U.S. Soccer

As I sit here and watch the U.S. vs. Spain semifinal soccer match of the Confederations Cup in South Africa (I work at a European firm and so we can watch soccer in the office), I must say that my allegiances are somewhat mixed. If it was any other team besides the U.S. national team, I would be cheering for Spain, the home of my heritage and the current number one national soccer team in the world. But this is the U.S. we’re talking about, and I’m an American. I have always followed sports, but have rarely had a team that I truly rooted for consistently. Soccer at the national team level is the one exception. It brings out more passion in me than any other sport (and I know I’m not alone). With the U.S. up 1-0 at half, I must say that despite my affinity for Spanish soccer, I’m yelling ‘Go U.S.A.!’

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The Timepiece as Art

Since I have been periodically traveling to Switzerland for work the past many months I have become fascinated with watches. Switzerland is the gold standard for watchmaking, with Japan a distant second. No other country has a monopoly on displaying time like Switzerland. But it is not just my fascination with knowing what time it is constantly that has me interested in watches. Rather, I have become interested in timepieces as works of art and an everyday accessory. I almost always have my watch on, and for the past three years that watch has been a Citizen Eco Drive, a functional, yet elegant watch that has served me well. With no reliance on a battery, I have no intentions of letting go of it. But I am becoming ready for a new watch, if only to add something new to my wardrobe. The problem is that, like with so many other things out there, today’s selection of fine watches is overwhelming. My conundrum is whether I go with one of the many Swiss-made watches, and do my company’s homeland proud, or do I go with the only real competitors out there – the Japanese brands of Citizen, Seiko or Casio.

Most everyone has heard of Rolex, Omega or Tag Heuer, but not everyone has heard of other fine Swiss timepiece manufactures, such as Jaeger Le Coultre, Chopard, IWC, Hublot, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Tissot, Maurice Lacroix, Ulysse Nardin or Audemars Piguet. Each of these manufacturers is a master in its ability to craft detailed timepieces. The technology as well as the craftsmanship in today’s watches has become so advanced that it truly can be considered a work of art. These watches are not cheap either. Although fine watch stores sit on every respectable corner in Zurich or Geneva, not everyone has the money to spend thousands of dollars on a watch. And neither do I. I am looking for function and style. I want a watch that does more than tell me the time. I demand that my watch now feed me information. It’s true that many people these days can look at their smartphones for the time, weather or up-to-date news (as can I), but I still enjoy looking at my watch strapped to my wrist. In thinking about style versus function, I have even considered getting a nice G-Shock watch for my next watch, evoking memories of the two years I spent in Japan with my men’s Baby-G watch. Or, the next time I am traveling to Zurich, I could pick me up a Swiss timepiece. Then again, I have been very happy with my Citizen watch and like their new collection of timepieces. What would you do?

Vacation Days

Last week someone from my office returned from Argentina and another colleague is in Italy at the moment. Someone just flew back from Australia a few days ago. Another person in the office has a trip to the Galapagos Islands later in the summer and even others are traveling to China, the Bahamas and Croatia, all on their personal dime for vacation. Even my brother is in Brazil at the moment on vacation. My vacation plans this summer include a short trip to Washington D.C. in a few weeks. It will be enjoyable, but will hardly be the most glamorous of vacations, especially with our two young kids. Later this year we have talked about visiting the exotic locale of Utah, but nothing has been finalized.

My company offers me five weeks of vacation and I am encouraged to use it. I sometimes wish I could. I am dying to get back to Japan and visit Hong Kong and China while I’m over in that part of the world. But in reality, how much emphasis should be put on taking a vacation? Some people refuse to travel, saving money for a day when they hope they can afford to travel while others are out there traveling and making memories when they can. Opinions vary on what the best approach is. I have read that someone should take two relaxing vacations a year. It has been over a year since I have been on a non-work relaxing vacation with family or friends. My wife has not been on a vacation for even longer and the last time we traveled together has been quite a while. I am not advocating traveling when it clearly cannot be afforded, but am merely wondering why if all those around me can do it why can’t we? Should I plan something and surprise my wife for her birthday? Would she be okay with that – the fact that I spent money for vacation purposes? What would we do with the kids? I will try to come up with some ideas and will report my progress as I do so. We need some time off together and her birthday in October presents the perfect opportunity for us to do so. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Rise and Shine

I have always been a night person. I grew up that way and it’s how I am wired. But I am trying to change that little by little. I am finding that life with two kids leaves me very little time for myself. With our first child, there was a point each day that she went to sleep, leaving me and my wife time to accomplish what we needed to in the evenings together or on our own. But with two children, not to mention an increasingly busy work schedule, the time I used to have in the evening is dwindling. The need for the time, however, is not. In searching for a time for myself, I found that the only realistic time was early in the morning. I had already been waking up around 5:45 am each weekday morning to get myself ready and off to the train station to get in the office when expected, but the more I studied it, the more I realized that the early morning was the only time I had free. Besides, it was the only time of day when it was calm and quiet at home. I have read of thousands of people who swear that the key to the successes in their life is the personal time they spend each morning. They wake as early as 4:00 am to get a jump start on the day. They use the morning to plan and asses their personal goals, exercise, meditate, read, ponder or write (I woke early this morning to write some thoughts that I had been meaning to, but couldn’t find the time). Some of the most accomplished people in the world are early risers, and it would make sense that they would be. We are not all equal in life. We each have different talents, traits, skills, educations and backgrounds. The only thing that is equal across mankind is the amount of time each person has in one day. How one spends each twenty-hour period, however, varies widely. It will be a struggle for me at times as a night person, but I am starting slowly and will build day by day to waking early and enjoying my personal time prior to the chaos of each day. Once I am used to having my morning time I hope that I won’t be able to live without it. I am aware, though, that this means trying to get to sleep at a reasonable time each evening, which will also be a struggle at times. But for now I am dedicated to waking early and using the time to enrich my life.