Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yellow Dog Patrol Anniversary just turned two years old.  I started this blog mostly as a means of testing Search Engine Optimization techniques, but it has blossomed into my own little bully pulpit, has received substantive props from Google, and developed a small but dedicated following. 

The site’s come a long way in the past two years, and I wanted to share some data that I found interesting: 
  • The site’s received traffic from all 50 states, with Minnesota representing about 50% of the traffic, and California in a distant second.  The rest are widely spread, basically along population lines, save for Wisconsin, my new home. 
  • The site also has received traffic from 88 different countries.  Ones that stand out include visits from Liechtenstein (population 35,000) the Faroe Islands (population of 45,000), and the Cayman Islands (population 50,000). 
  • 54% of the visitors are considered “new”, with 46% having visited the site more than once.  14% of the site visitors have visited over 100 times. 
  • Visits don’t go very deep, with 77% being just one page, but given the content and format, I guess that makes sense. 
  • 4% of site visits are coming in via mobile devices, with iPhone responsible for half of that traffic.  Factor in iPad and iPod traffic, and Apple mobile devices account for 75% of all mobile traffic. 
  • Search engines generate 43% of site traffic, of which Google does over 95%.  33% of site traffic comes from direct navigation or utilizing a browser “favorite” functionality.  The remaining 24% of traffic has been sent via links from other websites. 
  • The top ten most popular pages were the home page (about 40% of site visits), the article on the Twins wives, the Devo concert review, the Tool concert review, the article about sitting in the Twins Champions Club seats, Cabela’s discontinuing Herter’s decoys, the Alice in Chains concert review, the Cajun bloody mary recipe,  the Shroud of Turin post, and the Vikings NFC playoff loss to NO in the 2009 season.  7 of this top ten were all written this past year, and many own #1 search rankings for popular keyword strings.  Two (the Favre post and the Shroud post) were linked to from other significantly more popular websites. 
  • About a year ago, I presented my pride of being recognized by Google via a website Page Rank of 2.  For more details on what that all means, check out the article.  I'm shocked to report that the site is now at a site PR of 4!  This is higher than some commercial sites, and is a function of the amount of content that's being generated and the amount of traffic the site attracts.  My little natural seach playground appears to be successful.
Beyond helping me to have a working SEO laboratory, this blog has really been enjoyable to write.  The feedback I’ve received, from folks that agree with me or not, has always been valued (except for that one anonymous guy that got into it with me on my Decemberists Concert review). 

Based on my analytics, I know there are quite a few regulars that come to the site; some folks I know personally, but far more that have just found the site and have kept coming back for some reason.  Given my penchant for drifting in and out of topics, I’m not sure why those readers keeps coming back, but I appreciate them coming to the site very much.  The fact that there are some out there, known and unknown,  that find some value in my musings, rants, opinions, and stories is really heartening to me.  It is a nice compliment, so thank you. 

On to year three.  I hope you’ll continue along with the ride.  To all of you, thanks again for stopping by

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Simpson's Weighs In on Packers / Vikings Rivalry

From last Sunday's Simpson's episode. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Five, "One Year Old"

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

By the time Blitz had hit one year old, we had all started to figure things out.  We all got used to feeding and walking routines.  I had elevated my game in terms of picking up poop (hints: never after a rain, and sunny days are your best friend).  Even the cat had established a dentate of sorts with Blitz, tenuous as it may have been.  But one thing of which my  wife could not make an adjustment was "the doggy smell." 

Blitz was basically a clean dog.  However, she was a Labrador, and that meant she had the proclivity to want to be in the water, regardless if the water consisted of a lake or a dirty  farm mud puddle.  If it contained moisture, she wanted to be there. 

Since she was going to be used to hunt ducks, enjoying the water was important for her resume, but it came with a price.  The Lab is an incredible dog, and you'll not find a breed that combines friendliness, intelligence, athleticism, and passion for retrieving and hunting at uniformly high levels.  Unfortunately, a distinct liability is that God granted them a gift of a funky smell when they get wet.  For those that have not smelled a wet lab before, it's hard to describe.  It's musty, pungent, not very pleasant, and unique.  Nothing really smells like it.  This was driven home by the 7 year old son of a hunting buddy, who upon entering the Suburban his dad and I were sharing after a hunting trip, took a quick whiff, pointed to the crates in the back, and claimed "UGH, WET GUN DOG!" 

