Friday, January 31, 2014

World Record Paper Airplane Toss

The power in this throw, and its resulting distance are pretty amazing:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Exorcism Video

It has become quite a story, featured the last two nights on Bill O'Reilly, but I was actually made aware of it via this article and accompanying video a couple of days ago.

What is so striking to me is the number of independent witnesses - each of them extremely credible - that came forward and reported what they saw.

All of which leads to the following conclusion: either this is an incredibly elaborate hoax - one in which multiple people are putting their professional lives on the line - or the physical manifestation of evil in this world is all too real.

You decide:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pet Poison Control Number 888-299-2973

Recently I was sitting downstairs with the Yellow Dog, enjoying a fine Wisconsin IPA and watching Pulp Fiction.  The dog was at my feet, working on a bone.  All was good with the world.

The dog got up and headed off to an unfinished area of the basement where I keep her water dish.  That area also serves as storage for my wife and me as well.

The dog came on back and sat at my feet again and started to work on the bone.  Again, all was good with the world.  Until 5 minutes later when a commercial came on, and I looked down at the dog to see that she was not working on a bone.  When she had gone into the other room, she picked up a small canister of spackle, forced off the top, and had been licking at the contents inside.

I screamed at her, picked up the spackle, and immediately read the big red WARNING on the front.  "Oh no, " I thought immediately, "What have I done?"  

I turned the jar around to get details on the warning.  For ingestion, the warning stated to not induce vomiting, but get the victim to emergency medical treatment right away.

Immediately I screamed for my wife and had the dog in the crate in the back of the truck, driving like a madman to the pet emergency hospital for our third visit there in three years.  They took all my information, and then handed me a sheet which had a number for pet poison control.  The nurse explained that they could call for me, but they'd charge me for it.

It wasn't free - there's a standard $65 fee per call - but I got through right away.  Their database must be extremely robust, as when I was reading the title of the spackle off the label the person on the other line actually finished my sentence.  Armed with the information at his end on what was in the spackle and how much the Yellow Dog had ingested, he put me on quick hold to perform some calculations.  He came back on, and stated that the dog would be fine - maybe a little sick, but certainly she was not in a life threatening state.

Considering the dire warning label, I was thrilled with the prognosis, and indeed the dog is just fine.  I was also thrilled with the service.  So much so, I have added it to my contacts on my phone.  I hope I'll never need to use it again, but in the event I do, I'll have it with me.

The number is 888-299-2973.  Again, there is a $65 fee for the call, regardless of what transpires.  But in an emergency like we had, it was money well spent. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hunting with Kin, Louisiana Edition

I just returned from our annual excursion down to visit my cousin, his family, and assorted others down in Louisiana.  It was our 10th trip down south together - incredible how much time has gone past, but also incredible to think of all of the fun we've had.  I'll have a lot more on that later.

In the meantime, here's the trip captured in pictures:

The trip wouldn't be the trip without some incredible southern cooking, and here's Fuzzy enjoying a fantastic Snickerdoodle

We finally got a chance to meet the newest member of our crew.  Now we just need to track down a camo onesie for her

Taking a break from being dad

Our dedicated photographer getting ready for the requisite group shot 

Our esteemed hosts for the weekend

A heaping plate of fried duck, red beans and rice, cole slaw, and bread.  Despite eating like an absolute glutton, the scale was good to me upon my return.  Thank goodness the metabolism is cranked up. 

Hauling the boat out at the end of the season.  This was also going to serve as our "before" picture in the event we had an insurable incident 

While duck hunting wasn't good on the last day, our host clipped this deer with his truck.  Not one to leave good meat behind (especially with great venison tamales available) we loaded up the unfortunate doe.

Deer hair in the bumper.  The tell-tale sign that somebody had a bad morning.

The crew for this year's trip

By the time our weekend was over, everyone was tired.  And I do mean everyone.

While we've had better shoots, I'm not sure we've had a better time.  It was sad to see the long weekend come to an end, but it has me already looking forward to our next get-together.

Monday, January 27, 2014

How One Reacts in an Emergency

I was a freshman in college, just coming back from a hockey game where my beloved North Stars lost a heartbreaker to the hated Chicago Blackhawks.  Riding with me was my buddy from college, and since he was an avowed 'Hawks fan, the conversation on the ride home was fairly one-sided.

