Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Dark Knight Movie Review

It took me two weeks, but I finally went to see The Dark Knight, the new Batman movie. We went to an afternoon showing in a large theater with about 20 of our new best friends--actually people we didn't know. I was amazed at how empty the theater was and how cold it was as well.

The movie continues the restarted saga of Batman as he faces crime and corruption in Gotham City. When he is not dealing with the mob, or crooked cops, he has interaction with now arch nemesis: The Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger.

A synopsis of the movie: Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) continues to eliminate crime in Gotham City with the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). The Dark Knight wants to finally get rid of organized crime for good and be free of their corruption. Batman soon finds that a new psychopathic mastermind known as the Joker (Heath Ledger) has taken over organized crime. After the fall of Carmine Falcone, the remaining crime bosses try to pick up the pieces. However, the Joker is killing them off one by one. The Joker's plan is to terrify the citizens and throw the city into chaos, and then kill Batman. Batman takes the fight with the Joker personal, which makes him confront his own beliefs. The Joker is the most dangerous criminal that Batman has encountered, and he will need all his strength and vigilance to defeat him. Douglas Young (the-movie-guy)

OK--but how was the movie? Was it the greatest movie of all time as some (in my family) would suggest? Let's break it down.

Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker is something special and truly troubling. It is without a doubt an Oscar-winning performance that will be talked about in the same vein as Marlon Brando in "On the Waterfront" (1954). As troubling as his performance was, it was downright believable.

The other actors were good, some strong, but not spectacular. Yes, The Joker makes the movie--but if you take Heath Ledger's performance out of the equation you have an above average movie with solid but not sterling performances and which runs about a half-hour too long.

Christian Bale makes a great Batman, but a not so believable Bruce Wayne. He just didn't come off as a real person and even the scripting for Bruce Wayne was weak and trite. The acting didn't make me care about Bruce Wayne and his personal conflicts about right and wrong and good and evil. And his love life in the movie reflected this dissonance.

Gary Oldman, Lt Jim Gordon (and later the iconic Commissioner Gordon) is a strong character. The impact of being in his position in the police department on his personal life is clearly evident and believable. But--for a man in his position to be ignorant of so many dirty cops in his own unit--well it just baffled me. Again--an above average performance on a so-so script.

Aaron Eckhart as DA Harvey Dent was another good, but not great performance tied to so-so script writing. The character was over done and his internal conflict between good and evil almost became comical as I couldn't tell which coin he was going to flip before taking actions. Although he was supposed to be the "best of us" and The Joker brought him down--the movie made it clear that he never really was the best. He was idealistic--but he was a politician. And in the end the darkness that we see in politicians won.

Some of the other supporting actors in the movie--Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Danes) give strong, but too brief performances. The best of the other actors was actually Chin Han (Lau) who played a Chinese businessman/crook. He was excellent in his role as a smug businessman who takes the mob for a ride and almost gets away with it. There is an aerial extraction scene associated with this character which is fun to watch.

So--what about the movie as a body of work. Definitely above average. Probably on the best 100 movies of all time--but only for Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker. Without his performance, the movie is just another "comic book" movie which is fun to watch--once. The movie is too long and drags in the middle and it doesn't transition well from situation to situation internally. The scenes are a bit disconnected and the movie lacks a fluidity of transition. At one point I even though--here come the clowns again for comic relief. There are a lot of loose ends--like what happened to The Joker? What happened to the people on the ferries in the middle of the river?

Does this movie make a great social statement about the course of U.S. national policy as some would suggest? Nope. It's another movie which documents the continuing struggle of good versus evil. The movie is not even helped along by the technology--in contrast to Iron Man where the technology both provided substance and comic relief. There are some good one liners though.

Rating: A must see--just so you can be in the know when everyone around you is talking about the movie and Ledger's performance. There is a lot of violence, good car chase scenes, a bit of destruction. The movie is definitely NOT SUITABLE for young (under 10) children. They WILL have nightmares. I looked at my watch to see how much time was left with about an hour to go in the movie--so there are slow spots.

Monday, July 28, 2008

So What Are You Going to do About it?

We would never get on an aircraft or a train without knowing what the destination was, would we? As a society we spend a lot of time worrying about destinations and end games and what the final outcome is supposed to be.

It is important to have a vision about the end state. What is the deliverable? Where we are going? Maybe even knowing why we are going there. How does it help the team or meet an objective?

Leading teams requires the leader to look out ahead and see the objective as well as the obstacles. Foresee the dangers that need to be overcome.

In church this Sunday, the message was based on Proverbs 22:3.

A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. (NIV)

And it struck me--leaders need to be able to see into the future, recognize the danger AND take action. Three very important things.

Most of us can tell the difference between the light at the end of the tunnel and the headlamp of the oncoming train--but the critical aspect is: so what are we going to do about it?

Asking the "what are we going to do about it?" question is what separates successful from unsuccessful leaders.

