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.


That One Time When We Met Steven Tyler

One of the cool things at WE Fest were the meet and greets. Everyone I talked to said the artists were wonderful and patient. Jim tried to get us in on a couple but it appeared we were going to get shut out until he got a text from a friend "First 50 people in line get to meet Steven Tyler."

That was all we needed to know to abandon the Apple Pies shots we were slugging at a campsite bar. As we hustled over, a friend of Jim's said hi and, since it was her birthday, Jim told her to come with us, right now, for a great birthday present.

We got there in plenty of time and dutifully lined up. Anyone pulling a cell phone was threatened with getting booted from the line. Do you know how hard it is not to pull out your phone to check the time or messages when you're standing in a line? Hard.

We sent Sandy the birthday girl ahead of us. She told Steven it was her 61st birthday and he told her it couldn't be because she looked so amazing. He then sang in her ear and kissed her a bunch of times all over her face. He also fluffed her hair for her. After their picture was taken, she turned to walk away but then went back over and kissed him on the lips. She was walking on air!

I think Sandy was shell shocked.

Then, it was our turn. Jim and I have a thing where we hold our drinks out in front to make them look bigger. So, of course we had to do that somehow and chose our event badges (there were no drinks allowed).

Steven said to us, "Oh, the old fisherman trick." We told him we always do that and he said, "Next time, let's do this naked!" I replied with, "Let me know when that will be so I can start a diet ahead of time."

So, Steven Tyler wants to get naked with me. It's cool. Of course, he wants to get naked with me AND Jim which makes it a little weird.

For the record, Steven's makeup and hair were perfection. He looked great for a 68 year old. And, he couldn't have been nicer.

Also, for the record, I did not approve Jim's hat.

What a great moment to treasure!


WE Fest

I spent last week in Detroit Lakes, MN for a Country Music festival called WE Fest. It's been going on since 1983 and my friends, Big Jim and Mary Ann, have gone every year and my Bestie, Jim, has been to all but one. At some point last year, I said "I'm in!"

What a fun event! Very well organized. Lots of music with a mixture of up and coming artists, established ones and a few rockers.

We had VIP seats which included "free" beer. All those Minnesotans were complaining about which beer it was but I was quite pleased. What do those ice fishers know?

You could also get Summer Shandy and Mike's Hard Lemonades.

Following are my impressions on each act. Jim and I saw all of them, missing a few opening songs for some (long beer lines) and about 20 minutes for one act because we were at a Meet and Greet. We were in the 38th row so my pics were all crap because I only had my phone. Lesson learned - take the camera.


Amanda Watkins

The only female led act of the event. That face makes me sad. She had a wonderful voice and a nice stage presence. And the biggest earrings I saw all weekend.


These guys have a top 40 Country song (I Know Somebody) and I had downloaded their album LoCash Cowboys so I knew what to expect. I would call them Southern Rock. Very fun, very energetic. I quite enjoyed their show.

Joe Nichols

I mean, it's Joe Freakin' Nichols, what would you expect? A solid show of very popular songs. Well, popular a few years ago. But, we knew them all and sang along and he was very personable. And, handsome. Did not in any way disappoint.

Lee Brice

Holy heck, that is one big dude! Of everyone we saw, his 6'3" frame was the easiest to see from our seats. Another guy with a deep library of top hits, Brice did a great job on his show. Entertaining and personable. The personable thing is a recurring thing. I don't think there was anyone who looked like they weren't grateful and happy to be there. That was pretty cool.

Eric Church

Wowzers! What a high energy show! This was the best of the first night and it was worthy of being the headliner. Lots of great songs with everyone singing along. It was just super fun.


William Michael Morgan

One of our favorite shows. He has a top 40 in I Met A Girl and he has a "real" country vibe complete with a George Straight like hat. I really like his song, Cheap Cologne, which I heard from downloading his EP. Wonderful voice, great on stage presence. If you get a chance to go see him, do it.