We were sitting at the left turn lane of an intersection, waiting on the green arrow.  Eventually the arrow came, and the car in front of us began their turn into the intersection.  At that same time, a car in the opposite lane crested the hill on the opposite side, and was moving at substantial rate of speed.  It was going way too fast, and things went into slow motion as the inevitable looked to unfold before our eyes.

Indeed, the inbound car could not stop (it could barely slow down) and it rammed into the car making the left turn at about 35 mph.  The crash, noise, physical force exerted, and resulting wreckage was shocking.  

And then, as soon as it all started, both cars came to rest, and things were eerily quiet.  I sat there, completely dumbfounded.  I literally had no thought in my head other than disbelief.  I was snapped to my senses by my buddy yelling "YOU TAKE THE CAR ON THE RIGHT, I GOT THE LEFT!" as he flew out of the passenger side.

I remember distinctly thinking, "Of course - help!  What the hell was I thinking?"

We got to both cars where the driver that ran the red light appeared to be fine, and the passenger in the car he hit needing medical attention, albeit nothing life threatening.  

And for years after that event, I was embarrassed by my inaction.  It is said that one never knows how they'll react in an emergency until faced with one, and as far as I was concerned, my sitting there unable to process the situation as an abject failure.  

I vowed that it would never happen again.  And ever since I told myself, repeatedly, that if I was ever faced with an emergency situation, my first and only conscious thought would be to MOVE.

And that's exactly what kicked in at the health club this morning.  I was on a treadmill, just completing my morning run when there was a horrific scream from behind me that I was able to hear over the Metallica in my headphones.  I turned toward the noise to see an woman on the ground, and another crouched over her seven rows to my left and a row behind me.  Their body language and the screams instantly reflected a situation that was not right, and immediately a voice in my head said "MOVE!"

I rushed to them where a woman was trying to sit up, and her daughter was hovering over her.  The woman had fallen on her treadmill, landing on her head, and while the treadmill pushed her off the back, her head and neck fell again onto the accelerating treadmill, and her skin was stripped off her face like someone had taken a huge sander to her head.

Immediately after I got there the person working at the health club arrived.  She added exactly zero value.  I was trying to access if the woman fell due to passing out, heart attack, or some other serious reason as that would require immediate action, or if she just fell in which case her massive facial and neck wounds would be the extent of her injuries.  I got the woman to sit down from her crouching position as I was worried she'd pass out, and I yelled to the woman that worked at the club to get towels and ice.  

The victim was embarrassed, and was also not making the most sense.  She obviously took a significant blow to the head, and at that point I wasn't messing around anymore.  I grabbed the iPhone out of my pocket and called 911.

While on the phone with dispatch, the daughter suggested that an ambulance was not needed - she felt that she'd be able to drive her mother to the hospital on her own.  I conveyed that to dispatch, and the pair gathered their things up for the drive to the hospital.  I helped the wobbly woman up and out of the building.  Then I got back to my work out.

I was aghast at the lack of quick response by the worker at the health club.  There should be a standard protocol for when a member hits the ground, and the actions need to be swift.  Likewise, there should be some kind of panic button where help can be called in to respond at a moment's notice.  Had our situation been more life-threatening, precious minutes would have been lost.

But more than that, I was surprised by the lack of any kind of action by anyone else.  There were approximately 50 people in the health club at the time, and a couple of them were far more close in proximity to the emergency than I was.  And yet it was only me and one other guy that rendered aid.  Everybody just kept working out, looking at this poor woman with half of her face tore off.  

I was disgusted by their lack of action.  But then I thought back to that car accident I witnessed during my freshman year, and I backed off.  Maybe, upon reflection, some of those people that did nothing can use the event to be more active the next time.  Like I did.

In the meantime, I acted appropriately exactly once.  I hope I'm never put in a similar situation.  But in the event I am, I hope I'm able to move like I did today.     

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Small Drone Demonstration Video

Is it just me, or is this whole drone thing moving incredibly rapidly?  Ugh, makes me uneasy...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dog Talks Back

I've had my dog "give me the look" when she didn't want to do something, but I've never had her tell me "no..."

