Monday, September 29, 2008

The 13th Reality - A Great Book for Minds Young and Old

For the past several years, I have had the habit of picking up a novel to read if I am going on a long trip where I expect to have some time on my hands. If the trip involves a lot of driving, then I might get an audiobook - either instead or in addition. On our recent trip west, I picked up The 13th Reality to listen to, a book that probably fits best on the genre of young readers and science fiction. The main character is a boy named Atticus "Tick" Higginbottom, a nerd with no friends who one day receives a letter inviting him to take up a quest to help many people at the risk of great peril to his own life. What follows is a fun ride of mystery, scientific intrigue, and personal triumph. I won't spoil anything about the book, but I definitely enjoyed it, as did my daughter (though I doubt she grasped a lot of it). My wife even seemed to enjoy it, though she let me listen to parts without her and give her summaries. I would definitely consider the book a great purchase for a young teenager (probably a boy) who enjoys science or mysteries. It was clean, engaging, and fun. I thought the interactions between the main character and his father were heart-warming. I look forward to the next book, The Hunt for Dark Infinity, due out (based on the running clock on his blog at in about five months.

For the record, I picked up the book because the title sounded interesting, and I bought it because the author was from "a small town in Georgia". He doesn't live in Georgia now, but I like to support my home state authors when I can. I hope he has a bright future ahead of him.

-- Robert

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Career and a Calling - Good Advice Part V

The last professor, a more seasoned researcher, spent the first few minutes explaining to me what he had worked on in the past. After several minutes, though, he asked me what I expected to get out of a doctorate. I answered, and he looked at me for a long moment before pointing to a set of pink journals on his bookshelf.

"You see those? One in ten articles submitted actually gets printed," he let me know, looking for a reaction. "So you can work for five years on something, only to have no one read it."

I thanked him for letting me know that bit of information. I also let him know I was undaunted. We then had a wonderful exchange about my perspective on what I might accomplish versus the likely reality. Each question and answer gave me plenty of reason to reconsider my path, but each time I assured him I would not be dissuaded.

Then our conversation took a more casual turn. We talked about where he had gone to school, and I realized he was a member of my church. I had not considered it before, but with that knowledge, I felt I could share something with him I wouldn't share with just anyone.

I told him I felt called to become a professor. I knew I wanted it, but I finally felt as though it was time to do it. He understood immediately.

"As a member of the Church, saying that you feel called to something means a great deal," he agreed. He even told me something very personal about his own path to become a professor. I assured him I did not bring up my membership in the Church to influence my application in any way, but I knew it would help him understand. He definitely did. That conversation was certainly one I know I will remember for a long time. It was congenial, it was enjoyable, but most of all it was filled with the Spirit in the end - if not the entire time. I had felt it when he kept asking, and yet it hadn't occurred to me he might be feeling it to until the conversation took that last turn.

Whether or not I end up at the school I visited, I hope I can keep in touch with that professor. I think I could learn a lot from him, and I felt a kindred connection beyond the simple commonality of religion. I would love to find a new friend in him in time.

-- Robert

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Why Not Harvard - Good Advice Part IV

The fourth person I sat with focused a lot of our conversation on the need to find a good fit between my interests and the school where I begin my studies. He asked me for the list of schools where I was applying, and he focused on Harvard. He explained something another professor had said to me, only he went into greater detail.

"Don't go to Harvard," he began. "They have a great reputation as an MBA program, but they have a terrible research program."

I let him know I wanted to know more about what he meant, so he continued.

"First, their professors are just never available to students. They're working on their own consulting or they're just never there. If a student needs to ask them an important question about a project, they're just not there to ask," he went on. "They also have a habit of working their doctoral students and junior faculty very hard on business cases. The problem is, no one else considers those cases valuable, so it's not helpful to a research resume. The important thing to look at is where their students are getting hired, versus where other programs are getting their students hired. Harvard doesn't fare well."

I applied to Harvard because I wondered if I could get in, but now I feel satisfied I should not go even if they accept me. As I said, other professors have warned me of the reputation, and now I understand it more fully. I had worried about the unlikely contingency that I might get in to Harvard and my other top choice, only to find myself obligated to go to Harvard. Now I feel sure I will gladly go to my top choice without remorse, regardless of Harvard's evaluation of me.

And no, I'm not rationalizing their failure to let me in before they do it. I am truly glad to not have to worry about Harvard anymore.

