Seven Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion!
It must be my year for sports winners. First, my Cubbies lifted the curse and tonight Jimmie Johnson won his Seventh NASCAR Championship. Seven! The only others to do that are Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. Both names that even people who don't care about NASCAR are likely to recognize. That is impressive company and he has a chance to move ahead of them both if he can get Eight.

But, I get ahead of myself. I just want to enjoy Seven.

I've been a fan of Jimmie's since his rookie year in 2002. I've told the story many times because it's so quintessentially me. I was dating a guy who was really into NASCAR. Really. Into. So, I thought I would get on the bandwagon so we would have something to enjoy together.

During the fall race at Phoenix International Raceway, I started my research. It made sense to pick a rookie so that I would have someone to follow for a long time. It also made sense to pick someone good so I looked at earnings for the year so far. That took it down to Jimmie and Ryan Newman. The deciding factor came from looking at their pictures. Jimmie was, and is, better looking so he became "my" driver.

When I told the guy I was dating that I picked a driver, he was excited. When I told him it was Jimmie, he was less so. His exact reaction was "I wish you had picked someone better."

We are no longer dating.

OK, the no longer dating had nothing to do with Jimmie. But, it's been really fun over the years to mention Jimmie's championships or just flash him a digital representation of the number from across the room when we run into each other. A better person might not mention that his driver never won a championship but we all know I'm not that better person.

I've spent countless hours pacing, screaming and silently praying to the racing gods over the years while watching races. I've gone to races and also screamed myself silly. I even missed the beginning of a house concert with Jim Hoehn so I could watch the end of a deciding race (he was totally cool with it because Jim Hoehn is totally cool).

But, over the past few years, my race watching has diminished because of, well, life. In fact, I hadn't watched a complete race so far this season. However, I was in for the long haul on this one and even pulled out one of my Jimmie shirts to wear. I may never take it off now.

For those that don't know, they changed the championship structure (again) and there were four drivers still eligible to win. It all came down to finishing ahead of the other three in this final race. The bad part of that was that Jimmie's car just didn't have it. Despite working his way up from the back of the field, he couldn't get past the others.

Until, fortune stepped in. Well, fortune in the form of Carl Edwards blocking Joey Logano with ten laps to go which took Edwards out of the race and put Logano behind Jimmie. Couple of restarts later and Jimmie pulled away from Kyle Busch (the other of the four) and won the race and his Seventh Championship.

Seven. What a lovely number.

I know people will say he got lucky. And, he did in this race. But, it wasn't luck that got him into one of those final four spots. It was great driving, a great crew chief, great ownership and a great crew.

Great job, team 48! Hey, there's an 8 in there...maybe that's a sign of things to come? I sure hope so!


Holy, Cow!

I've been in Key West before during the World Series. As I recall, we might have stopped in to a bar to check out part of a game here or there. But, I never really cared who won because my team wasn't in it.

Until this year!

We were at an event during Game 7 and I kept sneaking peeks at my phone for a score check. I felt pretty good about it all when it was 5-1 and even offered to stay for a Q&A session if my friend Jim wanted to but he was a great human and said, "I think we should go watch the game."

By the time we got to the sports bar to watch the game, it was 5-3. Yikes.

We bellied up to the bar next to my new best friend in a Cubs jersey and watched every play with great anticipation. A text from friends during the rain delay led us to the next bar.

My new best friend in the Cubs jersey said, "No offense, but I'm happy you're leaving. Things started going bad when you got here."

I couldn't blame him.

We pulled in to the next bar and the game was just going again. Despite one of my friends trying to jinx it, the Cubs won.

The Cubs won the World Series.

The Cubs won the freaking World Series!

Yep, still amazed when that thought randomly comes in to my head.

I admit it, I cried. I've been a life long fan. I told my son one of the rules he had to follow in life was to be a Cubs fan, that's how hard core I am.

But, I'm not as big of a fans as my friend Pabla. She and her family are SERIOUS fans. Let's just say she was crying a little more than I was. But, it was completely understandable.

Because, the Cubs won the freaking World Series!

Happy, happy fans!


