Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Leech Lake Fishing Report – It Ain’t Pretty

Fishing has been really tough on the lake thus far this week. I'm still without any kind of fish boated, and have tried multiple methods and spots. JT offers some insight but no real solutions (typical), and I'm slowly running out of vacation. The bad news is that the fish fry looks like it is an impossibility. The good news is that we're having a ball up here, every one of us.

Doing a long bike ride with my brother today, so won't be able to get on the lake until tonight, but will definitely get my time in. I envision some beers, baseball, and boating tonight to cap off the evening.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kathleen Edwards Concert Review and Setlist – 7/25 Detroit Lakes

I donned my newly designed "Oldest Guy at the Concert" T-shirt (for sale at right now, click here to view) and headed out to Detroit Lakes. I tell you what, if the reaction I got from attendees is any indication, my little creation in Zazzle is going to make me a very rich man! It was a hit.

Great day for a concert – started out cold and cloudy, but ended up clearing off and ending up being a nice afternoon. Overall band selection was left something to be desired, and the headliner of Dave Matthews Band does absolutely nothing for me. Hence, I spent my $80 to see Kathleen, and that was about it. It was money well spent.

For a band, it was just her and her guitarist husband Colin Cripps. Kathleen's versatility with playing acoustic, electric, and harmonica made for a lot of flexibility with the sound, and even though it was just two of them, the sound they pulled off was pretty robust.

The set list didn't disappoint:

Set List

  • Buffalo – Great opener, set the tone for the rest of the set.
  • In State – Nice version with just her and her husband.
  • One More Song the Radio Won't Like – Really nice lead story gave this one some gruff emotion.
  • Copied Keys – This is a favorite of mine, and was a beautiful version.
  • Summerlong – Beautiful and appropriate.
  • Hockey Skates – Another favorite.
  • Are the Good Times Really Over? – A Merle Haggard cover that worked really well – introduced with a good story about the trials of crossing the border.
  • Run – Wonderful, quiet rendition. A gorgeous song to begin with, with the skinnied down production, it made it all the better.
  • Cheapest Key – Missed something without the full band.
  • Northern Sky – New song, and outstanding. If other new material is along these lines, I can't wait.
  • I Make the Dough – Long lead in to explain to us Yanks who Marty McSorley is. Hey, we're Minnesotans. We know our puck.
  • Six O'Clock News – Probably the most popular song of the set.
  • When Will I Be Loved – A throw away. Sounded like a cover of Linda Rondstadt covering Buddy Holly. Could have gone without this.
  • Scared at Night – Had people crying in the crowd. Literally. Haunting and beautiful. The most moving song of the set by a long shot.
  • Back to Me – Rousing rendition that was the perfect way to close.

Again, the concert was worth every penny. I'd like to see her in a more traditional tour and with a full band next time, or in the same configuration in a more intimate setting. There were a couple of stoned idiots at the stage that needed attention from the crowd, and that was really annoying. Likewise, the passing of an ATV behind her, twice, was a big distraction and was insulting to both her and her audience. Shame on the Festival for not being more attentive.

A couple of thoughts about this concert in general:

  • I forgot what dope smelled like, and it was there in massive quantities.
  • I had to laugh at the thousands there that dressed and acted like they were part of the "summer of love." Hell, they hadn't even been conceived yet. In some instances, their parents hadn't even been conceived yet.
  • Had a kid ask me if I wanted to smoke opium with him. That was a conversation that I don't have every day. I'm still laughing about it.
  • I can't believe how many people were camping up there – thousands. I'm not sure if or how they slept, other than with the help of some kind of chemicals.
  • In some ways I'm missing that I'm not 18 anymore, and in some ways I'm really grateful those days are over.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Leech Lake to the Rescue

It was crazy getting here, but we made it to the cabin for a week of much needed R&R. Yesterday was incredibly hectic, and while I had the day off, I had a massive list of chores to do and a very important meeting I needed to attend in the afternoon. I’ve been warned that stress triggers the Trigeminal Neuralgia, and it kicked my butt really bad yesterday midday. Luckily it was kept at bay during my meetings, and things went really well.

Regardless, by the time I finished my running around, packing, and driving to Leech Lake, I was completely exhausted. We got up here about 11:00pm, and I could not have stayed awake another hour.

