Things were getting out of hand. Work was hitting a peak, and Kate and I were frantically trying to shore up the problems in our respective projects as major deliveries came due, the constant flare up of new, unexpected delays requiring critical, last-minute fire fighting that takes direct management involvement. Brianna was getting more and more time intensive because new milestones and accomplishments were coming every day, and neither her mother or I wanted to miss a single one. We did not want to give up our social life completely, and were inviting people over to dinner two or three nights a week. Finally, we both knew we needed to make the commitment to getting some exercise, or never get back in any kind of shape for a long time to come. Finding enough time for everything was beginning to call for twenty eight hour days and other warping of the space-time continuum. There was only one thing to do. It was time to start on a MBA.

Yes, that's right, I'm back in the saddle, working on further over-educating myself. I'm attending Claremont Graduate School's "Peter Drucker Executive Management Center". The degree is actually called a "Executive Management in Business Administration" degree... in theory the program is tailored to the needs and capabilities of individuals with prior management experience. In practice, this means that we cover in one seven week period the same material the standard MBA students cover in a full semester. I walked into my first class, and walked out with four hundred pages of reading due the first week!

Of course, this wasn't much of a challenge. That changed quickly, however. We wanted to get the MBA fairly quickly, and as a result, decided to take three classes simultaneously. This decision was based on the well known and widely accepted principles of "Reagonomics". You know, where cutting the tax base was going to increase the amount of money the Government tool in? Likewise, taking three classes was supposed to reduce the total amount of hours needed to complete all the homework assignments. I say the only thing that ruined the idea is that we were complete idiots. That, and we forgot to take Murphy'sLaw into account.

Like the man who wins the lottery with the ticket he left in his pants pocket prior to throwing them in the wash, we picked the absolutely worse time for Kate to be struck down by a pretty horrible disease... chicken pox. We had no idea how hard it hits adults. Kate was bedridden for two weeks. I had to take care of her, take care of Brianna, work, and stay on top of all of my classes simultaneously. Without the help of Kate's sister and mom, it would have been impossible. With their help, it was merely pure hell.

So the MBA program has had its negative side. On the other hand, it has been truly fascinating. My first class was Financial Accounting, which I think we can all agree sounds about as dynamic and interesting as reading the instructions for filling out a 1040A tax form. Wrong. A good portion of the class, of course, was how accountants actually make addition and subtraction so complicated that you have to pay them to do it for you. As the class final, however, we analyzed General Mill's annual financial report. All companies that trade stock on the open market are required to publish annual reports that meet what are called the "Generally Accepted Accounting Principles". This, translated roughly into common English, translates as "you have to be somewhat creative to get all the sleazy tricks you play on the stockholders to fit into the format required by the Securities and Exchange Commission." If you own General Mills stock, I recommend selling.

Another class I just finished that was worth tons o' humor points was "The Effective Decision". Sound likes another name for basket weaving, doesn't it? The most interesting point about this class, however, is that it was taught by none other than Peter Drucker. Drucker is very famous for his scholastic achievements, his incredibly diverse experience at the highest levels of US, Japanese, and European businesses, his clear, sharp mind, and most of all for writing an economics text that made the New York Times "Bestseller" list, a feat that make most professors of economics and business compare him very favorably to god. Of course, the school is also named after him, which normally takes very serious credentials, like a death certificate... so you know the guy has to be something special!

By the way, I without reservation recommend his books (of which there are thirty one at last count). I ended up borrowing one of his books, The New Realities, from a friend when I signed up for the course (out of curiosity; it wasn't required reading). I've subsequently bought Managing for the 90s and Beyond and Innovation and Entrepreneurialship. His books are not about business, they are about life on a macro scale. Fascinating, well written, and generally pretty cheap ($12 in soft cover), they manage to keep me interested when I'm already buried past the eyeballs in books with exciting titles like "Managing with POWER" and "One Thousand Case Studies in Activity Based Costing", books that immediately make you want to gouge your eyes out in order to have an excuse for not reading them when you attend class.

Point is, the guy is big, very big. All of Drucker's classes are on Saturday, and normally last three hours. The first one was a double class, however, scheduled to go from nine to twelve, take an hour break, then go from one to four. At nine, sixty people were sitting in Albright Auditorium, waiting, when Drucker arrived. The guy is eighty two, a number more representative of my average cruising speed on the freeway that of an age I think /'// ever attain. He walked down to the front of class, pushed a couple of chairs out of the way, and sat on a table in the front without notes, overheads... without anything other than a hearing aid. And he started talking. And he kept talking. For three solid hours he talked, without stopping for anything other than questions. We broke for lunch, and at one, he started again, going for another three solid hours. Now, based just on the guy's bladder control, I'm starting to think he's a god. A god, but an angry god.

