Saturday, December 31, 2011

Brock Lesnar is Done

In UFC 41 last night, Brock Lesnar showed up, albeit ostensibly to offer his good-bye.  In his match against Allister Overeem, Lesnar appeared to not be as sharp on his conditioning when entering the ring, as his body looked less defined than I'd seen it.  Conditioning is all about heart, and by the end of the night, it was clear that Lesnar's heart was no longer in it. 

Overeem controlled the octagon effectively through the first round, and was quite effective at his stand-up strategy.  After dropping a knee into Lesnar's midsection, it was clear that the area was rife for attack, and a vicious leg to the guts buckled Lesner and ended the fight.  Soon thereafter, Lesnar announced his retirement from the sport. 

I'm a Lesnar fan - he's the reason why I got the fight in the first place.  Unfortunately, his diverticulitis, an incredibly serious malady, has left him weakened and vulnerable.  He probably never should have stepped into the ring.  Certainly if one considers the advice of those in the know in the medical community, he absolutely should have hung it up well before the fight. 

It is a real shame, as the disease prevented us from seeing what Lesnar could have done.  Still a neophyte with only 8 pro MMA bouts, he never really got a chance to peak. 

So as Brock departs, I wish him all the best, especially in the health department.  However, I wish he just would have said good-bye, instead of enticing me to drop $56 for what turned out to be an expensive retirement announcement.     

Friday, December 30, 2011

Among Savages EP

From the good folks over at Noise Trade comes this free EP download from Among Savages.  Really a great download - very highly recommended.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vista Home Security 2012 Virus

My PC ended up catching the crud, and I was hit with a nasty virus (the Vista Home Security 2012, to be exact).  I usually always practice safe computing, but ended up downloading an MP3 from a dubious source a couple of weeks ago. 

I should have known better. 

Fortunately, I struck upon  They have great information, and walked me through a solution in step-by-step fashion that got me back into the pink.  Bookmark this one, folks, it is a good source to have handy. 

Ditto that Malwarebytes Anti-Malware tool

Thank goodness for the good guys out there…

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Recap

We enjoyed a whirlwind trip back to Minnesota this past weekend.  Our vagabond stops included mom's place, my sister's place, my wife's mom's place in Staples, then back to my sister's.  Lump in trips to our old church for Christmas mass and a cup of Christmas cheer with our old neighbors, and it could not have been more busy.

Despite the pace, we had a wonderful time.  We really enjoyed seeing everyone and catching up.  It really was what a holiday should all be about.

I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked, but here are a couple for your review.  The first is the crew that conducted a Christmas Eve walk to Caribou for some hot chocolate and coffee:

On the way there, my niece and I created a little song just for the season.  Sung to the tune of Good King Wenceslas:

Walking with my dog today
to Caribou in the morning
She'll take poops along the way
to Caribou in the morning

We thought it was a hit.  My brother and wife did not see the humor.

Next photo is of my other niece and nephew.  This pretty much captures them as they are:

Again, just a great Christmas.  Can't wait to do it again next year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

I know that there is something beautiful about a traditional white Christmas, but for this winter in Green Bay, warm temperatures and lack of precipitation have conspired to render us with a Green Christmas.  

Not that I'm complaining.  After the year we had last year, making it through December without any appreciable snow is just fine with me.  However, it does mean that my new snowblower will continue to sit idle for the next coming months. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Obama Claims He's the 4th Best President in History

This outtake didn't make the final 60 Minutes episode, but Obama, the man that previously graded himself with a "good, solid B+" now rates himself with the greats in history.

The man is a narcissist at best, a delusional at worst.

Also, why did 60 Minutes cut this?  Had Bush, or any other conservative for that matter, uttered such a boast, it would have been a lead story.  The continual whitewashing of this man's foibles by the media is stunning.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Game Farm Recap

I've only been pheasant hunting one weekend this year.  One.  Pathetic.

The yellow dog is now 6 1/2, and past her prime.  That being said, she's still a very good pheasant dog, and unless I find a way to get her out, I'm just wasting precious time.  Therefore, I took her out to a local game farm to get us both some much needed time afield.

Here are a couple of shots from the time out.  The first one is with her working a bird, and acting "birdy."  Check out how that tail is moving:

The next one is of her on point.  Actually, it is at the end of her being on point.  By the time I got my phone out, unlocked, brought the camera up, turned the video on and stated rolling film, she was losing her patience with me.

And, with all of that non-hunting activity, I was hoping I'd just be able to drop my phone, shoulder my gun, and make the shot.  Unfortunately, it was a flat miss.

Despite that bird getting away, we were able to harvest nearly all we had set out, as evidenced by this:
The boudin was just a little appetizer.

Perhaps not hunting in the purest sense, but the dog got darned tired, I was stiff in the morning, and my wife raved about dinner.  I'd say that was a mission accomplished.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Carlson School of Management Christmas Flash Mob

The whole flash mob thing is really becoming passe, but given that I was in this very building a little over a month ago, speaking to business undergrads, it strikes a little more close to home.  