-- Robert

P.S.: Tomorrow, a career and a calling.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Governance - Good Advice Part III

When I asked the second student about her dissertation, she explained that the subject fell into the area of governance. I had seen that term on several paper titles, but the academic usage had not occurred to me. It made perfect sense, once she explained it, that governance was another word for leadership. Since leadership had been the first topic of interest to me when I first thought I wanted to become a professor, I was fascinated to learn that term for it. Apparently many research papers get written on how the leaders involved in the formulation and execution of strategies impact their success. Other aspects of leadership get studied as well, but that was one subject she and I discussed.

In short, I realized I could specialize in strategy and focus on the area of governance. I could examine the qualities of leaders that correlate most strongly to well executed strategy. I could examine the importance of leadership in strategy in general. More and more ideas come to my mind, and I realize I need to look back over the articles from the most recent conference to familiarize myself with current work on governance.

-- Robert

P.S.: Tomorrow - why I should turn down Harvard.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Best Fit - Good Advice, Part II

The second person I visited was the Dean of the Business School. She spent a lot more time listening to me than talking, but she still helped me understand the nature of research. Since the student I spoke to first had told me that strategy professors often develop research without actually compiling the data, I wanted to know how that worked in practice. She explained that because a lot of data was already available, many researchers accessed it to compare and analyze companies. Still, strategy research did involve some formulation of new data at times, and it was up to each researcher to decide how a given project might be handled in that way.

She also made sure I understood the importance of choosing a school that matched my interests. I had received that advice before, but it was nice to know that the people at this school were more concerned that I choose what was best for me than trying to get me to prove my desire to go there.

I got asked that same question a lot - why research strategy if your interests were primarily in entrepreneurship? I answered consistently with the truth. I felt that the area of strategy was a good basis for a research in entrepreneurship, and most of the great minds in the field of ENT had started in strategy. I saw no conflict in my interests because the two fields have a great deal of common ground. I just want to work with the best people who will help me get a great start in my career. I have more interests than just entrepreneurship, and I want to find a school where I can learn which area would be the best for me to focus my career.

I think the Dean understood my perspective when we parted.

-- Robert

P.S.: Tomorrow: I spoke to another student who helped me understand a particular research term.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boundaries - Good Advice, Part I

In the first conversation I had with a student at the school I visited last Friday rendered a great bit of advice. I asked him to describe the workload from his first year, and subsequent years. He told me he had set ground rules for himself early on, with his wife's encouragement, that he would only work Monday - Friday until about five or six. It meant he came in early each day, but it also kept him from taking his work home. He felt that if he started taking it home in his doctoral program, he would continue doing that once he became a professor. He considered his doctoral studies the beginning of his career, rather than a transition between his past life and the career of academics. I could definitely see his point.

I hope I can manage to set those ground rules for myself - my wife and I had already discussed similar ideas of separating work and family - but I cannot say how easy that will be until I delve into the first year. Still, like with any other career, a job can take every minute a person will give it, until there is no time left for life beyond. A career in research is certainly no different. The beauty is I can define for myself how I spend my time, and when I am going to stop for a given day or a given project. Certainly I will have to meet the demands set by others, but I will largely be able to set my own schedule and path in this new life.

-- Robert

P.S.: I will be recording my thoughts from the discussions I had with the people I visited with that Friday. Each had something important to share, even if they didn't intentionally do it. It may grow boring for anyone still reading, but I wanted a record of these thoughts for myself.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Go West, Young Man

Friday, we will be heading west. Our original plan was for me to go for a long weekend to see my best friend, watch a football game with him, and visit one of the schools I've applied to, but now I will be going on with the rest of the family north from there to see family. I always love to see any of my in-laws, so it will be a good trip, but my main job will be to entertain the kids while my wife visits her father. I'll probably take them to the Planetarium, some of the malls, one of the parks in the area, and probably some other places I haven't thought of. I look forward to getting to spend so much time with my children. I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be doing while I'm gone, but from the lack of responses to many of my latest posts, the respite might be a welcome one to anyone reading. Hopefully I'll also get some time to read a book or two for pleasure. I just know I'm looking forward to the trip, even though it will involve a lot of driving and flying.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Writing On the Wall

Today's post is somewhat in response to Natasha's post. To be clear, I was not angry at her post; this is definitely not a rant at her. I just wanted to share some thoughts I've had in the past year or more about the economy.

