Saturday, December 31, 2011

Brock Lesnar is Done

In UFC 41 last night, Brock Lesnar showed up, albeit ostensibly to offer his good-bye.  In his match against Allister Overeem, Lesnar appeared to not be as sharp on his conditioning when entering the ring, as his body looked less defined than I'd seen it.  Conditioning is all about heart, and by the end of the night, it was clear that Lesnar's heart was no longer in it. 

Overeem controlled the octagon effectively through the first round, and was quite effective at his stand-up strategy.  After dropping a knee into Lesnar's midsection, it was clear that the area was rife for attack, and a vicious leg to the guts buckled Lesner and ended the fight.  Soon thereafter, Lesnar announced his retirement from the sport. 

I'm a Lesnar fan - he's the reason why I got the fight in the first place.  Unfortunately, his diverticulitis, an incredibly serious malady, has left him weakened and vulnerable.  He probably never should have stepped into the ring.  Certainly if one considers the advice of those in the know in the medical community, he absolutely should have hung it up well before the fight. 

It is a real shame, as the disease prevented us from seeing what Lesnar could have done.  Still a neophyte with only 8 pro MMA bouts, he never really got a chance to peak. 

So as Brock departs, I wish him all the best, especially in the health department.  However, I wish he just would have said good-bye, instead of enticing me to drop $56 for what turned out to be an expensive retirement announcement.     

Friday, December 30, 2011

Among Savages EP

From the good folks over at Noise Trade comes this free EP download from Among Savages.  Really a great download - very highly recommended.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vista Home Security 2012 Virus

My PC ended up catching the crud, and I was hit with a nasty virus (the Vista Home Security 2012, to be exact).  I usually always practice safe computing, but ended up downloading an MP3 from a dubious source a couple of weeks ago. 

I should have known better. 

Fortunately, I struck upon  They have great information, and walked me through a solution in step-by-step fashion that got me back into the pink.  Bookmark this one, folks, it is a good source to have handy. 

Ditto that Malwarebytes Anti-Malware tool

Thank goodness for the good guys out there…

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Recap

We enjoyed a whirlwind trip back to Minnesota this past weekend.  Our vagabond stops included mom's place, my sister's place, my wife's mom's place in Staples, then back to my sister's.  Lump in trips to our old church for Christmas mass and a cup of Christmas cheer with our old neighbors, and it could not have been more busy.

Despite the pace, we had a wonderful time.  We really enjoyed seeing everyone and catching up.  It really was what a holiday should all be about.

I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked, but here are a couple for your review.  The first is the crew that conducted a Christmas Eve walk to Caribou for some hot chocolate and coffee:

On the way there, my niece and I created a little song just for the season.  Sung to the tune of Good King Wenceslas:

Walking with my dog today
to Caribou in the morning
She'll take poops along the way
to Caribou in the morning

We thought it was a hit.  My brother and wife did not see the humor.

Next photo is of my other niece and nephew.  This pretty much captures them as they are:

Again, just a great Christmas.  Can't wait to do it again next year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

I know that there is something beautiful about a traditional white Christmas, but for this winter in Green Bay, warm temperatures and lack of precipitation have conspired to render us with a Green Christmas.  

Not that I'm complaining.  After the year we had last year, making it through December without any appreciable snow is just fine with me.  However, it does mean that my new snowblower will continue to sit idle for the next coming months. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Obama Claims He's the 4th Best President in History

This outtake didn't make the final 60 Minutes episode, but Obama, the man that previously graded himself with a "good, solid B+" now rates himself with the greats in history.

The man is a narcissist at best, a delusional at worst.

Also, why did 60 Minutes cut this?  Had Bush, or any other conservative for that matter, uttered such a boast, it would have been a lead story.  The continual whitewashing of this man's foibles by the media is stunning.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Game Farm Recap

I've only been pheasant hunting one weekend this year.  One.  Pathetic.

The yellow dog is now 6 1/2, and past her prime.  That being said, she's still a very good pheasant dog, and unless I find a way to get her out, I'm just wasting precious time.  Therefore, I took her out to a local game farm to get us both some much needed time afield.

Here are a couple of shots from the time out.  The first one is with her working a bird, and acting "birdy."  Check out how that tail is moving:

The next one is of her on point.  Actually, it is at the end of her being on point.  By the time I got my phone out, unlocked, brought the camera up, turned the video on and stated rolling film, she was losing her patience with me.

And, with all of that non-hunting activity, I was hoping I'd just be able to drop my phone, shoulder my gun, and make the shot.  Unfortunately, it was a flat miss.