Monday, December 19, 2011

Delta Mileage Run Pays Instant Dividends

The weekend before last I took a "mileage run" trip back to Minneapolis for the weekend.  These trips are typically booked at the end of the year and are done in order to gain status in a airline's frequent flyer program.  

In October, I knew that I'd be about 250 miles from Silver status with Delta, and I decided at that time to book a trip in December to gain status, and spend the weekend with family and friends.  

The ticket was an expensive one - $450.  However, given my upcoming travel schedule in 2012 as I felt the investment was worth it for the benefits.  For me, they are:
  • Being able to check multiple bags without a fee (VERY handy for my hunting trip to Louisiana in January)
  • Being able to access "preferred" seats without paying a fee.  I've already got myself booked on exit rows for three upcoming trips
  • Being able to board first, and actually get a chance to stow my carry on
  • Getting the rare upgrade to First Class
After spending a great weekend in Minneapolis (lunch with friends, dinner with my mom, drinks with other friends, and then a really nice Sunday doing church, brunch and shopping with mom), I was ready to head on back home.  That's when I got the fateful email:

I'd been Silver for just over 24 hours, and already I'd be sitting up front, putting a massive dent into their liquor cart.  

A flight or two more like that and I'll be able to get my $450 back out of those guys, no problem. 


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

We often repeat things in church or in songs just because they're rote.  We've been doing it forever, and it just comes out of us without so much as a conscious thought.  But every now and again we get something to kick us a little askew, and it allows for an examination of the words in a new light.   

I bought Michael McDonald's Christmas album, as I just love the guy's voice.  The blue-eyed-soul has been with me since his stints with the Doobie Brothers and, before that, Steely Dan, and I've always felt he had one of the best voices in rock.   

One of the songs on the new album that really moved me was God Rest YeMerry Gentlemen.  We've all heard that song a million times, but his soulful version was so unique, so unlike any other version, that it allowed for a new appreciation of the song and the words.   

Tidings of comfort and joy.   

Let that sink in for a second.   

To save us all from Satan's power 
When we had gone astray   
O tidings of comfort and joy   

As we celebrate the birth of the Savior and come to the realization of the gravity of what that truly means, they truly are tidings of comfort and joy. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What the Hell is it About My Driveway?

First my brother-in-law runs over my mailbox over Thanksgiving.  Now the pizza guy misses the mailbox (thankfully) but drives right through the lawn.

Is it that hard to just look over your shoulder and back out?

Those of you ordering from Gallagher's, you've been warned...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tim Tebow - Proving the World Wrong, and the World Hates It

It is interesting to see how the world is reacting to Tim Tebow.  Revered to hated, and everything in between, there does not appear to be a uniform feeling about the guy.  The only thing that seems consistent between camps is the lingering question: is he too good to be true? 

The reason the question is so pervasive is that Tebow is very much outside the typical NFL mode.  Young, rich, good looking, successful in a very testosterone-filled environment, and under constant temptation by all of the trappings a career in the NFL affords, he could not really be that pious, could he? 

Home schooled.  Performed foreign missionary work.  Appeared in an anti-abortion ad.  Admitted virgin.  And win after improbable win.  With political land mines everywhere, and with the popular mocking of Tebowing, Tebow is slowly winning over converts.  Yet through it all, it seems that the nation is holding its breath for the truth to REALLY come out about Tebow and how he lives his life. 

Why exactly is this?  Is life so good that people like Tebow need to be mocked and maligned?  Do we really take more joy out of human failing, as opposed to decency?  It seems like the times in which we live, we’d appreciate a God-fearing man more than we do.  But no, the only thing most seem to appreciate is impending fall that most just know is going to happen. 

Here’s hoping you prove them wrong, Tim.  Again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Newt Gingrich is Unelectable

The Republican party is on the verge of blowing it.  The longer it continues its consideration of Newt Gingrich as a legitimate candidate, the more it runs the risk of completely alienating the independent portion of the electorate that it MUST have in order to win the White House. 

As stated here earlier, Gingrich is unelectable.  Thoroughly and completely.  How, exactly?  Let me count the ways: 
  • Newt is a lifelong politician.  While he may be intelligent and "full of ideas," his actual list of accomplishments is quite short given his stature.  And that's because with Newt, it has always been Newt first, country second. 
  • Don't believe the first point?  OK, how about 3 marriages due to Newt's infidelity?  If a guy can't do right by his wife, how in the world would you expect him to do right by his country? 
  • The whole Freddie Mac fiasco stinks to high heaven.  The guy consulted with them for 8 years, to the tune of $1.6MM.  How the hell can he not accept some blame for the economic turmoil that blow-up has wrought? 
  • Right wing social engineering?  Seriously, what the hell?

  • Finally, there's this tete-a-tete with Nancy Pelosi. 

While the uber-right wing of the party longs for someone that will take Obama apart in a debate (which Newt would do quite handily), the risk that gets run is that Newt comes across as an "angry white guy," and the entire message gets lost in his vitriol and the public's concern about electing someone so negative to the highest office in the land.  And at the end of the day Newt can't hide from what he is:  a jowly, angry, self-serving, failed, sanctioned, lifelong politician.  The media and the Obama campaign would take him apart, and it would absolutely assure Obama of his second term. 

