Monday, September 30, 2013

Appearances on the Plane

It had been a long, long week on the road.  I was at the end of it; on my last leg of a three-legged trip to get me home.  I was flying from Billings, Montana to Minneapolis - and I was 1:45 away from getting back to the duck camp and my buddies.

I was seated in window at an exit row, and had someone seated in aisle.  When I had checked in earlier that day, I was heartened that the flight was not completely full, and that there was nobody seated in middle of our row.  Since it basically takes status or a paid upgrade to sit in the exit row last minute, I was hopeful that I'd be able to stretch out on the flight.

Those hopes were dashed in the form of a 6'2", 250 pound Montana native, with a linebacker's build and shoulders that went on for days.

He threw his girth into the middle seat, and instantly squished me against the window.  "Hey, theses seats got room down here," he said as he lifted his legs, "but none up here," he completed by leaning his broad shoulder into mine.

Judging by how he spoke, my bet was that the man cramming me into the window was a touch mentally challenged.  And, just my luck, he was a talker.

Immediately he started, "Whoa, that's a really nice shirt!  Where did you get a shirt like that?"  "I'm not exactly sure," I replied, "My wife bought it for me."  "Your wife?" he replied, "Man, she must love you!  What a shirt.  My wife would never buy a shirt like that for me.  In fact, I don't remember her buying me anything like that.  Not even close.  But I don't buy anything for her, but still, she never has..."

And on and on.

I hate talking on planes.  I'm an introvert, and a horrible one.  I just want to sit there with my Bose noise cancelling headphones and get to where I'm going.  When someone strikes up a conversation, I tense up as I know I'll soon run out of things to ask and there will ultimately be that awkward silence.  I'd much prefer a silent seat-mate.

But not this trip.

On and on my seat partner kept talking.  About his home, family, raising kids, work, everything.  And when he did so, he did so in a loud and inappropriate voice.  So much so, that a couple of people even turned around to look at who was making so much inappropriate noise.

The stories continued, and I tried to be as polite as possible; all the while dreaming of moving my headphones from around my neck to over my ears.  And the whole time I kept wondering to myself, "I wonder what's wrong with this guy?"

Almost immediately he told me.

"See this tooth?" he said while pointing to a mouth full of dental mess.  "I'm finally gonna get it fixed.  Gonna get all of them fixed.  I got a settlement in a wrongful termination case.  My old company discriminated against me due to my combat injuries.  But I won.  And now I'm gonna get my teeth back the way they used to be."

In looking more closely at his face, scars were now obvious.  They were even more so when he removed his cap to wipe his brow.  The guy sitting next to me was a soldier that had experienced some pretty damn significant trauma to his head in battle.

I felt, and still feel like, a total jerk.

By the end of the flight, we had hit it off, and my seatmate had actually invited me to hunt with him at his family's ranch - 100,000 acres in western Montana.  We slapped backs and parted ways, with him looking for his connecting flight, and me looking to understand what the hell happened to my humanity.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The NFL : Our National Language

In my travels this past week, I've been a lot of different places and encountered a lot of different people.  All walks of life, all income brackets, all education levels, many races.  

And it struck me sitting alone at dinner one night and eavesdropping on a couple of conversations of the one thing - the one common thing - that binds us.

It's not our country, although is should be.  Unfortuantely, politics has completely poisoned that well.  No, it is far simpler than that.

It is pro football.  It is the one thing over which complete strangers can ignite a conversation that can carry on for hours.  Be it the local team, the team one followed as a kid, the crazy co-worker's game day antics, or performance of the fantasy football team, everybody has a story, and everybody has a perspective.

And this is not just applicable to men.  Not anymore.

No matter where you go, no matter who you encounter, if you're in the confines of this beautiful land, odds are good that if you ask a stranger what they thought of the Monday Night Football game last night, you'll be off and running on a conversation.

The NFL has done a fantastic job of ingraining themselves into our culture.  Let's hope they can do a better job of protecting their players so that we can continue this happy ride.

Friday, September 27, 2013

America the Beautiful

Yesterday I wrote about my crazy trip this past week.  A trip that had me in the Midwest, South, and Mountains.  A trip that had me in America's largest of cities, and in places that very few have been.  And despite this diversity, there is only one common denominator: this is a gorgeous country!

It is not just the obvious things either - yeah, it is tough to beat the majesty of the Rockies - but even in the littlest of things.  Consider the diversity of our geography, the wealth of our water and undeveloped spaces, the bounty of our agriculture, the pleasantness of our people.  Absolute wonders exist right outside our back yards, should we choose to see them.

