Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mobile Marketing - The Future is Now (Finally...)

My career has really been focused on ecommerce pretty much since the halcyon days of its invention by Al Gore. I’ve launched and grown two major websites (both now doing over $100MM in annual sales each), been responsible for the revenue performance of a dozen others, and driven performance via channels like natural search, paid search, email, affiliates, portals, social media, and others. And during all of this time, the warning has been raised to web marketers to be prepared because the combination of mobile phones and ecommerce is just around the corner. It’s been stated so much that the mantra sounds like “wolf” is getting cried yet again.

However, that’s not the case anymore.

Mobile phones have added massive amounts of sophistication, including speed (both bandwidth and processing), GPS capabilities, and hosts of new applications and functionalities that are built specifically for the machines. This leap and combination of technologies has unleashed a massive set of utility that was heretofore unimaginable. And that has resulted in us finally arriving to the point where mobile marketing is now poised and ready to take commerce (both electronic and physical) to a whole new level.

Consider new applications like Foresquare (to which I’m hopelessly addicted), Goby, Around Me, Facebook’s rumored foray, and even simple map applications that now not only help customers find stores, but can actually deliver real-time incentives based on a potential customer’s proximity and proclivity. Consider applications that serve up price comparisons and customer reviews as the customer stands in the aisle considering a purchase. Consider all of these new functionalities injected with the momentum that social media currently offers. It boggles the mind.

Traditional ecommerce will not be going away anytime soon, just like traditional brick-and-mortar and catalog commerce will continue to survive and thrive. However, as I engage with it more I’m becoming more and more professionally and personally enthralled with the concept of mobile marketing. I can see the future here; it is robust in what it will mean to businesses and consumers alike, and it is right around the corner. Personally, I’m limited on working on these opportunities as they don’t fit our business model well, but I will be pushing the envelope at work to see where I can play. In the mean time, for business owners with a physical location (or more), I’d immediately start playing with these apps. While there’s a scant amount of users right now, the same could be said about Facebook a short 3 years ago. First movers that acquire their sea legs the fastest will have a distinct advantage.

By the way, if you’re a Foursquare user, post up. I’m in need of some friends on that space.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Family Reunion Recap

This past weekend was spent with my mom, wife and brother at a family reunion on my dad's side in Black River Falls. It was well attended (over 40 of us), impeccably organized due to a ton of hard work by my cousin Cathy, and was held at a perfect location on a perfect day.

Some relevant insights from the weekend:
  • While we never did too much as an extended family while growing up, it is surprising the closeness that I felt over the weekend. There's something about blood; it's tangible, and it was fun for me to feel and see.
  • When this crew gathers, you don't want to be late to get a piece of cake.
  • Just like other aspects of life where two outlooks dominate life (Democrats vs. Republicans, Gophers vs. Badgers, Catholics vs. everyone else), marshmallow philosophy boils down into two camps split very evenly - brown and toasty (the right one) and burned and black (yuck).
  • Do not, repeat, do not, under any circumstances, go to the Pizza Hut in Black River Falls.
  • While we had great attendance, I was struck by the amount of time conversations rolled to folks who weren't there, and how much they were missed.
  • Jimmy and Jay really need to take their stuff out on comedy tour. Highly entertaining.
  • Random meetings with pirates with glow sticks can be kind of interesting.
  • As a family, we have a lot of which we should be proud and thankful.
  • I can't remember the last time I shotgunned a beer (which is probably not surprising), and was grateful that I can still do so. I think.
  • What's "scary" in terms of campfire stories is in the eye of the beholder. I'm just happy that the story didn't morph to involve Tavaris Jackson. Now that would have been really scary.
  • There's a definite lag of time that should be observed between marshmallow cooking and eating, and significant ramifications for not observing it.
  • Last, and most important: my brother and I are the official holders of the Sidders/Lewis/Murphy Golf Ball Ladder Game Championship. We welcome all challenges.
What a great weekend. Thanks to everyone for coming out, and for the hard work that made it such a success. I look forward to seeing you all again.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Family Mystery - Who Killed Guy Lombardo?