This Is How Fat Thinks

I was in Vegas over the weekend and Thursday night found me sitting at the bar in Margaritaville with some friends. We were having some drinks, talking to strangers and watching both the baseball and football games. All was well with the world.

Out of nowhere, a young (20s?) guy came up behind me and snapped a selfie with me in it. He moved away before I could even get out "What was that about?" Less than 30 seconds later, another young guy came up and did the same. He also bounded away before I could stop him.

My very first thought was that they were doing a photo scavenger hunt and one of the items was a picture with the fattest woman they found. Hell, could even have been the fattest person they saw if I let my mind take it further.

Now, assuming a scavenger hunt, there are other reasons they could have wanted a picture of me. Maybe they needed a ginger, maybe it was someone with their hair in braids, maybe it was someone in the brightest colored shirt they could find.

Who knows?

But, I know. Because being fat (and having been it most of your life) gives you an overriding mindset that everything is related to your size.

Because, it usually is.

I could quote numerous studies about overweight people getting paid less and being considered lazy or poor workers. Anyone who is overweight can probably tell you multiple stories of how they've been judged for having no willpower or considered extremely unattractive and undateable. And, how they feel like they have to make up for their size by being smarter or funnier or richer or more talented than their smaller counterparts.

I'm pretty frakking smart and funny. Coincidence?

I know some people will say, "Well, then lose the weight and you won't be judged anymore". Yep, I sure could. I'm pretty good at losing weight when I try to. But, somewhere down the path of eating right and exercising comes that time where eating a half of a frozen pizza is more appealing than making a grilled chicken breast salad. It's all a slippery slope from there and I willfully fall down it.

Because, there are reasons to not to lose weight. Being heavy is a great heartache shield. It feels a lot easier to get immediately rejected than to have it happen after you've given your trust and affection to someone. Another reason is a "frak you for judging me, I'm staying the way I am" attitude. Very easy to convince yourself you don't need to conform to society's shallow norms. Hell, that practically makes you a rebel that you don't conform and rebels are cool.

I know I need to lose weight for my health and to take the pressure off of my body in several ways. Maybe, I'll get the mindset to actually do something about it. Only time will tell. But, I'm pretty sure even if I lost weight, I'll never get to the point where I'm not fat. The thin ship sailed a long time ago.

I tried to shake the whole thing off and enjoy the evening but, clearly, it's still bugging me. And, I keep telling myself that's just silly because I don't know why they took the pictures.

But, I know.


Frank Abagnale - The Art of the Steal

I had the great fortune to hear Frank Abagnale speak last week. Yeah, that's the guy who inspired the Spielberg movie, Catch Me If You Can.

Abagnale started the presentation with his personal story. Sobering and full of pathos; I don't remember it being as dark in the movie. While his cleverness at the art of the con at age 16 was entertaining and often humorous, his personal despair at the breakup of his family and remorse over his criminal actions were the overwhelming emotions I walked away with. He feels guilt to this day and has turned down three Presidential pardons.

It was also a powerful story of the preservation of the two parent family and the importance of teaching children lessons in morality. He presented many studies showing the shift regarding the latter. Short story, kids today don't consider things "wrong" as previous generations have. For example, cheating in school is considered no big deal by a growing percentage of youth over time. Sad.

Then he got in to the meat of his lecture. The topic was called The Art Of The Steal (one of his books) but he took material from his other tomes, too.

I tell you what, he scared the crap out of me.

He talked about identity theft and how easy it is to perform in so many ways. I agree with him that we've all had our identities stolen by now, either through our own carelessness or the carelessness of the institutions holding our data. An especially depressing point was that business is responding better to the threat than the government. Significantly. Sigh.

The section on check and wire manipulation had my colleague and I both taking notes. I'll never think about the USPS mail drop off box in the same way as he explained that skimmers swing up to them right before pick up time and use some simple, but effective, tools to pull out a bunch of mail to go through later.

Abagnale offered some simple solutions to decrease your risk. I jumped online and ordered a micro cut paper shredder for my home. The cross cut one that many think is safe is not. I also ordered uni-ball 207 gel pens for everyone on my team. The ink from that specific pen permeates the paper and can't be lifted or manipulated. And, when we retire our company's copy machines, you can bet we'll be pulling the hard drives and destroying them first. I won't, however, give up my debit card even though he highly suggested doing so.

