Cool tech Part Deux

February 10, 2017

This is the second half of my Cool Tech post.  Having moved over the Summer, I had the opportunity to experiment with Kevo, Ring, Hue, Arlo, and the Echo.  Here’s my reviews along with the Russell rating system of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) tennis balls.

kevoKevo $200 is a deadbolt lock for doors.  It’s Bluetooth and you control it via an app on your phone.  Despite having it professionally installed it has intermittant issues, a slow interface and poor battery life.  I think the unit should have better options such as automatically unlocking when you approach.  I’ve contacted their support and they are helpful but the solution is not fully baked.  This is software, c’mon man, improve it!!  Russell’s ratingtennis-ball

Ring $200 is a doorbell with a camera that connects to WiFi.  If ringyou already have a doorbell you can easily wire it into Ring.  If you don’t hard wire it, you can run it on batteries.  It has an app for your phone so you can see and talk to who’s at your door.  It’s motion sensor and cloud storage saves everything that it sees.  It has an optional ringer too that’s $30.  Russell’s ratingtennis-balltennis-balltennis-balltennis-ball

hue-1Philips Hue is LED lighting available in adhesive strips, stand-alone hue3lights, and traditional LED lightbulbs.  It’s $10/foot for the strips so it’s not cheap. You cab set up zones and control everything via an app on your phone.  Think accent lighting and places where you can have indirect lighting.  There are themes and Hue lighting can be any color.  There are additional apps like Hue Disco and Hue Fireworks that put your lights to music and simulate (in this case) fireworks. Remember, it’s always good to have fireworks on demand in your house!  Russell’s ratingtennis-balltennis-balltennis-balltennis-balltennis-ball

arloArlo $300 with 2 (max 5) cameras and the base.  This is a wireless high-def camera’s in your house with cloud storage accessible via an app on your phone.  The cameras can be wall mounted in seconds and set to on, off, or motion detect. To me this is added security for your house because I know who came in and out of all entrances and when.  Plus, I can see my cat on demand.  Russell’s rating: tennis-balltennis-balltennis-balltennis-ball

The Amazon Echo is a round black cylinder with an audio system connected by WiFi.  The Echo interacts with you by voice, and answers to the name Alexa. If you don’t like the name you can call it Amazon.

echo-dotThe Echo could become the center of your home automation efforts by acting as the brains of your home automation and IoT network. Alexa, or the Echo, understands queries and commands issued in natural language. The Echo is always listening for interaction from anywhere in the room.  To get Echo’s attention you begin commands with its name, i. e. “Alexa.”

megan-and-jackEcho can be connected via its app to the major audio streaming services, including Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Amazon’s Prime Music. Once it’s connected, you can say things like “Alexa, play Megan Davies.”

You can pair your phone or tablet with the Echo over Bluetooth and use it as a wireless speaker. Once paired, you connect/disconnect it by telling Alexa to do so. Once connected, open the app on the phone and play music normally and it plays through the Echo speaker system. It’s not the best audio system, but it’s good enough for casual listening.  Simple tasks available are making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, reading PDFs, providing weather forecasts, warning you of traffic conditions, answering trivia, and supplying information in real-time.   Russell’s ratingtennis-balltennis-balltennis-balltennis-balltennis-ball

Tennis updates – there’s a FaceBook group for Middle States League Tennis. Please check it regularly for updates and information. Here’s the Facebook page Middle States League Tennis.  By the way, the adult season in Philly starts the last two weeks of April.

Pork Chops and Applesauce (PCA)  My Philly 18+ 8.0 Mixed team got off to a shaky start this season essentially splitting courts in the our first three matches.  The league is composed of 3 flights, 2 flights of 6 and our flight of 9.  We have to win our flight to guarantee advancing.  We have 5 unbelievable teams in our flight, all easily capable of winning at Districts and Sectionals.  They are Great Valley, Healthplex, UMLY and Springton Just for Fun.  We’ve been on a roll recently so hopefully we can advance out of local league.  Good grief,when did things become so competitive?!?!

Bryn Mawr Bashers is my 40+ 8.0 Mixed team.  This is a good team and we’re in a dogfight to advance but there does seem to be a path to Districts.  Having a such a small team full of fun teammates facing excellent competition is what it’s all about.  For the record, I never expected 40+ to be this much fun…  (don’t say it).

Lastly, Boeing produces over forty 737 airplanes a month.  This video accessible via the link below shows the epitome of cool tech. Image:The train arrives with the main body in the morning and in this 3 minute time lapse video it shows you the fabrication of a new plane.  Watch this amazing process here Boeing 737 assembly line.  Check back soon and please share your comments.

