Monday, March 31, 2014

Last Hunt with the Yellow Dog for the Year

After months of bitter cold and deep snow it finally warmed up enough to get back to the hunt club and work the Yellow Dog.  And it was a good thing, too - my hunt club was only open for two more days.

Out hunt started out great, with the Yellow Dog showing her usual style:



As for me, my shooting was pretty darn good:



But then we both started getting sloppy.  It started with this hen:



And from there we went to just plain terrible.  Like only having two shells in the gun:


Not exactly how I wanted to end the season.  However, given the length and depth of this past winter, anytime you can get out and get some work in with a Yellow Dog is a good thing.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Holiness Project Homework

My brother-in-law is engaged in project which is researching holiness, and who we know in our everyday lives that might be holy. 

 According to the defined purpose, "The goal of the Holiness Project is to discover holiness among us by promoting greater awareness of the spiritualities sustaining the lives of  ordinary individuals."  

Based on that, there are some criteria by which holiness is defined.  They are:


  • A confident sense of God or a transcendent Being in their life
  • A sense of faith that helps them live through the doubts and sufferings of this life
  • A manifestation of the transcendent as generative, moving them to compassion and service
  • An acceptance of the limitations of this life
  • A sense of delight in the mystery and unknowing of this life
  • A sustainable, enduring quality of the individual’s spirituality

With that as the backdrop, I'm fortunate to say that I have a couple of holy people in my life.  But I'd like to call out one in particular for my personal nomination.

I'd like to nominate my mother-in-law, Marion.

There are a few people that one encounters in life in which one can feel God when in their presence.  Marion is one of those people.  

She's quick to smile, and keeps a positive outlook.  Even very late in life, with aches and pains (both physical and mental) sapping wherewithal, her peaceful and pleasant demeanor belie one whose focus is on the spiritual much more than the tangible.  

Her life has been a hard one.  She grew up in the depression.  She endured painful relationships while trying to raise a daughter on her own while her husband was at war.  She raised seven children, and lost one.  She scrimped by on very little money her whole life.  Now in her 90's, she's seen most of her siblings die.

But despite all of that, if you asked her, she'd tell you all about her wonderful life.  She'd mostly tell you about her family, and the fact that she's now a great-great grandma.  She'd give you a cup of coffee, and would quickly turn the conversation to you.  She'd do so because she cared about you.  Really.

And that is Marion.  An impeccable cook for nearly all of her life, she took great joy of lavishing love on her friends and family by what came out of her kitchen.  Meal time, and what it meant - prayer, sharing, conversation, laughter, communion - was incredibly important for her.  While the food - that incredible food! - could easily be called the centerpiece, Marion would describe it much deeper than that.

Marion maintained her deep Catholic faith for her whole life.  She faithfully attended mass and the sacraments,  prayed often, and if you asked my wife, had a private line to God.  While Catholicism is important for Marion (upon my second-ever time meeting her, we were washing dishes together in the kitchen after one of those incredible meals, and Marion stared our conversation with "So, Vera tells me you're Catholic!"), she holds out love for all faiths (of lack thereof) and races.  

To me, ultimately, God is love: 100% pure, overwhelming, unimaginable, eternal, and unquestionable love.  And if that is true, those that love - that truly love - those are the people of God.  And Marion loves just about everyone she's encountered.  A testament to this is Marion's relationships with her children's ex-spouses.  Despite bitter separations, all of the exes love Marion (and she them), and nearly all have very close relationships with her.  

Marion has worked a hard life.  She's lived simply.  But she has loved so very deeply and profoundly.  And the ripple effect of that joy, peace, and love will continue to reverberate around her family and friends, and those with whom they encounter, for years to come.  

It doesn't get much holier than that.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

University of Minnesota Hates Free Speech

Per a recent StarTribune article, faculty and student groups are teaming up to get a speaking invitation to Condoleezza Rice rescinded.  She is scheduled to deliver a speech on April 17 at Northrup Auditorium.