You can check out the Publications page on his website to read more details on his recommendations.

If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, grab it. I know it's going to stick with me for a long time.


What I Learned From Star Trek

Today celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek's first appearance on US television.  It's a big deal if you're in the nerd and/or geek community.

The influence and endurance of Star Trek is nothing short of amazing. Yes, I judge people who blithely, or sometimes proudly, say "I've never watched it". For reals, you don't know what you're missing.

I grew up watching The Original Series in reruns. Yep, I'm too young to remember them when they aired. Yay for me being too young for something. BTW, that's TOS to us in the know.

It wasn't a perfect show. There was a lot of overacting, cheesy sets and sexist costumes. The plot points were sometimes predictable, you really didn't want to be on the security away team - that was a dead giveaway. (See what I did there?)

How many hours did you spend with the crew?

They weren't perfect characters, either. I mean, anyone who slept with Kirk died and if that's not a major defect I don't know what is. They were, however, a great team.

And, what a grand mission they were on! Traveling through space, meeting new races, working alongside other races. It was the coolest. It was inspiring and hopeful because it made me think "We can get there some day!" I can't tell you how many times I imagined I was in that world. I really wanted to go to Star Fleet Academy.

I still really want to go to Star Fleet Academy.

I've always been in the nerd group and really found my people once I started working in at a bookstore then in IT. For several years at my current job, we had a standard interview question. "What's your favorite Star Trek series?" The correct answer was "TNG" with "The Next Generation" almost as good. (Maybe that's just my bias.)

We did have one person reply "Bablyon Five." Respect.

The one episode of all the series that has stuck with me was from TOS and it had Frank Gorshin as a guest star. (Mad props to anyone under 40 who knows who Frank Gorshin was.) It was Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. The basic of the story is that two aliens end up on the Enterprise who've been engaged in a long battle of one trying to bring the other to justice because he's an alleged criminal.

Mortal enemies but why?
The twist was that their home planet had been wiped out because of its ongoing race war and they continued their own conflict despite that evidence that it didn't end well. Oh, and how were they different? Well, that was another twist. One dude was white on his right side and black on his left and the other one was the opposite. To the crew of the Enterprise, it was no big deal. But, it was a BFD to the aliens.

The Wikipedia article I linked said the episode was described as "heavy handed". Maybe so because it's influenced my life view. I think of it nearly every time when I hear or see something about racial, tribal, cultural, religious or idealogical conflict. The lesson seems clear to me - it will not end well for anyone. And, I'm also left asking, "Why can't we all just get along?"

For the record, my favorite Star Trek characters are Picard (oh, I'll make it so, Captain, if you know what I mean), Scottie and O'Brien. Apparently, I have a thing for accents.

Happy 50th Star Trek - thanks for the memories and the life lesson!


Football Season - The Most Magical Time Of The Year

Except this year because my Fantasy Football teams are horrible.

The first draft was on the Sunday afternoon of our big local Parrot Head weekend. I can blame the dehydration, hangover and lack of sleep for my poor draft. Or, the fact that I did no research. I choose to blame the ongoing sickness that I would endure for the next nine days.

I'm always the victim.

Here's my Parrot Head league draft in order (I was 11th out of 12):

WR DeAndre Hopkins
RB Le'Veon Bell (Did I know he was suspended for four games? No, I did not.)
QB Drew Brees
WR Eric Decker
RB Matt Forte
WR Kelvin Benjamin
RB Giovani Bernard
TE Tyler Eifert (Did I know he was hurt? No, I did not.)
WR Sterling Shepard
RB Theo Riddick
WR Corey Coleman
D Bengals
QB Tyrod Taylor
K Adam Vinatieri
RB Darren McFadden (Whom I dropped right away to pick up TE Charles Clay.)