When a dog is wet and dirty, the only thing that can get them back in good olfactory graces is to get them dried out (in which case a hint of the funk remains), or get them washed.  With my wife, the latter was required, with shampoo, rinsing, drying, and the whole fluff and buff.  You'd think that with a dog that loved the water so much that this would be an easy chore.  And you couldn't have been more wrong.  Blitz seemed to have an aversion to being clean, and wisely made herself scarce anytime the garden hose came out or the laundry tub got filled. 

Despite her reluctance, I did get a process pulled together.  First, I had to coax her into the laundry room, which was fairly easy to execute with the bribe of some kibble.  Closing the door behind her, I'd get the laundry tub filling, and that's when she'd figure out that she'd been had, and the tail would drop and the crying would start.  Yes, crying.  My tough hunting dog, capable of hunting all day, swimming long distances, chasing cats, and getting fishing lures removed from her mouth would cry the whole time, including the prep time before she was even wet. 

Once the tub was filled, I'd lift Blitz up and place her in the tub.  Keeping her in was quick a struggle, as she made motions like Jared Allen, while I played the role of lumbering offensive lineman.  Eventually I caught on to her moves, she'd give in, and she'd just put her front paws on the top of the tub, rest her head on my shoulder and cry until we were done.  While this configuration was a difficult one in which to accomplish a bath, I was able to wet her down by scooping up water with my hands and pouring it over her. Eventually, when the shampoo had been fairly rinsed out, I'd pick her up and set her down on the floor, which would always be met with a giant shake by the dog to remove the offending water from her coat.  Between the wrestling matches of keeping her in the tub, her laying her wet head on my shoulder, and the numerous shakes, we were both equally drenched.  To mitigate the shaking I'd take a towel to her and rub her down thoroughly, and then take another towel and wipe myself down.  My wife once asked why I needed two towels, when I described the first time I used Blitz's towel to dry myself.  The result what that there was so much dog hair left in the towel that I transferred to myself that I ended up looking like Blitz's mangy sibling, and ultimately needed a shower for myself after the dog bath. 

Once as dry as I could get her, I'd let Blitz out of the utility room for a desired roll on the basement carpet while I took to the task of cleaning up after the bath.  With the thrashing and shaking, dog hair was everywhere, towels strewn about, and water everywhere as it someone had dropped a massive water balloon in the room. 

The bottom line is that neither Blitz nor I enjoyed dog baths, and we'd both dread them.  The dread would usually start on the ride home from an outdoor excursion at the cabin, as being cooped up with a Lab that had previously been playing in water for a 2 hour ride home made my impending responsibility clear. 

Fortunately, as I was driving though the town of Hutchinson, MN on one such afternoon, I happened to spy something that looked like an ice fishing shack which had a sign which read DOG WASH atop it.  I drove past a first, but was intrigued, so I pulled a U turn and headed back.  Sure enough, there in the parking lot stood this little house which claimed itself as a dog wash.  I got out the car to investigate, and was delighted to find a coin operated dog wash, complete with waist-height tub, ramp to get in and out, blow dryer, hand-held shower, and selector switch for things like shampoo, conditioner, rinse (and skunk shampoo - I made a mental note in the dreaded occasion that I may need it in the future).  But the  best feature was a clip for the dog's collar which would keep her held steady and not shaking until we were completely done.  This was heaven!  No more dirty towels, dirty rooms, or dirty spouse looks.  It was almost too good to be true. 

I hustled back to the car, got Blitz out, and went in for our inaugural try at the automated dog wash.  She hopped up the ramp with ease, and I hooked her up to clip, then fumbled for some cash.  I was out of singles, but had a couple of fives, which the machine was happy to accept.  I figured that the five would be a waste,  as we'd likely only burn through a buck or two, but for a clean dog without all the fuss, it was five bucks well spent.  I started with rinse, and by now Blitz had realized she'd been duped and started crying.  Despite her noise I got her fully soaked in no time, started out on the shampoo work, and was happy as a clam until a loud BEEP BEEP BEEP from the wash machine startled me.  Judging by the red numbers counting down on the face of the box, we were under a minute left.  I quickly stuffed in another five and picked up the pace, half complaining about the price gouging I was taking, and half thankful for the ease in which I was cleaning my dog and keeping my marriage sound. 

