Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Top Ten Minnesota National Embarrassments

In today's installment, we'll recap those things that make Minnesota hang its head in collective shame. Here we go:

10. Lutefisk - A staple of those of Norwegian descent, it has been described by the hearty souls that have tried it as "fish pudding." It is made by soaking the fish in lye for an extended period, hence it is likely a fabulous soap as well as a completely unappetizing foodstuff.

9. MSP Rest Rooms - Well before Senator Larry Craig claimed in his tepid falsetto, "I am not gay!" the bathrooms at MSP were nationally renown as a great place for your homosexual quickie during a layover. Some airports are known for special foods or ambiance, we have anonymous frolic in the handicap stall. Hint to our hetero visitors - if you happen to have a wide stance, you may want to keep your foot tapping to a minimum.

8. Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome - Ugly, cramped, dirty, and plastic, the Metrodome has been a pimple on the dirty butt of Minnesota sports for nearly 30 years. Site of two Twins World Championships and numerous failures by our beloved Vikings. Boasts packaged corn chips, canned jalapenos, and squeeze cheese as a stadium delicacy. Really.

7. Lipps, Inc. - Don't click on this unless you want this song rolling through your head all day. You've been warned...

6. Golden Gopher Football - This team has become so pathetic that the state actually gets excited when they finish .500 and are considered as a potential team for the Motor City Bowl (remember, Detroit is south of Minneapolis, and it is December). We suck because we can't get kids to come to Minnesota for our wonderful climate. We also suck because we don't cheat, and when we do, we always get caught.

5. Garrison Keillor - The pride of the liberal learned elite, his droll observations are embraced in those realms like failure to file 1099s for the paid help. He is portentous, pompous, and a disgusting human being. He's about the biggest antithesis of a central Minnesotan as he can be. Here's a monologue for you that represents the truth, "The latest news from Lake Woebegone is in and they think Garrison is a raging dick."

4. StarTribune - Lovingly nicknamed The Red Star, this paper has been pushing an extreme liberal agenda for decades now. Their resulting free fall in circulation has been met with complete schadenfreude by those of us tortured by their editorial staffs and their glaring bias, but it also makes some of us sad because their ultimate demise will put a Yellow Dog out of a job.

3. Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura - The list of idiocy committed by this walking humiliation are too vast to be tallied here. Now known for his appearances on talk shows where, in between shaking, he espouses his theory that the US Government killed its own people during the 9/11 attacks. Offered more cogent dialog when debating Baron Von Raschke back in the AWA heyday.

2. Minnesota Winters - Numerous geographic conditions meet in an unholy combination to make Minnesota a frozen wasteland from December through March. When you look at the back of the USA Today and yours in the only state that is purple, you're a damned embarrassment.

1. Senator Al Franken - The crown jewel of Obama's Senate Supermajority, this drug infested, hate mongering, vile, repugnant puke is our greatest embarrassment. #1 with a bullet.

To the rest of the Union, please forgive us as we know not what we do.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Remembering Morning in America

As I was evaluating the ad portfolio of a prospective agency, they offered the following as a "classic work" of theirs.Listening to the tone of this ad and what it inspires made me pine for a simpler time. Consider:

  • Its focus on the positive
  • Its optimistic outlook
  • Its unapologetic patriotism

I guess part of the reason for this ad's pull on me is the fond memories it invokes - it was originally released while I was in college, and when my entire life was ahead of me. I was as optimistic as that ad, and I couldn't wait for what the future would bring.

Times are different now. Tones more shrill. Things moving in an entirely different direction economically. Pessimism reigns.

One can argue about the relative merits of different administrations, but regardless of politics, hopefully the tone and the message contained in the ad invoked some fond memories in you as well.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Minnesota Summer Saturday

I spent a great day here in Minnesota. I started out by heading up to the duck camp in Glenwood where I met with two of my partners, Greg and Kent. I admired some of the handiwork that Web, Ben and I put together a couple of weeks ago in rearranging the pole barn, and this photo shows off our work. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we indeed have too many decoys.

