lawn game staple, so the practice was much needed.  The boards were pretty far apart, slick, and at a low slope, so it was basically impossible.  We got a bye through the first round, and then got blanked 21-0 in the second.  We were not at all worthy of the 100 dollar prize, but we nursed our wounds with the catered food and drink.

20140807_100935Following food we justified our presence by walking around the different booths, trying to take in as much as possible.  None of the companies here were directly relevant to the products that we deal with, but our attendance was pitched simply as an opportunity to learn more about what else was out there.  I talked with a nursery, soil amendment blender, landscaping equipment manufacturer, one of our distributors, and to some guy about green roof technology.  The takeaways each did more to round out my rather limited knowledge of the industry.  I also learned a thing or two about Live Walls, which are clearly exciting.

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Since we were already there, the two of us decided to walk through some of the rest of the arboretum.  The grounds were sprawling, and far larger than we had either the energy or interest in exploring.  We strolled through the conifer section, and also a hedge maze.  This was all that we really needed to confirm that it would be worth revisiting at some point, and perhaps in the fall to capture the changing leaves.  There was an unexplained series of pillars among the pines that caught our attention.

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The last thing we did was walk through the lobby to grab a drink and absorb the history of the massive 1,700 acre expanse.  I was surprised to learn that the ‘Morton’ part of the name comes from Joy Morton, of salt company fame, and this used to be his farm.  After that we took off, to drive back to Buffalo Grove.  It was a nice excursion, on a perfect day, that really helped to break up the workweek.  Hopefully I’ll have the chance to steal away on a few more of these outings in the future.

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Friends In Chicago From Afar

For some weeks May’s friend Charles was planning on visiting her here in Chicago, and I volunteered to help with the hosting duties on account her absurd landlord.  I’ve not formally made any mention yet, but this ‘May’ of whom I speak is in fact my girlfriend, and the ‘Charles’ character is a friend that comes from the year she spent in Argentina.  He is also the first friend that I’ve had the opportunity to meet.  Based on her descriptions Charles seemed to me a bit fastidious, so I knew that making the right impression and getting his blessing would yield some positive effects.

My apartment was already going to be a little crowded with the two of them over, but then I got a message from college buddy Spencer about he and his girlfriend’s imminent arrival.  A month or so prior he mentioned a trip back  from Japan and that he wanted to visit me, though that was the last I had head of it.  Spencer is fairly useless when it comes to communication and staying in touch, as you can see from our transcript below.

[6/9/2014 Justin Bussies: don’t be such a stranger, and let me know when you are planning on being home!
[7/4/2014] Spencer Warn: Hey happy fourth it’s official I will be back next month for a few weeks see you then
[7/6/2014] Justin Bussies: YES!
[7/31/2014] Justin Bussies: hey, which days will you be home this month?!
[8/8/2014] Justin Bussies: Call to spencerwarn, no answer.
[8/12/2014] Justin Bussies: you going to be here in the next couple of weeks?!
[8/15/2014] spencerwarn: Ya that is the plan I am swinging in to Chicago this weekend so get ready if we crash at your place
[8/15/2014] Justin Bussies: WHAT? Tomorrow!?

So for that Friday night, I took Charles over to the Brauhaus for his first ever plate of glorious curds, and May was kind enough to sponsor the round of beers.  It’s a German bar but I generally go with the Lion Stout, from Sri Lanka.  We were able to sit outside and talk a bit before heading back to mine.  I was possibly trying a bit too hard to foist myself into the conversation with charm and wit,  but we all seemed to enjoy each other’s company throughout the evening.  This selfie turned out a bit blurry, but here we are destroying those fried morsels of joy.

10410435_10152325883268506_7784123384585112884_nThe next morning they did things downtown, while I waited at home for Spencer and Aya to roll in.  I hadn’t seen the two of them in over a year – since my days in Japan – and I was really looking forward to it.  They showed up about 15 minutes before the train we needed to be on was set to depart.  The grand plan was to get downtown to meet our fraternity brother Nate, and also link back up with May and company for the rest of the evening festivities.  The one hour ride passed quickly as we reminisced on the days of yore, caught up on the more recent happenings of life, and dusted the rust off my Japanese.  A short hour later we arrived and began our stroll towards Nate’s apartment, stopping for a few pictures along the way.

