Sunday, December 6, 2009

Great Ride Will!!

If you've been reading this BLOG for a year, you will recall the brief period where I behaved as if I was Will Frishkorn's Charleston based press agent.

Thought you might like to check his status.

I ran into a friend of mine in the last few months and his 15-16 year old son is a talented young rider. His Dad was telling me that he just wanted to be like Will Frischkorn. proof that your contribution has been deeper than you may realize! Great job and keep it up!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

United Breaks Guitars

This proves there is a constructive use of YouTube . . .

A musician named Dave Carroll recently had difficulty with United Airlines. United apparently damaged his treasured Taylor guitar during a flight. Dave spent over 9 months trying to get United to pay for damages caused by baggage handlers to his custom Taylor guitar. During his final exchange with the United Customer Relations Manager, he stated that he was left with no choice other than to create a music video for youtube exposing their lack of cooperation. The Manager responded : "Good luck with that one, pal".

So he posted a retaliatory video on you tube. The video has since received over 6.5 million hits. United Airlines contacted the musician and attempted settlement in exchange for pulling the video. Naturally his response was: "Good luck with that one, pal".

Taylor Guitars sent the musician 2 new custom guitars in appreciation for the product recognition from the video that has lead to a sharp increase in orders.

Here's the video .............

Thanks friend Ralph for sharing.

And Now Onto Solutions

(Photo Frank Gehry)'ve created your program of requirements....and it is marked "draft...for discussion purposes only"...but you have begun to connect the left brain to the right brain and...of your thoughts (and feelings) into a text document which at least makes your conversation with your project delivery folks more meaningful.

I'd like to keep this all simple and arm you with some trade can at least act like you know what you are doing along the line of "fake it til you make it".

So...imagine that you have gone directly to an architect...that's a traditional step. You give your draft of your Program of Requirements to him/her (we'll use him but not trying to make any gender distinctions...ok) and he is already sensing he has a more advanced student/client. You ask for some solutions...or some feedback...or both. Assuming the architect sees some potential with you and or the project, then they will perhaps sketch some elevations and floor plans. They may want some limited compensation and of course this depends about the scope....i.e. adding a bedroom to your house or creating a new office building for your 200 person firm.

This phase of design is referred to as the conceptual stage.

From this exercise you will likely learn:

1) Project is not feasible. Time to be thinking about other alternatives (hopefully you have already done so).

2) We're onto something...but can we do it for the dollars we have in our program? Or can we change this or delete that???? Your on the path.

3) Or...slam dunk....this is exactly what I wanted!

(Option 3 is highly unlikely...but it could happen...particularly if you have a lot of money....I've had hmmm about one client like that out of say 500!) Significantly you will also get a good sense if the architect is someone you can work with....but please....don't confuse bed side manners with skills and abilities. do you check skills and abilities...well....get a list of ALL of the projects the architect has been involved in for the past say year. Make the calls. Your time will be well spent.....Ask questions...probe..take notes. You'll be glad you did.

So many people hire architects because they have great people skills and can sketch like a wild creative....(very right brain yes). But please.....we need some serious left brain at the table. If it is not all available in one package....which it probably is not....then wait for the next post and we'll add another leg to the stool.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ready Fire Aim

I used to have a printout of a saying I heard by some YPO speaker printed on the wall of my office at Pray Construction Company and it read "Lack of Planning on your Part Does Not Constitute a Crisis on my Part". Since I've moved on in my career, I'm not sure if in fact that is the case.....meaning that the lacking of planning...while I'd like to disclaim responsibility...the result may fall in my lap...I'm sure you get the drift.

If you are anticipating a project that involves construction which inevitably involves a sizable outlay of your capital and which will drag you into the mysterious world of those that "deliver" projects...either architects or yourself a favor....create a text document and call it the Program of Requirements. This is essentially what you want to accomplish with your "capital project". Avoid gong down the path of "solutions" at the moment... (solutions are designs or drawings that actually indicate how to accomplish your "program").

Now your program will include things like adjacency's, activities to be accomplished (ok...just say sleeping), finishes, special equipment, any issues with accessibility (please...if you are doing a residence....take it from me, a wheelchair is not out of the question), natural light, acoustic separation, safety, site considerations (i.e. parking/landscaping/irrigation)...the list goes on.

So....once you have put your program together (by the much you want to invest/spend is part of the program as is the time for execution), you will be much better prepared to evaluate the design solutions.

Now...your program will morph as you learn more or more is revealed as your are educated, but you will be on your way to a well executed project. Recall....starting does not necessarily directly correlate to finishing. Know what I mean??? Plan/plan/plan and then execute. This is a strategy and one I utilize on all my works but I know....we just want to get started...OK...don't blame me!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Free Gift to Readers from Adizes...

We would also like to offer your readers a free gift, which is the popular Adizes video, entitled “What is a leader” Please take a look at this link and add it to the end of your post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Guest BLOG from Ichak Adizes

The following post is from the BLOG of Ichak Adizes chairman of the Adizes Institute. For years I thought my customers really missed the boat on the concept of expressing gratitude. I just thought the expression of gratitude would have been a behaviour that would have gotten a lot more out of me and my team

Glad Ichak put it in this perspective....somehow validates my thinking. (By the way, I'm getting ready to attend a course at the Institute in November which will be very exciting).
I have heard a great lecture by Dr. Douglas Lisle, an evolutionary psychologist who is also training to become an Adizes Adjunct Associate. It was about “Stone Age money” and how it impacts our behavior today.

The lecture gave me some insights I want to share with you.

In the Stone Age, and for a long time thereafter, there was no money or any other means of exchange for barter. So if I did something for you, how would you pay me back? With gratitude, a sense of “I owe you”, and I would expect you to reciprocate.

