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The personal blog of Michael Ashby

Category / That Reminds Me Of A Story…

Missed Opportunities At Calloway Gardens

OpportunityI am a coffee snob. I admit it and I’m not ashamed of it. I like good coffee in just about any form – espresso, french press, drip, cappuccino, etc. Coffee is almost like a drug, once you’ve had the good stuff it’s hard to go back. Starbucks is OK, but there’s other brands that I prefer and I’ll drive miles out of my way for it and pay a handsome fee for it as well. This fact was completely lost on Callaway Gardens when I visited there over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Call it catering to snobs, but I found a lot of missed opportunities at Callaway. These opportunities were not just flights of fancy, but opportunities that would generate revenue. There was a lot of wasted space in the main area of the Inn. What used to be the bar, was turned into a general common area that had little rhyme or reason. This area could be easily converted into a coffee bar. Starbucks has brought the idea of fancy coffee into the mainstream. Setting up a coffee shop that also served a pastries and bagels would have been very popular. There was a restaurant of course, but if you wanted something quick and easy, you were out of luck.

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My Love Affair With Paper

paper_love_affairI’m about as techie as they come. I always seem to have a gadget of some sort on me and more often than not, I’ve got more than one. Since starting this weblog, I’ve been carrying around my Dana wherever I go and use it to jot down thoughts and ideas. Yet with all this technology surrounding me, I find that I still have a love affair with paper.

I use paper less and less these days, but I still pack a National Brand 43-571 stitch bound notebook that serves as my journal. Since college, I’ve used this style of notebook and I’m now in my 6th one. I love the cloth covered cardboard covers which protect the light green ruled and numbered pages underneath. I found these notebooks at the LSU bookstore and it’s the only place that I’ve found them. I think it’s a lab notebook, but all my Google searches turn up Chemistry class overviews requiring the. Every few years I go by the bookstore when I’m in Baton Rouge and stock up. It’s not that the notebooks have the best paper, or anything of that nature, I just like them.

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I’m A Writer?

WritingPerceptions are a weird thing. My perception of myself may be quite different from the way you perceive me. For example, I’ve never really thought of myself as a writer. As a reader of my weblog, you may be scratching your head and thinking that I’m crazy, but it’s true – I’ve never thought of myself as a writer.

In college I kind of minored in English. I took short story and poetry classes, but everything I wrote for those classes were assignments. I was told to write something and I did. Later, when I entered the business world, I ran several marketing departments. Being in marketing, I was expected to generate copy. I wrote annual reports, press releases and tons of flyers and newsletters, but still, all of these were required of my job and I perceived them as just another task in my job. When I started KCPUG and then later InterPUG and NPUG, I wrote my fair share of articles, reviews, and meeting announcements, but once again I perceived these as tasks.

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The Solitude Of Enjoying A Cigar

CigarsAfter Thanksgiving the other day, I wanted to become a recluse. Not because I didn’t want to spend time with family, but because I wanted to enjoy a cigar. I have no idea why, but many people find cigars offensive. For this reason, finding a place where you can enjoy one is not easy. Many restaurants offer smoking sections, but very very few of them actually allow cigar or pipe smoking. To enjoy those, your only option is to go to the bar, but even there you might be hard pressed to find a bar that allows it as well. Since Calloway Gardens is geared more towards a family environment, I knew that it might be difficult, but I was going to try.

Staying at the Mountain View Inn, I walked around a bit to see if there were any areas that would be conducive to enjoying a fine cigar. Calloway Gardens is known for golfing and many golfers enjoy a cigar on the links, but that is an outdoor activity, so even though the gift shop sold cigars, I had not expectation that they would allow this activity indoors.

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I’ve Got The Fever For The Flava Of A Mini

The Mini CooperEver since the Mini Cooper came out last year, I have been in pure car lust for this vehicle. They had me with their marketing when they launched a series of billboards and once I took a look at their website I knew I was a goner. I’ve always liked Euro-Styled vehicles and the Mini Cooper was the first production vehicle in the US that had this type of styling. When Holly and I test drove them on Labor Day 2002, I was hoping that it would drive poorly, or otherwise give a bad driving experience so that my love affair with the Mini would end. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I loved the feel and handling of the vehicle and if anything I was more in love. Since I was already in a 3 year lease at the time, it was easy to dismiss my lust for this car by simply telling myself I can’t have it. That worked before, but now that I’m at the end of my lease I’m having a hard time resisting this car.

Why do I feel that the Mini Cooper is a piece of forbidden fruit? Well, Holly purchased the New Volkswagon Beetle this year and that is a fairly small car. My lease vehicle has been a Jeep Cherokee, so that gave us a 4 door and hauling vehicle if we needed it. I don’t haul people, or cargo all that often, but it does happen. As much as I love the Mini, the first time I have to go to Home Depot and pick up a piece of plywood, I know that I’d kick myself knowing that I purchased another small car instead of a more practical car.