10614023_485786924858277_1698987850_n Here was a nice one that Aya snapped outside the iconic Chicago Theater.

10617751_485787161524920_1248852241_nNate had just moved to within a block of the Michigan Avenue Mag Mile, and this was my first time seeing the new digs.  He had readied a couple sixers of Chicago brew and then led us to the roof of the building where we could enjoy them in the open air and surrounding beauty of the skyline.  It wasn’t long before the lovely May and her two friends were able to join us.  We finished our drinks before heading over to Timothy O’Toole’s for some food and additional beverage.  The Centurian men posed for a couple of pictures.

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Things were great at O’Toole’s, but we had a 12:30am last train to catch, and time was running short.  Everything looked like it would work out perfectly, but goodbyes took a little longer than expected, and we wound up having to run the second half of the way.  The five of us only barely made it aboard before it started chugging away from the platform, and we pretty much just collapsed into our seats, sweating and moribund.  May and I used a balloon that some random guy gifted us back at the restaurant as an impromptu prop.

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The next morning I awoke to the heavenly aromas of a cooked breakfast.  May took it upon herself to do up some eggs, sausage links, and biscuits, while also providing fresh doughnuts, coffee, and orange juice.  There are few things better than not only sleeping in on a weekend, but also waking up to something like that.  Spencer had already dropped Aya off at the airport that morning, so the remaining four of us went to town on the plethora of food.  I handled the dishes, of course.

10616542_10152327504058506_1070764796645599896_nWe spent Sunday afternoon at the Woodfield Mall, where I continued my wardrobe investment campaign.  I made the plastic melt, but such is no matter when when one considers the mileage rewards and values being reaped!  Back at home, I set to cooking some BBQ pork and green beans.  Things turned out alright, and after a quick cleanup we settled into the final chapter of the weekend, which was just a nice evening of chatter.  Spencer and Charles each stayed another night, while May returned home.  I got to bed at my normal 1:30am, since I like to be fresh for Mondays.

Throughout the weekend I was able to embrace my hosting duties and shoulder the responsibility of everyone having a great time – I get that from my mother.  I too enjoyed the opportunity to see those that I don’t often interact with, and make a positive impression on some new acquaintances.  Weekends like this are never long enough, and always take it out of you.

 

Toastmasters: The Beginning

Something I’ve started recently at the behest of my employer was to join one of the nearby Toastmaster Chapters.  I didn’t know what this club was about but when checking online for a meeting location, was surprised to find that there were over 240 chapters in the Chicagoland area, and that the one that I’ve affiliated myself with has been around since 1970!

We gather the first and third Monday of every month at the Palatine Library from 7-9:00.  This makes for a long start to those weeks, but my work is happy to let me bank the comp time to use as I please, which is nice.  I always like to scheme excursions and such, but time and money are of course the limiting factors.  Fortunately though, this helps to mitigate one of them.

The meetings are really well run, and are in a lot of ways similar to those of my fraternity business meetings, just infinitely more productive.  Things actually remain cordial throughout, and each element of the meeting it appropriately addressed before segued into the next.  Most attendees take part in the 30 second Round Table discussions, where we go around and everyone takes a stab at speaking on a particular question.  Then are the Table Topic discussions, which are minute long, extemporaneous speeches given on a mystery topic by three or four people.  I generally try to take part in these every time.

The second half of the meeting is filled with the prepared speeches, and followed up the evaluators’ assessments.  I’ve so far done my ‘Ice Breaker’, and also entered into the Humorous Speech Contest.  For the first, I just had to talk a bit about myself, and in the latter spoke on my failed attempt at getting into Yemen.  I certainly did not win a heads up dual against chapter president, and Distinguished Toastmaster (4th degree Black Belt equivalent) Jerry, but all seemed happy with my willingness to get up there and go for it.  Having coached my Japanese students through a few years of speech contests, it is good to experience it from the other way around.

