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Paris to Barcelona: 2010 July 31, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in History, Travel.
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My wife, sister in law, two friends and I are going to France. I wrote a 21 page word document which includes the historical background and detail for each region, town, museum, monument, etc. Below is the “short version” of our itinerary. I plan on tweeting and blogging each day of the trip once we are underway.

Day 1

Accommodations: Paris

Agenda: Eiffel Tower, Trocadero, Boat ride on the Seine

Day 2

Accommodations: Paris

Agenda: D’Orsay Museum, Ile de la Cité, Notre Dame, Latin Quarter, Saint Chapelle, Pont Neuf, Eiffel Tower

Day 3

Accommodations: Paris

Agenda: Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees, Tuileries Gardens, Louvre

Day 4

Accommodations: Sarlat-la-Caneda

Agenda: Versailles Palace, Versailles Gardens, Sarlat-la-Caneda

Day 5

Accommodations: Sarlat-la-Caneda

Agenda: Canoe trip on Dordogne River, Domme, Château de Castelnaud, La Roque-Gageac, Beynac-et-Cazenac, Chateau de Beynac

Day 6

Accommodations: Sarlat-la-Caneda

Agenda: Sarlat Saturday market, wine trip to Saint-Émilion

Day 7

Accommodations: Sarlat-la-Caneda

Agenda: Montfort Castle, Fenelon Castle, cave drawings at Grotte de Font-de-Gaume and Grotte de Rouffignac

Day 8

Accommodations: Carcassone

Agenda: Rocamadour, Chapel of our Lady, Carcassone

Day 9

Accommodations: Arles

Agenda: Carcassone, Arles, Roman Amphitheatre, Roman Theatre, Alyscamps, Thermae of Constantine

Day 10

Accommodations: Arles

Agenda: Cassis, charter boat to the Calanques, Beaches

Day 11

Accommodations: Arles

Agenda: Sainte Berthe Vineyard, Les Baux

Day 12

Accommodations: Arles

Agenda: Nimes, Roman amphitheatre, Maison Carrée, Pont du Gard Aqueduct

Day 13

Accommodations: Barcelona

Agenda: Train from Montpelier to Barcelona, La Rambla, Gothic Quarter

Day 14

Accommodations: Barcelona

Agenda: La Seu, Plaça del Rei, Plaça de Sant Jaume, Sagrada Familia, Park Guell

Day 15

Accommodations: Barcelona

Agenda: Picasso Museum, Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, Plaça Reial

Day 16

Fly home

Complete map with all stops: 1,467 miles // http://bit.ly/d8yXce



Couch Night. July 22, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in relationship.
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7 comments

Today is Thursday and every Thursday night at my house is Couch Night. My night. One evening a week devoted to just me and my interests.

Couch Night happens in the den of my basement and starts typically as soon as I get home. It’s fairly ritualistic but the activities vary depending on what I want to accomplish. Some nights I am consumed with social media and catch up on what’s going on in everyones lives, engaging in conversations via Twitter/Facebook. Other nights I will write a blog post or even catch up on some work. Some weeks it’s reading a good book, while others I might catch up on all the trade news. Still other Thursdays you might find me researching recent archeological news or scouring antiquity dealer sites. And sometimes, I’m not going to lie, I’m not productive at all and watch a couple baseball games online or veg in front of the TV.

I always take my dinner on the couch and will munch on my favorite snacks and drink a beer or two throughout the evening eventually crashing on the couch after my wife has long gone to bed. If you know my wife, you would call me crazy. She’s freaking HOT and I get asked all the time, “Why would you want to fall asleep once a week on an old couch when you could instead fall asleep next to her!” It’s really not about her. It’s more about my alone time. I need it. I have to have it. It’s therapeutic. I’ve always cherished it and look forward to it each week. I “negotiated” Couch Night very early in our relationship (back when we were living in sin). I wouldn’t say that she looks forward to it as much as I do but, she tolerates it and I know, deep down, she understands where I’m coming from. She supports it as she has consistently supported everything I do (well, almost everything :^).

There are those who spend every possible moment with their significant other and I don’t doubt they are equally as happy as I am. But I am built differently and without my Couch Night, my alone time, I fall behind on my interests. And I like to think my interests make me more interesting not just to others but also to my wife and ultimately to myself.


My Antiquity Collection July 18, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in History.
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I consider myself an amateur historian. I like to read and research all things history but focus mostly on ancient history. When I travel, it is almost exclusively to places with a past ancient civilization and history. Some examples of places we’ve been (so far) and their ancient peoples are:

Greece (Athenians, Macedonians, Dorians, Minoans, Spartans, Corinthians, Mycenaeans, Ionians, Roman)
Italy (Etruscan, Greek, Roman)
Germany (Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Franks, Lombards, Celts, Roman)
Spain (Iberian, Celts, Lusitanians, Vascones, Basques, Romans)
Austria (Celts, Bavarians, Slavs, Avars, Francs, Romans)
Peru (Incans)
Mexico (Aztecs & Mayans)
Switzerland (Helevtians, Francs, Burgundians, Alamannens, Romans)
Czech Republic (Slavs, Bohemians, Moravians)
Hungary (Scythians, Huns, Avars, Magyars, Bulgars, Ottomans)
Egypt (Egyptians, Hyksos, Libyans, Assyrians, Kushites, Macedonians, Romans)
Turkey (Hittites, Byzantines, Greeks, Trojans, Persians, Eastern Roman empire, Turks, Ottomans).