Is that really the price we're willing to pay to see Obama squirm in a couple of debates?   

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Amazon App a Retail Store Killer

Amazon has just launched a smart phone app that will allow customers to shop in a retailer - any retailer -  scan the barcode of a given product, and compare the price of that same product at Amazon.  As added incentive, the online giant is offering customers an additional $5 discount off of their order.  On top of that, Amazon boasts free shipping for orders over $25, and will make the sale without charging sales tax (in most states). 

From the consumers' perspectives, it is a slam dunk.  Simply use the brick-and-mortar retailer as a showroom, break out your phone, and if you can delay your gratification to allow for shipping, ship it to your home for a tidy little discount. 

All is fair in love, war, and retail.  And if I were in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' shoes, I'd likely do the same.  It is a brilliant move on his part.  It is only a matter of time before the states get around to charging sales tax, but in the mean time sales tax rules at a state/local level are onerous to navigate, especially for very small retailers.  How is your local fashion store going to be able to understand that, in shipping to an order in Minnesota, she'll need to collect sales tax for a handkerchief, but not for a bandanna?  So Amazon has a window to exploit, and with this app, they're exploiting the hell out of it. 

Until the states can come together, eliminate their socially engineered tax tables, and come up with something that will make charging, collecting, and remitting sales tax easy and efficient, Amazon will win.  And the real losers will be the states themselves, traditional retailers, and especially the mom and pop store.   

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Packers Stock Sale to Help Expand Local Church

There's a lot that has surprised us about our new home in Green Bay, and the biggest surprises always revolve around the hometown Packers.  Pretty much every stereotype developed about this place and its love affair with the team is true.  I have never seen anything like it. 

Given all that as a background,. I should not be surprised about the "stock offering" that was initiated yesterday.  But surprised I remain.  Why?  Because people here (and around the globe, actually) are spending $250 a "share" for a worthless piece of paper. 

You see, this stock isn't stock in the traditional sense.  There's no market for it.  It pays no dividends.  It cannot appreciate in value.  It cannot be sold; only transferred, and then only to family members.  It holds no claim in the event of any kind of liquidation.  It can be repurchased at any time and for any reason by the team at a price of $0.025.  It is truly and completely worthless.  In fact, the only "benefit" a shareholder has is the ability to vote on things like board configuration, the chance to attend the annual "shareholders' meeting," and the ability to purchase (hey, spend some more money!) official "shareholders'" merchandise. 

And yet they're being gobbled up like bratwurst hot off of the tailgate grill. 

Beyond that, the team is charging $25 for "handling."  Why it costs $25 to print and ship a piece of paper is beyond me, but if Bernie Madoff stuck upon such a scheme, he might have been able to retain his lavish lifestyle and keep his fraudulent tuchus out of the pokey.

When I consider where my wife and I give our money - our church, charitable organizations, conservation organizations, local food shelves, health research, schools, etc. - the thought has never crept into my head that I need to broaden that list to include our local NFL franchise.  But then again I've never lived anywhere where that franchise is viewed with the same reverence that is typically reserved for such institutions. 

Lambeau Field is this area's cathedral, and will be supported in similar fashion by those that are members of the Church of the Packers.  So when the church needs to expand, the basket gets passed, and subsequently filled. 

And that's just how it is here in Green Bay. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Retail Life

As we approach the Christmas holiday, the world gears up to celebrate.  However, for those of us with a career in retail, there is scant little celebration.  It is game time.  It means big pressure as the stakes go up, and go up across the board - budgets are big, crowds big, and expectations are big.  It as about as far away from "comfort and joy," as one can get. 

And despite the big pressures and sacrifices, it is incredibly fun. 

A career in retail isn't that dissimilar to one of a Major League ballplayer.  The regular season is a long one, and you need to do a lot of things right.  But at the end, in the World Series, that's where the glory lives, and where heroes and goats are made.  It is a big stage, big pressure, long hours, and not for everybody.  However, for those who like that kind of environment, there's not much that's better. 

As my channel is ecommerce, our selling season is basically over in two weeks.  And while I look at the time remaining and long for the respite that will come with its conclusion, I also see the opportunity inherent in these last days and the need to do more. 

Ever more.  

So help a brother out an buy something, would you?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Skyrim - Video Crack

My whole life, I've loved video games.  From the $100s in quarters I spent at our local bowling alley, to thousands(!) of hour spent across different computer formats (Apple II+, Mac, PC), to the hundreds of hours spent with consoles (handheld or otherwise), and now with my iPhone and iPad, I've wasted gobs of my life with games.   

While they're really great for making time on a flight or on the elliptical machine go by quickly, they're also addictive as hell for me.  So much that I've purposefully avoided things like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft as I know if I get into them, I'm into a massive time suck.   

And time is something I don't have.   

Work.  Working out.  Writing.  Being a spouse, brother, uncle, friend.  All of these I already don't have enough time to do to a level that I'd like.   

