Monday, February 24, 2014

Miami, On The Whole, Is Inefficient

We moved to Miami from Chicago in June 2013.  It's been an adventure, for sure.  There's so much to talk about I could probably start a whole new blog just devoted to life in the "The Sexiest Place On The Planet", as Miami likes to call itself.  For today though, I will focus on just one topic:  it takes forever to get anything done here.

Everyone who knows me well knows that I am not a super-hyped up, "Type A", go-go-get' em kinda guy; I am almost never in a hurry.  BUT - I do appreciate and expect efficiency.  Don't take three steps when one will do.  For example:
Hotwire Communications (our building provider, not to be confused with installed TV and internet in our new apartment.  Since we never had DISH (never EVER get dish), I tried to ask the installing technician for a tutorial on how to use the remote.  He did not speak English.  After the technician left, I tried to make the TV work using the remote; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.  So the next day, Tuesday, I called Hotwire and told them I had a faulty remote and needed a replacement.  I was scheduled for service the following day.

The next day, Wednesday, a technician (not the same one) called me and said he was rescheduling the appointment for Thursday because he "didn't want to drive downtown".  I told him all I needed was a new remote.  He showed up on Thursday, 3 hours late, and tested my remote.  He definitively informed me that there was something wrong with the remote as it was not working correctly.  The look I gave him was nothing compared to the one that followed a minute later, when he said he didn't have an extra remote with him and would need to come back next week.  "But I told you on the phone that it was the remote.  Why didn't you bring one with you?"  Suddenly, the technician no longer understood English.

I heard nothing from Hotwire on the following Monday.  On Tuesday (one week and one day after the initial installation), I noticed a Hotwire van in front of our building.  I went to the building management office and asked for assistance tracking the Hotwire technician down.  It was a different technician (again) and I told him I needed a new remote.  He pulled one out of his tool belt and gave it to me, without knowing in which unit I lived or even asking my name.  I never did hear back from the 2nd technician who must assume that I just gave up.
I know I know - first world problem.  Poor baby didn't have a remote for a week.  It's not that at all.  It was the incompetence of customer service and 3 different technicians.  I had enough to deal with unpacking 200+ boxes while job hunting in a new, strange city.  This was a completely avoidable situation if Hotwire had just been efficient.

And this is just one example (there are many more) of how things just move at a slower, more "island time" pace in Miami.  It really took some getting used to for me.  I'm not really sure I have yet.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Facebook Abandonment

Lately I've noticed that my friends are dropping off of Facebook.  I don't pay attention to the actual number of friends I have on the site; I'll just realize one day that I haven't communicated with so-and-so in weeks or months, so I go searching for them on Facebook only to discover they are no longer on the site.

This happened to me 3 times just last week.  I reached out to all three through stored email addresses.  One responded that he had recently moved and just wanted to take a break from it.  Another, I found out through a friend, is now settled into a relationship and mostly just communicates through texting.  The third has yet to respond.

Just like with its predecessors (Friendster, MySpace), Facebook is starting to plateau if not decline.  Adults and teens are leaving the site for different reasons.  Some adults cite the security issues, lack of transparency, the bad (and possibly criminal) IPO, and the fact that Facebook takes for granted its users and what they have to share.

Twitter is fast becoming the site of choice among America's teens preferring messenger apps just as their parent's are getting the hang of Facebook.  Teens are leaving the site because they don't want to be on the same social site as their parents.

Facebook will eventually die out, despite what Mark Zuckerberg tells his investors.  What we know for certain is that from now on, there will always need to be some sort of social media for the public to use.  Millennials are uncomfortable communicating any other way, thinking face-to-face communication is almost too personal.

So there will always be something.  The trick will be knowing what it is and how to use it before it loses its popularity.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Eating Disorder

I will admit it here:  I have an eating disorder.

Unless a food comes with a specific set of instructions, or it's painfully obvious how to consume it (like, um, soup), I do not possess the innate ability to know how to eat it.  I'm not worldly that way.  Now, I'm not talking about recipes and how to cook something; I'm talking about the proper way to eat some foods.  Examples:

I never knew I was supposed to remove the shell from a shrimp before eating it.  I hadn't eaten much shrimp as a kid/teen and had only watched other people eat it.  I knew something got pulled off first - which I assumed (correctly) was the legs - but I completely missed the part about removing the shell.  Are there instructions about that?  No.  So for several years, I pulled off the legs and ate the rest.  I learned of my mistake one Christmas when I was eating shrimp with my brother.  I was about 35 at the time.  I innocently asked him what he was doing:
Matt:  Pulling the legs off?
Me:  No, after that.
Matt:  Peeling off the shell?
Me:  Are you supposed to do that?
Matt:  !?!?
Me:  I didn't know you were supposed to do that.  I always just ate the shell.
Matt:  You're lying.
Me:  No, watch.  (pop shrimp in mouth)
Matt:  I'm gonna barf.
I knew Kevin wanted me to eat a little healthier and I knew he loved Asian food, so one time early in our relationship, I stopped by a Chinese restaurant on my way home from work and ordered edamame to go.  On the walk home, I thought I would start eating, so I just popped a pod into my mouth and started chewing.  Let me ask again here:  Where are the written instructions on how to eat edamame?  Answer:  Nowhere!  After 15 minutes of chewing, I finally had to pull the stringy pod out of my mouth and toss it.

