Feeding the beast…

I’ve been a news junkie since I was a kid. I blame the groundbreaking CNN coverage of the Gulf War in ’91 as the instigator of all that during my impressionable youth. Between working in front of a computer all day, having a dozen news and business channels in cable TV, and carrying the interwebs around on my belt, there really isn’t a waking moment when the news of the world is out of reach. I like it that way. In print, audio, and visual formats, I’m realizing now that I consume a massive amount of data every day and being smack in the middle of a three-day weekend, I can’t help but feel a little disconnected. There are no new stories popping up on Drudge or Google News. The Washington Post and the New York Times are even letting me down. Even the news channels are having a hard time stretching the oil spill and Obama administration political fumbles into more than rehashed stories from yesterday. It’s a holiday weekend and no one is left in the newsrooms to feed the beast. Then again, maybe I’m the only person out there waiting for feeding time. That probably means it’s time to grab a cold beverage and stick my nose in a book. After all, old news and analysis is better than no news.

Not all bad…

It’s obvious by now that I do a fair amount of complaining here and that alot of that complaining is about my job in one way or another. Maybe it’s not the most productive use of time, but It’s a good way from keeping me from going ’round the bend and actually giving voice to these thoughts in the office. Who knows, maybe in a virtual world the difference between what I say here and what I say there doesn’t matter all that much. In fairness I have to admit, though, that despite the complaints, the job does have it’s perks. The fact that federal holidays are all actual holidays is a definite plus. The fact that between annual leave and several varieties of comp time, I’ve got what some would consider a disturbing amount of time off I need to schedule between now and the first week of January is another one. It means that sometimes on a Thursday afternoon before a three-day weekend, I can decide that a four-day weekend would be better. Sure, you’re technically supposed to schedule leave two weeks in advance, but since Uncle operates with a skeleton crew on such Fridays, as long as at least one person is sticking around to answer the phone, most spur of the moment requests are approved as a matter of course.

So now I’m off to start my newly extended weekend… by crawling into bed at 9:30 just like it was any other Thursday. Just call me Mr. Excitement.

Bolongo Bay review…

This was my second stay at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort. This trip was about pure relaxation; no shopping, no site seeing, no bar hopping… Just sitting on the beach or by the pool, enjoying some of the islands best adult beverages, having a wonderful dinner at the Lobster Grille, and crawling into bed sun-drenched and exhausted.

The transfer to the hotel was easy ($16 for a shared van) and I was greeted in the lobby with a much-anticipated cup of rum punch and smiling faces. Check in was a breeze, where I was given an all-inclusive wristband and a schedule of events for the five days I’d be staying. I was in the room in less than 10 minutes, despite a number of other check-ins and phone calls the front desk was fielding. I reserved an ocean front room and was not disappointed. The room was recently renovated and the mattress was actually better than the one at home. The shower was a bit tight, but if you’ve traveled to Europe, it was still bigger than many I’ve encountered over there and plenty good enough to wash the salt off and get ready for the evening. The room was about 20 steps from the bed to the water. It’s not a white sand beach once you’re past the tide line, but there’s plenty of sand for lounge chairs, towels, and spreading out. Because of the rocks, I found the snorkeling to be very good right in front of the hotel.

Iggie’s is the place to be for a very casual meal and a great “beach bar” flavor. Had dinner there the first night and then switched between there and the Lobster Grille for meals the rest of the stay. Lobster Grille tends to be a little more “formal”, although for us that mostly meant putting on something other than swimwear and knocking the sand off our feet. The second night, I had the filet and lobster combo and was very, very impressed. An excellent meal and very large portions; one of the best-prepared steaks I’ve had anywhere in my travels. There was live entertainment (ranging from steel drums to a rock trio from Boston) every night we were there. Eric Stone has a nice Jimmy Buffett flavor if that’s your thing. I enjoyed his sets quite a lot. The bars close up around 11-12 most nights, so if you’re looking for somewhere to drink and dance all night, this might be a strike against Bolongo.

The bar at Lobster Grille doubles as the swim-up bar for the pool and better bartenders would be hard to find anywhere on the island. They were like old friends by the second day and knew what you were drinking, but would mix it up for an occasional “surprise” drink now and then. The pool isn’t large, but even when 20-30 people were milling around on the pool deck and in the water, it never seemed crowded.