First, based on almost any economic measure, 2006 was a better year economically than 1996. Lower unemployment, larger growth in the economy, and so forth. Yet, in 1996, the media described that year as "one of the best in decades" or "a sign that a new day is dawning in America." In 2006 they began talking about "economic downturn" or "signs of a recession." In 1996, Bill Clinton needed to get reelected. In 2006, the press was ready to start sewing the seeds that helped usher in another Clinton, or at least another Democrat.

Because so much was said about a downturn, people started buying less. A slowdown did follow, but the economy was still growing (not contracting, which is what defines a recession). Fuel prices continued to rise, and a bio fuel craze followed, throwing inflation into the mix not seen since the early 80's or even the late 70's. The consumer price index (CPI) did not reflect this true inflation, though, because it does not factor in the price of gasoline among the goods measured. Still, with the negative talk on the economy and the inflation making things cost more, the slowdown continued.

With slowdown, fewer people were buying new homes, so the housing market started to crumble. Builders had overbuilt dramatically. In 2004, though, Fannie Mae had made a big push to make loans more available, which spurred those builders to feel confident they could sell more homes. The congressmen in charge of oversight of Fannie Mae and the banking regulations turned a blind eye while loans went out that should not have. Bonuses were paid to Fannie Mae employees for production - production of loans which was either poorly generated, or actually not generated at all. Many congressmen still talk about the need to make homes more available and affordable. Well, now there are plenty to choose from...

Now, here we sit, complaining about the dire straits we're in. I've been bothered by the talk of the "writing on the wall" of a recession, which simply had no basis for many months. So the question will forever remain in my mind: was the media predicting a recession that truly was imminent, or were they creating the recession by scaring people about the economy so badly that the house of cards fell?

I know one thing: the American people will survive. People might lose jobs, stocks may plummet, and homes will get foreclosed on. Still, we will all persevere. I hope we will finally start learning from our mistakes again. I know it sounds terrible, harsh, cruel and mean, but I really wish we would let the people who have these horrible failures actually fail, so next time they can remember and avoid the pitfall. Bailing out should be for sinking boats, not corporations, banking institutions, or even social programs that are underfunded.

-- Robert

P.S.: I didn't even get into the bad wrap that adjustable rate mortgages got in all these problems. I wrote a post about that here and here, though. They can actually be a good instrument, if used properly to gain more equity. The people complaining about them either didn't understand that or made no effort to do what they needed to make proper use of the lower interest rate period.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I'm not sure I have ever experienced what happened to me Sunday night/Monday morning. I had a dream "sequel" of sorts. I have had many vivid dreams over the years, some so lifelike that I woke up and looked around expecting to still be in that world. The most common way I know (while still in the dream) that I am dreaming is when I begin flying. But none of the flying dreams have ever seemed sequential. I've also had a dream about waking up on the day of a final without having been to the class or ever studied at all - my Dad warned me about that when I was pretty young and I was glad to remember his story when it happened to me.

The dream I had on Sunday was different, though. I could tell that a dream I'd had before was somehow connected. Within the dream, someone said something that made my dreaming mind recall the earlier dream. It was utterly bizarre. That's the only way I can describe the disorientation I felt as I was able to remember the dream within my dream, and remember both as I woke up. Of course I didn't take the time to write down both dreams right away, and thus I have this rambling diatribe that makes no sense to anyone but me, I'm sure. Still, I wanted to make a note here, in case it ever happened again, or in case I figured out some deeper meaning from the two dreams. For now, I'm heading to bed, wondering if I'll be dreamweaving again.

-- Robert

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teatro - Some Very Talented Singers

The other day, I was listening to a YouTube video of Phantom of the Opera, specifically the song "Music of the Night" when another video showed up. I had never heard of Teatro before, but I was very impressed. Each of the men in the group has an extensive resume in musical theater, and they were brought together to form the first theatrical "group" (though the producer apparently had the Four Tenors in mind more than the Backstreet Boys). After hearing how well these four men sang one of my favorite songs together, I felt like going to buy their CD. Unfortunately, it is not available in the US. It's crazy to me that I can listen to their CD samples and watch their music video, and yet I can't purchase it even as a download off iTunes.