"How does Kevin eat these things?", I marveled.  And looking at the container in front of me, I wondered how on earth I would be able to finish all of them when it took me 15 minutes to just eat ONE.
Kevin (laughing):  Oh my God, you don't eat the pod!  You eat the soy beans inside!
Me:  Well that would explain why the pod is practically unchewable.
Kevin:  (laughing too hard to speak)
Me:  Well how was I supposed to know??
While perhaps not really the same eating disorder as shrimp and edamame, I ordered calamari on a vacation in Cancun in 1998.  Based on the sound of the word, I thought calamari was pasta.  I mean come on:  capellini, fusilli, spaghetti, CAL-A-MAR-I...   I mean, it ends in an "i" - sounds like pasta to me.  Admittedly it looked a little weird when it arrived at the table because it didn't look like it had marinara sauce on it, but I started eating it anyway.  The look on my face immediately gave me away.  I'm trying to chew the mouthful I had:
Me:  God this is just awful!
Chad:  I was surprised you ordered it in the first place.  I didn't think you would like squid.
Me:  (spit!)
If there are other foods out there that need to be accompanied with instructions or directions, please let me know.  Or should I simply just check myself into rehab?

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's Been A Great Week!!

The past several days have been surreal.

The blogs I recently posted about Dad's Alzheimer's and the conversation I had with Carol Burnett (still floating on air here) seem to have struck a chord with thousands of people across the U.S. who either have dealt with or are dealing with a family member suffering with Alzheimer's, or who love and respect Ms. Burnett as much as I.  Or in many instances, people experiencing both.  I've received emails, tweets, Facebook messages, and Google+ comments.  And to be perfectly honest, I have no idea how to follow it all up.

When Rosie O'Donnell tweeted my blog out to her 700,000+ followers, it was hard not to think, "what's going to happen next?"  I've been writing this blog off and on since 2005, and am just a few posts shy of 600 total postings.  That's a lot of personal opinions I have shoved out into the world.  Or as I have always told Kevin, "I'm just pointing things out."

It would be amazing if the (at this posting) 60,000+ people who took the time to stop by my blog this week would continue to do so in the weeks and months to come.  But realistically I know that will not happen.  Still, I continue to write because one summer many years ago, Dan Sullivan told me that "there will never be enough written material for the number of people who can read it". 

I want to say thank you to everyone who shared their stories with me, as well as those who have wished love and luck to me and my family.  And to those who have shed a tear or two upon reading what I've written, I hope the tears helped in your healing process.

And now as the hubbub begins to wane and my 15-minutes of fame clicks to 14:59, I can reflect on an incredible week - one where I "brightened a lot of days" as one tweet put it.  Because it was never my intention to make anyone sad; this has been so joyous for me and my family and friends.  I got to speak to my childhood hero, and people all around the country stopped to remember the people they love.

So thank you all for a great week.  And Happy Valentine's Day!

My awesome Dad wearing the pipe cleaner bifocals I made for him. 
November 2013

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Isaac Winebrenner, Sr.

As I've mentioned before, I've been researching both sides of my family trees for many years.  

Today, I'd like you to meet Mr. Isaac Winebrenner, Sr.  Isaac was my father's mother's Great-Great-Grandfather.  Interestingly enough, yet not all that surprising, Isaac is also my father's father's Great-Great-Grandfather.  Two of Isaac's sons, Isaac Jr. and James Hiram, sired Dad's father's line and Dad's mother's line, respectively, which then came back together when Dad's parents married.  While certainly not at all uncommon in small rural areas, it still seems a little weird and perhaps a touch creepy.

Isaac Sr. was born in 1804 and died April 3, 1895.  He was a farmer and, together with his wife Nancy, had 10 children - all of whom survived into adulthood, which was also uncommon for the time.

Below is his rather colorful obituary:

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Yesterday, Carol Burnett Called Me

In follow up to this blog I posted a few  weeks ago, I want to update you on what transpired this weekend.  Kevin and I were watching the Olympics and my phone rang around 2:30 p.m.  The caller was listed as "Unknown" with no number showing, so I just dismissed the call.  The caller called again about an hour later, and again I dismissed the call.

About an hour or so after that, I walked down to get the mail and stop in 7-Eleven for a Diet Pepsi, when my phone rang.  And, again, it was the unknown caller.  I decided to answer it this time so that the caller would just stop calling:
Me:  Hello?
Caller:  May I speak to Dop Troutman?
Me:  This is he.
Caller:  Dop, this is Carol Burnett.