Let's take an examination of a list of Ms. Rice's accomplishments, shall we?


  • Masters from Notre Dame, PhD from Denver, and Provost at Stanford
  • National Security Adviser
  • Secretary of State
  • First female member of Augusta National
  • Published author
  • Pianist
Wow.  Hell of a resume.  You'd think the U could gain some insight from a woman like that.  But they don't want insight.

They want silence.

Condi Rice is what the far left fears the most.  She is a thoughtful, learned, independent, and successful black woman who has done the research, made a choice, and has selected conservatism.  While they can claim "war crimes" for wanting to silence her all they want, let's all be adults here and call their boycott out for what it really is: they're pissed this black woman stepped outside of their boundaries and doesn't know her place.  

Despite her gender, she's an Uncle Tom - a term which has now lost all of its meaning, and now solely describes any person of color that doesn't look/act like a black stereotype and/or is conservative.

So the liberal bigots at the University of Minnesota can have their day, and while they may or may not be successful in killing free speech on their campus, they certainly are successful in keeping me from writing any kind of alumni check to them, now or in the future.  I refuse to support bigotry, hate, close-mindedness, ignorance, and intolerance.  And that is what is on display at the University of Minnesota right now.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Obama The Weak

In his nearly six year run as president, Barack Obama has left the US - nearly every  part of the US - in a weaker state than when he first took on the job.  What's weaker?  Let me count the ways:

  • Our foreign policy (especially given the situation with Russia)
  • Our economy
  • Our educational system
  • Our employment rates and prospects for work
  • Our citizens' dependence on government subsidy
  • Our world respect (Syria, Benghazi)
  • Our citizens' privacy (Hi, NSA!)
  • Our race relations
  • Our gender relations
  • Our political operations
  • Our healthcare system
  • Our religious freedoms
I could go on - seriously.

I can't think of one thing about the United States that is now stronger due to President Obama's leadership.  And please save the Bin Laden argument - that fell into his lap, and even an abject failure like the current occupant couldn't screw that up.

President Obama is a poor leader and a weak man, and as a result has made our country poorer and weaker.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

This is the Day - The The

A little ditty for some much needed reflection and perspective for a cold, snowy late March day here in God-forsaken Green Bay.  Performed via original video by the underrated The The.

Soak in the accordion, maybe do a two-step while nobody is watching, and enjoy:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Haunted

If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know that your humble author is a big fan of music.  Most of the time I have music playing, and especially when I'm working.  It seems to help me keep my energy up, and sometimes feels like it aids my creativity and perspective as well.

Unfortunately, there are some down sides to this constant soundtrack playing, especially when an emotionally charged song comes up and I don't take the time to skip past it.  That was especially the case when Poe's "Haunted" came up on the old iPhone yesterday.

Poe wrote the concept album of the same name due to interactions she had as an adult to finding a number of audio tapes that her now deceased father had left behind.  It is a dark and emotional body of work that deals with an adult still trying to process the loss of a parent.  From that emotional perspective, her album has been compared to Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Over the years, when things ever got too stressful for me, I'd call my dad.  He always seemed to know what to say when I needed a kick in the tail, or an encouraging word to let me know that I didn't suck, or offer a new perspective when I was too emotionally charged to see what was truly happening, or just say something funny to make me laugh and get me pulled out of my funk.  
Then I lost him.

Time and again, starting with his illness and later with his death, I'd long to be able to pick up the phone and just talk.  Because I knew at the end of the conversation, regardless of how it'd go, I'd feel better.  Unfortunately, those days ended.

Thus, Poe's Haunted has always been an important song to me.  

Here it is:



The part that always gets me is at the 2:40 mark:

I'll always want you 
I'll always need you
I'll always love you
AND I WILL ALWAYS MISS YOU

I pretty much never make it thorough that stretch without crying.  It just makes tangible for me how damn much I miss my dad.  And it seems now, with life so crazy, that I miss him even more than ever.

