Friday, January 28, 2011

KQ Morning Show - Cure for Minnesota Homesickness

There is a lot that I miss about the Twin Cities.  I miss major league baseball and hockey.  I miss the music scene.  I miss the good restaurants.  I miss the lakes.  Hell, I even miss the StarTribune.  But one of the things I really missed was the KQRS morning show.  

It is juvenile, sophomoric, repetitious, and unequivocally Minnesotan.  And successful.  From a ratings standpoint, this show consistently decimated its competition at a level that was (and is) the envy of just about every other radio show in the nation.  And one of the reasons that they're not known outside of the state is that they never took the show outside of the market.  Their head guy very adeptly knew that part of the popularity of the show was that it was Minnesotan.  The jokes wouldn't work in Detroit, and they weren't going to change the jokes.   

Every morning I used to drink coffee, eat my breakfast, read the paper, and listen to the show as part of my daily routine.  Yeah, they've been laughing at the same jokes for 20 years now, but bits and drops from their show have become part of Minnesota vernacular.  Don't believe me?  Then go up to a Minnesotan and say something like "you know damn right," "a pair of choppers," or "everyone's a winner," and see what kind of reaction you get.   

On a recent morning when I was struck with a greater-than-usual amount of homesickness, I wondered aloud what the KQ morning show was up to.  Lo and behold, my wife's laptop happened to be in the kitchen, and with a few clicks of the mouse, Tom, Terri and the crew were back in the kitchen with me.   

You can listen along with me here.   

At least one of my daily routines is back.  Now if I could just get the dog to fetch the newspaper every morning from the mailbox...  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Minnesota Game and Fish Fund - Increase Fees on Those Who Use It Most

The Minnesota Game and Fish fund is running dry, and there is a debate on in the state as to what to do about it. The easy answer is to merely increase license fees, but in an era where we need to recruit more to our sports, this most adversely impacts those whom we're most in need of bringing to our ranks. Another easy answer is to "stick it to the non-residents" by increasing licenses for those coming in from out of Minnesota, but given the fragile condition of the resort business, do we really want to encourage the resorts' best customers to look elsewhere for their family vacation?

Personally, I think the best option is acquire these funds by increasing license fees on boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, and recreational vehicles. Use of these vehicles in some instances causes environmental damage, so the increase tax is closely tied to work that needs to be done because of their use. The solution would also protect recruitment as novices lack this kind of expensive hardware when they're first starting out. Finally, as any owner of these vehicles can attest, owning and operating one comes with the expectation that there are going to be substantive ongoing expenses associated with it. Increasing fees by the cost of a gallon or two of boat gas should easily be accommodated by that group as part of ownership.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Four, "Dog Training, Sir" Part 5

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

The day couldn't have been more perfect for a first hunt.  The temperature was in the mid 40's with prospects to not go much higher.  The sky was overcast, but with zero chance of precipitation, and we had a good 10 mile per hour wind to aid the dogs' scenting.  Our crew of eight hunters and five dogs stretched out along our first field of switchgrass and began our first push.   

The grass was a direct result of the Conservation Reserve Program; a government program that compensates landowners for keeping their land in vegetative cover instead of farming it.  The benefits to the ecosystem by this program have been vast, with positive impacts to soil erosion, water quality, and wildlife.  The Ring-necked Pheasant, in particular, thrives in such environs.  Hence, our prospects were good for seeing birds, and perhaps giving Blitz a shot at her first retrieve.   

Immediately our four veteran dogs went to work with noses down, quartering the field quickly, and taking commands.  And trailing these workers was one young yellow dog, whose release from confinement combined with four new playmates, combined for a situation that can best be described as "jacking around."  My hunting companions were sympathetic with the situation, and a number had already addressed it with me in pre-hunting conversations.  "Listen, she's a pup and this is her first hunt.  This is not about you.  This is about her.  The only thing you need to do is let her be a dog and have fun.  We don't care what she does, so you shouldn't either," was said multiple times to me.  Despite these conversations, I found myself getting frustrated.  Why wouldn't she concentrate and work like she did at Terry's?  Are the guys going to get frustrated with her interference with their dogs?  My  worry manifested itself into commands for the dog, who in her exuberance was paying very little attention.  My frustrations were growing, as were the volume of my commands, until one in our group barked, "Mikey!  She's doing fine!  Just let her be!"  That helped to snap me out of it and was effective in taking my frustration down a couple of levels.  I was appreciative for the feedback.   

