Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review of Miller Park from a First Timer

My wife and I headed down to Milwaukee to see our beloved Twins take on the hometown Brewers.  It was the first time to Miller Park for either of us, and despite a couple of things (like the Twins losing like pigs and getting swept for the series, among other things) we had a good time. 

Here's a review from a Miller Park virgin: 

  • Like their football brethren to the north, these fans love their tailgating.  We brought some chairs, beers, and chips to enjoy the outdoors ourselves, but most folks came way more prepared.  Grills were going, bratwurst frying, burgers flipping, parking lot games played, and beer drunk.  Lots and lots of beer drunk.  Here's a photo from the festivities.  

  • And note that this was just the pre-game gathering.  After the game, the coolers came back out and lots of folks chose to wait out the traffic jam by hanging out, sitting outside, and having one or two more cold ones.  Smart folks, these fans, especially with the current construction on I94.
  • The stadium itself is an engineering marvel, with its retractable roof.  While it is aesthetically not very pleasing, it makes up for it in its utility.  The design is ingenious, and while it remained open the whole game, one could see very clearly how the roof functioned. 
  • The configuration of the open roof made for some very tough sight lines for those of us sitting on the first base side.  The combination of sitting in the shadows and having the field in the light made picking up the ball very tough.  I had to really concentrate to see the ball. 
  • Their scoreboard is the best I've ever seen in MLB.  It is huge, clear, and comprehensive.  So comprehensive in fact that I had to text my brother to see what the stat OPS that they were displaying meant.  Turns out it is a combination of On Base Percentage and Slugging Percent that sabermetricians use as a method of quantifying offensive contribution.  Seems like those guys would be better served by finding measurements to calculate how they're going to get out of mom's basement and/or kiss a girl, but who am I to suggest something to stand between a nerd and his statistics? 

  • The off-field entertainment was hit or miss.  Bernie Brewer still slides down from his post for a home run, but instead of falling into a beer stein he lands in a hot tub.  For a team like the BREWERS playing in a place like MILLER Park, it would seem that his rightful place of landing at the end of the slide should be ale-oriented.  Unfortunately for Bernie, that's just not the case.  But whatever Bernie failed to deliver was made up for in spades by the Klement's Racing Sausages.  I seriously could watch those guys every inning.  Too fun. 
  • The game itself was a complete sell-out, as the Brewers had recently moved into first place, Twins fans had driven over for the series, and the day was perfect for a ballgame.  The crowd was about 10% Twins fans in total, and I was surprised at the lack of Brewers gear worn by the hometown faithful.  I'd say about 25% didn't have any Brewers paraphernalia at all which shocked me as I'm used to seeing Twins fans at Target Field loaded down in the stuff.  I was decked out for the game, as was my wife.

  • Unfortunately some tool four rows behind me really wanted to get under my skin, and throughout the game was yelling stuff like "Mauer sucks, as does everybody that wears his jersey."  Guess who was wearing a Mauer jersey?  Not that I was not being obnoxious by overtly cheering or being loud.  I just wore a jersey and came to support my team.  That didn't matter to the drunk behind me, and our entire section had to listen to his garbage all game.  I was proud that I kept my cool - 15 years ago and/or with five more beers under my belt, Mr. Mouth and I would have had a conversation.  But I was there for the game (and my wife), the Twins were getting killed anyway, and I just let it go.  Unfortunately I found the sign as to where to text to get drunks thrown out in the 8th inning; too late to bother so I let it go.  I only had one other drunk get ugly with me - some drunk hot girl that never had anyone say a sideways word to her in her life.  Again I bit my tongue and let it slide.  Not sure what possesses people to act like such dicks, but considering the stadium held 41,000 I was just happy I only ran into only two idiots. 
  • While the stadium was very nice, it sure wasn't Target Field.  Being at Miller Park, an incredible field in its own right, really made me appreciate what a gem Minnesota has.  The hype is really true with Target Field, and I miss being able to attend games there.  Even seeing the field by watching the games on MLB.TV makes me pine for being home in the beautiful stadium. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Friends, Family, and Baseball

Our old neighbors joined us this weekend as their son was playing in a baseball tournament for 13 year olds.  It ended up being a great weekend for baseball here in Wisconsin as the weather finally cleared and warmed, making it perfect for being outside and enjoying some hardball. 

Unfortunately, the team we were rooting for went 1-2, despite our favorite player crushing the ball and playing well in the field.  Sometimes you run into a buzz saw, and there's nothing that can be done. 

A couple of points from watching the game:
  • I was shocked at the amount many of these parents have invested in their kid playing baseball.  Every pitch is life or death.  Coaching is coming in a constant stream from the bleachers as the kid stands in the box.  Umpires are ridiculed like it is the World Series.  Most feedback is negative, not positive.  Personally, if I were a 13 year old kid playing in that environment, I'd choke.  I felt really sorry for a lot of the kids there. 
  • 13 year olds can put on a really entertaining game, and I was impressed by the quality of ball being played, and by the grasp of fundamentals they had. 
  • I'm quite sure that if the night is a nice one, I could sit outside watching any two teams playing and be quite happy to do so.  Nothing beats a ball game outdoors on a nice summer evening. 
We then attended the Twins game versus the Brewers on Sunday (I'll have a report on our trip to Miller Park tomorrow).  The Twins got swept (there's that buzz saw thing again), but it was a beautiful day to be outside.  After the game my wife and I met up with my uncle and his family for an early dinner where we were able to catch up.  It was good seeing everyone again, despite being razzed for wearing my Joe Mauer jersey to dinner. 