So here's hoping I can get a lot of bloggers to start a groundswell to get them over here so their CD will be available. I know I would rather listen to them than about half of what is on the radio today. For now, I'll have to make due with the samples off their site.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Completed Applications

Wow, I must say it's freeing in some sense to know I have completed all my applications. In the last week, I was holding off on submitting two that were done for no particular reason. I had three others I was waiting to see when they would open up to fill out. Each of the three came open on different days, I and knocked them out one by one. The last one appeared to have opened first, but it was misleading because they opened an application to terms that were already in progress instead of future years. The future years finally opened up some time yesterday, so I logged in and actually had all but a small part filled out in under sixteen minutes. I know because when I logged in, I got a warning that maintenance was due in sixteen minutes, and I was ready to submit except for two things when I saved it and saw the maintenance had begun. An hour later I was able to complete those other two things and submit it - my final application. I wrote thank you letters to each of my recommenders, and I also let them know they didn't need to expect any more recommendations. I still need to do something about one recommendation that had a peculiar requirement, but basically everything I have to do is complete and only one professor needs to submit his letters of recommendation to the various schools I asked him to submit to. He has plenty of time to send them, though, so I'm not worried.

Now we just get to wait and see where I get in.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


In writing my applications for school, I have had the chance to remember something I used to be fairly involved in: Toastmasters. I often find myself using the techniques I learned to evaluate and improve myself, and I suggest it to anyone who has a fear of public speaking. It's even great for people who just want to get better. What is Toastmasters, though?

Toastmasters International, as the name indicates, is a worldwide organization that was created to help people communicate more effectively. The primary focus is to help with public speaking, but it can help improve general skills along the way. Below is a post I wrote on Natasha's blog about a typical club meeting:

A typical Toastmasters club meets once a week. Each week's meeting should include a portion where someone has the job of asking anyone (though those assigned to give speeches might be left out) questions that they then get to respond to in a minute and a half. The goal there is to help people 1) think well on their feet and 2) answer questions in succinct sound-bytes. It also warms up the crowd. I forget what that portion of the meeting is called, but it's often the most fun simply because anyone can be involved and the questions and answers can be funny or interesting.
The next part of the meeting two or three speakers will give speeches that were assigned or that they agreed to give, but the subject matter is up to them. They just have to meet the criteria of the speech they are giving - there are ten in the beginner's manual. The first is basically just get on your feet and tell about yourself. Each lesson after that tries to help people develop more skills as a speaker by incorporating more into what is required. One speech requires people to do something to teach people, another requires visual aids, and so on. The tenth speech incorporates a lot of requirements, and when that is completed, a person is certified as a Competent Toastmaster. After that, there are manuals to choose from that a person can choose to develop particular skills - such as speaking with the use of a projector or something like that. It's a great program. Early speeches are generally 5-7 minutes, later ones might run 12-15. One of the best things I learned from Toastmasters is how to run an efficient meeting and how to plan an agenda.
And here's the neat part. Every speaker has someone assigned to critique the speech, and everyone else fills out a written critique (generally just a few comments). The assigned person to give the critique stands up and tells everyone what went well, what could be improved, and the general feeling of how well or poorly the speech went. Early speakers are to be treated with kid gloves unless they ask, while later speakers should be ready for more specific things they can improve. By getting feedback, a person might realize he waves his hands in a meaningless way, or that he stands too still. He might find out he should slow down or speed up. Read less, emote more. Those sorts of things can come out in a critique, and I have watched the most terrified speakers become quite accomplished thanks to this program. I was a seasoned speaker by the time I started the first club, but I still learned a lot. The critiques each last about two minutes.
Three more assignments in the meeting: an "ah/umm" counter, meeting coordinator, and meeting evaluator. The umm counter might use a clicker (like some clerks use to count attendance in Sacrament) and the noise of that clicker can often help a speaker stop right away. Every speaker (even the ones who answer questions off the cuff) should be counted so he can learn to quit using fill words like that. The meeting coordinator has the job of introducing all the different speakers and evaluators, as well as the person in charge of the questions, much like the counselor in charge of conducting sacrament or any other meeting might. The meeting evaluator has the job of evaluating the entire meeting - how well was the agenda managed, a comment or two on speakers or on how well the Q&A session went, and a comment on the evaluators. The idea is to create an environment where everyone can learn and everyone can teach in a great big feedback loop.

