Monday, July 30, 2012

Fishing with Dad?

It was a beautiful night last night fishing with my nieces and my aunt.  We watched the sun set, the moon rise, the stars emerge, and a lightning storm well off in the north which put on an incredible show.  We caught fish.  We laughed.  It was a perfect summer night.

In the middle of it, I couldn't help but think of my dad.  I said a little prayer, "I'm not sure how that whole afterlife thing works, dad, but I have to believe that if you could be here, with your granddaughters, on this lake, you'd love it.  I wish you could be here with us..."

We continued our fishing, with the ladies armed with the poles and with me relegated to driving the boat.  In the dark, all we had was the moon and the instrument panel to shed light.

After about 15 minutes, one niece sitting at the front of the boat turned around and said "Uncle Mikey!  Your face looks EXACTLY like Poppa," (their name for my dad).  The other niece tunred and said "Oh wow, you do!  Your face looks EXACTLY like him.  In the light from the dashboard.  It's Poppa's face!"

I was first a little ticked off.  Dad was kind of a jowly guy, and I didn't necessarily want to look EXACTLY like him.

But on the ride home it kind of hit me.  Hard.  These two knew my dad only when they were so much younger.  It was amazing to me that they'd make a remark like that. 

Who knows what exactly was seen?  Perhaps it was all some kind of weird coincidence.  Perhaps I do just look too much like my old man; jowls and all.  

Personally, I'd like to think that maybe we spent a little time fishing with dad last night. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Sunday

The following is how I spent my past Sunday:
  •  I was awakened from a terrible dream by my dog jumping on my bed.  I awoke screaming, much to the delight of my two nieces, who were trying to contain my dog, but failing miserably.
  • Wonderful breakfast of some Breadsmith toast
  • Long bike ride to Stoney Point Campgrounds
  • Made my way through the StarTribune and Outdoor News
  • Lunch of some famous Green Bay brautwurst from Maplewood Meats
  • Fishing with my wife while listening to the Twins game,  While we caught just one small walleye, it was a great afternoon on the water.
  • Finished watching the last inning of the Twins on the TV, in between fading in and out of consciousness due to napping
  • Took all the nieces and nephews out in the middle of the lake for a swim.  Judged their diving contests.  All were spectacular.
  • Came in and had a nice pre-dinner cocktail, followed by some incredible French wine
  • Played my brother in cribbage on my dad's old board.  Lost, but it is game one of many
  • Ate a dinner of fabulous Mackethun's ham
  • Played a game of sheephead
  • Went fishing with my aunt and two nieces.  My aunt boated a monster Northern Pike (her second in so many days) and one niece caught a monster walleye while the other caught a fat rock bass
  • I poured myself a large Old Fashioned, and am sitting by a campfire writing this blog post.
Not bad for the first day of vacation...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Video of Beautiful View of Earth at Night

Taken from the International Space Station, this video shows just how beautiful and incredible our home is. 


Good Bye to My Friend the Road Map

For most of my life, maps have held a fascination for me.  If I happen to see one, regardless of the context, I'm instantly drawn to it, nearly to the point of distraction.  There is something about them that makes me want to study, understand, and learn. 

It's weird.  I think it is a quirk I picked up from my Mom, as she behaves similarly. 

Given my fascination, I always kept two maps in my car.  The first was a US road atlas, so regardless of where I traveled I'd be armed with a reference to guide me.  The other was a detailed map of Minnesota roads, spread across 96 full pages, which showed every little dirt road in the state.  For someone as much into hunting as I am this manual was like gold in finding new places to go and investigate.  Likewise, in traffic jams coming back from the cabin it was used by my wife and me to move cross-country and avoid the back-up.  It was an invaluable resource. 

These two maps always were tucked in the pocked on the passenger side seat, and based on the number of times I referred to them, they paid for themselves years ago. 

I bumped into them while cleaning out my vehicle last week, and surprised myself in realizing just how little I now used these two once-critical references. Between the iPhone and Google Maps, I now never have to look beyond my phone to understand where I am and which is the best route for me to take. 