We lived on Lake Minnetonka growing up, and many times Grandma would come out to our house for Sunday dinner and a ride around the lake. This was the late 70's and early 80's, and our boat was equipped with a state of the art 8-track tape player for listening to tunes while cruising the lake.

In pervious trips, Grandma always voiced her displeasure with Dad's choice in music, which usually consisted of a heavy rotation of CCR, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John, Waylon Jennings, and Jimmy Buffett. So it came as no surprise when she showed up one beautiful Sunday afternoon armed with an 8-track of her own; The Best of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. Dad immediately voiced his displeasure, but Grandma was adamant, so we cruised the waves while choking down the dulcet tones of the big band giant. Of course Auld Lang Syne was included as part of the mix, which created quite a contrast booming from the speakers of a large boat in the July heat. No matter. Grandma was as pleased as she could be. Unfortunately, my Dad was stewing.

As we cruised the lake, tension hung in the thick, humid air as the power play continued with Dad trying to change tapes and Grandma having none of it. Since Dad could not win, our ride was mercifully cut short and we headed back to the house for some cooler heads and some Sunday dinner. That's when the event occurred that still brings debate in our family to this day.

We arrived at the dock and began to offload people and our gear, and soon everyone and everything was on the dock, except for Dad and the offending tape. Grandma requested that Dad hand the tape to her, and with what can best be described as an effort made with "alligator arms," Dad extended Guy Lombardo over the side of the boat and released. The tape hung there for a second, like Wile E Coyote going over a cliff, and despite a pretty athletic lunge by Grandma, it fell into the blackness of the mud of our landing. Immediately Grandma issued howls of protests and accusations of dropping the tape on purpose, which were met with equal denials and claims of innocence by Dad. The debate carried into the house, lasted though dinner, and while it ultimately would simmer down, it never truly went away; it came up in conversations and family gatherings for years to come.

While time and repeated telling of the story may have modified it slightly, with Dad ultimately playing the hero by killing off the Lombardo beast, I personally think that his efforts that day weren't a truly conscious effort. I'll grant you that Dad's blood pressure was such that Guy needed to die, and that Dad's subconscious likely executed the evil deed, but had the action been intended to be so overt, Guy likely would have found himself as man-overboard an hour earlier into the trip.

Regardless of how it really played out, it is a story that captures their two personalities and their interpersonal dynamic so well that we'll enjoy telling it for years to come.

Friday, June 25, 2010

OK Go - The Best Music Videos Ever?

OK Go has done it again.

These guys developed one of the most creative music videos of all time for their hit "Here it Goes Again."  If you missed it, here it goes again...

They've just released a new video for their song End Love, and this time they've outdone themselves. Play it, and stick with it until the end. Trust me.

A couple of points:

  • I don't need to mention it, but but the goose totally stole the show.
  • Check out the woman with the toddler in the lower right at about the 3:30 mark.  Wow. 
  • WC Fields is credited with saying that one should never work with children or animals. I think in the case of this video, he was wrong.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Terra Waconia - Another Fantastic Night

I know I gush a lot about this restaurant, but Terra Waconia is not a unique restaurant. My wife and I headed there last week for some conversation and some outstanding cooking. We weren't disappointed in any way.

First, we were thrilled to try a new addition from Parely Lake winery, a very tasty Frontenac Gris. We started the dinner with the requisite order of mussels, and were fortunate enough to have the co-owner/chef poke his head out and promise to "kick the order up a notch." Consider that pitch hit out of the park. The broth was equal parts richness and spice that made for an incredible start. We then moved onto entrees - mine being fabulous pan fried walleye served over a bed of pureed parsnip, while my wife had an expertly prepared chicken with mashed potatoes and grilled carrots that were painfully good.

As we enjoyed our meal and conversation, the table next to us posed a riddle to anyone in earshot. Multiple tables participated in tossing out answers, and your faithful scribe landed upon the right answer. A new and similarly constructed riddle was floated, and I happened to be the first to derive the answer to that as well. Our neighbors at the next table congratulated us on the answers, and demanded to buy us dessert as a reward. Despite protests (and, yeah, we didn't protest too hard - we're talking about dessert here) our new friends placed an order for us, paid their bill and left.