While my second five ran out in mid-blow dry, Blitz had effectively been transformed from a smelly hunting dog to huggable family pet in a mere 10 minutes right before my eyes.  I kenneled her up, and headed for home where I wanted to share my great find.  As we arrived, my wife was working in the garage, where she greeted us.  I let Blitz out, and she immediately went to Vera for some loving, and in the initial petting, Vera exclaimed "Ew, you're wet!" She knew she'd be covered in dog-stink.   I grinned and asked her to smell the dog.  The joy the three of us shared in that moment is something I'll never forget. 

The dog wash in Hutchinson fast became a required stop for Blitz and I, and if the owner ever reads this, I'd like to personally thank him for helping to save my marriage.   

Monday, March 28, 2011

10 Bands That Should be In the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame But Aren't

ck In writing my blog post last week about the ten bands I couldn't stand, I wondered who on that list were in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It turns out that there were three - Simon & Garfunkel, Janice Joplin, and the newly inducted Neil Diamond.

In my research I wondered what it took to get into the Hall. Via their website, here's the criterion that is used:

To be eligible for induction as an artist (as a performer, composer, or musician) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the artist must have released a record, in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, at least 25 years prior to the year of induction; and have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence. We shall consider factors such as an artist's musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction.

In order of their injustice, I present my opinion of the 10 that should be in:
10) The Replacements
9) Red Hot Chili Peppers
8) Robert Plant
7) Journey
6) Jethro Tull
5) Peter Gabriel
4) Yes
3) Heart
2) Kiss
1) Rush

Look for the case for The Replacements later this week

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The 2012 Republican Presidental Canidate Field Reviewed

When considering the 2012 Republican field for President, the picture is murky.  But it can be cleaned up by the process of elimination, so let's do that now: 
  • Sarah Palin - Plan spoken, and darling of the Tea Party.  Also the most polarizing political figure since Bill Clinton.  The infatuation and inappropriate hated of her on the left make her election nearly impossible.  Plus the media would be falling all over each other to get her in her next Katie Couric "gotcha" moment. 
  • Newt Gingrich - Speaking of polarizing...His three marriages and multiple affairs are an issue.  If you can't be true to your wife, can you be true to anything?  Valid question.  He is another one that the media would have a field day destroying. 
  • Mitt Romney - Best presidential looks in the field, however Romneycare is an albatross around his neck that keeps him from moving forward.  He loses all legitimacy to criticize Obama on heath care, and that is a bludgeon that needs to be in the Republican tool box this election. 
  • Mike Huckabee - Recent gaffes trip him up and make him look amateurish.  Likewise, his show on Fox embedded him a little too closely into the media, which crosses a line for some. 
  • Michelle Bachmann - See comments about Sarah Palin.  All apply to Bachmann. 
That pretty much eliminates all of the consensus "front runners," and paves the way for a very wide-open race if I'm right.  So who does that leave?  There's a whole other field out there, including folks like Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Pence.  But of the names left, here's who I personally would like to move to the top: 
  • Tim Pawlenty - Executive leadership, and effective management of financials in a politically split state.  Looks, personality, and background earn him a plus.  I've met him on a couple of occasions and always came away more and more impressed.  The big question is if he can get above the fray. 
  • Chris Christie - The smash-mouth NJ governor cannonballed into the political pool, and his ripple effects have been felt nationally.  Renown for his plain talk, no BS style, his press conferences captured on YouTube have been on heavy rotation on right-wing blogs since the jump.  The big question is can her overcome a non-presidential physical look, and will his abrasiveness potentially work against him. 
  • Paul Ryan - Good looks, intelligence, and great in front of a camera.  Economic wonk who appeals to the Tea Party.  Would eviscerate Obama in a debate.  The big question with him is can he overcome a shortened resume.  Given the fact that his opponent was elected on a resume that was on par, if not shorter, he might have a chance. 
What do you think, and where did I miss the boat on the above?     