Those who did most for the village-who hunted the best, and thus fed the village-got the most recognition and became chiefs, or something similar.

This went on for thousands of years. The result is that we have developed this “chip” in our heads, a storage mechanism like a bank account, to receive, store, and pay gratitude.

We need gratitude. Period. It is deep in our subconscious.

Now, what does this need for gratitude mean for management?

It means that merely getting paid for work is not enough. If you just got paid, but the paying party did not show gratitude, you would feel as if you did not get paid at all. You would feel like a prostitute.

Whoa! This was news to me. How often do people say: “You got paid, so what are you complaining about?”

The highest rate of suicide among the medical professionals is among dentists. They get paid in money only; no gratitude for drilling into your teeth.

The highest rate of turnover in the human services industry is among consultants. They just get paid money. No gratitude. Thus, when the question is asked, “what is the oldest profession?” the answer is not always prostitution. Often the answer is consulting.

Hello managers. Wake up. If you only pay your workers money and fringe benefits, you did not pay them in “Stone Age money” and they feel gratitude deficient. Not strange that they are not cooperative. Their deepest need-something that developed and was nurtured for thousands of years-is not getting fulfilled. This can sometimes produce dysfunctional repercussions for the companies we manage manifested in lower morale and productivity.

Always say “thank you,” your mother told you. Listen to your mother, and don’t stop listening for ever.


Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Public Health...Part 3

Laura..Dave...Michele...Tom in corridor in St. Vincents...on the way home.

OK….now where were we……Started out reflecting on my experiences involved with public health care….see the previous two entries. Now….would I have rather been home, in America. No question. Did it really matter that much to me what the expense was? Not really. The way our system works is that the expense….let’s project that it would have been easily $175,000 not $21,000…is an issue for the insurance company to absorb.

But, obviously, society ends up paying this price. In England and Ireland, everyone gets health care and clearly this has something to do with this delta. There are differences in the systems…which I got from my roomies. For a lot of procedures and tests, you have to wait and this can be for some time. The facility worked, but I wonder if Americans can ever get used to a six bed ward. Now, I liked it because I’m interested in people and…as I was sort of the sickest guy on the block, they all looked over me. This is not a bad thing and there was a sense of community that was established. I don’t think the public health system cares too much about who you are and/or how much money you have. So….it’s hard to jump rank. I’m not sure how I’d like that on a long term basis but I hope I could successfully adapt…particularly if it meant that everyone in my community (define community however you wish) had coverage.

Enough….on to the next chapter. We were flying Delta and were in business class. When we arrived at the airport…recall it is December 24, our plane was delayed. Anxiety began creeping in. We were flying to Atlanta and only had about 2 hours to clear customs and catch our plane. We finally got airborne. At this point, I was only living with about 5 feet of small bowel. What that means, functionally, is that I had a very difficult time staying hydrated. I’d drink quarts…literally…of sports drink and had to force drinking. While I was hospitalized, I was being given a drug called Sandostatin. This drug is injected subcutaneously in your stomach twice a day and helps with the absorption. Eventually, Laura and some nurse and doctor friends would come to the house and do this (I was too wimpy to learn how to do it). Looking back, they should have coached Laura and sent us out of the hospital with this drug and equipment. The upshot of this all was I got really dehydrated on the plane.

I’m guessing this was likely the second most stressful day for Laura. She was on the verge of crying a good bit. This was tough. We finally landed in Atlanta and had maybe 45 minutes to make the connection. The airport is loaded…Christmas traffic and bad weather. I get seated in a safe place and Laura goes hunting for help. I think she breaks down and a Delta supervisor (angel) takes over. We abandon the customs deal…the bags can just catch up. She gets a golf cart, puts me on it, and before we know it, we are on the tarmac (!!!) driving to the gate…the only way she could figure out to make this work. The plane to Charleston is slightly delayed. We make the connection!!!!!

Now…this is small commuter plane. I’m really fading…but finally we land. They get us off the plane. We have several folks waiting for us…but the only one I really recall was my precious son Josh. I fell into his embrace in the airport. Man….clearly one of the most touching memorable moments in my life.

Down to CAMC General we go. There is very little activity Christmas Eve in a hospital. My great friend Dr. Dave Seidler is there to make this all go quickly. Up we go…private room. They bring in the scales…I’m down to 141 pounds (from 170). I get hooked up to an IV and they run 2 bags thru me. I get the other drugs start flowing…..Laura and Josh make it home and she gets some Granny juice going (this is what granddaughter Zoe calls wine).

I got to admit…this all felt like the Four Seasons. Private room, special attention from the medical staff, family and friends nearby, and TV!!

I sent a letter eventually to Delta. If we had not made that connection, I would have had to go to an ER in Atlanta. I’m sure we would have made it but that was one chapter I did not need to write, if you know what I mean. Our love and eternal thanks to that Delta supervisor.

It’s been interesting to me sort of semi-publically reliving this experience. I’m guessing there is some sort of closure happening. Isn’t the whole new media thing interesting?

There are so many people that helped us. You know who you are or maybe you don’t but thank you! We’ll never forget you.

I eventually end up in the Cleveland Clinic. If I have the energy...I may write that chapter one day. Thanks for reading and for the many off-line comments. Bottom line...somehow....we need health care for all.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Public Health Care.....Part 2

This photo is taken the day before I leave for America! Happy!!! where were we??.....OK....St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. I'm fresh out of the ICU where I've been for the last 24 hours after life saving surgery. Big point....I was not at all aware that I came that close to dying....didn't get it. About 3 years prior I'd been in a very bad bike wreck that sent me to the hospital for two weeks. You might say I am experienced and I inaccurately equated the two events I guess. Laura on the other hand, had been told...point blank....50/50 if I was coming out of surgery alive. So...the trauma experience was not really pointed in my direction.