Hence, when I see a cool ad for Skyrim, I have to run from it like a junkie from crack.  My inner nerd wants me to go there so damn bad, but my reality adult is holding off.  

 At least for the time being...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Browning Maxus Review

As reported here earlier, I purchased a new Browning Maxus ahead of the waterfowling season this year.  I'd like to offer up a quick review of the gun for those that might be interested in purchasing one. 
  • The first thing I noticed was the weight of the gun.  Coming in under 7lbs., the gun felt light even when fully loaded with 3 1/2" steel.  For me, this made the gun much more quick than what I was used to with my old Browning Gold, which was over a half pound heavier.  I've always felt that a quick gun makes me a better shooter, and the confidence increase just due to the weight in my hands was noticeable.  
  •  The action was extremely reliable.  Dirt, rain , dust, and cattails didn't hang it up.  Likewise, while some previous versions had some trigger issues, I found zero after breaking my gun in over a couple of dozen clays.   
  • The gun is a dream to break down and clean.  I can't imagine a simpler design.  It could not be easier to maintain.   
My bottom line is about results, and I can honestly assert that I've not had a better shooting season for ducks in my life.  I'm an above average shot, but streaky, and I never had a cold period with this gun.  My first three trigger pulls resulted in dead birds, and I was probably 10 for my first 12 shots.  Is that all of the gun's doing?  No, it can't shoot itself, and factors like shot selection, ammunition, confidence, and luck come into play, but the gun plays a big part as well.  And for me, the money spent on the Maxus was money well spent.  

I can't wait to take it down to Louisiana to finish up the duck season at the end of next month.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert Nearly Unwatchable

Currently on heavy rotation on Palladia is the concert for the 25th anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I've spent multiple half-hour (or better) chunks with this, hoping to see some really good music.  In just about every performance, I've been disappointed.   

Some examples include: 
  • A bloated Steven Stills.  Steve, when you pass up David Crosby as the fat guy in the group, it's time to hit the gym.  
  •  An additionally bloated Stevie Wonder forgetting the words to The Way She Makes Me Feel so badly that it made one cringe.  Now there is a lot of revisionist history that he was just choked up due to the loss of his friend Michael Jackson.  Bull.  Funny how he gains his composure on chorus just fine.
  •  A subdued version of (why? this has got to be a driving rocker!) of Gimme Shelter, with Fergie (the only saving grace, no pun intended) and Mick Jagger struggling on how to end the song.  See below on what I mean.  
  • Sting getting the words wrong to Roxanne.  Excuse me, but he's been singing that song for 30 plus years.  How the hell does he forget the words?   
Now, if you go out to Amazon, you'll see a lot of 5 star ratings for the concert DVD, and those folks are entitled to their opinion.  For me, the performances and performers left a lot to be desired, and just goes to show that the R&RHOF isn't really about the music, and is more about degenerating into a Time/Life oldies compilation.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chris Christie Calls Obama Out

Finally, FINALLY, somebody calls Obama out on his abject failure to lead.  

There is no way this man deserves a second term.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

J Mac

A feel good story for a crazy Cyber Monday

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

My wife and I were lucky enough to host my whole family this past Thanksgiving weekend.  It was simply awesome to have everyone around us, and to have the house filled with such wonderful noise.  Here are a couple of photos from the events:

On Friday, my brother-in-law drove over our mailbox.  And our mailboxes are about 150lbs. of solid concrete.  This messed up his vehicle, but it wasn't anything that some duct tape couldn't handle.  Note that this was not unexpected, as every year something goes sideways at our gatherings.  As an old neighbor once said, we are the Griswolds.

The weather was warm and dry enough for us to get out and play a couple of holes.  While the course wasn't open, that didn't stop us, so we borrowed the neighbor's cart and off we went.  The highlight was my brother's shank into the lake.  Or, I should say, onto the lake, as it was frozen and his ball skidded all the way across to the other side.  Not sure what the ruling was on that but it had us all laughing

What would Thanksgiving be if there was not a touch football game?  I wore my Favre jersey for inspiration (and to tick off the neighbors), and scored a TD on my nephew's fumble (although I should have been flagged for excessive celebration).  Here's an action shot, capturing Deuce clearly not waiting until "three Mississippi" before starting her rush

It was a great time, and we can't wait to see everybody again at Christmas.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Anthony Hardwick Just Can't Bring Himself to Work on Friday

There's been much made in the media about the decision that some retailers have made to open at midnight on Black Friday.  In some circles, retailers are being criticized for their heartless decision to make their employees work in the middle of the night immediately after a holiday.  In fact, a Target employee named Anthony Hardwick (pictured) has launched a petition on to have Target rethink their decision, as it impacts Target employees' Thanksgivings. 