It has only been the last couple years that I have started collecting antiquities and through my travels and research I’ve met many dealers of ancient antiquities. When acquiring antiquities, it is important to know you are working with reputable dealers. There are many ways to ensure you are acquiring both an authentic piece and one that can be legally bought and sold. Selling and buying of illegal pieces only encourages looting, desecration of ancient archeological sites, and steals the history and cultural identity from that country and their people. All of my pieces come with both lifetime certificates and provenance which guarantees their date of origin, archeological information, original acquisition date, and authenticity.

I am proud to present some pieces from my collection below.


Palestinian Jug

Origin: Northwest Isreal
Date: Early Bronze Age 2000-2400 B.C.
Acquired: Peter Negus Collection
Description: It was used to pour a variety of different liquids including water, olive oil, and wine. I acquired this from a museum which had the original collectors tag. Small chips to the rim, some inoffensive encrustation and minor wear to the decoration but otherwise in remarkable shape for being over 4000 years old.

Greek Oil Lamp

Origin: Greco-Punic, North Africa
Date: 300-400 B.C.
Acquired: Private UK Collection
Description: Oil lamps were used in antiquity to produce light continuously for a period of time. They were also widely used for funerary and votive purposes. This piece is a good example of a type of Greek lamp made in North Africa in the characteristic grey clay with beautiful meander pattern.

Indus Valley Jar

Origin: Nal phase, Mehrgarh culture, Indus Valley
Date: 3300-3000 B.C.
Acquired: BC Galleries
Description: The Indus Valley Civilization is one of the very oldest known civilizations and centered mostly in the western part of the Indian Subcontinent in what is now the border region of Pakistan and India around the Indus River basin. This is currently the oldest piece in my collection at 5000+ years old. Some of the dirt from the original dig is still visible on the jar with linear and cross-hatch designs in brown and reddish pigments.

Roman Glazed Pottery Bowl

Origin: Roman
Date: 100 A.D.
Acquired: Private Dutch Collection
Description: This is a red glazed pottery bowl with a really nice ring foot and a sharply profiled shoulder. This bowl is in nearly perfect condition with no chips or defects. Still evident are earth accretions from where it was found. Whenever I look at this small bowl, I think of how much we’ve become a “big-gulp” society with our over-indulgence and over-the-top consumption.

Kushan Spouted Vessel

Origin: North India
Date: 100-200 A.D.
Acquired: BC Galleries
Description: The Kushans established their empire in the first century A.D. in what is today Pakistan and northern India. Made of terracotta with pretty abstract designs, this little vessel was probably used to store perfume.

Nazca Trophy Head Pottery Bowl

Origin: Peru, Nazca culture
Date: 250 A.D.
Acquired: Wallis Gallery
Description: This is truly a wonderful example of ancient peruvian pottery. It’s probably the most colorful as well as “youngest” piece in my collection. It is also my only current South American piece.

Roman Ceramic Toy Horse

Origin: Italy
Date: 200-300 A.D.
Acquired: London Museum
Description: This is a ceramic model of a horse with harness and was probably used as a child’s toy. Its ears are missing as well as part of its tail. It was once exhibited at “Equus, Three Millennia of the Horse” at 181 Piccadilly, London from April-June 2003. We sometimes forget that in ancient times there were children and those children, just as today, played with toys.

Chinese Neolithic Painted Jar

Origin: China
Date: 2300-2000 B.C.
Acquired: Brian Page Antiques
Description: This twin-handled pottery jar was made over 4000 years ago during the Machang Phase of the Majiayao culture also known as the Gansu-Yangshao culture, from present day Gansu or Qinghai province. The outside of the jar and the inner rim have been decorated with geometric patterns painted onto the surface in a mineral-based pigment prior to firing in the Neolithic kin. My favorite feature is a painted “X” on the lower body which is possibly the mark of the potter.

Roman Egyptian Limestone Dice

Origin: Egypt
Date: 100-400 A.D.
Acquired: BC Galleries
Description: These dice were probably carried by a Roman soldier and was usually carried around in their mouth. Unlike todays dice, the opposite sides do not equal seven.

Roman Alabaster Dice

Origin: Italy
Date: 100 A.D.
Acquired: Ancient & Oriental Galleries
Description: Really excellent condition and some of the colored pigment is still evident.

Luristan Bronze Warrior's Cuffs

Origin: Modern Day Iran
Date: 1000 B.C.
Acquired: Wallis Gallery via Michael C. Carlos Museum collection at Emory University
Description: Luristan origins are obscure, but they seem to have been ancestral to the Medes and Persians. Their communities lived in and around the Zagros Mountains between Iran and Iraq in the late 2nd and early 1st millennia B.C. These are a fantastically well-preserved set of ancient Luristan bronze warrior’s gauntlets. These cuffs are decorated with repousse shapes including rhombi and symmetrical dots. Pierced running the edges for sewing onto a tunic or other armor. Interestingly, the interior of each cuff shows the pattern of human skin where the bronze was mineralizing while attached to the person with whom they were buried.

Cypriot Flask

Origin: Cyprus
Date: Middle Bronze Age, 1725-1650 B.C.
Acquired: Jorgen Jacobsen collection, Bornholm Denmark
Description: Cypriot pottery was very much coveted and traded extensively by the ancients and I can see why. This is one of the most beautiful pieces in my collection because of its superb proportions with its perfectly formed round body mounted with a slender flaring neck and a thin strap handle. The entire body was originally covered in a grey slip and painted with intricate red horizontal lines; although much of this has been lost it is easy to appreciate the quality of the original design.

Egyptian Terracotta Toy Horse

Origin: Egypt
Date: Ptolemaic Period, 300-200 B.C.
Acquired: Nomis Antiquities Inc.
Description: A hand-formed terracotta child’s toy depicting a horse with rider. Attractive features retaining most of the original brown and white pigments. It was pierced through the mouth for a snaffle bit, by which the child could drag the toy around.