The successful leader sees the danger or the obstacle AND develops mitigation strategies and plans for the impending activity. At the same time, the leader keeps the team informed of the activity—both the obstacle/danger and the mitigation strategy. This is a critical aspect of transparency—which leaders need to minimize panic and rumors.

Leaders who are "heads-down" and just worrying about the day-to-day operations may see the danger/obstacle, but like the simple person in the Proverb, don't take action until it is upon them. Then they pay the price for not thinking into the future. Usually that price is very high and could be failure or at a minimum a serious delay in achieving the desired end state.

One of the traits that separates adults from children is the ability to foresee consequences, the future ramifications of an action or an inaction. Children, like the simple, tend to be in the moment and unaware of the consequences of their actions or inaction. They are willing to let life come at them and have the love and comfort of their parents to bail them out of the scrapes and to protect them from dire consequences which occur from their inability to see into the future.

Leaders must depend upon themselves and their teams to foresee consequences and to take action.

Another aspect of leadership based upon this Proverb to consider is the idea: Is what the team doing today working towards the desired end state or what the team needs to be doing in the future?

Good leaders know where the team is supposed to be headed and what the desired end state is. If the team is spending a lot of energy and not making progress to achieving the end state, then the leadership needs to intervene and get the forward momentum moving again. The cost for spinning wheels too long is failure.

This is a lot like life--I have a dream about what I want my retirement to be like. Unless I take action to align my current and future actions to achieve that dream it will be nothing more than that. But, if I take positive action and evaluate today and tomorrow in terms of my desired end state--then my dream will become my reality!

It is hard to take control of a out of control situation--but that is the call of leadership. Leaders who are unhappy about what the team is doing are not leading. They are following or have become victims. Leaders lead. Leaders need vision. Leaders need to implement the means to achieve the vision and to overcome the dangers/obstacles on the along the way.

See the future, develop mitigation strategies, take action.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gloomy Sunday complete with Thunderstorms

Half-way through mowing the lawn--the rains came. The lightening came and with it thunder. Of course, it didn't help that I ran out of gas and had to go to the station for more.

But I had help. And this is his self-portrait with my camera--yes it is Ethan.
Ethan and his family (Mommy and baby Jax) joined us for church and came over to do some work after church.
Ethan and I had fun mowing the lawn and then going out for a coconut and gas. The coconut is a story in itself that is pretty funny. Ethan wanted the coconut milk--but once he got it he wasn't so keen on it. But, hey--it is a new experience.
Well--Sundays are afterall family day and even though the pool was closed due to the thunder storms, there was still a lot of fun to be had.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A racquetball morning after the night before

Ugh! It was hard to get up this morning. I went with Jeremy to the O's game last night and we sat through about a two-hour delay before they suspended the game with the score 2-1 in the top of the 6th inning. Since the score was 1-1 at the end of the 5th, it could not be considered a game--so they are playing today to complete the game.

But that is where the trouble started--I didn't get home till after 11 PM and by the time I went to sleep it was like, midnight. And I was hungry because as it turned out we forgot to buy food.

But having a racquetball match this morning, I got up at 0450--and you know what the "0" stands for: OMG it's early!

So by the time I stumbled onto the court at 0530--I really didn't feel too chipper. In fact I was downright fried.

And the outcome of the first game showed it-- I lost 2-15.

But I turned it around and won two close games 15-10 and 15-14. As it wasn't a league match we played all three games to 15 (instead of the tiebreaker to 11). I twisted my ankle pretty bad in the corner during the last game--but persevered.

So what did I learn--I'm not superhuman and actually do need to sleep sometimes. But, I really enjoyed going to the game with Jeremy, even though it rained. It was actually raining too hard for us to want to go to the car to go home--else I would have left about 10 PM.

Next time--wait, there isn't going to be a next time, see, I did learn something!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pool Magic

I realized that I was doing it yesterday--waiting for the end of the workday to come so I could get home and fall into the pool. And I did.

What was it about that thought that held so much promise for me? The cool water? Sleeping on a floatie in the sun? A cold drink poolside? Doing nothing except putting my mind into neutral?

I wondered.

For a stress release and for conditioning I played a racquetball match at 5:30 am. After two weeks of vacation I wasn't very sharp, but it did the trick. I got fully moving (and some of my muscles are complaining as I write this)

So as I drove home yesterday I decided to really try to figure out what the therapeutic effect of the pool came from.

So there I was--standing on the edge of the failing diving board, looking at the warm, inviting water. I thought that this was going to be great--and that this was a close to the beach as I was going to get for a while.

I dove in.

And then I realized what it was--as the waters of the pool enveloped me, they washed away the trials and cares of the day replacing them with an enveloping sense of freedom and support. It happened as I passed through the boundary which separates air from water--and at the same time I passed through a mental boundary separating the workday from the rest of my life.

And it was good.

In that moment, the work day dissolved into a memory--the drive, the email battles, the short notice tasks, the meetings, the work. All were for an instant gone. And I was refreshed and renewed.