Back to health, the hospital does not have room for me in post surgical care, so I go to the lowest level of care. I show up in a six bed ward...meaning one room...six beds....very simple cloth screen that is occasionally pulled between the beds. Camp like....but with sick folks. I'm unique...i.e. non a bit of a celebrity but really not much.

When I show up, I'm basically telling Laura to get me out of here....just what she needed. I was honestly scared. I was not at all sure they would take care of me. It was so different than my previous experiences. We were all equals and there was no pulling rank. I had a good friend that is a prominent citizen in Ireland and the care is all equal. There are private hospitals that I guess are better looking, privacy, food...but the good docs are here and that's what I need. So I'm here...with my roomies. No TV...all pretty basic.

Here are some bullet points...Roomies....James...age 75....3 packs a day..dying....a wonderful man. An obsessive compulsive character...washes his hands like 15 times a day...had some medical issues but I think it was mostly mental.....a fellow that was there I think because he needed a good meal and a was like that...he'd go outside to smoke and then one day just walked out.....methadone addict in bed 5......would get VERY cranky if the drugs were not there ON TIME....and a teenager that had very serious kidney problems...a good guy...there were others that came and went. James and I were the old timers. Now I know this would be a BIG ISSUE for a lot of my friends. Honestly, it was all quite entertaining. It was way easier for the nurses and we sort of looked out for one another....or the other roomies did for me as I was the scary sick one.

I'm focused.....if I'm coming out of this...I need to step up and do it. Be a big boy and I think that mind set is important. I really think you need to...if you strong...and I think that singular mind set helps with all the other "stuff" that might be a distraction if you allow it to be.

The facility was just older. Checkout the beds in the photos. There was a pretty good range of skill with the nurses. the day nurses were frankly just great. Felicity, Candy, Penny.....Irish....good looking (sorry...sexist pig present) and kind. I had so many tubes coming in and out of me...I'm not kidding. My abdomen had been opened up...just had to count the sutures...55 and staples. For a few days this would cramp and it was very painful. I had tubes in my nose into my pissed one night and pulled em' out. Bad move cause they came and stuck back in.

The night nurses were not as skilled....not as well payed I think...not always Irish...there were plenty of Africans around which was OK but they were just not quite as well educated. I was scared at night early on.

The big time docs are not addressed as "Doctor Smith" they are called "Mister Smith" the Misters were a pretty sharp crowd. I was in the unusual position of being an interesting case, so all the big boys stayed in touch. I think I received very good care. I was being anti-coagulated and pumped with expensive antibiotics. There were a few tests too that were happening and there was no communication about letting me out. Christmas was coming and I wanted out....So Christmas is on like a Friday...on Monday I tell Laura....either we get out this week or I'm leaving. Hmmmm.

Well.....and god bless David Seidler my good friend and the Director of Emergency Services at CAMC....Dave worked out a transfer...they would not release me but they would transfer me...Once I agreed to pay 'em and my "Mister" agrees to let me go.

My physician shows up like Tuesday night. It's pretty 7:00 pm. Dark. He is by himself, which is unusual this is a teaching facility...he usually has a team with him. Solo.....he says I can go home....and then he more or less apologizes. Says he almost missed the diagnosis and was afraid that it was too late when it dawned on him what was going on. Can you imagine that very human thing happening in America? He talked to me all about the surgery...felt he had lost me...and I'm there reassuring him...until he left and then I quietly all came home that night...or at least most of it. Baby......

The deal with the $$$$ was becoming sort of a deal. As I was not an Irish citizen, I needed to pay for the work, and they wanted the payment before I left (they didn't know I already had a jail break roomies were going to show the way) Blue Cross was helpful but they really didn't care if I made it home for Christmas or not. But we worked it agreed to pay for ER...emergency surgery...tons of for 17 nights...etc. etc.....and the grand total is.....$21,000. No...not $210,000....$21,000.

You know......that is just so much less than care would have been in America. I still can't believe it. While this setup worked just fine for me I think a lot of Americans would not have liked this at all. There was a TV room where...once I could walk...I would go and guessed it..ER with the nurses...really.

I don't think Docs and Nurses made as much as they do here....relatively...but that's just a guess. But a big step in this direction just might make some sense and get a ton more care spread around.

So......the next stop was Delta airlines...then on to CAMC and then on to The Cleveland stay tuned.....and please...take care of yourself! Believe me...the story on the the flight home is worth checking back for.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Experience With Public Health Care

In December, 2004 Laura and I traveled to Ireland to visit a variety of friends we knew from school and business. First stop…Dublin. We are pretty experienced travelers and Laura in fact was very active in an Irish business for about 15 years… we have flown a good bit and understand and have plenty of experience with jet lag…let’s face it…we’re talking Ireland…not Asia or Australia! So…when I got off the plane and didn’t feel quite right…well I was a bit concerned.

We were off the plane by 7:00 am….I was in the emergency room (A&E for Accident and Emergency) by 4:00 pm. My abdominal pain was a 9 on a scale of 1-10. The A&E was incredibly busy and I was in bad shape. They put me on some good drugs and I recall a close call when my blood pressure dropped down to 70 over 40 (“Come on David…stay with me…you can do it”…says the head doc into my ear).

Well….they don’t do anything except observe me over the night after I almost go into shock…keep me on morphine and run the experts in and out. Luckily…I’m in a teaching hospital. The pain does not subside. I’m in a total haze around 10:00 am and recall going into surgery and saying goodbye to Laura….this is all surreal but I’m aware I’m in tough territory. I’m sort of aware this may be it…but I’m detached…almost out of body. They waive signing the releases….”We don’t have time!”