Overall, I was very pleased with the hotel, staff, and location of the resort. Last year, I had an ocean view room (balcony) and did not have the all-inclusive plan. After this year’s stay, all-inclusive and ocean front is definitely worth the extra cost. If you eat and drink well and plan on staying on-property most of the time, it will save you money in the long run.

Things to know before you go: It’s not the Ritz Carlton (that’s on the other side of the island), but it is clean, quiet, and very well maintained; It’s a bit of a drive to Red Hook or to Charlotte Amalie. If you plan on spending a lot of time in these places, the cab fare adds up quickly or you’ll need to rent a car; Once the sun goes down the place gets very quiet unless you’re at Iggie’s and that sidewalk rolls up around midnight, so if you’re planning on partying all night, you may want to look elsewhere.

With that said, Bolongo Bay is exactly what I look for in my beach vacation – the opportunity to be as active or lazy as I want to be on any given day. With customer service that was top notch from start to finish, I don’t have a single complaint about my stay. The next time I’m on St. Thomas, I’ll be staying at Bolongo Bay. Check them out at www.bolongobay.com or on Facebook.

Get back…

Between vacation and a few days on the road for work, I’ve been gone for almost two weeks. Time was that I would eat that kind of road stand for breakfast and ask for more, but the truth is that I find it all rather wearing these days. It seems that at the house with the dogs is the only place I really want to be for any extended time. Being a hermit by nature, that’s not really surprising, but it’s something that’s become more pronounced over the last few years. I wonder if it has something to do with picking up a few more birthdays or if seeking “home” is something we’re just hardwired to do. No real theories on it, just an observation made from one more hotel room on one more Thursday night on the road. Hopefully I’ll be able to clear out of here early enough to pick up the dogs tomorrow evening and then settle in for the weekend. Here’s hoping.

At your own risk…

It has recently been brought to my attention that some of the posts I make here or via social networking websites may not be appropriate for consumption by children or adults who are overly sensitive to bad language, drinking, or “suggestive” content. If you are offended by these things, let me start by saying that I have no plans to modify nor apologize for the content that I publish. I do work hard to make sure it stays at least passably interesting for those who choose to read along and that it reflects the actual events taking place in my life. That is to say that sometimes I’m going to post about going to bars or doing other things that some people feel are not appropriate to discuss in public. I absolutely respect your right to voice your opinion and I hope that you will consider it “noted.”

The internet is a big place and there is plenty of far more “offensive” content out there for the Googling. There is also much more “family friendly” content available as well if that’s more to your liking. In the future, it may be advantageous to use the “back” button to navigate away from content that you find disagreeable or use the “block” or “hide” function to block automatic updates from appearing. If my random thoughts are the most offensive things you happen across here on the interwebs, you should consider yourself fortunate. Happy surfing!

Going without…

It occurred to me last night that although I’ve been using the iPad a lot over the last month, vie never really put it through a real stress test to see if it can stand up to being the only computer I have with me on a trip. Some of that is a factor of all of my recent travel being work related and needing my work files with me for the trip. But this week I have the perfect opportunity to run the iPad in real world travel conditions and see how it holds up. I’ll get to assess it’s utility as not just a media player, but also as a primary tool for blogging, email, and forum participation; basically this is my chance to find out how it performs as a laptop replacement.

I know that being without a traditional computer for five days sounds like some people’s version of a perfect week, but it fills me with a certain amount of concern simply because I can’t point to the last time I traveled without a full blown computer (or two) along for the ride. I’ve probably lost most of the readers by now, but I’ll be taking plenty of notes and report back on my observations and experience. It might even be helpful for some of you who are not obsessive early adopters.

Since I regularly go a day or two without even turning on my laptop, this test seems like an easy win for the iPad, particularly since the heavy duty writing and photo editing will take place when i get back to Memphis. Knowing that, though, I think I should be able to prove to myself that this little device can actually free up a lot of space in my usually ridiculously heavy electronics kit bag.

Written on iPad.

One day more…

Trying to find the motivation to muddle through one more work day before taking the better part of two weeks off… Just about anyone can guess how successful I’ve been at that so far. Sure there’s plenty of things I could be doing, but I’m just not seeing the sense in starting anything new at this point. Anything that’s a priority tomorrow won’t even be on the radar in two weeks. Not saying that’s good or bad, just that it’s the way things are. Right or wrong, the only thing I’m interested in tomorrow is hitting cruise control early on and ducking out as quickly as possible. My body is in West Tennessee, but my mind is already soaking up the Cruzan and the tropical sun.