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sex Offenders Welcomed in Green Bay

I read the following article this morning and almost lost my eggs.  Read it all

Green Bay sex offender home called model for other communities

It's 5 miles from my house.  I drive past it every day on my way to the club.
A couple of points:
  • "Break the rules, and it could mean going back to prison." - Could?  These are bleeping sex offenders.  If they break any rule - jaywalking, gum chewing, I don't care, their sex offending carcasses should be hauled back to prison for the justice they deserve.
  • "60% live there without major incident" - Ergo, 40% that live there DO have a major incident.  Any rate above zero is unacceptable.
  • "No one tracks the recidivism rate of offenders who pass through he facility..." - WHAT?  Why the hell not?  If the goal of the program is reentry of these monsters into society, why wouldn't the success (or, based on traditional recidivism rates of these scum, failure) of this program get tracked?
  • "No female officers are allowed to live there" - Wonder why?  Perhaps for their safety?  So it's OK to keep a fully  trained and armed female police officer out of harm's way from this excrement, but the non-trained, non-armed neighborhood kids and women will just need to fend for themselves.  Incredible.
  • "We have good confidence in it." - Bully for you, Dean Gerondale.  Build the next facility next to your house.
Sex crimes ruin lives.  Entire lives.  When will we as a society stop coddling, forgiving and excusing these crimes, and start treating the perpetrators like the horrific monsters that they are?

Shame on you, those in the Green Bay community, that allow this to exist within our midst.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Vikings Quarterback

Oh please oh please oh please...

Dream of Dad

Ever since my dad passed away, I’ve pretty much been unable to dream about him.  I’m not sure why, exactly.  My sibs, mom and I have talked about it, and it sounds like my experience is definitely the outlier in the family, as I’ve only dreamed about him a couple of times. 

Well, last night I had a dad dream.  We were up on Leech Lake fishing, and were in his boat.  He looked as he typically looked when we were up there – needed a shave and a shower, wearing crappy shorts, crappy shoes, an undershirt, and chomping on a stogie.  Prototypical dad. 

Fishing was quiet, and I was getting frustrated, not only due to the lack of fish, but I remember dad playing some tape of a band that I wasn’t appreciating.  As I was reeling in, I noticed a massive northern pike following my lure, and by jerking it around I was able to elicit a mighty bite. 

We landed the fish – he was clearly the largest fish I every caught.  I remember being consciously thankful that dad was there to help me land the fish, share in the moment (he wouldn’t have believed how big it was had he not been there), and allow for a moment for him to be proud of me.  I guess no matter how old I get, I still subtlety long for that feeling you get when a parent is proud of you. 

I awoke with a smile, thankful for the rare dream.  Unfortunately, I woke to a barking, hungry dog, fourteen (yes, fourteen) degrees, and over a foot of snow that based on the long term forecast won’t be melting until we’re a couple of weeks into April. 

What a turnaround, where the dream was pleasant, and reality a nightmare.  Almost always it’s the other way around.   

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Do We Live Here?

We just got this - a lovely 10" of the stickiest and heaviest snow you've seen.  It is continuing to come down, blow and drift as I type this.  My wife just entered the office after seeing the news, and they're claiming 2-4" more. 

This is after and incredibly hard winter; one filled with over a half dozen blizzards, bitter cold, and more total snow than I've seen in my lifetime.

This after a recent warm spell that brought grass, robins, and buds on the oaks.  Promises of better times.

I used to think I'd never live in the south.  "I like the change of seasons," I'd tell myself.  "Winter's not that bad.  The snow is kind of nice.  You won't catch me living out my senior days in some Florida community."


Get the shuffleboard sticks ready, grandpop, because as soon as I can figure it out, I'm coming down there to join you. 

You win, winter.  I officially give up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 10 Music Acts I Just Can't Stand

I need to start this post off with an apology.  I'm likely going to tick a couple people off with this update.  However, what I present here is just my opinion.  And you know what they say about opinions...

As big of a music fan that I am, there are definitely some bands/artists that just rub me the wrong way, and regardless of how I try, I simply cannot enjoy their music.  It's not necessarily genre-based - I have likes in every genre, even if they are few and far in between in genres like rap and pop.  It's really hard to pin down - it's almost at the artist level, and each of them have rubbed me the wrong way for some reason or the other. 