We then made the quick trip to my buddy Don's open house over at his Kruger Farms outfit in Starbuck, MN. He does guided hunts for high dollar clients - mostly for whitetail deer, but also does pheasant and waterfowl. He launched this business a number of years ago, and has been acquiring land in the area and restoring it for habitat ever since. He's also developed a incredible hunt club that is a conversion of a old farm house. As Greg, Kent, and I walked through the house, it became clear that the person that designed it was the same one that designed our house. The similarities were incredible. Beyond the design, there are vast differences between our two places - Don gutted and completely replaced the inside, spending over $300,000 in the process. Us? Let's just say we've kept ours a little more "rustic."

After leaving, I took the long way back and got this incredible shot of Glenwood and Lake Minnewaska. It is so beautiful here in central Minnesota right now - everything is green, the pheasant chicks are out with their mommas, the farm fields are lush, and the corn will have no problem reaching "knee high by the 4th of July." It was a nice drive in the country on a beautiful summer day.

Upon arriving home, our neighbors called and asked if we wanted to join them on their boat for a cruise around Lake Waconia. Sounded like a perfect end to the day. Here's a quick glimpse of what the trip was like:

Here is Capt. Jon, Melanie, and Vera with a beautiful sunset.

As the sun set, the wind came up without warning, going from about 10 MPH to well over 30 in the span of a couple of minutes. With no discernable front, we were caught unaware and on the wrong side of the lake. We were instantly in rollers, some over 4 feet and breaking over the bow of the boat. Luckily the water was very warm and the boat very safe, so we were in no danger, but it was amazing to me to see how quickly things could change, and without any kind of warning. I was really glad we weren't on a bigger body of water.

Overall, it was a beautiful summer day here in Minnesota - the kind of day that makes the suffering the we endure in February all worth it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mark Sanford is Toast

Anyone surprised by today's press conference?

Marriages break - I get that. The true mark of a person is how you handle it.

Flying off, foisting lies, and creating vast wreckage in your wake, wreckage of things you hold dear (your job, kids, party, future, etc.) in my book precludes him from any kind of political future. This guy’s already shown the only thing that really matters to him is him.

Could he have used any worse judgement? Begone, idiot.

Hard Hitting Journalist Asks Obama Where He "Learned to Love"

Wait for the last two seconds and hold onto your lunch.

Pulitzer worthy stuff, this.

What the hell is going on here?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day with Pat Buddy

I stopped up the the Wellstead today to wish Dad a happy Father's Day. Mom was already up there, and I made her pose for a picture. She didn't want to because she said "you'll put it on your blog."Now, Mom, would I go and do something like that?

We started out with some nice cake for the day, which Dad thoroughly enjoyed. As usual, he made short work of it, and had a cup of coffee to wash it down. After cake we went out into the courtyard for a game of catch. After a while, we took the following video where Pat talks about his grandkids:

We had a really nice afternoon!

As we finished up our visit, Mom and Dad walked me out to the car. Dad was talking pretty good, and I wanted to get it on film. As you'll see, I guess I should have been watching where I was walking.

I think it must be some cosmic pay-back for posting my Mom's picture on the blog when she asked me not to...

Happy Father's Day, everybody!

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Two: "Pre Dog" Part 2

For background on this serial, please click here

You can also start at Part One of this chapter

One thing that I had not appropriately planned on my path to a dog was the reaction of my wife. My lovely bride had always been supportive of my hunting and fishing lifestyle. While her preference was that I not spend as much time doing it as I have done, she recognizes that it is a core part of me and is something that is beyond a passion. Her tolerance is atypical. I recognize that I'm lucky in this regard, and take steps to not overstep the leeway she provides me to do the things that I love. Sometimes I'm successful in this, and sometimes I screw up, but I do make the effort. Through it all she continues to love and support me, and I know very clearly that I am indeed a lucky man.