Me:  Oh my gosh!
Carol:  Dop I just had to call you because I got your letter and it meant so much to me and touched me so deeply that I wanted to call and let you know.
We talked for a few minutes and I admitted to her that I was having a surreal moment, standing in 7-Eleven and talking to this woman I've loved all my life.  She laughed that familiar, wonderful laugh.
Me:  I know you've tried a few times to reach me today but your ID is coming up as unknown on my phone and I typically don't answer those.
Carol:  Well I didn't want to leave a message in case I had the wrong number, so I figured I would just keep calling until someone answered.
 And after several more minutes, we said our good-byes:
Carol:  Please give my love to your family and to your Mom and Dad.
Me:  I will.  I cannot tell you what this means to me.
Carol:  Well I am just so touched.
Me:  Thank you so much for calling.
Carol:  Thank you, darling.  Bye bye.
And then I fainted.

I called my mother immediately following the conversation and asked her to tell Dad and to let me know if he had any reaction to the news.  And what's really wonderful and beautiful and sad about all this, is that this is an experience my dad gave to me . . . and he may never realize or understand what he did.  What father doesn't want his children to meet their heroes?  There would never have been an occasion in my life where I would have spoken with Ms. Burnett, either on the phone or even in person.  And certainly not to the length where she would go out of her way to keep trying to reach me until she got me.  My dad made that possible for me.

I couldn't possibly love and respect my parents more than I do today.  And as they continue on this journey together, I pray that my dad continues to have these times of normalcy, no matter how brief they are.  For us, they are epiphanies, but for Dad, they are memories.  The precious few he is able to cling to because - at some point - they made his children happy.

Now click here for another update.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Getting My PHR

Recently I obtained my PHR certification (Professional in Human Resources).  It's sorta like getting your real estate license for human resources.  It proves that you have the body of knowledge to be both a support to staff and a strategic partner to leadership, and that you know the laws that govern what a business can and cannot do. 

There are six disciplines in HR that need to be known:
  1. Business Management and Strategy
  2. Workforce Planning and Employment
  3. Human Resource Development
  4. Compensation and Benefits
  5. Employee and Labor Relations
  6. Risk Management
The trick is that you are tested on all of these subjects in one exam.  It's not like you study for Risk Management, take an exam, then study for HR Development, take an exam...   It's just one long 4-hour final on all the topics at once.  It has a 50% pass rate, which means as many people fail as pass.

It was, perhaps, the hardest exam I've ever taken.  And studying was really challenging for me; I haven't studied for an exam in over 20 years.  And I found that my retention is not as good at 47 as it was at 27, and neither is my attention span.  I was diagnosed a few years ago with ADHD.  So for this, I basically had to not necessarily learn the information as much as I just needed to become familiar with it or at least recognize series of words.  I studied - no joke - for 3 months. 

Ultimately, it was all worth the agony.  It was either this or grad school and I didn't want to spend the money or the time, or even try to convince myself that I would be a good student again.  It took me a while to really figure out what I wanted to do with my career and this was worth the investment for me.  Now I can command a higher salary because of the credential. 

And I get to put a few letters after my name now.  So that's cool, too.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

World Cancer Day

Since today is World Cancer Day, I thought I would post something personal about cancer in my own life.  Just within this past year alone, I fought two battles with skin cancer - both located on my head.

The first one showed up about a year ago as small bumps on top of my head.  At first I thought it was just dry skin from the winter air. I went to see my amazing dermatologist in Chicago and he very quickly diagnosed me as having Actinic Keratosis ("AK").  AK is found on the skin that has often been exposed to the sun for long periods of time.  Untreated AKs can advance to squamous cell carcinoma ("SCC"), the second most common form of skin cancer, and some experts believe they are actually the earliest stage of SCC.

Day 14
"Dr. Amazing" gave me a prescription for Fluorouracil, a topical ointment that I was to apply to my head twice a day for 2 weeks.  He warned me to use this medication during a time when I was not planning on being particularly social.  Look up images online and you will see why (fortunately mine never got that bad.)  The medication essentially burns the AK off the skin.  We discovered that my skin was slow to react to the medication, so I increased the application time by another week.  By Day 21, my skin was raw, sensitive, and ugly.  I wondered how it could ever heal from this procedure.  But it only took 1 week for my skin to restore to normal, with all traces of the AK and bumps gone. 

6 days after surgery
My second bout came after living in Miami for about 4 months.   I noticed what looked like a pimple on the right bridge of my nose, probably from wearing my reading glasses so often or not washing my face well enough.  So this time I went to a dermatologist in Miami who diagnosed it as basal-cell carcinoma ("BCC").  Unfortunately, a topical cream wouldn't help.  I needed to have surgery to have it removed.  The surgery required 6 stitches.  I also had a reaction to the sutures and had to have them removed about 2 weeks after the surgery.  I was fine with the scar on my nose, but because the skin was pulled, the right side of my nose ended up being higher than the left for about 2 months. 

It would be easy to blame Miami or Southern Florida sun on my problems, but the truth is these both started while I was living in Chicago.  Still, the warning is the same:  sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.  Most skin cancers can be avoidable, but they can also be undetectable.  I thought I just had a pimple on my nose and it ended up being cancer.  You can never be too sure.  I have my face and head checked annually.  And on World Cancer Day, I say that it is a good idea for everyone.