Friday, August 31, 2012

Cops in Green Bay - Lambeau Field Edition

We attended the Packers game last night, and given that it was the fourth preseason game, we knew the football would be horrible.  Fortunately for us, the night was gorgeous, we had a parking pass for one of the best tailgate lots in Green Bay, and we had a great spread and lots of beer to enjoy.  It was going to be a nice night to tailgate, talk, and just chill out.  Unfortunately, we happened to park next to pervert central.  
In a gold-painted converted ambulance, with bras flying from a mast, sat two 50 year old dirty old men that encouraged young women to come into the vehicle and take off their tops.  While I'm down with whatever two consenting adults want to do, when that activity takes place in public, the rules change.  And it just so happened that the show was very public, as the perv-mobile was parked in a main artery that was being used by people to enter the stadium. 
Some of those people walking past were little kids. 
Not cool.  At all. 
As our little tailgate group was being disgusted with the activities in the ambulance,  we started interacting with another tailgate  group next to us and they held the same impression.  And it just so happened that one of them was an off-duty cop.  Hence, one thing leads to another, and lo and behold the cop bike posse shows up and breaks up the fun. 
Here's one shot of the action:
Notice the ages of everyone involved.  Creepy. 
The ladies got tickets for indecent exposure as the group next to us was taking pictures for evidence.  OK, I know what you're thinking, and before you even go there let me convey that I did indeed see some of the boobies that were on display, and they weren't exactly attractive.  I'm sure those pictures were erased from the camera post haste.  Nasty. 
As for team pervert, one guy ended up going to jail - you can see him, in true Cops episode fashion, as shirtless and cuffed on the left:
The other two had to take down their display and immediately leave the parking lot.  Since they were legally drunk, they couldn't drive the perv-mobile off the lot, and they had to walk home.  That had to be a fun stroll.
In the meantime our group got the parking pass number off of the perv-mobile and will be sharing it with the Packers organization.  And that, my friends, is going to be the biggest punishment of all.  The lot in which we tailgated is reserved for season ticket holders.  And when season ticket holders misbehave, the Packers organization takes away the tickets, the packing pass, and anything else and provides them to someone at the top of the 30+ year waiting list. 
Those tickets were probably in one of the perverts' family for decades, and were likely passed down from an older relative.  And for the price of exposing some really unattractive breasts to the public, these tickets are gone.  Poof.
The good news for team pervert?  Only one of them went to jail.  They got to see girls' boobies.  It was a nice evening for a walk.  And they can put their name on the bottom of list for season tickets.  They'll likely get to the top of the list around 2042, when they're in their 80's.  Which will be nice.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Target Field to Host 2014 All Star Game

The Twins are a bad baseball team this year.  One of the worst.  One of their few redeeming qualities is the ballpark in which they play.

Target Field is a gem.  It boast fantastic sight lines, an easy ability to roam, and hangouts like the Budweiser Deck and the exclusive Twins Champion's Club.  It is gorgeous, and offers its visitors a wonderful experience, even when the team on the field plays like dogs.

The beauty and comfort of the field have not been lost on MLB, and yesterday it was announced that the field would host the 2014 All Star Game.  It will be a great economic boon to the city of Minneapolis, to broader Minnesota, and will be a showcase of this great field not only to the rest of the league, but to the nation, and even to the world.

Too bad our field is our source of pride, instead of our team, which is currently the worst team in the American League.

As we say in Twins Territory, maybe next year.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lindsey Buckingham Green Bay Concert Review and Set List

Green Bay was graced with rock royalty last night as the great Lindsey Buckingham, of Fleetwood Mac fame, played the Meyer Theatre in a one-man acoustic show.  Those that know Buckingham know of his incredible guitar prowess (even if Rolling Stone rated him at a way too low 100 in their Top 100 Guitarists of All Time - well behind many lesser players), and that prowess was on display in full force last night. 

His guitar work was masterful, involving both intricate picking as well as complex, and sometimes downright innovative board work.  Multiple times he brought the enthusiastic crowd of the Meyer to its feet, and did so on the back of his virtuoso playing.  He was incredible to watch.