So here's what a typical agenda would look like:
I. Open the meeting (just a few words of welcome, 2-3 minutes)
II. Question session (12-15 minutes, depending on the size of club, generally 10 questions is good)
III. First speaker 5-7 minutes
IV. Second Speaker 5-7 minutesV. Evaluator I 2 minutes
VI. Evaluator II 2 minutes
VII. Ah counter presents numbers 2 minutes
VIII. Meeting evaluator 2-5 minutes

Total time - 35-45 minutes, roughly. Some time to socialize at the end is good, just so the meeting isn't completely formal, and so members can get to know each other. Refreshments can be brought in, and sometimes they are available at the beginning, but they tend to be a distraction so they are often held to the end. Some clubs have none (my first didn't because the library didn't allow them, my second and third often had pizza to get students to come who might claim they couldn't manage to come unless there was food).

I'm amazed how much I remember, considering I haven't had a meeting in five and a half years (or close to that long). The manuals are all excellent teaching tools and they come with the dues paid to Toastmasters International, which are quite reasonable. Local clubs generally have minimal dues unless they choose to have them for advertising the club or sharing the cost of food. My first club had no local dues while my second had some to help pay for the cost of advertising to the campus in future years. I would recommend having some local dues because my third club is still alive, while my first club is long gone (they disbanded when I went back to school). A club needs new members to stay fresh. Holding a quarterly open house of sorts is a great way to do that, I imagine, but I've never been in a club long-term to have to manage those things.

Right now I'm sure you're thinking "I wish I hadn't asked." Sorry for the long-winded response. I love Toastmasters.

-- Robert
P.S.: I generally try to avoid "second person" writing in my posts, but I didn't have the time to re-write the comment without it. Also, thanks to co-author Todd, I was reminded that the Q&A session is called "Table Topics." Generally there's a theme to those, which I also forgot to mention.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

... When You're Busy Making Other Plans

Yes, life is what happens. Each day brings a new challenge, a new joy, a new tragedy, a new discovery... or at least a new sunrise and sunset. No matter what is on the horizon, life must be met in the moment, where we are. In other words, diapers need to be changed, food must be prepared, rest must be found, and clothes need to be washed as those needs arise.

What boring thing to blog about, right?

Unfortunately, life can seem boring compared to big dreams - even an awful television show can seem more interesting that day to day life sometimes. Yet what do I miss if I leave my head in the clouds? I would miss the wonder in my son's eyes over something as simple as a popsicle. I might not feel the joy of seeing my children run to me when I come home each day. I would forget how blessed I am to have my wife with me every day.

Randy Pausch pointed it out best when he said we only get one chance to live each day. There's no rewind and no reset button. So while I sit here, realizing I had nothing new or profound to write about today, I realized that might be what matters most - here and now.

-- Robert

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why Do You Need To Know?

I have now filled out, in part or in total, ten different applications. I have decided not to finish three of them for various reasons, so in the end I will be applying to seven schools for my doctorate. I have not found the part on any form where I get to ask "why do you need to know?"

Yes, I'm being silly, I realize, but there are some truly strange questions on some of these applications. I fail to see why any answer should affect the quality of my application, so I wonder why a school would ask.

Joking aside, I have genuinely enjoyed most of the applications. I think each school I have decided to send an application to has made a genuine effort to get to know me through what I can say about myself or through those who would recommend me. They offer various ways to explain my research interests, my education, my work life, and my extracurricular activities. I can imagine the process of sifting through hundreds of these applications can become somewhat tiresome, but it would be interesting to read the essays. I got to read some of the applications by undergraduates to the leadership program I worked with in grad school, and I was amazed by the variety and the quality of people so young. I can only imagine what doctoral applications would bring.

Here's hoping mine somehow rise above the fray.

-- Robert

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Suggestion Box

I must first give the credit for this post to Natasha for her post about an online store. She suggested that the site offer a place where customers could design their own product (in this case, clothing) so they could have something they wanted without necessarily having to learn the skills necessary to create it. Basically, she described what I would call a virtual suggestion box.