The week is crazy – my sister and her family are coming up later today and are brining my aunt with them, I’m headed to see Kathleen Edwards at the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit lakes. Tomorrow my brother and his family come, as does my wife’s sister. Monday, my wife and I need to head back to the Cities to attend the funeral of the mother of a friend of the family, and we’ll bring my mom back up with us. By Tuesday we should be locked down for the remainder of the week.
Hence, look for concert reviews, fishing reports, and more tall tales from the north woods in this space over the next week. The quest for enough fish for a fish fry begins with trolling Rapalas tonight. Let the games begin…

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Green Room Waconia Restaurant Review - Belgian Beer Dinner

Last week my wife and I attended the special Belgian beer dinner held at The Green Room, our favorite local restaurant here in Waconia. For those that have not been out here for lunch or dinner, you are missing out on a fabulous restaurant. The chef is incredibly talented, the menu diverse, the wine list functional, and the service top notch. This is a Minneapolis quality restaurant in little Waconia, and we're so lucky to have this jewel in our back yard.

Every month or so the restaurant does a wine dinner - a multi-course dinner accompanied by a specific wine for that course. We've attended a number of those dinners, and have been thrilled at the new food and wines which were introduced to us there. So when they announced a Belgian beer dinner, we knew this had to be something special. Consider this menu:

  • A fresh oyster, chilled and served with a Belgian that drank a lot like champagne (I'd offer more information, but this was an add by the chef and was not on their menu)

  • Chareruterie - wonderful European sausage and mixed cheeses served with a Kwak beer

  • Smoked trout and endive served with Tripel Karmeliet - outstanding trout that was almost hurt-yourself good

  • Mussels and French Fries, a Belgian staple, served with a Koningshoeven Dubbel

  • Wild Boar stew that was off the charts, served with a St. Feuillien Brune

  • A finish with a fresh made chocolate waffle with a wonderful raspberry Framboise Lambic from Lindeman's

This was a simply amazing meal - worthy of the finest of restaurants in the largest cities. 6 courses, complete with drinks, for $54 a person.

And, oh did I fail to mention that included 2 Belgian beer glasses?

This easily was our best restaurant meal in 2009. Next time you are anywhere near Waconia, Minnesota you absolutely owe it to yourself to visit The Green Room. Incredible.

Yet Another Year of Minnesota Twins Mediocrity

Once again this year we have just enough talent to keep things interesting, and completely lack a killer instinct to be competitive when we need to be. Our record against the big teams in the East is woeful, and even if we made the playoffs, we'd be swept in the first series.

This team desperately needs a personality like Jack Morris or Dan Gladden - guys that absolutely refused to lose, refused to let their teammates quit, and refused to be intimidated by teams that were better than them.

I get really tired of the "hey, we're just happy to be here" attitude this team has.

Thankfully, we have a lot to look forward to with the Vikings, and soon all this ineptitude won't matter much anymore.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trigeminal Neuralgia - Carbamazapine Works, But Whoa I Need a Nap

I'm trying to understand the impact of the meds. I'm taking a low dose, 100mg 2 times per day. Yesterday I took with breakfast and dinner, and while that appeared to worked OK, by about 1:00pm I would have paid big money for a nap. Got hit with "the knife" a couple of times on the ride home, and ended up in bed by 8:30. Think I need to take that second dose earlier, and will try today. Just hope I can keep my head off my desk this afternoon. Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Two: "Pre Dog" Part 4

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at Part One of this chapter.

Anyone that knows me knows I am the world's worst negotiator. I'm quick to find settlement, any settlement, even if it is not the best deal available. This has worked to great advantage for my wife - herself a stellar negotiator. The only thing I have going for me is that I wear my feelings on my sleeve, and you pretty much always know where I stand.

So after Randy's call about the availability of the pup, I tried negotiation with my wife. I would have been better off trying to broker a middle east peace accord. All of my moves and posturing were deftly rebuffed, and I was quickly running out of runway. If I was going to get a pup from Randy, I needed to close the deal soon.

My wife clearly knew I wanted a dog. However, given my approach and my actions, it was clearly becoming evident that I wanted not just a dog, but this dog. In some marriages, things get done via a war of attrition - the other side just gets tired and gives in. Me, I'm lucky. I have a wife that can read me like a book, knows what's truly important to me, and ultimately makes it OK for me to do what I'm asking her to do. She's a wonderful, patient, and generous woman, and one that I do not deserve.