My wife and I continued our conversation, and the evening slowed down, which afforded chef Craig to come out again to talk. His passion for what is being done at Terra Waconia is clear, as evidenced in a story he told about a local strawberry grower and the different varietals of berry that were available. He later escaped to the kitchen and came back with a sample of two such varietals, and we were amazed at the distinct differences between the fruits. The picture shows the tasting presentation (post taste), along with our delicious creme brulee reward.

Simply another great evening at this fabulous restaurant - great locally grown and passionately prepared food, delicious locally grown wine, hearty conversation (either at your table or with others), and personalized service that is a rarity. Go see Tracy, Craig, and crew.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waconia Marching Band Makes Me Late for Work - Yes!

I came out from my morning doctor appointment and found that I was parked smack dab in the middle of practice for the Waconia Marching Band. I snapped a quick picture so I had proof that I wasn't really playing hooky.

Stuff like this is exactly why we love living in Waconia so much. Main street, big old Catholic church, American flags, and the random possibility that your day could be interrupted by something like marching band practice.

All that was missing was a baseball game, my mom, and a big old piece of apple pie.

Dino Ciccarelli Scores Last Goal, and Enters NHL Hall of Fame

Growing up, I had been a massive NHL fan. I was lucky to follow a team in the North Stars that was fun to watch, and was a strong winner. I was also lucky to see the game in its heyday, with Wayne Gretzky and the great Edmonton teams, Mario Lemieux, and rivalries that the league hasn't seen in a couple of decades. I was so addicted to the sport that my buddies and I cobbled together our precious just-out-of-college funds and acquired season tickets that were split among us. I was truly fortunate to see so many fantastic players, and to see them live.

Of all the great players the North Stars had (Bobby Smith, Neil Broten, Mike Modano, Craig Hartsburg, Brian Bellows, etc.), nobody could score goals like Dino Ciccarelli. Despite his diminutive size, Dino was a fixture in front of the net, instigating contact and tipping in shots and rebounds left and right. He had an agitator's attitude, and drew the ire of many an opponent. His scrapes with Chicago Blackhawks' tough guy Al Secord were renown.

Dino was tough, hard working, and more than anything else, had a real nose for goal scoring. He ultimately finished his career with 278 power play goals (8th all time!) and still owns the record for most playoff goals scored by a rookie at 14 during the incredible '80-'81 run in which the Stars advanced to the Stanley Cup finals against the juggernaut New York Islanders.

Granted, Dino had some on and off-ice issues. He's likely not the guy you want teaching an anger management class or coaching your kid's hockey team. It is likely those things are likely what has kept him from the Hall of Fame all these years. I will grant you all of that. However, if the team is down a goal, there's 45 seconds left, the home goalie is pulled, and the game is on the line, there was never a better Minnesota player other than Ciccarelli that you wanted to see camped in front of the opponent's goalie.

Congratulations Dino, and thanks for the thrills you provided a broke but fanatical hockey fan all those years ago.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Think I'm Right About the Oil Spill "Crisis"

From Senator George LeMieux (R), Florida. 

Not being able to send the boom ships because they might be needed elsewhere?  If this conversation is accurate, it is obvious that the President desires a disaster, rather than a solution. 

And that, my friends, is criminal.

I hope this finds traction in the national media.  It really needs to be brought to light.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Gulf Oil Tragedy and the Death of American Exceptionalism

This President has spent nearly his entire term erasing any touchstones to the concept of American Exceptionalism. From the World Apology Tour, to physically bowing to hosts of other heads of state, to the dependence on BP to fix the spill, there is nothing about this administration that conveys world leadership.

The spill shows us as bumbling at best, and at worst as criminally conniving - letting the crisis happen, in "never let a crisis go to waste" fashion, all to push forward a cap and trade bill that had previously stalled out.

Toward that end, I have a whole bunch of questions: Does anyone remember this?