We’ve now reached the point in vacation planning where I start obsessively checking weather forecasts, flight details, reservations, etc. At the moment, the next ten days are a solid strip of “showers” according to the National Weather Service. I hope that’s just your typical early morning showers and not the all day torrential downpour type. I’ll feel awfully silly sitting by the pool in a driving rain pounding down rum punch… But I’ll do it if I have to.

It’s just policy…

–noun, plural -cies.
A definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, facility, etc.: We have a new company policy.

Most of my professional life, I’ve been a policy guy in some shape, form, or fashion whether it’s writing, interpreting, or ignoring said policies. As a policy guy, it’s part of my mission in life to point out the general foibles of those who set policy… Even (and perhaps especially) when those policies are promulgated by those with whom I share bonds of affinity, friendship, and respect. Though it’s sometimes harder to poke the people you like with a stick, that mostly just means that it’s really worth doing.

As a matter of policy, my employer has decided that supervisory personnel are not allowed to work at locations other than at their assigned duty location (i.e. from home, a telework center, etc). Notwithstanding the fact that somewhere north of 60% of all personnel work somewhere other than the “corporate headquarters” and most of us supervise people who are geographically dispersed, the general belief is that you can’t manage what you can’t see. I have philosophical differences with this position, but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with such a policy per se.

The challenge comes when, for unforeseeable reasons, the message goes forth that all personnel, including supervisors, will telework until such time as they are directed to report to the office. Seems all well and good from the outside, but the malcontent in me has a compulsion to poke at it just a bit further. The message that was really sent here is that “we know you’re capable of doing your job from a remote location and that’s what you’re going to do when it’s convenient for us… But don’t ask to do it when it’s convenient for you.”

I don’t have any moral qualms with hypocrisy and I certainly don’t have issues with working from home. I’m better able to focus on writing and reading when I’m not interrupted by “walkups” or people yelling across the room a couple of times an hour… And as we all know from our previous reading, a productive Jeff tends to be a happy Jeff. Still, it would be nice to do it occasionally when it helped me meet some of my own requirements rather than being marks on a tally sheet showing how quickly we got everyone “back to work.”

I’m just sayin’.

Fails, Epic and Otherwise…

This weekend has mostly been about failures. Originally I had planned a simple shot over the bow at Apple and AT&T for their seeming inability to figure out how to enable 3G connectivity for customers whose primary billing address is a post office box. While not catastrophic in scope, it just seems like the address I use for… ummm… everything else, including paying my AT&T Mobility bill every month, should be acceptable for other billing purposes for the same company. After 48 hours, a few convolutions, and eventually finding a workaround buried in an iPad forum, the issue was resolved without needing to change my billing address. If anyone else is having the same issue, ask me how it worked out and I’ll be happy to pass along the info. It mostly involves telling AT&T a little white lie. No one has any problems with that, right?

The next fail, is more the epic of the weekend. It involved a levee “failure” that ended up flooding the naval base where I work. I use failure in quotations because that’s a cop-out term that means you don’t know what happened to it (i.e. breach, overtop, etc). However, I digress. The result was a reported 4-5 feet of water inside the wire that effectively swamped the entire base and conflicting reports of how much, if any, water actually made it inside the building. Not to make light of the situation, of course, but I do wonder if anyone else has been struck by the irony of a landlocked naval base taking on enough water to basically put it out of commission. I’ve also noticed, without the irony, that the single best source of information about the situation there has been the base’s Facebook page, that has had regular official updates as well as innumerable unofficial observations contributed over the last day and a half, where other official and unofficial sources of information have been almost silent on the situation. I’m suddenly seeing more value added to Facebook than as a wonderfully engineered time waster and advertising venue. That it’s doing a better job of keeping the communication flowing says something less than good about our in-house infrastructure.

And finally, Winston came home from the kennel with a “hot spot” on his neck. Think weeping open sore (and accompanying nasty stench) and you’ll sort of get it. He’s on prescription antibiotics and a cortisone spray, but his neck looks especially nasty. Thankfully he doesn’t seem to be scratching it, so hopefully the meds will do their thing and he’ll be healed up in due course. Just one more of the many joys of pet ownership I suppose.