So while the baseball wasn't that good over the weekend, the weather and some great time spent with friends and family more than made up for it.    

Monday, June 27, 2011

Minnesota Twins 2011 Injury History

I attended the Twins game yesterday that featured a line-up that was nearly unrecognizable.  With four starters on the DL and Mauer sitting the day game after a night game, the crew that Gardenhire put on the field was a AAA team at best.  Here is the starting lineup:

Revere CF .272
Casilla 2B .251
Cuddyer RF .292
Valencia 3B .216
Hughes 1B.246
Repko LF .194
Nishioka SS .200
Butera C .175
Pavano P .000

Simply brutal, and one of the main reasons why the Twins were easily bested and swept by the surging Brewers. 

The horrible lineup got me thinking about this season and how many players have been lost by injury.  I conducted a quick analysis to show how it all lays out and offer it for your consideration (click to enlarge):

For the sake of the analysis, I did not look at pitchers.  If I did, this chart would look much worse. 

A couple of things of note:
  • For the season, they've averaged 3 "starters" on the DL per week.  That does not include any non-playing time because Gardy chooses to sit a guy.  Likewise, it only includes time on the DL, not any other time lost due to injury where the player was still on the active roster but was held out of games.  If I included these into the numbers, the average number of starters out per week would be closer to 4.
  • When at their healthiest at the start of the season, the Twins posted their worst record.
  • Conversely, until last week, the Twins were playing their best baseball with their most amount of starters out. 
  • The total time lost for offensive starter is a staggering 35 weeks.
I cannot remember a team so decimated by injury, and it shows in their record.  It doesn't help matters when Gardenhire continues to do things like sit Mauer the day game after a night game.  If there was ever a game that needed his bat in the starting lineup, it was yesterday.  By posting the lineup he submitted, Gardenhire all but signaled to the Brewers that we were ready to lose, so get the plane fired up and we'll take our chances with the Dodgers Monday at home.

Are we playing to win, or playing to not get injured?  If the latter, especially given what's transpired this year, why bother?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Case for Jethro Tull for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In the latest installment of the top ten bands that should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we visit the case for the great Jethro Tull.  

Ian Anderson, Martin Barre and a potpourri of mates have been making incredible music now for over 40 years.  Their portfolio of work is a hodgepodge of genres and formats with about as many misses as hits, but the ones that worked represent some of the best rock and roll ever created.   

Here are the primary points for my case for Tull: 
  • Ian Anderson and the flute.  Unique in all of rock and roll and hallmark to Tull's sound, Anderson's flute is the sound of the band.  And because of him and that instrument, nobody else really sounds like Jethro Tull.  Indeed, the band had their influences and borrowed from others before them, but Anderson and the flute always put a unique spin on the music that has never, and likely never will be, replicated.  How distinctive was that flute-led sound?  I was in junior high riding with my dad to be dropped over a friend's house early one morning, and we were listening to the car radio.  Dad always had younger musical tastes for his peer group, and as the radio played Cross-Eyed Mary, dad exclaimed that he really liked Tull.  I must have had quite a look on my face, as he followed up with "I bet most of your buddies' dads don't even know who Jethro Tull is."  And he was right.   
  • One word: Aqualung.  This 1971 album is a must-have for any classic rock and roll fan.  Most of the album could be heard on FM formats through most of the '70's, and two tracks, Aqualung and Locomotive Breath, continue to be absolute staples on classic rock oriented stations.  It is a monster of an album, and even though it may not have garnered high critical praise, rock and roll fans have spoken, and this album is considered among the top by many of them.
  • The longevity of the band has to be respected.  From their early blues roots in the late 1960's to the award winning Crest of a Knave in 1987, to the prolific work that has continued through the '90's and '00's, Tull has been winning accolades from music fans for decades.   Other than for health, they've not slowed much, and continue to poke into other musical area that allow for growth and maturity.  The band has fortitude, overcoming the transition of band mates, death, and even the loss and resting of Anderson's voice for a three year hiatus.  No matter what has befallen, Tull continues.   
So why are they outside of the Hall looking in?  Here are a couple of plausible explanations:  
  • The Hall does not look favorably on prog rock acts.  This is a well-known bias, with bands like Yes, Rush, EL&P, Tull, and a multitude of others outside of the Hall.  It is a completely unfair bias, and given the massive lineup impacted, it clearly exists.  While Tull fell into that genre in their early years, they've expanded far beyond it, but still get painted by that brush by those ignorant to their library.  
  • My personal conspiracy theory is that their exclusion from the Hall is some kind of "payback" for Tull winning the 1989 Grammy for Best Metal/Hard Rock.  Everyone was convinced that Metallica would win it for ...And Justice for All - even the members of Tull, as they did not attend the event considering the winner a foregone conclusion.  Upon Tull winning, the musical world (especially those in the metal arena) went into a complete rage that still simmers yet today.  Ultimately, due to the controversy of the award, it was subsequently split into two categories, Metal and Hard Rock.   But the damage had been done, and for an entire generation of music fans, Jethro Tull remains "that old, lame band that ripped off Metallica."  
While I've never seen the band live, Anderson still roams the stage as a force of nature, as he did in his younger days.  Toward that end, here are Ian and the boys from 1978, doing the classic Thick as a Brick:  

For the Hall, it is time to put aside the progressive rock bias, ignore the Grammy controversy, step up, and put Jethro Tull in the Hall where they clearly belong. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Team

Shown above is my team as it is currently configured, as taken at a recent strategic offsite event at my house.  