Chinese Painted Pottery Cocoon Jar

Origin: China
Date: Han Dynasty, 206 B.C. – 220 A.D.
Acquired: Michael Goedhuis Gallery / Collection sold at Bonham’s, London
Description: This pottery “cocoon” jar was made some 2000 years ago during the Han Dynasty. The purpose of such jars was for the storage of grain for use in the afterlife. It is decorated in colored pigments with a design of cloud patterns with vertical bands.

Egyptian Faience Shabti

Origin: Egypt
Date: Late Period, 712 B.C. – 332 B.C.
Acquired: Wallis Gallery of Antiquities
Description: Shabtis were funerary figurines used in Ancient Egypt. They were placed in tombs among the grave goods and were intended to act as substitutes for the deceased, should he/she be called upon to do manual labor in the afterlife. My Late Period faience shabti was for Ptah-Hotep and comes inscribed with a T-Band of hieroglyphics. The hieroglyphics have been translated and the inscription reads: The illuminated Osiris, the Lord of the force, god’s servant Ptah-hotep, justified, born of Ta-weret, justified! The inscription is the classical order: 1) Osiris-Title 2) Title of the deceased: “Lord of the force, god’s servant” 3) Name of deceased: “Ptah-hotep” (Ptah is satisfied) 4) Further affiliation: born of Ta-weret (the great).

M

The Case of the Missing Bat: A Timeline July 11, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in Red Sox.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
16 comments

What is this Bat?

Those who know me know that I am a huge Boston Red Sox fan.

I became a Red Sox fan 30+ years ago when I was 10′ish years old living in Connecticut. Connecticut is between New York and Massachusetts and there is an invisible line separating the state. The southern half of the state roots for the Yankees while the northern section is all Red Sox. We lived fairly south of the “border” so all of my friends and most of my family were Yankee fans. I instead decided to root for the good guys and devoted my allegiance to the Sox.

A big reason I rooted for the Red Sox was because it seemed like they were always the underdog and were more of a “working mans” team. They played hard, played hurt, and got dirty. Some of my favorite players back then were Yastrzemski, Fisk, Rice, Lynn, Burleson, Evans, Tiant, Stanley, Lee, and Eckersley.

Throughout the years my favorite players for Boston have always fit this same mold. A more recent player was named Trot Nixon. Trot played right field for the Sox from 1996-2006 and played hard. He was considered the inspiration for the expression “Boston Dirt Dogs”. His signature was that of a “scrapper” and one who hustled and wasn’t afraid to get himself dirty to win the game. I loved watching him play.

Six years ago I attended a Treasure Valley little league fund raiser hosted by Bill Buckner (another infamous Red Sox player who I’ve had the pleasure to spend some time with). At the fund raiser was a silent auction with a variety of sports memorabilia. I bid on several items throughout the night and ended up leaving the proud owner of a shiny black bat signed by Trot Nixon.

Now, over the years I have collected much Red Sox paraphernalia and a while ago my wife “encouraged” me to instead of displaying my collection at our home, that it would be better appreciated in my office. So, over the years, this is where the bulk of my collection has resided including the bat, which over time has affectionately been labeled as simply “Trot”.

I am so fortunate to work at one of the coolest companies I’ve ever known called Wirestone. We are a digital marketing agency and I currently serve as the COO for the company and the Managing Director of our Boise office.

While roaming the halls it is not uncommon to see me carrying “Trot” around. When interviewing prospective new “Wirestoners” I typically have Trot in my hands. Every couple weeks or so I host a forum where I address the office staff, updating them on the latest news around the company. During these forums you will always find me holding Trot. When I am traveling or out of the office for an extended period of time, I present Trot to whomever I leave in charge. Trot has, in some ways, become a symbol of my authority.

That is until recently …

Trots Kidnapping: A Timeline

May 21, 2010

Those who know me also know that I am a big believer in the power of social media and I engage heavily, especially on Twitter. On this day I got a new Twitter follower. Their handle is @WEHAVEYOURBAT. Now I am not the kind-of guy who instantly follows back everyone who follows me unless we have similar interests like baseball, history, digital marketing, travel, antiquities, Boise, etc. I’m pretty consistent with new followers. I always read their bios and always check out their latest tweets to see if they might be interesting and someone I should follow back.

I checked out @WEHAVEYOURBAT’s bio:

And their Twitter avatar:

And on this day, they only had one tweet:

“We will no longer stand idle while innocent bats suffer in the hands of little leaguers, over-paid athletes, & fanboys. Exitus acta probat.”

Based on the info I saw, I decided not to follow them back and moved on.

June 1, 2010

I received the following message:

@Schlanghole: You should pay closer attention to who is following you! http://twitpic.com/1t6daf

The message was rather mysterious and I clicked on the link, which revealed this photo.

It was Trot! I furrowed my brow and thought “what the hell?” Immediately I started looking around my office for Trot. It was not there. I scoured our entire floor. Couldn’t find it. I went to my buddy and Boise Technical Functional Manager Mike Higgins (@higgorama) office to ask him about Trot. I had travelled recently leaving Mike in charge and presented Trot to him prior to my departure. He turned to look behind him and said, motioning to a corner of his office, “Dude. Last I saw it, it was right there.”

I went back to my laptop and replied:

@WEHAVEYOURBAT: WTF?

In which I received this answer:

@Schlanghole: Glad we have your attention. “Trot” is safe… for now.

I started looking closer into @WEHAVEYOURBAT’s profile to see if there were any additional information or clues. They were following only two other people other than myself … @healter_skelter and @TheodoreBundy.

I laughed.