I go to sleep………

And wake up…. “David…David…a young doctor is whispering in my ear. You are in intensive care and you will be OK. You really gave us a scare…..but you are OK.”

Now…I can’t really move. I’m in close quarters and the ICU has quite a few folks around me…I mean patients and staff.

“We had to remove about half of your small intestines and you now have two pouches on your abdomen. This should be temporary. Ah…but your brave!” (recall…Ireland…super macho). I had an infarcted bowel . 73 percent of the folks that have this condition die. Very tough diagnosis.

Man….wow! Whew…..too much. Five years later and I can’t really believe it.

The ICU is quite different. The deal is I have my own nurse and she attends to me and when there is nothing to do, she sits at the foot of my bed. I’m on morphine so this is all quite blurry. I get it that there are some folks nearby not as lucky and there is death in the air…close by…literally.

But I’m alive…in Dublin….and about to go into their public system for the next 17 nights. More to follow……..

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Individual Responsibility in Health Care Reform

I’m more than a little disappointed in President Obama’s progress to date. While he’s busy assuring everyone in the United Nations that there is a new sheriff in town…which I don’t imagine caught anyone off guard.....the time for looking backwards is over…period…end of story.

But what I really wanted to talk about is health care. Having spent 17 days in Dublin in 2004 in a 6- bed ward after life saving surgery…I suppose I could compare and contrast what amounted to 45 days in skilled medical care facilities (St. Vincents/CAMC/Cleveland Clinic) and discuss the pros and cons of the 2 systems….but I have something else rolling around.

Individual Responsibility

As in not smoking….as in controlling your weight…as in taking your medications….as in pushing back from the computer screen and saying hello to the great outdoors.

The point in this mini rant is I had the mistaken impression that Barrack Obama would lead the masses to the figurative moon aka JFK. Does anyone recall the President’s Council on Fitness….and the 50 and 400 yard dash/run? I recall it was like 2 years before I could squeeze out one chin up and I finally got to 4 at age lets’ say 9.

We need a different health care system. I’m a believer. And I can subscribe to a certain amount of blind faith…..but I can only do so if the leadership of health care reform starts talking about this being a partnership and not an entitlement.

Am I out in left field? Feel free to comment.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Faulty Grammar May Have Lost Tax Court Case

(Re-printed from Gibbon's and Kawash's Fall Newsletter.) Do the abbreviations "i.e." and "e.g." confuse you? Are you unsure of which one to use?
A recent tax case required the court to deliver a grammar lesson.
First, a little background on the tax issue involved in the case (Laura Seidel v. Commisioner, CA-9, 2009-1 USTC 50,370 April 28, 2009)
Compensation received from physical injury is generally excluded from income. However, emotional trauma is not considered a physical injury. So payments received for emotional distress are fully taxable.
In a settlement with her former employer, Laura Seidel received $157,000. The settlement agreement described the payments as being for "personal injury (i.e. emotional distress) damages only."
The case originally went before the Tax Court in 2007. All of the parties-the Court, Seidel and the IRS-focused attention on the "i.e.".
Seidel argued that emotional distress was an example of the type of injuries she had received. The IRS argued that "i.e." is a limiting phrase that should be read to mean that emotional distress was the only type of personal injury being compensated by the payment.
The tax court observed that "i.e." is an abbreviation for a Latin phrase id est, which roughly means "that is" or "that is to say". Accordingly, the court agreed with the IRS.
Now the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has upheld the Tax Court. Interestingly, the higher court did not comment on the Tax Court's grammar skills. The appellate court simply upheld the Tax Court's decision in an unpublished opinion.
Note that Seidel might have fared better if the settlement agreement had used "e.g." instead of "i.e.". Both are abbreviations for Latin terms. However, "e.g." stands for exempli gratia which means "for example".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Spirit of the Valley

Last Wednesday was the YMCA’s Spirit of the Valley Luncheon. I was the chairman of this year’s event which honored my father-in-law Charlie Jones. This was a special personal opportunity for me and it stimulated a lot of reflection on my behalf about Charlie (who I’ve known quite well since 1970 and knew casually before that) and my experience with the YMCA. This BLOG entry is about reflections on the YMCA and more broadly, the concept of volunteerism.

In the very early 1980’s…I think basically when I turned 30, I decided I had best start spending a bit of attention on my personal fitness which one could argue has become a lifelong obsession. So, I signed up for a co-ed fitness class and would go to the Y a few times a week. During this matt class, John Wells Jr. and I became acquainted. At some point in time, he asked me if I would consider joining the Board of Directors. I really hadn’t done much community service work since high school and zero community leadership work. I was honored and flattered and accepted.

I was born in upstate New York and met my wife Laura at the Lawrenceville School (which is where I met Charlie), in New Jersey. I was an import to Charleston and I was amazed at how easy it was to get involved in the community. I recall telling friends…most of whom lived elsewhere…how cool Charleston was. Yeah…they just get you involved and welcome your involvement. Anyway….I was impressed. As I became more involved, Charlie offered me a warning…be careful…the non-profits can suck up all your time.

I listened to that advice and decided I would not spread myself too thin…but would attempt to work diligently at any position I accepted or task assigned. Along the way, I bumped into several folks that were on many boards. Many of these people that were simply adding to the curriculum vitae were undependable. A lot of these folks had been encouraged by their employers to seek board positions. One of the problems though was they forgot to tell them to work! Now…I know I set the bar high and my expectations for performance are perhaps a bit steep…but I bet you can relate to what I’m sharing.