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Cost of Speeding

Something to think about, for those of us that just drive too damn fast:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Visit to the World Trade Center

While in New York City last week, I took some time to myself and headed down to Ground Zero at the World Trade Center.  Despite multiple trips to New York, I had never been there before, and with time on my hands I had no excuse.  Likewise, I had the benefit of access to a "family pass" which enabled me pass by many of the lines.  A friend of mine lost her brother in the South Tower - his office was above the crash site and he was trapped and ultimately was killed.  She was happy to set me up if I'd pay my respects and "say 'hi' to John for her."  I was happy to do so.

It was a grey, cold day, and seemed appropriate for attending the memorial.  The crowd was large, but the family pass that I had moved me along and my wait was very small.  Upon entering the memorial, I was struck at how small it felt.  It was configured into two tower "footprints," and while they were smaller footprints than the original towers' footprint configurations, it still felt small.

It felt small, that is, until I started reading the names.  All of the names:

Thousands of them.  I was specifically looking for my friend's brother, and while there are tools to help one identify an exact location of a victim's name on the memorial, I didn't want to use that and wanted to find him on my own.

And I found as I was going through that process and concentrating on my task that I was becoming desensitized to the place, names, and what it all meant.

 And then I saw my first listing of a pregnant woman, "MARY DOE, AND HER UNBORN CHILD."  And for whatever reason, that completely humanized the whole event to me, and brought me to a shocking realization of the massive loss of life, and the ripple effects it must have had for so many families across the country, if not the world.

And with that I broke down.

I counted six other pregnant women that were killed on that day.  And ultimately I did find John, and paid my respects.  As I was turning away from doing so, I spied a middle eastern couple to the left of me.  She was wearing a Hijab, and was backing herself up to the memorial so that a picture could be taken of her with the memorial in the background.  And once she got into position, she flashed a massive smile.  A smile that appeared, to me, to be inappropriate.  A smile that appeared to resemble one that one flashed when one's favorite baseball team hit a home run.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I could have been completely misinterpreting the entire event.  It could have been completely benign.  But at that moment, and with the emotional state in which I was in, it took a lot of strength not to grab that iPhone they were using and smash it in the ground.  I was beyond angry.  I seethed.  

And at that point I told myself that I needed to leave.  Right now.  

And on my way out, I gazed up at the sky to the massive Freedom Tower, rising above all of that loss and construction.

That's where I took MY photo:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yellow Dog Flushes Bird with Tail

Despite a couple of points, the Yellow Dog had a tough time tracking down that bird that she just knew was there.

Fortunately, that active tail did more than what it typically does...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Most Admired? How About a Friend or Relative

At the end of last year, Gallup conducted a poll of who were the most admired men and women in America.  The widely reported results showed that Barack Obama was the most admired man, and Hillary Clinton the most admired woman.

The actual question that was asked was this: "What man (or woman) have you heard or read about, living today, in any part of the world, do you admire the most?"

But in digging into the details of the report (found at a link on the bottom of their summary), there was some interesting data:

  • Numbers reflected names that folks admired most, plus a second choice.
  • While Obama was indeed the highest mentioned, he was only mentioned by 16% of the respondents 
  • The 16% Obama earned was down 14 percentage points - nearly half - from last year's poll.
  • Akin to Obama's numbers, Hillary Clinton, the "most admired woman" was mentioned on only 15% of the respondents.
  • Clinton suffered degradation of her poll numbers as well, as she was first last year, but with 21% of the respondents
But the really interesting data point is that the second most admired person listed, for both men and women, is Friend/Relative. For men, it was listed 9% of the time, and for women it was listed 13% of the time.  Not only that, but the number has grown from when Gallup started taking this poll back in 2003.  Back then, Friend/Relative was 4% for men and 9% for women.

The takeaways appear obvious:
  • With their various scandals the past year, it ground into Obama and Hillary's admiration rating.  Not surprising.
  • People are starting to admire more folks that they know personally.  
Both are probably a very good thing.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Liberalism at Bubble Burst Stage

Michael Goodwin of The New York Post writes an incredibly interesting commentary which liken the liberal movement to one that is at a stage of a bubble about to burst, akin to market bubbles of which we're all aware.

It's very interesting analysis, and I suggest you read the whole article here.

A Lot has Changed in 20 Years

I think this whole internet thing might have caught on in the past 20 years.