Pardon me, but what a bunch of crap.  For a lot of reasons: 
  • Businesses exist to make money.  The way they make money is to give their customers what they want.  And if the customer wants to buy at midnight on Black Friday, it is incumbent on the business to provide that service. 
  • A job at Target is a job in retail.  If you're in retail, that means you'll likely be working Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve, and all sorts of inconvenient times.  I've been in retail about half of my working career, and I know that it requires working on holidays.  That's the career I have chosen, and those are the table stakes.  I'm not sure how this could come as a surprise to anyone in the industry. 
  • Don't want to work at midnight, Bucko?  Simple - quit.  Nobody is holding a gun to your head.  Given the 9% unemployment rate, I'm betting someone would be happy to take that job you just can't bring yourself to perform.  So cancel the call to the wahmbulence, grow a pair, and find a new job. 
  • In all of the whining about the poor retail employees, very few people ever mention those workers that will be out there at the same time, working, and not complaining.  Police, fire, heath care, convenience stores are just some of thousands (if not millions) of folks that will be on the clock while folks are queuing up outside some retail store come midnight.  And don't get me started on the military.  Those people will be thousands of miles from their loved ones, with their asses on the line, with a plate of cold turkey roll if they're lucky, and idiots like Anthony Hardwick have the gall to complain that his quaint little dinner is going to be slightly interrupted.  What a whiney, sissy little coward.  He should be ashamed of himself. 

While I'm sure target will enjoy getting the petition and the 190,000 signatures, something tells me that the millions of customers that will be shopping with them around midnight on Black Friday might somehow trump it.    

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Six, "Two Years Old: Part 4"

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

While duck hunting could prove to be dangerous due to the temperature swings and adverse conditions, the physical activity around pheasant hunting afforded the opportunity for both man and dog to get their heart rates up and body temperatures high.  During her second year, Blitz and I hunted birds at our farm every weekend, and even some week days where we could muster an appropriate excuse to do so.  One such opportunity came via an invite from a vendor of mine that was looking to hold a "meeting" out at one of the local game farms. 

Now there are some that turn up their nose at game farms as they don't pass their test of what "pure" hunting is, and opinions in the hunting community run the gamut of "no issues at all." to "I'd never do it."  I've found that when the birds are raised properly, which means their pens afford full flight development for the birds and their food supply is ample for their energy needs, that game farm hunting can be quite sporty.  I've had too many birds escape on me not be as humbled in those confines as I am in the wild.  And while I wouldn't attend game farms by myself just for my personal hunting, when one adds a dog and the irreplaceable experience that comes from live bird work, there is no better place to train a dog.  Just like any endeavor, the more experience one has, the more proficient one becomes, and that is clearly the case with gun dogs and game farms. 

Prior to our meeting, my vendor Doug inquired about Blitz and how she'd been performing.  "Pretty good," I explained.  "She's just over two, so she doesn't have a ton of experience, but she hunts close and has a good nose"  Doug explained that should be just fine, as his six-year-old dog should be able to pick up any birds that Blitz missed to do her youth, inexperience and exuberance.   

We met at the field at our appointed hour, and I could tell by the thumping coming from the dog crate in the back of the truck that Blitz was ready to go.  Doug and his dog met us at my lift gate, where I was loading up.  "You loaded yet, Doug?"  I asked.  "No, you think I should?" he replied.  "Judging by how this crate is shaking, I think that might be a good idea," I explained.  I slung my shotgun over my shoulder and positioned my body directly in front of the crate door.  Opening it slightly, Blitz pushed against it and exploded forward about a foot to where she bumped into my chest.  I leveraged her half-in, half out position to quickly put her training collar around her neck, and once affixed, stood aside.  Blitz shot from the truck like she was jumping out of a burning building, and immediately headed for the pheasant cover about twenty yards away.  "OK, I guess we're hunting..." Doug said astutely. 

Blitz dashed about ahead of us; nose down and tail wagging.  Almost immediately she went on point, and I moved up to flush a hidden chuckar partridge.  The bird flushed, I snapped a quick shot, and dropped the bird cleanly with Blitz in hard pursuit of the fallen partridge.  "That didn't take long," said Doug.  Taking the bird from the dog's mouth, I replied "Yeah, she kind of works fast," and before I could finish my statement, Blitz had already moved out in front of us to find the next bird. 

We hunted the field strategically, and made sure that we were covering all of our appointed ground.  Doug's chocolate lab hunted at a slow and deliberate pace, whereas Blitz was flying about like some blond berserker.  We made our way to the end of the field, picking up birds all along the way, then turned around to head back to the truck to drop off our birds, water down the dogs, and develop a new plan of attack.  We arrived at the back of my truck and stared to unload, and judging by the quantity birds I pulled from my game bag in my vest, it was obvious that Blitz had done an incredible job.  "Here's the two my dog and I got," Doug exclaimed as he threw his quarry on our sizable pile.  "I'm glad we were here to back Blitz up!  In all seriousness, she's an incredible dog.  She's maybe the best I've ever hunted behind."  Given all of the hunting Doug had done, that was a hell of a compliment, and I was delighted that such a knowledgeable outdoorsman would bestow it to her. 

During that season, Blitz and I also got enlisted to do some "professional" hunting as well.  A good friend of mine had developed a guided hunting business, and had developed much of his 700+ acres for deer and pheasant habitat.  It just so happened that his property was less than ten miles from my farm, and while I had heard stories of the pheasants it held, I had not yet been invited to hunt there.  So when my buddy Don called and exclaimed that his guide dogs had been burned out the day prior with some clients and needed to rest, and that he needed some fresh dog power, I was more than happy to volunteer Blitz's services. 

