Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sundays in My City

Thanks to the Unknown Mami for hosting Sundays in My City.  This week I went to Baltimore for a conference.  Here are some of the pictures I took...

Unknown Mami

Friday, June 29, 2012

Six Word Saturday & He Said/ She Said

Happy Birthday Canada! Happy Birthday USA!

This upcoming week is very special.  July 1st is Canada Day.  The birthday of my birth country and the place where I grew up.  Canada holds a special place in my heart.  Though I live in the United States, just about anyone who knows me will tell you that I am Canadian through and through.  That does not mean I have any less respect and admiration for my current country of residence.  Though very different than Canada, I have the utmost respect for the American culture and way of life.  America is a country of opportunity and freedom - how can one not feel that is to be admired.  July 4th also holds a special place in my heart as well.  

So to both my birth land and my adopted land - Happy Birthday.  

A special toast - 

May we be good neighbo(u)rs and supportive friends who demonstrate to the world that freedom and the belief in the human spirit can bring out the best in both nations.

He Said/ She Said

This week Heather and I got to have a date evening when she picked me up from the Buffalo Airport.  With living so far from our parents combined with having three children (one of whom is special needs) and being a single income family - we do not get to go out for date nights very often.

When we are in Charleston, we will do a date lunch ever so often.  It is a chance for us to get together and chat even if it is not the most romantic situation in the world.

Every quarter, we usually have an out of town guest (either Heather's or my parents).  The price for staying in our guest room is one night of baby sitting.  That is when we get our date nights.  It was really cool in February when we got to have an 'over-night' date courtesy of Heather's parents and Wild Dunes Resort.

These alone moments have been critical to keeping our marriage alive through 14 years.  While we love being parents sometimes; we need to be a couple sometimes too.  This time allows us to connect at a different level than normal and allows us to reaffirm to one another our love and devotion to each other.    It is necessary for us to feel like we have a world to share with one another and it not always be about the kids.   This time allows us the breather to enhance our relationship which in turn creates a happier and harmonious household that allows us to raise our children in a good, healthy environment.  

So to both sets of parents who are willing to babysit, we say thank you to more than you know.

To read Heather's version click here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Friday Fun while Filling In Fragments

Thanks to Hillary @ Feeling Beachie and the Fantastic Mrs. 4444's @ HalfPastKissinTime for hosting the hops.
Mommy's Idea
First the Fragments:
  • What a week!  It started last Sunday with a trip to Baltimore for a series of three conferences related to hotel sales and marketing.  It was a great week!
    • On a related note:  I wrote a review of Baltimore that you can read here.  It is a interesting city with a lot of personality.  Come back Sunday to see even more great photos.

  • On a related related note:  I saw this family of ducks during my walk of the inner harbor area.

  • In terms of the conference trends, prices for hotels are becoming more like the airlines in that they are not keeping pace with inflation.  Heavy competition combined with consumer price sensitivity are keeping prices down.  
    • On a related note:   Best night to have a hotel night vacation Sunday & Monday.  Generally you will get the cheapest rates those two nights.
  •  The best part of the conference was getting to know one of my colleagues better.   We both have large families while trying to balance an academic lifestyle. 
    • On a related note: Is it not funny that we often have to leave town to get to know people better.  That is the real power of travel.
  • There is a new website/ App called Hotel Tonight.  It seems to be making a big splash in the industry and has a buzz about it.  It is just for 'day-of' booking and I have been watching it over the last week. It is producing some amazing deals.
    • On a related note:  The issue of rate parity is very hot right now.  Rate parity is when the hotel has to offer the same rate on sites as Expedia and Travelocity that they do on their own.  The hotels do not like this as they are typically paying a minimum 15% commission to the online travel agencies.  Here is a travel hint: If you find a great deal online, call the hotel directly and they should rate match.  Plus you will get your points etc. from the hotel chain and other benefits that usually do not come with booking with an online travel agency.
  • Upon returning, Heather and I had a great date night in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario.  The town is a great example of a place that has worked hard to keep its historical integrity.
    • On a related note:  Sometimes I really enjoy being a couple again. We had some great couples fun on our drive back to Toronto from Buffalo.


Now some Follow Friday Four Fill-In Fun:

1. The Big Bang Theory makes me laugh...

2. Sometimes reflection makes me sad.  See my post on Tuesday as evidence.

3. My bank account looks sad after paying bills.

4. When I hear about my former students success I feel very happy for them.  I got to see two of my former students in Baltimore this week.  It was great to hear how successful and happy they are.  BTW - if you ever get to Baltimore, try Sullivan's...

Pondering with a Purpose


Thanks to Brenda Youngerman for hosting Pondering with a Purpose. Last week she asked us to think about punishments. This week she has asked about a 'punishment' we received as a child that turned out to teach us a valuable lesson.