I stayed underwater for a long moment enjoying the freedom and support and renewed freedom. I enjoy the water of the late-July and August pool because it is warm. It does not jolt the senses, but it soothes them. And when I finally surfaced--I was mentally new. Ready for the evening (or so I thought).

Now I think I know the magic of the pool--it is in the passing through the boundary from air to water.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Welcome Home Sunday

In celebration of our return from south Florida, all of the family gathered at the house for a pool party on Sunday afternoon. Everyone was there and the family really came together around the pool, and in the pool. It was such a hot day--at least 96 degrees with humidity over 90 percent.

The pool has warmed up to 84 degrees. It is clear and inviting.

The day allowed everyone to get together again to talk about what is happening. Two of our families are in the process of moving to new homes: Jer and Nicole and Patrick and Tina. So there is alot to talk about and a lot of excitement.

Of course the grandsons were there and were the life of the gathering with their unique antics.

Ethan is really improving his swimming skills and also discovered the joys of whale riding as we call it on daddy. They crossed the pool a number of times under the watchful eye of Nicole. Even Jax was involved as a safety spotter.

Patrick and Tina brought some great chips and salsa which Ben--the keeshond really enjoyed when he could. (When no one was looking)

All in all it was one of those really fantastic days which helps remind me about why we actually come home from vacation--to be with our family.


Fabuloso--it's not just a general purpose cleaner anymore!

I'm sitting here reflecting on the vacation just ended--and the past two weeks where I truly got away from most of it--yeah, I check my Blackberry every so often cause I really don't like to be truly out of touch.

On vacation in Jupiter, we used Fabuloso cleanser to clean the counters and walls in the unit--and "FABULOSO" became the word to describe activities of the vacation that were outstanding--like the Fabuloso sunset, or the fabuloso bike ride along the beach, or the fabuloso trip to the Everglades. You get the idea.

So, as I'm preparing to head off to work for the first time in over two weeks (and only the third time I've actually had socks and shoes on my feet), I'm wondering where it all went and how it all happened so fast.

Why do vacations end? Why is it vacations go by at what seems like a speed faster than real life?

I guess it is so we can remember that life is really bigger than what we're doing right now. We may think we are the center of the universe, but we are not and if we want to or need to, we can change what we are doing and where we are.

And then--we have a FABULOSO family get together (more on that later) to remind me that life is happening right here and right now and I need to be in the moment and not on a beach a thousand miles away.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mama Mia Movie Review

Fun, beautiful, and thoroughly enjoyable. We saw Mama Mia today and really enjoyed the music, the acting, the story, and especially the imagery/cinematography. And, if you've never seen the stage version--then you, like me, will have fresh view of the movie.

Meryl Streep is fantastic in the lead role and as the movie progresses her singing actually improves as she becomes more sure of her voice.

As the movie opens it becomes an irresistible force for smiles and laughs. The music is fun, the story is fun and the location of the film is absolutely beautiful. That coupled with the strong acting by Pierce Brosnan is enjoyable too.

The professional reviewers reviews are mixed. Joel Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal writes During the first few minutes of Mamma Mia! I resisted the bombardment of good cheer, then surrendered almost unconditionally. Yes, of course this is fairly old-fashioned entertainment, but it's really, really entertaining." A.O. Scott in the New York Times found himself similarly torn. "You can have a perfectly nice time watching this spirited adaptation of the popular stage musical and, once the hangover wears off, acknowledge just how bad it is. ... If you insist on folding your arms, looking at your watch and defending yourself against this mindless, hedonistic assault on coherence, you are unlikely to survive until the end credits (which may, by themselves, kill you all over again). Surrender, on the other hand, is easy and painless. It's Greece! It's bellybuttons! It's Meryl Streep! It's Abba!" Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times remarks that he saw the original stage version and didn't think much of it then, even though it went on to become one of the biggest musical hits of the decade. "So here's the fact of the matter. This movie wasn't made for me. It was made for the people who will love it, of which there may be a multitude. The stage musical has sold 30 million tickets, and I feel like the grouch at the party." He has company. Michael Phillips, the Chicago Tribune critic, says that he's seen the stage version of Mamma Mia! three times. "It's disappointing, then, to see the film version of the stage hit turn out this way -- not lousy, but pushy." Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post comments that the movie "too often feels like a souvenir program: something to revive the feelings you had watching the stage performance." And Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun comments that the movie "is like a party where everyone is so desperate to have a good time that it makes you miserable."

But the important one is the Baltimore Sun reviewer--if he hates it, it has to be a good movie.

A couple cautions for those who do not know the story--while the music is compelling and fun, there are references to sex and homosexuality.

Rating: See the movie on the big screen. This movie is fun and beautiful. Young children may not enjoy the adult story line--but the sights and sounds are worth the ride.

If you see the movie--come back and leave a comment about how you reacted to it. I'd love to know about your opinion of the movie.

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Wine Review

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. I guess I'm catching up on the wines we have been drinking. And this one was an excellent wine which stood well on it own. It had a beautiful color and a wonderful full bouquet with a long finish.