So eventually the "yes" was provided, but also with a whole host of rules, jobs, and requirements. In my shrewd negotiation mode, I dutifully agreed to everything, lest the deal go sideways at such a critical juncture. Truth be told, she could have made out a lot better than she did.

Armed with the approval and with a couple of days ahead of the date to pick up the pup, I threw myself into a crash course of all things new Labrador puppy. Books and articles were devoured, advice from dog owning friends sought, and multiple trips made to Gander Mountain for crates, collars, bones, and other puppy sundries. It was a whirlwind of information gathering and cash outlay. I found out quickly that owning a dog is neither simple nor cheap.

Soon the day was upon us, and while my wife and I felt trepidation (mine due to lack of knowledge, hers due fear of what might happen to her house) we set off for Oronoco, Minnesota to see Randy and to take home a puppy. I came with a crate in the back of the Explorer, a small collar, and check for Mr. Bartz.

We pulled into Randy's homestead, which was a working farm, small business, and kennel operation all in one. As expected, it was impeccably kept up; a clean, orderly operation. We were quickly met by the huge smiles from Randy and his wife, and as his hand engulfed mine in a firm handshake, he slyly asked, "Are you ready for this?" In looking at my wife, I knew her answer was unsure at best, but I was beyond the point of no return. I replied in the affirmative, and we headed off to where the puppies were playing.

Anyone, and I don't care who you are, anyone loves a yellow lab puppy. Throw about 8 of them into the mix and no matter what your troubles, they are instantly gone. As we waded into the pen and this roly-poly mass of yellow and cute, I looked over to my wife and recognized the signs of a cold heart that had been absolutely melted. I knew that brining her down with me to select a dog was a wise thing, as I knew that regardless of what would happen from here on out, we were not leaving Randy's place dogless.

Vera spent her time playing, while I was trying to invoke some selection criteria I had read in a book about looking for the dog that's not too timid, and not too aggressive. She had fun, while I had confusion. About the time I thought I had one identified, it'd wonder back into the pile to see the nice lady and I'd have no clue about who was who.

We spent nearly 20 minutes on this process, and I noticed that my wife had taken a shine to the smallest dog in the group. While she was technically the runt dog, there was nothing runty about her personality. She got in and mixed it up with the other dogs, and she was not afraid to come up to Vera and me. She also had a beautiful coat, not quite white but close, and was the lightest shade within the pack. It soon became clear - this little trooper was coming home with us. This little dog was Blitz.

I wrote Randy the check and we put this tiny little dog into the full size dog crate in the back of the Explorer. Randy's wife asked if we had anything to help take up room in the crate (dogs, especially pups, do much better in a confined space that is not much bigger than they need - a fact I learned too late for Blitz's first car ride), and I confided I did not. It was quite a picture in the back of the rig.

All loaded, we said our thank yous and goodbyes and headed back north. In all of the time there, Vera developed the need to use a rest room, and we stopped at the first gas station we could find along the route back home. We pulled in, and as my wife headed in, I went around to the back of the truck and opened up the hatch. There sat the dog, my dog, with a quizzical look on her face. At that point, I looked her straight in the eye and said out loud, "Blitz, you and I are going to have so much fun. And I want you to know that no matter what happens, I will always, always take care of you."

I had no idea how she'd ultimately put that promise to the test.

To head to the next chapter, click here

Trigeminal Neuralgia - Meds, My Head, and a Nap in Bed

Update on how things are going:

  • Pain was kept in check most of the morning, but "the knife" came out quite a bit yesterday afternoon. Only a couple of sticks today, but the dull ache has been there for almost half the day today.
  • According to a post at a TN site, the meds I'm on take a while to be taken in by my body. Hence, I can't expect full impact for a number of days yet.
  • There are some resources out there for suffers, and a lot of people have this a lot worse than I do. That scares me. One of the sites is really friendly, though, and I appreciate that they found me through this blog and asked me to join in their community. A kind and generous gesture for sure.
  • On of the sites is a Trigeminal Neuralgia Association, and while I've not done it yet, when sitting at the PC and my wife asks me what I'm doing, I'll be able to answer "Just looking at a T'n'A site," without fear.
  • Had wine with dinner last night and had a great night with zero manifestations of the malady. I shouldn't be mixing with the meds, but man I felt normal. I will really need to watch this going forward.
  • Meds appear to make me drowsy. I've taken two long naps the last two days. I'm worried about what that will mean tomorrow at work. We're going to find out...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Trigeminal Neuralgia, and Pain Watch Day 2