Hence, I thought it worthy of analysis to review the top 10 popular music acts that I just can't stomach.  I've ranked them in relative order of worldwide records sold, starting low to high. 

10) Barenaked Ladies - I don't like campy or cute, and it seems like everything that this groups has done that's gained success has way, way crossed that line.  If I Had $1,000,000 is near torture.  Their library may be filled with things of other substance, but I can't endure getting past their popular crap to deal with it. 

9) Jack Johnson - He's on of those artist where it seems that every song sounds exactly like the other - the minute a Jack Johnson song hits the radio, you KNOW it is a Jack Johnson song.  Bubble Toes remains one of the worst songs written.  Ever. 

8) Alanis Morissette - I have to admit that I was taken the first time I heard You Ought to Know.  It was raw, emotional, and edgy.  But Alanis soon became completely overexposed, and the depth that You Ought to Know promised was revealed to be a mirage.  She earned bonus loathe points with me by penning the song Ironic that has absolutely nothing to do with irony.  She made a mint off of it, and helped hundreds of thousands of teenagers (and ultimately adults) misuse the meaning of the word "irony" every since.   

7) The Guess Who - This group has numerous hits.  And I hate every one worse than the other.  Special hate points go out to Undone and These Eyes.  Torture. 

6) Janice Joplin - I probably am doing Janice a disservice as I really should dig into her deeper body of work.  I just can't get past the Pearl album, and I can't get past the mythology that has been created around her.  Had I live through the '60's, I'm quite sure that I would feel very differently about her and her music.  But for me, I just cannot find a way to dig her.  Not at all. 

5) Katy Perry - I think I said all I need to say about Ms. Perry right here 

4) Dave Matthews Band - Unique sound.  Innovative, if not brilliant, musician.  Massive body of original work. And for whatever reason, I don't like any of it.  Occasionally he'll produce a song that resonates with me, and I'll put in into rotation.  Last one to hit me was The Space BetweenHowever, by less than 10 listens, I just can't take any more, and I'll delete it off of the hard drive.  I want to like him as I respect him as an artist.  But for my ear, I just can't handle him. 

3) Pearl Jam - I have mixed feelings on this band.  Nearly everything they've done has been a total miss with me.  But then I absolutely love State of Love and Trust.  But then some of what they've done has been complete crap, like Last Kiss (would Nirvana or Alice in Chains, both "peers" of this band, ever done anything like that?  No way).  And everything in the middle does nothing for me.  Throw in their political activism, and I've got very little time for this band.  This band would also easily make my Top 10 "Shut Up and Sing" list.

2)  Neil Diamond - Has experienced a career resurgence thanks to stadium music programmers everywhere.  I don't like one of his songs.  Not one.  Especially

1) Simon and Garfunkel - If I can go a couple years without hearing them, I really enjoy a listen to The Sound of Silence or The Boxer.  But it's like an Orange Crush.  You remember it tasting a hell of a lot better than it really tastes.  And more than one in a half decade is too much.  As for the remainder of their catalog, it is like fingernails across the chalkboard. I am a Rock, Cecilia, and My Little Town turn my stomach. 

So there you have it music fans.  These are very successful acts (some Hall of Fame acts), I'm a huge music fan, but yet there's a disconnect. 

Maybe it's not them, it's me.     

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wisconsin Roller Derby - A Review

The expansion of my Wisconsin experience continues. 

My wife and I recently attended our first roller derby.  Really.

A woman on my team plays, and invited us to attend the show.  I was assured of beer and an unique experience, so how could I not be game? 

While the players play under assumed aliases and costume up slightly, this was not to be confused with the "sports entertainment" roller derby we remember from late night TV.  The plays were unscripted, the competition and athleticism clearly evident, and the hitting, injuries, and scoring real. 

While it took a couple of minutes to understand the rules and the scoring, once I got it, it really became a fun spectator sport.  One could clearly watch plays develop, strategy get employed, and then see all of it thrown out the window based on a great play on the other side.  It was pretty impressive to see, and definitely not what I expected. 

As for the crowd, it was a mix of players' friends and family, and blue collar families.  For $10, folks got two 40 minute bouts, and had access to $3 beer.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night. 