Blitz and I arrived at Don's farm, and it was as described.  The cover and habitat was some of the finest in the county, and while the hunting would be tough due to the thickness of the cover, I was giddy knowing what awaited us.  Simply put, cover that good had to hold tons of birds, and I couldn't wait to get Blitz in there and after them.  After quick introductions with Don and his two clients, we headed out. 

We made our way into a overgrown thicket that bordered a small creek, and pushed through it with desires of reaching switch grass field that lay beyond.  The cover in the thicket was substantial, and I was plowing through it to the best of my ability.  Due to the thickness of the growth, I quickly lost sight of Blitz and the others in my hunting party, but heard some of their exclamations (profane or otherwise) as they were exiting the heavy brush on the other side.  I finally got to a point where I could see the field ahead of me and a couple of guys in our party.  At this point, Don yelled "Hey, Mikey, there's something wrong with your dog! She's not moving!"  Panicked, I increased my pace to get out of the cover and looked around for Blitz.  I soon spied her, statue-still, tail high, and intently looking at a clump of grass in front of her.  "She's fine, Don.  She's pointing," I explained. 

"Pointing?" he asked. 
"Yeah, she's pointing." 
"Your dog points?"
"Yeah, she's doing it right now!" 
"What do I do?"  
"Uh, get ready!" I exclaimed, and gave Blitz the command of "GET HIM!"  Blitz moved forward and immediately a beautiful rooster burst from the cover and into the sky, where he was met by the shot of one of the clients.  As Blitz brought the bird back, everyone exclaimed that they had never hunted with a lab that pointed, and they couldn't believe what they just saw.  "Judging by the cover around here, hopefully you'll get to see more of it soon," I stated. 

My prognosis was going to prove absolutely correct.   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Why Sammy Hagar was Better than David Lee Roth

For fans of Van Halen, the debate has raged: Who was the better front man, David Lee Roth, or Sammy Hagar? 

While I am a fan of both versions of the band, I feel that David Lee Roth couldn't carry Sammy Hagar's jock strap. 

Here are the top ten reasons why Sammy is better than Dave:

  • Singing Ability - Dave can't sing.  Sorry, he can't.  He can shout and screech, but he cannot sing.  As a front man Dave is flamboyant.  As a singer, he's horrible. Conversely, Sammy can sing, and can sing well. 
  • Vocal Range - Sammy has great range, and is able to excel on songs that Roth would have no chance on recording.  Examples include Standing on Top of the World, Poundcake, Feeling, and Sucker in a Three Piece are just some simple examples
  • Attitude - Dave is all about Dave.  Just one look at any Van Halen or Roth video will be all you need to know about Dave.  Even his stage persona is all about Dave.  At my only Roth era VH concert (Diver Down tour, I believe), Dave stopped the band mid-song, points down into the crowd and says "Hey, this &*%^% just dumped his beer on me, man!"  To which the crowd boos vociferously.  "That's OK, that's OK," he continues, "because after the concert I'm gonna $%$# his girlfriend."  To which the crowd erupts.  Good line, huh?  It better be, because he used it at every concert stop that tour. 
  • Videos - Simple.  Roth era videos are all about Dave.  Just check out Jump, or Hot for Teacher, or Panama and see for yourself.  Hagar era videos are about the band, the music, or something bigger.  Here are two great examples:

  • Guitar - Another simple one.  Sammy plays, which affords opportunities for Eddie to expand, either via guitar or keyboards. All Dave plays is a ego-centric tool in music videos.
  • Treatment of Fans - Sammy was dead set against a greatest hits album with "new material" as he felt it was just another way to soak fans.  Dave, not so much.  When Eddie broke a guitar on stage and showered fans with debris, Sammy was outraged.  It became the last straw with the alcoholic Eddie.  I doubt Dave would have cared that much, unless it would have caused someone in the front row to spill a beer on him...
  • Pre-Van Halen Work - Prior to joining Van Halen, Sammy had two albums with Montrose, 8 solo albums (including two platinum and a gold), and an album with HSAS under his belt.  Dave launched with Van Halen, so this isn't really fair.  Understood. But consider...
  • Post-Van Halen Work - Sammy has continued to excel, with two solo albums, 5 with the Waboritas, and two outstanding albums with Chickenfoot.  Dave had 5 solo albums that have sold less and less with each subsequent release.  Self-indulgent but commercially successful efforts included "Eat 'em and Smile" and "Skyscraper."  Pretty much after that Dave was left to playing a burlesque show Vegas and moonlighting as an EMT.
  • Class - At the induction of Van Halen in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, only Sammy and Michael Anthony showed up.  Eddie was a raging alcoholic, Alex deferred due to Eddie's condition, and Dave didn't show because his performance had been cancelled.  That left Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar for the induction speech, and both gave proper credit to Dave for VH's early years and success.  Now, in your mind's eye, imagine if tables had been turned and only Dave gave the speech.  I doubt he would have been so generous.
  • Handling of Michael Anthony - VH's sound is hallmarked by two things - Eddie's incredible guitar work and Michael Anthony's incredible high harmonies.  In their post-Van Halen periods, Dave, obviously feeling Michael was replaceable, seemed content to settle for Eddie's kid Wolfgang on bass.  Sammy, on the other hand, knew the value that Anthony brought to the sound, and worked with him on a couple of side projects, including the current one with Chickenfoot.
Please don't get me wrong - I am a fan of the Roth vintage of Van Halen.  Any music fan would have to be one.  However, I really tire of folks not giving Sammy his due.  The Hagar vintage of VH was a better one, and one that continues to age well.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Republic Chophouse Review - Go There When the Green Bay Packers Don't