June 7, 2010

After a long wait, I received the next message, which was a link to another photo:

@Schlanghole: http://twitpic.com/1ure2f

It was Trot again but this time surrounded by a bunch of Yankee paraphernalia! Now that’s low. Yucky even. As I examined the photo closer I noticed that some of the Yankee photos included past Yankee players, not all current. I am still not convinced that @WEHAVEYOURBAT is a Yankee fan based on this shot.

Through my posts, people become interested throughout the office and on Twitter. They offer to start helping me solve the #BatMystery. One thing I learned to do is check GPS coordinates of each photo. The first photo had none. The second photo? It’s GPS coordinates suggested the photo was taken inside my house!

Later that day I received three Direct Messages:

@WEHAVEYOURBAT: RULE #1: All demands MUST be followed to the letter

J

@WEHAVEYOURBAT: RULE #2: All actions on your part must be swift and genuine

J

@WEHAVEYOURBAT: RULE #3: If rules 1 & 2 are not followed, bad things happen

J

June 8, 2010

In the afternoon I received the following DM:

@WEHAVEYOURBAT: DEMAND #1: Over the next week you must denounce your beloved #RedSox and baseball entirely via twitter. #dontforgettherules

First of all … Demand #1? This implied that there would be others. Second of all … were they serious? Denounce the Red Sox and baseball entirely? Via Twitter? Now Trot is certainly special to me but, let’s face it, it’s just a bat. It’s not as important as my allegiance to the Red Sox. I knew right away I would not, could not, comply and said so in several tweets back to @WEHAVEYOURBAT. They would not engage further or discuss possible “alternative” demands.

June 10, 2010

This morning I received a link to a Drop Box hosted site, which was running a countdown clock. If I did not comply before the time was up, “bad things happen”. Scattered throughout the source code were messages such as “we’re watching you”, “don’t forget the rules”. The countdown gave me until midnight of June 14 to comply.

At this point, I am suspicious of everyone. No one is off limits. Coincidentally, a few days prior to these events unfolding, I had hosted a management summit in Boise. This meant I needed to add 15+ additional out of town Wirestoner suspects to the list.

June 11, 2010

This morning I received this:

@Schlanghole: Numbers 30:1-2

I am not a religious guy but figured out it was a passage from the bible, which translates roughly to:

1 Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the LORD commands: 2 When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.

Bible verses? Kind-of creepy. I need more clues. I tweet to everyone who will listen that there is a “reward for the safe return of Trot and any information leading to the capture of those found guilty”.

I send several messages to @WEHAVEYOURBAT in hopes of engaging in a dialog. I ask for “proof of life” before I comply with any demands. That evening I received the following message:

@Schlanghole: Proof of life http://twitpic.com/1w09cd

A photo of Trot sitting on top of a Chicago Tribune paper with that days date. Perhaps trying to set up one of my Chicago colleagues? The GPS coordinates for the photo … the Wirestone Chicago office.

June 15, 2010

Time is up. At exactly 12:01am I receive the next tweet:

@Schlanghole: Rules #1 and #2 were not followed. Rule #3 must be enforced. http://bit.ly/9YGq3C

Check it out. It is a link to a very creepy video of a bat-obsessed heavy-breather who proceeds to touch Trot inappropriately then starts up a chainsaw directing it toward Trot. The video ends at the moment of torture.

Now, I’ve got to say, I laughed. I’m not sure if that was the appropriate response or not but, damn. This is getting good! I’ve watched the video over and over and over again. There are a couple clues but, overall, pretty damn clean.

By this time, with the assistance of some very smart secret agents, we have created an evidence board containing profile, timeline, facts, and suspects. The problem? Still too many suspects and not enough info. @WEHAVEYOURBAT has been very careful not to leave behind too many clues.

June 16, 2010

I arrive at the office and sitting on my desk, inside my baseball glove, is a package for me. I already suspect what it is and I am right:

It is supposedly the bottom nub of Trot with some sawdust leftovers from the act of sawing. So this tells me a few things. The suspect has access to my office. The night before I had left for home around 6:30-7:00. And as I am accustomed to doing, I did a sweep through the office prior to leaving to see who was still working. There were only a handful of people still working that night all of which were now added to the suspect list. At this point I am not sleeping very well. Instead of my suspect list condensing, it is expanding. I fly to Virginia for a wedding the next morning.

June 18, 2010

While sitting by my Uncle-in-law’s pool in Virginia I receive in quick succession three more messages (bible passages) from @WEHAVEYOURBAT. I have provided their translations below.

@Schlanghole: Isaiah 53:11

“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

@Schlanghole: Matthew 7:15

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

@Schlanghole: Mark 13:22

“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect–if that were possible.”

I could write pages on my interpretation of these passages but will instead let you make your own.

June 22, 2010

Today I learn (through the help of my colleague Roxanne’s sister) I have an invite to have dinner 3-days from now in San Francisco with Roxanne, her sister Teresa, and Mrs. Jackie Francona who is married to Terry Francona, the Manager of the Boston Red Sox. Following dinner I am invited to join the group at the game using tickets left for us by “Tito” Francona. Are you kidding me? I am thrilled. Dinner and a game with Red Sox insiders! I am so excited and hurriedly make my flight, car, and hotel arrangements.

June 23, 2010

I receive the following message from @WEHAVEYOURBAT:

@Schlanghole: You can end the suffering. Your future actions will set the course for what happens next. http://twitpic.com/1zexd7

It is a picture of Trot this time without its bottom “nub”. If this photo is manipulated, it is a very good job indeed. I know lots of talented Photoshop gurus and can only assume that it is a doctored photo.

The photos GPS coordinates? AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants where I would be going in two days.