The huge swath of CRP we were pushing was eventually ending at a gravel road.  Given the pheasant's proclivity to run from danger instead of flushing, the road represented the end of their running.  They'd not expose themselves in the open road and would have to fly to escape.  We slowed our pace, moved one of our party around us an onto the road to act as a "blocker" and began our final push forward.  The way the dogs had been acting - tails active and moving at a much more deliberate pace - we were sure that we were pushing birds in front of us, and with them pinched in against the road, it was only a matter of time until they were airborne.   

At about 75 yards to the road, the first rooster flushed.  As is common with pheasants, a flushing bird in proximity of other birds often instigate those birds to flush as well, and that was the case in this situation as well.  That first rooster evoked a mass flush, soon the air was filled with multiple birds.  Only the male of the species can be harvested, so when pheasant hunting it is important for hunters to identify birds to the group upon a flush.  Hence, you'll often her shouts of either "Rooster!" or "Hen!"  Unfortunately for us, with so many birds in the air at the same time, there were multiple shouts of both going on simultaneously.  All of the activity was an overload for Blitz - with men shouting, birds flying, guns shooting, and dogs running.  About the time she was focused on something, another distraction came up and her focus would change.  Hence when our final tally for the field was gathered - five beautiful roosters - Blitz had a hand in none of their flushes or retrieves.   

While I was disappointed that we had missed on a great opportunity to get her a bird, I was heartened to see so many birds in the area.  I knew we would have more chances before this trip ended.   

We gathered up and moved to a hillside to our right which would meander back about a mile to the place where we had parked.  Once back at the vehicles we could get the dogs watered, drop off the birds, and plan our next push.  The cover on the hill was sparse, but it did hold its share of birds, and we ended up flushing multiple hens and added a couple of roosters to the bag as well.  Again, Blitz played no role in any of these birds, but the activity of the field prior seemed to trigger something in her, as she was tracking birds in the air, using her nose, and for the first time today, actually hunting.   

Our slow pace eventually wound around to the trucks, where tailgates dropped, water bowls filled, birds emptied from game vests, and the post-game conversation had begun.  Each hunter had a slightly different experience of what had just happened (or didn't happen), and these times at the tailgate were where the insults, compliments, tall tales, and laughs all began. For me, it is the best part of the hunt, and it is what gets me outside.   

I had this made very clear to me from an industrial psychologist, of all people.  As part of a pre-hire situation at my pervious employer, I was put through a full day of an intensive battery of tests (intelligence, logic, ethics, etc.) and interviews with a shrink.  The process was intense, as one of things that was being tested was my ability to handle pressure.  It ended up being a very enlightening process for me, and I was glad that I went through it.  I learned a lot about myself because of it.   

During one of the interviews, the psychologist asked me, "Mike, it you could be any place right now, this morning, where would it be?"  It just so happened that it was a blustery October day, and I knew that the ducks had to migrating, so my reply was obvious.  "That's easy," I answered, "I'd like to be at my duck camp hunting right now."  The psychologist furrowed his brow.  "Mike, I'm going to be completely honest with you.  I don't believe you.  There's nothing in any of the test results that shows you have a proclivity for outdoor pursuits, at least not to justify the answer you gave me to the specific question that I couched to you."  I was totally taken aback - I answered completely honestly.  In justifying my answer, I stammered an explanation of why being up there meant so much to me, and why my answer was indeed truthful.  Upon completion of my explanation, the psychologist stared silently at me for what seemed like an eternity.  He then thumbed through a stack of papers on his lap, which appeared to be his notes, and my test results.  Quickly his disappointed face lightened, and he said, "Ah, I get it."  Whew!  "You see," he explained "you truly don't test for anything outdoor related.  By you test extremely high for social interaction and connectedness.  Very high.  What you just explained to me about wanting to be at your farm with the guys hunting now makes total sense.  It's not the hunting for you.  It's that the hunting provides a conduit to this social connection that is so important to you."   