Despite that bird getting away, we were able to harvest nearly all we had set out, as evidenced by this:
The boudin was just a little appetizer.

Perhaps not hunting in the purest sense, but the dog got darned tired, I was stiff in the morning, and my wife raved about dinner.  I'd say that was a mission accomplished.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Carlson School of Management Christmas Flash Mob

The whole flash mob thing is really becoming passe, but given that I was in this very building a little over a month ago, speaking to business undergrads, it strikes a little more close to home.  


Monday, December 19, 2011

Delta Mileage Run Pays Instant Dividends

The weekend before last I took a "mileage run" trip back to Minneapolis for the weekend.  These trips are typically booked at the end of the year and are done in order to gain status in a airline's frequent flyer program.  

In October, I knew that I'd be about 250 miles from Silver status with Delta, and I decided at that time to book a trip in December to gain status, and spend the weekend with family and friends.  

The ticket was an expensive one - $450.  However, given my upcoming travel schedule in 2012 as I felt the investment was worth it for the benefits.  For me, they are:
  • Being able to check multiple bags without a fee (VERY handy for my hunting trip to Louisiana in January)
  • Being able to access "preferred" seats without paying a fee.  I've already got myself booked on exit rows for three upcoming trips
  • Being able to board first, and actually get a chance to stow my carry on
  • Getting the rare upgrade to First Class
After spending a great weekend in Minneapolis (lunch with friends, dinner with my mom, drinks with other friends, and then a really nice Sunday doing church, brunch and shopping with mom), I was ready to head on back home.  That's when I got the fateful email:

I'd been Silver for just over 24 hours, and already I'd be sitting up front, putting a massive dent into their liquor cart.  

A flight or two more like that and I'll be able to get my $450 back out of those guys, no problem. 


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

We often repeat things in church or in songs just because they're rote.  We've been doing it forever, and it just comes out of us without so much as a conscious thought.  But every now and again we get something to kick us a little askew, and it allows for an examination of the words in a new light.   

I bought Michael McDonald's Christmas album, as I just love the guy's voice.  The blue-eyed-soul has been with me since his stints with the Doobie Brothers and, before that, Steely Dan, and I've always felt he had one of the best voices in rock.   

One of the songs on the new album that really moved me was God Rest YeMerry Gentlemen.  We've all heard that song a million times, but his soulful version was so unique, so unlike any other version, that it allowed for a new appreciation of the song and the words.   

Tidings of comfort and joy.   

Let that sink in for a second.   

To save us all from Satan's power 
When we had gone astray   
O tidings of comfort and joy   

As we celebrate the birth of the Savior and come to the realization of the gravity of what that truly means, they truly are tidings of comfort and joy. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What the Hell is it About My Driveway?

First my brother-in-law runs over my mailbox over Thanksgiving.  Now the pizza guy misses the mailbox (thankfully) but drives right through the lawn.

Is it that hard to just look over your shoulder and back out?

Those of you ordering from Gallagher's, you've been warned...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tim Tebow - Proving the World Wrong, and the World Hates It

It is interesting to see how the world is reacting to Tim Tebow.  Revered to hated, and everything in between, there does not appear to be a uniform feeling about the guy.  The only thing that seems consistent between camps is the lingering question: is he too good to be true? 

The reason the question is so pervasive is that Tebow is very much outside the typical NFL mode.  Young, rich, good looking, successful in a very testosterone-filled environment, and under constant temptation by all of the trappings a career in the NFL affords, he could not really be that pious, could he? 

Home schooled.  Performed foreign missionary work.  Appeared in an anti-abortion ad.  Admitted virgin.  And win after improbable win.  With political land mines everywhere, and with the popular mocking of Tebowing, Tebow is slowly winning over converts.  Yet through it all, it seems that the nation is holding its breath for the truth to REALLY come out about Tebow and how he lives his life. 

Why exactly is this?  Is life so good that people like Tebow need to be mocked and maligned?  Do we really take more joy out of human failing, as opposed to decency?  It seems like the times in which we live, we’d appreciate a God-fearing man more than we do.  But no, the only thing most seem to appreciate is impending fall that most just know is going to happen. 

Here’s hoping you prove them wrong, Tim.  Again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Newt Gingrich is Unelectable

The Republican party is on the verge of blowing it.  The longer it continues its consideration of Newt Gingrich as a legitimate candidate, the more it runs the risk of completely alienating the independent portion of the electorate that it MUST have in order to win the White House. 