Here is the set list to the best of my recollection:
  • Cast Away Dreams
  • Bleed to Love Her
  • Not Too Late
  • Stephanie
  • Come
  • Shut Us Down
  • Go Insane
  • Never Going Back Again
  • Big Love
  • I'm So Afraid
  • Go Your Own Way
  • Trouble
  • Seeds We Sow
Some random thoughts on the evening:
  • For me, the highlight of the show was Come.  Lindsey really put a lot into the song, and it showed through.  Quiet and loud, confrontational and recoiling, the presentation was a brilliant dichotomy and added depth to an already powerful song.
  • The guitar solo on I'm So Afraid is Buckingham's shining moment on the stage, and he did not disappoint.  Prowling the stage in an almost threatening way and ultimately beating his fist against the guitar, it was as physical as it was musical.
  • Go Insane was a reworked, quiet version, and the offering added a lot of depth to an already very good song
  • Guitar changes occurred with every song, but in no way did it interrupt the pace of the show.  Likewise, the tuning and acoustics were very strong.
  • While he's 62, you saw none of those years in Buckingham's voice.  It was still strong, even in the most quiet notes.  Likewise, all the high notes were still there.  He sounded like it was 1987 all over again.
  • My only complaint, and it is a small one, is that the show felt short.  Buckingham played for less than an hour and a half, and given his huge library of work, he could have played for three times what he played and not had to worry about lesser material.  Despite this, in no way do I feel slighted.  I saw an incredible guitarist play his butt off for 13 songs, blow me away with his performance, and leave me smiling.  $40 very, very well spent.
It takes a lot to awe me.  Celebrities don't impress me.  They never have.  But tonight, I was awed.  Hearing Buckingham's screams above the mic made me realize that this was Lindsey Buckingham in our little town.  Lindsey Buckingham!  The man that wrote all of those songs, produced all of those albums, and cranked out what has turned out to be a soundtrack that has played in the background for a good chunk of my life. Wow.

He's a genius at his craft.  His accomplishments are rivaled only by a handful.  He's a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performer.  And tonight, he brought the goods to little Green Bay. 

I hope he comes back again soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

VinConnect Featured in Bloomberg

My brother and his business were featured in Bloomberg yesterday.  Great article that really gets to how his business works, and what it took for him to get there.

You can read the whole thing here

Monday, August 27, 2012

Losing an Excuse

I recently broke a piece on the face of my putter, and while I enjoyed having an excuse for my horrible play on the green, push finally came to shove and I broke down and headed into Dick's Sporting Goods for a new wand of misery. 
As Mrs. YDP had a girls' night out, I had time on my hands and could give Dick's entire inventory a run.  I quickly settled on one that worked pretty well, and made my way to the check out.  I happened to notice the time, told myself there was no rush, and headed back to the drivers just to look at a few. 
Looking turned into desire to test-hit, and I started out testing the Taylor Made Burner 3.0. I instantly fell in love.  And since Taylor Made had a offer of 50% off any fairway wood with purchase of a new driver, it was a deal too good to pass up. 
One club needed, three purchased.  My wife needs to learn not to leave me alone. 
So, how'd they work?  The first two drives with the new driver went into the swamp 20 yards ahead of me.  20 yards.  It appears that the real world is quite different than the virtual driving range at Dick's.  However, despite a tough start I was able to get my groove, and ended up consistently shooting 15 yards further than I did with my previous driver.  Yee haw! 
I only had one shot with the 3 wood, but absolutely crushed it, so that one appears just fine. 
As for the putter, I struggled early but ended up sinking an 8 footer for birdie on a very tough par 4 and sunk a 12 footer on 18 to close out the round.  Overall, I'm happy with the entire purchase.  However, given the shiny new clubs riding around in the cart with me, I think I lost one area of excuse.  Hence, I'm keeping that broken putter. 
Just in case. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Go Pro Hero 2 - New Video Camera

I had some gift card and some extra points from my Cabela's card, and purchased the a Go Pro camera.  While I'm not exactly into extreme sports, I feel like this would be a fun way to document some the adventures that the Yellow Dog and I will be having later this fall.

The accessories for this thing are incredible.  I've already put one attachment on my bike helmet, and hope to have test video posted before too long (if it ever stops raining). 