Granger Smith

Once we got past thinking he looked like Tom Cruise (those teeth!), we really enjoyed this show. He also has a current hit, If The Boot Fits, which I'm hearing a lot on my local station. Very enthusiastic though his skinny jeans riding up above his boots was not a good look. ;)

If you're wearing boots, you should wear boot cut jeans. Just sayin'.

Montgomery Gentry

The only act where I could sing along, correctly, to every song. These guys have a solid history of hits and they were fun and high energy as well. Their jeans weren't distracting but Eddie Montgomery's whiter than anything in nature teeth where. They literally glowed from the stage.

This picture doesn't do it justice. Grr. Those are some white choppers!

Billy Currington

I spent most of this show building a dream world where Billy and I are together. We're both fantastically happy in case you were wondering. So, yeah, good show, I think. He sure looked good.

Kid Rock

Yeah, he's kind of country. He was also hugely popular at the event and many peoples's favorite act. I thought he was a great entertainer and very talented. And, he had women in his band! But, I couldn't get past the incessant F bombs. Which, if you know me, seems quite hypocritical as I swear all the time. But, it just was too much for me for a public event. We tried to buy some of his shirts but chose not to because they all had the F word on them. I would never wear one in public because I think it's inappropriate.


High Valley

Holy harmonies! I was immediately blown away and not too surprised when the two leads introduced themselves as brothers because their voices were so fantastic together. Definitely one of my favorites and one of the acts that seemed especially grateful to be at the event. Keep an eye on this band, they're going to go places. Or, they should, at least.

Halfway To Hazard

I had downloaded one of their CDs ahead of time so I was familiar with some of the tunes. Southern Rock sounding and quite enjoyable. Tim McGraw has worked with them (yes, they name dropped and then so did he about them). Their set was good.

Gary Allan

Another act that I could sing along to. He did a rocking show with many of his best known hits. He also looked pretty fine. I heard some girls (like 20 somethings) talking about their Meet and Greet with him and they said "He looked really good for an older guy." They also said he was very nice which is what I expect about Country musicians and, when they're not, I'm horribly disappointed.

Steven Tyler

Yeah, that Steven Tyler. What a brilliant show! My favorite of them all. He started out with Aerosmith songs then dropped a few off his new country album in between. Very smart. And, hey women in the band! Women featured in the band! Everyone on stage looked like they were having a blast. He did drop one F bomb but then said "Oh, there's a swear rule" (or something like that) then didn't use that word again. I just loved everything about him and his set.

Tim McGraw

Well, what can you say about one of the most popular Country artists of the past 20+ years? His show was polished, fun and he was hotter than hell up there. Maybe literally but visually for sure. He may have gotten a little too thin for my taste but, damn, he still looked good and moved around like a youngster. And, those arms. Oh. My. Gawd.

From Steven Tyler's Instagram.
Those. Arms. 

My only disappointment was the lack of female representation at the event. I know they've had lots of women headliners in the past but not even seeing many female musicians this year made me wonder if it was just a coincidence or indicative of the general music industry or maybe Country music. I'll have to research that.

Oh, and the one thing that absolutely didn't disappoint was meeting Steven Tyler. Stay tuned.


Things That Make Me Go Hmmmmmm

Behavioral Economics is my jam! If it had been a real thing back when I was in college, I would have ditched my Business Major in a heartbeat.

For those who don't know what it is, the short description is that it's the study of how and what effects your economic decision making. What makes you buy one car over another? How will your current experience influence your investing decision a few minutes from now, a day from now, a week from now? That kind of stuff.

What does one do with the results? Well, you can use them for good or evil. As a business type, I always think about how it can increase profits. As a human, I also think about how it could help make people make better decisions for themselves or society.

An example of the latter, say you want to increase the percentage of employees investing in a 401K (assuming that's a good decision for their financial wellbeing). How you do it is automatically sign them up for it as people don't want to do the work of either opting in or opting out. You put them in, they're going to stay in. You could apply the same to organ donation. Countries or states that default people into a Yes on organ donation have significantly higher participation than when someone is forced to check Yes.