It has been said the the urban dwellers of the coast look down on the concept of "flyover country."  I pity their ignorance.  In its own way, it is as beautiful as any other spot on the map, and far more readily available as well.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tour de Me

I'm in the middle of a big travel period, and created a Google Map to track where I've been and where I'm going.  Here are the stops:

  • Drove from Green Bay to Duck Camp
  • Drove from Duck Camp to MSP
  • Flew from MSP to ORD for conference
  • Flew from ORD to MSP to connect
  • Flew from MSP to Columbus to visit distribution facility
  • Flew from Columbus to ATL to connect
  • Flew from ATL to COS
  • Drove from Colorado Springs to Pueblo for meeting with Call Center
  • Driving from Pueblo to Raton, NM to knock New Mexico off of my "states visited" list
  • Driving from Raton to Colorado Springs
  • Flying from COS to SLC to connect
  • Flying from SLC to BIL to connect
  • Flying from BIL to MSP
  • Driving from MSP back to Duck Camp
  • Driving from Duck Camp to Resort Owner's meeting
  • Driving back to Duck Camp
  • Driving back to Green Bay
All told, it represents 9 different states in 10 days.

I don't travel for a living, but tip my hat to those that do.  There's no way I could do this on a standard basis.  Whew.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Heart Performs Stairway to Heaven

As part of last year's Kennedy Center Honors, Ann and Nancy Wilson (and a little bit of help) kicked out a version of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven.  Check this out.  Hat-tip to House

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2013 Minnesota Duck Opener Recap

With the earliest opening day in history at September 21, Minnesota duck hunters finally got a shot a the sizable blue-wing teal population in the state, and by and large, the results were fantastic.  Good shooting and heavy game straps were found throughout the state.

That was no different at my duck camp, where I shared Gucci Point with a buddy and his son.  As you can see by the harvest and grins, the opener was quite the success.

Duck season 2013 is definitely off with a bang in Minnesota.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Johnnies Upset #2 St. Thomas

I remember a day where a SJU win over the Tommies was not considered an upset.  However, times have definitely changed.  UST is a program on its ascendency, and SJU is a program in free fall.  

But sometimes there's a wrinkle in the universe, and everything turns upside down.

That's what happened last Saturday, when the Johnnies went into St. Paul and ended UST's streak of 36 consecutive regular-season games.  By forcing 5 turnovers, SJU forced St. Thomas into a position where it pretty much has to run the table to end up in the post-season.

For SJU, it is the biggest win of new coach Gary Fasching's young head coaching career.  And one to grow on, that's for sure.

Congratulations, Johnnies.  Short of your National Championship win over favored Mount Union, this is the biggest win I can remember. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fantasy Football Tattoo League

My fantasy football team at work is terrible.  Injuries and benchings have removed four out of my top five picks.  As a result, I've finished last in the league in terms of points the past two weeks, and am projected to do the same in week three.

That really hurts, as I have side bets with most of the league on points scored.  If I don't turn things around, I could  be down some serious money.

I was thinking of that this morning and feeling sorry for myself, but I found this video, and now I don't feel so bad:

Heck, I don't feel so bad at all.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Minnesota Teal Season

On the eve of the Minnesota duck opener, there's word that the US Fish and Wildlife service is working with a group of flyway representatives which may bring about a teal season in Minnesota.

The populations of both green and blue-wing teal support expanded hunting, and since early teal hunting is the rule and not the exception with most of the states in the flyway, extending the season to the northern states seems appropriate.  

However, there will be detractors.  There is already a vocal minority in Minnesota that believes that we start hunting ducks too early already, and/or that early hunting over water (for geese or Youth Waterfowl Day) move ducks out of the state.  And we can fully expect those folks to howl the loudest.  Likewise, the anti-hunting crowd will also wade in, and will likely play the "wanton waste" card - e.g. teal are hard to identify, and many non-teal ducks will be killed illegally.

To all of those groups, I'd suggest we just try it and see what happens.  Personally, having hunted geese on the water for early season for over 10 years, I've seen no impact on duck movement.  Likewise, I feel teal are imminently easy to identify on the wing, and with solid enforcement and penalties, "mistake" ducks should be few.

For my money, teal are the finest duck.  The afford the sportiest shot, and despite their small size offer the best table fare.  Personally, I'd prefer to have a limit of teal over any other duck.  

Here's hoping that Minnesota takes this step forward.  We'll see where it shakes out. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Eagle in Flight Video

This is all over the web, but it should be because it is so worth it:

Since the beginning of time man has looked to the skies and wondered what it would be like to fly like one of the birds circling in the sky above him.