After a really long week, my wife and I went to Republic Chophouse for an early Friday dinner to relax, reconnect, and talk about the week past.  We really enjoy Republic and feel it is clearly Green Bay's nicest steak restaurant.

Since it was the Friday night of the deer opener weekend and nearly half of the population was headed for the woods, we felt we should be able to get in without any kind of reservation.  Judging by the open parking lot we spied upon our arrival, we liked our chances.

We were greeted by the cheerful maitre d, who informed us there would be about an hour wait for a table.  Peering beyond him into the dining room, we noticed empty table after empty table.  None of them were filled. 

Figuring there must be a big party coming in that just had not arrived yet, we accepted the offer to sit at a table in the bar, which was comfortable, but loud.  The bar location also afforded a great view of the front door, and as our evening progressed, the large party we envisioned never materialized.  We talked about it through dinner, and wondered what the heck was going on.

About an hour after our arrival, I noticed Packers linebacker (and our neighbor five doors down) A.J. Hawk and his family head toward the front door from the dining room. 

Really?  Nobody could sit in an ample dining room because a Packer and his family were eating there?  While we had an OK dinner, did we really have to sit in the bar because of that?

Evidently, in Green Bay, where the team is royalty, the answer is yes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thoughts on Penn State

I've not commented on the Jerry Sandusky sexual predator situation yet. Time to weigh in: 
  • I just got through reading the Penn State Grand Jury report. While much of this has been covered by the media, to read it in the formal document, in all of its graphic detail, was infuriating, heart-breaking, and stomach turning. It was just disturbing.  
  • In situations like this, where innocent kids have suffered unspeakable physical and mental trauma, I have a hard time reconciling my faith. While we're asked to forgive, I can't help but desire the justice and vengeance of a brutal prison experience, followed by an eternity in Hell. And I'm not even a victim. 
  • The wreckage that Sandusky wrought will impact Penn State for decades. Personally, every Saturday I want to see them lose, and lose big. That's not fair for the kids there, or the players that played there, and I'm sorry about that. But that school and athletic faculty had the ability to step in and save some kids, and they chose instead to turn a blind eye and let the carnage continue. For that, Nittany Lions, you deserve every pummeling that will be dealt to you. 
  • Speaking of the impact on former players, at the bottom of the page is LaVare Arrington talking about the situation.

How does one make sense out of any of this? The damage - the suffering? I guess all we can do is pray for the victims, the school, and as much as I don't want to, Sandusky.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Six, "Two Years Old: Part 3"

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

While her second year provided new experiences, Blitz was also coming into her own as a gun dog.  Starting with the waterfowl season, Blitz was becoming more a more valuable as a retriever.  Certainly, she was still a handful in the boat, and her canine ADD made for less than dull moments, but her marking of fallen birds, insatiable desire to retrieve, and overall passion for the sport were all increasing at a substantive rate.  That season there were a number of birds that my partners and I knocked down that would not have been harvested had Blitz not been conducting her work so expertly. 

She quickly learned the routine of our duck hunting, but her enthusiasm and my lack of patience, foresight, and care would put her at risk.  An early November morning found my partner Don and I up at 5:00 AM getting ready to head out, and Blitz, now attune to the routine, was bounding around like a kid on Christmas morning.  She knew we were going hunting, and she wanted to go right now!  With all of that youthful energy, she proved to be too elusive that morning to put on her hunting vest, and due to too many cocktails the night before, I was in no mood for one of our renown wrestling matches.  Judging by the temperature and her increasing coat, I felt she'd be fine, so we would forgo the vest. 

We piled into the truck and drove the short distance to the landing where we found that the misty weather we had was mixing with the warmer temperature of the lake and was generating a thick soup of fog.  We knew the lake well and had a short distance to go, so we weren't worried about the weather. 

We shoved off from shore and headed north to the cover we intended to hunt.  The ride was slower than usual due to the thickness of the fog, but we arrived at our destination with plenty of time to get our decoys set and to settle in prior to the legal shooting hour.  We created a nice spread with two landing areas: a "J" shape made out of our bluebill decoys and a "U" shape of mallards, and killed the motor to tuck into the cover to await the arrival of ducks.  During our decoy placement, with the noise of the motor and the thick fog, we were unable to know that another hunting partner appeared to be setting up fairly close to us, but now in the quiet of the morning, we could hear his boat working as he was laying out his decoys.  "He sounds really close," exclaimed Don, and I agreed.  However, we both recognized that sound carried really well in foggy conditions, and we were hoping that the actual proximity of the other hunter was just a sonic exaggeration. 