As such, for the first time ever in my life, I pulled all of the maps out of my vehicle.  My wife logically expressed the desire to throw these two books into the trash, and for any straight thinking man, that would be the appropriate end.  But I just can't do it.  So instead of sitting in the back of my rig, going unused, they will now sit on a bookshelf and will gather dust. 

For a guy for a quirky thing about maps, that's OK with me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vikings Fans in Packerland - A Vikings Fan Club in Green Bay

Lest you feel like I've left the reservation, I wanted to share a Meetup group that I created for Vikings fans to get together in Green Bay. 

This past weekend I cleared the concept with management at Thornberry Creek, and between their subscription to the NFL Ticket, their ample supply of libations, and their pretty darned good kitchen, we'll be in good shape this fall.   

Skol Vikings!

I just hope I don't get my butt kicked in the parking lot...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Big Day at Work

Yesterday I attended an event at Lambeau Field that announced our company as the named sponsor of the new gate going into the stadium. 

While these kinds of deals are brokered all of the time, this is a big one for us.  Having the ability to tie our brand so closely to the best known and best supported brand in all of US sports provides benefits galore. 

It was a long negotiation, but one that appeared very much worth the effort. 

This is a big deal for our company, and yet another step toward our ultimate goal.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn State: Step One, Done

In a move the university had to make, the statue of JoPa was removed from the Penn State campus early Sunday morning.

Step one is done.

Now comes the hard part.  The football program needs to end. 

Now we'll see just how much "honor" this institution has.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Aurora Massacre - What Can be Done? Alas, Nothing

With the latest massacre in Aurora, Colorado calls are going out for the government to do something.  That's always the first reaction, as we seek to find a way to prevent such a horrific tragedy from happening again.  Unfortunately, in a free society, our options are limited. 
  • Gun bans.  Regardless of one's opinion on the 2nd Amendment, recalling all privately held guns will never happen.  This country is awash in guns - over 270,000,000 of them estimated to be in the hands or private citizens.  One may not like that, but one can't make that go away.  The genie is out of the bottle. 
  • Additional police.  Are we prepared for the massive influx of budget to put a cop in the middle of every place of public gathering?  Is that what living free feels like? 
  • Managing mental illness.  The reaction of James Holmes' mother when told by police of the event shows she knew he was a danger.  Yet our laws and processes (with very few exceptions) cannot protect us from what someone might do.  The law must first be broken.  And it is horrible when it manifests itself in a mass murder. 
The bottom line is that we live in a free society, and a mentally ill person intent on mayhem will be able to deliver it, regardless of how we'd like to legislate it away with band-aid laws.  It is a terrible thing.  A horrible thing.  But it is who and what we are. 

All we can do are the only thing we can do - remain vigilant,  be aware of our surroundings, always prepare for the worst, love each other the best we can, hold our kids a little tighter, and do what we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wildebeest Video

With one of the most stressful days of my career ahead of me today, it's time for a little levity:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Samuel Williams : The Second Amendment on Display

Recently in an internet cafe in Florida, armed thugs burst in intent on mayhem.  They didn't think they'd encounter Samuel Williams, a 71 year-old armed citizen.

Too bad for them.

Instead of creating a bunch of victims, the tables got turned.  Both thugs suffered gunshot wounds and were arrested.  And everyone else in that building went home to their families.

...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 8 "Fourth Year, Part 3"

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section
I could tell by the voice of the doctor on the other end of the phone that something was very wrong with Blitz.  Immediately my heart jumped into my throat.  I pulled my SUV over to the side of the road as I knew driving at that moment was a lousy idea. 

"What is it?" I asked. The doctor stated "We took Blitz in for her predatory X-ray, and the results are not good.  Basically the bone of her leg is covered with dark spots.  It may be cancer, it may be some kind of mold, but before we do anything with her knee joint we need to treat it." 

The word reverberated in my head: cancer.  Cancer.  Oh my God. 