Hats off to the women of contemporary roller derby.  Your display of athleticism, guts, and competition was fun to watch.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recap from Dr. Bill's 2011 Hunting Trip

Last weekend I spent time with some college (and other) buddies as part of an annual get-together at a fancy hunt club.  I've known these guys for 25 years, and I was really struck by a couple of things over the weekend: 
  • Even thought I haven't seen some of these guys since the last hunting trip last year, we all fell back into our same ways of talking to each other and interacting.  In many respects it wasn't that different from when we were in college.  It was comfortable.  Just really comfortable. 
  • We're not getting any younger, and we're definitely uglier than we used to be.  Some of us worse than others. 
  • When we were younger, we'd often get together in order for there to be a distraction - the ultimate goal was to hit the bar, or party, or game, or whatever.  The distraction was the driver.  In recent years, the opposite is proving more and more true.  We engage in a distraction in order to get together. 
  • After gearing up, I came out of the house and marveled at the vehicles in the driveway.  It is really remarkable the success that each of us have made of ourselves, both on a professional an personal level.  Back in the mid 80's, one could have really had their doubts about us.  Big time.  But our foundations (family and faith), our education, our work ethic, and some luck conspired to get us where we're at today.  We're blessed and lucky.
  • Every year, something happens that makes the trip remarkable.  This year was no exception, with one of us "retiring" early and ending up in the wrong bed.  This created quite a surprise as his roommate attempted to enter the same bed in the darkened room later that evening.  It was definitely not the kind of surprise that either want to revisit.
Thanks again, Dr. Bill.  Can't wait to do it all again next year.

Friday, March 18, 2011

When You've Lost Grandpa Sports...

It's at the end of the clip, but Sid Hartman claims that in his career, he's never seen a worse field of Minnesota sports. 

Economy in freefall.  Staggering deficits.  Civil war in Libya.  Japan suffering from horrific natural and man-made disasters.  And Sid hating on Minnesota sports.

Repent, sinner.  The apocalypse is nigh.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Corning's View of the Future

Pretty interesting video.  Given the trajectory we're on, especially since the advent of the iPhone and iPad, I think we're probably not too far away from much of this being commonplace.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keith Ellison Bawls for Muslim Killed on 9/11, and Anyone Else?

I know this is old news, but I have a point I failed to make.

Here is esteemed Minnesota congressman, barely able to compose himself, recalling the death of a Muslim man on 9/11:

I'm really curious if he wept so emotionally and bitterly for any of the 3,000 others that were killed that day.

If I was a betting man, I know where I'd put my money.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pray for Japan

The footage coming out of Japan looks like it could have only been created on a Hollywood set.  There are a million such images.  Here is but one:

Please pray for those in Japan.  Given the state of their nuclear plant situation, their troubles may only be just beginning. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Last Night I Dreamt of Baseball

Last night I dreamt of baseball
dreamt of the whole game complete
could smell the fresh-cut grass
felt the turf beneath my feet

Hit a screamer to the shortstop
my first time at the plate
It should have been a base hit
but the play he made was great

Hit a dying quail to right
the next time at the bat
It was ugly but effective
as I earned my first hit stat

I remember standing in the field
on the defensive side of the game
admiring the beautiful summer
Would such days ever come again?

My second hit was a liner
off of first base it careened
Alas I never hit to the right
so I knew it was a dream

Moved up to second base
on an in-the-dirt passed ball
Should have been to third on a balk
but the umpire blew the call

I argued his mistake
but it didn't matter for
the next batter put one in the gap
and on the play I easily scored

We ultimately won game
I distinctly remember the fun
of the win and my final stat line
two for four with a run

Work, stress, and nightmares
were all in full retreat
For last night I dreamt of baseball
I hope tonight is a repeat

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Moose Decline in Minnesota Turning Into a Political Football

In today's StarTribune, a feature story has run about the plight on the moose in Minnesota.  Population rates are falling, and the article leads the reader to assume that "climate change" is the culprit.  The comment board accompaning the article has basically fallen along political lines, depending on one's view of the whole concept of "climate change."