One of the ideas I have found quite cool, for lack of a more articulate term, about the entrepreneurial orientation research I've been reading is that it mentions how companies can utilize their customers ideas to be more entrepreneurial. Many companies have surveys, others have suggestion boxes near the entrances or exits, and some allow customers to customize or personalize their purchases for a fee. Harnessing the creative power among customers could truly help a lot of businesses increase sales, improve profitability, and raise customer satisfaction. The virtual design center at provides a great example of how companies can help customers visualize their design of a room. Certainly clothing companies could hire some programmers to develop an interface that allows consumers to start from a basic idea (some outfit already on the market, perhaps) and input a few measurements to help with appropriate fitting. Then they could adjust certain areas of the outfit (e.g., add more material to the sleeve, lengthen the bottom of a shirt, or fluff out a pant leg) to make it more personal and (ideally) more satisfying as a purchase. How many women go shopping for hours to find one or two perfect outfits? I can imagine them spending those hours designing dozens of them instead. With an ensemble function, they could design all the pieces of a whole outfit. They could even accessorize right there online, all while sitting in their comfy sweats at home. Just imagine the new meaning of a day of shopping with girlfriends. They all gather at one house, let the kids play together and then surf the web together designing clothes.

In fact, I am guessing this idea is far too brilliant to not at least be in the works. If I were more interested in clothing, I might spend some time surfing clothing designers' websites looking for such a feature. Instead, I want to simply put the idea out there, admire the brilliance of it (it wasn't my idea, after all), and maybe after I've spent some time in a doctoral program, I could even research the companies that decide to take the suggestion to see whether they are, in fact, more profitable as a result. I suppose this could be my first "experiment" as a researcher.

-- Robert

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Social Science

This weekend, my wife and I spent hours with my cousin discussing elements of politics, science, ideology, mathematics, semantics, economics, and a few other long words I don't feel like typing out right now. The conversations were engaging, and perhaps even heated at times, but most of all they were enlightening. I got to hear the perspectives of two intelligent people I respect, and I realized how little the average person respects (let alone likes) economics.

Economics serves as a bedrock of many other social sciences. The interaction of supply and demand curves is used to explain marketing, research and development, finance, and so many other fields. I still love to recall the lectures of my graduate professor who could explain why people want to be underpaid, why companies would pay more to sell a product for less, and other such seemingly ridiculous suppositions. I'm not even going for the truly outlandish ones there, either. Yet when those concepts are explained using economics, they each make a lot of sense. My undergraduate professor had a great way to explain the law of diminishing return of investment - one piece of apple pie may be wonderful, but the fifth piece makes a person never want to see apple pie again. Those two men did wonders to help me appreciate their field, and I have tried (often futilely) to share what I learned with many I have come in contact with.

I know economics does not explain everything in life. I know that not every decision can be explained by economics (though some economics professors may try). I simply value the light economics can shed on many decisions people make in their everyday lives. Dr. Randy Pausch, for instance, explained the reason there were few great doctors in the field of cancer research focused on pancreatic cancer - there was no many to perform the research. Sure, everyone would love to find a cure to that horrible disease, but without the funding it is hard to attract enough people to do it. The medical field in general has a shortage of doctors - especially in fields that do not pay as much as surgery, for instance. Do people not want to be doctors anymore? Sure they do, but with the extreme cost of going through school, along with the time spent not earning a paycheck, it becomes difficult for many people to justify the sacrifice. Reduce the cost, shorten the time commitment, or increase the payout and more people will enter the field. That's what economics demonstrates.

I understand, though. Lock three economists in a room with the assignment to define "value" or even "money" and they'll run out of oxygen before they agree on anything. Economics is not an exact science - it is a social science. It has a lot of room for interpretation. It also has a lot of value for interpreting, though, too. I just wish I knew how to help other people see how.

-- Robert

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gustav - Watching from Afar

I remember watching the approach of Katrina three years ago. The mayor of New Orleans stood at the microphone and told people not to worry, the city was safe. He even went so far as to tell them not to leave their homes. I remember screaming at the television, "Don't listen to him! He's going to get you killed!"

Watching the same mayor with a completely different attitude this weekend warmed my heart a bit. I am thankful Gustav was nowhere near as dangerous. I am also thankful people listened and left this time. I saw first hand the devastation Katrina caused in Waveland and Gulfport, MS, and I worried when I saw where Gustav was headed, with so many of the same warning signs. I still wouldn't have wanted to be in New Orleans for a Category 2, since my family sat through Hurricane Charley in Daytona Beach as a Category 1. The wind howled and the rain pounded the building. The hotel swayed so much that we could watch water run in and out of the toilet. That was enough for me never to want to be in a hurricane again.

So today I am thankful that the dangers were averted. I was even more thankful people learned. I will continue to pray for the swift recovery for all those in the path of these terrible storms. The season is certainly far from over.

-- Robert