I have nine more speeches to go until I’ve earned my Competent Communicator (CC) certification, and such is my goal.  Also, by fulfilling some of set positions of the meetings, such as Grammarian, Timer, Evaluator, etc., I’m able to work towards my Competent Leader (CL) award.  I figure that I’m there for my employer, especially since they’ve paid for it, but I want to get the most out of it too.  I’m a strong believer in professional development, and taking every opportunity to become a better, more valued employee makes great sense to me.  One’s ability to move up is not based solely on the amount of time put in; qualification and capability will always be an important factor.  I’ve been at my company for about 6 months now, and it is already clear that confidence in speaking is an asset, especially if I hope to navigate towards an [international] sales role.  At the very least though, I’ve got the ‘Enthusiasm Award’ under my belt, and you can never take that from me…

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Cubs Weekend With The Fam

Recently the family minus sister Tiffany was able to come visit my new digs in Chicago.  My parents had helped me move in, but for my brother it was a first time visit to the estate.  The last couple of months were spent getting my bachelor pad up to snuff.  Some posters, speakers, and plenty of lava lamps have pretty much ensured that it’s looking right.

Once they arrived, we head over to Schaumburg, where they had booked a hotel for the night.  Food was first on the agenda, and for that we went to The Beer Market, which has over 500 varieties.  We ordered some burritos to go with the drinks, which rather inconveniently meant walking on over to the restaurant next door for take out.  From there we did a little shopping, checked the family into their Schaumburg hotel and then got in a quick lifting session.  Parker and I were throwing up some pretty intense reps.  I dragged them back to Palatine before bed to snag some curds at my favorite German brauhaus.

The next morning they picked me up at my place, and then together we made the drive downtown to our hotel.  We wanted to do something a little bit special, so we stayed in the slightly swanky Sax Hotel, ideally situated right downtown and adjacent to the House of Blues.  We amused ourselves with the posh bar decor.  Here be a dapper man of the world.

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We made our way down the Magnificent Mile, but ignored most of the shops.  Eventually we hopped onto bus # 151 that would be taking us north.  While it would have taken us all the way to Wrigleyville, I had the crew hop off at the Wiener’s Circle for lunch.  This place offers delicious brats and burgers, and rather abrasive customer service.  I was hoping to blindside my parents with this avant garde form of service, but our conservative appearance and the time of day probably had them take it easy on us.   For a better and more entertaining example, have a gander at this.  (Moderate Language)

From there we had a half hour walk down to Wrigleyville, where we arrived at exactly the time I had tasked myself with.  Unfortunately my fantastic planning and time management was three hours earlier than we needed to be there.  We rallied quickly and set ourselves up at an open air bar filled with TVs where we were able to nurse a couple drinks throughout the Germany Ghana World Cup match.  This was an entertaining game, and with the outcome relevant to America’s hope for an elimination round bid, the bar crowd was really getting into it.  While walking around Parker and I were identified by a PACSUN employee as ‘cool’ and invited to be a part of some extravagant marketing campaign.  I’ve never shopped their clothes before, but the two of us had the ‘look’ and after completing some hashtagging and social media tasks were given free rooftop tickets.  To their chagrin, we insisted the parents be able to join us as well.

IMG_3375An hour before the start of the game we were granted access to our private party, along with the open bar and taco buffet privileges that came with it.  Food and drink are not so cheap at Wrigley, so I’m sure my dad was pleased to be off the hook for our veracious appetites.  45 minutes before game time, a small army of people ran out to cover the field on account of impending rain.  There had been no sign of it prior to that, but Doppler didn’t disappoint.  The rain pounded down on all those plebs stuck outside, while we sat up in our towers and feasted.
IMG_3377We couldn’t come all this way only to see the stadium from the outside, so around the 4th inning we walked across the street to test out the seats we had already paid for.  This was good, though we left sometime around the 7th.  These were the Cubs of course, so there was no victory in sight.  We paused on the way out to snag a group photo, and then took the L back to our River North room.

10488206_894515451815_7026071127924079042_nThe next morning we did a bit more strolling down the Mag Mile, popped into Banana Republic, and were drawn by the nose into Garret’s.  They produce the world’s finest flavored popping corn and no trip to Chicago would be complete without it.  While waiting in line, there was a little photo booth that we had some fun with.  Om nom nom.
10489967_894515087545_657175194051437217_nWe spent some time walking the length of Navy Pier, but were all a bit underwhelmed by its offerings.  Eventually I was dropped off at the train station and we each went our own ways.  T’was a good weekend and definitely an opportunity to experience some more of my new Chicago locale.

