Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Write Your Own Joke

Too much testosterone kills brain cells

Also keep in mind that alcohol kills brain cells, so these two facts now explain a great deal.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Never Underestimate the Strength of the Starbucks Lobby

After the liquid ban I noticed that the airport Starbucks lines were a lot shorter. If you can't bring your $4 coffee on the plane with you - and if time is tight - you are going to pass.

So the FSA now allows you to bring any liquids "purchased in a secure area", meaning you have to leave the toothpaste at home, but your Starbucks purchased in the security area is now okay.

But I am not complaining.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Waiters With Tight Pants and Long Knives: Agora Churrascaria

Our favorite Japanese restaurant couldn't fit us in for over half an hour. Being hungry, we started heading towards a pretty good Mexican place when we passed a restaurant we had never seen before: Agora Churrascaria. Thinking it might be like Churrascos, one of our favorite restaurants in Houston, we decided to walk in. This was our first mistake: going into a restaurant without checking it out before hand.

We walked in and the decor seemed nice enough. We were escorted to one of the few open tables and were asked if we had been there before. We said we had not, so the hostess went on to explain the "concept" of the place, which I have copied here from their web site:

Agora Churrascaria is a Brazilian steak house...where waiters, dressed as Gauchos (local ranchers of the South), move from table to table carrying skewers of meat, from which they slice portions for their guests.

The hostess then went on to explain it was all-you-could-eat and included a salad and side bar. Mrs. Director and I looked at each other dubiously. Both of us hate buffet style eating, and this "gaucho" thing was a bit strange. But we were already seated and it would have been rude to get up and walk out at that point: Our second mistake.

The hostess left. We didn't know how much this little adventure - which this was now - would cost us. There was neither a menu nor price list available. We looked around and saw a bunch of kids. Families? All you can eat? Fairly crowded? We assumed whatever we thought of the place, at least it wouldn't set us back that much. Our third mistake.

So we decided to give it a go and went to the salad bar, which had not only "salads" but also potatoes, veggies, salmon, shrimp, and other hot and cold dishes to go with the meat dishes. We loaded up and went back to the table to wait for a gaucho to come by. We waited quite a while, so ended up eating all the sides first, which were all pretty good, so no complaints there other than the buffet style.

The, gauchos, when they finally come by, introduce what they are serving: "strip steak", "flank steak", "baked chicken", "pork wrapped in bacon", and so on. They carry the skewer in one hand and a long knife in the other. They then cut off a portion and flit walk to the next table with their two phallic symbols.

We had a couple of problems with this "concept". First, both the meat and the gauchos were both very rare. It may be an "all you can eat" place, but we waited ten or more minutes on average between gauchos. And if you didn't like what he was carrying, or how it was cooked, it meant for a mighty long wait between bites of meat. What came out was also pretty random, so you didn't even the kind of choices you would get at a real buffet.

Both Mrs. Director and I also thought the cuts of meat were poor. They were either too tough or too fatty. We reasoned that as an all-you-can-eat place that they have to keep costs down, but they seemed to manage that with the long waits between dishes.

We didn't so much have enough as just lose patience in waiting and asked for the bill. We didn't have any alcohol (we were going to do that later at home), and figured we were in for about $30 of damages each. Actual cost: $50 each (including tax and tip), no alcohol.

As our babysitter remarked when we told her the story, "You could have gone to a really nice place for a hundred dollars!". She's was absolutely right.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Airport Screenings are Getting Ridiculous

The screener going through my bag looked familiar. I looked closer and saw that it was Dirk, who traded in his mullet for a crew cut. He had really acclimated to the TSA culture.

"I notice you have toiletries in here."

"Um, yes," I replied. "I took out everything liquid and pasty and left everything that would pass screening."

"Pass screening? Isn't that for me to decide? For example, what's this?"

"Dental floss."

"To you, maybe. To me it is a possible garrotte. I am afraid I I'll have to confiscate it. And what's this?"

"A comb?"

"These teeth are reinforced plastic. You could break off a bunch, leaving you a handle with a sharp protrusion at the end. You can't bring this on."

"Okay. Whatever. Take it all, I have to catch my plane."

"One more thing. What's this?"

"Oh, those are Tae Kwon Do shoes. They are smaller and lighter than regular gym shoes, so I pack them for working out in hotel gyms."

"But when you don't use them for gym workouts, you use them for Tae Kwon Do?"

"Um, yeah."

He squinted and looked uneasily at me. "So your hands and feet could be considered weapons?" His right hand slowly lowered towards his gun.

I ran out of the airport as fast as I could, not caring if I missed my flight.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

This is How Power Brokers Spend Their Weekends

And every Saturday we work in the yard
Pick up the dog doo, Hope that it's hard

Take out the garbage and clean out the garage
My friend's got a Chrysler I've got a Dodge

We're just ordinary average guys

- Lou Walsh, "Ordinary Average Guys"

Something's wrong here:

Tuesday - Donned new, custom tailored power suit. Met with one of the largest Chaebols in Korea. CTO of one of the divisions says he is interested in my products, wants follow-up meetings in both the U.S. and Korea. This could be a multi-product, multi-million dollar deal. I direct my local man on the ground to figure out the internal politics so we make our way to the key decision maker.

Thursday - Meeting with one of the largest conglomerates in Japan. Discussion with my internal advocate goes very well, and we agree to an executive level meeting with his management and my CEO. I start working on setting up this meeting, which will allow me to both penetrate higher into this huge Japanese company as well as hob-nob with my own CEO.

Thursday Evening - Night on the town in old Kyoto, seeing quaint, 200 year old bars and eating outstanding sushi. Don't know what the evening cost, but it was well into the four figures by the time we stumbled back to the hotel by 1am.