Some of these folks I was able to hire directly, some were hired by others on the team, and some I inherited as I joined to company.  Regardless of their origin, they are important parts of the whole, and this picture captures their individual personalities very well.  

All play important roles in what we do, and will dictate (in many instances much more than they know) our ultimate success or lack thereof.  

I'm very proud of this team.  We've accomplished so much in a short period, but also know we have much more to do.  

And that's the fun part. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Case for Journey for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In the latest installment of the top ten bands that should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we visit the case for Journey. 

Now Journey has some strikes against it.  Among them:
  • Their songs were very pop oriented, and while that doesn't preclude a band from the RRHOF per se, it did limit their audience somewhat. 
  • The band has been beset by personnel changes throughout its history, and just like Jethro Tull, that appears to have hurt the band's chances of making the Hall.  How bad were the changes?  Try six different lead vocalists in their 38 year career. 
  • Journey made one of the worst music videos of all time.  Literally top ten worst.  I apologize, but I need to show it to make my point:

All that being said, there are a lot of reasons to include Journey in the RRHOF: 
  • Neil Schon, lead guitarist, has been the linchpin of the group, and is an incredibly gifted guitarist.  Simply fantastic, and one of the main reasons why their sound is so good.  Personal aside on Schon.  I was drinking coffee and eating cereal over the StarTribune one morning before work, and I happened to breeze past the obituaries and the wedding announcements.  One of the announcements struck me as the woman in the picture was incredibly attractive.  I then cast my gaze to the guy she was marrying to see if he was worthy, and was taken aback at how incredibly much he looked like Neil Schon.  It was uncanny.  So then I go to read the announcement, and there in the middle of all of the other random Minnesota wedding announcements featuring Petersons, Johnsons, and the like was the announcement for the Kozan/Schon wedding.  It was cool and weird all at the same time. 
  • Journey was a dominant band in the late 1970's and early 1980's.  While their music was popular for the critics to pan, it was equally as popular for people to buy, and their numbers of sales both in terms of albums and singles cannot be denied.   They were clearly one of the top five bands of this period. 
  • Their popularity continues into their fourth decade.  Don't believe me?  OK, want to know the most popular song downloaded on iTunes, ever?  Don't Stop Believin' by Journey.  Not a song by the Beatles, or Zeppelin, or Floyd, or the Stones.  Journey.   
  • Finally, Journey provided the soundtrack for one of the best scenes from one of the best movies of all time:

Look, I know this is not going to be a popular pick, but I think if you stack up all of their achievements (which continue to keep coming), I believe that Journey has earned a spot within the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.    

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    At Least One Arbitron Book Supporting Sirius XMU

    As a marketer, I've always maintained a significant curiosity about market research.  Hence, whenever I'm asked to take a survey, even if it comes as a call in the middle of dinner, I always take it.  I like to see how the survey is designed, if I think they're effective, and how I might have crafted them differently to get at the data needed for decision making. 

    Despite my willing participation in all things survey related, I have been frustrated that I've never been surveyed in any kind of election poll, nor have I ever been surveyed for media (e.g. Arbitorn or Neilsen). 

    Those days just ended, as in the mail last week I received an Arbitron radio diary.  While I don't listen to too much radio anymore as my commute has been reduced to less than 15 minutes, I'm more than happy to share what's on my dial.  And it's nearly all Sirius XMU

    It was fun to finally participate in the process that has molded the radio and music industry for over 50 years now. And it was also fun to turn in a book that will likely be the only one to show support for Sirius XMU.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Five, "One Year Old", Part 4

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

    The neoprene dog vest hung off of the finger of the photo studio assistant looking like Everest must look to those that try and climb it.  I gazed upon the garment, then back at Blitz who was still in process of working the room and making introductions, and wondered how I was ever going to combine the two.  But we were there to model, and modeling is what we were going to do, come hell or high water. 

    The vest itself featured two holes in the front for the dog’s front paws, zippered in the back, and then opened at the dog’s waist.  Thus, all I needed to do was get her paws in the holes, and then the zip up would be easy.  I hashed a plan where I would just lift Blitz’s paws into the holes, one after the other, and things would go smoothly from there.  I stood at her side, lifted a paw, and was immediately met with resistance by the dog.  She wasn’t taking to my lifting her leg in this fashion, and was waving it around like she was at a rap concert.  I quickly found I’d be able to get one paw in, but as I’d move to the other the first paw that I had in place quickly came undone. 

    My frustration grew, as did Blitz’s enjoyment, as she thought this whole episode as quite sporty.  Soon her rapturous behavior erupted in her dashing from my grip and running around the photo studio doing what I call “the low butt.”  The low butt is what my wife and I called Blitz’s episodes where she’d euphorically dash around in a berserk fashion, in a posture that had her front end high and her rear end nearly dragging on the ground.  And in these moments, she loved nothing more than being chased, and we built games around her getting whipped up, doing “the low butt,” and me chasing her around. 