Thankfully, things like Katie's hairstyle, did not...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How Can You be Bored?

A friend on Facebook is convalescing from a painful surgery, and has been on the shelf, unable to do much but lie around for the past week.  She went to Facebook and complained that her boredom was actually worse than the pain of her surgery.

And to that I thought, "What a waste."

There is no greater gift than the gift of time.  None.  And yet we squander it, especially when presented with the gift of an unexpected allotment.  

Personally, I have a list of books I want to read, friends with whom I haven't talked, movies I want to see, things I want to write, topics I wan to research, physical activities and exercises I want to do, magazines I want to read, aspects of my faith that I want to perform, volunteer work I want to conduct, loved ones I want to tell how much they mean to me, chores I want to get caught up on, etc.  My goodness, the list of what I want to do, and am prevented from doing due to time, is nearly infinite.

I've heard many approach their retirement with fear, wondering what in the world they're going to do with their time.  For me, I cannot wait to get to retirement and to finally have the time to do all the things I've been unable to do up to this point.  In fact, I fear that I might not have enough time in my life between retirement and my demise to get it all in.

At the funeral of a friend's mother a couple of years ago, the celebrant talked of things that the woman commonly said which encapsulated her life.  One of them really struck me: "If you're bored, you're boring."  

Time is a gift, even if it comes in a format that isn't exactly optimal.  Gifts should not be squandered, as there will likely come a time latter in life in which time, age, and circumstances prevent us from doing that which we had time to do previously. 

I close with a quote from someone far smarter than me:

Does thou love life?  Then do not squander time, for that is what life is made of.

- Benjamin Franklin

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friends Theme Song Covered by Irish Singers

A pretty crappy original song that's given incredible new life by this outstanding cover treatment:

Even with the bad acoustics and poor microphone, the talent of these guys is incredible.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New York - An Irish Catholic Morning

I spent the first part of this week in New York, and I spoiled myself with some tourist pursuits on Sunday.  And since it was a Sunday, the best place to start was with mass.  And since I was in New York, the best place for mass was St. Patrick's Cathedral. 

The Cathedral itself is under a major state of repair.  It's covered both inside and out with scaffolding and sheets, and the restoration it's undergoing is massive.  Here's a look toward the altar:

I choose to attend the Bishop's mass at 10:15, and got there at 9:30 to try and get a good seat.  Unfortunately for me there was a special event going on that mass, and ushers prevented folks not associated with a celebrated group from sitting up front.  Said usher can be seen in the aisle in the picture above.

I actually was in the middle of a group coming in and made it past the usher with them.  It was too bad that the celebrated group was a Filipino one, and my January Green Bay tan wasn't fooling anyone.  The usher asked me if I was part of the group, and I could have said "yes," but lying to get a better seat in church kind of defeats the purpose, does it not?  I left the cover of my Filipino friends and headed to the back with the riff-raff.

The celebrant for mass was Timothy Cardinal Dolan, whom I written about previously here.  I love to listen to services from St. Patrick's on the Catholic Channel on my Sirius radio, and I just love the Cardinal and the abject joy he takes in his missionary work.  He oozes charisma, and seeing him in person even magnified that for me. 

The mass itself had a lot of pomp and circumstance - the incense, full choir, magnificent soloist, the mitre and crosier - all of it made for an incredible experience.  Cardinal Dolan's homily, in celebration of Christ's baptism, was about the core tenets of our Catholic faith - the mystery of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and our salvation.  As usual, it was an extremely relevant message, delivered in a virtuoso style.  

When mass ended, there was the usual processional:

But what was not usual was Cardinal Dolan lollygagging at the back, working the crowd as he was headed out:

As I was on an aisle seat, I was able to say, "God bless you, Your Eminence," which returned a warm, "Good morning!" nice wave and a grin.  And people just ate the guy up.  Me included. 

I bounded out of mass thrilled with the whole experience, but hungry.  Fortunately for me, there happened to be a nice Irish bar just around the corner, where I topped the whole morning off with an Irish breakfast and a Guinness to wash it all down:

Overall, I can't imagine being able to spend a better Sunday morning in New York City.  

Or many other places for that matter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tearing the Mask Off Boys?

Or just tearing the masculinity out of them?

Because if boys could just share their feelings, they'd be happier.