While I passed the test in the psychologist's eyes (and I landed the job), I've often felt that his diagnosis was wrong.  I hunted alone lots of times.  Then I thought about it.  When I hunted, I was not alone.  I was with my dog.  For me, the social connection didn't need to be a human one.  A canine connection worked just fine.             

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Best Thing About the Packers' Win?

Well, that would be the Big Man Dance Party, of course!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Green Bay Counts Its Chickens

This is one of five - count 'em, five - ads in the Green Bay Press Gazette for travel packages to Dallas for the Super Bowl.  Somebody needs to remind this town that there's a little team just to the southeast that may have something to say about who will be going to Dallas.  

Green Bay is in an absolute frenzy, and I fear what a Packer loss will do to it.   

Another point - in the two recent NFC Championship games in which the Vikings played, I never saw an ad like this in the StarTribune.  That's pretty telling.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nick Punto Watch - Bye Bye Birdie

It is over.  Finally.

Nick Punto, the worst 3rd baseman in Twins' history since Mike Cubbage fiddled with his glove as the pitcher was delivering to home, is gone.  Responsible for $8 million in salary the past two years, Punto's decent defensive play, .200-something batting average, and sliding into first heroics have come to an end in Minnesota.  Nick signed a $750,000 contact to deliver the same kind of goods to the Cardinals. 

Good luck, Redbirds.  You'll need it.  Good luck to Nick as well.  Hopefully he socked away a good portion of that $8 million.  Something tells me he's going to need it pretty quick. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Missing Mr. Steak

Out of the blue, as my wife and I were talking a couple of weeks ago, she asked me. “Do you remember Mr. Steak?” 

How could I forget? 

My entire life, my dad loved steak.  His eventual stage in life would find him at the finest steakhouses in the US, and he was notorious for his closing dinners at Minneapolis’ finest (Manny’s) when one of his investment bank deals got done.  But his love affair with the steakhouse did not always know only the finest.  It was nurtured by a simple little franchise in the upper Midwest that catered to serving frozen steak to hungry middle classers under the auspices of a “nice restaurant.” 

For my family in the early years a night at Mr. Steak was not only a big deal, but a huge deal.  One of my earliest memories was of mom and dad headed there, while the baby sitter, my brother, and I saw them off (my sister wasn’t in the picture yet).  Both parents were dressed in their finest, likely celebrating something job-related for my dad, and spending money had had been so hard to come by.  Another clear memory was sitting in the restaurant with my dad, grandma, and brother, having just visited mom at the hospital (she was probably there due to the birth of my sister).  As I got older the memories became clearer, and the importance of going to Mr. Steak was made more evident.  We’d all dress up, and head out for one of those rectangle platters of steak with a plastic colored skewer in them to denote how the steak was done. 

My memories of my family’s interaction with this now defunct restaurant franchise really brought home for me what my parents went through in their early lives together.  They were struggling hard, being hopelessly broke, and basically depending on just each other to get by. 

Oh, how different it has been for me. 

Since an age that it mattered, I’ve always had access to money.  Yeah, I worked my whole life and yeah I’ve been through periods of being broke myself, but nothing like what my parents had to do.  At a minimum, and while it was never stressed, there was always the safety net they provided, and regardless if I used it or not, I’ve basically wanted for nothing for my life.  


It is pretty incredible, this legacy that has been given me.  The things I’ve done, the places I’ve been, even the restaurants I’ve patronized have been blessings that few are able to enjoy, and I’m grateful to have.  But of all of them, the one I’d most like to revisit right now is the one with that optimistic young family (four plus one highchair) out for an infrequent dinner of a mediocre steak, grateful for what they have, on their hard but rewarding path to bigger and better.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bistro on Broadway Restaurant Review

Over the weekend we ate at the recently opened Bistro on Broadway in De Pere.  What a nice little place!  Ambiance is that of a foodie-wine bar, with limited but cozy seating.  The only wrinkle was that the music overhead was a bad match – while I like Stevie Ray Vaughn a ton, he really didn’t fit the atmosphere. 