    Unfortunately, here in the photo studio, this was not the time for “the low butt,” and my chasing of her to try and get her under control was perceived on her end as sport.  She zoomed around the photo studio crew, behind the set and out the other side, and all about the room with me shouting commands and waiting for a request to leave the premises that I knew would soon be coming from the photo studio staff. 

    Blitz finally got settled down to a point where I was able to get her to sit, and I eased up behind her and petted her head in attempt to calm things down.  This appeared to work, so I pressed my luck and brought the vest around her in attempt to get it donned.  That immediately made her stand straight up and bolt, but it gave me a great idea on a new approach. 

    Again I calmed her down and came in from behind her, however this time when I brought the vest around her and she stood up to run, I moved forward and sandwiched her between my legs.  While I was successful and she was trapped, the fight was clearly on and she bucked and shook in attempt to free herself.  However my grip was strong and I was able to move the vest around her, drop it to the floor, lift her front legs up simultaneously, drop them into the holes, and lift the vest into place.  Success! 

    Unfortunately I was only half the way there, as the zipper required fastening.  I squeezed the neoprene material together to start the zipper, which was met by a whole new level of squirming and fighting.  After multiple tries I was finally able to make the zipper catch, ran it down her back, and completed zipping her up.  I immediately released my legs to let go of the bucking bronco between my knees, and Blitz instantly bolted from my grasp, flopped to the floor on her back, and squirmed to try and make the offending garment go away.  However the zipper held true, and Blitz soon resigned herself to her fate of having to wear the vest. 

    At this point I looked to the photo studio staff that were looking at Blitz and I in looks that were simultaneously disbelieving and annoyed.  “Well, that wasn’t too bad,” the photographer muttered sarcastically. 

    Immediately concerns were raised about Blitz’s ability to hold still, and doubts were voiced on our ability to get the needed shot.  After such an exhaustive investment, I asked that we try, and I moved Blitz to her spot on the floor marked in masking tape while the crew arranged lights and ran test shots. 

    I’m not sure that the combination of the long walk, retrieves, playing with the kids, and fighting the vest being placed on her wore her out, or if she was just one of those diva types that is an enormous pain in the posterior off camera but instantly becomes the consummate pro once the cameras roll, but Blitz could not have been any better.  She sat on her mark on command, unmoving but engaged.  After about six shots the photographer exclaimed that he had at least three that were worthy of being in the ad, and that we were free to go. 

    It was hard to believe that so much craziness translated to a grand total of two minutes of shooting, but that is all that was required.  I freed Blitz from the offending garment, placed her on lead, and headed back to the car and home. 

    Here is the shot that ultimately got used: 

    The benefit of this entire episode, beyond the bragging rights that go with one’s dog being a dog model, was that the vest was ours to keep.  Unfortunately that was also the curse.  Throughout her life Blitz fought wearing the vest, and fought like her life depended on it.  Once on, she was fine with it, but getting it on was always an epic. 

    This fight was soon renown at our duck camp, and partners and guests alike lined up on the porch or on the yard as Blitz and I squared off for our famed “dog vest match.” 

    My friends and I grew up watching professional wrestling on TV, and based on the feedback of those in the audience, I’m told that Blitz and I put on a better show.  Fortunately, I limited her wearing of the vest to only the coldest of days, but that never stopped the hopeful question being asked at the kitchen table over coffee every morning before the hunt: “So, are you going to put the vest on Blitz this morning?” 

    Don't you wish, pal.  Don't you wish...   

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Review of Torrey Pines South

    As mentioned earlier, I was fortunate enough to play the Torrey Pines South course last week.  While the weather didn't cooperate that much, the beauty of the course stood out.  Parts of it, with overlooks to the Pacific ocean, were breathtaking.  Here are some photos of the trip:

    This is the view on the approach at #1.  Bunkers protect greens on about every hole, and I caught the one on the right (but was still able to bogey):

    This is the view from the tee box at #2, looking back toward the city of La Jolla:

    A view of the beauty of the course and the coast:

    The beautiful combination of canyon and ocean:

    This gives a great perspective at the difference between tee boxes, as it was shot from the Blacks.  Hard to believe the incredible distance the professionals possess:

    The view from the tee box at the famous #3: 

    A pretty good effort by our foursome on our tee shots on #3.  I'm on the green, but furthest back.  Ended up three putting for bogey, which I did two more times that day:

    It was a great day of golf, and sightseeing.  Beyond the golf, we were treated to parasailers flying off of the coast all afternoon as the thermals appeared to be really good, and we were also treated to over a dozen military fly-overs as our boys in uniform went through their paces as well.  Despite the massive noise, it did not bother me in the least, and it was fun to have them overhead.

    Even though it is a very long course (nearly 6,900 from the whites), my long game was OK and kept my score in check.  I ended up shooting a 46, 54 for an even 100.  While I wanted to shoot in the 90's, given the difficulty of the course, I was very happy with my round, despite my inability to par any hole (ah, yes, those three putt bogeys again...)

    It was a great day on the course, and one I'll remember forever.