Why hasn't this happened yet? Why haven't the best and brightest of the Army Corp of Engineers and the Navy been sequestered in a room with a 48 hour deadline and good supply of coffee and told to not come out until they've solved the problem? Could it be that "sticking it to BP" is more important? Would this situation been allowed to exist under the Kennedy or Regan administrations? Would this situation be allowed to exist if the area impacted were Malibu or the Hamptons?

"Leadership" under this administration translates into extracting money out of BP and interrupting clean up efforts to ensure that the proper amount of life jackets and fire extinguishers are on board the boom ships. We are witness to a tragedy, occurring before our eyes and in near slow-motion, and our government operates with a continual lack of urgency, creativity, or common sense. But, according to the Liberal Elite, hey, it's just the gulf coast. Nobody really goes there, and the people that live there are just a bunch of bible thumping, gun toting red-necks.

You'd think that after Katrina, they would have learned and moved away...

We close with a line from Jay Leno, because sometimes when you're left with nothing else, laughter is the best medecine:

“President Obama said he is going to use the Gulf disaster to push a new energy bill through Congress,” observed Jay Leno. “How about using the Gulf disaster to fix the Gulf disaster?”

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fatherless Father's Day

I've been in a bad funk the past couple of days. There's a lot going on that could be driving it, but there's always a lot going on. In diving deeper into what's happening, I've stumbled upon the answer. Father's Day is here, and for the first time in my life I don't have a father to share it with.

Even in the past years when dad was sick, I'd spend the day with him up at the Wellstead, and we'd sit outside and enjoy the day. This picture is of us three years ago (singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game - check out the expression on the dog), and if you click here you can access the post of my visit last year.

I miss dad a lot and think of him often.

Today, Father's Day, more than usual.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Four: "Dog Training, Sir!" Part 1

I apologize to the Blitz fans for my lack of posts in a long time.  Look for a more steady stream from here on in.

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

Blitz and I headed into the entire dog training business as complete rookies, neither of us knowing how it would all turn out. I read dog training books and was making slow progress. The “sit” butt thump ahead of dinner or breakfast was a good example where progress was evident, and we worked on other things as well.

One of the earliest lessons was introduction of loud noises. This is a critical component for any gun dog training, as fear of loud noises can literally ruin a great retriever. It is a malady that seasoned trainers abhor as it is nearly impossible to train out of the dog that experiences it. And, unfortunately, I had first hand experience with a dog that was fearful of loud noises.

When I was in junior high, my dad brought home a beautiful Irish Setter named Ginger that a moving friend needed to give to a new home. She was a beautiful dog and a fetching fool, but when it came to loud noises she was an absolute psycho. Thunderstorms were the worst, and often we found the dog sitting on the back of the tank of the downstairs toilet, shivering in fear. While a sixty pound dog perched on the back of a toilet tank seems impossible, the feat appeared minor compared to the laundry room incident. My brother and I had returned home to an empty house in the middle of a terrible thundershower, and we knew that Ginger would be out of her mind. We looked for her in her usual spots and even some unusual ones, but could not find the dog. We then performed a top-to-bottom search throughout the house, calling her name and listening for her. Finally, we heard a whimpering coming from the laundry room, but a cursory check showed no Ginger. Our search continued, as did the crying, so we returned to the laundry room as that seemed the source of the sound. On a subsequent trip back, we were shocked to find a red tail sticking out from under the washing machine. Evidently the dog had literally lifted a full size washing machine and got into the limited space between the washer motor and the floor. How she did it is still a mystery. Since dad had plans on making her a hunting dog, her time with us was quite limited. The "surprise" puppy she delivered didn't help things, either.

The goal in introducing the loud noises to a dog is start very slowly, and combine it with something that is pleasurable. Hence, when we started, I’d put Blitz and her full dinner bowl on one side of the yard (it didn't get any more pleasurable for her than that), and with a starting pistol I headed to the other side of the yard and fired off a couple of rounds. Over the course of two weeks I closed the distance between Blitz and me to the point where I was shooting immediately over her head as she gulped down her kibble. Given the "speed record attempt" with which she ate, I’d wager that I could have stood over her on day one – nothing got between that dog and filling up the tank – but the consequences of something going wrong were so high that it wasn’t worth taking the chance.