June 25, 2010

I arrive in San Francisco without incident and prepare for dinner and the game. I’m always excited to go to a Red Sox game but this one is special given my opportunity to meet Mrs. Francona. She, along with her daughter, Roxanne, Teresa and Teresa’s husband David all join me for dinner across the street from the stadium. Everyone is very nice and it’s fun asking Mrs. Francona some questions about the Sox, particularly about “Tito” and their relationship. It turns out they met while going to college in Arizona and have been together throughout his career. She and her daughter both were so nice to me and we had a lovely time throughout dinner and the game (even though the Sox lost the game and lost Pedroia who broke his foot off a foul ball). We talked about several past and current players. A current favorite player we are both excited about is Daniel Nava. He’s a rookie with a couple great stories. She shared a couple with me and I with her.

At some point during the evening, Roxanne asked me to tell the Bat Mystery story. Mrs. Francona found it very funny and during the game elbowed me and said “How freaked out would you be if a photo of your bat appeared on the big jumbo tron?” I laughed but didn’t put it past @WEHAVEYOURBAT to make that happen. For the rest of the night I kept one eye on that screen.

After saying our farewells I walked back (via cloud nine) to my hotel room. Waiting for me on my nightstand was a UPS package.

Inside it was another package addressed to the hotel front desk.

Inside it was a third package and an envelope addressed to the front desk.

Inside the envelope was the following note.

Inside the third package was another piece of Trot.

Initially I thought, “Well played sir.” Even though the front desk had not complied exactly as instructed. I also thought this must narrow down the suspects because only a small handful of people knew where I was staying. Until I went back through my Twitter timeline and realized that, yes, I had tweeted to one of my followers where I would be staying (doh!). Then, just when I was about to put all away for the night, I examined the UPS package a little closer and at the bottom, in small type, was a “Reference: From …” line:

Lee Scott! Lee had to this point been a leading suspect. He has all the necessary qualifications and I had previously accused him in front of a group of people. I thought I had solved the case! I even tweeted to @WEHAVEYOURBAT that I knew who he was and that I would give him an opportunity to confess prior to announcing my findings … but then a thought occurred to me.

After all the careful planning @WEHAVEYOURBAT had done to this point to cover their tracks, leaving behind very little evidence, they make this bonehead mistake? They put their trust in a hotel front desk employee to do as instructed? It started to seem a little too obvious and smelled like yet another set-up.

Perhaps I am over thinking it and Lee is indeed @WEHAVEYOURBAT.

But wait … there’s more.

June 28, 2010

Back in the office on Monday morning I receive this message from @WEHAVEYOURBAT.

@Schlanghole: Wht u perceive, your obsrvations, feelings, interpretations, r all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it’s not The Truth.

Is it an answer to my tweet claiming to know who they were and that I had solved the case? Is it a message from Lee Scott trying to cover his blunder and throw me off the trail?

I’m still not sure but what happened next made the hair on my arms stand up.

Waiting for me that Monday morning was yet another package mailed to me from Los Angeles.

Inside the package was the book titled “Bat Boy” written by author Matthew McGough.

Also inside the package was a Batman postcard.

On the back side was written this:

It reads: “Have you ever seen the damage a bat stretcher can do? Spare yourself – comply with the demands!”

I thought, “OK. That’s clever. @WEHAVEYOURBAT scoured Amazon.com and found a book titled Bat Boy and sent it to me.” Investigating further I google mapped the return address on the package and, indeed, it maps back to the residence of Matthew McGough’s home in L.A.

It was a Monday. I have many scheduled conference calls and while attending one I read the back cover of the book. It is about the authors experience of not just being a bat boy in MLB. But being the bat boy for none other than the New York Yankees. Not only that, on his first day “… he was greeted by none other than his idol, Don Mattingly – who promptly played a prank on him.”

A prank? This whole Bat Mystery is a prank. That is an eerie coincidence. I have currently started reading the book and hope it somehow provides some additional clues. But that’s not the part that made my hair stand on end.

I started flipping through the book and noticed there was an inscription:

It reads (in the same handwriting as the postcard): “Tony – Notwithstanding the circumstances, and your allegiance to the Red Sox, I hope you enjoy the book! Best wishes …” and a signature that I can only assume is meant to be the authors.

Next I google Mr. McGough’s name and find his official website at http://matthewmcgough.com/. I click through a couple pages and learn a bit more about him. Included on his site are a couple social links including his Twitter page. I think, “Great. I’ll start following him and see if I can find anything out.” I launch his Twitter page and discover I am already following him and he is following me! What? Apparently he had started following me a little while back, I had read his profile, it mentioned “Bat Boy” and I had followed him back. I search to see who in common we each are following or is following us and there is only one other common name … @WEHAVEYOURBAT.

I could not believe it. How in the hell did @WEHAVEYOURBAT rope, convince, persuade this author to join in on the mystery? Very impressive. I immediately tweeted Mr. McGough (@mttymcg) the following:

@mttymcg: Just wanted to say Thanks for the book you sent me. I returned from game over the weekend & it was waiting for me on my desk.

His reply:

@Schlanghole: You’re welcome Tony! Hope you’re able to find your bat soon. Until then: let’s go Yankees!!! #BatMystery

I’ve since tried to pump him for info to no avail although we have exchanged several tweets.

And finally, the latest development.

June 30, 2010

My wife and I attend the Shakespeare Festival plays here in Boise every year. On this evening we went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We went with my sister-in-law Jenny and friends Holly Sue, Will, and Tim and Susan Nichols. Before the play begins there is always a Green Show, which is performed by the “Fools Squad” duo of Tom Willmorth and Joe Golden. The play started as usual after the Green Show. The plays always have two acts allowing for an intermission between. During the intermission our group was drinking some wine and hanging out in our seats. Soon I felt two hands on both of my shoulders. I went to turn around and heard “Tony, don’t turn around.” Which I did anyway and grasping me were none other than both Tom and Joe of the Fools Squad. They said they were instructed to deliver an item to me.