So when the subject of a dog came up, describing her response as "trepidation" would be a gross understatement. My wife is a devout cat person. She loves their independence, low maintenance, size, and attitude. In essence, what she loves about cats is everything a dog is not. Regardless, my tenacity on the subject was relentless, and I had the good fortune of getting help from my buddy JT.

Note that JT rarely is the source of help, at least from my wife's perspective. He's one of my fishing opener buddies, and clearly enjoys having a good time. The renown photo of him mooning the crowd at our wedding provides a great insight to him - fun, funny, inappropriate at times, and really disturbing from a physical anatomy standpoint all at the same time.

My wife and I had spent the weekend with him and his family on Ten Mile Lake, and part of his family included Sammy, a yellow dog out of Tom Dokken's kennels. Sam was a fantastic hunter, lived to fetch, and was an incredibly sweet family dog. My wife and I spent the weekend playing with Sammy and JT's kids - flinging sticks in the water for her to retrieve, then commanding "shake" at the end of the dock on her way back so that she'd shake the water out of her coat at a safe distance instead of getting you all wet, as most dogs want to do. My wife fell in love with Sammy, and finally gave me the green light to get a dog of my own, as long as "she was just like Sammy." Fat chance. Dogs like Sammy are once-in-a-lifetime.

Of course I made that promise, and of course it was one that I couldn't guarantee, and my wife bought it. Sucker!

While I'd not ever owned a dog before, there were three things of which I was sure in the path to getting one: 1) the dog would be female 2) she'd be a yellow lab and 3) her name would be Blitz.

As for the gender, there is debate in the dog community on the relative virtues of the different genders. Females have a reputation for being a little more anti-social with other dogs, are more messy unless they are spayed, and wreak havoc with a lawn. Males do a ton of peeing on everything, and can be distracted unless they too get fixed. There are myriad examples of dogs that don't fit these stereotypes, and at the end of the day either gender is just fine. However, since we were looking to acquire the new Sammy, it seemed the one thing I could guarantee would be that she at least have the same plumbing.

As for the yellow lab, while an alignment with Sammy existed there as well, I had already had my mind made up on breed and color. I wanted a dog that could hunt both ducks and pheasants, as well as be fun around people. For my money, one cannot find a better solution for that than a Labrador. As for color, shed yellow fur shows less on carpet and upholstery than does black or chocolate. Since Blitz would be an indoor dog, yellow would be the color for us. Second decision point complete.

Finally, her name. While a female she would be, she would also be a rough, tough hunting dog. My wife did not care, and wanted to call the dog Chardonnay, but there is now way I could see myself working a field with other hunters and dogs and calling out "Here, Chardonnay!" No way. Hence, I would give her a name that would be gender-neutral, and quasi-tough. Blitz seemed appropriate, and by appealing to my wife's German heritage, she eventually came around to the idea.

All the groundwork was in place. Now the only thing that was needed was the pup.

Go to Part 3

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Morning Routine for the Yellow Dog Patrol

Here's the morning routine for the Yellow Dog Patrol:

Every morning Deuce the Dog heads up to the driveway for me and gets the paper. Yeah, I know it's cliché, but when it is -30F in January, sending a yellow dog on the retrieve beats the heck out of frigid walk down the driveway.

Ever since she was a pup, Deuce wanted to pick up and play with the paper, so I never did any training with her on this. She knew the word "paper" and the word "fetch," and she took my command the first time I tried it and we've been doing it every morning ever since.

While it is a pretty cool routine we have, there are times where it can get us in trouble. For example, about 5:00 AM one cold January morning we had just received a solid 10 inches of snow, and I knew I needed to clear the driveway in order for us to get out and get to work. Deuce loves the snow and was romping and playing while I concentrated on moving the snow off of the driveway. As I worked my way to the end of the driveway, I noticed that waiting for me there was a small pile of about 8 newspapers and one very happy yellow dog. In looking up, I noticed yellow dog tracks in the newly fallen snow literally all over the neighborhood. While we re-delivered papers where the prospects of a correct delivery appeared good, I know for a fact some of my neighbors did not receive their paper that morning.

