Monday, December 28, 2015

Why Bother Watching Cricket?

“Hey, Wayne-O, you interested in seeing some Cricket?  There is a match while you are in Australia…”

Someone had once told me that it is more exciting to watch paint dry.  I have never seen Cricket before and have no idea how to play the game.  All I know is that there is a famous match between England and Australia called the Ashes and it lasts five days. Yeah, FIVE whole days!  Hundreds of points, gentlemanly game, tea breaks, bathroom breaks, you name it breaks.  Really?!? 

“I am not sure I have that much time to invest in the game…”

“This is a special version, no longer than 4 hours, 20 overs, 1 inning,” my friend James assured me.

“OK, I will check it out.”  Unfortunately, I had no idea what he just told me….

I will never be mistaken for a sports enthusiast.  There are, however, a few key sports words that I know:

  • Pitch – Ball thrown from the Pitcher’s mound by the Pitcher in American baseball, and something that celebrities, or those being honored, get to throw out the first one.
  • Striker – A forward, scoring position in Soccer, which is dimly remembered from my camp days.
  • Bowler – A person that engages in Bowling; as a child, my brothers and I used to watch one of the greats in his field, Earl Anthony on TV.
  • Century = 100 years

Now it was time to learn some new meanings for old word:

  • Pitch – The field that Cricket is played on, consisting of the Wicket area, some circle, and the boundary.
  • Striker – The batsman that is “up” and trying to score the runs; Incidentally, there is also a non-striker, which is the player at the other end of the Wicket that is waiting to run (also holding his bat in hand)
  • Bowler – The person that “delivers” the ball.   There are two basic types, the fast bowler and the curve bowler.
  • Century – Player that scores 100 runs when at bat.
  • Over – series of 6 “pitches”
  • Wicket – the three sticks (or stumps) with a small crossbeam sitting gingerly across the top.  The bowler tries to knock the top off, while the striker tries to block (i.e., hit the ball).  An “out” is a wicker.

The version of the game I went to was called Twenty20, and part of the Big Bash League (sponsored by KFC).  Each team came out wearing their bright team colors.  Each team had their own mascots that walk around the pitch interacting with fans.  There was a small cheerleader contingency with the smallest female member being tossed spectacularly in the air.  Music played between the overs to get the crowd going.  When the home team got the away team out (wicker), fireworks went off and flames shot high into the air.  When the home team batted, and they got a four or six hit, there was pyrotechnic galore.  Between the teams switching sides, during this one inning game, there were contests.  Some of the contestants are chosen only if they are wearing a KFC bucket on their heads.  In one contest, you had to catch the ball for money; one of the contestants missed the ball and got bonked on the head.  The audience laughed, as did the on field announcer.  As the home team was catching up on the runs, suspenseful music filled the air.  Uniforms, cheerleaders, music and fire – what’s not to like; It was great fun.
“This isn’t real Cricket,” one of James’ friend blurted out.


In real Cricket, there is no fireworks, no music, no hoopla, and everyone wears white!”

I am an American who is a Yankee fan, seen a big deal made over the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and has been to sports with tackling, or, cross-checking, or bone-crushing, blood producing upper cuts.  Before today, I knew of cricket as a small insect, or a back up member of Buddy Holly’s band (the name which inspired another insect named band – the Beatles), or a boring sport.  I saw excitement, I saw fire, I cheered.  Most importantly, I had the chance to learn an international sport (usually portrayed to the unknowing as similar to baseball), enjoy an exciting game (1 point difference) and can say that I was in one of the top 10 sized stadiums in the world (the MCG).  Not bad for a non-sports follower from New Jersey!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Do You Have A Vice For Me?

I like to project a clean cut image.  Don’t we all?  I have worked on myself by cutting my hair, engaging in personal development and taking on some responsibilities where the goals I wish to achieve and projects are plausible.  To use the phrase from the Bing Cosby / Andrew Sisters song, “You have to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch onto the affirmative and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”  In other words, play up the positive and play down the negative.  A vice, though not necessarily a bad thing, can have the perception of not being good. And, I am not referring to an addiction.  The difference is that an addiction is all-consuming and has a physical dependency, while a vice, sometimes categorized as immoral (value judgment), is something we can enjoy. 