Fast forward to Wednesday night and my work league as I drafted with a fever and barely kept myself awake (I was 12th out of 12):

WR De'Andre Hopkins (Pretty much my season is riding on this guy.)
QB Aaron Rodgers (I just had to. He's so dreamy. And, my boyfriend.)
RB Ryan Mathews
RB Jonathan Stewart
WR Erick Decker (same as above)
RB Giovani Bernard (same as above)
WR Sterling Shepard (same as above - I tend do take the same players for both teams every year)
RB Charles Sims
RB Isaiah Crowell
WR DeVante Parker
WR Robert Woods
TE Jason Witten
RB Darren Sproles
WR Nelson Agholer
QB Alex Smith
K Dan Bailey
D Atlanta

If possible, I've gotten more depressed after typing these all out.

At least I got this great picture of my boyfriend to use as my Facebook profile.

(It's meant to be funny.)
Actually, that doesn't life much of the depression now that I think about it.

Oh, well, there's always the waiver wire.


An Exercise in Inspiration and Motivation

A couple of weeks ago, some colleagues and I headed up to Northern Arizona for an optional offsite activity. Our CFO has a cabin (honestly, big house) up there and he has made it a practice to invite his direct reports up every year. This year, he expanded the invitation list to all of the Senior Managers and Directors of the company. (No, his cabin isn't that big. We were spread out over several places for our lodgings.)

We headed up to the pines on a Wednesday afternoon. The first night was dinner then hanging out. Thursday morning was golf for those who wanted to play while the rest of us sat on the porch and worked. It was gorgeous!

This is when I love technology - a wifi connection and I can work anywhere.
We headed to the main lodge for lunch after the golfers returned then delved into our first "work" activity of the trip. It was a "dusting off of our 360s".

Back in 2010 and then 2011, our upper management group participated in Zenger|Folkman 360 Assessments. Recently, a new group of managers and emerging leaders as well as Directors that weren't at the company back in 2011 did another round. We've invested time, energy and money into the process and I think it's a solid one.

The idea is to focus on one or two things that you're really good at and improve until you're excellent. You ignore the things that you're average at because the theory is you get the biggest bang for the buck when you can move something from good to great. (Sounds like a best selling book title, maybe I'll use that...oh, never mind, taken.) The exception to this process is if you have a "fatal flaw". Something that you're so bad at that it can derail your performance and possibly your career. If you have one of those, that's where you put your focus.

So, back to our exercise. The CFO started off by saying he had chosen to work on Inspiring and Motivating and this event was his attempt to improve on that. We then went in random order and talked about what we had chosen to work on and whether we'd made any effort or progress. After a person was done speaking, it was opened up to comments and questions from the rest. There were some good suggestions and some sincere affirmations. That was nice.

I had chosen Technical and Professional Expertise (as did many of us). Looking back, I have picked up some skills there when it comes to integrations. But, I spent more time on actively Building Relationships. Since that time, we started our Ladies of the Round Table (SM and Directors) group and our Random Happy Hours made up from all employees, I've added to my scheduled lunch companion rotation and spent a lot of time overseas with varied colleagues where you either go to your hotel room after work or you hang out. I always choose hang out unless I'm broken.

What was also nice was the last part of the individual presentation. The person had to sit with their back to a whiteboard and everyone wrote something about them. It was erased before the could see it but a picture was taken before erasure. It was interesting to see how uncomfortable some people were and how tempted they were to turn around and look.

Here's what they wrote about me.
(My friend Tina wrote the Hot!! comment. She's so funny.)
Yeah, the Princess thing is known at work. Also, that I don't want to be known as the Queen because Queen's are older than Princesses. My buddy, Jimmy, wrote Queen and was quite pleased with himself.

It was a very cool exercise that could be used in classrooms or scout troops or any place where you would do team building.

We followed up with dinner then a trip to Dairy Queen then pretty much everyone was tuckered out. Friday morning, we met for breakfast, discussed a few topics then headed back to the Valley.

I've been following up with my colleagues as I get a chance. Universally, we agreed it was a good meeting and time well spent. And, interestingly enough, we felt that the size was just right even though only half of the invitee list attended. I thought it made for more in depth conversation than what would have happened with twice as many.

I'll give the CFO an A on his Inspiring and Motivating work on this one. I came back feeling closer to my colleagues and more enthused about the work we have to do. And, I'll never begrudge any time spent in getting to know people on a more personal basis.