 

4 Delight yourself in the Politics, and it will give you the ‘yuge’ desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

February 8, 2017

Politics has turned into primetime TV programming replete with drama, tension, sinful delights and horror.  I think the greater good has little to do with the circus that’s taking place so it’s time for my Cool Tech,  Part I post, woot woot!!

We live in a time of disruptive technological change.  Having recently moved, I had the opportunity to test out Kevo, Ring, Hue, Arlo, and Echo a.k.a. Alexa.  In my Cool Tech, Part Deux post, I’ll share my experiences with each and provide an update on the local tennis seasons.

snapchatAnd speaking of cool and the future, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed yesterday, “Snapchat is the new TV.”  1 in 4 has a Snapchat account and 10 Billion videos are watched daily.  The average usage per day, per user is greater than 30 minutes.  All adds are skippable and people spend their “downtime” in Snapchat.  I’m 1 for 1 with my boys… one sends me snaps, the other won’t give me his Snapchat name.

Perhaps the most disruptive coming change is Blockchain.  Read The Blockchain Revolution by Alex and Don TapscottWhat is blockchain?  The easiest way to understand blockchain is to think of it in terms of a typical bank account. When you spend money, it’s recorded as a transaction in your bank account, right? It’s the same thing with bitcoin or other industries using blockchain technology. A transaction is recorded in a “block.” Think of blocks like your monthly statements, which neatly divide up your transactions for easy reference (month, date, time, vendor, amount, credit or debit). A set of transactions is recorded as a block once it?s been verified by distributed trusted parties.

how-blockchain-works-vertafore-insurtech

Once a block of transactions is complete, they become part of the blockchain. They are linked together in proper order (both chronologically and in linear fashion), and each block links to the block before and after it in the sequence – much like your bank statements for each month showing a starting and ending balance. Blocks are impossible to alter once they’re part of the blockchain, which can create a more trusted, unchanged record of transactions or data that a large network of parties can see and verify.

bitcoinBitcoin – you might have heard about this digital currency, and it’s gaining some traction in payments. Online retailers like Newegg and Overstock.com accept it. There are services that let consumers convert Bitcoin into gift cards for use at their favorite retailers. And beyond that, bitcoin doesn’t seem to be going away. Bitcoin, however, is but one piece of the conversation about emerging technologies such as blockchain and distributed ledger technology, thus it helps to first start with a conversation about these concepts. You might even be more curious to learn how blockchain and Bitcoin might feature in the future for your business.

And speaking of technology , I’m proud of the ultra cool Legos my sons have built.  This is why we’re supposed to have hutches in our homes right?img_1229

Ever hit someone playing tennis with a ball by accident?  How about in Mixed?  I feel bad for both players in this video which is from the Men’s first round of the 2017 Australian Open. Stan smashes Kilzan. #LameDuck #Ouch

Again into Bondage?

February 6, 2017

ruthmontgomeryphotoThis is an article from the Syracuse Herald Journal by Ruth Montgomery dated 5/22/1967.

WASHINGTON – If it is true that history repeats itself, Americans can scarcely view with complacency the military dictatorship which has seized control of Greece, the birthplace of democracy. Nearly 200 years ago, while we were still a British colony, Professor Alexander Tyler wrote about the fall of the American republic in these words:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote largesse from the public treasury.”  

“From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”

The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.

We are indebted to a reader, James Oviatt, for Tyler’s reminder of our own possible fate. In less than a decade this nation will celebrate the 200th anniversary of his declaration of independence from Great Britain. None can question the spiritual faith and great courage of our founding fathers, who led us from bondage to liberty; nor question the abundance which that liberty has brought us. But are we, like the once great civilizations of Athens and Rome, now progressing through selfishness, complacency and apathy back to dependency and bondage?

We read of the personal greed that has brought proud legislators to their knees, of special interests that demand special privilege, of selfishly labor leaders who are wrecking newspapers and other industries, of “black power” advocates and “white segregationists.”

Tyler warned that democracy can only exist until people begin voting themselves largesse from the treasury, and electing those candidates who promised the most benefits from the public trough. And dictatorship, he added, inevitably follows loose fiscal policy.

How much longer, then, can we safely continue to promise everything to everybody? How long can our national policy be one of distributing largesse to those who refuse to help themselves, both here and abroad? The Administration has now asked Congress to set a new “permanent” debt ceiling of $36 billion, an amount which is $29 billion above the current temporary limit. In pleading the case for this astronomical example of living-beyond-one’s-budget, Treasury Secretary Henry H. Fowler said that next year’s federal deficit could soar as high as $24 billion, although President Johnson in January projected at eight or nine billion.

Where do we go from here? In our headlong quest for both guns and butter, the government takes more and more of our money, while going ever deeper into debt. When America is bled red, who will then rush to the rescue of hungry nations that fail to tax their rich, to revolutionize their agriculture and push for birth control? And if the young radicals who refuse to fight for the preservation of liberty succeed in sapping and our will to resist aggression, who will then turn the ghettos into model communities?