My parents weren't big on punishments - but were great on life lessons.

My story happened when I was 14. I was messing around in school, so my dad got me a job working in his factory for the summer. At first, I thought this was awesome - $10 an hour in the mid 90s for a high-schooler was big bucks. My job were to basically do all of the 'joe' duties that no one else wanted to do. So I lugged boxes, counted inventory, did errands and cleaned a lot.

One of my summer duties there was to clean the bathrooms and remove the graffiti from the bathroom stall walls (whose reading was an education all its own). I remember being tired and disgusted at the end of one day and telling my dad about it. He turned and looked at me and said, "Well if you keep screwing around in school this is your future. I didn't really have a choice - but you do."

It was that summer working in brutal heat (factory was not air conditioned) with sore muscles after every shift while having to listen to the 'wisdom' of just about everyone there that made me want to work hard and get into university. I do not know if it was designed to be a 'punishment' per se but it was one heck of a life lesson.

I have always had great respect for my dad. The man worked extremely hard everyday until his retirement a few years ago. He is still paying the price for all those years of hard labor. I think back and really understand that I could and would not have made it through getting my PhD without the sacrifices he and my mom made. It is because of their hard work, that I can give my kids a good life now.

My dad may not have been educated in the traditional sense but no one is wiser in life than him.

Baltimore - A Travel Review

Baltimore is a fascinating city - it has tremendous history, some beautiful architectural features yet for every fabulous marvel; there seems to be a head shaking moment.  Here are three examples: 1. Oriole Park and Camden Yards is absolutely breath taking in its beauty.  It is one of the best examples of revitalization I have ever seen.  The Power Plant on the inner harbor is a nice example of how to ruin what could have been an excellent revitalization...a perfect example where the idea was good but the execution with its crass commercialism was poorly executed (particularly the guitar on the stack).

 2. The signage and accent pieces around the city were sometimes absolutely stunning and other times not even half a block away - a little cheesy.

3. You can find beautiful history and turn less than 90 degrees and find...Ripley's Believe or Not or turn the other way and find Dragon Paddle Boats you can rent...

There is nothing wrong with a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum but like most of the city, there seems to be little to no congruence.  It is a constant juxtaposition.  It is almost like a Salvador Dali painting.  For some the  city's quirkiness will become its charm.  People will see beauty in it constant contrast.  Others will be put off by what locals often refer to as 'Baltimore moments.'

 A few tips if you are travelling to Baltimore:

1. If you are staying downtown the link between the airport and the downtown area is excellent.  I took a cab downtown when I arrive and the fare was $36.50 ($40 with tip) and the trip on a Sunday afternoon took about 20 minutes.  For a 30 minute trip from downtown on a mid-morning Wednesday on the LRT back to the airport, the cost was $1.60.

 2. Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a must see.  It is a beautiful park and has a wonderful atmosphere.

3. Customer service seemed to be always hit or miss.  Sometimes it was wonderful and other times it was nonexistent - especially in the hotels.  You would figure with hotel conference in town - games would have been raised but no.  For example the hotel I stayed in (Days Inn Inner Harbor) had an awesome location and twice I met front desk people that were fabulous.  Two other times, the front desk staff barely acknowledged that there were customers.  Then again, the cabby I had coming in from the airport was the height of professional and two other times I watched cabbies curse each other out in front of the convention center.

4. The inner harbor area has well done attractions but crass commercialism surrounds it.  You can see and learn about America's history while sitting in a Hooters or Cheesecake Factory.

5. There is a lot of poverty visible and many of those asking for alms are quite aggressive.  This could create uncomfortable feelings among many guests of the city.

Overall, I just do not know how I feel about the city.  There are parts that I would love to go back for and others that I would just as well forget.  I can only describe it as a Ying and Yang destination - for everything wonderful there seems to be something off putting.  The city definitely has personality and if you like people who are often described as 'colorful' - you will probably like Baltimore.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

This is the hotel of the future from the HITEC conference that I attended.

Tuesday Sort of Guest Posting

Today, I posted some camping with children tips over on Heather 's blog. Click the link to check it out

Monday, June 25, 2012

M q a m and listicles

I am in Baltimore at a conference and trying to write this on my iPad - so please forgive me for not having buttons etc on it.

First the Monday Quiz About Me hosted my my lovely bride Heather at actingbalanced.

1. What was your favorite childhood toy?

I will go with Lego on this one. You could create so much with it.

2. Where did you go this weekend?

I flew to Baltimore for the conference starting this morning. The city looks nice so far and the conference is on hotel sales and revenue management so it should be interesting.

3. When was the last time you shopped for yourself? What did you buy?

I shopped for my dads birthday present. It was a nice golf shirt.

4. Paper, Plastic or Reusable?

None of the above. I can carry myself.