Despite her affinity for others' papers, Deuce typically concentrates on just our paper. She usually returns immediately, unless she's distracted by something like a sample of Cheerios that has been included in the paper, in which case she'll get an early start on breakfast, and I'll get a shredded paper.

Overall, she does a great job. While I have a lot of animosity for the StarTribune and their editorial stances, having the yellow dog deliver it every morning adds so much fun that my subscription with them is safe. The latest sample of Fruit Roll Ups that was sent with the paper, though, is not so safe. Not at all.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Your Congress At Work

We're mired in the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. Businesses are failing at record pace. People are hurting. Economic indicators continue to trend in such a way as to indicate that things will continue to get worse.

So what is the US Congress spending their time developing? An apology for slavery.

And despite making the apology in the heart of our financial crisis, there are those that are unhappy because the apology doesn't go far enough to ensuring reparations so that those impacted by slavery (it will be an great time figuring that one out) can be paid for the atrocities their great, great, great, great grandparents suffered.

This is your Congress in action. This is what they consider a priority.

Note to Congress: Those that are suffering in the here are now are the ones going to the polls in 2010. There will be massive ramifications for how you've set your priorities and your abdication to focus on what is currently wrong in our economy and society.

So, perhaps instead of worrying about such things as apologizing for slavery and about how you're addressed, you may want to focus on the task at hand.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Flag Day Without a Flag

Today marks Flag Day, but in my travel to town for mass and back, I found scant observance. I checked the StarTribune, and despite their usual content that continues to throw their circulation numbers into freefall, there is no mention. Google often decorates their logo on their home page to match significant days - their most recent celebration was for the 25th anniversary of Tetris. Think they could do something for Flag Day? Nope.

On TV there was not much difference. I watched a live interview with our Senator Klobuchar, and despite the day and her live broadcast, a lapel pin was too much to ask. I observed numerous local and national shows, and saw nothing. In fact, the only mention of Flag Day was on Fox News. Go figure.

I felt that with Obama's election, it would finally be OK for "all of us" to get back to being patriotic. Remember that for some of us, now is the first time in our lives in which we've been proud of our country.

So why not fly the flag? Obama said it was OK. Don't own one? They have one on sale at your local hardware store, and it will take you about 5 minutes to set up and display properly. Still not feeling comfortable with it? Even after the world apology tour? Then, my friend, it is YOU that is the embarrassment, and not your country.

Happy Flag Day. May it proudly wave forever

Hat Tip to Blogoscoped.com

I'd like to close on an upper. Check this out:

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Two: "Pre-Dog," Part 1

For background on this serial, please click here

You can aslo start at Part One or Part Two of the previous chapter

I had never owned a dog before. I had grown up with one; a fabulous Golden Retriever named Brandy. We had acquired her when I was in seventh grade, and she was a more traditional outdoor dog – kennel outside, never in the house, no really strong connection with the family, etc. That all changed when I went to college. I distinctly remember coming back on the first break that school offered to find Brandy roaming the house. “Oh yeah,” my sister replied to my inquisitive look, “she’s been living in here ever since you left.” Traded for a dog. How’s that?

Brandy and I were able to share the space, both in my parent’s home and in the duck blind as well. She was a serviceable hunter, and she clearly had won the heart of my dad. He thought she was some kind of hunting machine, and the conversations he had about her belied his opinion. She was a faithful hunting partner for dad for many years before finally being put down at a ripe old age. I don't think dad ever got over not having Brandy around.

While I enjoyed her company, Brandy was never my dog. I knew ultimately that I wanted a dog – I had done enough hunting with buddies that did have dogs to see the joy they brought to a day afield. Somehow, when a dog is present, the hunt is just better. Beyond their obvious contributions in the field, they impart some not as obvious ones as well: when birds are ample, watching a good dog go about its work is like watching a fine athletic event. When birds aren’t ample, dogs offer the ultimate distractions via the things they do, or don’t do, as the case may be. The conversation is always a little bit better, the mood always a little bit lighter, and the stories a little bit more entertaining with the presence of a dog.