Hence, when it came on yesterday, I made a mistake by letting it play.  Luckily I caught myself, as by the 2:00 mark I know what was happening and went and shut my office door.

And then I went back to my desk, sat down, listened, and cried.

And I missed my dad.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wild Lock Up Playoffs


With a two-point result for a home and home series with the Detroit Red wings, the Wild just about have a playoff position all but locked up.  As you can see by the attached standings, they have a sizable lead with only ten more games left in the schedule.

The series against Detroit was a tough one.  After losing at home Saturday afternoon, it would have been easy to pack it in at Detroit and just go through the motions.  And that was especially true after playing well, but being down 2-0 after the first period.

But this team did not pack it in.  The big names produced, with Pominville, Coyle, and Parise scoring in regulation, and new acquisition Moulson making a beautiful re-direction to win it in overtime.

Despite giving up three goals, the Wild's defense was actually pretty good.  If they can keep up their offensive and defensive play, and get a little better goalie work, they could be a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Christopher Walken Dancing

I know what you're thinking - Christopher Walken is not a guy you'd expect to be able to dance.  Prepare to be proven wrong:



And in the event you feel that that snippets above mean that the man can't pull it off in long form, I present to you Fatboy Slim's official video for Weapon of Choice:


The dude can flat cut a rug.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Three Biggest Lies of Obamacare

As stated by the biggest liar about Obamacare.

And nobody seems to care:

Friday, March 21, 2014

"I am Blessed"

I make it a point to go out of my  way to try and be nice to those in the hospitality industry.  I've never understood those that treat folks in that industry poorly.  It's likely a power thing, and has always been a good "tell" for me on what a boss, vendor, or other relationship has in their capacity to treat me.  Over time, I've found out a ton about a person just by watching how they treat wait staff, and I'm usually always right.

Hence, on my last flight I shot the lead flight attendant a "Good morning!  How are you?" and a big smile as I made my way through her first class cabin on my way back to coach.  While she was harried by the pre-flight drink orders of her first class passengers (or PFD's as the rarefied call it), she stopped, returned my smile, and said, "I'm blessed, thank you!"

Blessed!  Serving the crabbiest and most demanding people in what can, at times, be an incredibly high stress environment.  Blessed!

What a perspective.  It is so easy to go through life and tick off what is going wrong, and what could be better, and why we should be unhappy.   But rare is the person that takes stock of the whole situation, in an unbiased and objective way, and truly recognizes how blessed they are.  

There is a good lesson here, especially for me, and during this Lent I've been trying to incorporate the lesson into my life.  It starts with prayer and reflection, and ends with me answering the question of "How are you?" with "I am blessed!" regardless of how lousy my day is going.

I have a long way to go before I get to that calm and peace shown to me by that flight attendant.  But she gave me an incredible gift that morning.

It was certainly far better than any PFD I could have received.    

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Power of Social Media

I know that social media can be a massive distraction that keeps us from doing and enjoying great things.  However, there are times in which it can be employed to do fantastic things.  Wondrous things.  Righteous things.  

Like getting us more beer:

  

Upon being exposed, the Idaho Steelheads offered a somewhat ham-handed apology, but they are trying to right a wrong.  

In the meantime, let's raise a glass to the good that social media can do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Gift of Today

While working out this morning, I was feeling really sorry for myself.  Work has been a nightmare lately, and yesterday things went from bad to worse.  I thought about what that meant for today - a day which needed to start at 7:00, and was scheduled to run through the 8:00 hour tonight, if not longer.

As I pondered the upcoming schedule, I started to dread the day.  It hadn't even started yet, but just knowing what was on my plate, the meetings that needed to be held, the garbage I'd have to deal with, and the exhaustion I'd have to endure, my day was defeating me before it had even begun.  Indeed, my anxiety on the upcoming work day was such that it impacted my work out.