Kind of a whirlwind 24 hours. Here's the update:
  • In researching the illness, I found a community group of Trigeminal Neuralgia sufferers. The horror stories there are not good, and the first person to reply to my post suggested that in the end I probably will have wished for a diagnosis like a tumor or cancer because the pain is so bad. Gee, thanks pal.
  • The community has some good folks there, but many are mired in their pain. Unfortunately, this condition is nicknamed the "suicide disorder," as the pain is so intense and suffers stigmatized ("Hey, you look healthy, you sure you're not faking?") that some sufferers opt for the easy way out. Mine is not that bad, and I'm planning on staying out of that community unless I really need their help. Too much negativity...
  • I booked an appointment for the Mayo Clinic. We have the world's finest medical facility in our back yard, and I'd be an idiot not to take advantage of it. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but the wheels are in motion.
  • Left eye still hurts, but the small "pings" I was suffering for parts of the day appear under control. They're not fun, and if they can be kept away I'll handle the other stuff. Hence, the meds appear to be working (fingers crossed).
  • I'm looking forward to a nice long bike ride around Lake Waconia today and cranking out another chapter of A Dog Named Blitz. Life will go on as scheduled.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Trigeminal Neuralgia - A Sufferer's Perspective

I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia today. Thank God it has a name and is not one of the specters of horrific diagnoses that I had lurking in the back of my mind.

It started out about two months ago with a horrific, stabbing headache that felt like someone was stabbing me in the temporal area of my brain. While it only lasted a couple of seconds, the pain was obscene. Literally, my description is what it felt like, without exaggeration.

I've four horrible episodes since, and to say that they're scary is an understatement. I'm suffering white-hot stabbing pain in my brain, and immediately question if this is an aneurysm, stroke, or other life threatening malady. Let's just say it is not too fun. I've also suffered many minor ones, including toothaches that would last for 10 minutes then go, a painful jaw for no reason, etc.

After suffering a bad one two days ago, I immediately booked an appointment with my doctor. It just so happened that the morning of my appointment I was awaken by the pain of what can best be described as an eye and cheek that have recently been punched in a fight.

Fortunately, my doctor is familiar with Trigeminal Neuralgia, and we did a quick x-ray to rule out anything too nasty. He feels pretty confident that this is what it is, and has prescribed Carbamazapine, an anti-seizure medication, in a low dose which has shown effectiveness. The first two pills today have taken away nearly all of the minor tweaks, although my eye still feels really sore.

To the extent that I can Search Engine Optimize this and future posts to the top of the search heap, I hope my story will be found by other suffers so they don't feel alone with this pain. I'll keep you updated of my story - I follow up with the doc next week, provided I don't have an episode where I need to see him immediately. In the mean time, I am a 100% believer in the power of prayer, and during the next time you hit your knees if you could please offer something on my behalf to request that the bad headaches were kept at bay, I would be in your debt.

Some would argue that I don't have enough rolling around in my head to hurt. Trust me, it may not be a lot, but it can hurt like a son of a gun.

Joe Biden: "We Need to Spend Money to Keep from Going Bankrupt"

Let's call a spade a spade here - Joe Biden is a raving idiot, yet he avoids nearly all scrutiny. His multiple gaffes continue to get swept under the rug, meanwhile any little mispronunciation of "nuclear" by Bush or comment on Russia by Palin are treated to howls and accusations of ineptitude, ignorance, and stupidity by the mainstream media.

Case in point - the only one that has this story is Hannity. Personally, I don't like Hannity, feel he's bombastic, and adds very little to the discourse. However, he's the only one with video on this.

How is this not front page news?

Not Only Is Barabara Boxer Anti-Military, She's Racist to Boot

Check out the latest Barbara Boxer YouTube moment:

A couple of good take-aways here:

1) Note how many times she's addressed as "ma'am," but it is OK with her. Luckily for our testimonial provider, he wasn't part of some jackbooted military fascist organization, otherwise he'd get treatment like this.

2) Watch her squirm. Her whole point is along the lines of "you silly negro, why don't you get in line with the other good negroes," and when it gets thrown back at her as to what she's doing, her tap dancing and stammering are priceless.