Yes. A shirt advertising another play being performed at the Festival titled “Bat Boy”. They said something else like “Do the right thing.” And promptly left.

I was floored. Now, when attending these plays we sit in fancy-schmancy box seats and there are six of us. So, unlike the rest of the seats at the outdoor theatre, ours are not assigned. There were three of us boys sitting in that box. The Fools Squad could have found out which box I was in but someone had to point me out to them. In addition, I had told very few people I was going to the play that evening but I did, of course, tweet I was there (doh!). However, I had tweeted just as the show was starting leaving very little time to arrange this. Another interesting fact … the character displayed on the shirt is the exact same character that is @WEHAVEYOURBAT’s Twitter avatar. Coincidence? I don’t know. What I do know is I am scheduled to go watch Bat Boy later this month.

Suspects

Lee Scott: For the obvious reason of his name being on the UPS label as the “sender”. In addition to having all the skill sets needed to pull this off and being extremely creative, Lee is a big Drop Box user which is where the countdown clock was hosted.

Scott Surber: Always a suspect in any prank and very high on this list. He was also one of the handful of people working late the night before the “sawdust” package was delivered in my office.

Alex Couey & Darnell Weightman: Both past Wirestone interns. A source recently shared with me that they were cooking up some sort of prank prior to their departure.

Mike Higgins: He was the last one to have the bat. He also informed me that I should check out the GPS data attached to the photos.

Wirestone Executive Team: We’ve been known to pull pranks on each other and I wouldn’t put it past these guys to gang up on me. Top of this teams list is President Dan Lynch, Managing Director of our Chicago office, Paul Marobella, Managing Director of our Ft. Collins office, Ti Bensen, and Managing Director of Corporate Development, Christopher Rowlison.

Holly Sue Kerns: I played a pretty elaborate April Fools joke on her about 8 years ago and she has always promised to retaliate. Plus, she was at the Shakespeare Festival with us.

Tim Cox & Justin Sterling: Both these guys, one a semi-Yankee fan the other hard-core, pulled a prank on me 5+ years ago that included a different bat.

Craig Sweigart: The last known photo of Trot is of Craig carrying it around while on a conference call in the office. Plus, he’s been acting extra suspicious.

Alex Oyler & Chris Beaudoin: Two of our motion guys who are both clever and have all the abilities necessary to carry this out.

Paul Carew: One of my best friends … which automatically makes him a suspect. Extremely talented and someone with more than enough resources and abilities to put him on the list. Plus I think he’s still sore over the Cat Fish prank Kelly Cross and I pulled on him.

Tim Nichols: Also with us the night of Shakespeare. A creative leader in our city so, capable of this plot. In addition, he had me tell the story to his wife Susan who “claimed” not to know anything about it even though a source informed me later that she indeed knew about the Bat Mystery prior to that evening.

Rob Palmer: Another good friend who has more than enough chops to see this through. In addition, since taking a Creative Director position for RazorFish, he’s gone dark on me even after repeated text messages.

Brad Mitchell & Brie Bolopue: Two of the people probably closest to me on a daily basis. Have to put them on the list.

Jamie Cooper: Of Drake Cooper fame. Has more than enough resources at his disposal. He’s on the list because, although he might not know I saw him, he was at Shakespeare Festival and directly after receiving the Bat Boy shirt, the Fools Squad immediately went up and sat next to him.

Richard and Jaycob Schlangen: My brother and nephew. On the list because they have been Yankee thorns in my side their whole lives.

Conclusion

It is still going on. Some have counseled that I should quit Tweeting. They believe I’m giving up too much information to use against me.

I disagree. Don’t tell @WEHAVEYOURBAT because it might encourage them but, I’m enjoying the chase.

As you can see by the suspect list above, I am clueless.

Want to help me solve the mystery? Well jump on board. I can use all the help I can get.

@WEHAVEYOURBAT has been suspiciously quiet this last week. I’m not sure what to expect next and am these days constantly looking over my shoulder wondering when the next act will unfold.

Maybe that’s been @WEHAVEYOURBAT’s plan all along.

Do you Stine? April 12, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in Uncategorized.
17 comments

To Stine (definition): The act of vacating an event and/or function without saying goodbye and without anyone realizing you departed until much later.

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve probably even Stined yourself but didn’t know what to call it. Or maybe you Stine all the time and have a different name for it. We call it Stining after our most excellent friend Eric Holstine. Nobody can pull off a Stine like Eric. He is the master and the rest of us are mere grasshoppers compared to his awesomeness. I started Stining in the mid 90’s and have become pretty darn good at it so I thought it my responsibility to define, document, and share my learnings with you here.

Here are some tips on how to pull off a successful Stine: You’re out with a group of people at any given event or function. It could be drinks, birthday party, work event, concert, etc. After hanging out for an appropriate amount of time and are ready to bail, start forming your Stine-plan. First of all, it is always much easier to pull a successful Stine if your party has consumed a sufficient amount of alcohol. Second, identify your different exit options. I typically do this once entering an establishment in anticipation of pulling off a Stine later. Next, an amateur move I see all the time and a sure way of being caught is if someone catches you paying your bill. It’s a dead giveaway. Make sure to settle up any tabs well before attempting to leave. Paying cash along the way is a good long-term approach.