Complacency, apathy, dependency, and “back again into bondage?” It is not a pretty prospect.

Back to February 2017, here’s the current National Debt Clock at $19.9 Trillion and rising.

us-debt-feb-2017

The Dalai Wawrinka, one-liners and Banff National Park

August 15, 2016

I received a warm welcome on an uncommonly cool day.  No, it wasn’t this weekend where the temps were around 100, the heat index 106 and the heat radiating up form the sunny tennis courts must have been even hotter.  I’ve found ice cubes in the ears really helps.  But enough about the weather, it was a  a great weekend.  My 40+ tennis team advanced to Sectionals – thank you captain Neil Rutman and my wonderful teammates for pulling together when we needed it most.  The 18+ team that I captain also advanced to Sectionals this coming weekend August 19-21 in Princeton, NJ.  Woot Woot!!  #YesWeCan

warwrinka tattoI love The tattooed words of Irish poet Samuel Beckett that snake down the inside of Stanislas Wawrinka’s left forearm.  It reads: ”Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”  This is awesome and something I need to remind myself of daily.  Now if I could just hit the one-handed backhand like Stan the Man.
peanut doughnutPeanut doughnut – adding this to my list of the greatest snack food ev’va – up there with Choco Taco’s, Reses Peanut Butter cups and Oreo Blizzards.

I live life like my blood type, B+, life’s going to kick your butt form time to time grade_b_plus.0but the measure of the person is how you react.  Hold you head high and smile.  Nobody knows what your thinking and people tend to assume the very best.

Steven WrightContinuing on my recent comedy theme, I’ve been enjoying a number of terrific one-liners. You nay recall Henny Youngman, “take my wife, please” and Rodney Dangerfield, ““I could tell my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.” My favorite is Steven Wright and here’s a few good ones:

  • “An escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. You should never see an ‘Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order’ sign, just ‘Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the Convenience.’- Mitch Hedberg
  • “The Worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades” – Demetri Martin
  • “In Seattle, they have a saying, If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and shoot yourself in the face.” – Doug Benson
  • “I think it’s interesting that cologne rhymes with alone” – Doug Benson
  • “I think it’s wrong that only one company makes Monopoly”- Steven Wright
  • “I saw a bank that said ‘24 Hour Banking,’ but I don’t have that much time.” – Steven Wright

banff-national-park-moutnains-alberta-canada.ngsversion.1462309175552.adapt.1900.1This is Moraine Lake in Banff National Park which is about 60 miles from Calgary.  Thank you Jon Rubinstein for making me aware of it.  Google it – the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen. Reflection of mountains and trees in a lake, Lake Johnson, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

The Hyper Loop, what’s in the Azure Cloud for you, and a book that moved me

August 6, 2016

HyperloopWant to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes?  We have the technology and it’s real.  Elon Musk leads Tesla, Solar City and Hyper Loop.  They’ve successfully tested Hyper Loop technology and are now building the breaking systems, cabins, and the tracks.  The biggest challenge by far is the right of way issues.  Hyper Loop is cabin in a tube that can be above ground or below that travels in a vacuum at speeds over 1,000 mph (faster than the speed of sound).  This will be available in 2020, that’s in four years!!!  Watch the video:  Hyper loop – https://youtu.be/GiYb_0wOWqY

Hard to believe it’s football time again.  So what’s the delay in Johnny Manziel going to the Raiders?  What a perfect fit.  And the Broncos trade for Mark Sanchez?  Why?  I love this quote from Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

amanda-schweickertAnd at least give Amanda Schweickert an A for creativity. The 28-year-old was pulled over south of Buffalo, N.Y., after sheriff’s deputies say they saw an odd-looking license plate on the back of her car. Why it looked so strange: It was made of cardboard and painted to look like a New York license plate. Well, sort of. See for yourself.

Azure stackMicrosoft Azure is the future.  Here’s a great chart.  You only pay for what you use, there is no start up investment, no maintenance, and it’s cheap.  Reach out to me to better understand how you can best leverage the paradigm of Cloud computing.

ernie pyleOn the serious side of things, I recently read The Story of World War II by Donald Miller and it knocked my socks off.  It’s mostly first person accounts of the soldiers and the press (like Ernie Pyle) from WW II.  In case you don’t think this perspective is much different, think of it this way…  There is no way a soldier has the same perspective as a commanding General who is leading miles from the action.  The General’s daily report might be something like, “we had an excellent day and succeeded in accomplishing all of our objectives while sustaining minimal casualties and loss of equipment.  The soldier’s report will always be different.  He will have seen some of his friends die, killed some of the enemy, he’s almost deaf from the concussion of artillery shells and perhaps he was injured as they advanced up a road or into a village.