As stated here earlier, Gingrich is unelectable.  Thoroughly and completely.  How, exactly?  Let me count the ways: 
  • Newt is a lifelong politician.  While he may be intelligent and "full of ideas," his actual list of accomplishments is quite short given his stature.  And that's because with Newt, it has always been Newt first, country second. 
  • Don't believe the first point?  OK, how about 3 marriages due to Newt's infidelity?  If a guy can't do right by his wife, how in the world would you expect him to do right by his country? 
  • The whole Freddie Mac fiasco stinks to high heaven.  The guy consulted with them for 8 years, to the tune of $1.6MM.  How the hell can he not accept some blame for the economic turmoil that blow-up has wrought? 
  • Right wing social engineering?  Seriously, what the hell?

  • Finally, there's this tete-a-tete with Nancy Pelosi. 

While the uber-right wing of the party longs for someone that will take Obama apart in a debate (which Newt would do quite handily), the risk that gets run is that Newt comes across as an "angry white guy," and the entire message gets lost in his vitriol and the public's concern about electing someone so negative to the highest office in the land.  And at the end of the day Newt can't hide from what he is:  a jowly, angry, self-serving, failed, sanctioned, lifelong politician.  The media and the Obama campaign would take him apart, and it would absolutely assure Obama of his second term. 

Is that really the price we're willing to pay to see Obama squirm in a couple of debates?   

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Amazon App a Retail Store Killer

Amazon has just launched a smart phone app that will allow customers to shop in a retailer - any retailer -  scan the barcode of a given product, and compare the price of that same product at Amazon.  As added incentive, the online giant is offering customers an additional $5 discount off of their order.  On top of that, Amazon boasts free shipping for orders over $25, and will make the sale without charging sales tax (in most states). 

From the consumers' perspectives, it is a slam dunk.  Simply use the brick-and-mortar retailer as a showroom, break out your phone, and if you can delay your gratification to allow for shipping, ship it to your home for a tidy little discount. 

All is fair in love, war, and retail.  And if I were in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' shoes, I'd likely do the same.  It is a brilliant move on his part.  It is only a matter of time before the states get around to charging sales tax, but in the mean time sales tax rules at a state/local level are onerous to navigate, especially for very small retailers.  How is your local fashion store going to be able to understand that, in shipping to an order in Minnesota, she'll need to collect sales tax for a handkerchief, but not for a bandanna?  So Amazon has a window to exploit, and with this app, they're exploiting the hell out of it. 

Until the states can come together, eliminate their socially engineered tax tables, and come up with something that will make charging, collecting, and remitting sales tax easy and efficient, Amazon will win.  And the real losers will be the states themselves, traditional retailers, and especially the mom and pop store.   

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Packers Stock Sale to Help Expand Local Church

There's a lot that has surprised us about our new home in Green Bay, and the biggest surprises always revolve around the hometown Packers.  Pretty much every stereotype developed about this place and its love affair with the team is true.  I have never seen anything like it. 

Given all that as a background,. I should not be surprised about the "stock offering" that was initiated yesterday.  But surprised I remain.  Why?  Because people here (and around the globe, actually) are spending $250 a "share" for a worthless piece of paper. 

You see, this stock isn't stock in the traditional sense.  There's no market for it.  It pays no dividends.  It cannot appreciate in value.  It cannot be sold; only transferred, and then only to family members.  It holds no claim in the event of any kind of liquidation.  It can be repurchased at any time and for any reason by the team at a price of $0.025.  It is truly and completely worthless.  In fact, the only "benefit" a shareholder has is the ability to vote on things like board configuration, the chance to attend the annual "shareholders' meeting," and the ability to purchase (hey, spend some more money!) official "shareholders'" merchandise. 

And yet they're being gobbled up like bratwurst hot off of the tailgate grill. 

Beyond that, the team is charging $25 for "handling."  Why it costs $25 to print and ship a piece of paper is beyond me, but if Bernie Madoff stuck upon such a scheme, he might have been able to retain his lavish lifestyle and keep his fraudulent tuchus out of the pokey.

When I consider where my wife and I give our money - our church, charitable organizations, conservation organizations, local food shelves, health research, schools, etc. - the thought has never crept into my head that I need to broaden that list to include our local NFL franchise.  But then again I've never lived anywhere where that franchise is viewed with the same reverence that is typically reserved for such institutions. 

Lambeau Field is this area's cathedral, and will be supported in similar fashion by those that are members of the Church of the Packers.  So when the church needs to expand, the basket gets passed, and subsequently filled. 