Now my question for you?

In honor of the conference I am attending....

How did you book the last hotel room you bought? What made you buy from that particular source?

Now onto the Monday Listicles hosted by Stasha at northwest mommy.

My sister passed away just over a decade ago now. So in my top ten things I wish I could do with someone I chose her. How am I going to get through this list without crying?

Top 10 things I wish I could do with my sister.

1. I wish I could have went to see Robyn's grade 8 graduation with her. I know she would have been unsurprised at how smart and great her daughter turned out to be.

2. To go camping with her one more time. She loved the outdoors. Taking
Robyn camping to the same place we did as kids last week brought back a flood of memories.

3. To argue with her one more time. Come on, we were siblings, the banter always went back and forth.

4. I would have loved to hear her brag about Robyn...that would have be awesome.

Sorry, I can't finish this list, it is still a little too painful even over a decade later.

I just hope I am raising her little girl in the way that she would have liked me too.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sundays in the City

Unknown Mami

Once again, thanks to the Unknown Mami for hosting Sundays in the City.

These pictures are from Killbear Provincial Park in Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Six Word Saturday/ He Said - She Said

Six Word Saturday

 Leaving on a jet plane, until Wednesday

I am headed to a conference to a conference in Baltimore over the next few days.  It will be very interesting to learn about the latest way in which hotels and resorts are pricing and selling rooms.  I will write a post on giving you the best consumer tips for getting the best hotel room deals next week.  

I know the Universities are often said to be live in an ivory tower with no connection to the real world.  While that may be true in some places, it is not true in my world.  My colleague and I will be one of the few academics in a sea of industry professionals.  The conference should provide us the tools to come back and share with the students the latest trends and skills necessary for success in industry.  These conference also let us set up guest speakers as well as hands on projects.  Further, we often leave these conferences building research partnerships with our industry partners.  In all, it is a win-win. 

The more exciting thing is that on Wednesday upon my return Heather and I are having a date night in Niagara Falls.  I am looking for votes on what you think we should do...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Friday Fragments

Thanks to Ms. 4444's for hosting Friday Fragments...
  • This is my second go on the Fragments because I accidentally erased the first version.   
    • On a related note: Grrrrrrr....
  • I love coming to Toronto but the downside is that Robyn, Liam and I stay at my parents house and Erik and Heather stay at her parents.  
    • On a related note: We had a date night Monday that really did feel like one of our first ones.  She picked me up from my parents place, we had a nice romantic evening out and then couldn't do anything about it because we had no where to continue our romance.  Yep, living out of your parents house sucks...
  • I took the kids camping for a couple of days to Killbear Provincial Park.  My family had gone there every year until I turned 17. 
    • On a related note: Working in recreation and tourism, I have not had a chance to get back since.  Having the kids hike the same rocks I did when I was a kid was an absolute pleasure to see.  Hopefully I restarted a tradition.
      • On a related related note:  I learned to use the Stow and Go seating to convert the back of the van into a bed.  Hummmm...Heather better be getting ready for our next date night.
  • Robyn learned a critical rule of camping.  Always zip your tent to the top.  A raccoon smelling her ketchup chips midnight snack managed to open the zipper of her tent and let itself in.  To her credit she did not freak out but told the raccoon to scram and it left with the chip bag as its reward for its boldness.
    • On a related note: The whole point of the trip was to spend time with Robyn.  At 14 she is getting to the age where 'daddy time' is starting to become scarce.  It was nice to spend some time connecting with her.  It felt all circle of lifey.
  • I started writing blog posts for Heather on last week.  It is fun writing on Heather's blog.  She is already starting to line up products for me to test from the male perspective.
    • On a related note: I have a post on tips for camping kids that is going up on Tuesday.  Check it out!
  • I am headed to Baltimore for the HSMAI Conference on Sunday.  This is a conference for people in revenue management.  It will be a very interesting to learn about the trends in hotel sales especially in relation to mobile technologies.  
    • On a related note: Last summer on our drive to Canada we were not sure ow far were get going to get with a then baby Erik.  We drove and started getting tired and figured it was time to find a hotel.  So what did we do?  We pulled over at a McDonalds and while the kids played in the PlayPlace we surfed the web on the iPad for a hotel room.  We booked from the McDonalds and was checking in10 minutes later.  
      • On a related, related note: Who says tourism is not a tech industry?
Mommy's Idea

Four Fill-In Fun

Thanks to Hilary @ Feeling Beachie for hosting Four Fill in Fun.


First, the Friday Four Fill In Fun:

1. I love a rainy night too...I guess me and Hilary have a case of two great minds thinking alike.

2. If I could XXX anywhere I would XXX

3. When I grow up, I want to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.

4. The best baseball game  I ever saw was the Jays second World Series win where Joe Carter hit the game winning home run.