Some lesser known facts.

  • We lost 188,000 US soldiers taking Sicily
  • On D-Day, the initial landings in Normandy we lost 4,900 soldiers
  • When the US 8th Air Force first engaged in occupied Europe – they lost 17% of this force on the first day.  On their 2nd day of combat they lost 25% of their numbers.  This was considered a success.
  • We attacked Hamburg, Germany’s 2nd largest city in July 1943.  German dead (mostly women, children and the elderly) totaled 45,000 and over 400,000 were made homeless.  In ten days’ German losses were more than Great Britain’s losses in the entire war.
Boeing B-17F

Boeing B-17F formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, on Aug. 17, 1943. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission was an air combat battle in World War II. It was a strategic bombing attack flown by B-17 Flying Fortresses in August 1943, it was conceived as an ambitious plan to cripple the German aircraft industry (Schweinfurt factories produced 50% of Germany’s ball bearings which was considered to be their Achilles heel).

An account from the book is as follows of a solitary shot up B-17 limping home to England.

Someone on the plane radioed the tower, “Hello Lazy Fox, this G for George calling Lazy Fox, will you give me landing instructions please?  Pilot and co-pilot dead, 2 engines feathered, fire in the radio room, vertical stabilizer gone, no flaps, no breaks, crew bailed out, bombardier flying the ship. Give me landing instructions.

The reply came a few seconds later, “I hear you G for George, here are your landing instructions.

Solider, “Repeat slowly please, repeat slowly

Tower, “Our Father, Who art in heaven

How to be a loser

February 4, 2016

Finally, I have a topic with a deep amount of personal knowledge and experience.  This includes business and recreational activities.  For me professionally, I’m in software development and I advocate on how organizations can leverage the growing value proposition of the Cloud. This also applies to my tennis life and the 60+ matches I TED-logocompete in each year.

First, I need to give credit to Rich Franklin, a UFC mixed martial arts champion and his Ted Talk a few years ago on this topic. You can view it at https://youtu.be/8L3OG-fl9tE. This and other Ted talks have changed my life.

Here’s a list of the top 15 Ted talks of 2015. https://www.ted.com/playlists/320/the_most_popular_talks_of_2015_1.  It will take you a little over two hours to listen to them all and I can’t think of a better way to spend your time.  It will change some of your perspectives.

So, how do you be a loser?  How do you deal with the loss and more importantly, how do you move forward?  Losing is inevitable.  If you compete for business or play any sport, eventually you will lose.  Initially, you may feel that the other company, team or opponent got lucky but after careful consideration and introspection, it will lead you back to the fact that you lost for a reason.  It can be skills, ability, preparedness and so many other factors.  What you have to accept is that there is usually something you could have done differently to affect the outcome.

rich_franklinFirst you have to set goals.  And when you work towards your goals, do you give it your all?  Every day?  Do you goof off, cut corners or delegate critical tasks?  Not putting forth all you have to offer will reduce your belief in what’s possible and the opposite is true as well.  A business opportunity or team sport presents some challenges that you can’t control but unless you are demonstrating your maximum effort the failure and aftermath of a failed opportunity, match or game can be devastating.  It’s important to analyze what transpired or as Rich Franklin says, “to have selective amnesia” regarding your setbacks. Take away what you did right, forget the rest and move forward.

The other ingredient besides effort is motivation.  What inspires you?  For me it’s the refusal to quit.  It’s a come from behind effort.  It’s a demonstration of grit that stands on its own.  It’s about passion and certainly not all about winning.  While winning is important and no salesperson is paid on “deals lost,” you must pursue your goals with everything you have with an optimistic viewpoint.  Surround yourself with people that inspire you.  Keep fighting and stay in the game.

Desiderata

December 28, 2015

Happy Holidays.  I can’t think of a more appropriate seasonal greeting than the Desiderata.  It’s been hanging on my wall for 20 years and I don’t ready it as often as I should.

Desiderata
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

God’s message, The Panama Canal, VW, oh and some tennis

October 9, 2015

Life moves pretty fast someone said.  I’ve had a busy Summer and it’s amazing what can happen in a few months.  I hope you’ll enjoy my brief summaries and if you make it to the end there is a surprise.

Michael JrHave you ever heard of Michael Jr.?  The first time I did was when Cardone Industries hosted the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) in 2014.  They graciously allowed me to attend the 2-day event (thank you Jim Worth) and I was one of a handful of non-Cardone employees who had the privilege.  Michael Jr. was the “comedic relief” in a who’s who’s of business leaders with faith (Jim Collins, Ed Catmull (co-founder Pixar) and Sally Krawcheck).  It was awesome.  At GLS 2015 Michael Jr. delivered a message of absolute truth, “there is more in you than you know.” Later, he deadpans a joke about a guy asking repeatedly about his beginnings.  Michael Jr. was asked, “but where are you from, originally?”  reluctantly he says, “well I was conceived in Michigan…  before that I was with my Dad.   And then there was a swim competition – and I won?!?!?!?”