When you’ve decided it’s time to make your move, one popular tactic that has worked well for me over the years is the “fake-call”. Pretend you just received a call, put your finger in the other ear as if you can’t hear, walk away from the table or group, and continue your way out of the building. When outside you can determine whether it’s safe to leave or not depending on if anyone else in your party is also outside. If they are, you have a couple choices. “Continue” the fake call until said friend goes back inside or abort and start over. Another popular tactic I’ve used dozens of times is excusing myself to pretend to buy a drink at the bar or to use the restroom. Whether an opportunity exists to Stine at this point or not will be determined by a number of factors including whether someone is watching you or unexpectedly blocking your desired exit.

Over the years it has become more and more difficult for me to Stine. This is because all of my friends are aware of the Stine and my propensity to perform it. They are constantly watching me in hopes of catching me in the act, which has forced me to get creative over the years. This brings me to the unsuccessful Stine or as we like to call it, The Kerns.

There will be times, especially early in your Stining career, where you are unsuccessful. We call this a Kerns after our pal Holly Sue Kerns. Holly is the worse Stiner I know and we are constantly catching her. She tries so hard and I will admit she has pulled it off a couple times but it is rare. Remember, it is not a Stine if you’re caught or someone asks, “Are you leaving?” If this occurs at any time during the event, you have failed. This is called a Kerns.

The most difficult and gratifying of all Stines is the Double Stine. This demands a great deal of coordination and I would not recommend attempting it until you’ve got a few successful singles under your belt.

I Stine all the time. I love to Stine. So the next time there’s a bunch of us hanging out and you realize you haven’t seen me for a while ask yourself “Did Tony Stine?” Because I probably did.

I’m a hugger … not a shaker. March 31, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in Uncategorized.
4 comments

I consider myself a personable guy and I am a hugger. I like to hug. I’ve always been that way. When I see my friends out, I welcome them with a hug. Family friends, girl friends, guy friends, old people, young people, bald people, hairy people. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes even when introduced to someone for the first time, I will give them a hug.

But lately I’ve been thinking I need to reign it in a bit.

I know certain people are not huggers and by invading their space I’m making them uncomfortable. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. So lately I’ve been trying a new approach. I have been “backing off” and trying the old stand-by handshake. The problem I’ve noticed however is that it might be too late. When people see me coming they expect the hug and prepare themselves for it whether they like it or not.

For example, the other day I saw a buddy who I know is NOT a hugger but I’ve been hugging him for years. I tried my new approach and attempted to stick my hand out instead but it was too late. He was already coming in for the hug. And it was … awkward.

I guess I’m at a hugging crossroads. I’m not sure if I should continue trying to convert my hugs to handshakes or embrace (pun intended) my instincts to hug regardless of whom I creep out.

So here is my message to you. If you’re not a hugger and I bump into you in the near future, give me a sign. I won’t be offended. If you don’t … I’ll assume I have a green light and will be coming in for my hug.

Why I moved into the Creative Pit March 11, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in company culture, Work.
Tags: ,
8 comments

I started a company called Digital Effects (DFX) in 1995. In 2000 I merged my company with four other agencies in California, Washington, and Idaho to create Wirestone where I currently work. As we’ve grown over the years my Boise office has moved four different times. However, regardless of the location, what’s always been consistent is an area within the office that we call the “Creative Pit”. Currently this is one large room with no walls or cubicles where 14 of our art directors, animators, illustrators, writers, and motion designers all reside. I’m a big believer in creating environments that are conducive to creativity and collaboration and our Creative Pit is an example of that.

For a majority of the past 15 years I’ve sat in the Creative Pit. I’ve thrived in the Pit. However, three or four years ago some co-workers convinced me that with my growing responsibilities and a greater need for privacy, I should move out of the pit and into an office. So I did.

Ugly sweater party in the Founders Lounge.

For a while I ran solo in a private office but felt so isolated and alone that I convinced my best bud and partner Brad Mitchell to move in with me. It’s been great. Absolutely no complaints. Our office, which we branded the Founders Lounge, is pretty rad. It is complete with refrigerator, bar, walls and shelves for all my Red Sox crap, a beautiful view of the Boise River and plenty of cushy seating for guests. We’ve even hosted little parties in the Founders Lounge. It’s been good to me but still … something was missing.

A portion of the Creative Pit.

A peek into the Creative Pit.

Now, honestly I am the very furthest thing from being a micro-manager but, I had become too removed from what was going on day-to-day at a project level. Too removed from what everyone was creating each day. I was removed from the action. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was a couple versions behind in Photoshop/Illustrator and any interactive programming skills I had prior was completely gone. I understand the other areas of our business that I’m responsible for are important and I take that very seriously but it’s come at a cost. I’ve all but stopped doing what made me the happiest at work … being involved in the creative and collaborative process. Another unforeseen side effect is that the Creative Pit had also transformed and morphed into something different. It reminded me of a library. Everyone wears their headphones and quietly goes about their day. Granted, they’re all creating cool shit … but maybe it could be even cooler.

A little over two weeks ago I told Brad that I was moving back into the pit and he agreed to come with me.

My new spot in the back corner of the Creative Pit.

The first thing I did was gather the Creative Pit team together. I reminded those who lived in the Pit-of-old and educated those who didn’t know better, the purpose of the Creative Pit. I explained I was moving in for the next 30+ days and asked that they be patient with me as I introduce some new guidelines. I told them that headphones were no longer cool. I suggested we instead play music for all to hear (and take turns each day sharing our tunes). I asked if they have a conference call or client call, to take it in one of the six meeting rooms we’ve provided. There was to be no more shushing each other in the Pit. I warned them that I was going to be loud and fairly obnoxious and ask lots of questions all the time. I asked that they try this with me. I asked that they trust me for the next 30+ days after which I promised we would reevaluate.

The 30 day count down.