"I'm not sure how it was missed by your first X-ray," the doctor continued,  "but it is clearly extremely aggressive to be this noticeable at this point.  I'll contact your vet, review the situation, and you can decide how to proceed from there.  He'll call you once I give him the details.  Mr. Sidders, I am so sorry.  So very sorry..."

The line went dead.  I sat there, at the side of the busy road, trying to make some kind of sense of what just happened.  I started to shake uncontrollably as I dialed my phone to call my wife.  I spat out the details to her as best I could with the massive lump I had in my throat.  We agreed we wouldn't panic until we heard from Dr. Jeff at our clinic, and it would be best if I were home.  I hung up, moved back into traffic, and numbly drove toward home. 

As I entered our town, I made a beeline for our local church.  My wife and I were regular church goers, and I now longed for the some of the serenity it had previously provided.  I entered, and dipped my shaking hand into the holy water to cross myself.  I immediately made my way to the front, in front of a statue of Mary, where I alternated prayers to her for her intercession, and prayers to God to take this away.  I prayed aloud, "God, I don't ask you for much at all.  I've done my best to live the right life.  I've honored 'thy will be done.'  But this is too much.  The person that was my Dad has been taken from me.  Please, please God.  I can't lose my dog too.  Not now.  Please.  Please." 

The vibration of the phone in my pocket pulled me out of my prayers.  In looking down on the screen, the words 'Waconia Vet' were clear.  This was it.  I immediately exited the church's side door and answered the phone. 

"Mike, it's Jeff.  Mike, Blitz is a very sick dog..."

The words hit me like a punch to the gut and I lost my breath.  For the first time, the tears started to flow.  "While were not sure exactly what it is, things are very bad."  "What about the mold thing?" I asked.  "That has to be better than cancer, right?"  "No," Jeff replied.  "If it was mold, it is weakening the bone, and growing aggressively.  It is as bad as the cancer." "So what are the options?" I asked.  He explained, "If cancer, we could amputate the leg, and put her through an aggressive series of chemotherapy.  That may buy her some additional time, maybe as long as year." 

"A year?"  I though.  "Oh my God..." 

"If mold," he continued, "we'll definitely need to take her leg, but there are no guarantees that it has not spread elsewhere.  Or you can choose not to treat her, and we'll keep her as comfortable as we can for as long as we can." 

It was now time for the question I did not want to ask.  "How long is that?" I asked.  "Two to four months," came the quiet reply.  "Six at the very most." 

Two to six months.

"What do I do?" I said as much to myself as I did to Dr. Jeff.  "Mike, I can't tell you.  You and Vera need to talk.  However, it may be wise to have the 'U' do a biopsy on her leg to see exactly what were dealing with.  Basically they'll put Blitz under, make a small incision on her leg, and scrape off part of the bone.  With that we should know for sure what it is."  With the impact of the sudden and dire news hitting at full force I had moved into a state of shock, and uttered my acceptance for that path.  "OK," Jeff said, "I'll call them and let them know to proceed.  It is too late tonight for the procedure, but they promised to do it right away in the morning.  You can pick her up the day after, and we should know what we have shortly thereafter.  Mike, I'm so sorry.  I have no idea why we didn't see it on the first X-ray.  I have gone back and rechecked, and now that I know there is an issue, I can indeed see a small speck. I should not have missed it.  The radiologist should not have missed it.  I'm so sorry."  I let him know it was not his fault, and given how quickly things had changed, it would not have mattered anyway.  "I know," Jeff replied.  "But I still feel like I failed you guys, and I'm so sorry."  We agreed to talk again once we got word back from the University, and I thanked Dr. Jeff for his care.  "We'll do all we can, Mike.  Again I'm so sorry." 

I hung up, stood there in the beautiful afternoon on the church's side steps, sat down, put my head in my hands and bawled. 

After composing myself, I got up and looked back at the church's door.  I considered going back in, but it appeared too late for any kind of divine intervention.  I turned, and headed for my car and home.  Upon entering the car I called Fuzzy to update him on the status.  I called him at work, and gave him the information that I had at that time.  "Where are you now?" he asked.  "Sitting outside of St. Joseph's Church in Waconia," I replied.  "Meet me at Floyd's," he said.  "Aren't you working?" I asked. 