Anyway…….I worked diligently at the YMCA and ran the facility (from a board perspective) while John Wells Jr. headed the pool campaign. We worked through many tough issues together and this was all a great experience. The point of all of this is that this work I did…while it did in fact benefit the Y and in turn the community…it was really self centered. I was the winner in all of this and continue to be.

Don’t miss the opportunity to get involved and do a good job. You’ll get it all back in spades.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Knife to a Gun Fight

I offer a service known as owner's representation. A friend/professional acquaintance of mine also offers this service albeit in another marketplace. He recently published a post that described this service in his newsletter and the title of the post was "Don't Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight". The implication to me is...of are about to go into construction...huh? Well get ready for a battle.
Honestly, that has not been my experience. I'm not sure how many projects I've been somehow involved in...let's say 500.....or that value...easily $500,000,000 and sure...I've been in a few disputes.....but really an amazingly few.
As a contractor...I was always reasonably careful about who I worked for. Now....we can all make mistakes and I certainly made a few....can you spell APCO...but besides a few notables, Pray Construction had a great lineup of clients. PrayWorks too has a had a great list of people we have worked for...thanks to you!
If an offering seems to good to be true...well it probably is. One means of travel in this industry is basically to beat a project around until you get the price you are looking for and THEN GET THE CONTRACT SIGNED. you really need a gun slinger.
Assume the project is over once the contract is signed....WRONG...Really, the fun is just beginning...and it can and should be an owner...if you simply rely on your own forces or your architect...well get ready.
Understand the contract...or better...get someone around you (i.e. like me) that will understand the contract and its attachments (read plans and specs) attention along the knowledgeable....expect great work and fair treatment...and you'd be surprised. is good to be prepared...and if your are conflict averse (BTW...conflict has a bad name...good things can and do come from conflict) sure to get someone that is not.
The whole process can and should be fun.....Use that paradigm
but put a good plan B in place! How's that for wordsmithing?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Living Room

OK, I offer this disclaimer right from the "get-go"...I am not an architectural photographer. This is another way to say I just don't think these photos do the new room justice. it goes. I love this room.
From a space planning/space design perspective, we eliminated an exterior glass door with sidelights and transom. We did this to eliminate the circulation thru the middle of the room and the need to accommodate the in-swinging door. These three windows are Pella windows with an incredibly clear screen. The previous doors had divided lights that really tended to interfere with the view. So...from a space planning accomplished. But, as an extra benefit, we actually enjoy more communication visually (and there is tendency to open all three windows at night) we are much more in tune with the environment.
The fireplace is an Isokern B-Vent model. The previous room had a free standing wood stove (which has been relocated to the lower level into my in-home office). A free standing stove takes a lot of room...which it did in our living room, plus it involves burning wood. Now, I am an old school wood burner. I like just about everything having to do with the process...but it is dirty and not nearly as simple as a gas fireplace. The Isokern looks all the world like a traditional wood burning fireplace (which it could be) but we just chose to use great gas logs. The mantle is a restored family mantle, so that's neat too.
The room is a woodworker's dream. Ed Weber detailed a super interior that was very expertly crafted by all involved. The casework was fabricated by a friend of mine from North Carolina and their work is super, the local wood was run by a shop by the name of Three Trees and they too did a very nice job and this was expertly installed by Cliff from RC Construction. I had a major hand in "coaching" everyone through the layout. This could have been very easy to screw up and it was perfect. All work was brush painted. Of course...our resident colorist...Laura...knocked the ball out of the park.
Sonos and Bowers & Wilken's speakers add the entertainment. The room was originally designed with a pop up TV. When I figured out how much the total installed price for this (w/o TV) was going to be....say $10,000....I decided this room would be much better off if we took a more "civilised" (the s is intentional thank you very much). Sonos systems are just so cool. This eliminates the entire need to manage the disks or data and other sources like radio and podcasts are readily available...and throw that all through a couple B&W CM-1's and man....we are jambing.
Stay tuned for the next post and we'll tour the man cave!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Status Report...Renovation Substantially Complete

I've run into about three friends over the past few days and all are anxious for an update on the house here we go.

The project finished as planned on June 5.....and this was a plan that was put in place about three months ago. The day was relevant as I had rented a house at Pawleys Island SC and the rental began on June 6. By design everything about the project would be complete except for the refinishing of the wood floors and painting. This was the exact position the project was in at the end of the day...Friday...June 5.

While we were at Pawleys, RC finished the floors and painting. They perform this work with their own forces which gives them a different and improved level of control than one has with a subcontractor. This level of control is really important in residential remodeling.

We came home on June 20 and the project was complete short of a small punchlist. We are now enjoying the fruit of every one's labor.

Picture to follow of the product, but I did manage to capture the RC team as it was on June 5. Good job squad!

And Ed....your design is awesome.....and Laura.....interiors are doubly awesome.

Thanks all.....

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Better West Virginia Challenge

A Better West Virginia

Jason Keeling recently invited people to comment on ‘A Better West Virginia Challenge’
The basic premise:
Identify an obstacle that hinders West Virginia and discuss its solution.
Address the above request as it relates to one (or more) of the following:
Business / Economy
Health / Wellness

I offer a comment on Education.

The process of education begins at home and I suggest it begins by creating an example of life long learning. So…..a parent might make the choice to read a book and turn off the television…as an example. Read out loud to your young child. Have dinner together as a family and discuss current local/national/international events. Learn something yourself and share that with your child. Champion learning as an exciting adventure.

So…..if Change is the buzz word for 2009….let’s change this paradigm…your child’s education is primarily your responsibility. I think it is a mistake to point your finger at the child’s teachers and/or the legislature for not providing better funding for teachers. Sure….it takes a community to raise and educate a child....but this process fundamentally begins at home and is led by example.