We are now into our second full week and I cannot speak for everyone else but I know that I feel reenergized. I am collaborating on projects again and I am witnessing some positive interactions occurring between others, even when they’re not assigned to the same project. Hell … I even caught Brad designing yesterday!

Our creative team is incredibly talented and over the next month I plan to learn from them, share successes and frustrations with them, and continue to collaborate with them as much as I possibly can. I am confident that with their help I can get to a happier place, we will rebuild the vibe in the Creative Pit and who knows, maybe they’ll even invite me to stay.

The No Prick Rule March 4, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in company culture, Work.
Tags: , , ,
16 comments

There is a long established rule at my company that I’ve coined the “No Prick Rule”. I have been committed to this unofficial guideline for 15+ years and think it has served me pretty well. It’s not a very complicated concept nor do I think it’s unique but some have asked me to elaborate. So, I thought I’d bang out a few paragraphs explaining some of the highlights and specifically how I interpret this rule.

Basically it comes down to this one sentence. “Hire the good, humble, kind human being first … skill-set second.” It seems to me that too many companies hire candidates based solely on their resume, education and experience regardless of the kind of person they are. This is my point and the rest of my rambling below merely attempts to define it further (so you can stop reading now if you get it).

Certainly, hiring people who are skilled in their craft is important to any company regardless of the industry. But, I think our business is somewhat unique given the massive amount of collaboration and dependency we have on each other when creating a successful campaign, launch, product or customer experience. I’ve chosen to make my living in a deadline driven industry and it is critical that I am able to trust, learn and move quickly with those I am in the trenches with.

Being killer at what you DO is not enough. It does not matter if you’re the greatest art director, animator, writer, programmer, analyst, or account manager on the planet if you also think you’re better than everyone else, don’t value other opinions or ideas, talk behind peoples back, keep crucial information to yourself, maintain a hidden agenda, are in it for the paycheck, are unwilling to do whatever it takes, or think certain tasks are below you. These types of people will no doubt excel in certain companies but they are not a good fit for us and our environment is not the right fit for them. Period.

The result? A healthy environment that is conducive to creativity and collaboration. An environment, by the way, that ends up attracting some of the very best talent this country has to offer. This ultimately allows us to produce what IMHO are some of the most innovative, immersive and effective customer experiences possible for our clients. It enhances our ability to create cool shit all while growing professionally and personally as individuals. Another bonus? I think our clients like and respect us too.

No one person is more important than any other person where I work. I truly believe this. Everyone plays their individual role every day to ensure our projects our company and our clients succeed. I believe people work here because they WANT to not but because they HAVE to and, unfortunately, there are always going to be pricks out there in the world. My preference is not to work with any of them.

Tuestone Tuesday March 2, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in company culture, Work.
Tags: , ,
4 comments

2009 was a bitch for a lot of us and I was not immune. There were a lot of changes in my behavior both personally and professionally. Some were perhaps necessary, some were a departure from the kind of person I am. One that was most alarming was how I had lost touch with what’s going on in my co-workers personal lives.

To help rectify, at the beginning of the year (with the help of my friend and partner Brad Mitchell) I started what we’ve branded Tuestone Tuesday. One day a week where we schedule ONE person at work to hang out with us socially. We’ve done pretty good about committing to this schedule and have met with five people so far. Some of the gatherings last a couple hours and some end late into the evening (Wendy!). The common theme however is reconnecting with each other. Reminding each other why we choose to work together and why we choose to work where we do.

A typical Tuesday finds us leaving the office around 4:20 starting at my favorite watering hole, The Modern Hotel (they’ve started reserving us the same table each week). It usually takes a few drinks before it becomes clear to our guest that this is not a “review” or even about work. It’s about each of them. It’s about their family, their dreams, their aspirations … whatever is on their mind. Naturally, work topics do come up which is of course encouraged and have proven enlightening and even actionable. Occasionally some of our friends (most in the biz, some not) drop by our table to say hi and the conversation expands to include every topic you can imagine. Depending on our guests schedule, the gathering might move to dinner, music, etc.

We have a rule at Wirestone labeled the “No Prick Rule” (future post). For me, Tuestone Tuesday validates we’ve surrounded ourselves with those who believe and live by this rule every day. These evenings have been truly inspiring, energizing and therapeutic. I hope those we have met and will meet with in the future get out of it as much as I do.

Well … here we go. November 19, 2009

Posted by schlanghole in Uncategorized.
5 comments

Perhaps someones first blog post should be profound. However, that’s too much pressure and instead I think I’ll simply try to explain why I finally decided to get on board and start one.

Reason #1: To record my journey through life.

I think it’s important to grow as a person. I desperately want to evolve. I want to be remembered as a kind and giving person. Someone who left the world a little better place than when I entered it. By writing a blog I hope to document that growth process and use it to recognize turning points in my life and in my character. I’ve tried this before in years past with traditional journals or diaries. I couldn’t tell you where one of them is today. My hope is that through this vehicle I will be able to save and review my progress for years to come.

Reason #2: I have something to say.

I have many interests and want to share them with others. I have strong opinions on most subjects and this will be my vehicle to express them. I love the power of ideas, the power of social communities and the incredible power the web has to distribute those thoughts worldwide. I hope I can stimulate others into meaningful dialog around topics of common interests.

Reason #3: It’s time.

It’s been on my to-do list for a long time. I’ve been hesitant because of the implied time investment and the fact I’ve been known to obsess over new bright shiny objects. My wife, Tanya, is afraid that this added to the other social vehicles I am already addicted to, she’ll never see me again. But it’s time to give it a try. I’ve been encouraged by my friends, peers, company and family to start it up and see how it goes. Maybe it won’t take but I intend to give it a try and hope it’s of value to me and, who knows, maybe you.

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