Why angry? Drucker had literally done nothing but introduce himself when he told us we would open with the Volkswagen case. This was a case about the CEO of VW making a decision concerning the VW bug that ran into serious opposition in the German labor unions, with the end result of VW loosing most of its American market share. Drucker asked for someone to begin the discussion on the case. Ten seconds passed. Drucker continued to scan the audience. Twenty seconds. Drucker continued to look around expectantly. I was wondering if these people knew something I didn't. I had read Drucker's chapter on decision making, but everyone else must hav< as well, right? Thirty seconds pass. Finally, I raise my hand. Big mistake.

Drucker: "Yes Dave. Please tell us what you think is the primary problem here."

Me: "I think its clear that the CEO should have brought in the labor unions prior to making a decision of this magnitude. Without talking to them, he clearly did not understand all the ramifications of the question, leading inevitably to reaching the wrong conclusion."

Drucker: "Very interesting. Perhaps you would point out the paragraph in the case study that explains how the CEO reached his decision and what parties were involved."

Me: "Ahhhh... well, how he reached the decision isn't discussed in the case. The only information given is that he made it."

Drucker: "Then, perhaps, you will explain where your reached your fascinating insight into the CEO's complete lack of competence."

Me: "Ahhhh... I have no reason to think the CEO is incompetent."

Drucker: "And yet you think he didn't get the unions involved in a decision that took months to reach, violating even the most basic principles of good management? Do you think that Volkswagen selects their CEO from the janitorial staff, or that they might, just conceivably, try to pick someone with even a small amount of experience?"

Me: "Ahhh... when you put it that way... "

Drucker: "Mister Dickie, if you are planning on being a top level executive, I hope you will show your subordinates more courtesy than you have extended this class and try thinking before you speak next time." Me: (sounds of a human being melting into a puddle of complete embarrassment).

What a fun guy, hey?! And I wasn't the one who got burned the worst that first day. One poor mortal made the mistake on the next case study of claiming that the problem was due to a pooi decision by the key person in the case study. He did not know that the case study was one of Drucker's personal experiences and the key person was none other than Drucker. Perhaps the best slam, however, was when Drucker called someone in front of the class to summarize a case. The student gave what I thought was a pretty reasonable summary of the material given in the case study, and Drucker said "Thank you. That was a fascinating analysis." The student beamed, replying "Why, thank you, professor Drucker". "Fascinating," continued Drucker, "because it missed every single important point in the study. Please sit down."

If you've ever seen the movie "The Paper Chase", I now know who the professor is modeled after.

Drucker was equally vicious in grading term papers. I, fortunately, had pysched out a little of what he was looking for and merely had to rewrite my paper. Some people got back papers with notes like "Your paper is so far off of the significant aspects of this case that it is not worth my time to read any further. Pick a different case study and start over."

After the second class, however, everyone had the big picture, and no one volunteered to answer questions any more. This suited Drucker fine. He would look around for a while, then answer it himself. If I've given you the impression the Drucker is a complete jerk, I should correct that now. Drucker is a complete, very intelligent, jerk.

I really did enjoy the course after the first escapade, however. The guy is brilliant and has had a tremendous variety of experiences that make for wildly improbable stories, fascinating to listen too (and the slam dunks on other students were pretty amusing, too).

OK, enough of the student stories. What else is going on in our lives?

We went skiing one weekend. Dropped Brianna off with Kate's mom, loaded the car, and headed for our condo in Mammoth. The weather was unseasonably warm on Friday, but the skiing improved over the weekend and we had a good time. We also had a chance to meet a friend of Kate's, Rich Boyle. Kate, Rich and I did a little "death skiing" off Scotties' run. Kate traversed to a bowl that was merely vertical, while Rich and I dropped directly off the overhang at the top and tumbled wildly down a few thousand feet of fortunately soft snow. Rich and I also had did "Drop Out" once, which is kind of like Scotties, but is steeper, has razor sharp, jagged rocks sticking up everywhere, and is constrained to a ten-foot wide chute with steep rock walls to both sides for the first three, four hundred feet of the run. Not that it is dangerous, or anything. Just a bit more a challenge.

On the baby front, Brianna is getting cuter all the time. She walks, she babbles, she smiles, she drools. All sorts of fascinating stuff. If you remember, we've talked about baby developmental stages in the past, to whit the "little blob of flesh" stage, the "little cesspool of disease" stage, and the "little whirlwind of destruction" phase. Brianna, in violation of all the laws of thermodynamics, bypassed all of these phases and is stuck in the "cutest baby in the universe" stage.