Imagine if West Virginia was known as the birth place of the best and brightest. I like that vision. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Man.......I've forgotten the difference between residential work and commercial. If you're talking about about any type of high end work (and this does not necessarily mean expensive material but it likely does), there are TONS of details to attend to. Now...there's the mundane stuff which is simply about in material. We've been short on beaded ceiling and then the yellow pine flooring was late in arriving. We had a few lights that came from New Zealand....then there is the engineered pine flooring....and the pine flooring adhesive....the concrete stain...paint...and more paint...doors...hardware....speaker wire....recycled material....layout...layout...layout....tile work...refinished mantle....and then there is T2 ( had to be there)....concrete...gravel...clean the stone.....this is all a partial list....I'm not kidding.'s getting done and the RC team has done a great job. It's so helpful that they do so much work with their own forces. We'll be substantially complete in about a week.

Hard to find the time to BLOG with all this going on.



Friday, May 15, 2009

Progress Photos

Shots from last Wednesday......Exterior flue for the relocated 20 year old Vermont Castings stove which now is in my home office/exercise area. This work was performed and completed yesterday by Brandon Smith and he did a very good job.

Above is a photo of Jeff Winters the carpenter installing insulation in our renovated ceiling plane. Notice new lighting. This work will begin to be covered on Monday with a stained bead board, which is a traditional building product often seen on porch ceilings.
And finally, the other side of the sliding door. We have an electrician (Brian who works for Tim Cunningham) , sheetmetal worker from Rock Branch Mechanical, and a finish carpenter (Cliff from RC Construction) pushing hard. By today's end, virtually all of the drywall hanging will be complete.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Never Try and Demolish a Building I Built!!

I began in the construction industry by building homes. In my first job, the builder I worked for did most everything wrong, which included putting cinder block walls below grade against unstable soil...the result...basement walls that cracked and/or failed completely. So, when I went out on my own, I filled many of the foundation walls with pea-gravel concrete. There was really no reason to fill this wall with concrete, except I guess we over ordered.
So.....RC's superintendent, Phil Samples, is seen here on a very difficult task sawing thru the wall. It was a tough two days, but the job got done! (All to make way for a very cool sliding door).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Native Stone Wall Being Installed

This project involves capturing a few hundred square feet in the lower level (aka basement) to create an in home office. So....a large sliding door is about to be installed in the wall to the left. We dug into the hill side and then we are retaining the embankment with a native stone wall.

This wall is being installed by Steve Burdette, who interestingly worked on this house and installed the other native stone work some 20+ years ago. He's a real craftsman and RC Construction is lucky to have him.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ICE (In Case of Emergency)

I'm helping revise Bailey & Glasser's Employee Handbook. We are working with Robinson McElwee on this project and I borrow the following, which just seems to make great practical sense and I thought my readers might find it useful too. (Photo borrowed from mahardhika).

I.C.E” Number
For those persons who have personal cellular phones, the Firm suggests that you create an entry in your address book captioned “ICE.” First responders are now trained to look for this entry on your cell phone in the event you are injured and someone needs to be notified. The “ICE” entry stands for “In Case of Emergency” and you should insert the phone number and contact information for the person who you would want contacted if you are unable to do so yourself.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reflections of the Cycling Symposium

This weekend, as the president of the West Virginia Cycling Foundation, I helped lead a meeting of about 75 movers and shakers involved in cycling throughout the State. Friday evening, we enjoyed a dinner at the governor’s mansion. Senator Dan Foster kicked off the evening with his reflections of the health impact of a healthy life style…the personal impact on the individual and the financial impact on all citizens.

He was followed by Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox who committed to help the State become much more cycling friendly and we were treated to an inspiring visit by Andy Clarke, the president of the League of American Cyclists

On Saturday, we rolled up our sleeves and went to work. Symposium Champion Kim Broughton kicked off the meeting and set the stage for the day. Jeff Miller, president of The Alliance for Biking and Walking followed and shared the national perspective and his numerous experiences with other States. We broke out into task teams and discussed many topics….like:

Economic Impact of Cycling (which is major)
Legislation (Upon which we could improve…see the three foot rule…see allowing cycling on the shoulder)
Lobbying….hey…this is a great investment so show me the money
Education….safe cycling skills for riders and drivers
Access for kids and adults….more connectivity.
The trend to put cycling and pedestrian activities under the same tent
Mapping projects…so you know where to go and what to expect
The many forms of cycling….as in replacing a car to go to the store…as in mountain biking….as in children cycling…as in racing…as in family time on a rail to trail....and so much more.

And then we talked about how to create success.

I’m not sure exactly what will happen next….except to say I think we are on the path that will one day lead West Virginia from being the 50th on the League’s List:

Bottom 5
46. North Dakota
47. Mississippi
48. Alabama
49. Georgia
50. West Virginia

To the cracking the top 5! Look out Minnesota…we’re on the way.
Top 5
1. Washington
2. Wisconsin
3. Arizona
4. Oregon
5. Minnesota

Stay in touch through my BLOG ( or following me on Twitter (@davidpray).



Thursday, April 16, 2009

And Ground is Broken!

The job fires up in a big way on April 27, but I elected to sneak in a few "little" pieces of work prior to the offical kickoff. Gerald "Bubby" Haynes and his Dad put in a strong day's work on Monday with a combination of a small excavator and a skid steer loader on tracks. Beating the rain, they excavavated the lower level which exposes a wall into which a slaiding glass door will soon be installed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

To Bid or Not to Bid...that is the Question

A construction project is a compilation of a long list of various items...primarily products and services...i.e. labor and material(s). I've written a lot about the materials piece which amounts to making an informed choice (choice of the product within the context of the whole budget) on a product before construction begins.