Check back soon and see what develops.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Trigeminal Neuralgia Update

After getting through the cold part of the winter, things have been extremely good.  I've suffered very few effects thought most of the calendar year.  However, after getting back from vacation a couple of weeks ago, I've been suffering.  My left eye is twitching a lot, the dull ache ebbs and flows, with sharp episodes hitting every once and a while. 
Today has been particularly bad.  Thankfully, it is Saturday, and I was able to get in an hour nap and that seemed to quiet things. Work has been quite stressful of late, and I'm sure that's contributing to things.  I need to be more diligent on my meds and better control my stress level. 
I'm hoping I can get this thing tamped down before things really get crazy with holiday at work. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 8 "4th Year, Part 6"

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

The fourth year of Blitz's life, I had got myself involved in a group that was created to lobby the State of Minnesota for a mourning dove hunting season.  At the time, Minnesota was one of just a couple of states that did not allow hunting of this migratory bird,  and from my perspective, the law preventing it was unfair.  The game bird's population was ample, tipping the scales at nearly 15 million birds.  The birds were hunted everywhere south of Minnesota to their final winter resting areas.  To me, there was no reason why Minnesotan's could not do the same thing as the rest of the country and offer a season on the game. 

As I got into the fight for new legislation, I found that other groups had attempted to push a dove hunting proposals many times before, and they always failed.  I also found out that the issue was one that anti-hunting and "animal rights" groups had earmarked as critical.  These well-funded and highly motivated national groups were quite successful at pushing their agenda in St. Paul, and the fight looked like a tough one.  Thus, when we formed a little group to address dove hunting legislation, we knew that we'd have to fight a different battle than had been fought before.  That meant we'd have to be more organized and more strategic in our approach, and that played well into some of the skill sets I was able to bring to the table. 

As one that did marketing for a profession, I helped to craft our message to the legislators like an advertising message; selling the benefits, and cajoling the legislators to "buy" by voting "yes."  We also incorporated new marketing techniques that had not been utilized by prior groups.  By leveraging things like email marketing, direct mail, and trade show work to build support and drive home the message we were fighting a whole new fight.  In essence, we were leveraging techniques that the anti-hunting groups had used expertly, and we were leveling the playing field.  Similarly, we were active in St. Paul, and testified in front of a number of committees.  Unlike others that tried pushing the legislation before us, when we testified, we wore suits, stuck dispassionately and professionally to our selling points, and put a whole different face on the hunting community than what had been seen at the capital previously. 

The net result of all of the activity was that dove hunting passed in Minnesota.  While it passed by one vote, pass it did, and we prepared that fall to hunt doves up at the duck camp for the first time ever.  However, with Blitz's condition, she'd not be able to hunt.  She was getting around incredibly well due to a prescription of Rimadyl which, judging by Blitz's reaction to it, looked to me like a miracle drug.  When on it, Blitz used her cancerous leg without a limp, and would still go at full speed when she wanted.  And she wanted to go at full speed a lot.  Hence, I knew in the hustle of a hunting situation I'd never be able to restrain her, thus she would have to be resigned to her crate while a group of us when out to try our hand at this new era of hunting. 

I asked a number of people that worked on the legislation to my duck camp, and also invited some good partners from the outdoor media that had been incredibly supportive.  Fast friends, all of us, we enjoyed each other's company the night before the inaugural opener, then made our way out to the field in the opening morning's darkness.  Sitting alongside a small grain field, our group of rookies managed to scratch out a couple of birds, and everyone had a really good time, even if the game strap was a little light.  Dove hunting had come to Minnesota, and I was very proud to have played a part in its arrival.

Our group disbanded after our opening day hunt, and I was later joined by my buddy Don who came up for the weekend to try his hand at the new game.  We tinkered with different techniques - offering perches, using decoys,  utilizing camouflage - in attempt to find something that would work effectively.  We settled in on a "run and gun" technique in which we would sit alongside the field, wait for a dove to enter, wait for it land, then sneak up to its location and shoot it upon flushing, just as one would on pheasants.  The technique proved to be quite effective, and we harvested a good amount of birds using it. 

In the meantime it broke my heart to leave Blitz in the cabin while we went out and shot.  She wasn't pleased either, and would whine and howl loudly at our departure every morning.  So before getting ready to go out for one evening shoot, I had Blitz out in the yard with me and was noticing her gait.  The Rimadyl must have really been kicking in, as she was burning off the energy of being cooped up in her crate by running all over the yard.  For as sick as she was, it was amazing to see.  She had no limp at all, and acted like nothing at all was wrong. 

Based on her movements, I suggested to Don that we take her out with us on the evening shoot.  "Are you sure?" he asked.  "Yeah, I am.  The action is a lot slower at night, and she can just sit by us.  If a bird comes into the field and it's not too far away, we can take her out there with us."  "OK," Don replied, "But if at any time you want to bring her in, just say the word." 