These two videos show the type of person Barbara Boxer truly is.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Al Franken - The Biggest Fool in a Town that is Overrun with Them

Here's our esteemed freshman senator adding a lot to the equation in the Sotomayor due diligence.

Perry Mason. Like there is nothing in the world more important to discuss, work on, or investigate. Incredible.

I've said it once and will repeat - on behalf of the entire state of Minnesota, I'm so sorry.

2009 All Star Game Recap

Great All Star Game last night. Quick pace, outstanding pitching, timely hitting, and some fabulous field gems made for a really fun night. The hometown boys of Mauer, Morneau, and Nathan played well, too, although Justin's line looks worse than what his at-bats were.

Interesting to see Obama's reception on the field. Given his approval rating, I expected to hear less booing.

The throw itself was just OK. I admit that I'd probably choke in that situation, so kudos for hitting the target, although the technique could have used some help.

But dude, what's up with the Mom Jeans?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

RIP, California

Iowahawk has a brilliant piece of satire that marks the recent passing of the mega-star. Here's a quote:

Despite the last minute financial maneuvers analysts say the state died penniless, owing creditors as much as $100 billion. Amid the swirling recriminations between California camp factions, fans chose to mark its passing quietly. Longtime California fan club president Iowa said that despite being the constant butt of the Golden State's insults and jokes, it will remember the late superstar fondly.

"Let's not remember California as a bloated, rotting freakshow corpse hanging above a filthy public pension toilet," it said. "Let's remember the good times. Like my 6-day bender at the '91 Rose Bowl."

"California's pain is finally over, and I like to think that the whole state is going to a better place," Iowa added. "Just look at all those U-Hauls headed to Oklahoma."

Check out his post and read it all.

Econony? Wait, Did You Hear What Dick Cheney Did?

Most left-leaning media outlets and lefty blogs have as one of their top stories that the Bush administration, under the supervision of the hated Dick Cheney, actually was going to use the CIA to assonate Al Quaeda leadership.

This is news? You've got to be kidding me.

Who would not assume that was happening? We have the spooks, and instead of chasing Ms. Moneypenny around the office, I would damn sure expect that they be out in the field trying to kill some bad guys.

The only reason this is getting any play at all is a lame attempt to provide air cover for a president and a congress whose economy (and, subsequently, approval rating) is in absolute free-fall.

When the going gets tough, the left continues to wheel out the specter of Darth Cheney and begin the "war crimes" whispers.

Here's some real news: While that strategy won an election, those days are over. The only people that are truly offended that the CIA was considering killing our enemies are far-left loons. Mr. and Mrs. Mainstreet are worried about their jobs. Period.

Has leadership died in this country?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Last Call at Al's Bar in St. Louis Park

As you may have read earlier, Al's Bar in St. Louis Park has a special place in my heart. Therefore, when my uncle called me to regale me with stories of his youth on time spent in that bar, and spent with his father (my grandfather - a man that I never met), well it just made Al's closing all that more melancholy. As my uncle admitted that his first bar drink likely occurred there as well, and over a cribbage board across the table from his dad, I knew I'd be letting the family down if I didn't say goodbye to the bar in person.

So with my wife up for an adventure we headed out for their last Friday night happy hour, and needless to say, we weren't the only ones that showed up to bid farewell to this institution. The place was packed wall to wall, and spilled out of the back door and into the parking lot.

The wait for service at the bar was a long one, but I got myself a Budweiser (to bookend the one I had there 27 years earlier - dear God, 27 years!) and got my lovely bride a Bud Light, and we made our way for the back door. Along the way, we ran into these two - it is nice to see that cribbage is still being played in this bar.

We finally made it outside. It took us a while, and my wife was propositioned and prodded the entire way despite my thinking that I was leading her safely through the crowd. Memo to self: Don't take a hot chick through a crammed bar full of men that have been drinking all day and assume she's just fine behind you. Idiot.

We had just one beer - wading through the animals again to get another from the bar inside seemed far too high a price to pay - and we prepared to go. As we turned our backs on this little space in family history, with its brick facade, burned out neon sign, and overflowing revelers, for just a second there I thought I caught the faintest sound of a old piano playing the 12th Street Rag.