"I'll be there in 15 minutes.  Leave now and I'll meet you there."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who I Owe

I've reread my post from yesterday, and I'm embarrassed by it.  I was writing angry, and it shows. 

The post comes off as being way too self-centered.  The fact is, I do owe a debt of thanks for what I've been able to achieve.  To many: 
  • My parents, who raised me in a loving, functional environment, and who taught me a work ethic and interpersonal skills that continue to serve me. 
  • My siblings, who pushed and supported me, and serve as a great example from which to mimic. 
  • My wife, who has loved, supported, and sacrificed right along with me. 
  • My extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews that have kept me loved, thankful and grounded. 
  • Friends, who have pushed me, consoled me, mentored me, and provided needed stress relief. 
  • Coworkers, some of whom are the best people I've met in business, including great leaders, great teammates, and great employees. 
  • St. John's University, which taught me so much, especially the role faith, family, and community plays in life. 
  • God.  I was blessed to be born in a free country to a loving family.   
Indeed, the list of who I owe is a long one.  But you know what's not on this list?  The government.  While I'm grateful for our Bill of Rights, our veterans, and those that worked hard to create an environment in which one could be successful, that environment exists for every American.  While other Americans may not have had the advantages listed above, it doesn't mean that they're somehow owed something.  Nor does it mean that someone who enjoyed this support is now more obligated to the government. 

Don't get me wrong - via my position I am obligated, and my wife and I are generous in our charitable giving.  It was a lesson from my mom and dad that was not lost on their son.  But our obligation is to our community and its betterment.  It is not to give more than our fair share of money to a government that is wasteful, corrupt, inefficient, harmful, and biased. 

Mr. Obama is right, I didn't get there on my own.  I got there because of the people on this list.  But not because of the government.  If anything, I got there in spite of the government.

Monday, July 16, 2012

President Obama: "You Didn't Get There On Your Own"

At a recent campaign stop, President Obama said the following:

"If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there." 

This has been a more and more popular meme in the blogosphere. One that the ungrateful "haves" were only able to achieve their success by leveraging the infrastructure that government has provided for them.  And as such, those that have won success now owe a debt. 

It's one thing when some liberal posters make such a claim, but when the president now makes it, it pushes me over the edge. 

I'm officially livid. 

Yes, I'm in the top tax bracket.  And I didn't get there on my own?  Pardon me for the vulgarity, but I'm at a loss for a better retort - bullshit.  Not a damn thing was handed to me.

While I'm the product of a public school system, the education I received there was mediocre at best.  I found out just how weak my education was when I went to college and interacted with students that went to private school.  They were far more prepared than I.  Looking back with an adult's perspective, the teachers I had were remarkably unremarkable, and every great one encountered was offset by at least one borderline psychotic. 

So when I arrived at college I was behind, but prepared to work.  And work I did.  And while there, I learned the lesson that has stayed with me throughout my career: all of life is a choice.  I could work my butt off and get an "A," or I could go to the bar with my friends, cut corners, and maybe eek out  a "B."  Sometimes I chose the prior, sometime the latter, but the lesson was not lost on me.  I had a choice in my relative success.  It was up to me. 

After undergrad I went to grad school and worked the hardest I ever have in my life.  Despite putting in 50+ hours in at work every week, I put in an additional 20+ on school.  For four long years.  While my friends where chiding me for not going out with them, I was working.  When I did relent and go out, I felt the pain that came with one that really should be reading one more chapter or cranking out a couple more pages on the business analysis case. It was not a fun period. 

Upon graduation, my classmates and I kidded ourselves on what we'd now do with all of our new "free time."  For most of us, the "free time" turned to more work.  Throughout my career, nearly two and half decades, I've simply worked substantially harder than my peers.  Part of it was because it was necessary to remain competitive, but mostly it was a conscious choice.  And the result was that soon my peers were no longer peers, and I moved up. 