And that's just how it is here in Green Bay. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Retail Life

As we approach the Christmas holiday, the world gears up to celebrate.  However, for those of us with a career in retail, there is scant little celebration.  It is game time.  It means big pressure as the stakes go up, and go up across the board - budgets are big, crowds big, and expectations are big.  It as about as far away from "comfort and joy," as one can get. 

And despite the big pressures and sacrifices, it is incredibly fun. 

A career in retail isn't that dissimilar to one of a Major League ballplayer.  The regular season is a long one, and you need to do a lot of things right.  But at the end, in the World Series, that's where the glory lives, and where heroes and goats are made.  It is a big stage, big pressure, long hours, and not for everybody.  However, for those who like that kind of environment, there's not much that's better. 

As my channel is ecommerce, our selling season is basically over in two weeks.  And while I look at the time remaining and long for the respite that will come with its conclusion, I also see the opportunity inherent in these last days and the need to do more. 

Ever more.  

So help a brother out an buy something, would you?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Skyrim - Video Crack

My whole life, I've loved video games.  From the $100s in quarters I spent at our local bowling alley, to thousands(!) of hour spent across different computer formats (Apple II+, Mac, PC), to the hundreds of hours spent with consoles (handheld or otherwise), and now with my iPhone and iPad, I've wasted gobs of my life with games.   

While they're really great for making time on a flight or on the elliptical machine go by quickly, they're also addictive as hell for me.  So much that I've purposefully avoided things like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft as I know if I get into them, I'm into a massive time suck.   

And time is something I don't have.   

Work.  Working out.  Writing.  Being a spouse, brother, uncle, friend.  All of these I already don't have enough time to do to a level that I'd like.   

Hence, when I see a cool ad for Skyrim, I have to run from it like a junkie from crack.  My inner nerd wants me to go there so damn bad, but my reality adult is holding off.  

 At least for the time being...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Browning Maxus Review

As reported here earlier, I purchased a new Browning Maxus ahead of the waterfowling season this year.  I'd like to offer up a quick review of the gun for those that might be interested in purchasing one. 
  • The first thing I noticed was the weight of the gun.  Coming in under 7lbs., the gun felt light even when fully loaded with 3 1/2" steel.  For me, this made the gun much more quick than what I was used to with my old Browning Gold, which was over a half pound heavier.  I've always felt that a quick gun makes me a better shooter, and the confidence increase just due to the weight in my hands was noticeable.  
  •  The action was extremely reliable.  Dirt, rain , dust, and cattails didn't hang it up.  Likewise, while some previous versions had some trigger issues, I found zero after breaking my gun in over a couple of dozen clays.   
  • The gun is a dream to break down and clean.  I can't imagine a simpler design.  It could not be easier to maintain.   
My bottom line is about results, and I can honestly assert that I've not had a better shooting season for ducks in my life.  I'm an above average shot, but streaky, and I never had a cold period with this gun.  My first three trigger pulls resulted in dead birds, and I was probably 10 for my first 12 shots.  Is that all of the gun's doing?  No, it can't shoot itself, and factors like shot selection, ammunition, confidence, and luck come into play, but the gun plays a big part as well.  And for me, the money spent on the Maxus was money well spent.  

I can't wait to take it down to Louisiana to finish up the duck season at the end of next month.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert Nearly Unwatchable

Currently on heavy rotation on Palladia is the concert for the 25th anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I've spent multiple half-hour (or better) chunks with this, hoping to see some really good music.  In just about every performance, I've been disappointed.   

Some examples include: 
  • A bloated Steven Stills.  Steve, when you pass up David Crosby as the fat guy in the group, it's time to hit the gym.  
  •  An additionally bloated Stevie Wonder forgetting the words to The Way She Makes Me Feel so badly that it made one cringe.  Now there is a lot of revisionist history that he was just choked up due to the loss of his friend Michael Jackson.  Bull.  Funny how he gains his composure on chorus just fine.
  •  A subdued version of (why? this has got to be a driving rocker!) of Gimme Shelter, with Fergie (the only saving grace, no pun intended) and Mick Jagger struggling on how to end the song.  See below on what I mean.  
  • Sting getting the words wrong to Roxanne.  Excuse me, but he's been singing that song for 30 plus years.  How the hell does he forget the words?   
Now, if you go out to Amazon, you'll see a lot of 5 star ratings for the concert DVD, and those folks are entitled to their opinion.  For me, the performances and performers left a lot to be desired, and just goes to show that the R&RHOF isn't really about the music, and is more about degenerating into a Time/Life oldies compilation.