Thursday, August 27, 2009

Assistants could run the world...

Tomorrow I leave for a 9-day trip to Bosnia & Croatia with 2 friends. We will visit 5 cities (Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Trogir, & Zagreb) during this time. The very impressive part... total costs are less than a weekend trip to Vegas from SD (so I could actually afford to go). This includes nice places to stay at and good transportation to/from and around the countries.

Our friend, IM, bascially did all of the planning. The interesting part... IM is a Team Assistant. This probably doesn't mean anything to most Americans who know that it's the Assistants who run companies. We've heard stories of Executive Assistants taking over companies when the original CEO retires (ex: Southwest). We also have a philosophy that a person is not defined by their background or education, but instead by what they can do.

In Germany, this is completely the opposite (at least at my company). Everything is about what college you went to and how high of a degree you have (it's almost like they're handed out to everyone). Here, team assistants are often considered less capable/smart than other employees. The assistants are often excluded from company benefits, like a company car which all other employees can get after 3 years of service with the company. In addition, they are not allowed to be hired for "higher level" jobs, like as a Consulting, HR or Marketing team member. They are often considered just another pretty face*.

It is my opinion that assistants could run the world. They tend to be very smart, well-coordinated and tough individuals. In addition, they can work well with most personality types. The upcoming trip is an example of how they can run the world. IM should start her own trip planning or event planning company. She could make a lot of money and would be great at it.

As as FYI - I won't be posting any updates for the next 9 days. I've been putting in extremely long hours at work for the last month and need a break from my computer. :)

*Seriously, almost all of the Assistants at my company are attractive, young females. The guys love working on projects with Team Assistants and HR colleagues for this reason.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Celtic Women are amazing singers!

Earlier this week, my singing instructor* encouraged me to listen to "The Last Rose of Summer." Youtube nicely provided me with a rendition of this song as sung by the Celtic Women. also recommended that I listen to "Caledonia" by the Celtic Women. So now I have just spent the last week listening to "Caledonia" on constant repeat. The grandkids of my neighbors (whose yard is next to my windows) are singing the song because they're heard it so much, my neighbors most likely never want to hear it again or hear me attempting to sing it, and a colleague asked me today why I was singing outloud at work...

It is time to find a new song to listen to. And I need to find a song to sing at a recital in November. Any recommendations?

If you want to hear the 2 songs sung by the Celtic Women, here are the links:
Last Rose of Summer

*Yes, I take singing lessons and enjoy them. I'll go more into them later & how much mental focus is required for singing (and stomach muscles are also needed).

Grand Tetons, part 3: the history of Grand Teton National Park

The history in establishing the Grand Tetons national park is fairly fascinating and involves at least 1 legendary businessman… In 1917, the National Park Service tried to pass a bill expanding Yellowstone’s boundaries to include Jackson Hole. The bill passed in the House but was rejected by the Senate, who took the side of local ranchers who were worried that the expanded national park would reduce the grazing areas for the animals on their ranches. Multiple amendments/proposals later, the Grand Teton valley still remained a rancher’s area.

Then in 1924 and 1926, John D. Rockefeller visited the valley. While he was impressed with the valley, he was also alarmed at the commercial development and worried that the expansion might erode the nature. So in 1926, he started the Snake River Land Company which, using a local purchasing agent to keep prices low and ensure that people would sell, bought up approx. 35,000 acres of the most spectacular land in the valley. In 1929, he attempted to donate the land to the US gov. to be converted to a national park, however opposition from local ranchers delayed this from happening. His gift was finally accepted in 1943 by FDR, who took the gift and other land and used his presidential power to establish the Jackson Hole National Monument. This did not go over well, and much debate ensured. Finally in 1950, Harry Truman signed a bill which created the Grand Teton national park – a 350,000 acre area. Up until 2006, the Rockefeller’s still owned a private house/lake in the Grand Tetons. Many interesting books have been written on this, and it is mentioned in the biographies of all of the Rockefellers.