I left the club early, disgusted with my upcoming day, and even more disgusted about how it had already begun.  And at that point I though about the choices I had to make.  I could choose to be beaten before I even started.  That would be easy.  However, I could also choose to look at this day for what it really is: a gift.  A gift that is not given to everyone.  A gift that is mine for the making.

So, my ugly Wednesday, I accept you for the gift that you are, and I will try to make the most of you.  

Bring it on.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Google Glass Commercial

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my invitation to buy Google Glasses, and the expansion of wearable technology.

Hot on the heels of that comes the following commercial which shows what it is like to wear Google Glasses:


I'm not sure how you interpreted the video, but one thing struck me very strongly - how all of these great experiences had to have the distraction of being shared and could not be enjoyed just for the sake of their enjoyment.  As social media and mobile devices have exploded it has become passe to just experience something cool.  It now must be captured, shared, and commented upon.  Indeed, a common social media meme is that "if a picture doesn't exist, it never happened."

How sad when the beauty and glory of life and all of its experiences can't be simply enjoyed anymore.  Indeed, we now need to take a time out, employ our technology, make sure we capture everything effectively, and share it with the world.

Note, I'm not a Luddite, and I know the power, value, and effectiveness of being able to connect with anyone, anywhere, and at any time.  I'm just saddened that those activities are starting to outweigh the incredible life experiences themselves.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Great First Year for Richard Pitino

When they called the names for the big dance, the Big Ten came up a team short.  Thus, it is off to the NIT for Minnesota, where they'll be a #1 seed there and will hopefully rock the barn a few more times this season. 

While the Gophers did not make it to the NCAA Tournament, nobody can call Richard Pitino's first year as head coach anything but a success.  Consider the following:

  • In his first year the team lost no momentum.  The Gophers finished the season with a 20-13 record, and is poised for a deep run in the NIT
  • In fact, the transition at coach did not result in a step back from a performance standpoint.  That can be seen in the record, and in how the team changed its method of play - hustling, moving without the ball, and playing aggressive defense.
  • Even the players that stayed within the program changed.  Mo Williams lost a massive amount of weight, and became a true athlete under the boards.  His position-mate Elliott Eliason put on some muscle, and became a shot blocking presence.  Clearly Pitino and his staff asked these players to change, and they stepped up and did it.
There is still a long way to go for Minnesota to regain basketball prominence it once enjoyed.  However, with Coach Pitino at the helm, they appear pointed in the right direction.

Here's wishing them the best of luck in the NIT.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Where is Flight 370, and Why Don't We Know?

The mystery and tragedy that is Flight 370 has naturally dominated news feeds for the past week.  Unfortunately, the mystery is unraveling very slowly.

It appears clear now that the plane was hijacked as someone shut off the flight transponder, shifted course, changed altitudes, and appeared to fly the plane for many hours after it was officially lost from civilian radar. That much we know for sure.  But beyond that, we know very little, and that is the most frustrating part.

I find it hard to fathom how, in 2014, with the government spying on just about damn near everything (hi, NSA!) that a flight can just "disappear," regardless of where it is on the globe.  I have to believe that we have access to military radar (either ours or other's) or satellite tracking which would tell us where the heck this plane went.  The fact that none of that information is forthcoming, especially with American lives of some of the passengers on the line, is beyond frustrating.

Thus far, the motive of the hijacker(s) is completely unknown.  Likewise, the motive of governments from not sharing what they know as well, is unknown as well.

So we wait, and we pray for the families of those on that fateful flight.   

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Most Unexpected End to a Hockey Fight, Ever

From the Canadian minor leagues come two heavyweights to duke it out, goon versus goon, just like the unwritten hockey rules dictate.

Both appear to be trained pugilists.  Both throw and weather massive shots in what was a very even match.  Then the refs step in, and then...
  