We got to our spot near the field without flushing any doves from it, and I firmly expected that the afternoon would be a total bust.  And for the first hour, that was exactly the case.  However, we did have one single that came right in at us, and Don took the shot while the bird was nearly overhead.  The dove folded and landed about 10 yards from us, much to the delight of Blitz.  It was her first dove retrieve,  and I'm not sure that they come any easier. 

A little while later we had a pair enter the field about 50 yards away from us.  "What do you want to do?" asked Don.  "Let's all go down and see if we can flush them.  It should be close enough for Blitz."  We got off our stools and  approached the last known position of the doves as quietly as we could.  Blitz hunted very close, but was hunting hard, and, judging by her wagging tail and heavy sniffing, was picking up scent of the same type of bird she had just previously retrieved.   

In a couple of more steps both doves burst from the cover about 20 yards ahead of us.  One bird was breaking hard to the left, and as Don was on that side of me I left the bird to him and focused my attention to the bird in front of me quartering away to my right.  I got a slight lead on the departing bird and slowly squeezed the trigger to a burst of feathers.  At the same time I heard Don shoot and utter a "whoo hoo!" so I knew he had his bird as well. 

While Blitz was a very sick dog, nobody told her, and she was in a dead sprint on the bird I shot.  "Blitz, no!" I commanded, hoping it would slow her up, but she would not relent.  She scooped the bird up on a dead sprint, and brought it immediately back to me.  "Idiot," I thought to myself, "she doesn't know to let up.  This is stupid to have her out here." 

About that time I turned my attention to Don who was craning his neck around a thick area of brush.  "My bird fell in here.  What do you think we should do?" he asked.  The cover was daunting, but was more open low to the ground.  Since Blitz was here, she'd have the best chance of any of us in recovering the bird.  I got her to the edge of the cover and commanded, "Blitz, fetch!" She immediately went into the cover, and Don and I could hear her sniffing and rummaging around.  Within seconds she emerged from the side of the cover, carrying Don's bird in her mouth, and with a body language that said, "See, boss?  I got it right here!"  It was a gorgeous blind retreive.

Throughout the entire dove legislation process, I asked myself why I cared so much about it.  Part of it had to do with the fairness of it all.  Part of it was that I wanted to really leave a legacy, and give something back to the sport of hunting which had given me so much.  Part of me wanted to stick a thumb in the eye of the anti-hunting community.  But in watching Blitz carry that previously lost bird back to me, I think I know one potential  While I didn't know it at the time, maybe, just maybe I did it to give me one last opportunity to hunt with my dying dog.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bank Run Interrupted by Packers on Kids' Bikes

The Green Bay Packers have had a longstanding tradition of players using the kids' bikes to move back and forth from the locker room to the practice facility in Green Bay.  You can click here for more background on the tradition

While I knew of the program, and knew that the Packers were still practicing, I happended to forget both things while driving past Lambeau on my way to the bank during a recent lunch break.

On my way there, a cop hops off the curb, stops traffic, and the parade of players on bikes showed up.  Here's just a taste:

There are a lot of unique things about living in Green Bay.  But being hung up at an intersection for about 10 minutes because of giant men riding on little kids' bikes is among the most unique. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rules for Hunting Camp

My nephew will be joining me for duck opener this year.  The following note is what I sent to him about the experience:

Ben, you're about to go on your first hunting trip.  This is a big deal!  I remember, in very clear detail, the first time that your Grandpa took me hunting when I was a little boy.  Over the years we shared a lot of moments hunting together, and I hope that is something that you and I get to do as well. 