This goes to show what wealthy people can do when they are given the opportunity to donate their money as they see fit instead of being taxed more. :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Grand Tetons, part 2: funniest Teton memories

The Grand Teton vacation with the P’s & B’s tends to turn into a “survival of the fittest” type competition. Thus, we end up with many funny, extreme sporting stories. Below are some of my funnier memories. Please feel free to add your own funny Grand Teton story (or similar) to the comment section. (cue Patty B - you've got the best story!)

#1 – My sis & BB getting chased by a buffalo while canoeing. They quickly converted from lazy to quick paddlers. (see pic above)

#2 – In 2006, KL joined us for the whole week. She’s a good trooper, but being from CA, she had no idea what to expect or how to prepare. The 1st hike of the week was a 10-hour hike from the base of the Grand Teton to the top of the gondola. This hike has gorgeous scenery – mountain lakes, streams, Aspen grooves, meadows of wild flowers, and lots of animals. It also includes walking up and over multiple mountain ridges and hiking on loose rock. Hot sun is common in the morning. Severe thunderstorms, lightning, and hail are typical in the afternoon. During this hike, we encountered all nature elements. We had to hug trees, slide/sprint down muddy slopes from 1 patch of trees to another in between lightning storms & hail, and ran up the last ridge (steep hill with some lose rock) so that we could make it to the gondola in time to take the last one down for the night. During this hike, K had no sunscreen, no coat and not enough water. We later learned that she spent the whole hike worrying about the “rock-climbing” at the end of the hike because we had not adequately explained the “climbing loose rock” term. She was quite a trooper and put on an impressive showing escaping with only a few sunburns, cuts, and sore muscles. She also suggested that we should make an extreme sporting reality show out of our vacation – taking other friends along to see who survives. (Btw - She was also a trooper hiking up half-dome in Yosemite also. Especially considering we purposely did not tell her what we were hiking and that it involved an ascent requiring the use of chains up a rock face)

#3 – Dad buying a wooden bear as artwork (like the kind that stands 2.5 ft tall and holds a sign saying “Welcome Home”) and thinking that he could take it home without Mom noticing/approving it. During the week, he bought the bear in town and tried to hide the bear in the backseat of his car. He hoped no one would find it until it was back in CO, at which point it would no longer be possible to return it. I’m not sure how he thought he’d get away with it considering that KL & I were using the car that week and both of us would find a giant bear in the backseat something to ask questions about. He did seem to be going crazy when, before we drove to town in his car, he pointed at the car and repeatedly said “don’t hurt the bear.” Since he’s not a guy to name his car “bear”, we continued questioning him and looking. At this point we realized the bear was in the car and Mom didn’t know about it. Although he proclaimed “Mom’s not the boss of me. I decide about the bear,” he sure did look nervous when we mentioned it to Mom. The bear now sits, with a Hawaiian lei around its neck, in their house in CO.

#4 – Mom falling out of the raft on the Big Kahuna wave. She hasn’t been rafting since.

#5 – Bass Dog barking at the moose. He wanted to jump out of the car and chase them.

#6 - TP & HP going on a bear hunt (song included). Absolutely entertaining.

#7 – (This story technically didn’t happen in the Grand Tetons, but it’s very Grand Teton-esque) In 2007, RR visited me/my family in CO for a weekend. During this weekend, we went to Cheyenne Frontier Days to see the largest outdoor rodeo and a country concert. Being the good sport that he is, RR really got into the country mood and bought a rodeo hat, rode the mechanical bull (staying on for an impressive ~30 sec), and did some line dancing. He was having fun, and apparently others noticed this as well… a cowboy was following him and making flirtatious gestures to him. Apparently, RR had impressed the cowboy, especially after his performance on the bull. :)

I'm in none of these stories as the Grand Tetons is the one place that I seem to not have done anything stupid... yet (or at least that I can remember). I have plenty of stupid me stories from other trips. I'm the biggest klutz.