Or maybe some ADHD drugs would help.

* Sigh * Why can't they just behave like girls?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Browning Sweet 16, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my first man's shotgun - a Browning A-5 sixteen gauge.  It was a gun that I used for a number of years as a kid, but since I was a kid, and since my Grandpa had cut down the stock to make it fit me, I soon outgrew it.  And with that growth I left the sixteen gauge behind, and pretty much didn't think about it much the rest of my hunting career.  

Decades passed and then Dad got sick with Pick's disease, and as a family we felt it best to get the guns out of the house.  I don't think anybody ever felt there to be any true danger, but why risk it?  Hence all of Dad's guns came to me - the good, bad, and ugly.  Some I kept as they are treasures to me -Dad's beautiful Browning Superposed (which I actually invested in restoring with Browning, and they did an INCREDIBLE job - that will likely be a future blog post) and Dad's beat up workhorse A-5 12 gauge.  

Some I gave away.  One such gun was my Dad's father's gun.  Unfortunately, I never new my Grandpa on my Dad's side, so the gun had no special meaning to me.  Hence I found a good home for that with my Uncle.

The rest I traded in.  And one of those was my original man's gun, that cut-down Browning A-5 16 gauge.  

At the time I felt that the gun had been disfigured to the point of not being relevant anymore, so while I was sorry to see it go, I wasn't too shook up about it.

But as the years went by, I missed that gun.  While I currently use a Browning Maxus as my day in, day out duck gun, I always hunt at least one day per season with  the Browning A-5 12 gauge that my Dad gave me as a gift for my birthday/grad school graduation.  And in holding that "humpback" in the blind, it always proves impossible for my mind not to wonder and think back on that smaller gauged humpback that I used to use all those years ago.

Last month found me in our local Cabela's doing some Christmas shopping.  And, as I'm wont to do, my meandering of the store found me with a stop at their high end gun room.  While my wife will be the first to tell you that the last thing I need is another gun, I can't help myself and sometimes it's fun just to go in there, see what they have, and maybe dream a little.

And then I saw it - a 1965 Browning A-5 Sweet Sixteen.  While not the same model as what I had, it was close.  I picked it up off the display rack, and was instantaneously flooded with memories and emotion.  As I opened the chamber, shouldered the gun, and felt for the safety I was transported back to sitting in a duck blind on Lake Sonmore with my Dad at my side.  Memories of hunts, laughs, mornings, ducks, dogs came back into my head like a freight train.

And Immediately I choked up.  

I must have caught the eye of the salesman, as I was likely toying with the gun for going on a good 15 minutes.  With every shoulder mount and view of the intricacies of the gun seemed to come another memory.  The only bad part was that the gun was in very good condition.  And that meant it came with a very big price tag.

The sales guy saw my emotion and was ready to write me up then and there, but my wife was with me in the store, and there's no way I could spend that kind of money without her support.  I put the gun back, and told the salesman that I may or may not be back.

I tracked my wife down in the store, moved her off to a more quiet corner, and with a lump in my throat and mist in my eyes, I explained what I had just experienced.  And I also explained the cost.  

Without a hesitation she says to me, "Well, let's go look at it."

And that is how I ended up with this beauty.  While I have bought a couple of boxes of lead shells for it, I doubt I'll ever shoot them though it.  To me, I'm content to break out a rag, place the gun across my lap, rub it up good, and just remember.  

Yeah, it came with a big price tag, especially for a gun that will likely never be used again.  But as sweet as those memories are that came with it, it was a price well worth paying.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

JM Cremp's - A Store for Boys

As I've reported recently, there seems to be a war on boys and men going on in our society.  Masculine traits are sought to be feminized out of our society.  Thankfully there are bastions that protect those things that are traditional male touchstones.

One such place is actually a store for boys.  JM Cremp's, found both online and in Minnesota's Mall of America, is an oasis that allows boys to be boys.  