While I experienced success in this training arena, not all of my efforts were so successful. One hot day I decided to take my pup for her first swimming lesson. I had all of the necessary prerequisites in place: a hot day, a shallow approach, and a confident dog that loved to fetch. We drove to our duck camp and headed down to the landing for the inaugural swimming lesson, and things were absolutely perfect. Blitz was first wary and curious about the water, but as I got ankle-deep she quickly followed me in. There she romped and played; finding out that water was refreshing and really, really fun! I soon took things to a new level, and waded out beyond where she could touch. She responded by whimpering for about a half of a second, but moving toward me and ultimately swimming like a big dog. What a moment! I made up a song about swimming like a big dog, Blitz splashed about, gaining confidence by the minute, and the two of us had ourselves one big wet dog party. I continued to up the ante, and introduced a puppy dummy for her to fetch - first on the land, then in the water where she could touch, then our further where she had to swim. Blitz responded with confidence, gusto, and desire, and I felt like this whole dog training thing was pretty darn easy.

That's when my overconfidence got to me.

I had reached a point where I was tossing the dummy 15-20 yards in the water, and the dog retrieving splendidly. I made the decision to take the dog the entire way, and get her to fetch by jumping off of the dock just like the big dogs do in the long jumping contest. I got Blitz to sit about 5 yards behind me on the dock while I stood at the end. I teased her with the dummy, and tossed it off of the end into the water below. Blitz took off like a shot, got airborne, hit the water, and immediately sank to the bottom of the lake. I instantly hit the deck, reached down and hauled the dog back onto the dock by the scruff of her neck. She was coughing and shivering in fear, and I was kicking the crud out of myself for being so stupid. To that point we had experienced the perfect training session, and I had absolutely ruined it, and potentially turned my dog off to water completely. As it turns out, she did not ultimately fear water, but she was always hesitant to jump into the water from an elevated position like from a dock or a boat. She was that way the remainder of her life.

Beyond sit, swimming, noise introduction and other minor lessons, the only other thing which got a lot of training attention was the "come" command. This is first introduced with the dog on a lead, with the command of "come" given simultaneously with a pulling of the dog toward you via the lead. This training went pretty well, and Blitz graduated to responding to the command without the use of the lead. This afforded her more off-lead liberties out in the yard, but unfortunately, once those liberties were granted, it was clear that her previous behavior had been a ruse. Once in the back yard with bunnies, neighbor kids, squirrels, and copious amounts of grass to eat, responding to the "come" command became completely optional. When in one of her rebellious states she might acknowledge you by looking up, but if that happened she delivered one of two messages. The first was the "play stupid" where she'd give a look that said "Are you talking to me?" The second was much more malevolent, and that one translated to "Screw you, pal - I'm eating some really tasty grass here." Ultimately getting her back into the house once one of these episodes had been invoked was nearly impossible, and her patience with persisting these disobedient episodes was tireless.

Given my training failures and her occasional but total mutiny, it was clear that if this dog was going to get trained, I'd need to enlist some serious help.

To go to the next chapter, click here

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

AT&T Botches iPhone4 Pre-Orders - Surprised?

I'm definitely going to upgrade to the iPhone 4. The new features and functionality are exactly what I have be waiting to receive. Specifically, LED flash, face-side camera, and video capabilities mean that I no longer have to carry a phone, camera, and Flip when wanting to capture a certain event or image.

Unfortunately, AT&T has botched this - kind of like how they botching their coverage. After trying to order yesterday and experiencing crash after crash on their web site, I got on at 5:00AM today, figuring those issues have been resolved. Here's what greeted me.

Come on, AT&T. Your credibility is already paper-thin. Figure it out.