Tasting Notes
Deep ruby red color, the expression of cabernet sauvignon is evident providing structure and elegance. Lots of berries fruits and hints of tobacco and vanilla. Promising abundant soft rounded tannins. The structure and balance of this full bodied wine makes it very pleasant and enjoyable. A very sophisticated wine with a delightfully long finish.

We enjoyed this wine with a full bodied fish and steak dinner (surf and turf): the fish was breaded and fried King Mackerel and the turf was very tender tenderloin kabobs done on the grill. The starch was a sweet potato. The wine held up well and enhanced itself and the food.

Recommendation: A special wine for a special occasion. At about $16 (for a good buy but seen in the $25 range) it is not inexpensive but carries itself like much more expensive wines. A definite quality wine that should be included in many meals.

See the review of the 2008 vintage ofthis wine here.

Big Ass Chard 2005 Napa Valley Chardonnay Wine Review

Well in keeping the theme of white wines to go with a seafood dinner, the back-up wine for the evening was the Big Ass Chard 2005 Napa Valley Chardonnay. We had been impressed with the Syrah from the same vintner and decided to give the Chardonnay a whirl as the second wine for our seafood dinner.

We were not disappointed in this wine either. It was very buttery with a hint of oak. A good light Chardonnay to accompany the meal. One purveyor of wines, the Salt Creek Wine Company, describes the 2005 as follows:

There is nothing subtle about our Big Ass wines! From the name to the label to the fruit-driven flavor profile, these wines make a bold statement. Big Ass wines deliver everything that typifies the California winemaking style: soft, round, buttery-toasty Chard. These wines are as big as their name!

I have to agree. This was an excellent middle of the road Chardonnay.

An interesting tidbit I picked up about the winery: Big Ass wines are made at Adler Fels’ Sonoma County winemaking facility under the direction of head winemaker Harry Parducci Jr. The brand was introduced in 2004 and produces just over 30,000 cases annually of premium varietal wines from Napa Valley and Sonoma County.

Recommendation: A solid wine to compliment many foods and which will also stand on its own with cheeses. Very enjoyable. A good buy for $14.99.

Masi Masianco 2007 Wine Review

We were looking for a recommendation of a nice wine to serve with a seafood dinner and our favorite wine expert recommended this wine. It turned out to be a very nice choice and will likely become a house staple. Four of us thought this was the best light Pinot Grigio wine we had tasted. It went very well with dinner complimenting the flavors of the meal to perfection.

The label to the right is from the 2006, the 2007 says 2007 in the upper shield.

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar Review

Rated 90

A blend of 75% pinot grigio and 25% verduzzo. Straw-yellow with a gold tinge. Pleasantly sweet aromas of fully ripe apricot and tropical fruits jump from the glass, with hints of cinnamon and brown sugar adding complexity. The palate is rich with grapey, tangerine and almond flavors; there's a hint of sweetness but harmonious acids keep this fresh and lively. Offers a lovely rich mouth feel but the persistent finish shows noteworthy freshness. This unique blend of grapes is a very successful one; although not terribly complex, the wine is irresistible in its juicy, grapey appeal.

Wine Tasting Notes
The wine has an intense straw-yellow color. The intense and fragrant bouquet is characterized by floral (wisteria) and fruity (apple, pear, bananas) notes. On the palate, it has a pleasant acidity, good freshness and intense taste. Medium bodied. The over-ripened Verduzzo leaves a delicate hazelnut note on the finish. A unique wine with a distinct personality, Masianco balances the clean, white fruit and citric acidity of Pinot Grigio with the complex, buttery, tropical fruit notes of Verduzzo.

We agreed with the tasting notes and found this to be a delightful wine. /something that gives Pinot Grigio a little life.

Recommendation: Try this wine. At $14.99 it is worth the value as this is a special wine.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jupiter in the Morning

Beaches that are wide open with few people on them are becoming harder and harder to find--hence, I'm not going to divulge which beach near Jupiter we went to this morning--but it was wonderful. The day was perfect, the ocean a bit cool at 78 degrees, but calm and inviting with its turquoise hue.

The boys in the boat had the right idea for the day--enjoy the sand and the surf. It was idillyic. Chris and Mary escaped for a long walk along the beach to talk about stuff and to enjoy the shells on the beach. Chris found more interesting sea glass.
I was content to run into and out of the water every so often while reading under an umbrella on the beach. We got to the beach later this morning because I drove our departing friends to the sirport to rent a car for the next part of their trip.
But a fabulous day on a quiet beach with the sound of the wind and surf.

Another Day another Happy Hour

Unbelievably, our vacation is rapidly drawing to a close. It has been a wild ride with our friends here in Florida and I only wish it would not end. We said good-bye to one couple this morning as they headed off on part 2 of their vacation, and we are on tap to depart Friday afternoon.

We have been doing late breakfasts and lunches, and later dinners while definitely slowing down to enjoy the scenery.

Some of us have been enjoying searching for treasures along the shoreline--and finding them! Seashells and sea glass in all shapes and varieties are always a find. Chris has definitely found treasures and is sharing them with us.