I like beer.  There, I said it.  I do not mean give me a 12-pack of ice cold Bud and I am tickled pink.  I mean tasting and trying different beers.  About 27 years ago, I was happy with Bud.  Then I changed jobs and was introduced to a beer-tasting club by a guy the club referred to as Ace.  Not the name I called him, but his nickname serves my story and protects the innocent.  We would meet every other month and different distributors would bring in the beers they were handling, discuss the flavors, processes and, yes, sample the beverages.  During this time, I was introduced to Anchor Steam, Corsendonk (one of my all time favorites), Rogue (I won a gift set in a raffle), Thomas Hardy’s Ale (I have an anniversary gift pack) and Samichlaus (brewed once a year and at the time the strongest beer).  I never looked back.  I was into Microbrews before craft beers became the rage.  Moreover, I paid it forward.  I had a beer tasting at my parents house the night before my wedding.  I brought my Dad to a beer-tasting event and my brothers.  I have introduced people to “better” beers, who have in turn introduced others.  Wine tastings were always a thing.  I am happy to see beer finally reaching that status.

“Wayne, why would you share this now?”  This is a fun part of me that I felt like sharing (like everything else in my life), a hobby that I have enjoyed for years.  You do not have to drink beer only to get drunk, my friends.  Like wine, beer can compliment food; lighter beer for seafood, heavier (i.e., stout) for meat.  Some beers taste better where it is closer to the breweries, like Guinness – much tastier in Ireland.  For those of you who now think that I am nuts, next time you go out and are looking for the same old beer, try a beer flight, which is a fancy name for a sampler.  You might find out that there are some tasty beverages out there.

Please share your favorite beverage...

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Business Travel

“It must be great to travel for business; you get to see so much.”
“C’mon, how much work do you do when you travel?”
“You must get to so many fascinating places…”
“Can you recommend a place…”

I do not know where the image came from that business travel is so romantic.  I started traveling when I became a consultant in 1995.  During my interview, I was asked about whether or not I wanted to travel.  I thought it would be cool.  Yes, you do some site seeing, if you work over a weekend, or extend your time.  But in general, you travel alone, you eat by yourself most nights and site seeing, while you might see cool things, is to take up the time you are by yourself.  If you travel with people, better.  As I am sitting on a plane on my way to Australia, it gives me an opportunity to reflect on business travel.

  1. You get to tick off places on your bucket list
    Pro:  Yes, I have been to places that I have enjoyed and had a chance to bring my family
    Con:  Going to places on nobody’s list.  I do not know anyone that has Caracas as a destination.  When I was there, all of the houses were surrounded in barbwire and we were told, for safety, do not leave the hotel.
  2. You get to have time away from your family
    Pro:  When you are working until 8:00, 9:00 or 10:00 at night and through the weekend, not having the family means you are focused on the task you were sent to accomplish.
    Con:  I miss my family and sometimes travel can happen at a particularly bad time.  Got a job to do, you do it. 
  3. You get to see the sights and go to the beach
    Pro:  I have squeezed in a few half day trips (that I paid for) to see something, but generally not.  To stay extra time means I am away from my family.
    Con:  I have never traveled for work and gone to the beach.  When I was in Barbados, which has nice beaches, I got to see them on the drive to and from work. 
  4. You get to eat at fancy restaurants
    Pro:  OK, I try to eat well at least one night.
    Con:  Eating in a fancy place and reading a book for company is not too fun.  In addition, the goal is not to get fat while traveling.  Most nights, when working late, you end up grabbing something quick (not good for waistline either)
  5. You get all of those travel points
    Pro:  That was good in the old days when I would lay out the money (con), then get reimbursed
    Con:  My company, as a cost saving, uses points for travel, so no airline miles
  6. You get to stay in hotels
    Pro:  Yes, I have been in some nice hotels.  There was a hotel in Mexico City that had seven restaurants in it.  Some are in good locations for walking in the cities.
    Con:  At the end of the day, you close the door and remember that you are all alone.  
For all of the cons above, I am still a firm believer in traveling.  But it has to be for a specific reason.  There are times when being face-to-face to handle tough situations are important.  Certain points in projects need teams to work together for a prolonged period; doing this remotely is inefficient, untimely and has the potential for misses.  Understanding needs and requirements can sometimes be handled on a phone; however, you cannot read people over a telephone and cannot share certain ideas and concepts.  I was recently asked if I still like to travel.  I found, that as Debbie and I have recently become empty nesters, I have enjoyed getting re-acquainted with my wife and do not like leaving her alone for extended periods.  For whatever reason, the time apart has become different.  I still like and believe in travel, but now, more than ever, I look forward to returning home.