They offer a full bar, and their wine list is small, but has some good options at an OK, if not a slightly spendy price.  But the real winner for the evening was the food.  My wife had a pressed chicken breast in a rosemary cream sauce, while I had a perfectly done strip steak with steamed broccoli and rosemary potatoes.  Portions were generous without being ridiculous, and were priced appropriately.  Service was a tad slow, likely due to the laid-back nature of the place. 

Overall, we had a very enjoyable experience, and will definitely be headed back.  It reminded us both of our favorite foodie restaurant from home – Terra Waconia.  We’re still making our rounds in the Green Bay area, but for us this clearly was the area’s second best dining experience. 

Well done, Bistro on Broadway.  We’ll see you soon.

Quick Trip "Home"

We had a quick trip “home” this weekend, as we needed to clean out the house for closing.  On the way, my wife wanted a quick stop at the Mall of America, but due to the entire state of Minnesota being there and the Minnesota DOT’s decision to tie up much of 494 for road cleaning, our stop was anything but quick. 

We eventually made it to the house, cleaned out the remainder, with the exception of an old bar we had inherited from my parents.  We forgot it was there, and failed to account for it.  Given its age, it really needed to go into the garbage, but we put it in the utility room for the new owners.  Who knows, perhaps they’ll give it another lease on life. 

We took our old neighbors to a much owed dinner (they basically saved our house from frozen pipes and snowblowed I don’t know how many times) at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and ended up at the motel in Waconia.  We woke, attended one last mass at St. Joseph’s, and headed east for our new home. 

Some random thoughts: 
  • I cannot believe the amount of snow!  The picture shows the damage that has been done.  Incredible. 
  • The house, which I have not seen since September, seemed small and lonely.  Still, it was a place of great happiness for us, and I will miss it.  In some respects, I already do.
  • We had some incredible neighbors that have evolved to incredible friends.  We’re very lucky. 
  • We could have easily done a dozen other things and saw a bunch more people - there was just too much to do in such a short time.  Thankfully, we're only four hours away, and hopefully we'll make it back again shortly.
  • I've been spoiled living in a town with only 100,000 people.  There were that many people at the Mall and on 494.  I don't miss the traffic - not at all.
The whole trip muddied for me the whole concept of "home." Right now, given this stage of life, I feel kind of like no place is home. Hopefully that changes as we settle in.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Al Franken: The Biggest Hypocrite Ever?

In a visit to the StarTribune editorial board, Senator Al Franken states that the rhetoric needs to be tamped down. 

This is coming from a man that did nothing in his non-comedic life other than spew hate filled rhetoric.  This is coming from a man that used his (and others) abject and primal hatred of George Bush as the primary, and nearly exclusive, means to get elected.  This is coming from the author of such conciliatory and bridge-building works such as Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot. 

Sorry, Al.  Your entire radio and political career has been built on spewing hatred about your opponents.  It is the only reason you achieved the rank of Senator!  To encourage the discourse to tone down now smacks of insincerity, hollowness, opportunism, and hypocrisy.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Four, "Dog Training, Sir!" Part 4

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

We made the necessary preparations for the trip to Iowa, and I was pleased to finally be able to do things like pack my own dog crate, make sure there was enough food and water, pack a dog first-aid kit, plus throw in some some dummies in case some spare training time appeared.  Oh, then there were the multiple collars and leads, some toys, and the requisite dog snacks.  And create pads.  And crate blanket.  By the time I got through loading all of my stuff into JT's rig, the vehicle resembled the Campet's on their inaugural ride to Beverly Hills. 

But a fit was made, and our next stop was to get Blitz from Terry's.  We swung into his place, and I unlocked the door and stepped into the kennel area to be greeted by over a dozen very excited gun dogs that were absolutely convinced that I was the guy that was going to let them out of their confinement and get them on birds.  Unfortunately for them, I was there for just one little yellow lab. 