Actually, Brianna is well out of the little blob of flesh stage and is really beginning to turn into a little girl, with a personality and everything! Unfortunately, if we were to characterize that personality in a single word, it would have to be WIMPY. Take, for instance, the melon incident. Brianna is into Cheerios and rice crackers, but we've been trying to get her to accept other solid foods, since our current food budget for a week looks like this:

Pasta: $4.00 Sauce: $3.25 Baby food: $892.11 Other baby: $11,238.12

Melon was an obvious place to start. Kate cut long strips of sweet melon for Brie to make it easy for her to handle it. This is what happened:

Day 1: Brianna carefully picks up cheerios from other areas of the high chair, avoiding touching the melon at all costs.

Day 2: Brianna tentatively reaches out, and with a single finger, pokes a slice of melon, then immediately starts crying until we take her out of the high chair.

Day 3: Brianna, encouraged by the lack of 'melon revenge' during the previous evening, determines that melon strips might not be eggs from the movie "Alien" in disguise. On the other hand, there's no point in being hasty, is there? Spends the next half hour pushing pieces of melon from one end of the high chair to the other... still with a single finger.

Day 4: Brianna, suddenly overcome with courage, actually picks up the melon in her hand and sticks it in her mouth. She then, with a look of total disgust, throws the melon back onto the high chair and pounds it into mush.

Day 5: More mush pounding.

Day 6: Brianna tentatively puts a piece of melon in her mouth and bites off a piece. Then, a few seconds later, she thoughtfully spits it out on Dad.

Day 7: We stop giving Brianna pieces of melon.

Who did Brianna inherit this odd insecurity from? Space aliens. We determined this by noticing other key personality characteristics that clearly could not be from any earth based life form. Like, for instance, her sense of humor. Notice the intricate relationship between these things that make Brianna laugh hysterically:

1) Dad making a loud "OOOOFFF" noise when catching a ball

2) Mom putting a wine cork in her mouth and spitting it at Brianna

3) Opening and closing drawers

4) Any quote by Dan Qauyle

Did you spot the relationship? If you did, we suggest you submit your name for a Nobel prize, because it certainly has us baffled. Of course, we are not the only parents that have a baby that is part-something-else.

Eric Haines tells me that little Ryan Haines is "part insect. When he finds a 'toy', like the cuisenart, that he isn't allowed to play with, we take him to another part of the house to play. But he leaves a scent trail like an ant, and within seconds of being put down, immediately retraces our steps to the forbidden toy. This will go on for five or six relocations until Ryan's tracks are so criss-crossed that he can't follow the trail any more, where upon he will immediately go looking for another forbidden toy to play with."

For non-baby related news, there is Teresa Stern's birthday party. We made the mistake last year of asking Teresa if she wanted a birthday party, to which she replied with an emphatic no. So this year, following the time worn advice that it is "easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission," we decided to hold a surprise birthday party for her. The main reason that Teresa is adverse to birthday parties is because she hates to be the center of attention. She gets very embarrassed. Kind, thoughtful people that we are, Kate and I decided to avoid anything that might really make her turn beet read, unless of course you count the fact that we told everyone that the party's theme was "sexy lingerie" and that they should bring presents appropriate to this idea. Jeff Stern, brother to Teresa's husband Ben, managed to take the cake with a G-string that, when pressed, played "happy birthday" in tinny but unmistakable tones. Although, personally, we thought such a present would be more appropriate for Ben's birthday.

Then there is the front yard. Kate and I live in the equivalent of a twenty four carat solid gold ring that has been plated with corroded aluminum. Our house is totally redecorated and renovated. Our yard is totally dead. No, that's an exaggeration. But it isn't an exaggeration to say that we would be better off if it were. We tried to kill it. When the old sprinkler system bit the dust and the lawn started growing tendrils of crab grass that looked like something from "mutant man eating vine creatures from planet X" we concluded we would be better off starting from scratch. Unfortunately, we never had the money or motivation to begin yet another massive house project. So the sprinkler system has been slowly decomposing into little pieces of metal and plastic gravel since we moved in. But turning off the water didn't do the trick. Along with all the drought resistant plants that have been developed for the California horticultural scene apparently have come drought resistant weeds so hearty that they not only survive with no water, they actually grow faster, so that if you are not careful when walking in the front yard, one of these things will spring out of the ground and poke you in the eye. This has very negative effects liabilityinsurance- cost wise. Additionally, our neighbors began to drop subtle clues that they were beginning to think we didn't care much about our yard, like when the people next door had a party and used it as a valet parking lot.

So we finally decided to do something about it. Like "Nike" (the "Just Do It" people), we just decided to grit out teeth, tighten the belts, change into sweats and jeans and hire someone to landscape.

We found Mr. Green, of Simply Green Landscaping. He provided further proof of the invincibility of the drought resistant weeds by hitting our 'lawn' with agent orange. A week later, he came back, walked into the four foot high weeds that had sprung up since he sprayed, and was never heard from again.

Hope to hear from you all soon....