I sincerely hope you watch this brief YouTube video https://youtu.be/TU0f8a3Cizo. This is a must watch (2:27 min) about Michael Jr’s infant.  Be still baby, I love you, I’m right here.  Is it God’s message?  Watch it.  You can also path to Michael Jr Comedy on FaceBook and see this video if you scroll down just a little.

What goes into engineering buildings and bridges is fascinating to me.  On December 31, 1999, after nearly a century of rule, the United States officially ceded ownership of the Panama Canal to the nation of Panama. That nation did not exist when, in the mid-19th century, Europeans first began to explore the possibilities of creating a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the narrow but mountainous isthmus; Panama was then a remote and overlooked part of Colombia.

In 1848, a wave of Gold fortune hunters descended on Panama from Europe and the eastern United States, seeking quick passage on California-bound ships in the Pacific, and the Panama Railroad, built to serve that traffic, was soon the highest-priced stock listed on the New York Exchange. To build a 51-mile-long ship canal to replace that railroad seemed an easy matter to some investors. But, as David McCullough notes in The Path Between the Seas, the construction project came to involve the efforts of thousands of workers from many nations over four decades; eventually those workers, laboring in oppressive heat in a vast malarial swamp, removed enough soil and rock to build a pyramid a mile high. In the early years, they toiled under the direction of French entrepreneur Ferdinand de Lesseps, who went bankrupt (along with thousands of French citizens who bought stock) while pursuing his dream of extending France’s empire in the Americas. The United States then entered the picture, with President Theodore Roosevelt orchestrating the purchase of the canal–but not before helping foment a revolution that removed Panama from Colombian rule and placed it squarely in the American camp (we later paid Columbia $10 Billion)  The story of the Panama Canal opened in 1914 and is complex, full of heroes, villains, and victims.  We discovered and conPanama_Canal_Gatun_Locksquered Malaria and Yellow Fever which are transmitted by only one type of mosquito.  The solution?  Get rid of the mosquitos which must have fresh standing water to survive.  When de Lesseps started digging, he lost 60% of his workforce to Yellow Fever.

I’ll leave you with these facts and a 2-minute time-lapse video of a ship traversing the Panama Canal.  It takes 52 million gallons of fresh water (they reuse much of that now) to pass thru. Each lock is the equivalent of the Empire State building on it’s side (250′ shorter).  They poured more cement than any project ever except the Hoover Dam.  “The cost of moving a ship through the Panama Canal has tripled over the past five years to around $450,000 per passage for a vessel carrying 4,500 containers, and this figure is likely to go up upon completion of the expansion process.”   Watch a ship go thru here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vi19z4LEi0.

VW NoticeVW became the largest car manufacturer in the world this Summer.  1% of vehicles in the US are Deisel and 23% of VW sales in the US are/were Diesel.  I bought a Passat 2014 Diesel.  It has crazy torque (you can squeal the tires any time you want) and I get over 700 miles per 18.9-gallon tank. Diesel cost about $2.70/gallon currently. I just got this letter.

Oh, and tennis.  Yeah been playing a lot theses days.  The Philly 4.5 men’s team I captain won Sectionals in August.  I want to shout out to the amazing group of guys who needed to win all five courts on Sunday while Delaware had to lose at least two courts.  That’s exactly what happened as we took it to David Pottle’s York HS team on Sunday winning 5-0, all in straight sets.  Woot woot!! Congrats to Troy Donato, Eric Fritzges, Tony Deimler/Steve Hlava, Nate Geigle/Brian Vincent, Wanzell Flemming/Satheesh Swaminathan who won on Sunday as well as Chris Kyper, Sean Rojo, Andrew Peterson, and Dave Bozentka.  Wowza!

Sorry I had to trick you about the surprise.  I’m glad you made it this far – check back soon for future posts!!