    NBC Can't Bring Itself to Have "Under God" Spoken

    Here's the intro for NBC's coverage of an otherwise great US Open:

    The network later "apologized" after Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree, but, frankly, there's nothing for which to apologize.  This is exactly the type of manufactured information that the nation is used to seeing from the partisans at NBC.


    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Clarence Clemons to the Rescue

    As a freshman at St. John's University, I had the opportunity to do my own radio show on the now defunct KSJU college radio station.  There's a good history of the station (that makes me feel incredibly old) that can be found here.  

     I did a two-hour blues-oriented show for two years, and actually gained an OK amount of listeners; most of them non-students from the surrounding areas.  With my show, I was given the latitude to play whatever I wanted, and while we touched on staples like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Bobby "Blue" Bland, I was also able to dive into more obscure artists like Eddie"Cleanhead" Vinson, "Big Mama" Thornton, and Clarence"Gatemouth" Brown.   

    By the way, what the heck happened to blues artists with such great nicknames?  Those were the days, but I digress.   

    Unfortunately, with my first show as a freshman I needed to prove out my broadcasting capabilities, and therefore was not awarded a "specialty" show right off of the bat.  I had to broadcast a programmed show, which meant that I had latitude to play about half of what I wanted, and the other half had to come from the "new music" bin.  For a guy that was trying to craft a blues show, doing so by tapping the "new bin" meant some pretty slim pickings.  While there were great albums there being released by new bands like The Suburbs, Depeche Mode, U2, and REM, the style of those songs didn't fit well into the format that I wanted.  Thankfully, I was able to pluck out enough out of the bin to keep me compliant, and one of my biggest aids was Clarence Clemons' album Rescue.   

    Led by lead singer J.T. Bowen's gritty and soulful vocals, this "new" album was a soulful and bluesy mix that was just right for what I wanted for my show.  It had a number of really, really strong tracks.  And to keep compliant, I played the living hell out of it.   

    So with the sad and untimely death of The Big Man, yesterday, I couldn't help but be reminded of that album, and how good it was.  While it is totally out of print, I was surprised to see that it looks like a combo can be purchased from Amazon that pairs Rescue with a very weak Hero.  I placed mine; unfortunately it is on backorder.    

     For a kid in the early '80's looking to stay true to the music, Rescue could not have been more aptly named.    

     Rest in peace, Big Man.  You were one of a kind, and you'll be greatly missed.  

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Water Main Break at Torrey Pines

    I was fortunate enough to play historic Torrey Pines yesterday, and was shocked to see this event erupting from the North course (we were playing South).

    That's not something you see every day.

    I shot this photo from the middle of 16, and by the time we finished our round the water had not yet been shut off.  I'm hoping it didn't do too much damage to this beautiful course.  

    Look for more photos on the round from Torrey to be posted up soon.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    San Diego Hilton Bayfront - Review Update

    After a tough check in my first night (see the story here), I was surprised and delighted about how Hilton addressed my situation.   

    What happened?  Actually, a lot: 
    • It started with a notification that the hotel was following me on Twitter.  They obviously had been made aware of my article, likely through a Google Alerts feed or something similar.  They're using social media to monitor and protect their brand, and as a web marketer I tip my hat to that level of being proactive.  
    •  I keep this blog as anonymous as possible (although my Twitter feed is telling), so if my post was reviewed, in order to research the situation, whoever would do so would need to do some digging.   
    • Digging was definitely done as when I returned to my hotel room after the conference last night, I was met with this tray which featured waters, fresh pears, a $50 discount on the restaurant, a $50 discount on the spa, and a thoughtful, poignant, and sincere handwritten note of apology.   
    I was blown away.   None of this was necessary.  As stated earlier, I wasn’t fishing for anything.  I guess I was really looking for some kind of recognition or understanding that performance was far below my expectations.  In their research and response to my situation, my expectations were far, far exceeded.  

    So thanks to the Bayfront Hilton for a very sincere, classy, unexpected, and genuine response.  As one who spends his career on trying to take care of our customer, I’m very, very impresed.  

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    San Diego Hilton Bayfront - A Bad Service Review

    I’m staying at the San Diego Bayfront Hilton right now.   


    After a long day of travel, I arrived at my hotel lugging my case, backpack, and golf clubs.  I waited patiently in queue, as the hotel had many conference attendees checking in, and things were busy.  Soon enough it was my turn, and I was greeted by a nice gentleman at the counter who welcomed me to the hotel and asked for my name.  I provided it to him by spelling it (I always spell my last name for folks – it just makes it easier for both of us), and he happily typed away into his computer.  His good nature quickly turned to a frown, and he asked me to spell it again, which I happily did.  Failure.  Then the “gotcha” question comes out: “Sir, we have no reservation under this name.  Do you have a confirmation number?”  I jokingly stated that nobody ever wants to hear that question and pulled out my iPhone to get the number that would save my bacon.  

     I passed along the number which was quickly typed into the computer, and was again met with a frown.  “Sorry sir,” my increasingly agitated hotel helper stated, “that confirmation number belongs to another guest.”  

    I repeated the number and was met with the same answer.  I knew my admin made the reservation months ago, and knew as well that she’s aces – she did not screw up.   