In 1998, my dad was diagnosed with Pick's Disease, which is basically a rapid degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. It manifests itself akin to Alzheimer's Disease, but impacts different parts of the brain, and at least in my dad's case, moved incredibly more rapidly. I had always been close to my dad, and the one thing in which we pretty much always found common ground was on hunting. Dad loved duck hunting, and I caught the same passion from him, and caught it in spades.

When dad's diagnosis finally came in, the shockwave that hit our family was massive. While we were all relieved to finally have something to explain dad's condition and behavior, the ramifications of the finding were dire. There was no cure. There was no treatment. His disease would quickly take his memories and his mind, and, ultimately, his life.

To this day, I still can't fully comprehend what this sentence has meant to my family and me. I saw my mom staring at her retirement years, the thing that my dad worked his entire life to enjoy, as ones that she would face without her spouse at her side. I saw my sister bring two beautiful children into the world, only to have her father know nothing of them. I saw my brother get married and, while dad attended the event, his presence was only made possible through the patience of mom and by the hand of God. My brother's children were also never known by their grandfather.

Illness and death are part of every family, and ours was impacted substantially. For my mom, siblings, and I, dad was no longer with us. His body and physical manifestation remained, as did infrequent glimpses of personality through the deep fog of the disease, but for the most part the patriarch of our family was gone.

In the wake of the disease, not only had I lost my dad, but I also lost my hunting partner. We had hunted together since I was 8 or so. Not every hunt, clearly, as we both had other folks with which we enjoyed hunting, but certainly every opener, and most of our time in the slough.

I lost my best hunting partner, and in that light it seemed only appropriate to add a new partner to the equation. That partner was going to come in the form of a yellow dog.

Part Two

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jobs "Created or Saved?"

Check out this chart.

While I'm not a math genius, I can connect dots. The trajectory of our unemployment is beyond scary, and is bordering on catastrophic. It is only a matter of time before we're firmly into the double digit arena, and by that time, the traditional media can no longer ignore it.

I went through my LinkedIn connections yesterday. I'm connected to 203 people - peers that I've met throughout my work life. People that achieved middle to upper management. People that earned advanced degrees. People that do really good work (believe me, if they did bad work, I'd not be connected to them). They are people who are just like me.

17 are currently unemployed.

I'll do the math for you. That's 8.3% of an incredibly talented, motivated, and effective population.

Our economic Rome continues to burn, and we get more stories about flying to New York for "date night," Michelle's arms, and Obama as God. Meanwhile, in the real world, I wonder who is going to be number 18, and I pray it is neither me nor my wife.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Impartial Media

From Newsweek's editor. God help us all.

Strike that - Obama help us all

Obama Does Dresden

On his latest stop on the "America is Sorry" tour, Obama is spending the night in Dresden, Germany. While not an "official stop," the message is quite clear. Much of his time in office has been an apology to the world for how America has behaved, and of all the magnificent cities in Germany in which he could stay, he chose this one for a reason.

Dresden is a favorite topic of left-leaning historians, especially non-US historians. For background on its bombing, click here

Per communication from the administration, the official talking point was that Obama would be staying in Dresden due to its proximity to the Buchenwald concentration camp, which would also be visited. Here are my issues:

  • Dresden is nowhere near Buchenwald. If proximity was the objective, there are a dozen towns bigger and closer. Ah, the benefits of governing a populace that is incredibly ignorant of geography - especially foreign geography.
  • Visits of the two places is an obvious statement about their parallels, and while not "official," is a pure play to satisfy those that consider American airmen to be war criminals.

And now, later today, Obama will stand on the shores of Normandy; site of the greatest battle ever waged in the history of man. He'll stand shoulder to shoulder with hero airmen that readied the beaches by dropping their bombs on Hitler's Atlantic Wall; all done at low altitude, and facing horrific fire. And some of those same men he will meet are considered baby killers by the people Obama wanted to placate in his Dresden stay.