Obama and the Oil Spill - A Dearth of Executive Leadership

GRAND ISLE, LA - JUNE 15: People in the oil stricken community of Grand Isle watch from a bar as U.S. President Barack Obama discusses the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in a an Oval Office speech, the first Oval Office speech of his presidency June 15, 2010 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. Obama told the nation that the spill is a wake-up call and the country should change the way energy is produced and used. The BP spill has been called the largest environmental disaster in American history. U.S. government scientists have estimated that the flow rate of oil gushing out of a ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well may be as high 40,000 barrels per day. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
I was aghast at the Obama speech last night about the horrific oil spill in the gulf. Obama had two, and only two, objectives last night. 1) Lay out what is happing to cap the spill, and commit to do everything in his power to ensure that it happens as quickly as possible. 2) Lay out what is happening to prevent the oil from arriving ashore, and when it does, what is happening to clean it up. Commit to do everything in his power to ensure that these activities are done as quickly and effectively as possible.

Instead, in true Rahm Emanuel "never let a crisis go to waste" fashion, we got another, ANOTHER campaign speech on our need for Cap and Trade. Mr. President, wildlife is dying, people are hurting, and ways of life and micro economies that have stood for decades are threatened. Pushing your political agenda in this environment is not only inappropriate, it is revolting.

The entire time of the speech, my thoughts constantly went to how this President would handle an even bigger crisis, and it scares the living hell out of me. When you have the sycophants over at MS-NBC questioning your leadership, it might be time to exit campaign mode for a minute and actually do something to help.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Starbucks Finally Gets a Clue

After lagging behind their competitors for years, Starbucks finally gets a clue and will begin offering free wireless access starting July 1, the company has recently announced.

I do my share of travel, both personal and professional, and am usually armed with a laptop, iPhone, or both. My biggest pet peeve is having to pay for wireless service. Folks, the cost of making wireless connectivity possible is basically jack squat. Most businesses, hotels, and public buildings are already leveraging some kind of wireless connectivity, and the cost of making that available to guests and handling the incremental bandwidth is minimal. The dirty little secret is that the $14.99 you pay per day at a hotel, the $7.99 you pay at the MSP airport, or the $3.99 you paid at Starbucks was nearly all profit that feeds right to the bottom line.

With the propagation of mobile devices being able to leverage wireless capabilities, people are getting more and more savvy about their access to hotspots that don't charge. Hence, Starbucks needed to change. Unfortunately, their sloth in moving has allowed customer loyalty for some to be housed with their competitors. That's a big price to pay for gouging your customers.

Nick Punto Watch - With Added Coverage of The Harris Embarrassment, Part 2

The beat goes on for Nicky and Brandon. Punto is down to .221, whereas Harris has fallen even further to .160. Combined, the 3rd base position for the Twins is batting .207, with a .275 OBP and .274 slugging. This, sports fans, is flat out pathetic.

As the trade deadline approaches, it sounds like the Twins are sniffing around at Mike Lowell, who is having a horrendous season at .215 and two homers. Given the struggles of Harris and Lowell, perhaps a change of venue for both would be valuable. Lowell has announced he'll likely retire after this year, whereas Harris has good upside, but his $1.45MM contract is an albatross.

Seriously, can things get any worse at 3rd?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Best Bloody Mary Recipe Ever - The Cajun Bloody Mary

I happened to be attending a conference in New Orleans in October of 1991, and found myself in the hotel bar after a long day on my feet. I was happy to find the World Series on the TV, and my Twins giving the Braves all they could handle. As I took my seat at the bar, my face must have belied my indecision on what to order, as when the barkeep approached me, he called out, "You look like a guy that needs a Bloody Mary."

Now there is an inherent problem with Bloody Marys: either they're outstanding or terrible, and more times than naught it is the latter. Immediately my mind went there, so I inquired if they were good. "What the hell do you think?" responded my southern barman. He immediately went to work on creation of the cocktail, complete with a draw on the side as a chaser.

Not only was the drink good, it was outstanding. I was informed that the recipe was for a Cajun Bloody Mary that the bartender invented, and to my delight he was quick to turn over the formula when I asked. I share it here:

96 oz. good tomato juice
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup worcheshire sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 - 5 heaping tablespoons of spice mix (below)
fresh ground horseradish to taste

Spice mix - equal parts
black pepper
white pepper
celery seed
celery salt
cayenne pepper
garlic salt
Cajun spice (2 parts)

Combine all liquids and sauces together, then mix in 3 tablespoons of spice mix. Shake thoroughly to mix ingredients and taste. Note that taste will not be as spicy as when the mix is allowed to settle over time, so make sure that additional spices are added with this understanding. Once liquid has reached the desired spiciness, add fresh ground horseradish to taste.