As you can see--last night--July 16th the water was smooth and the sky was filled with colorful clouds to enjoy. Unfortunately for me, due to suspended sand in the water it continues to be poor snorkeling conditions. But I enjoy a lot more than just snorkeling.

Happy Hour is a time to get together and reflect on the day and also enjoy the scenery. Jupiter Island, where we generally celebrate Happy Hour on the beach has to rank as one of the finest Happy Hour locations in the world!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Aboard the Blue Heron

Note: If you believe that fish are friends, not food--do not read this entry. It ends badly for some friends.

Drift fishing off the coast near Jupiter is always exciting. I look forward to a morning trip on the Blue Heron to catch dinner for the evening. Today's excursion was especially exciting as I caught two King Mackerel to add to the two that my boating companions caught for an exceptionally promising dinner.

George and Fran accompanied me on the four hour adventure on the high seas. After carefully checking the weather for the day, we decided to try to get the trip in before the afternoon storms.

Unfortunately, when we got to the Jupiter location, they had decided not to sail due to too few people, so we headed off to Riveria Beach to make the 8:30 am sailing.

Pelicans were there to wish us fair skies and winds. One got especially close--so I took his picture.

We made the sailing and were underway to the open Atlantic. The day turned out to be very good. Everyone on the boat caught fish. There were a lot of brand new fishermen on the boat and a horde of kids who kept the crew busy. We even had two baby's in strollers aboard who kept their Mom's very busy.

The catch? The most numerous were Bonita followed by the King Mackerel, a rainbow runner and a red snapper. Bonita are not really good for eating and most were thrown back. We had some exciting shark encounters--and I lost three catches (probably all Bonita) to the hungry predators which followed the boat at two stops. One of the sharks was a 10 foot Bull Shark--and he made short work of a number of catches. They were fun to watch, but it was frustrating to drag a fish up from the depths only to have a shark eat it. And while Bonita are a fun fish to land, they require a lot of work.

In the end, the King Mackerel were the best catches of the day--and we got four of them. They are also a lot of fun to land, and I know dinner will be awesome tonight.

As we returned to the dock about 1 PM--the rain started, but the intrepid fishermen were happy to have had such a successful day.

As it was raining on the docks when we returned, I was not able to get a picture with my fish, but I did get one of Fran with his.

A Stroll in the Everglades

Yesterday, we decided to reprise our adventures in the Everglades in an airboat operated by Everglades Safari and we also determined to visit Everglades National Park at the Shark Valley entrance. We had never been to the Shark Valley part of the park--so this was to be a real new experience.

For the day, so we could all travel together we decided to rent a minivan. The smaller cars we each have rented just won't do 6 people. As it turned out--the minivan decision was a great idea. We were all together and not trying to caravan the roughly 120 miles to the Everglades.

It was a rainy day, as it turned out and we have never been assaulted by as many mosquitoes anywhere as we were today.

But it was an awesome day. The wildlife was in evidence everywhere and there was a lot of bird sightings as well as the expected alligators.

The day required some rain protection measures and we emptied two bottles of bug spray--and still got bites on top of bites.

Everglades National Park - Shark Valley was an unexpectedly fantastic time. This part of the park is highlighted by a two-hour tram tour through the River of Grass with multiple opportunities to both see wildlife and to really understand the complex environment that is the Everglades. There is a tower at about the 2/3 point which provides some stunning views of the park.

The opportunity to spend quality time in the park on a guided tour is fantastic and we only wish the two-hour tour were longer. We saw deer, gators of all sizes, egrets, herons, and really gained an understanding of the Everglades.

After the Everglades, we did a return trip to Everglades Safari's airboats to allow the neophytes in our party to experience the Everglades form an airboat. A radically different experience from the tram.

It was fast and int the rain a lot of fun. We saw a lot fewer animals but really enjoyed the ride. Afterward, we toured the exhibits--but really cut that short since it seemed the mosquitoes had not been feed in what seemed like forever. They were biting through the bugspray.

Probably the scariest picture of the day was the vultures in the trees. We were afraid they were waiting for the mosuiitoes to finish with us and then pick clean the bones.

All is all though, it was a great day in the Everglades and we highly recommend both the Shark Valley part of the Everglades National Park and the Everglades Safari Airboat Tours. Convienently they are both located within about 10 miles of each other off the Tamiami Trail.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Big Ass Syrah 2005 Napa Valley Syrah - Wine Review

Big Ass Syrah 2005 Napa Valley Syrah
. OK--so I was a bit amused when we decided to try this wine based upon the recommendation of the wine guy at ABC Wines in Jupiter. FL.

The wine is described as follows:

Ample, full, rich, generous - Big Ass Syrah lives up to its name! Ripe fruit aromas of blueberry and cassis are meshed with caramel and toasty oak. This powerful nose also exhibits elegant aromas of dried rosemary, which adds complexity to this full-bodied wine. On the palate, flavors of blueberry and blackberry are exhibits on the entry, while savory, smoked bacon is found on the mid-palate. This wine is aged for 16 months in new French and American oak, which adds vanilla and a hint of pepper to the fruit characters. Dark chocolate flavors linger on the finis.