I Can Think On Thursday


Thanks to Brenda for hosting, Pondering with a Purpose.  This week's theme is Punishment.  How does one maintain discipline within the household.

This is a tough one for us as our two youngest, Liam and Erik are as different as night and day. We therefore typically have to discipline them taking various approaches as a result.  

Liam is a great kid but he has his challenges associated with Austism. Liam is generally well behaved until he doesn't - then he goes off.  One has to think about his world though.  Consider how frustrated you feel when you get you have something on the 'tip of your tongue' that you just can not get out of your mouth.  Now, just imagine that being your world and you now have an idea of Liam's existence.  So one could imagine that sometimes the inability to communicate really boils over with him.  He can get quite violent at times, so you have to protect yourself and him from himself.  The idea with Liam is that you have to pin him down and get him soothed.  This is easier said than done and I have the bruises to prove it.  The main challenge with Liam is to get him before things boil over and teach him coping mechanisms.  The problem is that while there are some warning signs that something is about to happen, they are quite subtle.  

While Liam is occasional and his outbursts are large Erik on the other hand is constant.  He is hard headed and a tester.  He is into everything and does the silliest things just because he can.  You can use more traditional 'punishments' with Erik.  He is a 'timeout' pro at this point.  The challenge with Erik is that he does not do anything too bad - he just does things that are annoying.  It is because he craves constant attention  The basic strategy with Erik therefore is to redirect him into doing something he can have part of your attention for or will grab his complete attention.

I think the key to discipline and punishment has to consider the individual, the circumstances and the situation.  For instance, you can not punish Erik for something he did an hour ago.  He has already forgotten what he did (and probably had three more infractions since then).  I think you have to approach discipline with a strategic focus on what you want to teach the child.  First priority is to keep them safe but afterwards it is about teaching them how to make good choices.  

Overall, I think the best you can do is demonstrate good character yourself, help them to make good choices and guide them with love and caring.  I really dislike the word punishment because it assumes a negative outcome.  I prefer to think of it as teaching my children to make good choices and to deal with consequences of their actions.  It is about providing them the tools to be able to one day mature into healthy, happy adults who make a positive contribution to the world as a whole.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Monday Quiz About Me

Acting Balanced

It is quiz time again!  Thanks to Heather at ActingBalanced for hosting this marvelous weekly quiz that allows us to get to know each other a little better.

1. What is your favorite movie quote or song lyric of all time?

I have always been partial to The Shawshank Redemption.  How could one not remember when Andy turns to Red and says, 

"It comes down to a simple choice, get busy living or get busy dying."

2. If you had to choose a novel for a book club to read and discuss, which one would you pick?

This is a tough question.  Who ever wrote these should be strung up...

I think I would go classic and bring forward To Kill A Mockingbird.  The book is interesting, has a great movie which you could screen together and can bring all kinds of interesting conversations to the forefront.  

3. When was the last time you danced? What brought you to it?

I danced with my son yesterday to the music on one of his shows.  Why?  Because it was fun.  

I should probably dance with my wife more than I do.  One of our favorite memories is dancing to UB40s Red Red Wine.

4. Do you typically remember your dreams?

I can get faint recollections but I typically do not remember my dreams per se.  I wish I did because I think I have some great ones but alas, they like the night, they ascend to the heavens during the day.

Now my question for you...

Let's play word association.  Give me the first thing that comes to mind when I say the word,


Sadly, the first thing that came to my mind was 'weather.'

Monday Listicles

Every Monday Stasha from The Good Life hosts a fun hop called Listicles.  This weeks challenge is:

I am giving you an allowance of (pretend) $1000 and ask for a list of 10 things you will spend it on. 

Being a professor in a School of Business, I of course have to ask if this is before expenses are paid or after?    In other words, is this found money?  

If it is regular budget here it is:

$250 Mortgage 
  $50 Over payment to mortgage
$150 Food 
$150 Energy & utilities
$150 Savings - $50 retirement, $50 general savings, $50 education fund for kids
$100 Car related expenses - gas, maintenance, insurance
  $50 Telephone & internet
  $50 Charitable giving
  $25 Entertainment
  $25 Clothes & misc. 

If it is play or found money - 

$250 Balloon payment to mortgage (Sigh I am that boring)
$200 Charitable giving (we all have to give back)
$100 Retirement fund (once again boring but I don't want to have to work until 80)
$100 Date night (because we never have enough of those)
$100 Golf game (my one splurge on myself)
  $50 Toys for kids (though they probably play with the boxes they came in more)
  $50 Another date night (because my wife is awesome)
  $50 Take kids to somewhere special (because they are awesome)
  $50 Take kids to movies (I do however, get final say on which movie we do see)
  $50 Date lunch (especially if we can sneak out of a naughty lunch...:-))