The short wait to legal shooting went by quickly, and while we could hear birds in our proximity, the fog prevented us from seeing them.  Soon enough a nice drake widgeon appeared from the soupy air, and Don folded it cleanly with a sporty crossing shot.  Blitz had bolted from the boat immediately on the report of Don's gun, but was able to discern the location of the fallen bird in the fog, and soon came back to the blind with our first bird of the morning.  Things were starting well, we exclaimed, as we prepared for more action. 

About this point the weather pattern had shifted dramatically.  Our calm, quiet, comfortable morning was suddenly and abruptly replaced by a strong northwest wind that brought a reduction in temperature and a chill to our bones.  The wind was also wreaking havoc with the fog which was being blown away little by little.  Soon, we were able to see to the outskirts of our decoy spread, and then slightly beyond, where we were enthused to see a flock of ducks sitting in the water.  As the fog continued to move off, our mood soured as the flock we were seeing were actually the decoys of the other hunter on the lake which were set in a location downwind of us that would effectively block any ducks from flying into our decoys. 

Don and I debated our predicament for a while, and finally came to the conclusion that this configuration was not going to work, and we needed to pick up our decoy spread and move to a new location.  We lowered the blind on the boat and prepared to make our move just as a cold rain started to fall.  Our fortunes had clearly changed quite drastically after starting out on such a good note.  We worked quickly in picking up the decoys, which was good as the rain had started coming down harder and harder.  Without the shelter of the blind we were taking the brunt of it, and while Don and I were staying dry due to our clothes, Blitz was getting soaked.  She was shaking her coat frequently to try and stay as dry as possible, but it was obviously a losing battle given the conditions. 

We quickly found a new location, put out a new spread, and got situated in fairly short order.  Pulling the blind up over us was welcomed, as the rain had turned into a sleet.  Passing a thermos of coffee back and forth, we tried to keep warm while waiting for our next chance at ducks.  Birds were flying, and we knew it was just a matter of time before they noticed our decoys and came into range for a look. 

About this time I noticed that Blitz had become lethargic.  My dog, in her short life, had been a lot of things, and lethargic was never, ever one of them.  She was also shaking uncontrollably, which clearly got my attention.  Although they were bred for being wet in cold weather, I was aware that hunting dogs do suffer from hypothermia in the right conditions.  In the wind, falling temperatures, and  soaked coat, it appeared Blitz might be headed there.  The best way to truly judge would be to get some kind of gauge on her body temperature.  Without a thermometer, this would have to be accomplished by feel of one of two locations on the dog, and there was no question which one I'd been choosing.  I removed my glove and moved my hand into the mouth of my shivering dog. 

What I felt there was cold and clammy. 

Blitz was in trouble, and I needed to get her warm, and to do so immediately.  "Don, we are out of here!" I exclaimed. 

Some guys might have had a problem with that.  We had come so far to hunt, we had worked so hard to get a good decoy set out, and birds were definitely in the area.  With all that invested, some might have pushed back.  Instead, Don responded with a quick "Yep!" as he flung the blind off of us in preparation for our departure. 

I stared the motor and immediately sped off for the landing, ignoring the decoys that we had previously set.  While motoring in, I was thinking of the best way possible to get Blitz warmed, and felt I had derived a good plan by the time we hit shore.  I kenneled Blitz in the back of the vehicle, cranked up the heat, and drove us back to the farm house.  Leaving the dog in the truck, I went into the house to fetch towels to dry the dog and to offer warm bedding in her plastic crate.  I rubbed her dry as best I could, and left her in the still-running vehicle, which by now was heating quite nicely.  Don and I went inside for some more coffee, and I would go out and check on Blitz every fifteen minutes or so to see how she was doing.  The truck was turning into a veritable sauna, and within an hour and a half or so I was eventually greeted by a dog that was back to her old self.   I let her out and headed back into the farm house, grateful for her condition and for having an understanding hunting partner.  Things certainly could have gone differently that morning, and I promised myself to never let situation like that happen again.         

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gagliardi to Return to SJU for His 60th Season

When I reported about John a couple of weeks ago, there was concern about his losing his streak of 43 consecutive winning seasons.  St. John's was a game below .500 at the time, with two to go (one being against #24 ranked St. Olaf).

Worry no more.  The Johnnies ran the table, and Gag's consecutive winning seasons now goes to an amazing 44.

Given the way they finished, John is coming back to coach for his 60th season at SJU. 

College football's winningest coach of all time really didn't have any plans to do anything else.  He told the St. Cloud Times:

"I don't know anything else," said Gagliardi, 85. "What else should I be doing? Am I going to take a trip to Italy or go climbing the Himalayas? I don't want to do any of those things. There are days I don't even like going into St. Cloud."

Thanks for sticking around, John.  And good luck running that consecutive winning seasons streak to 45.