Friday - Meeting in Tokyo with a mid-size Japanese company that has a long-standing relationship with my company. We go out afterwards, and after a fantastic dinner we hit a hostess club where we all sang karioke and flirted with pretty young girls until 1am.

Saturday - Dug a hole in my yard to find a sprinkler leak. Waited in line at hardware store to buy 40 cent plastic pipe. Fertilized yard and trimmed hedges. Tucked my daughter into bed and went to sleep by 9pm.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Ghost of a Friend

William and his companion, full of sake and sushi, stumbled down the back alleys of old Kyoto. They passed 200 year old wood buildings, still standing, William thought absently, only because the U.S. declared Kyoto an open city during WWII and didn't bomb the shit out of the area. The man at his side he had met only 24 hours before, but he felt an immediate attachment to him since he was a carbon copy of his recently deceased best friend in Japan. Even through the drunk haze, William still felt weirded out by the experience that started only half a day ago.

WM had to visit a few customers in Japan and was told to bring along the new rep his company had hired just a few weeks ago. The Company wanted to bring the guy on full time and wanted a report on whether he would be interested in becoming a permanent employee. William met Kobayashi-san at his hotel in Tokyo, finding him in the crowd through goatee and white hair.

He reminded WM immediately of Tsuruta-san, not only in look and manner, but also in focus and ability. This guy was a relationship manager, and as they reviewed accounts over lunch, it became apparent that this guy was well connected. It was also apparent that this guy liked to party. "When we go to Kyoto this evening, I know a very nice bar we can go to. It is very old and very hard to find."

Eight hours later, WM had a cigarette in one hand, a glass of sake in the other, and was singing Selene Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" over the karaoke machine. Kobayashi-san pitched in during the chorus. He was not as good a singer as Tsuruta-san, but otherwise he was eerily similar to William dead friend: the connections in industry, the love of good food and drink, the smoking, the karaoke, the girlfriends, knowing small, hidden restaurants and bars that only the well connected could find. Throughout the evening, William felt saddened that he couldn't bring the two men together, knowing they would have been quick friends. They were cut from the same cloth, and because of that William bonded with Kobayashi-san immediately.

The sake flowed, the cigarettes were offered. The small 180 year old bar held only eight people, and by 1am all of them were signing in unison, raising their glasses into the air. The middle aged matron, the daughter of a Geisha, smiled cryptically from behind the bar. Above her was a grainy black-and-white picture of her mother in full formal dress. The whole scene made William miss Tsuruta-san a little more, but he knew that Tsuruta-san would have been happy to know that there was now someone else to take care of him on his visits to Japan.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Product Idea

Since air travelers can't carry toothpaste with them on their carry-ons and since hotels are spotty whether they provide it in your room (U.S. and Korea generally no, Japan generally yes), how about a travel toothbrush with the cleaning/freshening agent built-in to the bristles? It would be good for 4-5 days, by which time the built-in agent is used up and the whole thing thrown away.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I Need Power

No, not the figurative kind. I mean literal. Due to a miscommunication with the airport shuttle, I had to literally run out of my house to make sure I caught my flight. And in the rush out the door I forgot to pack my laptop power cord.

So here I am Asia with about five hours of battery life. I am hoping one of my colleagues who is joining me has an IBM so I can borrow his cord. I can use the hotel business lounge computer, but it means that when I am working in my room, I will be

UPDATE: I have a one-day reprieve since a compatriot whose schedule overlaps mine for one day carries an IBM. And since all IBMs use the same power supply (unlike Dell and HP which have separate power cords for seemingly every model), I could juice up for a day.

Another Update: I picked up a power supply in Seoul's Gimpo Airport of all places - and at a fraction of the cost of what it would have cost me at Fry's in the U.S.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Aren't These Titles All Pretty Much The Same?

My company has had an influx of new executives along with some reorganizational shuffling. After the dust cleared, all the execs have titles that pretty much cover the same areas. Here is the actual list of titles:

VP - Corporate Strategy
VP - Strategic Planning
VP - Business Development
VP - Emerging Markets
VP - Marketing

The turf wars are already developing. The main demarkation lines are pretty clear, but what is obscure is where the alliances will form. The VP Biz Dev is getting friendly overtures from the previously chilly VP Marketing after the VP Strategic Planning came on board. The VP Corporate Strategy is politically hobbled, but has a good personal relationship with the VP Emerging Markets.

Just so everyone is clear, I report into the guy who owns the top-line revenue number.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How Did You Spend Your Long Weekend?

Oh, I went to the beach, had a dinner party, went to a BBQ, the usual Labor Day weekend activities, but I also did a typical weekend's worth of work:

Work Emails Read: About 30

Work Emails Written: About 20

International Conference Calls: 1

Luckily, at the time I did my conference call the Margaritas at the BBQ hadn't hit me yet, so I think I sounded sober to the guys in Korea.

But the fact of the matter is that my job is 24/7. Just because it is a holiday here doesn't mean it's one overseas. And due to the nature of my job and industry, "holidays", "vacation" and other forms of "time off" just mean that the pace of work slows down a bit.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Steve Irwin Dead? It was Bound to Happen

I am saddened, but not surprised, to hear this bit of news:

Steve Irwin, the quirky Australian naturalist who won worldwide acclaim, has died in a marine accident off Australia's northeast coast, local media reported on Monday.
"The Crocodile Hunter" who won international acclaim and popularized the phrase "Crikey," was believed to have been killed by a stingray barb that pierced his chest.

I used to watch his show regularly a few years ago, and I was just sit there in front of the tube saying "This guy is insane!", but still watched him, nevertheless.

My regards go to his family. I would say, however, that at least he died doing what he loved.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

New Photo Header

I created a new photo montage on top, derived from an idea Jim sent me for a blog stamp two years ago. Is it a keeper?