 

A Kei Stay

As mentioned in the camping update, Japanese friend and fraternal brother Kei was in town and staying with me for the better part of a week.  I snuck out of the office a couple minutes early on Friday to go collect him from the airport, and then we got settled into a fine Palatine evening.  Throughout most of his stay we spent our evenings at home; I was still obliged to work while he spent the days either tidying up the house or else out exploring Chicago.  Of course we had our little camping trip as the highlight, but we did find a couple other opportunities to have some fun, mostly pertaining to food.  This was his first American meal in a while, so I made it count.

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There were a few guys unable to take part in our camping excursion but nevertheless wanted to connect with Kei for the first time in nearly four years.  For this we planned a dinner outing that took us to On The Border for some Mexican eats.  While the quality is only barely above that of Taco Bell, it is certainly more authentic than what’s available in Japan.  We were happy with the endless taco option, and their bottomless chips and fantastic salsa assured us that we left satisfied, or at least full.  They really need to include photography training for all servers, so otherwise happy customers don’t get stuck with blurry duckfaces and peace signs..

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One other meal that Kei and I did was at home and involved going to the store to buy whatever fit the mood.  What we settled on were massive burgers with all the fixings.  It took an unhinged jaw to eat, or knife and fork in the case of Kei, but was absolutely fantastic.  We had a third one that we had to offer to a happy roommate, as there was just no more room to pack another down either of our gullets.  I opted for tsukimi burgers, in honor of Kei.

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The six days that he spent over at mine passed quickly.  Of course it was great to spend some time with a friend I don’t see all that often, but his presence was the impetus for some good times with friends that I wouldn’t likely have enjoyed otherwise.  My midweeks can be a bit tame and anything that makes them even somewhat memorable is much appreciated.  I’m sure some of these same faces will pile into a car and visit him a few months on down the road.

Chicagoland Camping Action

Recently a longtime Japanese friend and fraternity brother made a return to the states to start grad school.  Aside from those of us who went over to Japan and saw him there, this was the first time that most people were going to see him in nearly four years.  While Kei provided the impetus, getting people excited about gathering together for some quality bro time was not a hard sell.  I did a little research online, and in the end decided that a KOA Kampground 45 minutes away was our best bet.  Kei and I did some shopping beforehand to meet the meat mandate.

food We caravanned on over and despite our best efforts could not manage to portray a group of mild-mannered men.  I don’t think we did anything wrong, but they just assumed that a bunch of young adults were bound to be trouble.  To be fair though, why else would we go to some campground for a single night…?  They insisted rather obnoxiously that it wasn’t a party campground; we of course had no intention of engaging in disruptively rambunctious behavior.  I had reserved us some cabins, which meant that we didn’t need to mess around with tents and had all the facilities set up and awaiting our arrival.

No one wanted to stand at the helm of the grill, so I shouldered the burden.  This is a culinary medium that I’ve only rarely done well, and it’ll take a lot more practice before I’m properly seasoned.  Once I got the coals lit, the call came in to go pick up a late arrival at the train station.  I had to forfeit the task to a bunch of fools who squandered the perfectly tuned heat of the grill and left me with a bin of soot by the time of my return.  I tried to salvage it by feeding in a few more coals, but eventually gave up and had to start from scratch.  These were a bit slower to take, but I with hookah tongs in hand tweezed and turned the meat to perfection.  Abe mustered mustard.

10443083_10204007681612253_5969977017320626688_oOnce all had supped their fill, we spent the rest of the evening simply reveling in each other’s company.  There were some of our Chicago based friends not of the fraternity that came and brought a much needed gender balance to the event too.  We had some pong and horseshoes going, and I must admit that once gathered together we are quite an interesting bunch.  Conversations carried easily, but we suspended them briefly to take some group photos at the behest of honorable Kei.  We are all very respectful of his culture.

10457673_10204007686532376_3649315539333783500_oTime marched on and the only things that really changed were the levels of ambient light and our volume.  We tried not to flout the warning given by one of the workers, and in the end all made it to bed without causing any [known] issues for our neighbors.  At the very least no one complained.  The next morning we cleaned up what was a surprisingly small mess and got ourselves right back on the road to return to our real lives.  One review described it as ‘the best post-graduation event thus far’, which I as host felt pretty good about.  My sincere thanks go to all that made an investment of their time and money, I trust it was worth both your while and repeating.