The Outdoor News has a much better (and much less politically bombastic) article on the moose situation in their 2/25 edition.  A small subset of the article can be found hereIn it, you’ll find that the ratio of calves to cows has been in a 14 year decline, and is at its lowest levels since 1999.  However, over the period, pregnancy rates were fairly constant.  Baby moose are being born.  They’re not making it to adulthood.  I have my own theories as to what is driving this, and it’s not climate, but my “worldview is mal-adapeted (sic) to reality,” according to some on the board.

I think if you were to plot the rise in wolf population to the decline in calf to cow ratio, you'd have a very telling statistic.  Note, I'm not one of those "only good wolf is a dead wolf" guys.  I think it is wonderful that our population has rebounded like it has.  However, like we've seen with the deer and goose population in the state, if left unchecked, overpopulation has consequences.  Am I saying wolves are overpopulated?  Nope - I don't know enough to make that claim.  What I do know is that now there is a new threat to baby moose that was not there 10 years ago.

And that threat is NOT climate change. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Four, "Dog Training, Sir" Part 6

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

The time at the tailgate is just what both hunters and dogs needed.  While dogs took in much needed water, hunters did the same, but also passed around a thermos of hot coffee, as well as a box of convenience store doughnuts.  Stories immediately started about who did what (and who didn’t do what) over our previous hunt, and already the tales grew large.  Even though we were all just there and lived them, the stories improved with the embellishments and exaggerations. 
A critical part of all of this is giving each other a hard time, and my buddy JT is especially expert in this regard.  This time at the truck was typical, and he quickly moved into a grand story about some recent episode.  As his storytelling grew more animated, so did his gesturing, and in his ranting, none of us noticed that in one of his hands he was waving around a semi-stale but still luscious glazed convenience store doughnut. 
The only one that did notice was Blitz, fresh off her stop to the water bowl. 
As JT waved and continued his story, Blitz came from behind him, timed her jump perfectly to appropriately lead the delicious pasty in all the flapping, and cleanly picked the entire doughnut from the waving hand in one beautifully athletic, orchestrated move. 
This lead to what I can only describe as the “no, no, oh,” moment that occurred any time in which Blitz had acquired some food that she shouldn’t have.  I’d immediately run to her saying “NO,” and hoping to get to her to remove the offending morsel prior to it being devoured.  Blitz, being a speed eater, would note my impending actions and accelerate her pace, which lead to the “uh,” moment as I realized that I was too late and the forbidden food was already down the hatch.  As I moved quickly (but not quickly enough), JT went though the process of counting his digits to ensure that the dog hadn’t taken any extraneous protein in her carbohydrate-based assault.  Indeed her aim was true, and a strong pall of thanks fell over the scene: the hunters thankful for the comedic interruption to JT’s story, JT thankful for having retained all of his fingers, and of course Blitz thankful for the forbidden snack. 
Watered and rested, we moved to begin the next phase to our hunt.  We began pressing across a field of thin cover, on our way to a much more promising stand of switch grass in the adjacent field.  While the cover was thin, the dogs worked it hard, quartering out and back, but never showing any signs of quarry in the area. 
We ultimately arrived at a border area which was demarked by a barbwire fence.  One by one, we handed guns to each other and safely made our way to the other side, while dogs had the good fortune of simply running underneath the obstacle.  Assembled on the other side, we made a quick plan on our point of approach and started spreading out to cover the next field. 
I was taking my place in line, when I noticed that Blitz was no longer messing around with the other dogs.  I quickly looked around, and found her about 20 yards behind me, in an area that I, three other hunters, and two other dogs had just walked past.  She was there; locked completely motionless, staring at a lump of grass no bigger than the size of a backpack.  I immediately wondered if she was on point, but it was a fleeting thought.  Too much activity had passed that spot – both human and canine – for a bird to hold.  Likewise, the area was just too darned small to conceal a pheasant. 
“Blitz, what are you doing?” I exclaimed as I turned and headed back to her.  About two steps into my return a rooster pheasant exploded from that small patch of grass immediately in front of Blitz’s nose. 
At this point, everything went into slow motion for me:  The bird flushed straight up and immediately began banking to take advantage of the wind to put as much space between him us as he could.  I quickly shouldered my gun, consciously thinking the whole time, “OK, this is Blitz’s first bird.  You’re close.  Take your time and don’t mess this up.” 
 I messed it up. 
I executed my three shots about as quickly as my gun could mechanically process them.  I couldn’t have been any quicker on the trigger, and my heart broke as the cock made the most of his altitude and wind and headed for safety. 
His flight path, however, was guarded by my uncle.  The bird was now at about 30,000 feet flying at mach 2, so I wasn’t surprised when the first shot missed, but with the second shot, the bird crumpled into a heap.  With the momentum of the flight, the dead bird sailed across a deep creek to the opposite bank.  The whole time Blitz was on the bird, running on the same line as the bird’s flight, preparing for the fall so she could retrieve it.  Immediately the other guys in the hunting party generously commanded their dogs to return – this was going to be Blitz’s retrieve. 
The bird was a good 80 years away from our party, and with the difficulty of the creek crossing, I felt there was no way that she’d be successful, but I barked out my encouragement as she dove into the think cover on our side of the creek.  Seconds later, up reappears my yellow pup scaling up the steep opposite bank, which elicited immediate cheers and yells of encouragement by the entire group. 
Blitz made it to the top and headed into the cover in the general vicinity of the fallen bird.  I was yelling encouragement to her the whole time, but I still believed that her odds of making what those in the industry call a “blind retrieve” were long.  I was about to be surprised by her hunting performance for the first time, and it would repeat itself many times in our days together, as after about thirty seconds of rustling around, Blitz suddenly appeared on the far bank with her first flushed wild bird in her mouth. 
A huge cheer went up with the guys who were likewise surprised at the performance.  I began to call her into me for the completion of the retrieve, but as I tried to yell “Here, Blitz!” I could only get about half of it out as I was choking up.  Seeing her run at me, bird in her mouth, after executing perfectly, just got to me.  I had a clear revelation that I was a hunting dog owner, and she was a good dog.  That’s pretty much I that I could want at that moment. 
The exuberant pup came right up to me, released the bird without too much of a struggle, and looked up at me as if to say, “OK, boss, what’s next?!” totally obvilious to the huge step that she, I, and we had taken.   
One of the best parts of hunting for me is the time after the hunt, sitting around with the guys and a libation, replaying the day just occurred.  That night we happened to be at a small bar in Atlantic, Iowa, when my buddy Pauly cornered me at the end of the bar.  “Mikey,” he said, “I think you’re going to have a hell of a dog.”  “Thanks, Pauly,” I replied.  “I hope you’re right.” 
But something deep down inside me knew that he was right.  She was going to be a hell of a dog.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chives Restaurant, Green Bay's Finest - Kitchen Table Review