See the video at the attached link for a look.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Media Treatment: Christie Versus Obama

It has been fascinating to see how the media has handled the Chris Christie traffic scandal, especially in the context of the Obama administration's IRS scandal .  The similarities are striking:

  • Both had "rogue" elements of their administration abuse power to punish political adversaries
  • Both administrations took steps to cover up the activity 
  • In both instances, the public suffered both directly and indirectly by these attacks
  • Both leaders claim to know nothing about the activity  
But beyond that, the similarities end:
  • In only one situation did the leader accept the blame for the actions taken by his administration
  • In only one did the leader fire those responsible
  • In only one did the leader vow to continue to be personally involved in investigating the matter further
  • In only one of the situations did the leader apologize
And that person, my friends, is Chris Christie.  Obama took exactly none of those actions.  And what does Christie get for taking responsibility?   Vilification.  Just look at the feeding frenzy around Christie, and the crickets around Obama.  It's positively Orwellian.    

This examples shows us all we need to know about the media and their forthright efforts vilify conservatives and protect liberals at every step of the way.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The War on Boys and Men?

I find it quite interesting that in this past week there have been two very similar pieces written which describe a need for defense of traditional masculinity.

The first of these was written by Bill McMorris of the Federalist.  It was a reply to a sociology professor's recent article that claims that men don't have intimate relationships that women have, so woe be to men.   It is another in a long line of advice to men that claim that if they just acted less masculine, they'd be so much more happy.  Bill replies that society changes prevent men from being men, thus not only can't we be more feminine, we're now prevented from being truly masculine (and establishing relationships that spawn from those interactions).

The second was written by Camille Paglia, a staunch feminist, who opines that our society is headed for trouble due to the "softening" that is occurring.  You'd think her background would give her the opposite opinion.  However, she is also a worried mother of a boy.

Boys are in trouble.  Nearly 20% - one in five! - high-school aged boys is now diagnosed with ADHD.  Boys get worse grades than girls in school, and boys now are less likely to go to college than girls are.  

I know that women have suffered, and in the not-that-distant past as well.  Heck, my wife regales stories of the nuns that taught her growing up that ignored her and other smart girls because they weren't, and could never be, as smart as boys.  

Indeed, the pendulum has been on the other side.  But for God's sake, we weren't medicating away femininity out of a significant percentage of girls.  And we have no idea what the ultimate costs of doing this are going to be - no idea at all.

I admit, I don't have a son, so my opinions are just that.  However, I do have nephews, and do see examples in every day life of what is happening to little boys.  A great example was last year, when I was attending church with my cousin.  In the pew in front of us was a five-year-old boy that fussed and fidgeted his way through the entire mass, much to his grandmother's chagrin.  Despite her corrections, talks, and threats, the little guy just could not sit still.

After mass, grandma turned around to my cousin and me and said, "I am so sorry and so embarrassed by the behavior of my grandson.." to which my cousin (very much a man's man) immediately replied, "Embarrassed?   Why?  Mrs. X, your grandson's a BOY!"  As a scout leader for many years and a father of a boy himself, my cousin knew what of he spoke.

Hopefully, additional voices like those listed above can join the choir before it gets too late for an entire generation of boys.     

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dilbert Creator has Great Ideas on Health and Happiness

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Scott Adams, the cartoonist responsible for the highly successful Dilbert strips and associated media, offers some thoughts on happiness and health.

You can read the full article here.

His is a very common-sense perspective, and one that's easy to adopt.  I've leveraged much of it (independent of the article) as part of my recent weight loss.

It's a great read with effective, actionable information.  If you're looking for momentum on your New Year's resolutions, it is worth your time.

Monday, January 6, 2014

How to Start a Career in Ecommerce Part 6 Google AdWords

In parts 4 and 5 of this installment, we covered how one without any work experience could contact their favorite non-profit and conduct some email marketing and social marketing for them to gain experience.  The non-profit would likely need, and would very much appreciate the help, and the worker would gain real-world knowledge on a valuable skill.

Now comes the time to extend that relationship, and move it to help you learn paid search.  And for paid search, the best and easiest place to learn is via Google's tool, AdWords.

AdWords is the interface that allows users to "bid" on specific search keywords so that ads can appear when an appropriate keyword string is entered by a user.  It can be incredibly sophisticated, but absolutely does not need to be in order to be effective.  In fact, it can be very simple to use, and one can get started on rudimentary campaigns in a matter of an hour or two.   Like most things with Google, the interface is intuitive, and the avenues for help are many.