    Immediately my pressure rises – it has been a long trip, and I’m losing the mood for this exercise.  I stated that I did have a confirmation number, and that meant I had a room.  Finding one was not my problem.  He immediately retorted that the confirmation number I had was obviously wrong, he had no rooms, and there was nothing else he could do for me.  At this point I asked, “So are you telling me, tough bounce you’re screwed?”  He pointed me in the direction of the concierge and stated that he might be able to help me find another hotel in the area.   

    At 9:00 PM.   

    The night before a major conference.   

    As I turned to head to the concierge I overheard my crabby agent suddenly switch into customer mode and exclaim “Welcome to the Bayfront Hilton!” in happy sing-song to the next person in line.  It was like fingernails on the chalkboard.   

    I made my way to the concierge who was apologetic and polite, but obviously upset that the agent handed me off to him.  The agent had the ability look for other hotels for me, but instead passed me off.  I wasn’t a paying customer, just some idiot.  Who gives a crap about me?  The concierge stepped up and immediately called over the manager on duty, to whom I downloaded my whole story again.  Something must have smelled wrong to her about my situation as she went into investigation mode to see if she could determine what happened.   

    After about 5 minutes of questions back and forth and hammering into the computer, I could tell an “aha” moment had been reached.  They did indeed find my reservation.  It seems that someone with a similar name as mine had checked in previously that day, and had been mistakenly been given my reservation.  It would just take a couple of minutes and I would be set up.   

    Apologies were quick from the manager, and came from the first guy that helped me as well.  I told both that it was OK, but you know, it wasn’t.  I would have fired that guy on the spot – he’s in the hospitality industry.  He was anything but hospitable.   His solution was for me to find another hotel.  Next!

    So after 45 very tense and stressful minutes I left the lobby armed with my key cards and some apologies, and I made my way to the elevator with the major crisis avoided.   But I did so with the firm commitment that neither I nor my team will ever stay at a Hilton for business again.  I know mistakes happen, I get that.  But what I don’t get is toleration for impolite treatment.  What I don’t get is the assumption that since I got my room (the one I should have had in the first place), I’d be happy.  What I don’t get is that the person who had the ability to say “For all of your troubles, please accept my apologies by buying you a drink,” appetizer, dinner, or whatever.  Note I wasn’t fishing for a free dinner – I wouldn’t have used it anyway.  All I wanted was recognition that I had been wronged, along with some token effort to make it right.   

    But that didn’t happen, so instead, my little travel budget will go elsewhere.  Will it make a difference to them?  Hardly.  It will amount to maybe $10,000 over the next year or two – a rounding error for Hilton.  But it is the principle of the thing.   

    You know, principles.  Things like, oh I don’t know, maybe taking care of the customer…

    UPDATE: The Hilton responds, and does so in impressive fashion.  Read about it here

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Cabela's Fall Preview? Mind if I Have Summer First?

    Ordinarily, the delivery of Cabela's Fall Preview catalog would be cause for unabashed, giddy rejoicing.  Unfortunately, the snow melted up here just a month and a half ago.  I've only golfed four times, and have only done two long bike rides.  Hell, I've only mowed my lawn three times.

    Sorry, Cabela's, you're too damn early.  Hit me again in August sometime.

    PS to my wife: yes, honey, I really do mean it.  You can get off the floor now...

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Taking Customer Feedback to a New Level

    This is extremely "R" rated, so if you're one to be offended, please don't play it.

    Interesting to see how this company used some pointed customer feedback to make their point.

    Most companies don't have the guts to do something like this.  Personally, I like it.  What do you think?

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Journalism Hits Bottom, Digs

    With the integrity of paparazzi wading through the garbage of their victim, the Left gleefully, lustfully, and aggressively is going through 24,000 pages of Sarah Palin's emails from her gubernatorial tenure.  It seems that everyone wants to be the next one to find that next fatal Palin gaffe - the next stupid thing that they can attribute to her to prove to the rest of the world how amazingly ignorant she is.  

    So dig they do, like factory workers in Mr. Beauregarde's sweat shop, because the little Violet Beauregarde that is now the American Left DEMANDS that they do.  And like Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone's vault, America sits at her TV and sees nothing.  

    I'm no fan of Palin, and as stated here earlier, and I think she's unelectable.  Despite that, I still can't fathom the amount of vitriol that would propel such a hate-driven, quixotic endeavor. 

    Journalism just hit its rock bottom.   

    And they're still digging... 

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Yellow Dog Patrol Now Optimized for Mobile Devices!

    When a user accesses a website from a mobile device, either the traditional site is served, or a special mobile-optimized site can be served to make things easier for mobile users and their significantly smaller screens.

    Up to this point, if you accessed Yellow Dog Patrol via your mobile (and in looking at the web analytics, many of you have), you would have received just a standard rendering of the normal web site. 

    No more, my dear reader! 

    I'm happy to report that the site has now been optimized to make reading YDP much easier on your mobile device.  The attached a screen shot of what the site now looks like in mobile mode for an iPhone. 

    From a user's perspective, there's nothing needed on your end; the site will recognize if the inbound traffic is from a normal PC/laptop or a mobile device, and will automatically serve the correct version without you even noticing. 

    I don't know, but maybe this whole internet thing is going to catch on...