Vacation nightmare

August 13, 2015

UVMA few months ago I picked up my boys after work when we noticed a UVM bumper sticker.  What’s that?  We googled it and saw a beautiful city on Lake Champlain 40 minutes South of Canada and decided to visit.  We picked out a direct flight on Expedia, upgraded to a suite and soon it was vacation time for me and my two sons on July 30th.  Our 56 minute direct flight from Philadelphia to Burlington Thursday evening 7/30 was canceled due to weather.  It started with a 4:30pm automated call Thursday that our 10pm flight was canceled.  I called American Airlines and they said we could depart out of Harrisburg at 7:18pm so we raced to the airport.  We thought we just made it but then discovered the flight was delayed due to mechanical problems.  We finally arrived at Dulles Airport in Washington DC at 10pm (I thought it was still a direct flight – Dulles wasn’t mentioned?)  Arriving at 10pm in Dulles,  we missed our connection to Burlington, VT.  The United gate agent after almost 2 hours told us the best she could do was a 5:30pm Friday flight Friday to LaGuardia and then a 10pm flight to Burlington which would put us in Burlington, VT at 11:11pm Friday night.  Also, she could not get print us boarding passes and she told us to leave the airport and come back at 2pm Friday.

Dulles agentI asked about hotel accommodations and was told “due to weather,” and the cancelation of our original flight, it was on us.  They gave us a pink slip for a discounted hotel as if it was a huge favor and when calling the number on the slip, the recording said immediately that they were sold out. We exited Dulles and I used the Hotels Tonight app to find a room at Aloft 4 miles away for $68.   I called United when I woke up and after 2 hours I was told nothing was available Friday or Saturday to Burlington and “didn’t I know it was a busy Summer travel weekend?”  The agent was attempting to find a way back to Harrisburg when she found 3 seats direct to Burlington on the Friday 10pm flight so we went with that.

We came back to the airport Friday and while waiting at the gate we were next to a 5:30pm direct flightDulles vouchers to Burlington.  The announcement was, “we are looking for 3 volunteers to give up your seat, in return we’ll put you on the next flight to Burlington tomorrow, provide hotel accommodations and give you $400 in credit which must be used in one year.”  What?!?!?!  I went to customer service and explained that I got nothing for my trip with a 30-hour delay.  He sympathized and gave us three $7 food vouchers that are accepted by “participating vendors” in the airport.

Our 10pm 7/31 Dulles flight departed at 11:30pm and we arrived early Sat morning in Burlington.  We took a cab to our hotel and hopefully this is the last cab ride of my life.  The driver at 1:30am couldn’t get his Square to process my credit card and he asked me for help.  I reached in and it worked.  The cabbie asked, “got your bags?” I confirmed, and off he went without getting out of the cab.  A few steps later, I realized I left my iPhone on his roof and thanks to Find my iPhone we recovered it a half mile down the road, albeit with a broken screen.

We checked in to the Doubletree about 2am Saturday, 8/1 to discover we are getting the base room – not the Suite that I paid for.  It had only one bed and I went back to the front desk who apologized immediately, said they are sold out and gave me a breakfast voucher for 3.  I slept on the floor.

Burlington trip todayPulling up the exact same flights and room the pic to the left shows what’s available for what cost today. In the morning, I called Expedia and when the agent couldn’t help, I was transferred to a supervisor “Alex R.”  I was told they didn’t have a record of me upgrading my hotel room.  I explained that the round-trip air for each of us was under $330 and I paid $1,834 for Hotel and Air.  Four nights for around $850 at the Burlington Doubletree was over list price.  She said that “since I booked the trip over thirty days ago, she couldn’t go back that far.  I asked for her last name, “no.”   I asked for her email, a direct phone number, to speak with her boss, and she said “no.” I felt like I was talking to Consuela from Family Guy.

I went back to the front desk at the hotel two employees told me this is a common occurrence with Expedia. “They expect us to make good and we’re often sold out.”  The next day they gave us another base room with two double beds and said we could use both rooms but I declined the 2nd room.  I was thrilled to have a bed and Kenny exclaimed, “yeah!” when I told him we got a 2nd bed.  It was the first smile of my trip.

Segway BurlingtonThe next day we did a Segway tour for $70/person for an hour.  This was amazing.  We got home around 6pm and my fish, err boys, went for a swim in the hotel pool.  Yours truly passed out.  When the boys got back we made a “Sunday Fun Day” list and slept in till 10am.  It took us about a full day to get our energy back after the long trip out.

Sunday we went to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, shopping, to the Echo Museum on the Waterfront (where we discovered Kinetix sand) and we ate at American Flatbread Pizza – yummmmmm.  Our waiter said a small pizza serves 1 and a large serves 2.  Ok, we are three manly men so we ordered 3 large pizzas full of the most amazing, local farm-sourced ingredients and yup, you half bakedguessed it, out comes three 16” pizzas.  Serves 2??  Who, Cheech and Chong?

We took Uber everywhere and in all 10 trips I rated my driver 5 stars out of 5.  I also found out that the Uber drivers rate their passengers too.  Uber rocks – every trip was great, clean, informative and fun.
There is no payment transaction with the driver and one driver even had free chips, drinks and Peppermint Patties.