It just goes to show the code of the goons, and that the jobs they perform on their icy patrol aren't always personal.  They are just that - jobs.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Fight Against the Faithful

One of the things that struck me, in coming out of a recent experience at a church retreat, was one slightly common theme that was voiced as an answer to the question, "Why are you here?"  Of our small group, three of the younger ones all commented that our worlds outside of church, (media, relationships, work, and others) are becoming more and more openly hostile to those of us who have faith.

As a result, we mentioned that we felt under attack - personally, and most important, spiritually. For me, it is so bad that I don't share things like "I went to mass," when recapping weekends with coworkers as I know how many of them think about religion and people that practice it.  They're openly hostile, and not in an insignificant amount.  They think those that believe are rubes, and that religion is anti-intellectual and for the ignorant.  And those interactions, compiled one on top of another, leave me feeling beaten down.

I know we're all called to evangelize.  But how exactly does one do that with the environmental deck so stacked against the faithful?  I have enough problems at work; do I need to wage a religious fight as well?  It's something I've been wrestling with ever since the retreat, and I have no answers at this time.

About all that I know for sure is that they world is absolutely giddy about pointing out the hypocrisy of the lifestyles/actions of those that profess to be religious.  There is no better way to get a story to the headlines of the news or a blog than to claim religious ideals and then act in exact opposite of those ideals.  Hence, I feel like my evangelism needs to be focused on living a life that others can point to without finding much fault.

Does that mean I'm not a sinner?  Hell, no.  It is just that I have to work harder to live my life like an example of the good that religion can create.  

As my tenet of my faith, I believe that having faith creates a better person.  And I truly believe that.

Now I just need to execute.     

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our Clown President

Historic numbers of people on food stamps and disability.  Record debt.  Russia threatening war.  Iran on the cusp of obtaining a nuclear device.  NSA spying on everybody (Hi, NSA!).  And our President has the time to do this:

)

Funny?  Yeah, it had its moments.  But, for me, I don't want an elected official to be a clown to entertain me.  I want him to do his freaking job.  Period.

Is that too much to ask?

It turns out it likely is, as next week we'll be treated to ESPN's obligatory interview and run down of Obama's NCAA basketball bracket.  

Again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Weekend at Dr. Bill's 2014

I just spent the weekend with buddies during our annual trip to Dr. Bill's hunting camp in Illinois.  We've been doing this for nearly 10 years now, and it proves to be an outstanding time.  Unfortunately, things were a little more tough this year:

  • Schedules prevented many guys from attending.  We were down to just four of us this year, whereas in previous years we were north of ten, all in.
  • Snow on the ground made things very tough going.  In areas, if you broke through, you were easily up to your crotch in snow.  It made for slow going and sore muscles.
Despite the skinny crew and tough footing, we still had an awesome time.  Here is some of the evidence:

Here's Fuzzy doing nothing of particular consequence

Part of one morning's work

The Yellow Dog.  At nearly 9, she hunted like an absolute champ.  She's sore and tired now, but she performed incredibly well

Checking in at the office was necessary

Our esteemed host

Life's busy.  It is tougher than ever to make time to get together, and I appreciate these guys making the investment

Friday, March 7, 2014

Did Aerosmith Knock Off David Bowie's "Fame" with "Last Child?"

I was working out the other day when Aerosmith's 70's classic Last Child came up on the old iPhone.  Given my age and the amount of music I've listened to in my life, I'd venture that I've heard that song well over 500 times.  But somehow, upon my last listen, something struck me as oddly familiar.

It took me a while to figure it out, but it finally hit me: the song is eerily similar to David Bowie's hit Fame.

I present both to you for your consideration:



Here are where I see the similarities:

  • Both songs employ soft lead-ins and then immediately convert over to a strong funky groove
  • While time signatures differ, the grooves themselves are very similar
  • The staccato,. machine gun-like drum riff exists on both and is nearly identical
  • Both songs' lead-outs are very similar as well
I very well may be wrong with this.  In fact, if you perform a Google search on it you won't find much that talks about it, which likely means that I'm barking up the wrong tree.  However, to my seasoned, albeit damaged hearing, it sure sounds similar. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Wild Makes Another Great Move

Akin to the deal that landed them the incredible Jason Pominville last year, the Wild went out and secured Matt Moulson from Buffalo for a song.