With the advent of technology, we know get a lot closer to knowing, and it is breathtaking.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Perhaps the Best Political Ad, Ever

From our former home state comes Jeff Wagner, and he's running for Mayor of Minneapolis.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Door County

With my work schedule the way it has been lately, and with an upcoming 10 day hunting and business trip, my wife and I decided to get reacquainted to each other by spending the weekend in Door County.  The peninsula of quaint shops, restaurants, scenery lies between the bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan proper, and, at just over an hour's drive from home, make for a very convenient short-notice vacation spot.

It does attract big money from throughout the mid-west, so you'll need to get used to seeing a lot of luxury cars and guys wearing things like berets (seriously), but there is still enough of a woodsy vibe up there to adequately combat the pretentiousness.  And just about every restaurant you poke your head into will serve up something that will be surprisingly fantastic.

While it is just an hour away from home, it is surprising how different the feel is up there.  The smell of the woods, lake, open fires, and pines provide an olfactory treat, the cool of the lake and bay give it a very up-north feel, and the sites themselves are quite beautiful.    

It is just another example of how lucky we are to live in this country, where so much beauty and peace lie just outside our back Door (County).

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good-bye, Summer

As I type this, the temperature outside here in lovely Green Bay has reached a bracing forty-one degrees.  The house is ticking and creaking, and the furnace is belching out that funky first-time-used-this-season smell.  Football is firmly entrenched, fowl are flocking up for their impending migrations, and retailers are steeling themselves.

Bye, summer.

Oh, sure, we might hit 80 later this week.  And sure, you've not been gone long enough to take the leaves off of the massive tree on #9 (you know the one - the one lovingly called Shaq for his proclivity for "blocking the shot"), but if you're still here you're a shadow of your former self.

You came late, and it feels like you're too leaving early.  If only we could find a way to get winter to do the same.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Spy on your Kids' Online Activities

The most viewed story at the StarTribune this morning is a story of a girl that committed suicide because she was being cyber-bullied.  The mother of the girl in this case was clueless as to the magnitude of her daughter's situation.

Full disclosure - I don't have kids, and it's easy for me to say this.  Understood.  But if you do have kids, for the love of God, spy on their online activity.

Your kids are clicks away from pedophiles, bullies, drugs, and a whole host of life-threatening engagements.  Just a couple of clicks.  They need to know that you know exactly what they're doing, and that inappropriate behavior will be quickly discovered and punished.

Spare me the privacy and trust arguments.  The internet changed all of that.  Those days are over.  Just ask our federal government (hi, NSA!).  This isn't about rights or freedom or privacy or any other of those sanctimonious ideas.  It is about keeping your kids alive and safe.

There are tons of technical options for tacking your kids - some of them free, and many simple to set up and use.  A quick search on "internet tracking software," will get you started.  

It's easy, it's important, and it's common.  Your employer does it, your government does it, and you need to do it as well. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Gift of Guests

For a lot of reasons, life here in Green Bay is a lonely one.  For a surprisingly large number of reasons we have basically no close friends here.  This place does not feel like home; never has, and it is looking very much like it never will.

That's one of the major things that makes having guests such a thrill.  We've been fortunate to have a good cross section of family and friends pass through on a visit, and it always has been a great occasion.

And that's why I was ecstatic to hear from a college buddy yesterday who is planning on taking his son to see the boy's favorite team, the Detroit Lions (I know - don't ask) play at Lambeau Field.  He asked if we were interested in having a couple of guests.  Were we?  We can't wait!

Green Bay isn't the best place to visit - it's a small town with limited things to do - but when folks make the trip it means the world to us.  It makes our lonely existence over here a lot more tolerable.

Hence, family and friends, please view this as your open invitation to make the trek out an see us.  We have plenty of room, will show you all Green Bay has to offer (albeit not a lot), and will generally be the best hosts we can.

Hope to see you soon. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Obama's Kickstarter Project for WWIII

A number of hip, young Obama voters make the case for funding the president's bid for the next world war.  Grab your credit card...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sarah Silverman and "The Black NRA"

Sarah Silverman recently released a proposal for a black wing of the NRA on Funny or Die:

Just a heads up to Ms. Silverman - If you're going to post something on Funny or Die, what happens when it truly isn't funny?

Anyway, here's a reasoned response:

Not only was the response more cogent and compelling, but it was funnier as well.  Perhaps Sarah Silverman should stick to doing content around her dog and leave the race and gun thing alone.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lessons from the Big Project

Tonight we'll launch the project that my team and I have been developing for two years now.  It began with research and an RFP in the summer of 2011, and will conclude with the launch of a brand new website this evening.  