My wife and I recently had dinner at Chives Restaurant - one of Green Bay's finest.  We leveraged a gift certificate that my team had given me for Christmas, and took advantage of Chives' "kitchen table" experience. 

And what an experience it was.  

Basically chef sets you up in a corner of the kitchen (next to his cook books as you can see in the picture) and then proceeds to feed you course after course of small bites. 

For this evening, we were presented with the following: 
  • An oyster trio, featuring one raw, one baked with a smoked cheese base, and one fried with a pepper sauce. 
  • A plate of poached asparagus in a light lemon sauce and fresh goat cheese. 
  • Freshly caught whitefish (from the chef himself!) that were poached perfectly
  • An incredibly well prepared seared scallop course with parsnip puree
  • A grilled chipotle beef tenderloin with an accompany of French fried blue onion
  • Bananas Foster, with homemade cinnamon ice cream 
The dishes were creative yet delicious, complex yet tasty, casual yet formal, all at the same time.  The dinner could not have been any better.  And for someone like me that has never been in a professional kitchen in the middle of service (beyond what I've viewed on Hell's Kitchen), it was as much a learning experience as it was gastronomic nirvana. 

Hat's off to owner/chef J.R. and the rest of the crew.  Our chef's table experience at Chives could not have been any better.  It has our highest endorsement.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Green Bay Delta Waterfowl Event Recap

My wife and I attneded our first conservation event in our new home town, and Green Bay does it up right.  The Delta event had free beer, all you could eat chicken and ribs (which both were outstanding), and a small but friendly crowd.

We dropped some dollars to help the cause, buying more than our share of raffle tickets.  And I'm happy to say we were big winners. 

What did we win?

Let's just say it was a Hollywood ending...