Concerned that your non-profit doesn't have the money to support a paid search budget?  No worries!  Google, through their Google Grants program.  Google Grants is a program in which Google makes available a monthly paid search budget of $10,000 for eligible non-profit organizations.  Applying for support is easy, and approval very quick.

So an account has been established via AdWords, and a budget has been established via Google Grants.  Now is time to start building some ads and driving traffic to your non-profit's website.

The first thing to do will be do design the ad itself.  Focus should be on creating a message that will be compelling enough to encourage a click.  And, again, Google makes it really easy to optimize these by allowing you to run different ads simultaneously and see which are more successful in generating clicks.  All pretty much in real time.

Once a portfolio of compelling ads has been developed, then focus will be needed on which keywords should receiving bidding, and in what format.  The most important of these components relates to match types, which is best explained in this video:

Once the keywords and match types have been set up, there is a whole host of additional focus that can be applied.  Examples include:

  • Limiting your ads to being shown to users in a specific geographic location
  • Changing "position" of your ad based on bid
  • Having your ads turn on or off at certain hours of the day
  • Using "ad extensions" to drive traffic to specific pages in your non-profit's website
  • And more!
The sky is really the limit in terms of how sophisticated you want to get - the tools that Google makes available are very powerful.  But they're also intuitive, and easy to use.  Hence, get in there, start testing things, and see what you can do to drive traffic to your non-profit.  It's easy, it's effective, it's free, and it is fantastic experience for one looking to build a career in ecommerce.

Good luck!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chris Kluwe is the Real Coward

In a recent Deadspin article, former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe claims that he was fired by "a bigot" and "two cowards" because he spoke out on gay rights issues.

I had covered this in a previous post, when Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton suggested that Kluwe was released for non-football reasons.  An extract:

Kluwe's release had nothing to do with the fact that his skills had diminished to the point of being average, yet his salary was higher than average.  It had nothing to do with the fact that the Vikings had done the EXACT same thing with Ryan Longwell (took a kicker in the draft, claimed to want "competition," had the new kicker work out at the spring rookie camp to ensure he was OK, then summarily cut the more expensive Longwell).  It had nothing to do with the Vikings looking for better performance at a significantly lower cost.  No.  According to Mark Dayton (among others - really), the Vikings instead chose to cut Kluwe under suspicious circumstances.  Yeah, that's it.  

Yet in the past six months, despite Kluwe finding one NFL job (in which he was summarily cut), and finding no others, he claims his former coaches are bigots and cowards.  But the timing of the accusations is really interesting:
  • The Vikings' coaching staff is in flux, as head coach Leslie Frazier has been fired (and subsequently hired by Tampa Bay)
  • Kluwe waited until absolutely nobody wanted him in the NFL, assuring him that his football career was indeed over
  • Release of the article, aligned with the Duck Dynasty controversy, seems a little too coincidental 
My conclusion is that the guy is a media whore, he has lost his career, his phone stopped ringing (both for his on and off the football field activities) and he needed to rekindle the fire.

Think about it.  What else is he going to do?

But for me, the ultimate concern revolves around his use of the word "coward," which was applied to coaches that he felt fired him due to his activism.  But you know the real coward in this story?  It's Kluwe.  He sat idle and mute while "bigoted" comments were made.  Then he waited until his NFL career was clearly over before raising accusations from the comfort of a magazine article.

That's cowardice.   If Kluwe truly believed what he claims to believe, he would have confronted the "bigotry" the minute it was uttered.  Kluwe, an attention junkie, had a Rosa Parks moment all teed up for him.  And yet he did nothing at the time.  So, he either doesn't really believe what he claims to believe, the event never happened, or he's a coward. 

The definition of a coward is "a person who lacks courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things;"  things like, I don't know, say confronting a "bigoted" boss in the moment, and putting your career in jeopardy.  

But that didn't happen.  And Kluwe is the true coward because of it. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Blue Ridge Parkway

Last Christmas my family and I vacationed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and it was my first time in that part of the country.  I was totally taken aback by the beauty of the area.  The trees, rocks, streams, and, yes, blue hue of the mountains were really something to see.