A clerk in a local convenient store noticed my broken iPhone screen and shared that the small store across from our hotel repairs them.  I walked over with Gregory about 4pm on Sunday.  I asked how much for a new screen on my  6+?  The response was “$225.”  “Ok, sure.”  The gal started taking my name and number when her co-worker came out from the back and started asking me questions, “What hotel are you staying at?”  I pointed with my thumb across the street.  “What airline are you flying?  What time is your flight? Where do you live? When do you want your phone back?” I did not answer his questions and just responded, “why?”

“Because there are many people ahead of you” as he pointed to a $19.99 sign for expedited service.  I said, “that’s ok, I want it within an hour and I don’t want to pay extra.”  The short version is he started contradicting himself, now we didn’t have to pay more but again, when do I want my phone back?  I took it out of his hands and quickly exited the store.   I have never been asked to wait more than an hour.  Pretty sure I avoided fraud or identity theft.  When I got home the Apple Store replaced my glass for $129.

ExpediaExpedia, Inc. is an American-based parent company to several global online travel brands including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, trivago, Egencia, Venere.com, Expedia Local Expert, Classic Vacations, Expedia CruiseShipCenters and eLong.  I will never use them again.

The boys were troopers – I am so blessed with wonderful children.  As I told them, I would do it Tipall over and I treasure every opportunity to be with them.   When we checked out of our hotel we left the rest of the six pack I didn’t finish, the leftover pizza and a small tip.  What a trip!

2015 USTA Philly 18 and over Districts at Frosty Hollow

July 16, 2015

The Men’s annual USTA Philadelphia 18+ Districts championships were held last weekend at the Frosty Hollow Tennis Center in Levittown, PA at the 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 levels. This tournament is where the winners of the local league flights at each level face off with the overall winner of Districts advancing to represent Philadephia at the Middle States Sectional championships in Princeton, NJ August 21st – August 23rd.  Middle States is comprised of six districts (Philadelphia, Eastern PA, Central PA, Pittsburgh PA, New Jersey and Delaware).  The winner of Sectionals represents the Middle States Section (1 of 17 sections in the country) at Nationals in November.

My Philly men’s 4.0 team, Easy Killer (which is intended to mean “relax there big fella, it’s only tennis”) has advanced numerous times to Districts but we’ve won only once in 2010.  We started the season at 8-0 but in the 9th week we were short staffed for that weekend’s match that we lost dropping us to 8-1.  As a result we then faced an elimination match in the final regular season match vs. the West Chester Warriors captained by Raj Thangaraj.  Due to the tiebreakers, if we were to lose this match, West Chester would have advanced to Districts over Easy Killer.  On two separate days we went 1-1 in the makeup matches winning a doubles court (thanks to Ed Daou & Joe Sassa) and then losing a close singles court to Bobby B.  We then played the final 3 courts together (there are 2 singles and 3 doubles courts in every team match) at Radnor HS.  We lost singles (John Bishop played great against us) and Justin Bussinger & I won our doubles court.  With the team match tied 2-2, we lost the first set on the last doubles court 5-7.  And then John Gassenheimer and Vetri Vel took over against tough opponents going on to win the last two sets 6-1, 6-0 sending Easy Killer to Districts.

At Districts at the 4.0 level there are 4 teams, 3 flight winners (Penn Stare Abington, Philly Phighters, and Easy Killer) and a wild card (Frosty Freeze).  The format is round-robin, you play each team once with the best cumulative record advancing.  On Friday, we played the Frosty Freeze on their home courts without 5 people I would have played if they were available, Ed Daou, Milos Markis, John Gassenheimer, Mel Navea and Bob Woods.  Ed Daou got hurt playing tennis the night before and 2 hours prior is was clear that Ed couldn’t go so we called on Larry Jamieson to fill in.  Larry was 2 hours away and 40′ in the air on a ladder painting.  With paint specs on his hands, Larry made the drive to Levittown just in time and partnered with Joe Sassa to win his court 6-4, 6-4. Justin and I won our court after we went down 0-4 to start the match.  Fortunately we managed to come back and win, 4-6, 6-4, 1-0. This prompted several curious responses from people asking how I did and then looking at me funny, blinking twice and whispering, “you won?”  Mike Weidinger, who went on last, played much of his singles match with overall match team split 2-2 in front of 34 Frosty fans and 3 Easy Killer faithful.  And Mike delivered!  In a hot, sticky two set marathon Mike prevailed 6-4, 7-5 very nice very nice, pretty good pretty good.  Mike moved his opponent to the point of exhaustion for an exciting end to the match. We won 3-2 against a strong team and fun captain Nadine Shaffer.