But both of us had choices.  I could have left at 5:30 like the rest of them and had a balanced life, or I could have killed myself and moved up.  I chose the latter. 

And now, even though I've "arrived," nothing has changed.  My work weeks are 60-80 hours.  I need to be available to the business 24 hours a day, 7 days per week if necessary.   It is a choice I make. 

A great example of this is this past weekend - a beautiful Saturday in Green Bay.  Coming off a week where I was in the office as early as 5:45 and leaving as late as 7:30 ( a good 70 hour week), I was in the office for about 6 hours on Saturday morning.  Out of an office of 800, I was one of 20 folks there.  Know who most of the other 20 were?  Mostly our top executives.  That 20 and the remaining 780 all made choices on how to spend that beautiful Saturday morning. 

I don't begrudge the 780 for the benefits associated with their choice.  Nobody should.  So why in the hell does the president begrudge me for the benefits associated with my choice?  How the hell can he say I didn't get there on my own?  It sure felt like I was on my own all those times when I was shutting off the lights in the office at the end of the day while the rest of my friends had left hours earlier to go to the bar, play softball, or spend time with their friends or families. 

I've made the necessary choices and paid the associated costs to get to this point in life.  Me.  The personal sacrifices I've made are too long to list, and a number I deeply, deeply regret.  I paid a price few are willing to pay, and have enjoyed a compensation commensurate with that sacrifice.  But I did it myself.  Yeah, I used the school and roads, and have enjoyed the protections afforded by our military, police, and fire departments.  And I've paid substantially more for those services than most others.  Even though many of our society pay absolutely nothing for those same services, despite using them at an equal or greater amount than I do, I feel like I already pay "my fair share." 

Compared to what it took to get here and maintain here, what I've "paid" is colossal. 

You're wrong, Mr. President.  You may not have achieved your position on your own, but I assure you that I got here on my own.  And for you to insult me and my massive amount of sweat and sacrifices with your disrespectful class warfare rhetoric shows the depth of your lack of knowledge of how our economic system works.     

Sunday, July 15, 2012

History of Rock Via 100 Riffs Video

If I had the talent to do this, I would never leave the house.  Incredible.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rick Reilly on JoPa

I came out pretty hot on Penn State yesterday.  Atrocity can do that to a guy, I guess. 

Looks like I wasn't the only one.

While I'm not a big Rick Reilly fan, he knocked this one out of the park on ESPN yesterday. 

I encourage you to read it all

Friday, July 13, 2012

Freesh Report Results Show Penn State Football Should End

With the release of the Freesh report yesterday, the activity of Penn State's most powerful men in the university and the athletic program were laid bare.  And the results were shocking, damning, and sickening. 

To protect the university, and more importantly the football program, university President Graham Spanier, university Vice President Gary Schultz, head football Coach and NCAA icon Joe Paterno, and Athletic Director Tim Curley tured a blind eye, and worse - covered up - multiple episodes of child sexual abuse that were happening with their knowledge. 

It is absolutely stomach-turning.  All four of these men had the ability to stop the horrific abuse they knew was happening.  All four of them instead chose to "protect" the football program. 

So what should happen now?  For the three surviving members of the four responsible for the cover up, criminal charges would be a great place to start.  Certainly obstruction of justice and conspiracy in commitment of a crime occurred,  but it will ultimately be up to a grand jury to determine if there is enough evidence available to secure a conviction.  As for the university itself, it will (and should) be named as liable in civil lawsuits for the victims.  And the resulting activity will likely run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Finally, what of the football program?  You know, the one whose motto is "success with honor?" 

If there is any shred of honor left in that institution, they will end football at Penn State. Effective immediately. 

That may be harsh, but consider the following: the rot could not have been more deeply ingrained in the program.  It permeated from top to bottom, literally from the president to the janitor, and therefore needs to be pulled up, roots and all.  Second, and this point has been made elsewhere but it is critical: if this activity can't end a football program, what can?  What scenario would be worse to justify such a fate? Obviously, it simply can't get much worse than this.  This is as bad as it can get.  Period.