While hunting and being at the hunting camp is a lot of fun (I mean A LOT of fun!), being up there is a big responsibility.  I want you to understand some ground rules of being up there: 
  • Safety.  Hunting is not play.  We harvest the birds that God has blessed us with dangerous firearms.  As we've discussed before, with guns we ALWAYS assume they are loaded even if we know they are not, we NEVER touch a gun without an adult standing right next to us, and we NEVER, EVER point a gun's barrel in front of something that we do not want killed or destroyed.  But that's just the guns.  We'll be riding in boats and ATVs, and that requires it's own set of safety.  Simply put, hunting is not a game, and it needs to be practiced safely. 
  • Respect.  When we go hunting, we'll be harvesting birds to eat.  They are God's living creatures, and we respect them.  We eat what we kill.  We harvest injured birds quickly to limit any unnecessary suffering.  We practice our shooting, calling, and hunting so that we can make clean shots and harvest our birds in the most humane way possible.  We also respect other hunters.  The people at duck camp are our brothers in hunting.  We learn from them, we work with them, and we have fun with them.  We listen to each other, and we depend on each other.  Without them, it would not be a hunting camp. 
  • Work. Part of being at the duck camp means that you're part of a team.  As such, it is important that we all pitch in on work to do.  Bussing dishes, cleaning up, cleaning birds, putting away decoys, and feeding dogs are just some of the chores that need to be done, and everyone needs to pitch in to do them.  That's what being part of a hunting group is all about. 
  • Fun.  Life at the duck camp is about fun.  It is about having adventures, laughing, and enjoying the outdoors and each other.  I guarantee, we will have fun! 
So there you have it - Safety, Respect, Work and Fun.  Those are the rules for being at the duck camp. 

Guys that follow the rules get asked to come back and hunt again.  Guys that don't follow the rules never get asked back.  Sometimes, they get asked to leave.  I'd never want that to happen with you, so it is important that you follow these rules. 

I'm looking forward to you being the newest member of our duck club.  I know the list above is a lot to think about.  But I also know that you are a smart little dude, you have a good heart, and you're able to follow these rules.  If I didn't think you could handle it, I would not have asked you.  So study up on the rules, know them by heart, and never ever break them. 

We're a month away, so get ready.  I can't wait!   

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 8 "4th Year, Part 5"

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

I got Blitz back home from the University, and I'm not sure who was more happy to be home more.  My wife greeted both of us at the door, and Blitz appeared close to shaking her tail loose as she celebrated her homecoming.  We tried to keep her as quiet as possible, but she was simply too happy to be sitting still.  She put very little weight on the let, but other than that she showed no signs of being in any kind of pain.

Unfortunately, the joy of having her home was short lived.  The next day we ended up getting the call that, in our hearts, we knew was going to come.  

Our surgeon from the University called us to let us know that the biopsy showed it was definitely cancer, and it was definitely aggressive.  Since there really was no way of knowing if it had spread, and if so, how far, she suggested that we amputate Blitz's leg immediately, test the lymph nodes in the leg, and use that as a proxy. If there is additional cancer (either found in the leg or discovered later), they could try and treat it with chemotherapy. If it didn’t spread, and was relegated to just that part of the bone that was tested, Blitz could be completely cured of the cancer and live a full life. At least as full of a life as a three-legged dog can lead. 

Of course, there would always be a chance for contracting it elsewhere in the future. And chemo was not a guarantee, and even with aggressive treatment, the cancer could still win out.

How did we want to proceed? 

I let the University know that my wife and I would need to discuss it and would get back to her.  I immediately went downstairs and let Blitz out of her kennel.  As I took her outside I noted the divot in her shaved knee, and her substantial limp.  What if we amputated her leg and the cancer had spread?  Is the trauma of going through that really how I wanted Blitz to live out her last days?  What was right for her?  If we don't amputate, she'd die for sure.  In two to four months.  But that time would be quality time with Vera and me, and not spent in hospitals or recovering from horrific surgeries. 

The back and forth of the decision process was a living hell.  But in the end, we decided Blitz had been put though enough.  Given how the cancer literally exploded in her leg via the differences seen between the first and second x-rays, if the cancer had not spread beyond the bone it would be a miracle.  She'd keep her leg and she would die comfortable, and with us, even though she would die very, very soon. 

Some would reach a very different decision when faced with the same set of circumstances. I know that I wouldn’t wish such a decision on my worst enemy, and that I often look back and wonder if I did the right thing. But I had made a promise to a perky little pup just a couple of years back.  I'd take care of her, no matter what.  It was time for me to own up to that promise the best I knew how.  Even though living up to that promise, in the end, would absolutely break my heart.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Silversun Pickups and Political Bigotry

Politics continues to divide us. The latest case involves one of my current favorite bands, Silversun Pickups. It seems that the Romney camp played a Silversun Pickups song prior to a speaking engagement, a that was just not acceptable to the band. The band felt that the music was being played without permission, whereas the Romney election folks felt it was covered under their agreement with BMI and ASCAP. 

This sounds like a simple misunderstanding that the lawyers should be able to figure out in short order, but no. It had to get political. The band released a public statement chiding Romney for copyright infringement, and saying nice things like "...we don't like the Romeny campaign," and "We don't bite. Unless you're Mitt Romney!" 