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Traverse City Escape

With my weekend extended a bit by Memorial Day, joining my family up at our Traverse City cottage on tranquil Arbutus Lake was in the cards.  I hadn’t been up there for nearly four years thanks to my taking residence in Japan, but to go as a complete family meant it would probably be a good time.  We piled into the Subaru and hit the road.  Thanks to a highway extension, the drive took a bit less time than I remembered.  Once arrived, we all settled into a sunny, yet chill-filled afternoon.  The dock was not out yet, so kindly suspend your disbelief.

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Most of our day to day plans were unplanned, and I was very satisfied with this.  I showed up with no real agenda, just a desire to laze about and relive a few of those things from days past.  It’s incredible how little things up there have changed.  As is always the case with our family trips, the cribbage board comes along.  There were a couple rounds of Euchre that took place too, but getting four people keen on it wasn’t always as easy as getting just the one necessary for cribbage.  I think I had winning record through the weekend, but this shot was from what went on to be Parker’s 3rd consecutive thrashing.

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One of the big happenings that weekend was the Bay Shore Marathon, which Tiffany was going to be taking part in.  It was her first one, so of course we all needed to be there and support.  It did involve us all getting up a little bit earlier than was preferable, but again the skies were clear and the day plenty warm.  There were a couple of spots along the course where we could bus to and cheer for those passingby.  Of course, it wouldn’t have been right to do so without the assistance of some uplifting placards.  Mother outdid herself.  On the left is the Boston qualifying finisher.  Well done Whipper Lips.

runnnnnnnning!As an additional observation, Traverse City’s famous cherry orchards were abloom, which I enjoyed.  I probably wouldn’t have really cared about them the last time I was at the cottage, but thanks to my time in Japan and all their sakura culture, I’ve developed a bit of an appreciation for them.  I’m used to pink, but these white ones we no less a sign of spring.

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There were a number of tasks to be dutifully done up there to get it ready for the new year.  One that I enjoyed a little bit was getting up on the garage to sweep off the autumn debris, but the real work was to take place at the water’s edge.  For the first time ever, my generation was summoned to take part in the ceremony of the dock.  Usually I would let the ‘adults’ do this and then reap the fruits of their labor, but alas my time had come to slosh through the muck.  The whole process was pretty painless and we probably had it wrapped up within a half hour or so.  Wader Joe and Brick Slingin’ Bus paused a moment to revel in the masculinity of this process.
photoIf we are going to take part in some big manly activities, then so too must we partake of some manly food.  For the first time in ages, I was able to eat some of my grandma’s homemade balkenbrij, which is a traditional Dutch liverwurst.  These patties are certainly a treat, as was the unmissable Peegeo’s Pizzas.
IMG_3313Our time there passed quickly, but I was certainly able to get my fill of everything I had hoped for: games, laughs, and revisiting the days of yore.  I’m sure that it wont take me another four years to get back up there, but the reality is that it may not be so soon.  I’m glad to have made the most of my time at the ‘Bussies Gateway’.

Business Tripping: Charlotte, North Carolina

Another work trip was planned to take place in Charlotte, and again I was able to check off another new state.  A college buddy of mine had recently moved there, so I booked my flight to arrive the night before our meetings.  I was whisked away from my house by a taxi and on the way we got slammed by some inclement weather.  After I checking in, I caught a glimpse of the monitors that were starting to fill up with delays.  At first it was just flights heading west, but mine was soon pushed back too, and then again and again.  I was getting a bit fed up with it all, since a was clearly inevitable.  Word came at last, and I was able to return home with plans to fly out that next morning.  I counted my blessings though, as the line of people who needed to figure out their plan B spanned the entire length of the concourse.

When I arrived back at the airport, it was clear that there were massive problems left in the wake of that storm.  O’Hare is United’s primary hub, so to have none of the planes or crews in the right places meant utter chaos.  I saw several of the same people from the night before, and was glad to have showered and slept in my own bed.  Looking again over at the monitor, there were just a handful of flights not cancelled or delayed, and the runways were dead.  These problems were not aided by the alleged fire that took place in the control tower.  I have my doubts that this actually occurred though, as it gave the airlines an out for all the cancellations and saved them putting everyone up in a hotel.

Deep Freeze

I spent about 10 hours in zombie mode hoping to make standby for some flight that never even happened, and finally I bailed on the whole thing.  I was told by my boss to do everything in my power to get there by the next morning, since there were some important demonstrations that could not be replicated elsewhere.  Thursday morning was the earliest that United was forecasting my arrival…3 days after my original arrival time, and actually after my return flight home.  So, I hopped online and booked another flight departing from Midway that evening.  I had to drive over there,  and finally – FINALLY – arrived to Charlotte around 1:00am.