Grand Tetons, part 1: I’m missing the best vacation ever right now…

Every 2 years, my 2 favorite families (the P’s & B’s) spend one week in the most gorgeous place on earth… the Grand Tetons. As this is my favorite place to visit, I long ago promised myself that I would never miss the Grand Teton trip. However, the P’s & B’s pulled a fast one and went last year, in an “off year,” and are now there for the 2nd year in a row. As I’m far away in Europe with only expensive last-minute air fares to get me there, I’ve had to miss both trips… so sad.

The Grand Tetons national park is not well known, especially in comparison to its twin, Yellowstone. However, it has some of the most gorgeous natural scenery in the world. This is especially true if you love the outdoors and cowboys. Surrounding the Teton mountains is a flat valley with a river that snakes through it (appropriately called the Snake River). The Tetons pierce out of the valley in a jagged Alp-like manner (or “Teton-like,” if you prefer the French terminology). The tops of the Tetons are covered in glaciers, the bottoms are covered in alpine meadows (full of wild flowers), Aspen groves, pine groves, mountain lakes & stream, hot springs and grass land. Animals like buffalo, moose, deer and other small critters are plentiful. In the 1940’s, the park was made particularly famous by the photographer Ansel Adams who captured the stunning scenery in black & white photographs. The most famous photo being “The Tetons & Snake River.”

The Grand Tetons offers so many activities for the outdoor lovers: hiking, rafting, canoeing, biking, swimming, horseback riding, visiting the geysers of Yellowstone, boating, trips to the local town of Jackson Hole, attending a rodeo or demolition derby (if you’re lucky!), or attending a play or concert. Skiing is also available in the winter… it has always been a goal of mine to go skiing here in the winter. If you’re a town-lover, there are many things to do/see in Jackson Hole, the local town. There is good shopping, fun dining, an old fashioned theatre playing musicals and an annual music festival. The best part of the town experience happens at the end of summer: the rodeo and demolition derby! If you have never attended a rodeo or a demolition derby, you are missing life. Sitting in the stands cheering as people get muddy is very entertaining. FYI, the car that has the most room to be compacted, like a caddie or a station wagon, will always win in a demolition derby.

I dream of this week every year. Thus, I’m very upset that I’m not there. I keep wondering who will encourage you all on the hikes and to beat you at the nightly game of poker? :) Next year I will join. Preferably, let’s go at the end of July so that we are there for the rodeo!

*The pic above is a pic of the Grand Teton (on the left) and Mt. Moran (on the right) at sunset, taken from the Jackson Lake Lodge. Clicking on the link will make it larger.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Life in a land with no A/C

For the first time this summer, we've had hot (97 degrees) and humid (60% humidty) weather. This weather is typically something to cheer for. However in Germany, this weather makes for many sleepless nights and long drowsy days as there is no A/C to keep people cool. A/C it is uncommon here and, in general, not liked.*

My company has no A/C whatsoever. Imagine sitting in an office for 10 hours, on a 95 degree day, in direct sunlight, with no breeze. This makes for many unmotivated, lethargic workers. Many colleagues have their own special "recipes" to keep the air inside the building cool. Mgmt even sends emails containing ideas on how to cool the building. These include: only opening the shades on certain sides of the building at certain times of the day, sitting with the shades, windows, and doors shut in an office, putting more green plants in the office, etc. None of these "recipes" really seems to keep the place cool. The only "recipe" that I've found to work comes from a colleague who uses the server room as his office in the summer (it's the only room with A/C).

Many reasons have been mentioned why we shouldn't have A/C: it's increases the chances of getting sick, our Mgmt lived without it so all employees should be able to cope, causes high electricity costs, etc. My vote is for installing A/C or mandating an extended vacation in August.

*It is common for Germans to not use or like A/C. It is their belief that it greatly increases your chances for sickness. This is such a contrast from the US where it is impossible to find a building without A/C.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


"Better late than never," as a Roman author & hostorian once wrote. (Who will be the quickest person to figure out the answer?)

After 1.5 years in Germany, I'm starting a blog. My hope is that this blog will provide family and friends with glimpses into my life in Germany. In addition, there is a 100% chance that you I will post blogs about random topics that interest me. I hope that you add your own comments to all of the blogs.

I'm looking forward to many conversations. :)