Dresden was not a good situation, I will grant you that. But consider:

  • It was WAR, and one we did not start, and reluctantly joined. In war, sometimes bad stuff can happen, and for that, we can indeed be sorry.
  • In light of the atrocities of the murders of MILLIONS of civilians by the Germans, Japanese, and the Soviets, Dresden is a rounding error.
  • Unlike every other country that was victorious after war throughout the history of man, we gave the German people something they never had - freedom.
  • Dresden, since it fell into the area that was "liberated" by the Red Army, lived under the boot of Soviet Russia for an additional 40 years. If not for our fighting and subsequently winning the Cold War, they'd still be living under Soviet occupation.

I am tired of history being re-written where the United States is the bad guy. I'm tired that we know so little of our history that this rewriting can occur under our noses with nary a peep. I'm tired when our heroes are called baby killers. I'm tired of our sycophantic press that gleefully swallows what they're fed by this administration. And, most of all, I'm tired of a President whose perspective of American history is one that focuses on embarrassment and shame.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 1, Part 2

For background on this serial, please click here.

For those that missed it, you can start at Chapter 1, Part 1

The memory was clear as it if it had happened yesterday. We stood there in the cold wind, taking it all in.

Next stop was to an old, reliable spot for holding birds. "Wood Island" is a small patch of trees and cover just off the driveway to the property. Measuring about 30 yards by 40 years, it is the one place where there always seems to be a bird lurking. It had paid off consistently for Blitz and me, and I wanted to see if it would again for old time's sake.

We were experiencing a big south wind, so our approach would be from the north. I pulled the truck into position, and wondered if we would be so lucky as to flush a bird from this honey-hole one last time.

I stepped as quietly as I possibly could, but the snow was firmly crusted, and crunched under my feet. My pace was slow but deliberate, with my goal being to drive through the middle and hopefully flush a bird from the south end. As I approached the cover I noticed a wealth of pheasant tracks, and I smiled broadly. It was good to see such great sign here in the dead of winter, as it meant the birds were surviving well.

I wasn't but two steps into the cover when the big rooster exploded about 10 yards ahead of me. "Thanks buddy!" I said aloud, half sarcastic for being scared to death by the sudden activity, but completely appreciative for one last flush for Blitz.

We turned and departed for the last stop. We were headed to "Gucci Point," a dry land point that nearly bisects the lake on which we hunt, and a favored hunting spot for all of us. It was named by one of the partners because, as it was configured. you could walk out to it and hunt in your finest footwear and not have to worry about them getting muddy or wet. For a duck hunter, while we'd likely never hunt in our Cole Hahn's, it was nice knowing we could if we ever needed to do so.

The point stretches for nearly 200 yards, and the snow drifts caused by the cattails made our going slow. The exposure to the south wind stung my face, and I tried to shield it from the direct blow. As I marched slowly toward the end of the point, I was comforted my the weight that nestled in the small of my back in the game pouch of my hunting vest.

We finally arrived at the end of the point, and I turned my back on the cold wind. I reached into my game vest, and pulled out a velvet bag with the words "We'll Meet at the Rainbow Bridge" written on it. I could no longer hold it, and like so many times in the months prior, I stood there and allowed the lump in my throat to develop into a full blown cry.

For the first time I opened the velvet bag to glimpse Blitz's ashes. They were packaged in a clear plastic bag material. While I was taken aback by the lack of dignity with the configuration, there was utility, and that made sense to me. I slowly tore at the plastic, exposing the last earthy remains of the dog I loved do much to the elements.

I thought of all of the time her and I shared on this ground. I thought about our last hunt together here on my 40th birthday, and how that day went from one of sorrow to unmitigated joy. I also thought about hunts to come. "Blitz," I said aloud, "I'll be down here a lot with you. Keep watch for me, girl." And with that I flung her ashes high into the winter air.

The strong south wind caught the ashes and deposited them onto the snow in the north, which created a beautiful grey design on top of the snow. I stood there and thought about Blitz, my dad, and why I got a dog in the first place.

"I miss you so much!" I sobbed out loud, alone, in the frigid morning air.

Go to the next chapter