And the best way we found to see them was to take the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parkway is a road that runs for nearly 500 miles through Virginia and North Carolina; often very high up in the mountain range.  This height affords some fantastic views.  Here are just a couple of examples:

This shot conveys just how much altitude there is on the Parkway

Here is just one of dozens of streams that we encountered

 Another great example of the height of the Parkway

In case you wondered how the Blue Ridge Mountains got their name

This is just another example of the diversity and beauty of the United States.  If you happen to ever be in the area, I strongly recommend a quick run along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It will be worth the trip.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Browning Sweet Sixteen, Part 1

My first gun when I was a kid was a Mossburg bolt action .410.  It fit me well, but had a very unsafe safety, and operating the bolt led to more than a few less-than-safe moments.  And the gun was effective.  I killed my first duck with that shotgun; a drake wood duck crossing right to left.  Dad was to my left, and even though I had the better angle, he shot first and missed.  I followed and almost instantly heard my Dad yell, "NICE SHOT!" with a more than noticeable amount of surprise in his voice.

The Mossburg looked cool.  It worked OK, other than the safety issues.  But to me it was a kid's shotgun.  A real shotgun had some heft in the load, kicked your shoulder, and sent a cloud of shot at your quarry and not just a pencil-sized amount.

Eventually my time would come to graduate to a man's shotgun, and the first one that I would shoot would be my Dad's Browning A-5 16 gauge.  It was a gun that was previously used by his dad, and had been in the family since the 1950's.

But it was a full-sized adult gun, despite its lighter caliber.  And since I was about 12 at the time, the gun was just too big for me - upon mounting it to my shoulder, my hand could no longer reach the trigger.  So one Thanksgiving vacation my Dad took the gun to my Grandpa, and there in my Grandpa's work shop in the basement, the stock was cut down to fit me.

Unbeknownst to us at time, this act was sacrilege.  To modify such a wonderful gun in such a way was a shame.  But to an ignorant kid looking to finally step up to a man's gun, that was not even a consideration.  And it wasn't a consideration for my Grandpa or Dad, either.

Grandpa cut the gun down expertly, I was able to take it out with me on a quail hunt that very weekend.  We did end up bagging some quail that weekend, but my luck with the A5 wasn't good - I seemed to always be in the wrong spot to be able to get off a shot.  Hence, I was a little bitter when I was told to wait at the end of a field to "post" as Dad, Grandpa, and my uncle drove into my position.  It seemed posters never got the shot - the drivers always did, and my run of bad luck looked to continue.

The adults started to the opposite side of the field, perhaps 300 yards away, and worked the 50 yard-wide cover, slowly moving toward me.  About 100 yards into their drive, a gorgeous rooster pheasant flushed in front of them, and despite multiple shots, the bird flew away from them.

And right at me!

I hunkered down in the cover - hunting the flying pheasant like he was an inbound duck.  He never saw me, and as he was about to pass me on the right I stood, ticked off the safety, swung from behind him through tail, body, head, air and then squeezed the trigger.  And in that moment I bagged my first ever pheasant.  And I had done so with my first man-sized gun. 

My prized Browning A-5 16 gauge.     

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Christmas Recap in Pictures

The YDP family got together over Christmas in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina for a skiing weekend.  Mom rented a large house, and my sibs and all of their kiddos were there.  The following shows some of the highlights of the week:

Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate real well. That meant there was more indoor activity than what may have been liked, but the boys made the best of it.

It finally got cold enough to get out there and hit the slopes.  Here is my brother along with some of the kids

There was a lot of snow making going on, which led to some pretty frosty conditions for yours truly

The Blue Ridge Mountains were beautiful, and Mrs. YDP and I had a fun time documenting them

Waiting to open presents

Someone likes what she received

The gang on a snow tube adventure.

Despite all of the winter fun, we ended up back at my sister's place in Charleston, where we were reminded that we weren't in the mountains anymore

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014

In looking back on the year, I have a lot that I'll be happy to have behind me.  But at the same time, there is a lot of which I can be very proud.  And in my quieter moments, that's where I try to focus my energies.

Which leads me into my resolution for the New Year - and that is being a lot more objective and forthright in recognizing and acting upon opportunity.  Opportunities - for work, career, self-improvement - they abound!  However, I tend to get so mired in the day-to-day that I fail to see how much control I have for change and improvement.  

2013 was a tough year.  2014 WILL be a better year.  Especially if I can maintain an even keel and focus on the opportunities that surround me.

Cheers to you and yours in this New Year.