The next day, I ate a sleepy breakfast and recounted the tale of my journey to my coworkers before we all piled onto the bus.  This was going to take us to our distribution and production centers so that we could all get a better understanding of how the company functions.  It was interesting to be walking through pallet mountains of the various products I’ve been learning about.  I also appreciated the stroll through our production facility where I saw all the steps that add value to our industry leading products.  My favorite stop was the company skunk-works where we were forbidden of taking pictures or even talking about what we saw with people outside the company.  It feels pretty cool to be a VIP.

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There were some hands on product demonstrations that let us get an appreciation for how our products are used and applied.  I’m sure a lot of people have seen the green slurry that hydroseeders spray on lawns, and that is one of our products, but we also do a whole lot more.  We got a crash course introduction into the equipment, and then climbed aboard to use it for ourselves.

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Once business was over, it was time for a bit of office bonding.  We were broken into six teams and then headed over to Kitchen Stadium where we had an Iron Chef style battle.  In each of three rounds, we were presented with a couple of theme ingredients and about 20 minutes to turn them in the best tasting dishes we could.  I’ll admit that our all male team was not so good at this, and that some were more concerned with the wine, but we all had a great time with event.  Presentation was also taken into consideration, and the cucumbers I carved into little tiki people were met with rave reviews.  Here was our team, right at the beginning.

cooking team
In the end, I’m pretty sure that we took last place but it was a very unique event.  Once things were done in the kitchen, we busted out a cooler of refreshments and rolled back to the hotel where we spent the next couple hours together in the courtyard.  Everyone was really having a great night, but as it wore on people peeled off to bed.

That next day, I had to make my return for home which was unfortunately into O’Hare Airport.  As much as I wanted it all to end, an hour long cab ride south separated me from my car.  It was a tiring process, but duty called.  Although the coming and going was extremely taxing, once I finally got down to Charlotte I had a good time with my coworkers and was glad to have made it.  I’ll have to find a different opportunity to meet up with that friend though.

Here was a pretty cool slideshow of pictures from the event.

http://www.kizoa.com/slideshow-maker/d10814753k8003793o1/profile-2014-sales-meeting

 

Another Hope[fully Last] Graduation

The Hope College academic calendar was coming to an end, and my brother’s graduation offered the mandate that I return to my alma mater for the ceremony.  This was the first time I would be visiting home since making the move to Chicago a few months ago.  I was also excited to be in Holland for the Tulip Festival, which only after years away have I come to actually appreciate.  This year though we had a winter of old, and very few of the tulips were even close to blooming.  I’m used to ‘stem fests’ where they come out and die too early, but this was the latest I had ever seen them.  I did at least find a single patch to snap a quick picture of.  I had to crop out all the other tourists consolidated here trying to get their flower fix too.

tulip aciton

On the day of the actual graduation we gathered up at Hope’s Dimnent Chapel to listen to some RCA bigwig speak for the baccalaureate.  Once we were done with the service, it was picture time.  We moved on to a brunch just down the road.  Finally, hours later, we made our way over to the football stadium to stake out our seats and wait in the cold for things to get going.

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Eventually, the students showed up, took their seats, and things got rolling.  The first agenda item was the graduation speech, which followed the same formula as every one I have ever had to sit through.  There is always something exciting at the beginning to get the crowd hooked, but then interest wanes as they drone on and on and express the same ‘you can do anything/go change the world’ themes.  The only variables that affect a speech’s ability to hold the interest of those gathered are the quality of the orater, or if the speaker is somehow famous and relevant to the student body.  It just might look like a nice day, and it was indeed better than rain, but the wind was blowing and warmth was scarce.

graduation

With that finished up, we had to wade through the worst of the ceremony – the reading of names.  Hope College is not a particularly large school and can therefore justify reading each individual name as they walk up to receive their diploma.  This isn’t to say that it takes only a short while though; a full hour of listening to names and the obnoxious cheers that follow each and every one is a lot to ask of people.

While it was good to be home for the big event, one of the highlights was having a number of my friends in town for the same weekend.  I was able to see a great number of people, and some for the first time since my own graduation four years prior.  It was another of those busy weekends where every moment is spoken for, but it indeed worth being around for.

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