On Saturday, we played Penn St Abington. We got Ed Daou back and that was key for us.  We dropped both singles courts but swept Penn St Abington at doubles.  Joe Sassa/Ed Daou rocked winning against a tough pair.  Justin and I found a way at #2 doubles and Larry Jamieson/Vetri Vel brought it home at 3rd doubles with the match tied 2-2 and the full team watching. Interestingly, Vetri thought we had already won the team match.  That win made us 2-0 on the weekend, so good so far.

On Sunday we faced the Philly Phighters.  Ed Daou/Joe Sassa had a great win at #1 doubles but unfortunately Justin and I lost #2 doubles in a match tiebreaker.  Larry Jamieson/Vetri Vel won convincingly on 3rd doubles and we lost a singles court with Brian Hamilton cramping at the start of his match tiebreaker.  So with the match tied 2-2, (same as Friday) Mike Weidinger started his match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by 2.  Down 5-8 in the tiebreaker, Mike reached deep and won the next 5 points. His comeback win sends Easy Killer to Sectionals 8/21 – 8/23 in Princeton, Without Mike’s comeback, would have not advanced due to tiebreakers. Kudos to Joe Sassa and Larry Jamieson for winning all 3 of their matches on the weekend. Ed Daou won 2 huge matches at #1 doubles, Mike was one match tiebreaker away from winning all 3 of his matches (Justin Bussinger and I are in that category too and Vetri Vel won 2 as well).  We all pulled together and I’m thrilled.  I told the team we could not win but not in so many words. Our mottos for the weekend were #YesWeCan #ProveRussellWrong and eventually #MW4MVP.

EK 2015

Pictured above Left to Right, Mike Weidinger, Ed Daou, Russell Chamberlin, Joe (a.k.a Joey Zaza) Sassa, Brian Hamilton, Larry Jamieson and Vetri Vel (missing Justin Bussinger, Andy Macera and Lee Sullivan). Here are the Districts standings.  It was so much closer than it seems.  When I say it’s, “it’s the little things that matter,” they really do.  Winning isn’t about doing anything 100% better, it’s about doing 100 things 1% better.  Ok, I’m off my soapbox.

Team Standings By Championship Report  As of Today’s Date: 07/15/2015 10:31 AM
Section District
USTA/MIDDLE STATES PHILADELPHIA
Championship Level League Type/NTRP/Gender
PHILADELPHIA District Championship – Philadelphia Area District Championships 4.0 Men District Adult 18&Over / 4.0 / M
Match Win Criteria:  Team Wins
Team ID Team Name Team Score Indiv. Score Sets Lost Games Lost
Wins Losses Wins Losses
 3509042797 Easy Killer 3 0 9 6 15 138
 3509042791 Penn State Abington 1 2 8 7 17 144
 3509042792 Philly Phighters 1 2 7 8 18 141
 3509042783 Frosty Hollow Freeze 1 2 6 9 20 152

On to the Ramdomizers. We won our flight during the regular season and there’s only one flight. At 4.5 it’s a four team single-elimination tournament for Districts.  The regular season was so close that last year’s undefeated regular season winner (Logan) finished 5th in the standings.  We won five regular season matches 3-2 and everything was tight.

In the semi-final we faced Germantown who has some great players and we managed to win 3-2 setting up a finale vs. DVTA-Villanova on Sunday. John Ellis won convincingly at #1 singles, Brian Vincent/Nate Geigle played thier best team at #1 and lost a well-played match. Troy Donato (coming off a great win Saturday) took the first set off of Tyler Triolo but lost in a match tiebreaker. Steve Hlava/Tony Deimler won big and with the team match tied 2-2, Eric Fritzges and Chris Kyper won a sensational match with everybody watching 7-5, 6-3 sending the Ramdomizers to Sectionals in August.  What a great team effort. Woot Woot!

Match Home Team: Ramdomizers
Team ID:3509042841
Vs. Visiting Team: DVTA-Villanova
Team ID:3509042842
3rd Set Tie-break
#1 Singles John J. Ellis

Completed
Vs. William T. Fleegler
6-2 6-3
#2 Singles Troy Donato

Completed
Vs. Charles Tyler Triolo
2-6 6-0 1-0
#1 Doubles Nate Geigle
Brian R. Vincent
Completed
Vs. David Przystasz
Ally Gaylord
7-5 6-1
#2 Doubles Steve Hlava
Tony Deimler
Completed
Vs. Sean D. McElroy
Robert H Musil
6-4 6-1
#3 Doubles Christopher Kyper
Eric Fritzges
Completed
Vs. Ryan Collins
Michael Peterson
7-5 6-3

Rams Districts 2015

Pictured above Left to Right, Nate Geigle, Eric Fritzges, John Ellis, Russell Chamberlin, Tony Deimler, Chris Kyper, Wanzell Flemming, Troy Donato, Brian Vincent, Steve Hlava. What a weekend.  I need rest