Goodbye, Al's. And thanks.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Obama's Advertising Campaign

This week on my route to work I was greeted by a sign touting the road work project being conducted there as "putting Americans back to work." At the time, I felt it was shameless self-promotion by the Obama administration at its most benign, and almost Orwellian government communication at its worst. I was intending on getting a photo of the signs and blogging about it next week, but Hot Air beat me to it.

Find out more in this video snippet.

As one that builds and markets web sites for a living, the amount proposed at the end is completely astonishing.

There is a substantive debate going on in Minnesota right now about replacing our road signs to make it more clear to visitors as to which of our airports is which. For those unfamiliar with our configuration, our charter terminal (Humphrey) is located directly across from our main terminal (Lindbergh), and since our signs don't define which is which, it creates confusion for visitors to our area.

The state has deemed that it is too expensive to fix this situation. Road signs are costly. But if Obama wants to advertise all the good he's doing in our state, well then that's OK...

Unemployment rises, and every prediction made by this administration of what is needed for recovery has been flat wrong. People are slowly but surely no longer buying the "Bush's recession" argument anymore. Approval ratings are at an all time low.

And the answer from the man that promised hope and change? Advertising.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Duck Action Congress - Effective Advocates or Waste of Time?

I applaud Dennis Anderson's call for a Minnesota Duck Congress to more effectively advocate for waterfowl and waterfowl hunters in the state of Minnesota. Unfortunately, two of the three examples of issues he uses as subjects the group could advocate actually curtail hunting opportunities in the state. I'm sorry, but if removing hunting opportunities is part of some romantic, Quixotic quest to return to the "good old days," count me out.

The bottom line with the waterfowl situation in Minnesota is habitat, and the bad news is that there is very little of it left in the state anymore. The problem begins and ends there. Our waters are turbid and polluted, our lakeshores completely overdeveloped, and our waterfowl harassed by thousands upon thousands of boats and personal watercraft. To the last point, with the popularity of fall fishing and wet suits, this harassment lasts well into the fall - the same period that Anderson advocates hunting end at 11:00 AM to let the lake "rest."

Has he been to a Minnesota lake recently? There is no "rest," not even during overnight hours.

This group is currently in development form. If it chooses to get bogged down in issues like Youth Waterfowl Days, spinning wing decoys, early goose seasons, hunting hours, and the like, it stands to do very little for Minnesota waterfowl or waterfowl hunters. Frankly, duck hunting chat rooms are already filled with prattle on these subjects, and it does nothing but create in-fighting amongst duck hunters. If, however, the group takes on the real issues of poor habitat, overdevelopment, pollution, rough fish, predator management, curtailing the hen bag and the like, then I provide my full endorsement and support.

Which way will they go?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rest in Peace, Al's Bar

Jon Tevlin of the StarTribune reports today that a Minneapolis institution, Al's Bar off of Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park, will close on Saturday after an 83 year run.

Al's was on the route to my Grandma's house in Uptown, and it was always there, right on the border before you got to Minneapolis.

It was also the site of my first ever bar drink. I was a junior in high school, and was working in the Labelle's warehouse in Minnetonka (site of the current Best Buy store). I was working with a guy that happened to be a bouncer there, and we made quick friends. Soon, I got an invite to stop over for my first ever bar drink.

A Budweiser never tasted so good.

Al's was dark but warm; a working man's bar. It was your dad's bar, or more likely, your grand dad's bar. The kind of bars that they just don't make anymore.

Goodbye, Al's. You'll be missed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Two: "Pre Dog" Part 3

For background on this serial, please click here.

You can also start at Part One of this chapter.

I was lucky enough to hold down a dream job – I was working as the marketing manager for a waterfowl hunting catalog. Imagine if you will whatever your deepest passion, and then imagine being able to work on a catalog business that supported that passion. Dream job, with a cherry on top. In my role, I was responsible for getting duck hunters to buy more merchandise from our catalogs and web sites. That meant a wide berth of responsibilities – everything including catalog design and layout, financial analysis, answering customer posts on our site bulletin board, copywriting, trade shows, and test driving the merchandise. Nothing was better than taking a minute to stop over to the merchandise area where the daily samples received made it, to quote one of our buyers, “like Christmas every day.”