So...I've purchased new engineered flooring (about 3 months ago as it was really on sale), bookshelf speakers, fabricated millwork, light fixtures, windows sliding doors and more.

In almost every case, I've been rewarded by competing the purchase. As an example, I went to a company that has supplied a lot of product on various projects throughout my career...assuming of course that I would be rewarded on my own house. Just to keep the record straight, I solicited pricing from a friend of mine (Lewis Weisberg) at State Electric and they proceeded to blow the doors off the competitors not only with pricing...thanks!!!...but also with service...i.e. answering my repetitive questions. I saved the owner (me!) about $1,500 on a $3,000 purchase.

More on all of this as we go on......but line item bidding....such as I would administer as an owner's representative (or be sure the construction manager was doing) is generally worth the time and effort.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tougher Than it Seems

A brief I think you get the general way I mean to deal the cards...i.e. with the deck stacked so to speak. And, the way you do that is to plan, plan, plan and what that looks like is a ton of material handy...ready for installation.

So......over the past month we have sorted through the many choices involved with the three (!) windows and one sliding door we had to order. Guessing...this took 5-7 hours of my time. Finally....we got what we wanted for the best price I could haggle.

Next....architectural woodwork....OK...say another 10 hours of bidding and then sorting thru 4 versions of shop drawings. Cabinets are being built now.

We bought some of the flooring on sale and it is now...thankfuly...sitting in a warehouse.

The design anticipates some audio visual bookcase speakers were selected and ordered.

Now onto light fixtures....done...say 10 hours later.

Anyway.....I'm guessing we will actually start on April 20. wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be...The Blog post that is.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting Ready for Moving Pool Equipment

The photo on the bottom illustrates a storage bin in our driveway/parking area. The photo on the top is where all this "stuff" came from (an area underneath our back porch and adjacent to one area that is about to be renovated). It is also the new home of the pool equipment, which is currently located in the lower level of our house.
Pool Equipment consists of a pump which is needed to circulate the water through a filter and strain out the small particulates. We use a sand filter. Along the way, the water is ionized which allows us to utilize a very small amount of chlorine. So...filtering and sanitizing is the function that is being relocated. Placing the equipment outside means we will have to be a bit more mindful in the this equipment will all need to be drained down and not allowed to freeze, but we gain a ton of inside conditioned space.
The schedule anticipates relocating the pool equipment beginning in a couple of weeks. This is a task that will likely take a couple of days for the plumber.
By the way...Dave and Laura did all the moving of the we had a good workout today too!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Great off topic trivia from Joe Friel's BLOG

This really has zero to do with the subject of this BLOG, but I thought the "coming into form" comment might be of interest to one reader or two!

From Friel's BLOG

4. Fitness and fatigue trend similarly. You may not have thought about this before, but it is important to understand. There is a strong link between fitness and fatigue. If you are fatigued from training then you stressed the body adequately enough to create the potential for fitness. If the workout did not cause any fatigue at all then it also did not produce the potential for fitness. So, when fatigue is rising you can expect the same thing from fitness.

5. In order to race well one must reduce fatigue. This is what tapering before a big race is all about – reducing fatigue. You don’t want to go into important races tired. There is no benefit from doing that. Racing when tired most assuredly will produce less-than-stellar performances.

6. Reducing fatigue is called “coming into form.” The term “form” came from late-nineteenth-century horse racing. Before placing a bet you would check the form (sheet of paper) provided by the bookie which showed how each horse had been racing recently. When a horse was racing well it was said to be “on form.” Bike racing which started in the late nineteenth century adopted this term early on. In recent years other endurance sports have begun using it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Planning the Project

There are three general areas of focus on concern in a project that hoover around the areas of (1) Time (2) Quality and (3) Money. The above tool is a so-called MindMap. I'm an amateur as far as this program goes, but I've found this program...even at the most basic level, to be very helpful.

This map addresses the issue of (1) time. Again...the idea here is to make the actual installation process as smooth and as quick as is possible. By focusing on time, one logically will make a good impact on money and quality.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sonos for Distributed Audio

I know just enough about residential audio/visual (a/v) systems to be dangerous. Just how dangerous, I guess the next few months will tell. Our project involves the renovation to our living room where we now have a CD player and a pile of CD's. Both this device (the CD player) and this media source (CDs) are about to be history.

Over the past years, I've migrated all of our audio sources so they are now on our in home server which most notably manages all our e-mail, serves up the prayworks ( webpage and is where all our business files live. So, I have our music on the server and it is about to be managed by Sonos. So, I can play music in our living room and access any of the music we own, play different music in our new library and different music while cleaning up in our bath room.

Nice...we'll see how it goes, but the order has been placed and the bundle is on the way, so I'll be setting up the system soon. Too, you can control the Sonos system with one's iPhone. It seems to be easy enough to set up. We'll see...stay tuned.

Of interest...I'm on Twitter and I made a post that I had bought the Sonos system. Within minutes, I was being followed by Sono's marketing and I following they supplied hints and helpful links. Wild.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Tenant on Floor Three-209 Capitol

I am pleased to announce a substantial portion of the third floor at 209 Capitol Street has been leased by the law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP . The firm is headquartered in Los Angeles, California and employs about 600 lawyers.

Thanks are in order to Melanie at Real Estate Resources who surfaced this client as well as Kent George and his team (Chuck Saffer) at Robinson and McElwee who worked with me through the lease negotiations.

They will begin moving in this weekend.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Think we're in a recession?