While the process was long, the really hard work has been the work that has been conducted in the past nine months.  During that time, my team has experienced a birth, death (twice) outside of the ups and downs of a very complex, very high profile project.  

Something this grandiose does not come with a foregone conclusion of success.  In fact, companies in my space with multiples more of financial and human resources have done ostensibly the exact same project, and not as successfully.  But our little team and it's work ethic did the work just the same.  Remarkable.

Some learning points from the process:

  • Anytime there is a project this big, you'll see people at their absolute worst and best.  And you learn an awful lot about them that way
  • You also see the best and worst in yourself, and there is a lot to take away with that.  I have much that I've been milling over, and there will be much more to come
  • Once the strategy has been set, the work is all tactical at its best, and emergency fire fighting at its worst.  It is mentally and physically exhausting activity
  • It is extremely lonely at the top.  Satisfaction has to come from inside as there is nobody there cheer-leading your efforts.  Our senior team and ownership expect results, and don't have time to prop me up when I'm having a really tough day
  • Along with the above, my main job was to try and keep the wheels on the vehicle and keep it moving forward; all without letting my own challenges impact my team.  It was a very, very hard balancing act
While it was painful and not without its significant costs, it is something of which I'm quite proud. In reflecting on it, it's probably the biggest achievement of my career.  That's pretty cool.

But I'm still SO glad it's ending... 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Coffee With Jesus

I ran into a comic strip from Radio Free Babylon which portrays conversations that people (and Satan) are having with Jesus over a cup of coffee.

At first blush, these strips can be seen as irreverent, disrespectful, and in poor taste.  The Savior is shown as being kind of snarky and humorous.  His flip comments differ greatly from what traditional religion project.

But at the end, the message is usually always the same.  He is there for us.  He expects much of us.  He forgives us when we fail.  He wants us to try.  And most of all,  He loves us; unconditionally.  

Some may disagree with the irreverent nature in which the message is delivered, but one can't argue with the message itself.  

Here is one example of a strip that I like:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Guinness and the Not Your Usual Beer Ad

Like your luscious product, this is very well done, Guinness:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Neko Case's New Album

With one of the most awaited albums in a long time (for me, anyway) Neko Case hits a home run with The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

From end to end, the album is very strong, and is well worth the download.  

Here's a recent live performance:

She's currently out on tour, and based on this performance, it looks like a ticket to get.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obama's Case for War

Obama's proxy John Kerry has been everywhere lately, rushing us off to war with Syria.  And make no mistakes - we're not just going to drop some bombs and have the situation over.  Syria, a heavily armed foe and one in proximity to Israel, isn't going to be a punching bag without making moves of their own.  The powder keg that is the Middle East might finally ignite this time.

Syria claims innocence in the gas attack, and has called the Obama administration's bluff and demanded proof.  In return, we've been given John Kerry, master of the platitude, waxing eloquent and definitively that the Assad regime is at fault and needs war to set them straight.  Meanwhile, we have zero allies to help us.

If the evidence is so straightforward, why are we going alone?  Why are we the only country that wants this war?  Perhaps it is because the world saw this:


This administration flat out lied to its people and the world on what happened in Libya   100% pure undiluted lie.  And the reason they did was because it was politically expedient for them to do so.

So why in the world would anyone trust the Obama administration?  They've lied about Benghazi, Fast and Furious, siccing the IRS on their political enemies, and a whole host of other transgressions.  It is obvious that our allies neither respect, nor trust, this administration.

This is of your doing, Mr. President.  And as you wade into a military "punishment" all by yourself, and as the dominoes begin to fall, let it be known that this is your war - yours and yours alone.  

Congratulations, Mr. Peace Prize winner.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dick Fowler, PI

Farmers Insurance has launched a new campaign:

Yeah, it's OK, but it doesn't reach the bar set by Reebok with the Terry Tate campaign:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Stevie Nicks and Dave Grohl - You Can't Fix This

While this is a bit dated - Grohl's Sound City was released early this year, it is never too late to appreciate Stevie Nicks knocking it out of the park.


I had the biggest crush on her in junior high.  She's aged incredibly well.  Me?  The jury is still out.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Clinton - Easier to Buy an Assault Weapon than to Vote

At the recent MLK gathering on the mall in Washington, Bill Clinton addressed the crowd.  And just like his "I did not have sexual relations..." speech where he wagged his finger and spoke so very emphatically, he flat out lied again:

Sorry, Bill.  When buying a gun:

  • You must have an ID
  • You must have a background check
Period.  If you want to make voting akin to buying a gun, bring it.  In the meantime, do we really want this guy as First Husband for four years?