The wine is excellent. We served it with pork ribs which were very well spiced and the wine held its own. The wine is definitely fruit forward with an excellent nose and good staying power--but not over-powering. It goes down very smoothly and despite a name which might cause one to over look the wine--it is worthy of a good tasting.

Rating: If you like Shiraz/syrah--try this wine. It is good with spicy foods. The nose is excellent and the staying power is well refined. I really liked this wine and found it unique enough to become a house wine. The wine is between $11-15 per bottle.

Monday, July 14, 2008

People on the Beach Part 2

I continue to be amazed at some of the people on the beach. After our walk earlier, we returned to play in the surf and get some more rays from Sol.

The waves today were beautiful--it was far to rough to snorkel, but we enjoyed playing in the water. But two people caught my attention as we were enjoying the company of our friends on the beach.

I am a slave to technology, everyone knows that. But on the beach--I put the cell away to enjoy the beach. I mean--way walk the beach if you are just going to be blabbing away on a cell phone.

Talking on a cell walking the beach represents everything that is wrong with our society--we do not know how to get away from the stresses of life. We are killing ourselves with stress and imagined importance. We take ourselves way to seriously.

Think about it--if the phone rings during a family dinner--should you answer it?
Your cell rings during a dinner out with family-- do you answer it?
Now change family to business associate or customer--does the answer stay the same?
You are toweling off after a shower and the phone rings--do you answer it?

Point is--these nifty communications devices are supposed to free time for us, yet they are making us slaves of technology.

So, while it may seem as if I am ridiculing the people on the beach, I am really sorry that they cannot free themselves from the chains of technology long enough to enjoy the sights and sounds of the beach. And to de-stress.

The kids on the beach have it right. Take time out to enjoy the sand, the sun, and the fun.

Pelicans on Patrol

This morning we decided to walk along the beach early rather than riding our bikes. We did this for something different to do and to enjoy the early morning of the beach. It is a busy place in the morning, but not from people--from the animals and especially the birds. We enjoy watching the birds as they interact with the environment.

The pelicans are some of our favorites as they seem to fly along the beach in formation, looking for breakfast. The fly close together and seem always to know where they are going. They are fun to watch. They are surprisingly big birds.

Also the beach is always alive with other sea birds who are hunting for meals. They stand so still. Waiting for the unsuspecting meal to appear. They also watch the people on the beach--I suppose wondering if we are going to compete with them for breakfast. Of course, we don't directly compete--I mean when was the last time you ate a crab fresh from its hole on the beach? But in a sense, through our disregard for the environment, we are competing with all life on the planet for the right to survive.

Ah, the beach.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday in Jupiter

It is another beautiful morning here in Florida. The weather has been awesome. Last night we were able to sit on the balcony and enjoy the evening--it was almost cool with the breeze after the afternoon thunderstorm cruised through.

We went to one of our favorite haunts to enjoy Island music--Panama Hatties. So the dancing added a bit more to our exercise routine.

This morning we biked 9 miles to start the day along the ocean. It was another beautiful Florida morning.

Oh, yeah--and now we're off to the beach.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jackson - Miracle Baby an update

Jackson is four months old. He is doing great and I linked his Mom's blog to his name so you can get an update on his progress from those first few days of life as he was undergoing open heart surgery at Johns Hopkins to the awesome child he is now.

I got this picture from the blog so you can see how bright he is. He continues to be a miracle every single day and I urge you to check out the blog to ready how great he is doing. God has worked a true miracle and we are all enjoying this miracle every single day.

Continue to pray for Jax and his development and for his mom and dad and the entire Haslup clan (don't forget Ethan).

And I still say--he is going to do awesome and wonderful things.

Hancock: Movie Review

Hancock, the movie was an afternoon project the other day. We love to watch movies during our vacation and catch up a bit with what's out there. Despite the relatively low ratings from the critics, we decided to take a chance on Hancock.

We thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Will Smith shows a great degree of versatility in the role and the supporting cast is fun to watch. The story--this is not just another superhero movie worked for us. The plot twist through which Hancock is a superhero also worked.

Kenneth Turan of the LA Times said this of the plot twist:

"But then, just about without warning, “Hancock” makes a completely unexpected and head-shaking plot turn that derails the film in a way that it never recovers from. This second part of “Hancock” has the further disadvantage of coming up with its convoluted rules as it goes along, making it especially hard to understand what is happening to its characters or the reasons for its events."

I admit the plot twist really changes the course of the movie and takes a bit of flexibility to get used to, but in reflecting back on how it worked out--I thought it worked. Let me tell you, I liked this twist a lot better than the ending of the new Indiana Jones movie.