A good friend of mine for the last 30 or so years works and lives around Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He works for a high end millwork fabricator and has traditionally had a large 4-6 months worth...and a job like ours...well it would never really even be considered.

I called him yesterday and had 2 return calls today. We talked and hell yes he'd like to price this job. Now..mind you, I've got what amounts to seven pieces to build, finish and ship....not a big deal...but he was all over it. Business sucks for them.'s a buyer's market, which is good for this project and others I'm working on. And, it's good to have a large network to tap into.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And the new BLOG is......

OK…..I’m not quite THAT big of an egotist. Or maybe. I’ve decided to morph this BLOG over to a BLOG that mostly has to do with upcoming renovations to our house. We'll still have some stuff on 209, but for the next few months, it's about substantial renovations to our house.

And here is the slant on this new project.

I have always theorized that a residential construction project would really proceed with a much higher probability of success if (1) virtually all of the design decisions were made prior to proceeding with construction and (2) and this is the big point…that most of the “stuff” was already sitting in town in a warehouse prior to construction proceeding; carpet; woodwork; custom casework; hardware; light fixtures; windows; door hardware; tile etc.

So…that’s what we plan on doing….getting incredibly well organized BEFORE firing the starting pistol and then smoke this job.

And the outcomes from this might be:

A project constructed for less $$.
Fewer distractions throughout the construction process.
A faster installation.
Higher Quality.

That’s a lot of good outcomes and I’ll write more about this in the future.

Stay tuned.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Photo Worth Sharing

The boat is called Change Order and the Dingy is Original Contract. Not really relevant to this project but I thought it was worth sharing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reflections on Facebook

Last June. I received an invitation to join Facebook from a friend I knew through an organization I have done a lot of work for and with. I really knew nothing about Facebook but pulled the trigger and signed up on July 21. (No…I did not have that date committed to memory…you have a history of all of your updates…click on Profile…scroll to the end of the page and continue to click on show me more updates…the first one will be the date you joined. This is likely an exercise worth performing…not so much to remind you of the date you joined but for you to understand what the “record” reveals about you and for you to understand the picture that you are painting about yourself).

So….I gradually and in spurts added friends which were an interesting group of family, folks I would introduce to you as a friend, and then acquaintances who I really did not know but heck….they asked me to be their friend…how could I say no?

So…..I’m 50 plus years old and my peer group thinks I’m quite tech savvy. I suppose what that means is I know almost as much as the AVERAGE middle class 14 year old, although that might be too strong. They likely know more. So, when I asked my real, lifelong friends to join, they trusted my judgment and signed up. This post is for them.

Facebook is a social networking site. So, when you log onto Facebook, you are in a virtual room with all of your “friends”. Now…you can lurk around and watch and listen. Quite a few folks do this. And why is this their chosen response? (1) Facebook can take a lot of time, particularly if you don’t keep it in its place. So….no time for yet another distraction….makes some sense. (2) Just like the real analog world, people are individuals…some are introverted and some are extroverted. Some are good listeners and some just can’t wait to talk….and you see that reflected in Facebook. (3) Some folks are more conscious than others about “the record”. I have a lot of friends that are lawyers…they…understandably…have a heightened sense of how the “record” can be used. It seems to me like to get the most out of Facebook, you likely want to do some participation….i.e. make a status update entry with some regularity…….and that can be once a week. If you want to paint a more complete picture, perhaps more often is warranted….but I do think some participation only makes sense…..sort of along the line of give what you want to receive…..but be mindful of the “record”.

Most of my immediate family does not live in Charleston… I know my nephew is in Puerto Rico, my son is studying some sort of math I don’t have any clue about, and I see my granddaughter on her new bike.

Some of my friends make a habit of posting great articles about national/international events or WVU sports. I read most of them….you get a sense after a while about friends whose perspective you might find interesting or even occasionally compelling……even if you don’t agree with the perspective.

You are building your network in a reasonably cheap manner. This might be good for business or in some way satisfy your need to be connected.

Here’s an interesting link for beginners.

There’s way more about all of this I could reflect upon but I think BLOG entries need to be quick reads. I have thoughts about mobile devices and Facebook, Twitter, the topic of “unfriending”, (I think this might become a legitimate verb), the topic of not having your friend request acknowledged but for right now, I think I need to clean up the house…that’s today’s status update.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What the hell has happened with Pray’s BLOG?

Fundamentally, the renovation of 209 Capitol is complete. There are still a few issues going on…..the art work piece is still in design….we are about to aggressively begin leasing the third floor…the part 3 submission to the Department of Interior needs to be submitted…there’s probably a few more reflections I can dig around for….but the bottom line is the topic of this BLOG is winding down.

So….I’m all over starting the new one and would be interested if there is any energy around the following topics that have been rolling around……

1) I am preparing to execute a significant renovation at my house. I get tons of questions every year from folks anticipating or in the middle of (or maybe involved in a law suit over)residential work… I thought I’d tell it all in a BLOG about my residential renovation project? Daily or multiple daily entries.

2) Mid Life Transition. This is a little different concept. 10 years ago I began on a life adventure….a real shaking up the deck if you will….and decided to sell my company. There’s a lot going on with that topic in my life particularly as I begin to explore other uses for my time beyond the traditional type time applications of what constructive development psychologists would call “meaning making systems”. Change Baby! BLOG it???

3) Getting Super Fit. A few years ago, I won the 50 and over State Road Race Championship….several years and several accidents later, I’m 10 pounds heavier and in way worse shape. This is a way too self centered BLOG (but aren’t they all), but I thought I’d throw that out there.

I’m leaning towards # 1 but thinking # 2 would be more of an adventure.

Let me know......

Happy New Year!