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Dancing With The Muses

The Muses - A combination mezzotint and line engraving by Sartain after painting by Stothard plate from a 1852 ladies bookOn Friday of last week, Holly invited me to attend a function for her Women of Music Business Association. They were having a social event where everyone was going to go to a Haunted House and members were allowed to bring their spouses/boyfriends along. I hadn’t been to a haunted house since I was 10 years old, so it sounded like something fun to do.

Everyone was meeting at Blackstone for a drink and a bite after work, before heading off to the Haunted House. When we arrived, Holly recognized two of her fellow members and we grabbed a few tables in the bar since we were the first to arrive. As I sipped on a fresh brewed Nut Brown Ale, we made small talk with Angela and Lindsey. After ordering some fish and chips, Amy and her boyfriend Bob showed up. A little while later Meleia, Dana and her boyfriend arrived and that made the group a total of 9.

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I’m With The Band

The Velvet RopeHave you ever had that perverse little thrill when you find yourself on the inside of something you think is cool? Maybe it’s a clique, or a special event and you find yourself on the inside of what’s happening and you suddenly that you’re special. It’s a really cool feeling and that happened to me the other day.

I was at my favorite cigar store, for a relaxing smoke after my NPUG Meeting. Those meetings leave me a little drained, so I’ve taken the habit of visting the cigar store and just hanging out. It feels good to be the customer and let someone else take the lead as it were. Anyway, I was sitting back and enjoying a Heilos natural and talking it up with the owner. We were on the subject of cigars we’ve tried and began discussing Cuban cigars.

<Mr. Peabody and Sherman>
For those that don’t know, since the Kennedy Era, we’ve had a trade embargo with Cuba. That means that bringing Cuban cigars into the US is illegal. I’ve smoked my fair share of Cuban cigars before, but they aren’t easy to come by. Usually, I come across one after somone has gone abroad and snuck a few back to the states. If I had to count, I’d say I’ve had maybe 10 in my lifetime. That’s not to say that they were the best cigars I’ve ever had. Most, if not all, of the famous tobacco growers have left Cuba long ago and started new plantations in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, etc. Although Cuban cigars can be quite good, I tend to prefer other leaf. However, Cuban cigars are hard to come by, so I still keep my eye out in case I find one. 😉
</Mr. Peabody and Sherman>

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When Good Routines Go Bad

Tonya Harding - Her good routine went bad.2003 has been a tough year for me. My consulting firm has been going through a lot of changes and looking back on it now, I also hit severe burnout from my overload of work during the summer. It was in July when I started climbing out of my quagmire of funk and thanks to a good friend of mine, was turned on to I began building new routines and slowly but surely began putting order and stability back into my life. I started with small baby steps and simple routines and gradually built up from there.

For example, my morning routine is to wake up and take Gracie for a quick pee. Then I put out her food and while she eats, I clean the kitchen, do the dishes and shine the sink. In the thirty minutes it takes for her food to digest, I write on my weblog and post an entry for the day as I eat my own breakfast. With an entry posted, I then take Gracie for walk in the backyard and down the hill so that she could do her business. After that, I do my “three S’s” and be in my office working by 8am.

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The Neighborhood Looks Different

The NeighborhoodI saw a different side to my neighborhood the other day. I walked Gracie a little earlier than I usually do and my street was a totally different from the way that I usually experience it. There were different people out in their yards, or walking down the block and the odd thing was that they all knew Gracie.

Our street is pretty quiet. We live at the end of a cul de sac so there isn’t a lot of traffic and it would appear that most of the families here either have young children, or none at all. I say appear because I haven’t met many people on our block. When we moved in, no one came over to say hello, or introduce themselves. The people in the houses closest to us keep to themselves for the most part and we haven’t really become familiar with anyone. When our new neighbor Judy moved in next door, Holly and I made extra sure to introduce ourselves and get to know her. We didn’t want to miss that opportunity like we did when we first moved in.

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My Weight Is Going To The Dogs

Large Bathroom ScaleAs a child, I was always the smallest, skinniest one. Everyone was bigger than me. I’m not kidding, everyone. My father was 6 feet tall, so I kept waiting and waiting for this big growth spurt to happen so that I could tower over everyone I grew up with. High school came and went and no spurt. Then in college I figured I’d pretty much topped out at 5′ 10″ and that the spurt wasn’t ever going to happen. I was wrong. Since we’re three dimensional beings, growth can happen in many directions. My growth spurt did start in college, but instead of it making me grow vertically, I began growing horizontally. In other words, I started getting fat. 😛 Up until my senior year in high school, I was very active in soccer and other activities. Weight had never been a problem, so I could eat anything I wanted. Just before Christmas 1984 I broke both my knees (that a whole other story) and after that, I had to give up soccer and most activities involving running. I just couldn’t take the stress to the knees. So, after that accident my level of activity dropped significantly. When I was in college, I was either pounding the books, or sitting in a practice room playing my trumpet. Not a lot of activity, but I never really got too heavy, just a little out of shape. Continue Reading

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