Mix well with good vodka over the rocks, and garnish with olives, homemade pickles, pickled asparagus, peppers, or other vegetables as desired. Serve with a tasty beer on the side.

This recipe has been in my family ever since, and has been shared as it has been requested. In fact, at a family dinner about 15 years ago, I shared it with the then owner of the Calhoun Beach Club; a swanky Minneapolis bar located in the Uptown area. Lo and behold, when out for drinks there one night, I happed to order the Bloody Mary, and found that it was indeed mine. No permission, no royalties, just a complete plagiarism of my drink.

Except the drink wasn't mine. It was a generous New Orleans bartender's.

Upon realization of the full situation, I swallowed down my indignation with a strong pull on a spicy drink, and said a private toast to southern hospitality.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Twins Champions' Club Seats - Rubbing Elbows with the Well-Heeled

Two nights ago. Vera and I were lucky enough to be invited by our friends to join them at the Twins game. Unbeknownst to us, the tickets we had were in the vaunted Champions’ Club area. I didn’t exactly know what that meant precisely, but I would soon find out. It started with us taking a private elevator down to the lowest levels of the stadium – floor minus two. When the doors opened, we were greeted by a gauntlet of ultra-polite but efficient security, got outfitted with a wrist band, and got this photo of our hosts and Jack Morris.  

We were then politely ushered inside to what can only be described as a baseball fan’s heaven. The first stop was a bar area, outfitted with accessories like full leather lounge chairs, multiple flat-screen TVs, and little knick knacks like, oh, just the 1987 and 1991 MLB Championship trophies. Here's Vera with the '87 trophy. 

We ordered up a drink from our bartender and were ushered into the next room. This large area consisted of a massive private bar, huge open fireplace, tables galore, and a buffet spread that would rival Minneapolis’ finest. Our bill of fare this night included a huge baron of beef, Cajun fish, freshly grilled sirloin, salmon and chicken, and braised beef ribs. And that was just the entrees. The sides were incredible, as were the salads (either prepared or made to your order). The entire time the well appointed staff was flittering about making sure you had everything that you needed and that you were happy. Now the best part. The cost for dinner? Nada. Ditto the cost for tap beers and wine.

We loaded up on this incredible meal, entertained by the pre-game festivities that were being broadcast on the dozen or so HD big screen TVs when it came time to head out to the game. Our waiter made sure our next beer order was in stadium-friendly plastic glasses, and we made way to the exit. Along the way were strategically placed “snack stations” for any of the ballgame goodie needs on might have. Peanuts, candy, Cracker Jack, ice cream, nachos, hot dogs were all available for the taking; no charge. We grabbed some goodies and headed out to the stairs to take us to the field.

Our seats are the ones that are immediately behind home plate – they are oversized, padded, and as comfortable as a living room lazy chair. They were exactly 7 rows behind home plate, and the view was absolutely incredible. Here's the view of the plate. 

As you can see, we were way close to the action, and I’d like to think that I was responsible for the lone Carl Pavano strikeout of the night. Jose Guillen of KC was batting, and took an incredibly close curve ball for a ball with two strikes on him. I had enough free beer in me to boom,” Guillen, you better swing at the next one because you’re never getting that call again.” Sure enough, Pavano comes right back with another yacker, but this one in the dirt, and Guillen chases it. Put me down for a K in the book, those of you scoring at home.

During the game, folks in the area are welcome to go back to the man cave and eat more, watch TV, get something from the bar, or hit the private bathroom. Should you not want to leave your seat, ushers work the entire game, bringing you free beer or any other goodies that might strike your fancy. Indeed, this is how the rich live, and folks, it doesn’t suck. 

The Twins played great, the night was beautiful, the beer cold , the company outstanding, and we wanted for nothing. I even met up with an old friend, and was witness to one of Nicky Punto’s patented slides into first base (he was safe!). In fact, this picture was taken immediately after the play.