As stated, I like SSPU. A lot. I have a review of a Silversun Pickups concert here and a review of their latest album Neck of the Woods here. Their music is fantastic. 

So why do they muddy the waters with partisan and snide politics? Do they think all of their fans are completely in lock-step with the Democratic party? 

A similar type confrontation occurred when Paul Ryan stated he liked the music of Rage Against the Machine. Rage's front man, Tom Morello, ranted to Rolling Stone that Ryan was "clueless," because of RATM's forward leftist (socialist?) stances. But, as recently posted on a friend's Facebook page, Mr. Morello has a net worth of $60MM, whereas Ryan has a paltry (in comparison) $8MM. So exactly what is the "machine" that Morello rages against? 

Seems to me, with that bank account he's taken from his leftist fans, he's part of the damn machine. 

The bottom line is this: when did it become appropriate for artists to create their art just for some, and not others?  Instead of being concerned about conservatives liking their music, what if SSPU or RATM directed their ire at another group - like gays, Asian-Americans, or women? Naturally, they're be an outrage. As there should be. 

It would seem to me, as an artist, you'd want to pitch a big tent. The more that enjoy your work, the better. Indeed, you'd likely want those that disagree with you to be your biggest fans, as you'd have the best ability to shape how they thought, would you not? 

So why don't bands see this? Could be because they're simply stupid. Could be because they're so insulated from opinions outside of their own that they can't fathom an additional point of view. But most likely it is because they, at their core, are exactly what they claim to loathe - narrow minded, myopic, demagogues that want one set of rules for those that believe like them, and another for their enemies.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Getting Ready for the Season

As the dog and I headed out to get the paper yesterday morning, I noticed I was able to see my breath in the chill morning air.  It was that cold, and it felt like fall.  It got me motivated to go through my gear and get things organized for the impending seasons. 

While it may not look like it from this photo, I've actually culled things down quite a bit.  Two career stops with outdoor retailers exploded my personal inventory, and I'm now far enough removed from those joyous days that older gear is getting tossed at a rate much higher than the new gear that is coming in. 

Given the work the yellow dog and I did today, I'm calling myself ready to go.  Now I just need some help from the calendar and the birds. 

Bring on the fall.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why University of Minnesota Students Ignore Gopher Football

Nadine Babu wrote an outstanding article posted on the StarTribue which offered explanations for the meager following of Gopher Football by U of M students.  First reason offered?  The Gophers lose.  A lot.

When you can't beat the pesky NDSU Bison on your home field, it's pretty tough asking a poor college kid to fork out nearly $100 to watch the ineptitude live and in person.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.  Great article.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Dog Named Blit, Chapter 8 "4th Year, Part 4"

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

I first met my buddy Fuzzy my freshman year at college.  He was loud and funny and loved to hunt and fish.  My type of guy.  We hit it off right away, and became close friends.  We remained close after school, often hunting and fishing together, standing up at each other’s weddings, and just doing things that friends do. 

That closeness all changed when his wife went off the deep end, had her version of a midlife crisis, and viciously ripped Fuzzy’s heart out of his chest by ending their marriage. She was cruel, hurtful, and Fuzzy saw none of it coming.  He was vulnerable.  Hence, the blindsided hit he took left him a complete wreck. 

With his world collapsing around him, he turned to me.  I’m not sure why he did, but I ended up a sounding board, psychiatrist, bartender, and shoulder to cry on all in one.  In his darkest days he stayed with Vera and me, and I held him once as he cried and said “My wife doesn’t love me anymore…”  When that kind of thing happens, you go from buddy to something far deeper. 

He is more than a buddy to me, and vice versa.  So when he left work early that day to hear about Blitz, he was being more than a buddy.  He was taking care of me, because that’s what we do. 

I got to the bar and found Fuzzy had beaten me there, and had a Grain Belt Premium already waiting for me. I told him all I knew from what had happened and from what the doctors had told me, and he offered an optimistic “let’s wait and see what happens,” response to all of my greatest fears and conclusions.  Back and forth we went, and the talking was helping.  Unfortunately, the beer was making it tough for me to control my emotions.  He was telling me “Hey, she’s a young dog.  In great shape. Who am I kidding, she’s in perfect shape.  If any dog can pull this out, it will be Blitz.”  At that point I started to crack.  “She has to,” I said, with my voice quivering, “I got her to help me get over losing Dad.  I can’t lose her too…”  As I trailed off, hiding my face, a strong hand grabbed my shoulder and a soft voice said, “I know.” 