Blitz met me at the front of her kennel door, where she was bounding up and down in an almost perfectly vertical movement.  It's not very often that one is met at eye level by their dog, but there she was, bouncing like a furry pogo stick.  I didn't even need to ask if she wanted to go - it was clear that we were both looking forward to this trip to Iowa.  While waiting for us, the guys had got out of the vehicle and let their dogs out to air one last time.  As I attached Blitz's lead and walked her out the door, I was instantly struck at her size relative to the other guys' dogs.  She was just 7 months old, and all of the rest of our party were full grown dogs.  I was faced with clear evidence on the differences between Blitz and the others, and wondered if my little dog was just too young for this.  I had seen her in the field successfully hunting, so I knew she could do it.  I also was too far in to back out.  The only path was forward, so we gathered up the jumble of dogs that were still busy greeting each other and sorting out order and made for the Hawkeye state. 

Our trip was uneventful, and we settled into our routine at our comfortable little hotel.  This time, though, I was on the hook for dog chores and making sure that my pal sleeping in the crate in the rig was comfortable and ready for her big day.  I relished every minute of it, especially making small talk with other hunters who were tending to their dogs in the parking lot as well.  It is amazing, but regardless social, political, economic, or any other difference you could mention, two hunting dog owners will always have something to discuss.  Name of the dog, lineage, hunting stories, questions, compliments - it all flows easily and warmly between two hunting dog owners.  And they're always conducted with smiles.  Most people love dogs, and most hunters really love dogs.  When two get together, it is always a warm conversation. 

Morning could not come fast enough for me.  While the rest of my crew rose late as a function of the previous nights' imbibing, I was up first and had aired and watered our entire dog crew.  Getting ready, taking in breakfast at the nearby Country Cake, driving to the field, and waiting until the opening minute seemed to take forever.  Finally the call was made to gear up and get ready, and I bolted from the vehicle to the back to gear up. 

Blitz was as hyped up as I've seen her, and I had to physically restrain her a the mouth of her crate as I attempted to get her electronic collar on her prior to her exiting the vehicle.  And attempted is the correct word.  The squirmy dog bobbed her head like Sugar Ray Leonard, and it seemed like every time I went to make a move to wrap the collar around her neck, I came up encircling nothing but air.  Ultimately Blitz made a wrong move, and I got her electronics around her.  Upon securing the collar I lifted my arms like a rodeo cowboy that had just roped a calf, and Blitz shot out of her crate in a flashing blonde blur. 

Finally, we were going to go on our first hunt together.   

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rest In Peace, Major Dick Winters

It was with deep sadness that I read the news of the passing of Major Dick Winters.  Major Winters was one of the inspirations for the book (and subsequent series) A Band of Brothers.  If you're unfamiliar with the story, I'd ask you to check out one of the links I've included here.  You will not walk away unchanged from the tale that will unfold. 

Winters was a hero of highest order - he conducted himself in combat  with bravery and skill that were remarkable, and he lead his men, and ultimately his company, in a way that inspired life-long loyalty.  But despite this lofty praise, here's what Winters himself had to say for his actions (turn your speakers up). 

Rest in peace, Dick Winters.  You've earned your peace, and the undying gratitude of your country.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Making Political Hay Out of Arizona Killings

I'm simply agahst at those that are bending over backward to link the actions of a deranged madman to a political movement, viewpoint, and in some instances, personalities.  I have a lot of thoughts on the matter, but Glenn Harlan Reynolds of the Wall Street Journal. does it far better than I.  Instead of a link, I'm serving up his entire post:

Shortly after November's electoral defeat for the Democrats, pollster Mark Penn appeared on Chris Matthews's TV show and remarked that what President Obama needed to reconnect with the American people was another Oklahoma City bombing. To judge from the reaction to Saturday's tragic shootings in Arizona, many on the left (and in the press) agree, and for a while hoped that Jared Lee Loughner's killing spree might fill the bill.With only the barest outline of events available, pundits and reporters seemed to agree that the massacre had to be the fault of the tea party movement in general, and of Sarah Palin in particular. Why? Because they had created, in New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's words, a "climate of hate."