OK, it was actually for two second round picks and a disappointing Torrey Mitchell, but is just as well could have been for a song.  

With the deal the Wild gain tough, veteran leadership, 30-goal scorer capabilities, and in a package that still has some tread on the tires.  Moulson's game - gritty and tough down low - is exactly what is needed in a Stanley Cup playoff run, where the games get more physical and the grind of the schedule takes over.

Is it a one year rental?  Perhaps.  I guess we'll see what happens to the contract situations when we get to next year.  But in the meantime, it is a huge vote of confidence by GM Chuck Fletcher that this team can win now.  Heck, their record since January 2 is 14-2-2.  And by landing someone with offensive pop, they address the one thing where they really need to improve - putting the biscuit in the basket with more frequency.  

For once since their inception, the Wild look like a deep, talented team.  With two great lines, outstanding blue line play, and some of the best goaltending in the league, this should be a team that most teams in the NHL do not want to face come playoff time.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Paying it Forward

Think you're tough?  Try getting through this one with a dry eye:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Retreat Recap

This past weekend I spent on a parish retreat.  Entitled "Christ Renews His Parish," it was an event attended by 12 "receivers" and a panel of 8 very talented "givers."

As an introvert, I loathed the thought of going out, sharing, and interacting with a bunch of people I didn't know.  As an overworked employee, and one whose schedule is such that basically the only periods of uninterrupted work I can perform are over the weekend, I feared the loss of time.  For these and myriad other reasons, I did not want to go the way one does not want to go the dentist.  Ugh.

The retreat started slowly, with one of the "givers" giving a "witness" of aspects of their life, and then us "receivers" breaking into groups to talk about it.  And as the day went on, the stories I heard would shock me to the core.

Men whose children were killed.  Men who attempted suicide.  Men who had seen miracles.  Men who had technically been dead.  Men who had gone on missions to third-world countries.  Men whose marriages failed or were crumbling.  Men who were addicted to alcohol, or worse.  It was shocking to hear the stories of these guys.  And everyone had a story.  Everyone.

Think about that for a second.  Everyone.  Now apply it to the guy that might have cut you off on the road or the woman that nabs that parking spot that was rightfully yours.  We have no idea what that poor soul may be suffering.  Yeah, that doesn't always excuse jerk behavior, but there are a lot of horror stories out there the people have/are living through, and after experiencing what I just did, I hope it will be far easier for me to give folks the benefit of the doubt.

One of our last segments involved us receiving letters from loved ones telling us how much we mean to them.  These letters were solicited without any of us knowing, and came as a complete shock to us.  

We all peeled off and found a quiet place to read them.  I received incredible letters from my family, and I bawled my head off through their reading.  It was amazing to read such words from so many people that I admire and love so very much.  I was beyond touched or moved - I was changed.  

Out of all the beautiful, thoughtful, sincere, and loving sentiments that I received - sentiments that I'll save for the rest of my life - one completely broke me apart.  My rambunctious 12 year old nephew told me "If I could be anybody in this world, I would be you."

Wow.

Now, I'm sure if he gave it some thought he'd come up with a better answer.  But to get such stark confirmation of the role that I play in someone else's life - as all the letters provided - was so very, very humbling.

Thus we close with Kid Rock.  It seems to give a good capstone for the weekend.  And the lyrics at the 2:55 mark, while I've referenced them before in this blog, are things I take to my heart when I need to step back, break through the BS and the stress, and focus on what is truly important.  

Amen.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Delta Airlines Honor Guard

You have a choice with whom you do business.  For your next flight, Delta might be worthy that business:

yeldogpat-20