Will Smith in the lead is great as the superhero Hancock. Jason Bateman as a supporting actor is strong as well serving as Ray, the man who begins to ressurect Hancock's career as a crime fighter. Be advised--there are no Oscar worthy performances in this movie. Jae Head is cute and makes a solid contribution to the film an the son, Aaron. Charlize Theron as Mary, the wife if Jason Batemen's charascter is beautiful, but the role didn't work well for her.

The movie moved well, I never looked at my watch to see how much longer I had to suffer.

Rating: Entertainment for a rainy afternoon. Definite rental when it comes out on DVD.

Friday, July 11, 2008

WALL-E: Movie Review

WALL-E the movie. I knew I wanted to see this movie, but I had no idea how deep this movie would really be. Pixar and Disney have teamed up for many great movies and this one is by far the best. The messages in the movie about being responsible citizens of the planet, taking care of ourselves, and of love are very mature and deep. But the movie is a lot of fun too. The movie short which precedes WALL-E is extremely funny--I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

WALL-E is not a kids movie! It is a must see movie for our generation. The main character is a lovable trash-compactor robot charged with cleaning up the world after the human race departed for a five year trip in space--which turned into 700 years. There is romance and friendship in the movie. The robot comes of age watching "Hello Dolly" which adds a surreal twist to the plot.

WALL-E is extremely well done and the animation is definitely top notch. The messages in the movie are serious and real--so the entertainment factor is high as well as the social statement factor. The movie is well balanced and there are no slow periods.

Rating: Superior. Suitable for all ages. My recommendation is that you drop what you are doing and go see this movie. Everyone will be talking about it so you need to see it too. Buy it when it comes out on video. Some of the statements made in the movie are too close to being true.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

People on the Beach

I love the beach. Nearly everyone knows that. Chris is the people watcher though. She always has some really keen insights about the faces and the people that we see on the beach. Some are sad and some are happy. Today we were chatting about people that really touched our hearts.

The group here was taking mother (we guessed) for a walk on the beach.  We talked about how in years gone by, Mom, in the pink, would take the girls to the beach and hold their hands as they went to play in the crashing surf. And now, years later, the roles are reversed. Shortly after I took this picture, the girls sat Mom in a chair in the surf and let her enjoy the waves crashing at her feet.  Life is a path we follow. We begin holding the hands of our parents for security, and then we hold the hands of our children for security and we end in the loving arms of our children.

Next we saw this man walking on the beach. He was very tall and very alone--it seemed.
We were not sure of his story, but his solitary walk spoke volumes of his past. Maybe he was a basketball player or other sports related person. One doesn't really know. But he was on the beach this day and part of our beach experience this morning.
But, then there was this one last face on the beach this morning--looking out and enjoying the rays! 

Sundown at the Square Grouper

We went for happy hour to the Square Grouper last night to enjoy some good times with an awesome view of the Jupiter Inlet. It is an outdoor Tiki Bar with live music most nights.

The view is awesome of the inlet and last night we were treated to two water birds who were fishing right in front of us. It was an awesome afternoon watching the inlet change from afternoon to evening and the birds feeding.

There was a country singer on stage and we listened to him until we left. He sang a lot of old fun country songs--including "Should'a Been a Cowboy" which we sang very loudly to. The weather continues to be awesome and it is good to get away form the everyday hustle and bustle.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Birds on the Beach

Chris is great with a camera. Last night, when she wasn't recording the mad dash of turtles to the sea, she was stalking birds on the beach. With great success. Of course, little did the birds know that they were being stalked as they were at the same time stalking the sand crabs who populate the beaches as well. This particular bird was especially persistent and we believe was eventually rewarded with a crab dinner. He just out waited the poor crab who knew something was up, but just couldn't contain his cuirosity! Unfortunately, he won't make that mistake again. And you thought Mother Nature kind. Yeah--not if you're near the bottom of the food chain. I guess not everyone who goes to the beach has a good time!

Teams: Part of Something Larger

I've been writing a lot about teams--and you might surmise that I believe teams are the major cog in what happens in the world. And while I do believe this, it is important to remember that teams have a place. I was reading an article in Worship Leader magazine recently which reinforced the idea that teams are part of something larger and that it is critical for teams to recognize their relationship to the larger entity.

I've been on a journey lately piecing together a lot of seemingly disparate things which have occurred in my life with respect to teams. I was a dedicated member of a team, and was one of the team's co-leaders, when it became apparent to me that I was not being effective and that I was creating a lot of stress for myself and the other co-leaders, with the result that the team was spinning its wheels. It was time for me to move on. I had become: "that guy." The one who never seems to agree, the one who always wants to try something different than what the team is doing, the one trying to "push the envelope" (a test pilot term) and the guy who probably became the stumbling block of the team due to having a different vision than the other co-leaders of the team. What I forgot to remember was what I read on an airplane last Saturday while zooming off to vacation in Florida for two weeks--teams are part of something larger.

Teams are the operational, or tactical level of organizations. Teams are where the work of the larger organizations happens and where the strategies decided at echelons above reality (or upper management) are implemented. Teams are the bridge from the organizational strategic level to tactical operations--where the work of the larger organization is done. To put it in military terms--teams are where the hills are taken that the generals decide need to be taken.