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Obama's Unemployment Graph of Shame

    Remember back in the day where stimulus was being pitched as, without it, we'd see unemployment grow to nearly 9%?  Well, when plotting exactly what's happened, it is clear that the administration was either far too optimistic, completely clueless, lying, or some combination of the above. 

    The graph is brutal, and will be a bludgeon for the Republicans to use throughout the election cycle.  Obama can't distance himself from it as far too much political capital has been spent on it.  You own this, Champ. 

    In the mean time, check the last three data points.  Double-dip, or bumps in the road?  If you listen to our fearless leader it is the latter.  Too bad his track record on economic projection to this point has been an abject failure. 

    Likewise, in a shockingly underreported analysis by USA Today, the country now has $61.6 trillion in unfunded future financial commitments.  Just to understand how big that is, here is what that number looks like when written out: $61,600,000,000,000.00 

    Think about that! 

    It comes out to $527,000 for each and every US household.  Here's hoping you have a spare half million lying around. 

    The train wreck this administration is wreaking upon our economic survival is staggering.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Brown County Lottery for Packers Tickets - Winner!

    In our new town, Packers tickets are nearly impossible to come by.  Season tickets are completely sold out, and are handed down within families like treasured heirlooms.  Single game seats can be had from scalpers, but usually at outrageous prices.  

     Fortunately for us, there is another avenue.   

    Back in 2000, the team agreed to make 40,000 single game tickets available for purchase if the residents of Brown County agreed to accept a 0.5% sales tax that was used to fund the Lambeau Field expansion.  The motion passed, the Frozen Tundra was upgraded, the tickets freed up.

    The tickets are made available via lottery for every adult in Brown County that chooses to participate, and since we're residents, my wife and I both applied.  Guess who went two for two?  Woot!   

    The good news is we both got drawn, and that they're both regular season games (getting stuck with preseason games would really stink).  The bad news is that one is on Christmas, the other is on New Year's Day (hello, Frozen Tundra), and that neither game is against our beloved Vikings.  

    I'm in the process of trying to find other lottery winners that got drawn with the Vikes and want to trade, and we'll see how successful I am.  In the mean time, I just hope they decide to play this season and we actually get a chance to use these. 

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Surprise: Weiner is a Lying Dirtbag

    As was reported here a couple of days ago, Anthony Weiner was indeed lying. I think most objective people are not surprised - if you have just a basic understanding of human nature and social media, you knew the guy was lying from the jump. So when it was announced yesterday that there was a lot more evidence against him, and the new pictures found their way forward, there was little surprise. Littler still when a press conference was hurriedly called so he could "take full responsibly."

    Here are some random notes about the conference and surrounding events:
    • What does "taking full responsibility for my actions" mean? He's not quitting. Only apologizing. That's full responsibility?  Wow.
    • What's up with trembling voice? Dude, you lived the life you wanted. The choices you made were all yours. You chose your lifestyle and were under total control of the decisions you made to propagate it. So why are you crying? That you got caught and can no longer send inappropriate messages to women half your age? Maybe that's the reason. 
    • Here's a heads up to everyone that uses the net: everything you do is traceable. Everything. The email you send, the "anonymous" post you make on a blog, every website you visit, your Facebook post, every tweet you make, you name it, it's traceable. And no matter how you try and delete and cover things up, it lasts in the cyberworld forever, and will eventually be found out by someone. There is no such thing as anonymity on the web. Ever. 
    • I think he keeps his job. Clinton did much, much worse. Hell, Ted Kennedy killed a woman. 
    • He likely won't keep his marriage, but I don't think that matters a whole hell of a lot to him anyway. 
    • I'm truly amazed at how many on the left, especially the left bloggers, got played. They so wanted this to be a hit job against their favorite attack dog that they lost every iota of objectivity, and much of their integrity. All of the articles blaming Breitbart for the "hack," explaining how the account was indeed "hacked," and generally pointing the finger everywhere except in Weiner's direction make them look like the partisan punks that they are. And at the end of the day, they got totally played by Weiner. Like a 20-something girl on a Twitter feed, they were merely a tool for him to use. And use them he did. 
    • What's up with the shaved chest (and I assume pits as well as everything else)? This look started in the gay community and jumped over to some in the hetero community, but why, I'll never know. Again, it is just all so disturbing, especially for a guy married in his mid-40's. Don't get me wrong, a little bit of man-scaping is fine. But the totally clean shave is just downright creepy. 
    This story likely won't be dying as the wife still has not talked in public, and the media machine likely will not rest until she's weighed in. It will serve as a distraction to Democrats coming into the 2012 election. How long it remains so will be completely up to the man responsible for it all.

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Monday Morning Blues

    Here's Joe Bonamassa to ease us into the work week.

    Play on, brother...

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Sticking it to "The Man" in Green Bay

    Last Thursday I attended a conference at St. Norbert's College here in Green Bay.  At 2:00, I needed to head back to the office, and was greeted by this friendly crowd. 

    This was half of the protest, with the other half residing on another corner. 

    The union garbage in this state is getting out of hand.  Between efforts to repeal Walker, to destroying the state capitol and wasting precious state funds in midst of a protest, to standing on a non-busy corner at 2:00 on a random Thursday, the union effort appears misguided at best, and wasteful and ignorant at worst. 