The critics were a bit short on particulars as to what that meant. Mrs. Palin has used some martial metaphors—"lock and load"—and talked about "targeting" opponents. But as media writer Howard Kurtz noted in The Daily Beast, such metaphors are common in politics. Palin critic Markos Moulitsas, on his Daily Kos blog, had even included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's district on a list of congressional districts "bullseyed" for primary challenges. When Democrats use language like this—or even harsher language like Mr. Obama's famous remark, in Philadelphia during the 2008 campaign, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun"—it's just evidence of high spirits, apparently. But if Republicans do it, it somehow creates a climate of hate.

There's a climate of hate out there, all right, but it doesn't derive from the innocuous use of political clich├ęs. And former Gov. Palin and the tea party movement are more the targets than the source.

American journalists know how to be exquisitely sensitive when they want to be. As the Washington Examiner's Byron York pointed out on Sunday, after Major Nidal Hasan shot up Fort Hood while shouting "Allahu Akhbar!" the press was full of cautions about not drawing premature conclusions about a connection to Islamist terrorism. "Where," asked Mr. York, "was that caution after the shootings in Arizona?"

Set aside as inconvenient, apparently. There was no waiting for the facts on Saturday. Likewise, last May New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and CBS anchor Katie Couric speculated, without any evidence, that the Times Square bomber might be a tea partier upset with the ObamaCare bill.

So as the usual talking heads begin their "have you no decency?" routine aimed at talk radio and Republican politicians, perhaps we should turn the question around. Where is the decency in blood libel?

To paraphrase Justice Cardozo ("proof of negligence in the air, so to speak, will not do"), there is no such thing as responsibility in the air. Those who try to connect Sarah Palin and other political figures with whom they disagree to the shootings in Arizona use attacks on "rhetoric" and a "climate of hate" to obscure their own dishonesty in trying to imply responsibility where none exists. But the dishonesty remains.

To be clear, if you're using this event to criticize the "rhetoric" of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you're either: (a) asserting a connection between the "rhetoric" and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you're not, in which case you're just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?

I understand the desperation that Democrats must feel after taking a historic beating in the midterm elections and seeing the popularity of ObamaCare plummet while voters flee the party in droves. But those who purport to care about the health of our political community demonstrate precious little actual concern for America's political well-being when they seize on any pretext, however flimsy, to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.

Where is the decency in that?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Minnesota Sports Fan in Green Bay - Not as Bad as it Seems

It has been tough moving from Minnesota to Wisconsin for a number of reasons, but one of the largest could have been the impact to my sports allegiances.  As a reader of this space you know I'm a Twins enthusiast, a long-suffering Vikings fan, and a frustrated Wild fan.  The pathetic Gophers football team?  Don't ask. 

Upon arriving at Green Bay, it has become clear that this entire universe revolves around the Packers.  And why not?  This town is only 105,000 strong, and for it to have a major sports franchise, let alone an NFL team, is something that has no equal anywhere else, nor will it be replicated.  Beyond the civic pride the team instills, it also drives the local economy in tangible ways that are completely unseen in larger locales.  Hence, part of the reason for the passion around the team is that its success puts food on the table.  Literally. 

Pretty much the only other sports option in the area are the Badgers, Brewers, and Bucks, and other than the Badgers, there's not too much to get excited about there.   Hence, as a sports fan with long-standing affinity with certain Minnesota teams, I felt the move to this area would cause hardship for following my teams on TV.  I'm happy to report that I've been mistaken about that: 

Minnesota Vikings - As in MN, the Green Bay market knows there are a number of transplanted Minnesota folks in the area, so if the Pack and the Vikes are not playing at the same time, odds are that we'll get picked for the Vikings feed.  It helped that Favre was there last year, and hopefully that won't impact the number of games they show.  So with that, the Vikings' nationally televised games, and the games directly against the Packers, I get to see about 90% of the Vikings games. 

Gopher Basketball - The Big Ten Network is huge here, and thankfully the Gophers have been on a lot.  Between that, ESPN, and the nationally televised games, We're getting about 90% of these games as well. 