In reading the article in Worship Leader magazine by Glen Packiam, I was struck by the simplicity of his statement and how easy it is to overlook: "The best teams are the ones that understand that they are part of something far greater than themselves."

Think about it. I follow the Baltimore Orioles baseball team and the Baltimore Ravens football team every season. Each of these teams are part of the larger leagues to which they belong. In my workplace, the Operations Team I used to run was part of the larger organization. Success or failure was measured by how well the larger organization fared based upon its annual goals. Other teams to which I have belonged are each part of something larger and the critical factor is to ensure the teams activities contribute to the larger success of the bigger organization.

It is possible for a team to feel successful, but to actually fail in supporting the larger organization to which it belongs. The teams goals and measures of success must be properly aligned with the greater organization, else divisiveness will ensue. An old adage is that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" but in today's environment it is more often that the "squeaky wheel" gets sold off or terminated because they are not contributing to the larger goals of the organization or are consuming too many resources for the value.

Teams are the operational implementing arm of the larger organization. Team leaders must remember this and work hard to ensure that this is passed on to each of the team members and that there is a tight relationship between the team and the organization/entity to which they belong.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Turtles on the Beach

The coolest thing happened tonight as we were enjoying Happy Hour on the beach--an eruption. What is an eruption you ask? It is when a turtle nest erupts with small turtles who have one objective--make it to the ocean before they get eaten. They rarely happen during daylight hours--so we were especially blessed to witness this mad dash of nature.

If you have seen a war movie about marines storming a beach--think of it in reverse--turtles storming the ocean and as you are standing there your only objective is to cheer them on and wish them Godspeed as they respond to nature's call to go to the ocean.

It really is amazing to watch 40 - 50 newly hatched turtles make their way to the ocean. And to interfere is a violation of nature's way. Although the small turtles are also known as the Cheerio's of the Sea--one can only cheer them on as they race for the ocean and ultimately safety in the Sargasso sea area of the Caribbean.

BTW-- these are little Loggerhead Turtles, born today, June 8, 2008 and are enroute to their futures. Last year, we were lucky enough to witness an eruption at night on the beach just as another loggerhead was finishing laying, and this year--in the light of of the evening.

Jupiter - Day 4

Well, the vacation is going well. We have settled into a nice routine and I have decompressed, as has Chris.

We are currently exploring the virtues of B's: biking, beach, basking, bed and beautiful sunsets.

We have been biking seven miles every morning before 8:30 and then doing a quick breakfast before hitting the beach until about 1 pm. Then back to the house for showers and maybe a nap. It's a tough life but someone has to live it.

Afternoons are lazy and relaxing. We did some shopping to replace my stolen laptop and Chris's stolen camera. I did get a new HP and Chris got a newer model of her camera. Both were upgrades to what was lost, but we decided that spending some additional money over our expected compensation was worth it.

The snorkeling has not been good, although I've snorkeled twice. The surf has been rough, and is expected to be really rough later this week. I almost definitely will not be diving this vacation due to visibility concerns.

I love Florida. I love the heat. And I love chilling.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy hour on Jupiter Island Beach

One of the things I love most about coming to Florida is decompressing by celebrating Happy Hour on the beach.

So on day 1 at 5:30 pm we trekked to the beach. Wine, cheese, crackers and good friends mixed with sun and surf. Do I need say more? Summer 2008-bring it on!

So the beach, the three mile stretch we were on had about a dozen other people on it. Wow. Any wonder why I want to become a permanent beach dweller?

Florida 2008, day 1

Well. Today we flew to Jupiter for our annual trek to Florida. Jeremy was kind enough to drop us off at the airport at 7am for our flight to West Palm Beach on Southwest Airlines.

The check in and flight was one of the smoothest I and Chris have taken in years. It was actually very pleasant. The way flying used to be. And the flight attendants sang some very funny songs which really made the flight special.

Here is the most fantastic part: within one-half hour of landing we had our bags and were on the road headed to Jupiter in our rental car. Try doing that at BWI.

And we were changed, out on the beach in the ocean within one and one-half hours of landing.

And so it begins. Awesome. And I still do not have a laptop so this post is via email from my blackberry.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Troy Graduates - 2008

What a weekend it was. The main event spanned two days---Thursday night was the actual graduation while Saturday was the party. As with any family event--it was a lot of fun and some work. Chris and Jodie spent most of Friday preparing the awesome Saturday party feast. On top of the graduation--Troy turned 18 as well, so there was a lot to party about.
It is just fantastic when the entire family gets together as we can celebrate success. And the day was a beautiful day. I even spent some time in Jodie and Matt's pool with Ethan--who was in rare form and loves playing with Trevar. He also is the ultimate party animal and always needs to blow out the candles. These were special candles--they continued to burn after they were extinguished. Unfortunately, one of them accidentally burned Ethan--he was not amused. It was good to see how everyone came together to celebrate these special events in Troy's life.
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