    Here's a couple of tips to help our union brothers and sisters:
    • There's a recession going on, dipstick.  Unemployment is now over 9%, and underemployment at a whopping 17%.  That's just about one in five.  To think you have some special right to not feel the same pain that the private sector has felt since Obama took over (when underemployment was about 7.5%) is ignorant. 
    • If you want to protest, how about doing it when you're going to be seen - like at rush hour where people that are actually working and paying taxes are commuting home?  Thursday at 2:00 at a college campus will move the needle for your cause a whopping jack squat.  At 2:00 the state's taxpayers are working, not working on their sun tan, trying to relive/imitate some cool 60's protest. 
    • Based on new unemployment numbers, drops in durable goods orders, and continuing deflation of housing, the economy has begun its double dip.  It is going to get worse from here, and unless you're adding value to your employer, you'll find yourself one of the ever increasing company of un/under employed. 
    Instead of bitching, you may want to get to work and be thankful you have a job at all.  Lots of your neighbors don't.

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    MBA Graduation Anniversary

    This month marks the 20th anniversary of my graduation from graduate school.  While a milestone, I don't look back at the period fondly. 

    Upon my graduation from St. John's, my dad offered some really poor advice in strongly suggesting I attend grad school immediately.  Since it was the late 80's, with 8%+ unemployment and a tough job market, it was easy to listen to his advice.  While my undergrad GPA was not that hot (3.2 - I did not apply myself as much as I should have in school) I scored a very strong 81st percentile in my GMAT, so when I applied to the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, despite not having any true business background, I was accepted. 

    Unfortunately, my dad's advice could not have been more wrong. 

    I began the day program immediately the fall of my graduation, and lived in a studio apartment on my own in Cedar Square West.  Beyond school, the culture shift of a suburban boy living alone in a tough urban environment was very hard.  So, in my first week there, when a young black kid sped past me on the stairs with terror in his eyes and holding his stomach (which was bleeding profusely from either a gun or knife wound), I was ill equipped to process it.  At all. 

    School itself was a nightmare.  Group work was critical for success, and the pack quickly identified who the strong and weak team players were.  As a student straight from undergrad, with no business experience, and with a strong stench of being intimidated, I was quickly relegated to the "B" groups - weaker players and foreign students.  Despite working harder than I ever had in my life, I could not make the necessary progress.  This was exacerbated by being tied to foreign group-mates; their tuitions paid by rich relatives or their governments, coasting and allowing me (and others) carry far more than our share. 

    A prime example - for our MIS class, we were to break a very sophisticated case into a detailed decision tree, and then supplement it with a written document of why we did what we did, and the worth of the decision that ultimately came out of the end of our analysis.  Three out of the five in our group did all the work - from breaking down the case to tree development to rough draft of the write up.  One of the two that did nothing volunteered to type up the paper.  Given that he hadn't done anything to that point, we appreciated him at least doing something, and were happy to be "complete" with our project.  In class two days later, the man who offered to type the paper (Sudir - I will never forget his name), didn't show up once class started.   Throughout the two hour class my group members and I traded panicked looks, and at the second break I rushed down to the student union to try and call Sudir and find out what was happening.  I was relieved when he picked up the phone, but that relief quickly turned to terror as he stammered "Uh, we have a problem..."  Despite pleading our case to the professor at the end of class, the prof's decision was immediate and final - no paper, no grade.  Enjoy the "F."  I was forced to drop the class (no refund) rather than absorb the hit to my GPA.  Thus were the risks of being part of a bad group. 

    At this point in my life things careened off of the tracks, both at school, at my part-time job, and with my relationships.  I quickly feel into a horrific clinical depression that just about put me in the hospital, and just about cost me my life.  Though my family and a couple of really lucky breaks (or divine intervention as I like to view it) I was able to get the help I needed, and I recovered fairly quickly.  Through the whole process it was clear that the full-time MBA program was not for me, and I needed to go get a job.  If possible, I could finish my education through the evening program. 

    And that is exactly what I did. 

    I was fortunate to work for a company that paid my tuition, and I took one or two classes every period without fail.  The evening classes were made up of no full-time students; just folks working during the day and trying to further their education at night.  My comfort and confidence in class grew immensely, and I finally held my own in the contentious class discussions that were used not only to prove how good your point was, but how stupid others' were.  I finally belonged. 

    However, night school had its own set of difficulties.  I was already working long hours in my job, and my class load afforded no breaks.  For three long years I could never relax and had the constant feeling that I needed to be reading something, working on a paper, or otherwise working.  While it was hell, it was nothing compared to some of my peers that had more demanding jobs and/or kids.  How those folks did it, I'll never know. 

    So when I look back on this anniversary, I ask myself: was it worth it?  Good question.  My MBA did help me in my career as it opened positions to me that likely would not have been opened without it.  It greatly shaped how I view business as I'm able to see things far more holistically based on my education.  It also enhanced and extensively honed my innate strategic capabilities.  I'm definitely farther in my career because of it.  But damn, it was a long, hard road.  It was clearly the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. 

    So twenty years ago, when I graduated with the first grad school degree ever bestowed on my family (which was quickly followed by my brother and sister), I felt pride, exhaustion, and relief.  All of those emotions have since faded, and what's left is an appreciation of how lucky I was.  Things could have turned out quite differently - academically, career, and otherwise.