But, as much as I care about peeps, I do have an MBA so I usually go to the money. One thing that has me wondering relates to pumping gas. Because when I'm standing at the pump, I've got nothing better to do than wonder about it.

What, exactly, prompts the thought? The instructions on the pump.

I'm assuming most people are familiar with the grade selection. You press the button of the gas mixture you want then pump. But, I always look at the right of the actual buttons where they give you a picture representation of how to operate the pump. Notice above that the finger is selecting Unleaded.

Notice on other pumps pictured above, the finger is pointing at Unleaded Plus or Unleaded Super.

Here's what I want to know...

Does the finger image influence the fuel grade selection? Assuming the gas prices are the same for each pump (let's say $1.899, $2.099 and $2.199 for Unleaded, Unleaded Plus and Unleaded Super respectively). If the finger is pointed at Unleaded Plus do a higher percentage of people select that than they do if it's pointing at Unleaded or Unleaded Super? (Y'all know about the influence of the extra 9 in those prices, right? Behavioral Economics!)

Let's say studies show the finger image does influence the grade selection. My next thing to wonder is if stations/fuel companies are putting the finger image on the grade where their margin is highest?

Take that even further, are they putting the finger image on the grade where the influence of the grade selection increases overall margin for all three grades combined?

Oh, and does the location (demographics of the neighborhood or proximity to freeways, for example) also affect the decision?

Math! Science! People! I want to know!

So, I've tried to google this with no success. And, by google, I don't mean I spent 5 minutes putting various things in the search engine. I've probably invested hours. But, I haven't been able to find anything that answers my questions.

Why not? Well, because the gasoline manufactures and distributors are keeping it a secret, of course. I know I would.

So, if anyone wants to give me some answers, without getting sued or killed, I would love to know. In the meantime, I'm still going to ponder each time I fill my tank. Fortunately, that's only once every two weeks so I'm not wasting too much time on it.


My New Idol

"A stranger is a friend I haven't met yet." - Will Rogers

Truer words were never spoken when it comes to me. I love talking to strangers even if I'll never see them again. Airports are great for striking up a conversation. Nothing like a captive audience who is probably bored as well!

I was waiting to board a flight to Seattle a while ago when I noticed the family in front of me. Two kids about eight or so and two parents.

There was no way I couldn't talk to the daughter. She was dressed in a pink t-shirt with a grey cat on it, matching leggings, pink Hello Kitty shoes and, the pièce de résistance, a headband with cat ears. Man, she was styling!

I broke the ice with  a "I really like your outfit." The reaction I got was the shy kid face against the parent's leg move. The Mom said, "What do you say when someone compliments you?" That got a mumble from the pants' leg.

Not deterred from the conversational attempt at all, I followed up with pictures of the #terrors on my phone with descriptions of why they're such terrible children. The son became intrigued and started to tell me about their two cats. (Two boys, not brothers, one always poops outside of the litter box and did I have any ideas how to fix that?)

Ultimately, we were all talking and I learned that they lived in Japan and had been in the Southwest for two months visiting family. I can give you more details if you wish because it was a pretty in depth conversation thanks to United who had us in line for-freaking-ever.

I commented that I would totally wear that cat ear headband and found out that she brought 7 or 8 of them on the trip so she could swap them out each day. What?!?!?! That was some serious dedication to style.

Man, I so wanted to be this little girl, it was not funny. Well, sorta funny.

But, wait, there's more! They started talking about her tail. Yes, a tail. The little girl started rummaging around in her bag while her parents told me about her cat tail that she usually wears (and one time lost on the beach, briefly) when, voila! I looked down to see she was wearing an 8 inch long, curved black and bushy tail.

It was awesome!

I didn't see her put it on so I don't know if it just clipped on to her pants or was on a belt but it jiggled around as she moved and it was so fantastic that I wanted it more than the headbands. The headbands were nothing, the apparel of imposters. The tail was the thing!

I know longer wanted to be this little girl, I wanted to worship her.

I really, really wanted to take a picture but I figured that would move my Creep factor to 11. That was probably a good call on my part.

But, seriously, you should have seen the tail!