In my day I’ve been lucky enough to attend games in suites in 6 different stadiums. I’ve done two different rooftop parties at Wrigley. I’ve been wined and dined at the finest that different stadiums had to offer. And in all of those episodes, I’ve never, ever, experienced something as first class as this. Not even close.

I’m not sure we’ll ever get the chance to do this again, but, at least for one day, we peeked behind the curtain that only the upper, upper crust see. As stated before, it didn’t suck.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Strasburg: The Only Good Thing to Come Out of Washington DC

I know it is one game, but the pitching the Washington wunderkind put up against Philly last night was a sight to behold. I came of age in the era of Ryan, Carlton, and Clemens, and I've always loved the utter dominance a power pitcher can bring to the game. With this first outing Strasburg takes a step in that direction. More interesting, though, is his wicked curve ball. How a right hander can stay on that pitch after taking a high hard one inside at 98mph the previous pitch is impossible.

I know it is only one game, but for the first time in a long time, the hype coming out of Washington DC is as advertised.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nick Punto Watch - With Added Coverage of The Harris Embarrassment

With the lineup without Cuddy, Morneau, Hudson, and Hardy, two things became evident: 1) Nicky was going to play a lot more and 2) Our lineup stinks without those four guys. In case you're wondering, #1 and #2 above are likely related.

Nicky is batting a solid .225, the real story this update is the Harris situation. Trust me, nobody wanted to see Harris succeed more than I, but I've reached a point where I need to get my big butt off his bandwagon. The dude is batting .162! .162! There are pitchers in the National League that eek out enough bunt singles to do better than that. Michael Jordan did better than that (OK, he was just in AA ball, but damn, .162? Come on.).

Hence, if Harris does not catch Punto this week, I'm completely reworking this column. You've been warned, Brendan...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Leech Lake Fishing Report, Late May 2010

The bite on Leech has been fantastic. All species are hitting, and the action fabulous. Here's my wife with a nice 24" boated on a Rapala at sunset.

Fish are literally everywhere, but if you can find an actively feeding school, things get really fun. Here's my buddy Don with a nice 22" that was among a school in which we landed 10 fish in about 2 hours.

The funny thing was that on this spot we landed a broad spectrum of fish - too small, too large, and in the slot. It has been a fantastic year on Leech Lake thus far, and I can't wait to get up there again.

We close with another shot of my wife.  While some guys are married to a "fashionista," I'm happy to be married to a "fishinista."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Time to Blame the Jews. Again.

For the life of me, I've never understood the Left's hatred of Israel. I don't know if it is rooted in their disposition to an aversion of organized religion, hatred of an aggressive military mindset, or if it is just simple, undiluted anti-Semitism. Judging by self-espoused Liberal "journalist" Helen Thomas, I'd say it is the latter. You judge for yourself.

An additional corollary to my befuddlement is the propensity for Jewish-Americans to vote Democratic. Those that would like to neuter the Jewish state, and ultimately the Jewish people, are the same ones that are blindly supported voted into office by the very people that would be harmed the greatest. I don't get it. Not at all.

In the middle of all of this comes a great article by Charles Krauthammer that gets to the real heart of the matter. He closes thusly:

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million -- that number again -- hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists -- Iranian in particular -- openly prepare a more final solution.
I encourage you to read the entire article by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Deadliest Catch - Leech Lake Edition Epilog

During our long weekend at Leech, I brought along my bike for some much needed exercise. Last year, I discovered a terrific little snowmobile trail that runs through the middle of the woods behind Grassy Point and pretty much all the way to the Stoney Point campground. It is a great trail that runs about 10 miles round-trip, with good elevation changes, stumps, bumps, and all those things that make mountain biking worth while. It is a fun little ride.

As I headed out, I wondered if I'd see any remnants of the big wind storm of the week prior. I didn't have to trek very far to have my questions answered. This photo represents one of probably a dozen trees that littered the trail.

I'm not sure if the straight line winds were centered in the area or not, but there is no questioning that they clearly had a impact. The damage this wind wreaked was awesome, and reiterated to me how lucky we were to be on the lake when it hit and to come back unscathed.