Penn State can begin to rebuild its institution right now by killing off the football program, effectively cutting out the cancer that effects its body.  If they can't muster the fortitude to do it, the NCAA may be able to do it for them.   Regardless, someone finally needs to step up, take responsibility, and do what's right. 

This whole situation occurred because of a system that was set up to protect the football program above everything else.  If Penn State truly considers itself an institute of "honor," it will recognize that the only path forward is to sacrifice the very institute that the system sought to protect. 

Penn State football needs to end now.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

San Francisco Gymkhana Video

While I may drive like one, I've never been much of a motorhead.  Despite that, this video was still immensely fascinating.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's Behind Confrontational Atheism?

There is an exploding trend in social media and on the web to actively disparage those that believe in religion.  It is aggressive, confrontational, and growing. 

Atheism is being touted as the only alternative for those that consider themselves learned, open minded, and intelligent.  Those that seek to live a religious live are depicted as rubes and fools. 


Throughout my life, the most intelligent, successful, wealthy, and prosperous people that I have met have been those that engaged in some form of traditional religion.  Whereas those I've known that espouse atheism in a confrontational, activist fashion are, at best, relegated to the middle rungs of society. 

Perhaps it is my limited set of data points.  Perhaps it is because of who I surround myself.  But every activist atheist I know couldn't hold a candle to the dozens (hundreds?) of successful folks I know that have faith. 

Does that mean there are no successful atheists?  Hardly.  But those that seek to raise their stature by active disparagement of the faithful seem to be lacking something. 

Perhaps it is the kindergarten lesson made manifest - you can't make yourself better by making those around you feel worse.  And that appears to be exactly what activist atheists are attempting to do.   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

George W Bush and the W-100

A side of George W Bush that I believe that very few people know about. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Conversation with Yourself at 12

Here's the hottest new viral video.  Pretty creative stuff - enjoy:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Difference this Fall

There is a big difference this fall.  While the points of the difference are many, it ultimately boils down to the difference between American exceptionalism versus "we're no better than anybody else." 

So, do we "vote present," or do we lead?  Are we to finally get off of the canvas, or do we lie there because getting up is just so hard?  Are our greatest days a fond memory, or yet to come? 

You will be able to decide that this November.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Minnesota Wild Finally Addresses a Decade of Offensive Woes

For years, my biggest criticism of the Minnesota Wild ownership has been their abject failure to provide the team with offense.  Ownership seemed content to milk the season ticket holders while putting a sub-par team on the ice season after season.  However, after over a decade of being at or near the bottom in scoring, Minnesota hockey fans have had enough.  Season ticket sales have lagged.  The once-packed Xcel Center started showing a shocking number of open seats.  The team needed to improve and win back the fans, or spiral away to local indifference and irrelevance. 

Ownership wised up. 

With the recent signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter (both of them!  I still can't believe it) the Minnesota Wild pulled off the biggest hockey acquisition since the North Stars drafted Mike Modano. 

Since this franchise's inception, its biggest trouble has been offense.  Save for one player, Marion Gaborik, the Wild have never had a player that was a consistent offensive threat.  They never had a player that could be found among the league leaders list for scoring.  They had nobody they could count on to put the biscuit in the basket. 

Finally, all of that has been addressed.  And then some.  Both players are going to make those around them better, and I look for guys like Heatley, Bouchard (if he can stay healthy), and Setoguchi to make big strides forward. 

I haven't been this optimistic since the start of the 2008 season.  Go Wild!   

Thursday, July 5, 2012

2012 Duck Forecast

The 2012 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey was recently released, and the news doesn't get any better for duck hunters. Early spring water two years ago has resulted in the continental population of ducks being at their highest recorded levels since the survey started in 1956. 

Given the amount of breeding habitat lost in the past years, this is an amazing finding, and, as hunters and conservationists, Mother Nature helped us dodge a big bullet. However, the clock is ticking. Between dry conditions, expanded farming, and land coming out of conservation programs, pond counts are down 32% from the previous year. In short, things aren't going to get any better than right now anytime soon. 