Minnesota Wild - Fox Sports Wisconsin picks up the feed from Fox Sports North for about half of the televised games.  With other cable televised games, and the games on NBC, I get to see about half of the games.  It will be interesting to see what happens if the team makes the playoffs, as they'll have to compete against the Bucks and Brewers for air time. 

Minnesota Twins - this was my biggest worry, as both my wife and I spend every summer night at home with this team.  There isn't a good TV outlet at all, save the rare nationally televised game.  Fortunately there is, which carries every game.  I just need to hook up the laptop to the big screen, bring up the site, and presto - every Twins game. 

While it's not necessarily convenient to be a Minnesota sports fan in Green Bay, it can certainly be accomplished without too much hardship.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bert Blyleven Curves His Way to the Hall of Fame

Twins fandom breathed a sigh of relief as Bert Blyleven finally received his call from Cooperstown and will be joining baseball's Hall of Fame. 

Baseball statistics geeks can build compelling cases both for and against his inclusion, hence his 14 year wait during his period of eligibility.  I won't wade into that pool - there are a ton of other sites that will offer you that kind of breakdown. 

Personally, I feel he should be in, if for no other reason than his stats were compiled while never being a power pitcher.  Unlike those five (yes, there are only five) pitchers that have compiled more strikeouts - Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Steve Carlton - Bert got it done without a blazing fastball.  Bert's strength, throughout his 22 year career, was a knee-buckling, , fool-making curve ball.  It was one that was fearlessly, confidently, and successfully thrown during both full and hitter's counts, in clutch situations, and basically anytime. 

Sure, when waited upon and when the pitch hung, Bert got tattooed.    But he was also a gamer, an innings machine, a big game pitcher (postseason ERA of 2.47) and a substantive clubhouse asset.  Plainly, the Twins would have had zero chance at a World Series in 1987 without his presence. 

Call it what you will - the deuce, the yacker, the dark one, the bender, Uncle Charley, the hook - for 22 years Bert rode it to great success on the diamond.  And today, he finally rides it into Cooperstown.  Congratulations.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Body of Christ, Snack Chip, Same Same...

This ad is getting a lot of play on line right now, and it seems to have come at an interesting time for me.  I got into a really heavy conversation about my Catholic faith last week, and the ad touches on concepts that were raised - e.g. how little the Church has changed and how it is hemorrhaging attendees because it is out of touch.  Hence, perhaps some Doritos instead of the body of Christ would end the slide in church attendance.  After all, we're there for us, not God. 

So am I outraged by this?  No, wrong word.  This is yet another example of how Christians in general, and Catholics in particular, are free game in the secular mass media and arts.  Be it something as vile as Piss Christ or something as tongue-in-cheek as this ad, it all does the same thing.  Of anything, I feel hurt and sadness - like watching someone say something horrible to your mom or dad. 

Two final points:
  • I find it interesting that nobody has the guts to do anything like this with the Muslim religion.  It seems that the precious freedom of speech can only be practiced when it is offending those that won't ultimately seek you out and decapitate you. 
  • As an usher at church for 15 years, I had the honor of occasionally serving communion to some elderly folks in the back of church that weren't able to queue up and go themselves.  Those moments remain my episodes in church where I felt closest to God. And when I handed off the Host to these elderly folks, at the end of their lives, stating "The body of Christ," the eyes that met mine weren't upset that what I was handing them was not Doritos.      

Monday, January 3, 2011

Big Brother Now Riding Shotgun

I just found an article on the new Allstate program to electronically monitor drivers in order to provide them with a "discount."  You can read the article by clicking here. 

This type of technology has existed for a while, and I wondered why it took so long in coming.  In fact, given the GPS capabilities inherent in most smart phones, one could argue that it is already rolling around in your car. 

Call me paranoid, but this creeps me out.  What if Allstate chooses to not settle claims from accidents involving one of their clients who was speeding?  What if the government moves to mandate this technology for all cars because it "saves lives?" 

With my long trips back and forth to Minnesota, I've often pondered how long it would be that I'd actually be able to set my cruise control to 8 MPH higher than the posted speed, and to occasionally drive faster than that.  I knew a day would be coming that would take all of that away.  I'm just surprised that the day appears to be coming so soon.