We finished our beers, and I was off to see my wife.  Vera was waiting for me when I got in, and I fell into her arms an emotional wreck.  We cried and talked most of the night, and finally agreed that we could do nothing until we got word from the doctor in the next days of what we were dealing with.  All we could do was hope. 

The two day wait to pick Blitz up took forever, and I had a tough time working as I was waiting to get her back.  I struggled on my concentration, and spent a number of minutes in the men's bathroom trying to restrain my emotions.  Part of me was embarrassed by my emotional reaction, and part of me didn't care who saw what when it came out.  I was hurting bad, and frankly had other things to worry about other than what some coworkers thought.  Some were incredibly kind - in one of the lowest moments I had a woman that worked with me come into my office and rub my back while I sobbed - and some were total idiots.  "It's just a dog..." I heard them whisper. 

Yeah.  Just a dog. 

On the appointed day I drove to the University with very mixed emotions.  I really wanted to just get Blitz back and hold her, but I was also fretful for the results of the biopsy.  Unfortunately, we'd not be hearing on the test results for a couple of more days, and that added to the anxiety of the situation.  Regardless, Blitz would be coming home where she belonged, and that was the most important thing. 

I arrived and checked in, and nearly immediately a door was burst open by a wiggly yellow lab escorted by three young vet technicians.  No matter where she when and what procedure she needed, Blitz always loved vets.  She loved meeting new people, getting attention, and the treats that often came with the visits.  Similarly, veterinarian staffs loved Blitz back.  She was a genuinely happy dog; her tail always wagging regardless of the situation.  She never whined, nipped, barked, growled, or showed any kind of negative emotion.  She was just a happy dog, and all of the vet employees enjoyed her regardless where she went.  Judging by the entourage she had with her, it was obvious that she made some good friends here as well. 

Blitz was limping quite significantly, and that's when I saw the wound left from the biopsy.  Far from the small chip of bone that I expected them to remove, Blitz was missing a distinct piece of bone, about one inch by a quarter inch, from her knee.  She had a significant, sizable divot taken out of her leg.  Immediately, I again went back to that first day I picked her up and promised I'd take good care of her.  This procedure, this shockingly invasive and destructive procedure, was it necessary?  Regardless of the diagnosis she did not have long to live, so why the hell did I do it in the first place?  What was the use?  What the hell what I thinking?  Yet again, I broke my solemn promise to her.  Idiot! 

In mid-guilt trip, Blitz's eyes met mine.  She instantly went into a joyful frenzy, as if to say "Hi boss!  Man, have I missed you!" I went to my knees and threw my arms around her neck.  "I'm so sorry," I whispered to her.  Her thumping tail let me know that once again, all was forgiven.  No hard feelings at all.  Just like all the other times before.

After the reunion, I met with the surgeon to review the procedure, discuss when we could expect results, and discuss Blitz's convalescence.  We finished our conversation, and the surgeon looked at me with hurt eyes.  Given what they must see on a daily basis, I was surprised at her expression of emotion.  "I'm so sorry Mr. Sidders," she said.  "Blitz is such a sweet dog.  I wish you both luck."     

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Difference Between How Rich and Poor Spend Money

From Lam Vo of NPR comes a recap based on US Bureau of Labor statistics which shows the percent of income spent in different categories for different income cohorts. 

The results surprised me:

On a percentage basis, income groups spend very similarly.  The biggest differences reside with Food at Home, Utilities, Transportation and Gasoline, Education and Saving for Retirement.  Some of these are intuitive, others not.  But, clearly, the cost of energy hurts the poor the hardest. 

Hence, if one really cared about the plight of the poor, one would be seeking ways to add supply to the energy markets, thus lowering costs.  But, as we know very well, those in charge in Washington have another agenda all together.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Minneapolis Westin: A Review of What Stinks

As posted yesterday, the Minneapolis Westin bumped us to the Hampton Inn in Minnetonka because they sold my room.  My wife and I have been thinking about it all weekend.  The more we do, the more livid we become. 