Duck hunters need to take advantage of this lucky break and get into the swamps this fall. We'll likely not see such numbers again.   

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July Memories

There's not a 4th of July that goes by where I don't hearken back to my youth and the week that we used to spend on Leech Lake during that period every year.  It was a wonderful mix of swimming, fishing, pinball, cards, tennis, laughing, and being surrounded by so many people that loved me. 

The feeling in ingrained into my psyche, and in quest to pass it along to our family's next generation (and, perhaps, to rekindle it for me), my wife and I bought the very cabin where my family used to stay every 4th. 

While we'll not be there this holiday, we will be all together up there the end of the month, and will look to make new memories.  In the mean time, as I think about this holiday, I can't help but think back on so many vacations, good times, and loved ones that have come and gone. 

I'm convinced that if there is a heaven, the feeling I'll have there will be a similar feeling that all of those family vacations gave me.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

5 of the Best Albums of 2012 (Thus Far)

About a month ago, it felt like there was nothing good happening in new music.  The Indy/Alternative scene felt stale.  Anticipated albums from artists like Santigold, The Shins, and Tennis fell short.  It looked like it was going to be a very long summer. 

Thankfully, three recent releases show that the industry is doing OK, and we can have something fresh to enjoy on the iPod in the coming months:

Silversun Pickups:Neck of the Woods.  SSPU comes through again with a quality engagement of brooding alt-rock.  Fairly consistent with their previous efforts, this is a band that continues to bring the goods time and time again.  They are also incredible live.

Metric: Sythetica.  More consistent than previous Metric offerings, a majority of the album is very good.  You could not say that about previous Metric efforts.  While I get really sick of their politics (and their need to foist their opinions on their fans), I do enjoy their music. 

Rush: Clockwork Angels.  Yep, Rush.  For nearly 45 years (nearly as long as I've been alive) Rush has been cranking out their impeccable brand of cerebral rock.  While their style has ebbed and flowed through the years, their musicianship could never, ever be questioned.  That is clearly the case in their new album - arguably their best in at least a decade, maybe two.  How Rush is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame remains that institute's greatest shame.

2:54: Self Titled.  Ever since The XX came out years ago, I've been pining for a return to that brooding, dark alternative riff with a top layer of quiet female vocal.  2:54 nailed it.  From start to finish, this album rocks.  It's my favorite album of 2012 thus far. 

The Lumineers : Self Titled.  As I reported in my concert review of theLumineers, this is an incredibly talented band.  Their album is great across all tracks, and likely will be the soundtrack for summer 2012 for many.  As it should be.  Theirs is a superlative effort. 

Regardless of your musical tastes, check out any of the albums listed above.  You'll be impressed with what you hear.     

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cheaters and Me

About a year ago, my eyesight went.  And I mean bad.  I went from having spectacular eyesight to struggling to see most things printed in a normal font.  Throw in some low light or fatigue, and I'm really screwed. 

This has been incredibly hard for me.  While the good Lord didn't bless me with many positive physical attributes, the one thing I always had was the ability to see, and see incredibly well, without any correction. 

Those days are now gone. 

The change has been so swift and dramatic that I went into one of our stores' optical areas and got a check.  While the end result (I'm old and my vision sucks) was not what I wanted to hear, I had some of the best optical careavailable.  And I'm not just saying that - our stores are known for the quality of their health care, and the folks that attended to me were simply outstanding. 

So I walked out of there with an Rx for correction, five pair cheaters (which have been stashed strategically throughout the house and at work), and the satisfaction that given my age, I should have been in there looking for correction years earlier. 

As if a guy can be satisfied with the fact that I'm getting old, just not as fast as I should. 

Damn it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Coke Security Camera Videos Capture Humanity

Coke's "Happiness Machine" campaign remains one of my favorite viral marketing efforts.  They've launched a new one, leveraging security cameras to capture us being us.  While I dislike the kid tagging the building (regardless of the message, that's still destruction of property), the rest of it is joyful humanity.