Another one of my responsibilities was to establish critical relationships. This included negotiation with organizations like Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited, and also included interaction with a vast array of personalities known within the waterfowling and outdoor community. This community was made up of colorful characters that had parlayed their normal lives into ones in which they concentrated all of their efforts into hunting and/or fishing in order to make a living. Writers, video “stars,” and equipment manufactures made up this tight-knit community, and they shared a common passion of ducks and duck hunting.

One such individual was Randy “The Flagman” Bartz. Randy was renown in the waterfowling community for his "flagging" products. For those not in the know, flagging is leveraging a tool, akin to a flag or a child's kite, and manipulating it in such a what as to mimic the wing motion of landing geese. While it looks stupid and ineffective to the uninitiated, it can be incredibly effective, especially for wary geese that have been hunted hard.

Randy is unique in the marketplace in that he has basically no ego. The industry is filled with differing tiers of "celebrities," and unfortunately some of those tiers include total jerks. These are guys that are often seen on outdoor television, and feel like that exposure affords them some level of special treatment if not outright adulation. Unfortunately, the jerks far outnumber the good guys, but there are some great folks out there, including Phil Robertson, Al Lindner, Eli and Rod Haydel, and others. But of all of them, Randy was special. He is kind to a fault, hard working, with piercing blue eyes, and giant hands that totally engulfed yours anytime you shook them.

In working at Herter's, Randy and I spent a number of days representing the company at different outdoor shows and waterfowling events throughout the country. Trade show life is hard, and despite being 25 years my senior, Randy worked like a man half his age. There were a couple of shows that we did in Memphis in the middle of summer, outdoors, and they took a big physical toll. For example, prior to one day of the show, Randy and I bought a case of water at Wal-Mart, and completely finished it during the day. Despite this huge consumption, neither of us peed all day long. Through it all Randy busted his tail, and we established a bond based on some of the shared torture we endured.

It was during the lulls in the show and over beers afterwards where I found out that Randy ran a kennel, and had been raising Labradors for years. He did it out of his farm/office, and had been turning out some really great hunting dogs. I also confided my desire to someday get a dog, and promised I'd call him when the day came when I was ready.

Time passed, and while I still wanted to eventually get a dog, I was not making progress. As part of my job, I needed to monitor how our customer list was being used, and I established the name "Blitz Sidders" in the file with my address to make sure that those that rented our list used it appropriately. While my future dog was receiving mail at our address, she was nowhere close to coming to fruition.

That's about the time Randy called. "You ready for a dog yet?" he asked, half joking, half prodding. I stammered that I really hadn't cleared it with my wife and I wasn't sure and blah blah blah. "Listen," Randy said, "I have a litter that is ready next week. Good dogs from a good line. None are currently spoken for, so I'll give you pick of the litter and I'll charge you want I have into the pup in terms of feed and meds. $250. What do you say?"

Pretty much I was never going to find a deal better than this. I told him I'd need to verify with my wife, and would get back to him. Randy let me know that I needed to do so right away if I still wanted the pick of the litter, so I promised I'd call him the next day.

While my wife and I had discussed a dog in the future, we'd never got into the details. Our conversation that night over dinner was going to be intersting...

Go on to Part 4

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Goodbye Sarah

The Palin announcement comes as a shock. Either she's setting herself up for a run at 2012 or the media and the popular culture has effectively completed their political assassination of her, via tactics that, if employed on any other public figure, would be met with howls of injustice and sexism.

If the former, it will fail, and will fail miserably. If the latter, then we're all the losers. Mark Steyn says it best:

National office will dwindle down to the unhealthily
singleminded (Clinton, Obama), the timeserving emirs of
Incumbistan (Biden, McCain) and dynastic heirs (Bush). Our loss.

Either way, it is a bad thing for America.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

E85 is a Joke

The StarTribune business section recently reported that Ethanol sales are lagging significantly, and Ethanol proponents are quick to blame the low cost of regular gas and the overall economy as factors in the reduced demand.

As an owner of an E85-enabled vehicle, I'll offer you what is really happening: 1) When running E85, my vehicle gets 66% of the mileage as regular gas, but its cost is typically 80% of regular gas. Economically, I'd be a fool to run E85. 2) Despite being made of only 15% gas, the price of E85 fluctuates nearly exactly with the price of regular gas. How can that be, unless those selling it think the general public is too stupid to notice?

Sorry, but until price lines up with performance and producers quit gouging drivers via inflated price increases, my alternate fuel vehicle will avoid E85 at every opportunity.