Some specific questions, beyond those raised in the first post:
  • I think the claim of "downtown is completely full" was hogwash.  When I placed my reservations 7 days ago, I had options all over downtown.  Now, when it would have cost Westin additional to put us up somewhere decent downtown, all of the sudden downtown is "full" and we're forced to go to a lousy hotel in the suburbs.  I call BS on that, and given the lie about the "nice suite" to which we were being sent, seems par for the course.
  • I've been told a "manager" will call me this week sometime.  Why in the world does it take days to talk with me about how my anniversary weekend was ruined?  Are their people not empowered to take care of the customer?  It's called the "hospitality business."  Being hospitable seems to me to be the job of whoever is in charge over the weekend.
  • Per their "guarantee" (what a complete bastardization of that word) on my reservation "confirmation" (ditto): "In the event more guests arrive than can be accommodated due to hotel overbooking or an unforeseen circumstance, and hotel is unable to hold rooms consistent with this room hold policy, hotel will attempt to accommodate guests, at its expense, at a comparable hotel in the area for the oversold night(s), and will pay for transportation to that hotel."  Our hotel was neither comparable nor in the area.  Neither one was close.
  • But wait.  I had a reservation confirmation.  I had agreed to pay for my room, regardless if I showed up or not.  So why was my room given to someone else when all they needed to say was "I'm sorry, sir, even though all guest haven't checked in yet, we're all booked for the evening?"  The only thing that makes sense is some sap showed up without a reservation, was willing to pay an exorbitant amount, and presto, he has my room and I'm at the Hampton Inn.  Kick me out, soak him.
As a customer, I just feel like a total chump.  Their problem (or in the sap scenario above, their opportunity) became my problem, and a lousy experience was crammed down my throat. 

Beware this hotel.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Minneapolis Westin Nightmare

My wife and I are in Minneapolis celebrating our 18th anniversary.  We had a great weekend planned:
  • Arrive early Saturday
  • Time in the afternoon with the girls for her, and the boys with me
  • Coldplay in St. Paul
  • Downtown Minneapolis with a stay at the Westin
  • Breakfast at Ike's
  • Twins game
  • Back home
Pretty much the whole thing hinged around getting and staying downtown. 

Imagine my surprise when I got a call from the Westin while on the way to the concert, informing me that they would not honor my reservation.  All the rooms are gone.  Tough bounce.

But not to worry!  They were going to put me up at "a suite at a Hilton" that was "just outside of Minneapolis."

This is our Hilton

This is our suite

Turns out we are staying well outside of Minneapolis, literally three miles away from my mom's house.  We could have slept there in better comfort.

I get that overbookings occasionally happen.  But I always come away with the feeling that because somebody bitched better than I did, they got my room and I got the shaft.

I don't want a free room at some crappy Hampton Inn.  I want to celebrate my anniversary with my wife downtown.  Like we planned. 

Westin, you blew it.  I don't travel much, but I assure you you'll never get another dime from me, and I'll be making sure that goes ditto for my team on all of their corporate travel.  Simply put, you can't be trusted.  Either in honoring your reservations, or being genuine in your solutions.

Coldplay St. Paul Concert Review, Second Night

We attended the second of two back-to-back nights for Coldplay in St. Paul, and if they were bored in any way with the lack of change in venue, it did not show.  The concert was simply outstanding.

Notes from the evening:
  • Chris Martin is a front man in every sense of the word.  Showman, band leader, crowd pleaser, and lunch pail mentality all rolled into one.  While he's no Springsteen, he's Springsteen-like in approach to his work and his audience.  He flew around the stage, working his butt off, and had the crowd eating out of his hands.  Simply a great lead singer.
  • The show was a visual spectacle.  Confetti cannons, laser lights, balloons, and these lighted bracelets made the event one for the eyes a much as the ears.  Really impressive.

  • As they had done the last time we saw them, the band came off the main stage and set up an impromptu stage in the crowd.  And, just like the last time, we were really close to them.  15 feet close.  Here's a good shot:

  • The set list was fairly standard, with the only big miss for me was Talk was not performed.  It is a personal favorite for me and holds a lot of meaning, so I missed it a lot.  That being said, the rest of the set was very sold and quite enjoyable.
  • The opening acts were absolutely brutal.  Charlie XCX and Marianna & the Diamonds were both horrible in stage presence, way too pop oriented, limited in vocal ability, and just not very good.  Both were the worst musical acts I've seen in many years.  However, both had strong percussion, which salvaged their respective sets.  Avoid these guys at all costs.
Coldplay is a really great band.  Their musicianship, work ethic, and joy were on display in full force tonight.  It resulted in a great band delivering a great show.